Saturday, March 26, 2011

Excerpts from my 3 part article on Stanley Kubrick - Kubrickism part 1- The mind

It is generally said about Kubrick that all his films deal with such diverse subjects that it is hard to believe that it is made by the same person. After having watched 10 of his 13 movies, almost all more than once, I feel that all his films are manifestations of intense philosophical and psychological realizations of Kubrick resulting from long nursing of his stories and plots.
In this 3 part essay I would try to formulate my synthesis with the forewarning that my experience, understanding of human psyche and of the film as an art form is infinitely small in front of the phenomenon I term “Kubrickism”. The initial part deals with the philosophy and the latter part takes about his crafts and technicalities that enabled him realize the above philosophies and create masterpieces.
  1. The emotions and the unconscious: One the reasons his movies (some made around 50 years ago for American audience) still continue to strike the chord with 20 year old audience sitting in India  is his understanding of the faculties of human emotions and the unconscious. He once said that a Beatles song is enjoyed alike by a Harvard Graduate and a truck driver even when they hugely differ in their intellect.

Kubrick constructed his mise-en-scenes such that they produced immediate emotional response but at the same time had unconscious bearing that would be revealed on further contemplation. The scenes had very thoughtful and crafty layering and hence most of his movies stood apart.  His movies were quite like the process of individuation proposed by Carl Jung where a bridge was made between the realities of conscious mind and the desires of unconscious mind. He chose stories were the characters were confronted with their unconscious desires coming true.
At the same time he ensured that a conscious autonomy of the scenes were maintained (I found the end of 2001 A Space Odyssey the only place where was lost for some of the audience (including me) who refused to slip into the unconscious world that Kubrick constructed).
Amongst popular Indian filmmakers and film industries there is always a divided opinion about the purpose of cinema. Some says it is a medium that provides escapism where one can forget the daily life and enjoy while others say that cinema should mirror the society to awaken them.  I feel both of the schools should watch Kubrick’s movies because he has a way of absorbing you into a fictitious world and still provide insights that are universal and relevant to the society. He has sometimes used unrealistic – past or future or fictitious settings to convey universal emotions that are very relevant to day to day life. It is remarkable how he has used surrealism (unseen places in physicality) to convey something extremely real.
  1. Man is imperfect: And hence all his constructions and inventions are. And this doesn’t limit to computers and machines like HAL (2001 Space Odyssey) but also extend to the constructions of societies and the formation of nations.   

If it was not so, we would not be suffering from threats of nuclear war and global warming. At a more molecular level prostitution, swim suit round in Miss Universe contest and WWF would not be existing. These are legalized outlets of the feelings that cannot be totally eliminated in the process of domestication. What exists in the man, exists in the society too.
There are invented virtues like non-violence, loyalty, patriotism that makes our societies function so that a man-made institution or concept (for example marriage, nation, society) and is higher than any individual man. I have found Kubrick in many of his movies questioning that. Kubrick tries to bring these marginalized issues in the forefront and brings it at the loggerheads with a completely domesticated society. For me the most outrageous parts Lolita is Humbert who is a civilized English professor (and enjoys the subtleties of any poem and) is in love with the daughter of the woman he has married, contemplates killing the mother. These feelings exist but are never verbalized.  Lots of times Kubrick brings to forefront the desires that exist but not allowed to be voiced in the society.
There is a power structure that exists in the society and majority of the films confirm to it. It provides validation to our belief system.  Anjum Rajabali in one of his classes said that we see movies even when we know there is a happy ending because we find reassurance in the moral values imparted to us where good happens to good people and bad happens to bad people. Similarly there are exalted concepts like police, soldier, religion, nation and our faith on them has to be constantly reinstated. Kubrick tries to challenge this faith and these concepts.
  1. Dichotomy/dual nature of man: So what is a better choice: die trying to fight slavery or live as a slave(Spartacus), stay apparently faithful and mentally stray or stray, (Eyes Wide Shit), fight and kill or advocate for peace (Full Metal Jacket). Man is guided both by instinct and intellect. I feel that instinct deals with an event in isolation while the intellect deals with the context of the milieu one is in. Kubrick places his characters in a situation where they are trying to walk the thin line between the two, sometimes stepping here, sometimes stepping there. He focuses their innate human frailties.

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