Coincidentally, much of the same could be said about Stanley Kubrick and his line of work. As a film director, Kubrick has left a lasting impression in the history of cinema for his avant-garde characterizations and innovative visual style. To convey such intrinsic interpretations of his medium, Kubrick articulated his films with a series of images and sounds that combine to elicit some sort of emotional response from viewers. Typically, the meaning of film is conveyed to an audience through the words of a reviewer by mode of the internet, a newspaper, a magazine or even a book. However, just as a novel has a meaning unique to each independent reader, so does each one of his films respectively.
Specifically, Kubrick’s films are characterized by a preoccupation with moral and social issues, coupled with a sense of technical artistry. In fact, his works will forever remain culturally, historically and aesthetically important because they stimulate the subconscious with a form of communication that is more profound than traditional methods of verbal exchange. One of the features that best expresses Stanley Kubrick's radical design nature is his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining.
“I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophical content...I intended the film to be an intensely subjective experience that reaches the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does...You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film.” (Kubrick)
Often exercised in conjunction with a particular character’s viewpoint – or in place thereof – is Stanley Kubrick’s robust movement of the camera to vividly exemplify the state of being his characters depict without the need of text or dialogue. His precision with centering and carefully counterbalancing the video shots in his films dictate the relationships his characters share with the environments they inhabit.
For example, in his 1980 film, Kubrick utilizes the spatial properties of the Overlook Hotel to psychologically fabricate a correlation between Danny and the hotel as he rides his tricycle through the seemingly labyrinth-like hallways.
While Danny navigates the winding architecture of the hotel, the viewer is virtually hypnotized by the rhythmic flow of his trajectory. The camera follows Danny at a velocity incomparable to that of his tricycle, generating long tracking shots. The angle of the camera in pursuit is low and distant making the walls that surround him more monstrous and enveloping. As Danny approaches the arch of each doorway, it seems as though the hotel is consuming him as an extraneous being and is immersing him in the environment as he simultaneously vanishes at a distant point. In addition, the sounds of Danny’s tricycle gliding over the rug and echoing floor boards further perpetuate the emotions triggered by the camera’s movement. The culmination of these elements pulls at the heart strings of the viewer as they adopt a feeling of uneasiness and discomfort for Danny as his innocence and naivety are exploited. The falsified peace of the whole scenario is contingent with the viewer’s disposition as they watch feeling as frail as they imagine Danny to be.
During another occurrence, Kubrick once again illustrates how Danny’s youthful weaknesses and insecurities can serve as a catalyst for disturbing the audience. Through a minimalist’s approach, Kubrick omits any real contextual dialogue and simply has his character repeat “red rum” over and over continuously while his mother vulnerably sleeps adjacently. The juxtaposition of these two circumstances alone is puzzling enough. However, the perplexities of the scene are elevated to new heights when viewers discover that “red rum” spelled backwards is “murder,” causing audiences to identify with the shock and terror of Danny’s mother. Despite Kubrick’s nominal approach to soliciting these uninhibited feelings, one must envy his artistic tact of deriving such a grand response from such a conspicuous effort.
The affiliation between character and environment is even more prevalent in the ending sequence when Jack gives chase to Danny through the hedge maze just outside the Overlook Hotel. The geometric intricacies of the maze itself are symbolically parallel to Jack’s spiraling sanity while the limp that disrupts his perseverance alludes to the crumbling well being of his physical and mental states. Again, the viewer becomes saturated with a sense of entrapment as Jack migrates through the maze on his sinister quest. The raw perspective Kubrick instills prevents audiences from blinking as they sit dreading a predictable yet uncertain future. He once again manipulates mind and emotion through variations in camera movement and perspective, unsettling viewers through mere expression.
Ultimately, the chase comes to a regrettable end involving Jacks frozen demise. This single moment is important because it signifies the aggregation of character, environment and audience viewer – causing all momentum to cease. In turn, all of the heightened emotion that once amplified the synergy of sight and sound becomes stale and resolved.
"I would not think of quarreling with your interpretation nor offering any other, as I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself."
Through masterfully misunderstood techniques, Stanley Kubrick has subsequently indoctrinated generations of viewers with his physically and mentally disembodying film craft. Though the definition of art is subjective, few can contest Stanley Kubrick’s unique and experimental art form.
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