I have seen four Stanley
Kubrick films thus far, three recently. In the
late 1970's I viewed, "2001-A Space
Odyssey," and deemed it a great and
thoughtful work. Viewing it at least four
times over the years has not changed my
perception of it. In 1999, I saw
"Eyes Wide Shut," Kubrick's last
film and "A Clockwork Orange." Most
recently I viewed "A.I.," a
collaboration of Kubrick and the director,
Common themes seem to run
across Kubrick's films. In teen age youth
Kubrick finds raw untamed emotion,
"uncivilized," amoral and "un-
legitimized." In more advanced age,
Kubrick finds corruption, particularly in
males. He seems to rail as a Director, or
perhaps merely observes, how with age comes
ossification, routine and a kind of inner
dying. He seems to lament a person's capacity
to detach himself from his emotions,
ostensibly for the pantheon of monied success
or social status. Never leaving his camera is
a realization of the evil that spreads from
hypocrisy. Even HAL, who so subtly intermixes
child-machine and adult deceit, is tormented
by these themes.
In "Eyes Wide
Shut," the evil Victor Ziegler almost
foreshadows William Harford's future. Harford
is a man in the early to mid stage of
emotional disconnect. Victor Ziegler is in the
very last stages- a man who causes the death
of a woman, without a tear or thought. A man
who needs increasing doses of sex to
experience vestiges of what it means to be
human. One sees the beginning of William's
corruption in the scene in Victor's upstairs
room. William is all to willing to be silent,
reassuring the corrupt Victor- while making
glib comments to the prostitute- who almost
died- about not mixing drugs and alcohol.
Kubrick's "hero" in the film,
Alice Harford, is a woman who recognizes her
primordial drives and needs, embraces them,
but does not let them control her fate.
There is a ritual/orgy sex
scene in "Eyes Wide Shut," that was
digitally edited to retain an NC-17 rating.
The digital editing of the scene is poignant
and maybe Kubrick's "last laugh."
The sexuality in the scene, without the
digital editing, is cold and leaves one with
an impersonal, detached sense of what's going
on. So why not digitally edit it- increasing
the sense of detachment it was intended to
create? In the process one caters to the
unemotional, uninvolved movie executives who
care little about the meaning of the work
itself. Victory from defeat with irony.
Finally, in the film "A.I.," (see
below), we see another debasement of sex that
reflects humanity's degradation- with humans
having sex with android prostitutes. Androids
who will always be wanted for what, "they
can do for humans, rather for than what
they are." Ironically, it is the
prostitute again that elicits our sympathies
and is most truly human and victim.
Finally, in the film "A.I.," (see below), we see another debasement of sex that reflects humanity's degradation- with humans having sex with android prostitutes. Androids who will always be wanted for what, "they can do for humans, rather for than what they are." Ironically, it is the prostitute again that elicits our sympathies and is most truly human and victim.
What distinguished homo
sapiens successful precursors in "2001- A
Space Odyssey," from the less successful?
Is it the ability to use weapons as a tool for
destruction? What is HAL's ultimate instinct-
self-preservation? What causes HAL's downfall-
human deceit? HAL in some sense
represents the penultimate rational,
destructive being, combined with child like
innocence and complete amorality- strands
running through many of Kubrick's characters.
Perhaps the title of
Kubrick's last film is an expression of his
ultimate frustration with mankind-
"eyes wide shut." Yet there is one
true hero in the film- the prostitute- not the
one that "seduces" "Dr.
Bill," but the one that makes the
ultimate sacrifice for him- giving her life.
The same prostitute who he approaches in a
truly loving manner in the morgue- the same
prostitute whose murderers will go
unpunished with Bill and Alice's acquiescence.
Is it so surprising that we would find in a
Kubrick film heartfelt martyrdom in a
Yet, in Alice we find a woman in
touch with who she is and therefore unlikely
to destroy what she is not. Perhaps in Alice
we find our salvation.
Stanley Kubrick died in
March 1999. For over twenty years he had
talked with Steven Spielberg on producing a
movie loosely based on the short story, "Super-Toys
Last All Summer Long," by Brian Aldiss.
Kubrick had created thousands of storyboards
for the movie, and reportedly was waiting on
cinematic advances, to make a movie that would
fulfill his vision of a future with androids
that looked and acted like humans. Spielberg
completed the project after Kubrick died, and
in 2001, directed and wrote the movie A.I.
The questions the movie
raises concerning the ethical and societal
implications of creating humanoids that feel,
think and love are I believe intertwined with
the themes that run through all of Kubrick's
work. After all, why should humanoids that
think and feel like humans be treated as less
than human- other than for the human
propensity to enslave, isolate and
marginalize? Who is more "human,"
the robots or their human creators?
Again in the child robot,
David, one finds a being that was programmed
inescapably to love, yet finds himself
alienated by a society that treats him in ways
similar to both
Frankenstein's monster and Pinocchio. In the end his
love and faith triumphs and he finds
acceptance and sweet dreams lying beside his
"resurrected" mother, who by her own
admission, "forgot to tell him about
human beings." Thus David, fulfills a
duty to his creators that, as the film
alludes to in its' beginning, the Biblical
Adam failed to fulfill to his God- to
remain faithful. The film's ending occurs
2,000 years after David's construction- not
surprisingly, after the human race is extinct
and the Earth barren- with David's memories
the last enduring trace of what was.
Yet the film laments the
loss of the human race. Why is that? To answer
this, one must go beyond the movie's script.
The answer may lie in the tragic realization
that very forces that led to mankind's
destruction were also the cause of his
Mankind is a child of evolution and the universe. All creation that preceded him is manifested in him. Every struggle of opposites is mirrored in him. This struggle is a result of what he has evolved to be- a self-aware being with powers of language and abstraction, yet grounded in the primeval forces that have shaped creation. In Freudian terms the ID (Eros and Thanatos) and the Ego struggle, seeking balance and integration through the Super-Ego.
This dynamic tension between
"animal" and "god" in the
man yields creativity and a never-ending
search for truth mysterious. Removal of the
creative animus may define a being that has
lost the ability to evolve. Yet this creative
side may be dependent on the instinctual
forces that drive the human race to
extinction- violence, self-delusion and a
denial of connectedness.
creativity and destructiveness are one, it
does not follow that violence- due more to
fear, must prevail. In
Noire Side and a Personal
Message, I have written of ways man can reintegrate himself
into the fabric of the universe. In
"A.I.," humans have difficulty
accepting that a robot can love- but do
humans love at all? Only through
self-understanding can sensitivity, compassion
and love arise. Only then will mankind truly
love. Perhaps this was Kubrick's ultimate