“Spartacus” – the Three-Headed Triumph of Douglas, Trumbo, and Kubrick

The third essay in a year-long analysis of the films of Stanley Kubrick.  Check out the schedule and explanation here, where you can also find links to all the completed pieces.

Introduction

Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas and written by Dalton Trumbo, may be the best Swords-and-Sandals story ever put to film.  The film is a powerhouse but is easily the least “Kubrickian” film in all of the great director’s filmography.  This is mostly due to Kubrick sharing control with Douglas, who produced the film and had final cut, and the writer Dalton Trumbo.  In this piece, I’ll detail the circumstances surrounding this intense collaboration, starting with the political climate and background of the film.  I’ll continue on with the story and characters developed by Trumbo and Douglas and finish with Kubrick’s stylistic contributions to the film.  Though all three creators approached the film with their own intentions and goals, they were still able to produce an irrefutable classic.

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Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” Seeks a Spiritual Deliverance from Racial Injustice

Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation is a remarkable piece of cinema, especially from a first-timer.  Parker controls this entire endeavor as writer, director, producer, and also stars as the slave Nat Turner.  This is a powerful but sad film, though there is a kernel of hope at its center that Parker tries to work from.  Based on a the real-life slave revolt led by Nat Turner in the early 1830s, the film offers incredible acting, but suffers slightly from narrative issues and some muddled thematic material.  Of course, Parker takes some poetic license with the actual history, and while some of these help the story, others are more egregious and unnecessary.  The most definitive aspect of the film is its profound spirituality, which Parker leans heavily on for dramatic justification of Turner’s rebellion, and also as the source of his leadership.  Indeed, this is a film about not only racial injustice, but spiritual deliverance.  Parker is sometimes lost with exactly where to focus the rebellious spirit, but these small mistakes cannot mar the overall poignancy of his message.

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