Stanley Kubrick Essay
Stanley Kubrick is widely regarded as one of, if not the, greatest film-makers of all time. His use of cinematography and music creates an experience that has kept cinema-goers enraptured for over 50 years now. Throughout his time as a film-maker, Stanley Kubrick showed a remarkable diversity when it came to his films; never sticking to just a single genre, Kubrick was able to master Sci-fi, Horror, Comedy, Historical, War and many others.
In this essay, I will be looking at two different films of Kubrick’s, comparing them and ultimately deciding which I believe is the better film over all.
The first film that I will look at is 2001: A Space Odyssey, this was the first of Kubrick’s films that I watched and was what initially got me interested in studying film. While many Sci-fi films of the time were about Alien Invasions or some kind of Alien Creature attacking people. Kubrick’s film dared to explore new ground. Based on the book by Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey featured the story of Dave Bowman, an astronaut working aboard the Discovery, a state of the art space craft tasked with the mission of travelling to Jupiter and finding out what the Luna Monolith’s signal was leading towards. Along the way, he has to overcome the ships murderous AI, driven mad by conflicting orders. While all of this is explained very well in the book. Kubrick decided to go a different approach. Knowing that he wouldn’t be able to fit the entire book into the movie even if he had wanted to, Kubrick decided the best course of action was to show, not tell. Throughout the entire runtime of the 2 hour 41-minute film, there is just over 40 minutes of dialogue, the rest of the time is dedicated to jaw-dropping visuals and mesmerizing musical scores. At release, many people were divided on their opinion of the film, some loved it and called it a masterpiece, others felt it was an overlong bore-fest. This debate continues to this day, though that didn’t seem to affect its box office success. Worldwide 2001 managed to make $68,700,000 in its world-wide box office, which has only increased as he years have gone on. 2001 changed the way the world looked at Science Fiction and even today, decades after it was first released, is still referenced in popular culture.
The other film that I will be looking at is The Shining, based on the book by Stephen King; The Shining was Kubrick’s first foray into the world of Horror. It was here that Kubrick used his knowledge of Camera work to its full effect. His use of One Point Perspective helped the Overlook Hotel feel incredibly claustrophobic and the stilted, disjointed nature of the music really keeps people on edge. One thing that makes the Shining especially interesting is the way Kubrick uses impossible architecture to help people feel uneasy when watching the film. Casual viewers may not consciously notice the architecture, but looking a little closer, people can see rooms that lead to nowhere, that couldn’t possibly exist within the dimensions of the hotel. Even the Hedge Maze, which plays such an integral part of the story is noticeably absent in the only areal shot of the hotel. This puts people on edge, as while in other horror movies people could point out different directions the people could have gone in or places to hide. There are no such places in the Overlook, with its constantly changing layout there is no way to know where the main characters are going to end up next. At its time of release, similarly to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining was met with mixed responses, though mainly positive, people were somewhat baffled with Kubrick’s decision to almost completely ignore the source material. He did this partially because he knew it would not be possible to adapt the book 100% accurately and also because he wanted to make The Shining his own, rather than just recounting what happened in the book. On its opening weekend, The Shining made a total of $622,337 and its total lifetime gross is about $44,017,374. So, despite being a less controversial film, it didn’t sell as well, though less people also walked out of the theatres during the release so that must be seen as a plus.
The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey are two very different films. One is a Science Fiction epic that asks the question of what Alien Life would actually want with Humanity and what their end game might be. The other is a tense horror film in which a man battles with his inner demons and the far more real demons infesting the hotel. When it comes to which is better, that is a hard question to answer. It really depends on the type of person watching the film and what they want to get out of the experience. When it comes down to which film I prefer, it is again a difficult question to answer, both have their highs and lows, both intrigue me in different ways and both have stunningly brilliant cinematography. If I had to give the edge to one, I think it would be to The Shining, simply because I’ve already seen 2001: A Space Odyssey twice, so I feel as though I have yet more to discover in The Shining compared to 2001.