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Friday, November 12, 2010

Kubrick : Psycho, pervert, legend

I have always been a big fan of movies that test the viewer’s emotional stability. I have never really cried after watching a movie but a lot of movies have pulled me into their mystic web. That kind of an impact is what I look forward to. A lot of people feel that movies are supposed to be forms of entertainment. I agree to disagree.

I love passionately made movies, the kind where your thought pattern intersperses with the director’s. This wonderful confluence weaves a magical rug and the effect that results is the ideal kind of impact, the type that I look forward to every time I take a splash into the pool of the director’s imagination.

I dedicate this piece to one such director who created too much of an impact. The "psycho" who made me experience an inexplicable state of trauma and trance. The director of “Full metal jacket” and “A clockwork orange”. The legendary STANLEY KUBRICK.

There is something about these two movies that leave a lasting impression on you. The first one is a war movie and the second, a crime drama. Let me dive into details about the first one. The first half of FMJ focuses on a military training camp. The camera sways over the activities in the camp, the preparations that should eventually lead the trainees to a state of physical and mental toughness. The wonderful character sketching is the first thing that hits you hard and make you realize that you're in for something different.

The acting in the movie is effortless and the perfectionism proselytized and practised by Kubrick is evident. (One of the army camp scenes apparently had over a 100 re-takes). The guy who played the fatty was easily the show-stealer as far as acting is concerned, though the guy who played the trainer isn't too far behind. The fatty's inability to match the stringent levels of fitness and mental control evoke pity. It’s Kubrick’s dark brand of comedy at work here. A sense of comedy fills the air but you find it difficult to laugh. The emotion doesn’t translate into action. The interplay of emotions in the camp, effectively portrayed in the scene where the "joker" refuses to hit fatty in spite of a planned  attack by the other trainees underlines the fact that it’s impossible to be totally phlegmatic even when one’s pushed to such extreme conditions of hostility. It’s these emotional extremities that lead to the eventual killing of the trainer by the end of the film’s first phase.

 In this very intense scene, fatty snuffs himself after mouthing painfully nostalgic monologues that had been taught to him during the course of the training. The whole incident which takes place in an eerie room in the presence of fatty’s partner leaves us emotionally bruised. The second half of the movie is seemingly irrelevant to the first half but the legacy established in the first half is painstakingly injected into the second half. The mere impossibility of emotional unresponsiveness is subtly proved with logical backup in the form of circuitously woven scenes.

A war movie usually contains an overdose of blood spurting action, with scant emphasis on sentiments. This one has its share of hard-core action too, but this can safely be called a universal war film because it’s more about the emotional aspect of war than the war itself. The director gets into the heads of the characters and decodes it for us. It is mainly about the convoluted thought processes of the characters involved, the desire to survive and see the light of day. The screenplay is convoluted in an expressive sense and the film concludes with a sniper battle and a string of horrifying scenes.

A clockwork orange was a very controversial film at the time of its release in 1971. It was too raw and vulgar for the audiences. It is one of the only two movies which have been nominated for the academy awards in spite of an X rating. Public screening was banned and it was re-released in 2001 after Stanley’s death. Stanley’s raw treatment never came as a surprise to me but the colour tones he had chosen did take me by surprise. Very weird choice of backgrounds, the toning of the house for instance. The dialogues and the terminology used also stumped me. The choice of words of the protagonist and his gang of friends looked ironically childish; diametrically opposite to their actions.It could have been a deliberate act. Nevertheless, it seems to have paid off brilliantly; the dialogues makes you question the notions you've established about the characters as the movie progresses. You keep wondering if your assumptions about the characters are true. The characters are laconic; but they sure do make you think every time they have something to say.

The most lingering aspect of the movie is the music. The BGM can actually be totally credited to Ludwig Van Beethoven. Ludwig’s classics have been extensively used, in ways completely unthought-of. An overkill of graphic violence and nudity seems to have been employed consciously to arouse the desired influence. The rape scenes in the movie are shamelessly blatant. No effort is made to conceal the brutality involved, the director expects us to feel and comprehend to the pain of witnessing a horrifying act like rape, without any compromise. There is not an iota of sensuality in the depiction. It’s as horrible, excruciating and intolerable as it gets.

The success of the director lies in the fact that even after the protagonist commits so many unacceptable crimes, the next few scenes are painted in such a way that we end up feeling sad for the convict. After witnessing a slew of terrifying crimes being performed, who would have thought that the audience would end up empathizing with the guilty? The acting style is also surprisingly different. The way the characters converse is conspicuously different, not a wee bit artificial though. The lawyer’s behaviour and Alex’s antics are proper paradigms in support of the preceding statements.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching these two movies for their independent souls, their distinct identities. It’s impossible to classify these films into one single genre as they deal with a variety of issues. I miss Kubrick dearly. I miss his unique ability and resolute audacity to mould characters on his own terms, and his intent to be different and a cut above the rest in the process.


  1. Stanley Kubrick - The man who made the "most original, provocative, and visionary" motion pictures. A very nice post about Him. Wish some living director created movies like he did. Uncompromised art, with a lot of impact.Exceptional!An experience of having watched two masterpieces which fell nothing short of tour de force!

  2. Try this movie called Artificial Intelligence. It's a sci-fi movie by Spielberg but made on the works of Kubrick and almost completely copying his style.