In A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick means to make you uncomfortable. The magic of the film is that it can show terrible things and then making us care about the mind of the man responsible for them. Kubrick accomplishes this titanic task through three main techniques, each of which will be detailed in this piece: heightened stylization, a uniquely likeable non-hero in Alex, and the unification of every aspect of the film into a potent thematic statement: Free Will is sacrosanct. These aspects make A Clockwork Orange an undeniable classic film, as important today for what it reveals about humanity as it was in 1971.
It is a sin to write this. Mr. Stanley Kubrick told me so:
2001 is a nonverbal experience; out of two hours and 19 minutes of film, there are only a little less than 40 minutes of dialog. I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content.1
Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly bypasses verbalized pigeonholing, but that doesn’t mean the film defies explanation and discussion. The present piece will analyze how Kubrick succeeds at the rather lofty goal of creating this “visual experience” by looking at three key cinematic components that Kubrick uses to tell this story. First, we’ll look at aural components like dialogue, music, and soundtrack. Then, we’ll delve into the visual components like special effects and cinematography. Finally, we’ll deal with thematic components, focusing on Kubrick’s use of archetypes. Together, these components produce a rare beauty: a pure expression of cinema and the power that it has to inspire the imagination.
Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a satirical masterpiece. In this piece, we will discuss the germination of the great film and then detail how the director combines a serious camera (Part I), genuine but exaggerated characters (Part II), and a farcical tone (Part III) into one of the greatest condemnations of the military state of all time. Kubrick’s aim is simple: to subvert the grim seriousness of the Cold War by showcasing the absurdities that arise from taking concepts like “mutually assured destruction” and “nuclear deterrence” to their logical conclusions.
The Matrix is replete with allusions to classic philosophical ideas. The plot references Plato’s Cave and the world of forms, Descartes’ First Meditation and the evil demon, and Hilary Putnam’s “brain in a vat” scenario – all ruminations on the nature of reality and the possibility that we only perceive an illusion. The film also considers the tension between free will and determinism, mostly conveying its stance on this fundamental philosophical issue not through long-winded discussion, but through an essential tenet of Romanticism: the plot hinges on the genuine choices made by its characters.
One of the most enthralling sequences in The Silence of the Lambs is the first meeting between Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and it is a masterclass in visual storytelling. This piece will analyze this entire sequence shot-by-shot, explaining the cinematic techniques that director Jonathan Demme and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto use to tell this crucial portion of their story. We’ll be looking at different aspects of each shot including: composition, point of view, camera movement, pacing, and more. We’ll see how in a mere six minutes and three seconds, these 60 shots convey characterization, plot, and even crucial thematic ideas that would develop through the course of the film.
Most years have a few high-quality genre pieces to offer, some years see the release of a genre-defining film and a solid collection of supporting movies, and every now and then there are collisions where two absolute classics are released side-by-side (see: 1968, 1977, and 1982). But, there’s nothing quite like what happened 20 years ago. Eleven science fiction films of note were released in 1997, spanning all subgenres. This piece will discuss each of these films, heralding 1997 as a seminal year for cinematic science fiction.