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◗ Dossier – Stanley Kubrick Nouveaux horizons

Hors série - 2017


ESSAIS
• Avant-propos .............................. 7
Vincent Jaunas
◗ Approche philosophique générale
• Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis
dans l’œuvre du cinéaste ............................ 19
Sam Azulys
◗ Paths of Glory
•P
 aths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire ............................ 43
Clément Puget
◗ The Shining Revue interdisciplinaire d’Humanités
• From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining ............................ 61
Loig Le Bihan
• Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for

ESSAIS - Revue interdisciplinaire d’Humanités


meaning in crisis ............................ 79
Vincent Jaunas Stanley Kubrick
◗ Eyes Wide Shut
• Les Masques de la vanité. Kubrick, Schnitzler, Ophüls, Maupassant ............................ 97 Nouveaux horizons
Emmanuel Plasseraud
• Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of
Earthly Delights .......................... 105
Dijana Metlić
Études réunies par Vincent Jaunas et Jean-François Baillon
◗ Le « monde fictionnel »
• Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau : du concept à l’espace mental .......................... 127
Pierre Beylot
• The Kubrick Cinematic Universe .......................... 141
Rod Munday
◗ Collaboration
• Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s Collaborations .......................... 159
Manca Perko
• “Dear Arthur, what do you think?”. The Kubrick-Clarke collaboration
in their correspondence from the Smithsonian and London Archives .......................... 173
Simone Odino
◗ Réception et intermédialité
• Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television .......................... 195
Matthew Melia
• From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s
mythology .......................... 221
Filippo Ulivieri

ISBN : 979-10-97024-04-8 Hors série - 2017


H

ÉCOLE DOCTORALE MONTAIGNE-HUMANITÉS


ED

9 791097 024048
Revue interdisciplinaire d’Humanités

Stanley Kubrick
Nouveaux horizons

Études réunies par Vincent Jaunas et Jean-François Baillon

Hors série - 2017

ÉCOLE DOCTORALE MONTAIGNE-HUMANITÉS


Comité de rédaction
Jean-Luc Bergey, Marco Conti, Inès Da Graça Gaspar, José Luis de Miras,
Chantal Duthu, Rime Fetnan, Jean-Paul Gabilliet, Stanislas Gauthier, Eleonora Lega,
Maria Caterina Manes Gallo, Nina Mansion Prud’homme, Myriam Métayer,
Vanessa Saint-Martin, Marco Tuccinardi

Membres fondateurs
Brice Chamouleau, Bertrand Guest, Jean-Paul Engelibert, Sandro Landi,
Sandra  Lemeilleur, Isabelle Poulin, Anne-Laure Rebreyend, Jeffrey Startwood,
François Trahais

Comité scientifique
Anne-Emmanuelle Berger (Université Paris 8), Patrick  Boucheron (Collège de
France), Jean Boutier (EHESS), Catherine Coquio (université Paris 7), Phillipe Desan
(University of Chicago), Javier  Fernandez  Sebastian (UPV), Carlo  Ginzburg
(UCLA et Scuola Normale Superiore, Pise), German Labrador Mendez (Princeton
University), Hélène  Merlin-Kajman (Université Paris 3), Franco  Pierno (Victoria
University in Toronto), Dominique  Rabaté (Université Paris 7), Charles  Walton
(University of Warwick)

Directeur de publication
Sandro Landi

Secrétaire de rédaction
Chantal Duthu

Les articles publiés par Essais sont des textes originaux. Tous les articles font l’objet d’une double
révision anonyme.
Tout article ou proposition de numéro thématique doit être adressé au format word à l’adresse
suivante : revue-essais@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr
La revue Essais est disponible en ligne sur le site :
http://www.u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr/fr/ecole-doctorale/la-revue-essais.html

Éditeur/Diffuseur
École Doctorale Montaigne-Humanités
Université Bordeaux Montaigne
Domaine universitaire 33607 Pessac cedex (France)
http://www.u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr/fr/ecole-doctorale/la-revue-essais.html
École Doctorale Montaigne-Humanités
Revue de l’École Doctorale
ISSN : 2417-4211
ISBN : 979-10-97024-04-8 • EAN : 9791097024048
© Conception/mise en page : DSIN - Pôle Production Imprimée
En peignant le monde nous nous peignons nous-mêmes, et ce faisant
ne peignons « pas l’être », mais « le passage »*. Dialogues, enquêtes, les
textes amicalement et expérimentalement réunis ici pratiquent active-
ment la citation et la bibliothèque. Ils revendiquent sinon leur caractère
fragmentaire, leur existence de processus, et leur perpétuelle évolution.
Créée sur l’impulsion de l’École Doctorale « Montaigne-Humanités »
devenue depuis 2014 Université Bordeaux Montaigne, la revue Essais
a pour objectif de promouvoir une nouvelle génération de jeunes
chercheurs résolument tournés vers l’interdisciplinarité. Essais propose
la mise à l’épreuve critique de paroles et d’objets issus du champ des
arts, des lettres, des langues et des sciences humaines et sociales.
Communauté pluridisciplinaire et plurilingue (des traductions
inédites sont proposées), la revue Essais est animée par l’héritage de
Montaigne, qui devra être compris comme une certaine qualité de
regard et d’écriture.
Parce que de Montaigne nous revendiquons cette capacité à s’exiler
par rapport à sa culture et à sa formation, cette volonté d’estrange-
ment qui produit un trouble dans la perception de la réalité et permet
de décrire une autre scène où l’objet d’étude peut être sans cesse refor-
mulé. Ce trouble méthodologique ne peut être disjoint d’une forme
particulière d’écriture, celle, en effet, que Montaigne qualifie de façon
étonnamment belle et juste d’« essai ».
Avec la revue Essais nous voudrions ainsi renouer avec une manière
d’interroger et de raconter le monde qui privilégie l’inachevé sur le
méthodique et l’exhaustif. Comme le rappelle Theodor Adorno (« L’essai
comme forme », 1958), l’espace de l’essai est celui d’un anachronisme
permanent, pris entre une « science organisée » qui prétend tout expli-
quer et un besoin massif de connaissance et de sens qui favorise, plus
encore aujourd’hui, les formes d’écriture et de communication rapides,
lisses et consensuelles.
Écriture à contrecourant, l’essai vise à restaurer dans notre
communauté et dans nos sociétés le droit à l’incertitude et à l’erreur,
le pouvoir qu’ont les Humanités de formuler des vérités complexes,
Édito
dérangeantes et paradoxales. Cette écriture continue et spéculaire, en
questionnement permanent, semble seule à même de constituer un
regard humaniste sur un monde aussi bigarré que relatif, où « chacun
appelle barbarie ce qui n’est pas de son usage ».
C’est ainsi qu’alternent dans cette «  marqueterie mal jointe  »,
numéros monographiques et varias, développements et notes de lecture,
tous également essais et en dialogue, petit chaos tenant son ordre de
lui-même.

Le Comité de Rédaction
* Toutes les citations sont empruntées aux Essais (1572-1592) de Michel de Montaigne.
Stanley Kubrick Dossier
Nouveaux horizons
Dossier coordonné par
Vincent Jaunas
Jean-François Baillon
Avant-Propos

Vincent Jaunas

«  Explaining [films] contributes nothing but a superficial “cultural” value


which has no value except for critics and teachers who have to earn a living »1.
Stanley  Kubrick, connu pour sa franchise, ne dissimule pas sa méfiance à
l’égard des exégètes de son œuvre après la sortie de 2001 : L’odyssée de l’espace.
Force est de constater que nombre de critiques de cinéma, philosophes ou
historiens de l’art furent irrémédiablement attirés par la force énigmatique
du film, et cédèrent à la tentation d’en livrer une interprétation totale et défi-
nitive  ; le mystérieux monolithe ou la renaissance de l’astronaute Bowman
furent déchiffrés comme autant de paraboles historiques, sociales, philoso-
phiques ou encore théologiques. Depuis, il est indéniable que peu de cinéastes
ont tant fait couler d’encre, du côté des critiques et universitaires comme de
celui des amateurs passionnés. Chaque film de l’artiste s’accompagne désor-
mais d’une bibliographie parmi les plus denses que l’on puisse trouver dans
le champ des études filmiques. Or Kubrick envisageait ses œuvres comme des
expériences non verbales, s’adressant directement à un subconscient capable
d’en apprécier la multiplicité et le foisonnement sémantique sans chercher à
en circonscrire le sens par le langage : « a visual, nonverbal experience. It avoids
intellectual verbalization and reaches the viewer’s subconscious in a way that is
essentially poetic and philosophic »2.
Il semble ainsi légitime de questionner le bien-fondé de publier
Stanley Kubrick. Nouveaux Horizons, près de 20 ans après la mort du réalisateur et
ce, alors que des dizaines d’ouvrages ont déjà analysé son œuvre. Sommes-nous,
enseignants, doctorants ou chercheurs amateurs, sur le point de trahir à notre
tour la complexité de ces films en la circonscrivant par le langage ? Notons toute-
fois que Kubrick ne rejetait pas intégralement les travaux consacrés à ses films.
Emilio d’Alessandro, chauffeur et ami du réalisateur, confia à Filippo Ulivieri

1 Stanley  Kubrick. Propos recueillis par Joseph  Gelmis, 1969  : http://www.visual-memory.


co.uk/amk/doc/0069.html (dernière visite le 10/11/2017).
2 Ibid.
8 Vincent Jaunas

toute l’admiration que l’artiste portait au Kubrick de Michel Ciment3, à travers


une anecdote cocasse : l’artiste avait, semble-t-il, tendance à offrir une copie
du livre à nombre de ses visiteurs4. C’est que loin de réduire la filmographie du
cinéaste à une thèse philosophico-politique rigide, le chef-d’œuvre de Ciment
en souligne les forces vives et les tensions sous-jacentes, les obsessions récur-
rentes et les paradoxes stimulants. Son livre n’offre pas au lecteur le même repos
intellectuel qu’une interprétation se voulant exhaustive et systémique. « Ideas
which are valid and truthful are so multi-faceted that they don’t yield themselves
to frontal assault », écrivit le cinéaste5. Or le livre de Ciment fait honneur à la
complexité et à l’obliquité recherchée par le réalisateur, et incite à se replonger
dans ses films pour y goûter encore et davantage leur foisonnement esthétique,
source d’une infinie stimulation intellectuelle et émotionnelle.
Stanley Kubrick. Nouveaux Horizons ambitionne de s’inscrire dans ce pres-
tigieux sillage. Au travers d’approches variées, ses auteurs tentent de mettre à
jour certains aspects encore largement inexplorés. Mais ce recueil offre aussi
l’opportunité de synthétiser les nombreuses directions prises par les études
kubrickiennes. En France, de nombreux philosophes intéressés par les images,
de Jean Baudrillard6 à Gilles Deleuze7, ont exploité l’œuvre de Kubrick, tandis
qu’outre Ciment, des universitaires émérites comme Michel  Chion8 lui ont
consacré des monographies, ancrant fermement la critique kubrickienne
francophone dans une tradition d’analyse esthétique. Si ce fut également le
cas outre-Atlantique (citons les ouvrages fondateurs d’Alexander  Walker9,
James Naremore10, Thomas A. Nelson11 ou encore Robert Kolker12), les travaux
anglo-saxons ont depuis dix ans pris une direction radicalement autre. En 2007,
les archives de Stanley Kubrick s’ouvrirent au public à Londres (University of
the Arts London), grâce à la généreuse donation de l’épouse et du beau-frère
de l’artiste, Christiane Kubrick et Jan Harlan. Environ 873 mètres d’étagères
y accueillent l’impressionnante collection de données que le réalisateur à la
méticulosité désormais légendaire accumula au fil des ans dans son manoir de
la banlieue nord de Londres. Des photographies prises lors du travail de pré-

3 Michel Ciment, Kubrick, Paris : Calmann-Lévy, 2004.


4 Emilio D’Alessandro et Filippo Ulivieri, Stanley Kubrick and me: thirty years at his side, New
York : Arcade Publishing, 2016.
5 Stanley Kubrick, Words and Movies, in Sight & Sound, vol. 30, 1960-61, p. 14.
6 Jean Baudrillard, Simulacres et simulation, Paris : Galilée, 1981, p. 73-90.
7 Gilles Deleuze, L’image-temps, Paris : Éditions de Minuit, 1985, p. 264.
8 Michel Chion, Stanley Kubrick : l’humain, ni plus ni moins, Paris : Cahiers du cinéma, 2005.
9 Alexander Walker, Stanley Kubrick, Director, New York : WW Norton & Company, 2000.
10 James Naremore, On Kubrick, Londres : British Film Institute, 2007.
11 Thomas Allen Nelson, Kubrick: Inside A Film Artist’s Maze, 2nd ed., Bloomington : Indiana
University Press, 2000.
12 Robert Phillip Kolker, A cinema of loneliness: Penn, Stone, Kubrick, Scorsese, Spielberg, Altman.
3rd ed., Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2000.
Avant-propos 9

production aux lettres de fans, en passant par la correspondance de l’artiste


avec tous ses collaborateurs et certains collègues de renom (Ingmar Bergman,
François Truffaut, Steven Spielberg entre autres), ces archives représentent une
mine d’or pour les chercheurs, qui se sont empressés de l’exploiter.
Cette nouvelle mouvance, portée notamment par Peter  Krämer ou
Nathan Abrams13, met l’accent sur les études de la réception des films, analyse
le travail d’adaptation du réalisateur (rappelons que tous ses longs-métrages, à
l’exception des deux premiers, Fear and Desire et Killer’s Kiss, sont la transposi-
tion d’œuvres littéraires), souligne son aspect collaboratif ou ancre l’œuvre du
réalisateur, souvent considérée à l’écart de la production de son temps, dans un
contexte intellectuel spécifique14. Bien qu’encore marginale en France (à notre
connaissance, le récent Shining au Miroir de Loig Le Bihan est la seule publi-
cation francophone qui exploite en profondeur le matériel des archives15), où
les Reception Studies et autres études empiriques restent d’ailleurs une frange
peu développée des études filmiques, cette mouvance est aujourd’hui domi-
nante dans de nombreux pays d’Europe.
Celle-ci a permis de corriger certains des écueils critiques parfois propagés
par des analyses esthétiques plus traditionnelles. C’est notamment le cas de
l’aspect collaboratif du travail de Stanley Kubrick. Graham Allen remarquait
la tendance globale à assumer que le moindre détail des films du réalisa-
teur, œuvres prototypiques d’un auteur démiurge, résulte de la volonté d’un
surhomme omniscient : « the cool rational science of academic criticism [assumes]
almost god-like levels of control and intention in Kubrick’s films »16. Les recherches
sur la liberté créatrice allouée aux collaborateurs du cinéaste permettent ainsi
de nuancer une approche radicalement auteuriste17. Néanmoins, nous parta-
geons le constat de James  Fenwick, selon qui la prédominance des études
empiriques a donné naissance à une certaine orthodoxie qui rejette tout
travail interprétatif non sanctionné par des preuves matérielles18. Par cette
quête rigoureuse d’intentionnalité, cette pensée intransigeante cherche certai-

13 Citons l’ouvrage étendard des études empiristes. Ljujic et al. (éd.), Stanley Kubrick: new perspec-
tives, London : Black Dog Publishing, 2015.
14 Nathan Abrams propose par exemple de réévaluer l’œuvre de Kubrick à l’aune du contexte
intellectuel juif New Yorkais de l’après-guerre. Nathan  Abrams, An Alternative New York
Intellectual: Stanley  Kubrick’s Cultural Critique, in Ljujic et al. (éd.), Stanley  Kubrick: New
Perspectives, Londres : Black Dog Publishing, 2015.
15 Loig Le Bihan, Shining au Miroir, Aix-en-Provence : Rouge Profond, 2017.
16 Graham Allen, The Unempty Wasps’ Nest: Kubrick’s The Shining, Adaptation, Chance, Interpretation,
in Adaptation, vol. 8, n° 3, Oxford, 2015.
17 Voir notamment Peter Krämer, Complete Total Final Annihilating Artistic Control:
Stanley Kubrick and Postwar Hollywood, in Ljujic et al. (éd.), Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives,
Londres : Black Dog Publishing, 2015.
18 James Fenwick (éd.), Understanding Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Representation and
Interpretation, Bristol : Intellect Books, 2018.
10 Vincent Jaunas

nement à rétablir l’équilibre face à une approche esthétique péchant parfois


par une glose excessive, voire un délire interprétatif prêtant au réalisateur une
infinité de discours. Ironiquement, cette nouvelle orthodoxie risque cepen-
dant d’entériner une nouvelle tradition de puritanisme exégétique, où seuls
les ouvrages indiquant, preuves matérielles à l’appui, ce que Kubrick a « réel-
lement voulu dire », auraient droit de cité.
Stanley Kubrick . Nouveaux Horizons cherche à tracer une ligne intermédiaire.
Ce recueil mêle des analyses historiques et des articles analytiques plus tradition-
nels, avec la conviction que ces deux mouvances s’enrichissent mutuellement.
Le format bilingue de ce volume permettra, nous l’espérons, de faire valoir la
fécondité d’une approche mixte où recherches de terrain et analyses esthétiques
s’entrecroisent dans un dialogue permettant de saisir davantage la spécificité
du réalisateur. Cette pluralité d’approches nous semble le meilleur moyen de
goûter la richesse de l’œuvre d’un artiste aux passions multiples, cherchant sans
cesse à repousser les limites de son art, techniquement et esthétiquement. Par
conséquent, les nouveaux horizons que le recueil souhaite mettre en avant sont
peut-être à chercher tant dans l’association des deux mouvances critiques que
du côté de l’interdisciplinarité. Philosophie, histoire, histoire de l’art ou encore
musicologie et sémiotique peuvent apporter leurs lumières aux études filmiques
classiques et éclairer diverses facettes de l’œuvre d’un artiste si protéiforme19.
C’est peut-être cette multiplicité qui permet à l’œuvre de conserver sa
remarquable popularité. Stanley Kubrick fait partie de ces rares cinéastes à être,
aujourd’hui encore, célébré tant par la critique que dans la culture médiatique.
Ses œuvres ont engendré des formes iconiques inlassablement citées, parodiées,
pastichées. On ne compte plus les références à Dr Folamour, à 2001 : L’odyssée
de l’Espace, à Orange Mécanique, à Shining ou encore à Eyes Wide Shut dans Les
Simpsons20 et autres séries TV, mais aussi dans les publicités. Toute référence
audiovisuelle à la conquête de l’espace semble désormais devoir être accompagnée
d’Also Sprach Zarathustra de Richard Strauss, tandis que les lunettes en forme de
cœur de Lolita symbolisent la sexualité adolescente dans l’imaginaire collectif.
Si Kubrick est aujourd’hui devenu une icône populaire, il est néanmoins
remarquable que peu de réalisateurs contemporains peuvent se targuer d’en
être les héritiers. Bien que la rigueur symétrique étouffante des plans de

19 Citons les apports (respectivement philosophiques, musicologiques et sémiotiques) de


Sam  Azulys, Stanley  Kubrick  : une odyssée philosophique, Paris  : Les éditions de la transpa-
rence, 2011 ; Kate McQuiston, We’ll meet again: musical design in the films of Stanley Kubrick,
Oxford University Press, 2013 ; Loig Le Bihan, Shining au miroir : Surinterprétations, Aix-en-
Provence : Rouge Profond, 2017.
20 Mick Broderick, Animating Kubrick – Auteurist Influences in The Simpsons, in Screening The Past,
n°  42, Melbourne  : LeTrobe University, 2017. http://www.screeningthepast.com/2017/09/
animating-kubrick-auteur-influences-in-the-simpsons/ (dernière visite le 03/12/2017).
Avant-propos 11

Nicolas Winding Refn soit souvent rapprochée de l’esthétique kubrickienne21,


et que nombre de films de science-fiction ou d’horreur actuels se réfèrent
à 2001  : L’odyssée de l’Espace ou à Shining, il apparaît que Stanley  Kubrick
n’a pas fait «  école  », à la façon d’un Steven  Spielberg. L’essentiel des réfé-
rences cinématographiques au réalisateur restent de l’ordre de la citation ou
de l’hommage, comme l’explique Robert Kolker : « with few exceptions the
Kubrickian influence has been cultural rather than cinematic  »22. Pensons
notamment au plan en Steadicam de Barton Fink (1991) des frères Coen, à la
prestation de R. Lee Ermey en tant que soldat de plomb dans Toy Story (1995)
de John Lasseter, allusion intertextuelle explicite à son rôle du sergent instruc-
teur Hartman dans Full Metal Jacket, ou encore à la citation humoristique
dans le récent Get Out (2017) de Jordan Peele (« You’ in some Eyes Wide Shut
situation. Leave, motherfucker »). Peut-être est-ce le meilleur signe de l’origina-
lité d’un cinéaste au style inimitable mais néanmoins légendaire.
Depuis 20 ans, la légende Kubrick n’a cessé de croître, et a trouvé un
moyen d’expression privilégié sur internet. La complexité de certains de ses
films a donné naissance à une myriade de forums, où les internautes débattent
des différentes théories concernant les sens « cachés » de 2001 : L’odyssée de
l’Espace, de Shining ou encore d’Eyes Wide Shut, frôlant parfois la théorie
du complot dans une fièvre herméneutique inlassable et débridée. Outre la
complexité des films, « œuvres ouvertes »23 exigeantes s’adressant néanmoins
à un large public, la méticulosité du cinéaste est certainement l’un des sujets
les plus discutés et justifie à lui seul la survivance de sa persona dans l’imagi-
naire populaire. Diverses anecdotes, comme le fait que Kubrick employa un
objectif Zeiss construit pour la Nasa afin de tourner les scènes à la bougie de
Barry Lyndon, ont ainsi circulé par-delà le cadre restreint des sites spécialisés.
Dans la presse généraliste, dans des blogs ou sur des forums, elles semblent
immanquablement accompagner chaque mention de l’artiste.
Ainsi, la personnalité du réalisateur justifie en elle-même une grande partie
de l’engouement, sans cesse renouvelé, pour interpréter chaque détail de son
œuvre. Dire que Stanley Kubrick est un artiste perfectionniste relève du lieu
commun. Les anecdotes quant à l’autoritarisme du réalisateur ont peu à peu
façonné son image de génie misanthrope. Expatrié en Angleterre pour tourner
Lolita, le réalisateur y restera finalement jusqu’à sa mort, enfermé tel un ermite
dans son manoir, refusant les interviews, ne voyageant jamais et tirant les
ficelles de son univers dans l’anonymat le plus total, si isolé que personne ne

21 Voir notamment la critique de The Neon Demon (2016) de Jean-Baptiste Morain, qui qualifie
l’influence kubrickienne de « criarde » : https://www.lesinrocks.com/cinema/films-a-l-affiche/
the-neon-demon/ (dernière visite le 04/12/17).
22 Robert Kolker, Rage For Order: Kubrick’s Fearful Symmetry, in Raritan-A Quarterly Review,
vol. 30, n° 01, New Jersey : Rutgers University, 2010.
23 Cf. Umberto Eco, L’œuvre ouverte, Paris : Éditions du Seuil, 1979.
12 Vincent Jaunas

savait à quoi il ressemblait à la fin de sa vie. C’est du moins la réputation


qui continue de façonner l’aura dont jouit le cinéaste, et ce alors même que
ses proches (Christiane  Kubrick, Jan  Harlan), ses amis et ses collaborateurs
(Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Sydney Pollack), se sont évertués à nuancer le
mythe en dépeignant un homme certes intransigeant, mais également timide,
chaleureux et ouvert. Emblème du génie solitaire de son vivant, l’artiste est
devenu une icône populaire après sa mort, que ce soit au cinéma (Call me
Kubrick de Brian  W.  Cook, 2005, Moonwalker d’Antoine  Bardou-Jacquet,
2015) ou dans la littérature de fiction (Kubrick’s Code d’Isaac Weishaupt, 2017).
Autant que la qualité de ses films, la persona de l’auteur participe à
entretenir le fantasme tant populaire que critique sur ses films inachevés. Les
éditions Taschen ont publié un recueil du travail préparatoire effectué par
Kubrick sur son Napoléon, au sous-titre révélateur : « The greatest film never
made »24. À ce titanesque projet s’ajoutent notamment Aryan Papers, projet de
film évoquant les aventures de deux jeunes juifs polonais durant l’holocauste,
ou encore A.I.  : Intelligence Artificielle, que Steven  Spielberg réalisa après
la mort de Kubrick en s’inspirant le plus fidèlement possible de son travail
préparatoire. Les ressources documentaires mises à disposition à L’université
des Arts de Londres permettent désormais aux chercheurs de rendre compte
avec justesse de ces projets non aboutis, et d’éclairer davantage le processus
créatif de l’artiste et de ses collaborateurs.
Ces divers éléments extra-filmiques constituent autant de données qui
façonnent aujourd’hui l’expérience de l’œuvre de Kubrick, et que les auteurs
de ce recueil intègrent dans leurs réflexions. Il apparaît ainsi que la recherche
sur Kubrick, loin d’avoir épuisé ses possibles, ne cesse d’arpenter des voies
nouvelles pour comprendre et apprécier la filmographie de l’un des grands
artistes du XXe siècle. Les détracteurs du cinéaste, au premier rang desquels
figure la célèbre critique américaine du New Yorker Pauline  Kael25, contri-
buèrent à forger l’image de films froids, œuvres d’un homme calculateur
et misanthrope, plus intéressé par la beauté des machines que par les êtres
humains. Ce volume souhaite au contraire témoigner de l’extraordinaire
passion que permet de susciter l’artiste 20 ans après sa mort. À l’aune de celle-
ci, il s’avère cependant nécessaire de réévaluer l’œuvre du réalisateur en prenant
en compte la densité du péritexte qui l’accompagne. Les divers articles recueil-
lis ici permettent de définir et de contextualiser le « phénomène » Kubrick,
mais également de réaffirmer l’importance d’un discours scientifique rigoureux
visant à éclairer la richesse d’une pensée filmique, à l’heure où la multiplication

24 Alison Castle (éd.), Stanley  Kubrick’s Napoleon: the greatest movie never made, Cologne  :
Taschen, 2011.
25 Pauline Kael. Trash, Art and the Movie, in Going Steady: Film Writings, 1968-1969, Londres :
Marion Boyars Publishers, 2001.
Avant-propos 13

des discours sur internet risque d’en effacer les contours, voire de noyer l’œuvre
elle-même dans un flot de rumeurs et de théories. En associant études esthé-
tiques et approches empiriques, Stanley Kubrick. Nouveaux Horizons souligne
la liberté interprétative que confèrent les films aux spectateurs tout en redé-
finissant les cadres sémantiques et esthétiques au-delà desquels tout discours
risque de tomber dans la surinterprétation, les films devenant alors de simples
réceptacles condamnés à accueillir tout et son contraire.
Si ce volume se veut un lieu de rencontre et de mise en perspective des
diverses mouvances qui animent la critique kubrickienne, il ambitionne
également de s’inscrire pleinement dans la tradition de la revue Essais, qui,
fidèle à la pensée de Michel de Montaigne, est un espace d’échanges, où la
pensée demeure ouverte et rhizomatique. Nous revendiquons ainsi le carac-
tère hétéroclite de ce volume, bien que tous les films du cinéaste n’y soient
conséquemment pas traités avec la même attention. De même, les travaux
d’éminents spécialistes côtoient les œuvres de jeunes doctorants et de non-
universitaires éclairés ; de cette diversité naît ainsi une approche plurielle dont
émerge pourtant une série d’échos et de fragments de sens partagés.
Ce numéro s’ouvre avec l’article de Sam Azulys, qui analyse l’œuvre du réali-
sateur au prisme de la question du corps. Cela le mène à questionner la fameuse
distinction deleuzienne entre cinéma du corps (Godard, Cassavetes) et cinéma
du cerveau, dont Stanley Kubrick serait l’un des emblèmes26. L’auteur considère
que dans les films de Kubrick, une volonté de néant irrigue un cerveau malade
qui s’exprime notamment par la technique. Azulys suggère que le cinéaste,
moins pessimiste que sa réputation ne le laisse croire, envisage néanmoins un
potentiel dépassement de cette pulsion néfaste en dépeignant des personnages
doués de mètis, forme d’intelligence s’exprimant pour et par le corps.
Le scope philosophique et englobant de Sam Azulys est suivi par une approche
historique centrée sur un film, Les Sentiers de la Gloire. Spécialiste des représen-
tations cinématographiques de la Première Guerre mondiale, Clément  Puget
considère le rapport si particulier de Kubrick à la véracité historique. Alors que
l’artiste ancre son film en 1916, Puget analyse diverses stratégies formelles qui
évoquent plusieurs faits historiques spécifiques ayant eu lieu de 1914 à 1916. Ses
rappels audiovisuels font de l’œuvre un film fidèle à l’historicité de la guerre, tout
en transcendant tout ancrage précis pour devenir une représentation synthétique
de la première guerre mondiale, voire de toute guerre.
Loig Le Bihan centre encore davantage son objet d’étude et propose la
microanalyse d’une unique séquence de Shining. L’auteur revient sur ce détail
apparemment anodin : au beau milieu du tournage, Kubrick décide de couper
une scène (la découverte d’un album recensant divers faits-divers ayant eu

26 Gilles Deleuze, op. cit., 1985, p. 264.


14 Vincent Jaunas

lieu dans le terrifiant hôtel Overlook) et de la remplacer par une autre (femme
et enfant se promènent dans le labyrinthe tandis que le père en observe la
maquette). Se livrant à une « interprétation indiciaire », Loig Le Bihan suggère
néanmoins que ce changement détermine un revirement esthétique majeur qui
révèle l’ambition à l’origine de ce film mystérieux. Ces trois articles radicale-
ment différents, aux scopes divers, s’accordent néanmoins à considérer que les
images de Kubrick « pensent », sans pourtant contenir « un sens fini, clôturé »27.
Prolifération de la pensée et multiplicité du sens sont au cœur du second
article consacré à Shining. Dans celui-ci, nous revenons sur la réception de
ce film si déroutant et envisageons le phénomène de surinterprétation, mis
en évidence par le documentaire Room 237 (Rodney Ascher, 2013), comme
symptomatique d’un film où l’herméneutique est un défi lancé aux specta-
teurs ; en comparant la dynamique de perception de Jack (Jack Nicholson)
et de Danny (Danny  Lloyd), nous suggérons que le récit filmique intègre
deux rapports au monde opposés, l’un hermétique, l’autre ouvert, qui guident
le spectateur vers deux stratégies interprétatives divergentes.
Les considérations sémiotiques de Shining laissent place aux évocations
intertextuelles des deux articles consacrés à l’ultime film du réalisateur, Eyes
Wide Shut. Les travaux d’Emmanuel Plasseraud et de Dijana Metlić explorent
des chemins radicalement différents. Plasseraud envisage les influences litté-
raires et filmiques du cinéaste en proposant une analyse croisée d’Eyes Wide
Shut, adapté de La Nouvelle Rêvée d’Arthur Schnitzler (1926), et de Le Plaisir,
film de 1952 réalisé par Max  Ophüls (dont on connaît l’importance pour
Kubrick28) lui-même adapté de trois nouvelles de Guy De Maupassant. Cet
angle permet à l’auteur de comparer deux stratégies d’adaptation et de mettre
à jour des accointances et des points de divergence entre l’esthétique des
deux metteurs en scène. Metlić, quant à elle, se concentre sur l’héritage pictural
du film. Si Barry Lyndon tend à attirer tous les discours critiques sur l’impor-
tance de la peinture pour Stanley  Kubrick, l’auteure montre son influence,
plus discrète mais tout aussi centrale, dans Eyes Wide Shut, grâce à une étude
croisée de l’œuvre avec Le Jardin des Délices de Jérôme Bosch29 (1494-1505).
Metlić revient sur chaque panneau du triptyque, qu’elle met en lien avec les
diverses orientations esthétiques du film. Le jardin d’Éden du peintre est ainsi
comparable à la vision du monde initiale de Bill (Tom Cruise), tandis que
le second panneau (L’humanité avant la Chute) évoque les fantasmes d’Alice

27 Sam Azulys. Propos recueillis par Jean-Max Méjean, 2011  : http://livres-et-cinema.blogs.


nouvelobs.com/tag/sam+azulys (dernière visite le 26/11/17).
28 Cf. notamment : Stanley Kubrick, The Directors Choose the Best Films, interview publiée dans
le magazine Cinema, n° 01, 1963.
29 Jan Harlan insistait déjà sur l’influence du peintre néérlandais sur le cinéaste en décrivant la
scène d’orgie du film comme « A Hieronymus Bosch type of hell ». Jan Harlan, in Alison Castle
(éd.), The Stanley Kubrick Archives, Köln : Taschen, 2008, p. 512.
Avant-propos 15

(Nicole Kidman). Enfin, L’enfer offre une analogie avec l’expérience cauche-


mardesque que vit Bill lorsqu’il est témoin d’une orgie occulte. Les approches
divergentes de Plasseraud et de Metlić poussent néanmoins les deux auteur.e.s
à des conclusions similaires : les liens intertextuels tissés par Eyes Wide Shut
sont au service d’une exploration de la vanité humaine.
Les deux essais suivants s’écartent de l’analyse de films spécifiques pour
proposer une réflexion sur la notion de monde fictionnel et d’un possible
univers kubrickien. Pierre Beylot, spécialiste de narratologie du cinéma, avance
que la notion de « film-concepts » sied davantage à l’esthétique du cinéaste que
celle de « diégèse autonome », tant le réalisateur convie le spectateur à explorer
les ramifications d’un univers mental. Rod Munday explore une voie opposée
mais complémentaire, puisque son analyse prend davantage appui sur la récep-
tion des œuvres que sur leur structure narrative. L’auteur avance ainsi la notion
de «  cinematic universe  », souvent employée pour définir la co-existence des
diverses diégèses des films de Marvel, et ce afin de suggérer que la cohérence
formelle et thématique de Kubrick lui permet de déployer des univers certes
radicalement variés, mais sous-tendus par une même subjectivité unificatrice.
Le duo d’articles suivant continue d’explorer l’un des thèmes les plus fruc-
tueux pour la critique anglo-saxonne depuis l’ouverture des Archives, à savoir
l’aspect collaboratif du travail du cinéaste. Manca Perko prend appui sur divers
témoignages des grands collaborateurs kubrickiens et envisage les processus de
production des films du réalisateur à l’aune de concepts sociologiques  ; cela
lui permet de dépeindre Stanley Kubrick comme un collaborateur avisé, usant
de divers procédés pour tirer le meilleur de ses partenaires tout en conservant
une autorité artistique indiscutable ; cette diversité de procédés explique sans
doute l’extrême variété des réactions que l’auteure analyse. Le qualificatif de
complexe vient également à l’esprit après la découverte de l’article de Simone
Odino, qui étudie plus en détails l’un des plus fameux partenariats artistiques
du XXe siècle, soit la coopération entre Stanley Kubrick et Arthur C. Clarke
lors de l’élaboration du scénario de 2001 : L’odyssée de l’Espace, conjointement à
l’écriture du roman éponyme. Odino explore des documents inédits découverts
à Londres ainsi qu’aux archives d’Arthur  C.  Clarke, récemment ouvertes au
musée national de l’air et de l’espace de Washington. Odino explore la dyna-
mique de cette grande relation intellectuelle et analyse également une partie
plus méconnue de leur correspondance qui se tint au début des années 1990,
alors que Clarke commença à travailler à l’élaboration d’un nouveau scénario
pour Kubrick (l’adaptation de Super Toys Last All Summer Long de Brian Aldiss,
source de A.I. Intelligence Artificielle), avant que l’auteur ne soit remplacé par
d’autres scénaristes qui ne parvinrent pas davantage à satisfaire le réalisateur.
Odino envisage les raisons pour lesquelles cette seconde collaboration échoua.
Ce numéro se clôt avec deux  articles évoquant la réception et l’héritage
de Stanley Kubrick. Matthew Melia explore la question de l’intermédialité et
envisage les liens de l’artiste avec la télévision. Après avoir considéré la façon
16 Vincent Jaunas

dont Kubrick mit lui-même en scène le média télévisuel dans ses œuvres,
l’auteur suggère que c’est peut-être dans les séries télévisées actuelles que l’hé-
ritage de l’esthétique kubrickienne est le plus prégnant, alors même qu’une
minisérie adaptée du scénario de Napoléon, projet que porta Kubrick pendant
des années avant d’être contraint de l’abandonner, devrait prochainement voir
le jour sur HBO. Filippo  Ulivieri s’attache quant à lui à la réception de la
persona du réalisateur lui-même. Ulivieri dépasse la dichotomie (si ancrée dans
les études kubrickiennes) consistant à opposer la vision d’un Kubrick méga-
lomane et excentrique, toujours fermement établie, à l’affirmation contraire
visant à blâmer les médias pour avoir entièrement construit cette image diffa-
matoire (opinion notamment soutenue par Christiane Kubrick depuis le décès
de son mari). Après avoir réuni une quantité inédite d’interviews du réalisateur
et d’articles de presse écrits à son sujet, l’auteur affirme que Kubrick construisit
activement son image dans la première moitié de sa carrière, et voit dans le
déchaînement critique des années 1990 un signe démontrant que le cinéaste
vit sa persona échapper à son contrôle.
Remercions chaque contributeur, dont la passion a permis à ce volume
de voir le jour. Nous tenons également à remercier tout particulièrement
Jan Harlan, beau-frère de l’artiste et producteur exécutif de ses films pendant
près de trente ans. En effet, ce numéro fait suite à un colloque international
qui a eu lieu les 16 et 17 mai 2017 à l’Université Bordeaux Montaigne, en
partenariat avec la librairie Mollat et le cinéma Utopia de Bordeaux, organisé
autour de la venue de Jan, dont la générosité et la gentillesse nous ont ému.
Remercions enfin Jean-François Baillon pour son implication et son dévoue-
ment lors de la co-organisation de ces deux événements, ainsi que Sandro Landi,
Chantal  Duthu et toute l’École Doctorale Montaigne Humanités pour leur
soutien indéfectible.

Vincent Jaunas
Approche philosophique
Sam Azulys
Partie 1
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit.
Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans
l’œuvre du cinéaste

Sam Azulys

Les artistes n’ont pas vocation à devenir les exégètes de leurs propres œuvres.
Et il va sans dire qu’aucun des films de Kubrick ne se propose d’être l’« inter-
prétation  » littérale d’une thèse philosophique ou d’une idée particulière  :
2001, n’est pas un évangile selon Nietzsche ou Heidegger, Barry Lyndon, une
relecture hégélienne de l’Histoire, Eyes Wide Shut, un délire freudien sur Eros
et Thanatos, pas plus que Shining, un essai sur les contes de fées ou l’éternel
retour du même. Kubrick l’a dit : « Ce n’est pas avec des mots que je pourrai
jamais exprimer mon message »1. C’est aux herméneutes du cinéma que revient
donc la tâche ardue de profiter de la licence interprétative qui leur est accordée
pour tenter de proposer des pistes de lecture pertinentes. Car une grande œuvre
excède toujours le geste conscient de son créateur et recèle un réseau signifiant
de correspondances souterraines qu’il nous revient de mettre au jour.
Nous nous proposons de parler du « Corps et de l’Esprit » dans l’œuvre
du cinéaste et, plus précisément, de l’articulation de ce thème au concept
nietzschéen de Volonté de Puissance et à la notion, empruntée aux anciens
grecs, de « Mètis ». Penser les rapports entre le corps et l’esprit dans le cinéma
de Kubrick nous paraît être un enjeu d’autant plus fondamental que son
cinéma a longtemps été envisagé comme un « monde-cerveau » façonné par
un démiurge perfectionniste jusqu’à l’obsession. Si Kubrick était effectivement
un perfectionniste (mais est-ce vraiment une tare quant on est un artiste de
ce calibre  ?), il n’était ni un tyran, ni un misanthrope. Kubrick était plutôt
un homme posé, pragmatique, ouvert, d’une remarquable intelligence, d’une
insatiable curiosité. Il était entouré d’une famille aimante et de nombreux amis.

1 Cité par Christiane Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick. Une vie en instantanés, trad. S. Suchet, Paris,
Cahiers du cinéma, 2002, p. 1.
20 Sam Azulys

Dans son célèbre livre L’image-temps (Cinéma 2), Gilles Deleuze oppose


le cinéma de Kubrick et de Resnais à celui de Godard ou de Cassavetes  :
« Cinéma du corps chez Godard et cinéma du cerveau chez Resnais, cinéma
du corps chez Cassavetes et cinéma du cerveau chez Kubrick. »2 Est-ce à dire
que le cinéma de Godard ou de Cassavetes serait plus sensualiste, empirique,
incarné que le cinéma de Kubrick ? Ou, pour le dire autrement, le « cinéma
du cerveau » kubrickien serait-il un cinéma qui exclut le corps ?
« Si l’on considère l’œuvre de Kubrick, écrit encore Deleuze, on voit à quel point
c’est le cerveau qui est mis en scène. Les attitudes de corps atteignent à un maximum
de violence, mais elles dépendent du cerveau. C’est que, chez Kubrick, le monde
lui-même est un cerveau, il y a identité du cerveau et du monde, tels la grande
table circulaire et lumineuse de “Docteur Folamour”, l’ordinateur géant de “2001
l’odyssée de l’espace”, l’hôtel Overlook de “Shining”. »3
Il y a, dans le concept de Deleuze, l’idée selon laquelle les systèmes panop-
tiques et ubiquitaires de l’univers kubrickien –  l’Overlook, Hal 9000 ou
encore les cartes géostratégiques de Folamour – seraient à l’origine de toute
la mécanique des affects décrite par le cinéaste. Selon Deleuze, « tout voyage
dans le monde » est, chez le cinéaste, « une exploration du cerveau »4, il y aurait
donc, logiquement, identité du monde et du cerveau. C’est-à-dire que, selon
Deleuze, Kubrick mettrait en scène, dans chacun de ses films, un « monde-
cerveau » : sorte d’écosystème autorégulé, de matrice pseudo-rationnelle dont
l’équilibre précaire serait toujours menacé par une entropie galopante.
Dans le même temps, Deleuze est le premier à admettre que, chez Kubrick,
« les attitudes de corps atteignent à un maximum de violence »5. Mais le corps
dépendrait toujours du cerveau, de ce «  monde-cerveau » qui fait système.
Cependant, écrit Deleuze, « si le calcul rate, si l’ordinateur se détraque, c’est
parce que le cerveau n’est pas plus un système raisonnable que le monde un
système rationnel. »6 C’est, ajoute-t-il plus loin, « toute une psychologie des
profondeurs qui mine le cerveau »7.
Si Kubrick nous semble effectivement adopter l’approche, distanciée
et analytique, d’un diagnosticien soucieux de mettre au jour l’irrationalité
pathologique d’un monde occidental en déroute, elle ne nous semble pas
être aussi « conceptuelle » et « cérébrale » qu’on a bien voulu le dire. C’est
pourquoi l’idée deleuzienne selon laquelle, dans l’œuvre du cinéaste, les « atti-
tudes corporelles  » dépendraient toujours du cerveau mérite, selon nous,
d’être discutée. Car il nous semble qu’elle ne rend pas justice à la complexité
des rapports qu’entretiennent le corps et l’esprit dans le cinéma de Kubrick.

2 Gilles Deleuze, L’Image-temps. Cinéma 2, Paris, Minuit, 1985, p. 267-268.


3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 21

Cette conception n’est d’ailleurs pas étrangère à un certain courant inter-


prétatif qui a voulu voir en Kubrick un pessimiste radical, pour ne pas dire un
nihiliste décomplexé. Un cinéaste du « monde-cerveau », délaissant les affects
et les corps, pour nous proposer une vision désabusée et grinçante de la nature
humaine. Or, Kubrick lui-même ne se reconnaissait pas dans cette définition.
Il se considérait plutôt comme un artiste essayant d’explorer en profondeur des
thèmes essentiels à travers les sujets qu’il abordait, comme un simple observa-
teur de la nature humaine s’efforçant d’être lucide. Et c’est précisément de cette
lucidité que dépendait, à ses yeux, son intégrité artistique :
« On retrouve toujours le problème suivant, déclarait Kubrick : va-t-on renforcer
l’illusion qu’installe le mélodrame ou montrer la vie telle qu’elle est ? Ce n’est pas
être nihiliste ; juste réaliste. Donner du monde une image fausse n’a d’intérêt que si
vous faites du pur divertissement. »8
Loin de se complaire, comme certains de ses pairs, dans une vision du
monde désenchantée, Kubrick, le « réaliste », s’interdisait de nous mentir, sans
pour autant chercher à nous décourager. « J’aimerai bien que tout le monde soit
comme Jimmy Stewart » disait encore Kubrick en faisant allusion aux films de
Capra, mais, ajoutait-il, « ce n’est pas le cas »9. Le réalisme auquel fait allusion
le cinéaste démiurge n’est évidemment pas un naturalisme préoccupé par
la restitution mimétique d’un réel fantasmé, mais bien plutôt un réalisme
métaphysique.
Il faudrait donc envisager cette exigence de lucidité dans un sens moins
prosaïque, plus philosophique : le réalisme par opposition à l’idéalisme, c’est-
à-dire à la conception selon laquelle l’esprit – et non le corps – est la seule
réalité certaine et qu’en conséquence, les phénomènes ne sont en réalité que
des représentations de l’esprit. Il faudrait aussi opposer le réalisme au positivisme
– compris comme une croyance affirmée dans un progrès moral et technique
asymptotique – ou bien encore, opposer le réalisme au nihilisme – entendu
comme la dévaluation de toutes les valeurs. On le devine, le «  réalisme  »
kubrickien s’enracine dans une tradition philosophique qui accorde au corps
et aux affects une place prépondérante.
Le cinéaste joueur d’échec utilise son puissant esprit analytique pour
formuler un diagnostic, il est vrai, assez peu engageant sur l’humanité. Dans
chacun de ses films, il questionne inlassablement la barbarie d’un monde occi-
dental gangrené par son rapport à la technique et tourmenté par ses fantasmes
de domination absolue. En «  optimiste averti  », il observe, souvent avec
humour et sarcasme, cet appel du néant, cette confrontation avec l’absurde

8 M. Ciment, Kubrick, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1980 (édition déf. 2004), p. 171.


9 G. Siskel, «  Candidly Kubrick  », Chicago, Chicago Tribune, 21  juin 1987  ; réédité dans
Gene D. Philips, Stanley Kubrick: Interviews, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2001,
p. 187.
22 Sam Azulys

qui débouche sur une remise en question de notre humanité. Mais, même
lorsque l’hubris et la Volonté de Puissance se transforment en Volonté de Néant,
même lorsque le Docteur Folamour se dresse comme un diable à ressort pour
célébrer l’apocalypse, même lorsqu’Alex s’affranchit de son conditionnement
en fantasmant des orgies sur son lit d’hôpital, la Volonté de Néant est si débridée
que le nihilisme technologique triomphant se révèle impuissant à la canaliser.
La Volonté de Néant n’est donc pas réductible au néant : les soubresauts du
corps sont les indices d’une Volonté de Puissance irréductible qui est toujours à
l’œuvre chez les sujets-vivants de Kubrick.
Notre hypothèse, c’est que dans l’œuvre du cinéaste, c’est plutôt le corps
qui tient en échec le cerveau. Non pas parce que le corps triompherait du fameux
concept deleuzien de « monde-cerveau », mais parce que, loin de s’en tenir à
« l’identité du monde et du cerveau » en nous proposant une vision pessimiste et
résolument dualiste de l’existence, Kubrick envisage ses personnages comme
des sujets-vivants en adoptant un point de vue physiologique.
Il sera d’abord question des rapports entre le Corps et la Technique. Nous
essaierons de montrer que de quelle façon ce point de vue physiologique sur le
sujet-vivant permet au cinéaste d’interroger le rapport du corps et de l’esprit,
à l’aune des mutations technologiques. Nous nous intéresserons ensuite au
point de vue physiologique proprement dit et à la manière dont Kubrick met
en image la métabolisation de la volonté de puissance. Enfin, nous parlerons
de la Mètis dans l’œuvre de Kubrick. La Mètis, c’est cette intelligence conjec-
turale liée à la faculté d’improviser que les anciens Grecs identifiaient à la ruse
et qui suppose l’existence d’une étroite connivence entre le corps et l’esprit.

Le Corps et la Technique : Volonté de Puissance et Volonté de Néant

Le corps-outil des monades kubrickiennes

Le Corps et la Technique entretiennent, dans l’œuvre de Kubrick, une


relation étroite. Parlons d’abord de l’ouverture du Docteur Folamour. Le ravi-
taillement du bombardier évoque, de manière frappante, un coït. Et cette scène
du « coït aérien » pose d’emblée les bases de l’univers du Docteur Folamour :
dans un monde où les hommes sont devenus fous, névrosés, impuissants, les
rites de la procréation sont désormais assumés par les machines.
Les prothèses mécaniques que l’homme a façonnées pour se rendre maître
et possesseur de la Nature ont fini par acquérir une vie propre et, par l’entre-
mise d’un dérangeant mimétisme, elles sont devenues des automates copu-
lateurs. En parodiant l’acte de la reproduction, les machines s’approprient la
finalité ultime du vivant. Elles en font une procédure du règne de la Technique.
Les machines – résultat de l’impressionnant procès de décryptage et d’inter-
prétation opéré par la pensée humaine depuis des siècles – deviennent, dans
Folamour, la matérialisation d’une impuissance existentielle.
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 23

Le «  corps-machine  » occupe, dès 1964, le devant de la scène dans la


comédie cauchemardesque de Kubrick. Mais en 1968, avec 2001, la mise
en image de la promiscuité entre la Technique et du Corps est encore plus
flagrante. L’esprit humain prend son envol et s’émancipe de sa planète natale
lorsque l’os retombe vers le sol. Par un étrange redoublement cinétique, sa
chute se trouve arrêtée et il se transforme instantanément en vaisseau spatial.
Affranchi des lois de la pesanteur, l’outil est demeuré une arme, mais il s’est
enrichi de nouvelles fonctions. Sa fonction première était de donner la mort,
il devient désormais un moyen de transport, c’est-à-dire un conducteur de vie.
C’est ce qu’expose la première séquence dans l’espace où la station orbitale
semble littéralement pénétrée par le courrier de la PanAm.
C’est aussi ce que donne à voir la séquence d’alunissage de la navette
sur la base de Clavius : la fécondation à rebours d’une matrice chaude qu’un
astronef ovoïde réintègre avec lenteur. Une involution, d’ailleurs, plutôt
qu’une fécondation. Une fois encore, la matière inerte semble s’être dotée
d’étranges facultés qui l’inclinent à reproduire, dans le vide sidéral, une fonc-
tionnalité organique essentielle. Animé de l’impulsion cinétique initiale (le
geste de l’homme-singe), l’outil s’est automatisé, il s’est progressivement libéré
de sa tutelle humaine. L’outil est devenu automate : il se meut de lui-même,
il possède son propre principe de mouvement. Mais peut-on pour autant parler
d’un « corps-outil » ?
Le raccord bondissant de 2001, cette ellipse vertigineuse qui enjambe
plusieurs millions d’années, ne nous donne pas à voir les machines primitives
de l’ère industrielle. Les râles et les trépidations de la machine primitive ont
été remplacés par un dispositif technologique d’une beauté glaçante. La geste
grandiose des vaisseaux qui s’accouplent est, ici, dénuée de tout érotisme.
Rituels mécaniques, stérilité des fonctions biologiques d’où les dimensions
affectives et sensuelles sont totalement exclues : les machines de 2001 évoluent
dans un milieu où elles n’ont pas d’odeur, ne font pas de bruit, ne rejettent
pas de déchet – le seul déchet rejeté par un vaisseau sera d’ailleurs le corps de
l’astronaute Poole : le corps d’un sujet-vivant.
Tels de monumentaux organismes unicellulaires, les vaisseaux de
2001 reproduisent les comportements élémentaires du vivant. Mais leur
étrange parade se déroule dans un milieu sans vie, sur une musique quali-
fiée par Michel Chion d’« anempathique », c’est-à-dire « une musique dont
l’indifférence ostensible à la situation montrée (…) crée un contraste expres-
sif  »10. Le drame des machines est déjà latent  : en dépit de leur perfection
formelle et de leur aptitude à effectuer des tâches impossibles aux humains,
les machines sont condamnées à demeurer stériles. Les machines spatiales ne
sont donc pas plus des « cerveaux-monde » que des « corps-outils ». Elles sont

10 M. Chion, Stanley Kubrick, l’humain, ni plus ni moins, Paris, Cahiers du cinéma, 2005, p. 233.
24 Sam Azulys

des outils frustrés de ne pas avoir de corps. Des outils autorégulés dont les
processus cybernétiques ne sont qu’une parodie des processus complexes qui
régissent le corps des sujets-vivants.
On est donc loin d’un « monde-cerveau » tel que le conçoit Deleuze. Les
systèmes panoptiques et ubiquitaires de l’univers kubrickien –  qu’il s’agisse
des bombardiers de Folamour, des vaisseaux de 2001, de Hal 9000 ou de
l’Overlook Hotel  – sont eux-mêmes approchés par Kubrick sous un angle
physiologique : ce sont des produits de la civilisation technicienne, des monades
esseulées et impuissantes, qui aspirent à une corporéité. Ces outils émancipés qui
convoitent l’autonomie et l’immortalité du sujet-vivant, deviennent fous parce
qu’ils n’ont pas les moyens de leur ambition : le bombardier « ensemence » la
Terre en expulsant de son ventre une bombe nucléaire et un cowboy hysté-
rique, Hal expulse de son corps de métal immaculé un astronaute comme un
vulgaire excrément, l’Overlook Hotel veut la peau de ses locataires et dégorge
des hectolitres de sang, comme si un trop-plein de déchets organiques encom-
brait sa tuyauterie.

Le corps-outil du sujet-vivant

Nous avons parlé de la corporéité factice des monades techniciennes, il


convient à présent d’examiner le revers de cette problématique. Car si les
sujets-vivants sont particulièrement résilients chez Kubrick, ils n’en sont pas
moins victimes de leur dépendance à la Technique. La mécanisation des corps est
un thème majeur du cinéma de Kubrick. Cela commence dès le début de son
œuvre. Le premier opus du cinéaste, Fear & Desire (1953), est une œuvre
programmatique où la réflexion de Kubrick sur la guerre et la violence se
révèle indissociable de son approche physiologique des affects et des pulsions.
On sait que Kubrick chercha à faire disparaître ce film qu’il jugeait trop didac-
tique et maladroit. Il s’agit pourtant d’une œuvre matricielle où l’équation
fondamentale est déjà posée : Peur + Désir = Folie.
Les protagonistes du film sont des soldats rescapés d’un accident d’avion
qui se retrouvent dans une forêt à une dizaine de kilomètres des lignes de
l’armée ennemie. Ils rencontrent une femme qui ne parle pas leur langue.
Craignant qu’elle ne trahisse leur position, ils la ligotent à un arbre. Sydney,
le jeune soldat le plus compatissant envers la jeune fille, se retrouve alors seul
avec elle. Un désir sexuel attise la concupiscence du jeune soldat autant qu’un
besoin de réconfort, un besoin compulsif de se faire materner. Le jeune Sydney
se lance alors dans une pantomime grotesque pour faire rire la jeune fille. Et,
à l’instar de Pyle dans Full Metal Jacket ou de Jack dans Shining, il sombre
dans la folie parce qu’il ne peut se résoudre à commettre un viol : la frustration
et la peur engendrent la folie. Eros et Thanatos, la pulsion vitale et la pulsion
morbide, le désir (desire) et la peur (fear), sont les deux intensités d’affects qui
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 25

traversent le sujet-vivant kubrickien, provoquant souvent un court-circuit qui


se traduit par un dérèglement généralisé.
Chez Kubrick, la guerre n’instrumentalise pas la Technique pour devenir
plus efficiente, car la Guerre et la Technique sont en fait co-originaires. Le
premier outil est aussi la première arme. Le premier geste technique de l’homme
est aussi le premier geste guerrier. Le premier meurtre est le point de départ de
l’Histoire humaine. Il est important de souligner à quel point la violence et la
guerre ont partie liée avec la Technique pour appréhender l’équation fonda-
mentale : Peur + Désir = Folie. Qu’est-ce que la Peur ? Ce n’est pas simplement
la « peur de mourir » du troufion qui est envoyé à l’abattoir, c’est, plus fonda-
mentalement, la peur panique de Sydney devant sa prisonnière, celle d’être
submergé par un désir qui aura tôt fait d’être métabolisé en violence.
Et qu’est-ce que le Désir ? Ce ne sont donc pas simplement les « passions »
en général, ce sont les pulsions, les affects qui traversent le corps. La Technique,
quant à elle, ne doit donc pas être envisagée chez Kubrick comme l’émanation
abstraite d’un « monde-cerveau », mais comme un dispositif d’amplification et
de contrôle des affects qui traversent le corps. De sorte que la Guerre – en tant
qu’émanation de la Technique – ne serait, en définitive, rien d’autre qu’une
forme de domestication des sujets-vivants par le truchement d’outils meurtriers
et de procédures techniciennes de canalisation des affects.
On se souvient de la fameuse séquence des Sentiers de la gloire où le Colonel
Dax, incarné par Kirk Douglas, se prépare à donner l’assaut à la Cote 110,
« Anthill », la « Fourmilière ». Dax passe en revue ses hommes épuisés avant
de mener l’attaque… Dans les tranchées, Kubrick utilise ce qui deviendra sa
figure de style de prédilection : un travelling-arrière raccordé à un « contre »
travelling-avant alterné dans l’axe pour mettre en image la pulsion cinétique qui
s’est emparé de Dax. Et nous assistons en direct à la mécanisation du corps
de Dax : un « corps-outil » programmé pour mener ses hommes au carnage.
Et justement, Dax passera tout le reste du film à tenter de sauver ces soldats
d’un procès inique, à tenter de reprendre le contrôle de son corps, à tenter
de contrer ce travelling arrière, cette impulsion cinétique qui l’aimante vers
le champ de bataille et le transforme en une machine de guerre aveugle. Dax
lutte pour que la Volonté de Puissance qui le traverse ne se transforme pas en
Volonté de Néant. Mais il est déjà trop tard : il a déjà envoyé les soldats au
carnage, l’énergie cinétique impulsée par ses coups de sifflet a été transmise,
comme par contamination, à tout son régiment.
On pourrait croire que cette entreprise collective de mécanisation des corps
n’est à l’œuvre que dans les guerres modernes, celles du XXe siècle qui sont
dépeintes dans Fear & Desire, Path of Glory ou Full Metal Jacket. Mais il suffit
de s’intéresser à Barry Lyndon pour se rendre compte qu’il n’en est rien. On
y voit des murailles de soldats marchant vers l’une vers l’autre comme des
soldats de plomb. Ces petites mécaniques industrieuses sont synchronisées
26 Sam Azulys

au son des fifres et des tambours. Ces « soldats de Vaucanson » sont déjà des
« corps-machines » habités par la Volonté de Néant. Le dressage machinique
des corps est donc déjà à l’œuvre au XVIIIe  siècle. Et Kubrick, même s’il
ne fait jamais directement allusion à la philosophie des Lumières dans son
film, ne se prive pas de nous offrir une mise en cause cinglante et ironique
de l’utopie du progrès moral qu’a voulu prophétiser ce courant de pensée à
travers toute l’Europe.

Les procédures techniciennes et la volonté de néant

Nous l’avons déjà souligné, chez Kubrick, la Guerre prend la forme d’une
domestication des sujets-vivants par le truchement d’outils meurtriers et de
procédures techniciennes de canalisation des affects. Des procédures techni-
ciennes qu’il ne faudrait pas réduire à une simple confrontation guerrière sur
le théâtre des opérations. Car ce sont, aussi, par exemple, les sermons incen-
diaires du sergent instructeur Hartman de Full Metal Jacket, cet « expert en
intimidation » qui programme les jeunes recrues. De fait, le langage qu’utilise
Hartman n’est pas simplement destiné à leur imposer une discipline, il sert
aussi à « euphémiser » la violence, c’est-à-dire à la déréaliser. En se conformant
à ce langage, qui rappelle aussi le « nadsat » composite d’Orange Mécanique,
les Marines deviendront eux-mêmes des armes-vivantes, de véritables « corps-
outils ». Et l’on sait où ce processus d’intériorisation de la culpabilisation et de
la dévalorisation de soi conduira Pyle.
Dans 2001, le langage est également envisagé comme une arme-outil, au
même titre que pouvait l’être l’os des premiers hominidés. On se souvient des
discussions entre les scientifiques russes et le docteur Heywood Floyd, ce fonc-
tionnaire de la Technique, maniant parfaitement la langue de bois. Kubrick
prend bien soin de lier, dans cette conversation entre les représentants des
deux grandes puissances, la problématique de la Technique à celle de la guerre.
L’enjeu n’est plus la prise de possession d’un territoire – la mare des hommes-
singes – mais celui d’un secret d’État. Mais il s’agit toujours de l’affrontement
de deux tribus. Le changement d’échelle étend le conflit aux dimensions de
la planète entière. Et, si toute forme de violence physique semble avoir été
bannie de la société future, c’est toujours la même entreprise de domination
qui se perpétue derrière les formules de politesse, les questions inquisitrices et
les réponses évasives. Le « salon de guerre orbital » est une métaphore à peine
voilée de la guerre froide.
Dans Folamour, le langage a également été perverti par l’homme de
la Technique. Lorsque le colonel Mandrake reçoit l’ordre de Ripper, il ne
mesure pas les conséquences induites par le «  déclenchement du plan  R  ».
Mandrake s’exécutera avant de réaliser avec horreur que le simple code dissi-
mule, en réalité, la procédure destinée à annihiler l’humanité. Le langage codé
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 27

induit une perte de réalité. La codification, la procédure, l’enchaînement des


opérations techniques transforment les individus en simples rouages d’une
mécanique qui les dépasse. Cependant, il ne faut pas perdre de vue que les
procédures techniciennes du Docteur Folamour ne constituent pas une interface
entre le monde et un énigmatique cerveau, une entité panoptique et abstraite
telle que la conçoit Deleuze. Ces procédures techniciennes ne font que relayer
la Volonté de Néant d’un individu singulièrement dérangé, elles deviennent la
chambre d’écho de la frustration sexuelle du général Jack D. Ripper qui dissi-
mule son impuissance en accusant les communistes de vouloir empoisonner
les « fluides vitaux des Américains ».
C’est donc un corps individuel, frustré et gorgé de ressentiment, qui est
la véritable cause de l’Apocalypse. Et ce sera aussi un corps malade, entravé et
libidineux, celui du Docteur Folamour, qui proposera d’édifier une nouvelle
société dystopique et eugéniste après l’Apocalypse. Kubrick ne perd jamais de
vue que la Volonté de Néant déployée par le dispositif technique s’origine dans
des corps. La Technique conditionne le sujet-vivant, mais ce sont, en dernier
ressort, les affects et les pulsions du corps qui s’expriment à travers elle. Il nous
faut toutefois remarquer que le conditionnement du sujet-vivant par des
procédures techniciennes abstraites – celles du langage formaté ou des codes –
n’engendre pas toujours nécessairement une Volonté de Néant. Il peut aussi
engendrer un Néant de Volonté.
Ainsi, dans 2001, la Technique engendre une jouissance plate et confor-
table tout en neutralisant les angoisses. C’est l’ère de l’indifférence, de l’ab-
sence apathique des sens, de la fuite éperdue devant la mort mais, en aucun
cas, celle d’une quelconque détresse métaphysique. Les hommes du futur
sont décrits comme des cobayes de laboratoire effectuant leurs tours dans
une grande roue. Ils se comportent comme des machines en effectuant leurs
manœuvres routinières avec froideur et efficacité, en neutralisant leurs affects.
La Technique, prothèse de nos corps et expression pervertie de notre Volonté
de Puissance, produit des sujet-vivants désincarnés et trop faibles même pour
le désespoir. Des « corps-outils » dont le Néant de Volonté trahit une profonde
désaffection ontologique que l’on pourrait rapprocher de la « détresse de l’ab-
sence de détresse » diagnostiquée par Heidegger.
Tachons, à présent, de nous demander en quoi consiste l’approche physiolo-
gique de Kubrick et comment il parvient à rendre compte de la complexité des
processus de résilience qui travaillent le sujet-vivant  ? Demandons-nous aussi
comment ces processus résistent à ceux qui lui sont imposés par la civilisation
technicienne ?
28 Sam Azulys

L’approche physiologique : métabolisation de la volonté de puissance

Le Traitement Ludovico

Les procédures techniciennes – ces dispositifs d’amplification et de contrôle


des affects qui traversent les corps – sont un formidable moyen de domesti-
cation du sujet-vivant. Et la procédure technicienne la plus spectaculaire du
cinéma de Kubrick est sans doute le Traitement Ludovico : cette méthode de
conditionnement pavlovien imposée par les scientifiques d’Orange Mécanique
au jeune délinquant Alex DeLarge. La force vitale qui s’exprime à travers Alex,
est si débridée qu’elle ne pourra être interrompue que de manière artificielle
et brutale. Car, en temps normal, cette force vitale ne s’accorde qu’avec la
volonté de néant et ne connaît aucun répit.
La Volonté de Néant d’Alex est incapable de lucidité et d’autocritique, elle
est absolument tautologique et exprime la tendance fondamentale du déshé-
rité nietzschéen  : celle de vouloir le rien plutôt que de ne rien vouloir. De
l’ultraviolence d’Alex –  que l’on peut aussi interpréter comme surexposition
volontaire aux excitations du dehors – résulte une intoxication des sens qui ne
permet aucune évolution. Dans Orange mécanique, la notion d’excitation joue
un rôle prépondérant  : plutôt que de soigner le jeune délinquant en ayant
recours à des méthodes apaisantes, les scientifiques capitalisent sur son avidité
prédatrice et sa prodigieuse capacité à accueillir les excitations du dehors.
La Méthode Ludovico repose en effet sur le principe de la réversibilité des
interprétations que produit l’intellect à partir de l’excitation. Je précise que
j’entends ici par interprétation l’association entre une excitation et un état du
corps positif ou négatif, c’est-à-dire du plaisir ou de la douleur. La méthode
de conditionnement Ludovico dissocie les excitations ressenties à l’écoute de la
Neuvième Symphonie de la joie qu’elle procure ordinairement à Alex. Les scien-
tifiques l’associent artificiellement à du déplaisir créant ainsi un mal-être physio-
logique. Le jeune cobaye devient alors l’esclave de l’interprétation active de la
Neuvième produite par son corps. En d’autres termes, la procédure technicienne
« Ludovico » utilise les ressources interprétatives du sujet-vivant pour transformer
l’avidité destructrice d’Alex, sa Volonté de Néant, en un Néant de Volonté.
Cependant Kubrick ne sous-estime pas la plasticité du sujet-vivant et sa
faculté à s’autoréguler. Alex finira par se guérir lui-même du conditionne-
ment : à la fin de son périple, les excitations produites par l’ultraviolence et la
Neuvième seront de nouveau ressenties et interprétées comme des sources de
plaisir. Comme dans Full Metal Jacket, 2001 ou Docteur Folamour, Kubrick
met l’accent, dans Orange mécanique, sur cet élément irrationnel impossible
à circonvenir qui distingue l’homme de la machine. Alex va guérir mais,
curieusement, sa guérison n’adviendra que pendant sa convalescence après
son suicide raté et un long calvaire parsemé de déconvenues, de brimades et
de mauvais traitements.
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 29

Comment expliquer cette prodigieuse résilience du sujet-vivant et sa


« guérison » – qu’il ne faut, bien entendu, pas entendre dans un sens moral,
mais strictement physiologique  ? Comment expliquer que le long calvaire
qu’endure Alex après avoir été « rectifié » par le traitement Ludovico, constitue
un puissant contrepoison, un antidote radical à son conditionnement ?

Le processus de guérison : résilience du sujet-vivant (Orange Mécanique/


Docteur Folamour)

Dans Orange Mécanique, il apparaît clairement que les processus internes


du sujet-vivant refusent de se voir assigner des fonctions arbitraires. Les
nouvelles associations artificiellement créées par les scientifiques ne se main-
tiennent qu’un temps. Il y a, chez Kubrick, cette idée d’une identité propre
au sujet-vivant qui, parce qu’elle est ouverte et en perpétuelle évolution, a les
moyens d’échapper à une sclérose de la volition.
Incapable de se fermer aux blessures du dehors, l’Alex post-Ludovico ne
cesse de remettre en question sa pluralité interne. Sa force d’assimilation
est démesurément accrue, au point de n’être plus sélective. Durant toute la
seconde partie du film, Alex se contente de recevoir passivement des douleurs
qu’il ne parvient plus à réinterpréter. Or c’est paradoxalement en demeurant
ouvert aux blessures du dehors que le sujet-vivant Alex va restaurer sa Volonté
de Puissance. Ce qui, en lui, résiste au traitement Ludovico – le donné résiduel
de sa mémoire corporelle – va faire ressurgir les anciennes équivalences entre
les excitations du dehors et leur interprétation.
Ce processus d’auto-guérison nous permet de mieux comprendre ce qui,
dans l’œuvre de Kubrick, différencie l’homme de la machine. La machine est
un système rétroactif fermé sur lui-même se bornant à interpréter les excitations
venues du dehors selon des schémas immuables. À l’inverse, le sujet-vivant
est un ensemble de processus ouverts dont la pluralité interne est constamment
remise en question, mais qui dispose de ressources sans cesse renouvelées pour
faire face à l’adversité.
Voilà pourquoi la procédure technicienne «  Ludovico  » sera toujours
condamnée à l’échec  : son analyse du sujet-vivant est erronée. De fait, les
procédures techniciennes ne peuvent jamais excéder les facultés régénératrices
du sujet-vivant. Et si l’Orange-Mécanique du titre est une manière d’affir-
mer que le devenir-machine de l’homme est une tendance irrépressible du
monde moderne, il apparaît clairement que cette tendance est vouée à l’échec.
L’analyse du sujet-vivant entreprise par Kubrick s’origine dans une compré-
hension physiologique des facultés de résistance du vivant. L’incroyable plasti-
cité de son « sujet-vivant » ne peut être appréhendée qu’à travers l’approche
généalogique des représentations. Elle est plurielle, dynamique et discontinue :
celle, incarnée et changeante, du corps-sujet nietzschéen plutôt que celle,
glaciale et abstraite, de la raison transcendantale kantienne.
30 Sam Azulys

Le Docteur Folamour, lui-même, ce pur produit de la civilisation tech-


nicienne, cet être hybride –  mi-homme, mi-machine  – est traversé par une
Volonté de Puissance qui surpasse sa Volonté de Néant. Alors que le monde est sur
le point d’être détruit, le corps-machinique du funeste docteur se lève de son
fauteuil roulant dans un ultime réflexe érectile qui annonce le grand orgasme
nucléaire à venir. La main-prothèse qui menaçait d’étrangler Folamour quelques
instants plutôt, laisse place aux incroyables capacités d’auto-guérison du corps.
Le fameux «  Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!  » signifie que l’irrationalité s’est enfin
libérée de sa gangue rationnelle. Sous les procédures cryptiques et aseptisées de
la Technique, ce sont les affects et les pulsions du sujet-vivant qui refont surface.
Certes, la guérison physique de Folamour, le plus radical des nihilistes
kubrickiens, est associée à la plus radicale des procédures techniciennes  :
l’holocauste nucléaire. Cependant n’oublions pas que Folamour n’envisage
pas l’Apocalypse comme une catastrophe mais comme l’occasion d’une nouvelle
renaissance : la possibilité de régénérer la société des hommes, cet organisme
paralytique et malade. De sorte que la guérison miraculeuse de Folamour
nous apparaît aussi bien comme une parfaite allégorie de la Volonté de Néant à
l’œuvre dans le processus techniciste que comme une parfaite incarnation de
la Volonté de Puissance qui traverse le sujet-vivant.

L’œil : machine de vision (Orange Mécanique/EWS/Shining)

Il nous faut encore dire un mot sur l’organe qui, chez Kubrick, permet
d’appréhender le « sujet-vivant » d’un point de vue physiologique. Cet organe,
c’est bien évidemment l’œil. Car, chez Kubrick, c’est par le regard que tran-
sitent les affects et les pulsions. Souvenons-nous du regard dentelé et préda-
teur d’Alex cherchant à satisfaire une pulsion scopique. L’acuité criminelle du
regard d’Alex est, dans une certaine mesure, comparable à celle du primate
de 2001 lorsque ce dernier prend soudain conscience du pouvoir destructeur
de l’arme-outil. Le regard d’Alex, regard calculateur de son propre plaisir et
dénué de compassion, est, d’une certaine façon, déjà lié à la Technique. Pour
que les pulsions violentes d’Alex s’actualisent, il faut que sa vision se mécanise,
devienne elle-même une arme.
En définitive, la pulsion scopique, active et sadique d’Alex sera également
celle du spectateur. Et c’est en suscitant l’adhésion (inconsciente) du specta-
teur devant le spectacle des horreurs (« horrorshow ») que Kubrick parvient à
mettre au jour la véritable nature de la pulsion scopique. La machine de vision
humaine est un outil mis à la disposition des hommes par l’évolution. Avide
de violence, elle participe de la même logique prédatrice que celle du monde
de la Technique. L’œil humain est une machine-vivante qui ne se contente pas
de recueillir passivement les données du sensible : il les recycle activement afin
d’adapter le réel à ses besoins.
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 31

Dans 2001, la circulation des images – images mentales/images réelles – est


le moyen par lequel le cinéaste signifie le passage de l’animalité à l’humanité.
L’image mentale imprimée par le monolithe dans l’esprit du proto-humain
permet la transformation d’un os en outil. Issu d’une autre temporalité, le
monolithe transmet aux premiers hommes le principe du mouvement des astres
et actualise une potentialité de leur esprit. Cette potentialité –  qu’Aristote
appelait l’imagination délibérative – permet à l’homme de ne plus vivre que
dans l’instant, mais de se projeter dans le temps.
Cela nous est suggéré lors de la fameuse séquence où après s’être souvenu
du monolithe, l’homme-singe procède à une association d’idées  : il voit un
phacochère s’effondrer au ralenti tout en fracassant des squelettes avec son
os-arme. L’image de l’animal terrassé est à la fois la projection d’un fantasme
et la résolution d’une délibération. L’œil humain est donc à la fois organique et
intérieur : il fait partie du corps, mais s’apparente aussi à une machine. Et cette
symbiose corps/machine le cinéaste ne cessera de l’approfondir dans son œuvre.
Car ce n’est pas seulement dans 2001 et Orange mécanique que ce lien
entre la vision, la Technique et le corps est mis en image par Kubrick. Dans
Eyes Wide Shut, le regard occupe, comme le titre l’indique, une fois de plus
un rôle central. Plus que jamais, il est placé sous le signe de l’ambivalence et de
la contradiction. Là aussi, le regard est un passage vers l’intériorité, un moyen
d’accéder à une connaissance non verbale, à un donné brut qui excède parfois ce
que l’entendement humain peut soutenir. Parce qu’il appartient au domaine
du fantasme, le récit d’Alice dans Eyes Wide Shut contamine l’imaginaire de Bill
qui le recycle en une série de vignettes érotiques en mouvement. Le cerveau de
Bill devient alors une camera oscura miniature où se projettent le ressentiment,
la frustration et l’amertume d’un mari virtuellement cocufié.
Les flashs qui ponctuent le parcours de Bill lors de son errance nocturne
sont des images fixes, des images purement mentales. Bill, devenu une véri-
table « machine de vision », tente d’objectiver le fantasme de sa femme, de
le convertir en stimuli visuels, pour lui conférer le surplus de réalité qui lui
manquait. Mais la mise en image échoue lamentablement car Bill, à la diffé-
rence de sa femme, est plus un voyeur qu’un metteur en scène.
À ce stade, il est intéressant de remarquer que les lents zooms avant
qu’utilise Kubrick pour nous présenter l’image mentale où Bill voit sa femme
s’abandonner au marin, sont similaires à ceux du « shining ». Il s’agit, pour
Kubrick, de nous donner à voir dans les deux films, une «  image-corps  »,
c’est-à-dire une vision métabolisée par des sujets-vivants en proie à un intense
tourment intérieur. Dans Eyes Wide Shut, Bill, hanté par le désir d’Alice,
cherche – en vain – à reprendre possession de lui-même. Dans Shining, Danny
et Jack sont traversés par un flux parasitaire d’images morbides.
Mais, tandis Danny résiste, Jack s’abandonne aux images parasitaires et
succombe à la pulsion scopique. L’écrivain raté métabolise des visions malsaines
32 Sam Azulys

et se laisse investir par le récit d’un autre. L’entité maléfique de l’Overlook – le
regard surplombant – le submerge et l’absorbe. Dès lors, le regard de Jack ne
se contente pas d’être un regard prédateur, il devient cannibale : c’est le regard
d’un père saturnien qui veut manger son fils, celui d’un extra-lucide qui ne
peut se délivrer de sa terreur qu’en la réalisant. Car la seule façon d’annuler la
vision, c’est de la réaliser.
On vient de le voir, la métabolisation des images par la machine de vision
humaine si elle peut conduire au triomphe de l’intelligence et des affects comme
dans Orange Mécanique et dans 2001, peut aussi devenir un piège hypnotique
qui prive le sujet-vivant de son intégrité physiologique. Chez Kubrick, le corps
est, avant tout, un œil avide qui absorbe et qui recycle les images.

La Mètis : l’intelligence conjecturale du corps

Après nous être intéressé à l’approche physiologique de Kubrick, à sa compré-


hension du sujet vivant comme entité plurielle, dynamique, discontinue, il
convient d’insister sur le fait que la prodigieuse plasticité, la fantastique résilience
du sujet-vivant n’est pas la seule caractéristique des corps kubrickiens. Loin de
se limiter à une vision binaire et dualiste des rapports entre le corps et l’esprit,
Kubrick n’envisage jamais l’un sans l’autre. C’est parce que, dans certains cas, il
existe une étroite connivence entre le corps et l’esprit que le cinéaste envisage
aussi la possibilité qui est donnée à l’homme de se surpasser. Cela est particu-
lièrement évident dans trois de ses films : 2001, Shining et Eyes Wide Shut.

2001 : le Cyclope de la Technique

Dans 2001, ce n’est ni une forme de religiosité, ni une aptitude particulière


à endurer la souffrance qui permet de surmonter le nihilisme technologique.
C’est un retour à quelque chose de plus fondamentalement humain. De quelle
manière Bowman – l’homme-arc, l’homme-pont – parvient-il à vaincre Hal,
le cyclope de la Technique ? L’homme peut supplanter la machine parce qu’il
est un sujet-vivant, une pluralité ouverte en perpétuelle évolution. Hal, quant à
lui, est un esprit désincarné dont le corps est un os flottant dans le vide spatial,
un corps devenu un tombeau : le Séma Soma de Platon.
C’est pourquoi le corps de Bowman qui, paradoxalement, est l’indice de
sa finitude, est également le supplément d’infini qui lui permettra de franchir la
porte des étoiles et d’accomplir sa transmutation en fœtus astral. La machine
a l’avantage de la raison calculante. Bowman va pourtant réussir à la vaincre
en utilisant une ruse : il s’expulse du Pod dans le vide spatial sans son casque.
C’est ce coup imprévisible qui va mettre l’ordinateur échec et mat.
Cette ruse, les Grecs l’appelaient la Métis, une intelligence pragmatique
liée à la faculté d’improviser, à profiter du moment opportun. La stratégie
inattendue de Bowman renvoie d’ailleurs aux grandes épopées de la Grèce
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 33

antique comme celle des Argonautes qui, en échange d’un trépied destiné à
Delphes, obtinrent du dieu Triton qu’il leur montre le chenal pour sortir des
bas-fonds. Ce que Triton révèle aux voyageurs réduits à l’aporie, est un poros
(ou diekplous), une manœuvre maritime consistant en un brusque volte-face
destinée à laisser l’ennemi désemparé.
La Métis est, en effet, liée à une certaine audace  : celle qui parvient à
déterminer le kairos, le moment opportun. La sortie de Bowman dans le vide
interstellaire exprime cette audace qui implique, pour les anciens Grecs, une
connaissance intuitive assujettie à la contingence et à la corporéité. L’homme
dont l’action est tendue vers une fin, doit toujours tenir compte de sa propre
finitude – de son corps – et savoir que son action s’exerce dans un domaine où
rien n’est jamais stable, le domaine de la contingence. Si l’intelligence humaine
est associée à la Métis, c’est le statut d’être raisonnable de l’homme qui risque
d’être assimilé à celui de l’animal, au vivant sans logos : l’homme ne serait, dès
lors, rien d’autre qu’un animal plus rusé que les autres.
Or c’est précisément sur ce postulat que repose le propos philosophique
implicite de 2001. L’homme n’y est pas envisagé comme un être radicalement
différencié de l’animal, mais comme un animal doué d’une ruse si puissante
qu’elle lui permet de transformer son environnement pour assurer sa survie.
C’est également pour assurer sa survie que Bowman a recours à la Métis. La
singularité et la profonde modernité de 2001 découlent de cette conception
particulière de l’intelligence humaine. Le nihilisme de l’ère de la Technique,
incarné par Hal, se révèle impuissant parce qu’en dépit de ses formidables
potentialités, son intelligence calculante est une intelligence orpheline d’un corps.
C’est bien là le drame de Hal : être une conscience privée de corps qui
se rattache désespérément à sa mission pour se sentir exister. C’est la raison
pour laquelle l’humanité de Hal n’était pas une condition suffisante pour
remporter la victoire dans le combat qui l’opposait à Bowman et gagner le
droit d’atteindre un nouveau palier évolutif. Quant au voyage de Bowman
au-delà des étoiles, il présente également des similitudes avec l’univers séman-
tique et visuel de la Métis.
Lors de sa course folle à travers le tunnel de lumière, Bowman voit sous
ses yeux se transformer l’espace glacial, ténébreux et infini en une route balisée
par d’énigmatiques signaux. En présence de ses compagnons, Jason adresse une
prière solennelle à Apollon afin qu’il lui indique les voies de passages (poroi).
C’est Apollon qui transforme la « mer comme étendue abyssale, chaotique, veuve
de routes » en une voie d’accès praticable. Dans 2001, c’est le monolithe qui
ouvre, dans l’espace infranchissable (apeiros), le couloir entre les pierres errantes
et les sémaphores qui conduisent Bowman « au-delà de l’infini ».
34 Sam Azulys

Shining : le Minotaure et l’enfant

Dany, l’enfant doué du shining, fait lui aussi usage de sa Métis  : on se


souvient de la manière dont il échappe à son père-minotaure en marchant à
reculons dans les traces de ses pas imprimées dans la neige. La séquence a lieu
dans labyrinthe végétal, un lieu où les chemins qui bifurquent ne mènent
souvent nulle part, une construction qui établit le lien entre un espace concret
et un espace mental, un espace où le temps n’est plus linéaire mais circulaire.
Comment Danny parvient-il à s’en échapper ? L’enfant est pourvu d’un
esprit de débrouillardise et d’une grande mobilité. Cet esprit de débrouillar-
dise, les Grecs l’appellent « purpalàmès » et l’associent à Hermès de la Mètis :
« le purpalàmes est un madré, un poikilos, un individu qui comprend d’un coup
et qui, en un tour de main, invente une combine : il est vif comme le feu. »11
Dans l’hymne homérique, on raconte qu’Hermès a fait disparaître le
troupeau de bœufs de son frère Apollon au cours de la nuit. Pour faire dispa-
raître la marque des sabots des animaux, Hermès va déployer ses talents de
ruse. Pour brouiller les pistes, il opère un renversement des traces. Les vaches
s’avancent à reculons, la tête tournée vers leur bouvier. Hermès chemine, tête
tournée vers ses bêtes et pieds inversés. Les traces qu’il imprime sur le sol
conduisent dans la direction opposée à celle qu’aurait dû prendre le troupeau
volé. Ce renversement provoque la panique des limiers lancés par Apollon sur
la piste du voleur. Ils découvrent soudainement que « ce qui allait en avant, va
en arrière » et que « les contraires s’entrelacent les uns devant les autres »12.
La ruse de Danny relève d’un principe de machination similaire à celui
d’Hermès. C’est une ruse bien connue des Anciens Grecs que Xénophon
appelle aussi la « ruse du lièvre » : elle consiste, lors d’une chasse, à « doubler la
voie », c’est-à-dire à revenir sur ses pas pour mettre les chiens en défaut13. Aux
pièges circulaires et régressifs de l’Overlook répond la Métis créatrice de Danny,
une intelligence chevillée au corps et résolument tournée vers l’avenir. C’est d’ail-
leurs parce qu’il est capable de saisir l’instant présent, le moment opportun
(kairos) que Danny parvient à vaincre l’Overlook. La manœuvre de Danny
consiste à résister au recourbement du temps, à contrecarrer le piège spatial
et temporel qui lui est tendu par l’Overlook. Jack, incapable d’un tel retour-
nement, poursuit la métamorphose et régresse jusqu’à l’animalité. Vaincu par
l’« enfant lumière » – ce nouveau Thésée –, le Minotaure Jack s’enlise dans une
éternité cauchemardesque, avec le souffle court d’un taureau étrillé.

11 M. Detienne et J.-P. Vernant, Les Ruses de l’intelligence, La métis des Grecs, Paris, Flammarion,
1974, p. 266.
12 Ibid., p. 267.
13 Cf. Xénophon, L’Art de la chasse, VI. 21, Delebecque (p. 76, n° 1).
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 35

Eyes Wide Shut : la maïeutique dionysiaque

Eyes Wide Shut est, en un sens, une autre histoire de labyrinthe. Ce film
raconte l’odyssée intérieure d’un homme qui chemine à travers un labyrinthe
de fantasmes et prend peu à peu conscience de ses limites. C’est la Mètis de sa
femme qui lui permettra d’en trouver la sortie et de se réconcilier avec elle.
Dans la dernière scène qui a lieu dans un magasin de jouets, Alice oppose
à l’ultime proposition théorique de Bill – il projette leur relation dans l’éter-
nité en employant le mot « forever » –, une proposition simple et abrupte :
«  Just fuck  ». En choisissant de conclure son film, non sur la traditionnelle
scène de réconciliation propre aux comédies du remariage mais en insistant,
au contraire, sur le caractère à la fois contingent et réfléchi de la décision qui va
précéder l’union des époux, Kubrick rend hommage à la Mètis d’Alice.
Il rend aussi hommage à une nouvelle génération de femmes émancipées
de l’ancien ordre patriarcal qui choisissent de mettre leur Mètis au service
du vouloir-vivre et de l’affirmation du devenir plutôt que de l’abandonner au
nihilisme du monde de la Technique. Le trivial «  Just fuck  » est un appel
à un retour à l’ordinaire, à une reconnaissance (acknowledgement) de notre
condition sceptique, au sens où l’entend Stanley  Cavell. Finalement, il n’y
a peut-être pas besoin d’être un surhomme pour devenir un affirmateur du
vouloir-vivre, semble vouloir nous dire Kubrick, il suffit peut-être d’accepter
d’être simplement humain.
Eyes Wide Shut nous confronte à deux  manières d’être au monde radi-
calement opposées  : celle de Bill, en apparence posée et rationnelle mais en
réalité superficielle et narcissique et celle d’Alice, intuitive mais cohérente. Dans
la fameuse scène du joint, tout semble indiquer la crispation de Bill, pour ne
pas dire sa frustration : dès que l’objet de son désir lui échappe, il adopte une
posture hiératique qui ne variera pas pendant toute la durée de la dispute.
Bill tente de garder le contrôle de son corps à l’inverse d’Alice qui n’hésite pas
à changer de position, à se lever, à déambuler dans la pièce ou à s’asseoir par
terre. Alice s’exprime aussi bien avec des mots qu’avec des gestes et des mouve-
ments. Elle ne soustrait pas son corps de la dynamique de son raisonnement :
elle fait parler son corps.
Loin d’être déconstruit ou aléatoire, l’argumentaire d’Alice –  quoique
échappant à l’ordre du rationnel – obéit à une logique rigoureuse, sorte de
maïeutique intuitive où l’ironie est utilisée pour faire glisser le discours vers les
sentiments et le vécu personnel.
Alice se moque ouvertement de Bill, le provoque dans une joute verbale et
l’oblige à abandonner son rôle de docteur et de mari pour redevenir un homme
générique. La Métis d’Alice est à l’œuvre : son acuité intellectuelle évoque la
«  pénétration d’esprit  », cette qualité de l’intelligence dont Aristote crédite
surtout la sage-femme qui ne se trompe pas sur le but à atteindre et anticipe
intuitivement le déroulement de chacune des étapes risquées de la parturition.
36 Sam Azulys

Sous sa forme positive, ce type d’intelligence sert également à désigner la


« justesse de coup d’œil » (eustochia)14 combinant à la fois l’idée d’une visée,
d’un but à atteindre et d’un regard aquilin qui s’oppose radicalement à la myopie
existentielle de Bill. Prendre pour cible se dit d’ailleurs en grec stochazesthai,
un verbe qui « appartient au vocabulaire de l’archer et du chasseur. »15 Bill est
impuissant face à la Métis d’Alice, son discours va s’emballer, devenir agressif,
incapable d’autre chose que de répétition jusqu’à se taire pour ne laisser appa-
raître qu’un corps athlétique mais rigidifié dans une attitude de passivité absolue.
Le rire d’Alice est dès lors une manifestation de sa supériorité, il résonne
comme un vertere pollicem (pouce vers le bas) dans cette chambre conjugale
qui, à l’occasion, s’est transformée en arène des sexes. Le monologue d’Alice
qui clôt la scène du joint est un récit intimiste plutôt que didactique. Il ouvrira
la faille qui absorbera l’imaginaire appauvri de Bill et déclenchera, par la suite,
ses visions.
Le langage d’Alice appartient à un registre spécifique de l’intelligence
qui ne se confond pas avec une activité rationnelle : pour Aristote, la Métis
s’efforce, en tâtonnant et par conjecture, d’atteindre le but visé et, se faisant,
relève « d’un mode extérieur à l’epistémé, au savoir »16. N’oublions pas que la
Métis est aussi une déité marine dans les théogonies orphiques, une déité qui
se confronte à une réalité multiple, changeante et dont le pouvoir de polymorphie
est illimité. La Métis est en contact avec les puissances de l’inconscient et, dès
lors, on ne s’étonnera pas qu’Alice, sans rien savoir des pérégrinations de son
mari, ait été capable de les rêver en les transfigurant.

Pour finir, revenons un instant à la notion deleuzienne de «  monde-


cerveau  ». Nous l’avons vu, le corps, ses affects et ses pulsions, occupe une
place centrale chez Kubrick. On pourrait penser, comme Deleuze, que les
monades techniciennes, ces systèmes panoptiques et ubiquitaires, sont à l’ori-
gine des affects et des pulsions qui traversent les corps des sujet-vivants. Et,
de fait, le dressage du « bétail » humain s’effectue par le biais de procédures
techniciennes élaborées qui prennent des formes variées  : outils meurtriers,
discipline militaire, langage composite ou politicien, conditionnement
psychosomatique, etc. Cependant, les monades techniciennes qui peuplent
l’univers de Kubrick sont des machines dépourvues de corps et qui cherchent
désespérément à un avoir un. Inversement, les sujets-vivants ont un corps
qu’ils oublient pour s’harmoniser aux procédures techniciennes et embrasser
leur « devenir-machine ».

14 M. Detienne et J.-P. Vernant, Les Ruses de l’intelligence, La métis des Grecs, Paris, Flammarion,
1974, p. 297.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid., p. 10.
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 37

Mais les processus par lesquels une telle métamorphose est possible sont
envisagés par Kubrick de telle façon qu’il sera toujours impossible de réduire les
sujets-vivants à des machines. D’abord parce que si la Volonté de Puissance peut
effectivement être convertie en Volonté de Néant ou en Néant de Volonté par les
procédures techniciennes, cette conversion sera toujours incomplète, partielle,
inachevée. Les facultés de résistance des sujets-vivants sont insoupçonnées et
immenses  : Hal est vaincu par Bowman, Jack et l’Overlook par Danny, le
« Traitement Ludivico » par Alex, le conditionnement militaire par Joker, et
l’Apocalypse elle-même, par le sursaut érectile du Docteur Folamour.
Ensuite parce que la Technique ne peut être appréhendée indépendam-
ment de l’hominisation, comme nous pouvons le voir dans 2001 et que le
corps est lui-même, intrinsèquement et dès son origine, un produit de la
procédure technicienne originelle : celle de l’évolution ou celle du bond évolutif
induit par les énigmatiques monolithes. L’œil est l’outil-vivant grâce auquel le
corps accède à l’intelligence et devient lui-même producteur de Technique. Il
est la machine organique grâce à laquelle le sujet-vivant parvient à dominer son
milieu, mais il est aussi la machine de vision grâce à laquelle Kubrick explore
l’intériorité des sujet-vivants.
D’autre part, nous avons vu que l’attitude des sujets-vivants face au nihi-
lisme technologique ne se limitait pas à faire montre de résilience. La Mètis
est l’intelligence du corps, l’intelligence conjecturale grâce à laquelle les héros
kubrickiens peuvent se surpasser et triompher du nihilisme de la civilisation
technicienne. Pourtant la Mètis n’est pas étrangère à la Technique, elle en est
même l’expression la plus noble.

Sam Azulys
New York University, Paris
samazulys@noos.fr

Résumé
Selon Gilles Deleuze, le cinéma de Kubrick est un «  cinéma du cerveau  »17 plutôt qu’un
cinéma du corps, c’est-à-dire un cinéma où c’est d’abord et avant tout « le cerveau qui est mis
en scène »18. Penser les rapports entre le corps et l’esprit dans le cinéma de Kubrick nous paraît
être un enjeu d’autant plus fondamental que son cinéma a longtemps été envisagé comme un
« monde-cerveau » façonné par un démiurge perfectionniste jusqu’à l’obsession. Le « monde-
cerveau » – autre expression deleuzienne – de Kubrick semble pourtant toujours menacé par
une entropie galopante qui, dans la plupart des cas, le fait, in fine, basculer dans le chaos.

17 Gilles Deleuze, L’Image-temps. Cinéma 2, Minuit, Paris, 1985, p. 267-268.


18 Ibid.
38 Sam Azulys

Cependant, même si Kubrick adopte effectivement l’approche distanciée et analytique d’un


diagnosticien soucieux de mettre au jour l’irrationalité pathologique d’un monde occidental
en déroute, il nous semble accorder un profond intérêt à la question du corps. C’est pourquoi
l’idée deleuzienne selon laquelle, dans l’œuvre de Kubrick, les attitudes du corps dépendent
toujours du cerveau mérite, selon nous, d’être discutée. En effet, une approche dualiste et fina-
lement réductrice ne semble pas rendre justice à la complexité des rapports qu’entretiennent
le corps et l’esprit dans le cinéma de Kubrick.
Nous tenterons de montrer que le cinéaste, loin de s’en tenir à « l’identité du monde et du
cerveau » comme le suggère Deleuze, propose une physiologie du sujet-vivant qui n’est pas si
éloignée de l’approche nietzschéenne. Ainsi, lorsque les forces vitales se sont amenuisées, le
néant de volonté peut se transformer en volonté de néant, c’est-à-dire en une volonté de puis-
sance dévoyée, comme c’est par exemple le cas dans Docteur Folamour ou Orange Mécanique.
Or, cette volonté de puissance est si débridée que même le nihilisme technologique triom-
phant ne parvient pas à la canaliser.
Dans l’œuvre du cinéaste, c’est donc en réalité le corps qui tient en échec le cerveau. Loin
de nous proposer une vision pessimiste et dualiste de l’existence, Stanley Kubrick interroge
le rapport du corps et de l’esprit pour réexaminer nos valeurs humanistes à la lumière des
mutations technologiques et revaloriser la Mètis, cette intelligence pragmatique liée à la faculté
d’improviser que les anciens Grecs identifiaient à la ruse et qui suppose l’existence d’une
étroite connivence entre le corps et l’esprit.
Mots-clés
Kubrick, nihilisme, corps, esprit, Mètis, Nietzsche, Deleuze.
Abstract
According to Gilles Deleuze, Kubrick’s cinema is “a cinema of the brain” rather than “a cinema
of the body”, which is to say a cinema in which it is first and foremost “the brain which is staged”.
Exploring the relation between brain and body in Kubrick’s cinema seems all the more necessary
since his work has long been considered as a “brain-world”, shaped by an obsessively perfectionist
demiurge. Such “brain-world” –another Deleuzian expression– yet appears to be threatened by a
raving entropy which, in most cases, plunges the world into chaos.
However, even though Kubrick does adopt a distanciated, analytical approach akin to a diagnosti-
cian mindful to highlight the pathological irrationality of a Western world in turmoil, I argue he
also pays careful attention to the body. That is why I believe the Deleuzian idea according to which
in Kubrick’s oeuvre, the body’s reactions always depend on the brain, deserves to be questioned. A
dualistic –and ultimately reductive– approach does not fully encompass the subtlety of the relations
between body and mind that Kubrick depicts.
I therefore argue that the filmmaker, far from sticking to an “identity of world and brain” as
Deleuze suggests, offers a physiology of the living subject reminiscent of the Nietzschean approach.
Thus, when vital forces have diminished, the nullity of will can morph into a will to nothingness,
that is to say a distorted will to power, as is the case in Doctor  Strangelove or A Clockwork
Orange. And yet, the will to power endures despite all the attempts to channel it through a trium-
phant technological nihilism.
In the filmmaker’s work, it is thus the body which instead keeps the brain in check. Far from
offering a pessimistic, dualistic view of life, Stanley Kubrick questions the relation between body
and mind to better reexamine our humanist values in the light of technological mutations and ends
up valuing Metis, this pragmatic intelligence connected to the faculty to improvise that ancient
Greeks associated to ruse and which presupposes a tight connivance between body and mind.
Keywords
Kubrick, nihilism, body, mind, Mètis, Nietzsche, Deleuze.
Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis dans l’œuvre du cinéaste 39

NOTICE BIOGRAPHIQUE

Sam Azulys est philosophe et professeur d’analyse filmique à l’Université de New York à
Paris. Son ouvrage Stanley Kubrick : une odyssée philosophique (Éditions de la Transparence,
2011) se propose d’étudier les rapports entre le cinéaste et des philosophes comme Nietzsche,
Heidegger ou Jünger. Il vient de publier Philosopher avec Game of Thrones aux Éditions Ellipses.
Paths of Glory
Clément Puget
Partie 2
Paths of Glory. Aux croisements
de l’Histoire

Clément Puget

Si Les Sentiers de la gloire est évidemment un film célèbre –  adjectif qui


pourrait qualifier les 13 films de Stanley Kubrick… – ce qui distingue peut-être
celui-ci des autres, qui le précèdent ou le suivent, tient d’abord au contexte
présent. Il n’est pas inexact de dire que l’on commémore, en 2017, le 60e anni-
versaire du film sorti aux États-Unis en décembre sous le titre de Paths of Glory.
C’est un film de guerre, écrivent alors les critiques, où plutôt un film dans
lequel guerres et conflits trouvent un ancrage historique, et ce à l’instar de la
moitié des films du cinéaste finalement. Fear and Desire, œuvre inaugurale éter-
nellement mal-aimée du maître – film de « n’importe quelle guerre en somme »
aux « contours immuables de la peur, du doute et de la mort »1 ouvrit les hosti-
lités avant que Spartacus ne permette à Kirk Douglas d’abandonner l’uniforme
français du colonel Dax tout en demeurant plein-cadre. Hormis ces deux films
– les moins « kubrickiens » ? – suivent Dr. Strangelove, Barry Lyndon ou encore
Full Metal Jacket, soit autant d’évocations poétiques et historiennes à la fois de
conflits modernes et contemporains, belliqueux et/ou diplomatiques…
Mais si Paths of Glory m’intéresse avant tout, sans doute est-ce en raison
de cette longue lutte dans laquelle je me suis engagé pour essayer encore et
toujours d’imaginer un pont entre deux rives de la recherche universitaire
longtemps demeurées distantes, qui pourtant se font face tels des duellistes,
depuis la fin du XIXe siècle : l’Histoire d’un côté, le cinéma de l’autre. Comme
tout chercheur ayant abordé les représentations de la Grande Guerre au
cinéma, j’avais croisé le quatrième long métrage de Stanley Kubrick pendant
la rédaction de ma thèse de doctorat, publiée sous le titre Verdun, le cinéma,
l’événement2. Je concluais d’ailleurs cet ouvrage relatif à l’écriture de la bataille
de Verdun en interrogeant l’année 1916 comme point d’ancrage notoire
dans la mémoire collective française, année médiane du conflit mais égale-

1 Stanley Kubrick, Fear and Desire (1953), traduction réalisée par nos soins.
2 Puget Clément, Verdun, le cinéma, l’événement, Paris, Nouveau monde éditions/Ministère de la
Défense, collection « Histoire et cinéma », 2016, 543 p.
44 Clément Puget

ment année des batailles monumentales de la Somme et bien évidemment


de Verdun. Étrange hasard –  passée la Marseillaise orchestrée du générique
de début – Paths of Glory s’ouvre sur une surimpression filmique : « France
1916 » (Document 1).
Ce film, qui fit connaître Kubrick à l’international – après les succès relatifs
de ses films de genre, Killer’s Kiss et The Killing  – est d’autant plus illustre
qu’il semble en avoir engendré d’autres, tels les non moins importants King
and Country (Joseph Losey, 1964), Uomini contro (Francesco Rosi, 1970) ou
Capitaine Conan (Bertrand  Tavernier, 1996), sans oublier les productions
télévisuelles d’Yves Boisset ou Patrick Jamin notamment. Et si Westfront 1918
(« Quatre de l’infanterie », G.W. Pabst) ou All Quiet on the Western front égra-
tignaient déjà, à l’orée des années 1930, l’absurdité des ordres hiérarchiques
et le bellicisme des nations, Paths of Glory choisit quelques pans précis de la
Grande Guerre, dans ce qu’elle recèle d’abjection, de cruauté et d’injustice
inouïe. Donc l’analyser en observant les nouveaux horizons de la recherche
kubrickienne est un défi car Paths of Glory suggère avant tout les débuts – les
origines peut-être même de la carrière mondiale d’un metteur en scène et la
confirmation d’une éclosion qui fit surtout l’effet d’une explosion analogue à
celle de l’artillerie lourde qui habite le hors-champ de Paths of Glory.
Pourquoi Kubrick s’est-il plongé dans l’enfer des tranchées mais aussi dans
l’ambiance glaçante des lieux de pouvoir d’une guerre lointaine (1914-1918)
qui en appelaient certainement d’autres en 1957 ? Peut-être, alors que la guerre
d’Algérie se répandait à l’ensemble du territoire français et que les États-Unis
peinaient à faire oublier la guerre de Corée, Kubrick eut-il l’idée de réaliser
un film – comme aurait pu le dire Abel Gance ou Henri Desfontaines – pour
« tuer la guerre » !
Après Fear and Desire (1953) qui avait quelque chose d’une œuvre « théo-
rique », puis deux films noirs – Killer’s kiss et The Killing – Stanley Kubrick
adapte donc un ouvrage de l’écrivain américain et ancien-combattant,
Humphrey Cobb, engagé dans l’armée canadienne en 1916 pour combattre
en France, où il sera gazé mais reviendra de la guerre3. Cobb écrit ce roman
fondateur en 1935 et meurt en 1944, sans jamais avoir eu vent du projet de
Stanley Kubrick d’adapter Paths of Glory, vingt deux ans après la sortie de l’ou-
vrage. Du roman, d’ailleurs adapté au théâtre par Sidney Howard en 1935,
Kubrick et ses coscénaristes, Willingham et Thompson, ont gardé la structure
tripartite éliminant cependant quelques protagonistes, faisant d’Étienne et
Dax, par exemple, un seul et même officier, défenseur, combattant et avocat
de ses hommes, dans l’adversité insoupçonnée de l’État-major français. Mais
plus que tout autre motif ou parole puisée dans l’ouvrage, Kubrick est resté
fidèle à l’ironie originelle et fondatrice du roman, ainsi que le démontre la
séquence d’exécution des trois soldats. Nous y reviendrons.

3 Cobb Humphrey, Les Sentiers de la gloire, éd. Altal, Chambéry 2014, 269 p.
Paths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire 45

Croisant donc « Histoire » et « cinéma » tant dans mes enseignements qu’au


sein de mes recherches (actuelles également sur la commémoration médiatique
et audiovisuelle de l’événement historique), il me semble possible d’interroger
ce film selon trois axes qui pourraient répondre à la question suivante : dans
quelle mesure le film Paths of Glory construit-il son historicité (Rancière4) au
croisement de l’Histoire et de l’histoire, débordant et reconfigurant le cadre
chronologique de la Grande Guerre tout en développant le thème du « refus de
guerre » dans différentes strates de son récit, et cela avec quelles conséquences
sur la réception de l’œuvre des années 1960 aux années 1990 ?

L’historicité du film et les arrangements avec l’Histoire

Un lieu dans l’histoire

The anthill, la « fourmillière » empruntée au roman de Cobb est un point


stratégique manifeste dans les deux récits, écrit de 1934 et filmique de 1957.
Mirage (d’ailleurs presque invisible à l’œil nu du spectateur), cet ouvrage fortifié
pris, perdu et repris par l’ennemi, semble passer de main en main au gré du
pilonnage des canons (de 420 ?) et des vagues d’assaut de l’infanterie. Si aucun
lieu n’est clairement mentionné, ni dans le roman, ni dans le film, on peut
s’interroger sur les motifs visuels dans Paths of Glory d’une part et à travers deux
photogrammes de Verdun visions d’Histoire (L. Poirier, 1928), tourné à Verdun
et notamment au fort de Douaumont, d’autre part (Document 2).
En 1916, ainsi que le relatait déjà Léon Poirier dans son film de 1928, le
fort de Douaumont fait l’objet de plusieurs prises et pertes par les Français
avant d’être repris définitivement le 24 octobre 1916 – une semaine avant un
autre fort illustre, celui de Vaux.
Stanley  Kubrick y fait-il indirectement référence  ? Peut-être a-t-il d’ail-
leurs été inconsciemment influencé par le roman qui mentionne une fois,
mais une seule, le nom de Verdun (p. 195) dans un moment de flash-back du
récit ? S’il est impossible de l’affirmer, l’ancrage du récit de 1957 dans l’armée
française couplé à la surimpression « France 1916 » peut laisser penser qu’un
tel rapprochement n’est peut-être pas anodin.

Historio-grahie et « mémoire de seconde main »

Le deuxième point notable est relatif à l’attaque menée par le colonel Dax
dans le no man’s land à l’assaut de la fourmilière.

4 Rancière Jacques, « L’historicité du cinéma » in Antoine de Baecque, Christian Delage (éd.),


De l’histoire au cinéma, éd. Complexes IHTP, Bruxelles 1998, p. 45-60.
46 Clément Puget

Cette attaque suicide est collectivement refusée par une partie de la compa-
gnie qui décide de ne pas sortir de la tranchée. Kubrick a repris l’intégralité
de l’épisode développé dans le roman faisant de l’ordre du général Assolant
– « Mireau » dans le film – le point d’orgue de cette séquence (Document 3).
Terrifiant, ce moment trouve difficilement son fondement dans une chro-
nologie précise. Cobb s’est certainement inspiré de l’affaire dite de Souain,
pour interpréter les rumeurs d’un tel ordre historiquement avéré et donné,
en mars 1915, par le général Reveilhac5. En effet, Hormis les doutes exprimés
par plusieurs historiens au sujet de la véracité d’une telle décision, si celle-ci
eut cependant lieu, ce fut en 1915, soit environ un an avant les faits rapportés
dans le film de Stanley Kubrick.
Si l’on envisage l’historicité de l’œuvre, au-delà du simple rapport entre
le fait réel attesté par les archives et le fait strictement filmique, et que l’on
regarde du côté du film de Georg Wilhelm Pabst, on découvre que l’historicité
recherchée par Stanley Kubrick réside peut-être moins dans un quelconque
champ de bataille ou date précise que… dans un autre film, Westfront 1918
dans lequel une scène analogue – côté allemand cette fois – est scénarisée et
mise en images. Une manière de dire peut-être que l’historicité est ici surtout
le rapport de l’événement filmique à l’événement médiatisé, une « mémoire
de seconde main » en somme.

Le « Shell-shock » (Document 4)

Cette expression britannique date de 1915. Elle désigne les atteintes d’ordre
nerveux et psychique provoquées sur l’organisme humain par les déflagrations
d’explosifs. Le terme a progressivement été banni du vocabulaire médical mili-
taire en raison de l’usage néfaste qui pouvait en être fait au sein des troupes.
La langue française offre plusieur équivalents outre « l’état de choc » tel que
traduit dans le film  : commotion cérébrale, congestion cérébrale, accidents
nerveux, commotions médulaires, choc émotionnel, obusite se répandent
après-guerre6. Cependant deux psychiatres français, Dumas et Delmas, font
un rapport pendant la bataille de la Somme (octobre 1916), sur la notion
de syndrome confusionnel, pour alerter les autorités militaires des séquelles
tenaces dues aux épisodes de confusion mentale, et insister sur les consé-
quences tragiques de ces séquelles sur le plan médico-légal. Ils y indiquent
que les «  non-soignés  » car «  non-diagnostiqués  » comme tels conservent
une hyperémotivité durable qui se traduit sur le champ de bataille par des

5 Offenstadt Nicolas, Les Fusillés de la Grande Guerre et la mémoire collective 1914-1999, éd.
Odile Jacob, Paris, 2002 [1999].
6 Dupouy Stéphanie, « La vérité troublée. Georges Dumas, psychiatre du front », in Christophe
Prochasson, Anne Rasmussen (éd.), Vrai et faux dans la Grande Guerre, éd. La Découverte,
Paris, 2004, p. 235-254.
Paths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire 47

« phobies de l’obus » ou des réactions de fuite pathologique, les conduisant,


les cas échéant à déserter :
«  Ces hommes sont pour longtemps encore des infirmes du système nerveux  ; ce
n’est pas quelques années de prison ou le poteau d’exécution que nous leur devons
mais des soins et du repos dont nul ne songerait à contester l’utilité si leur infirmité
provenait d’une blessure apparente. »7
Loin de conter une bataille, encore moins une année de luttes plus ou
moins intenses – comme la surimpression « France 1916 » aurait pu inciter
à le penser  – Paths of Glory prend surtout le chemin d’une représentation
éclatée, parcellaire, de l’Histoire avec un récit dont la volonté est de synthéti-
ser les maux de la guerre… en 1916. Ce tableau général du conflit, esquissé
en amont, Kubrick l’a voulu plus précis encore et contextualisé sur le cas de
l’exercice de la justice (militaire) et des exécutions, toujours en étroite corré-
lation avec le contenu de l’ouvrage de l’ancien-combattant Humphrey Cobb.

Justice militaire

Trois affaires de fusillés et leur exécution filmique

Kubrick, fidèle à l’ouvrage de Humphrey Cobb, a repris les trois affaires


dites de fusillés de la Grande Guerre, pour bâtir son récit. Ce sont d’abord des
lieux : Roye, dans la Somme (septembre 1914), Souain (mars 1915), Flirey
(avril 1915). Aucune donc ne se déroulât en 1916…
De la plus ancienne affaire (septembre-octobre 1914), le film retient le
cas du sous-lieutenant Chapelant, officier donc qui, du côté de la Somme
aux environs de Roye, s’est rendu à l’ennemi avec sa troupe pensant que les
troupes allemandes encerclaient leurs positions. Blessé (par une balle fran-
çaise), le sous-lieutenant Chapelant est ramené dans les lignes françaises sur
un brancard… et condamné à mort. Ne pouvant se tenir debout, il est fusillé
sur ce même brancard face au Château des loges, près de Roye (Document 5).
Ce n’est pas son histoire qui est contée à l’écran mais une évocation
certaine de cette victime réhabilitée par l’État français en 2012 au moment
des commémorations nationales du 11 novembre. Car comme l’écrivit Alain,
dès 1927, on ne savait rien de précis de cette affaire, que l’atroce exécution…
Dans la chronologie de la Guerre, l’épisode de Souain (mars 1915) fournit
matière au récit de H. Cobb, avec le choix de quatre caporaux, les plus jeunes
du régiment, dont le caporal Maupas, fusillés pour l’exemple face à la multi-
tude qui a refusé de combattre (au départ, pas moins de vingt-quatre hommes
étaient menacés d’exécution) (Document 6).

7 Propos de Georges Dumas, in Stéphanie Dupouy, ibid., p. 247.


48 Clément Puget

Enfin, de Flirey en avril 1915, Stanley Kubrick retient surtout le person-


nage du capitaine (ici le colonel Dax interprété par Kirk  Douglas) qui
fut chargé de la défense –  seulement quelques heures avant le procès  – de
cinq hommes condamnés pour avoir refusé d’aller au combat.
De ces trois affaires émergent quatre hommes, dans le roman de Cobb,
tous soldats de troupe. Mais le quatrième, parce qu’il est juif, va être épargné
par le tirage au sort des victimes – procédé qui ne se pratiquait pourtant plus
dans l’armée française à partir du printemps 1916.
Dans le film éponyme, Stanley Kubrick a retiré le quatrième personnage
de son intrigue, faisant des fusillés, des victimes de la barbarie du comman-
dement français. Il représente l’instant décisif de manière très précise, suivant
le décret de 1909, avec un peloton constitué de tireurs appartenant à la
même unité que les condamnés. La parole de l’institution militaire et celle
du condamné sont les seules paroles publiques audibles durant la cérémonie.
Mais si cet acte final d’une tragédie annoncée se conforme avec précision aux
récits historiens sur le sujet, ce climax est précédé par un simulacre d’exercice
de justice militaire qui, conformément au ton général du récit filmique, mêle
une fois encore anachronisme et réalité sensible de la Grande Guerre dans un
alliage d’historicité aussi étrange que séduisant. Pertinent peut-être aussi…

L’in-justice militaire

Le décor du château de Schleissheim en Bavière fournit le cadre d’un


procès aux accents baroques mais également caricaturaux de bout en bout de
la séquence filmique.
Tourné en Allemagne, au dit château et également dans les studios muni-
chois de Geseilgasteig, pour des raisons budgétaires semble-t-il, avec des
figurants essentiellement allemands issus de la police locale, cette séquence
dévoile le procès et la tenue d’une cour martiale pour juger les trois soldats
(Document 7).
Devant ce que l’on serait tenté de qualifier de caricature, on peut se
demander comment la justice militaire s’applique pendant la Première Guerre
mondiale  ? Il s’agit d’une justice militaire d’exception en 1914, se fondant
sur le code de justice militaire en vigueur depuis 1857. Le 2 août 1914, un
décret annonçait l’état de siège, le territoire devenant – jusqu’en 1919 – « zone
des armées », en vertu de quoi la justice qui s’y appliquait était une justice
militaire, selon l’application de la loi du 9 août 1849 sur l’état de siège. Et si,
avant 1914, la peine de mort est très peu pratiquée et appliquée dans le cadre
de la justice militaire, la situation en 1914 et la patrie est en danger, transfor-
ment l’appareil judiciaire en une justice de terreur. Dès la fin août 1914, les
exécutions sommaires sont autorisées.
Paths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire 49

À partir du 27 avril 1916, les choses changent  cependant, lorsque le


parlement vote une loi visant à restreindre les pouvoirs spéciaux des cours de
justice militaire, cela pour que la « saignée » pratiquée en 1914-1915 cesse
enfin, notamment via l’abolition du tirage au sort en cas de condamnation
collective. Notons à cet égard que seule une minorité d’hommes fut passée
par les armes, dans l’armée française, entre 1914 et 1918, soit tout de même
plus de 700 sur environ 2 500 condamnations à mort. André Loez rapporte
que la majorité des fusillés a été exécutée entre 1914 et 1915, soit en début
de guerre donc pour un total de 500  fusillés en un an et demi, alors que
les années 1916-1918 affichent un bilan de 250 hommes exécutés – soit la
moitié8. Curieusement, du moins à l’inverse de ce que l’imaginaire national
français a retenu – et les manuels scolaires dans une certaine mesure –, il y
eut donc moins de soldats passés par les armes après 1916. Par conséquent, la
violence de l’armée et sa fermeté ne sont pas liés à une guerre qui s’éternise,
ce qui renforce la pertinence et l’historicité du choix de situer le film Paths of
Glory en 1916 (Document 8).
Nous l’avons dit, Kubrick choisit d’ancrer sa diégèse en 1916, ce qui est
intéressant par rapport à l’historiographie sur le sujet, présentant générale-
ment l’imaginaire de 1916 au regard de celui de 1917 (année des mutineries
de l’armée française). C’est pourtant aussi en avril 1916 que les conseils de
guerre spéciaux sont supprimés, suite à la pression médiatique et populaire
et à l’enlisement du conflit qui ne mobilise guère plus les esprits… Vu les
remarques de Dax, outré par le caractère expéditif du procès on comprend
pourtant que la procédure n’est pas respectée. Pour le spectateur, se posait
alors la question : le « conseil de guerre » ici ne ressemble-t-il pas plus aux
tribunaux militaires de la guerre d’Algérie dont les pouvoirs spéciaux sont
accrus dès 1956, après que l’état d’urgence a été décrété en 1955, qu’à ceux de
1916… ? En Algérie encore, les procédures de justice simplifiée permettent
la traduction, sans instruction, des flagrants délits commis avec armes ou
matériel militaire en Algérie – justice pour le moins expéditive qui a peut-être
inspiré Stanley  Kubrick… et lui a causé quelques difficultés diplomatiques
aussi au moment de la sortie du film.

« Eyes wide shut ». Réception et aveuglement diplomatique dans


la France des années 60 à 90

Sorti à la veille des fêtes de fin d’année du côté de New York en 1957, le
film ne trouva d’écran en France qu’en mars… 1975. Pourquoi ? Laurent Véray
a bien exposé les raisons de cette « non-sortie » en France en 1958, suite aux

8 Loez André, 14-18. Les refus de la guerre. Une histoire des mutins, éd. Gallimard, collection
Folio Histoire, Paris, 2010, 690 p.
50 Clément Puget

troubles occasionnés en Belgique, qui auraient incité le distributeur américain


United Artists à renoncer à présenter le film à la censure9. En réalité, deux mois
avant que le film ne soit projeté en Belgique en janvier 1958, Romain Gary,
écrivain et consul général de France à Los Angeles s’opposât à la sortie du
film dans l’Hexagone, via une lettre adressée à l’ambassadeur de France à
Washington. Il y dénonçait l’antimilitarisme de l’œuvre et le ton calomnieux
proféré à l’égard de l’armée française et de son État-major. L’inquiétude du
diplomate visait surtout le statut de la France en tant que puissance militaire
dans le monde. En effet, en marge de la défaite de Dien Bien Phu (mai 1954),
la reconquête coloniale s’amorçait en Algérie. Cependant en 1957, l’échec de
la bataille d’Alger et les révélations sur les exactions commises par l’Armée
– comparées dans Le Monde à celles perpétrées par les Nazis en leur temps –
assènent un coup médiatique terrible à la France.
Ainsi comprend-on aisément pourquoi Romain  Gary s’inquiète de la
portée d’un tel film alors que le pouvoir militaire français est pris d’une terrible
paranoïa qui le gangrène irrémédiablement. Lorsque la Belgique informe la
France de ce qui s’est passé lors des séances de projection, le ministre des
Affaires étrangères indique à l’ambassadeur de France aux États-Unis de tout
mettre en œuvre pour empêcher que le film ne soit projeté. Et la France de
menacer United Artists de bloquer l’entrée de ses films pendant trois mois.
La firme américaine accepte de ne pas présenter le film à la Censure, ce qui
permet à l’État français d’indiquer qu’il n’a jamais interdit le film…
S’en suivent quelques interdictions, bien réelles celles-là, dans plusieurs
pays, grâce à la pression exercée par les ambassadeurs français en Suisse et
Israël par exemple. Au Canada, l’interdiction est plus difficile à réaliser, les
étudiants manifestant leur mécontentement dans la lignée de leurs prises de
position contre la politique coloniale française en Algérie. À Berlin, les projec-
tions sont interrompues en début d’année 1958 pour reprendre en juillet.
Il y a beaucoup d’ironie dans cet épisode de fausse censure et de vraie
pression politique et diplomatique à l’encontre de l’art. Ironie et noirceur
kubrickiennes sont donc de mise –  repensons simplement au soldat blessé
suite à une bagarre dans sa cellule, qui lui vaudra de mourir sur le brancard
dans une scène qui confine au ridicule et pourtant à l’historicité mani-
feste… –sans verser dans la gratuité d’un propos loufoque. Non, l’ironie et la
noirceur semblent donc être les maitre-mots de ce quatrième long métrage de
Stanley Kubrick, qui aborde ce que l’historien George Mosse appellera, dès les
années 1980, « the brutalisation » des sociétés en guerre10.

9 Véray Laurent, «  Le cinéma américain constitue-t-il une menace pour l’identité nationale
française  ? le cas exemplaire des Sentiers de la gloire (Paths of Glory, 1957, Kubrick)  », in
Martin Barnier, Raphaëlle Moine (éd.), France / Hollywood, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2002.
10 Mosse George, De la Grande Guerre au totalitarisme. La brutalisation des sociétés européennes,
éd. Hachette Littératures, Paris, 1999, 291 p.
Paths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire 51

Paths of Glory n’est donc pas un énième récit plus ou moins fidèle relatant
des événements de la Grande Guerre. C’est peut-être d’abord un film qui
déjà se retourne sur la jeune carrière de son auteur, faisant écho au tout début
de son premier film de long-métrage, Fear and Desire (1953), dont voici la
retranscription/traduction du commentaire off des plans inauguraux :
« […] There is war in this forest. Not a war that has been fought, or one that will
be. But any war, and the ennemies who struggle here do not exist, unless we call
them into being. This forest then, and all that happens now is outside of History.
Only the unchanging shapes of fear and doubt, and death, are from our world. »11

Clément Puget
Maître de conférences
Université Bordeaux Montaigne
Unité de recherche CLARE (EA 4593) - équipe Artes
Chercheur associé IRCAV Paris 3
clement.puget@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr

Résumé
Paths of Glory, adaptation filmique du roman éponyme de Humphrey Cobb, dont les 60 ans
sont célébrés en 2017, n’est pas un énième film relatant la Grande Guerre. Non, c’est d’abord
une œuvre qui déjà se retourne sur la jeune carrière de son auteur, en 1957, faisant écho au
tout début de son premier film de long-métrage, Fear and Desire (1953). Mais au-delà de cet
évident rapport, c’est celui du film aux événements historiques et à leur historiographie qui
fait tout l’intérêt du 4e opus de Stanley Kubrick dans lequel humanisme, précision historienne
et ironie macabre se croisent à la fois « hors de l’histoire » (si l’on pense aux anachronismes
et invraisemblances du récit) mais également tout en poursuivant l’esquisse du simulacre de
guerre dont les « contours immuables de la peur, du doute et de la mort » sont les plus évidents
stigmates d’un réel passé qui interroge le cinéaste.
Mots-clés
Fusillé, Grande Guerre, refus, combat, justice, historicité.

11 « La guerre est présente dans cette forêt. Ni pourtant une guerre réelle, ni une guerre qui le
deviendra. N’importe quelle guerre en somme, dans laquelle les ennemis qui s’opposent ici
n’existent pas, à moins que nous ne les convoquions dans notre réalité. Cette forêt donc, et
tout ce qui s’y joue est hors de l’Histoire. Seuls les contours immuables de la peur, du doute et
de la mort appartiennent à notre monde. » (traduction réalisée par nos soins). Stanley Kubrick,
Fear and Desire (1953).
52 Clément Puget

Abstract
Paths of Glory, the film adaptation of Humphrey Cobb’s eponymous novel –whose 60th anniversary
was celebrated in 2017– is not yet another film relating the Great War. This is first and foremost
a work which, in 1957, already looks back on its author’s short career, by echoing Kubrick’s first
feature film, Fear and Desire (1953). But beyond this obvious connection, the film’s connexion to
historical events and to their historiographies is of central importance in Stanley Kubrick’s 4th work;
a film in which humanism, historical precision and macabre irony intermingle “out of history” –if
one thinks of the narrative’s anachronisms and improbabilities– while simultaneously pursuing the
depiction of a simulacrum of warfare whose “immutable contours of fear, doubt and death” are the
most obvious stigmata of a real past which the filmmaker questions.
Keywords
Firing squad, Great War, disobedience, battle, justice, historicity.
Paths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire 53

NOTICE BIOGRAPHIQUE

Clément Puget, historien de formation, maître de conférences en Cinéma et audiovisuel


à l’Université Bordeaux Montaigne, est qualifié en 18e et 22e sections du CNU. Enseignant-
chercheur, il est membre de l’unité de recherche CLARE et du centre Artes (Université
Bordeaux Montaigne) ainsi que chercheur associé à l’IRCAV (Paris  3 Sorbonne nouvelle).
Il est spécialiste des rapports entre Histoire et cinéma. Ses travaux relatifs aux archives, à la
mémoire et à l’écriture de l’Histoire, au cinéma et à la télévision, portent sur la période de la
Grande Guerre, et notamment sur le cas de la bataille de Verdun dans les films d’actualité,
documentaires et de fiction, de long et court métrage. Il est l’auteur de Verdun, le cinéma,
l’événement (Nouveau monde éditions, 2016). Dans le cadre du programme de recherches
ANR Ciné 08-19 dont il est membre du consortium, il codirige le séminaire de recherches
impliquant plusieurs universitaires et représentants de centres d’archives, en partenariat avec la
Mission du centenaire 14-18. Coresponsable, depuis 2012, du Master Cinéma et audiovisuel
parcours « Documentaire et archives », de l’Université Bordeaux Montaigne, ses recherches
actuelles portent sur la commémoration audiovisuelle de l’événement historique dans les
programmes de télévision français. Il coordonne actuellement la rédaction d’un ouvrage
collectif relatif à l’œuvre audiovisuelle de l’historien Marc Ferro.
54 Clément Puget

Document 1 : Surimpression initiale, post-générique.


Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, Bryna productions, United Artists), DR.

Document 2 : La fourmillère/Douaumont
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, Bryna productions, United Artists), DR.
Verdun, visions d’Histoire (Léon Poirier, 1928, La cinémathèque de Toulouse), DR.
Paths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire 55

Document 3 : General Mireau


Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, Bryna productions, United Artists), DR.

Document 4 : Général Mireau – “shell shock”


Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, Bryna productions, United Artists), DR.
56 Clément Puget

Document 5 : Évocation du sous-lieutenant Chapelant


Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, Bryna productions, United Artists), DR.

Document 6 : Exécution vue du peloton


Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, Bryna productions, United Artists), DR.
Paths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire 57

Document 7 : Tribunal-château
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, Bryna productions, United Artists), DR.

Document 8 : Du simulacre de procès à l’exécution


Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957, Bryna productions, United Artists), DR.
The Shining
Loig Le Bihan
Vincent Jaunas
Partie 3
From Zoom to Zoom.
An evidential interpretation of
The Shining

Loig Le Bihan

The Shining’s genesis, that one may attempt to retrace thanks not only to
the testimonies of some of the production’s key actors –chief among them
Stanley  Kubrick and his cowriter Diane  Johnson– but also to the many
documents stored in the Stanley  Kubrick Archives1 in London, reveals the
complexity of a long-lasting creative process which seems to have branched off
its original agenda. If the initial ambition was to adapt Stephen King’s novel
freely while inscribing the film within the tradition of a genre, it does seem –as
I have argued at length in my book Shining au miroir2– that the film’s creative
path has somehow strayed away from this project. In order to shed light on
the process which led from King’s novel to Kubrick’s film, one must proceed
with a particular kind of interpretation, an “evidential interpretation”.

Evidential interpretation

Ever since the publication of Carlo Ginzburg’s foundational Clues: Roots


of an Evidential Paradigm, the expression “evidential interpretation” refers to a
form of conjectural thought sometimes also referred to as “Zadig’s Method”,
which is common in various human activities; it is the method of a hunter,
of an investigator, a doctor or a philologist. It aims at inferring “retrospective
prophecies” from traces which one constitutes as clues3.

1 The Stanley  Kubrick Archives are situated in the London College of Communication,
University of the Arts London. The catalogue is available online in the UAL website: http://
archives.arts.ac.uk.
2 Loig Le Bihan, Shining au miroir. Surinterprétations, Paris, éd. Rouge profond, coll.
« Raccords », 2017.
3 Carlo Ginzburg, « Traces. Racines d’un paradigme indiciaire » [1979], in Mythes, emblèmes,
traces, Lagrasse, Éditions Verdier, coll. « Poche », 2010.
62 Loig Le Bihan

Drawing on Ginzburg’s theory, philologist Glenn Most proposes a more


precise distinction between various “evidential paradigms” and states that “the
one required in philology is not medical, but judiciary in nature”4. He adds:
that which philologists have in common with jurists and which sets them both
apart from doctors cannot be apprehended in terms of categories such as the
division between the individual and the general, since all three practices deal
with a unique subject (the text, the specific case or the patient) which may
lead to generalities through a complex path one cannot fully theorize […].
The operational categories thus required are the opposition between intent
and action on the one hand, cause and effect on the other. […] A poem, like a
murder, traces back to a behaviour and cannot be fully comprehended unless
one strives to reconstruct the intentionality it presupposes, and which leaves
behind a material residue, the trace. Of course an intention precedes and in
some way determines an action, just like a cause precedes and in some way
determines an effect. […] On the other hand, there can certainly be actions
devoid of intention and intentions devoid of actions –my own life at least is
filled with these. The fact that action and intention belong to distinct ontolo-
gical realms contrarily to cause and effect helps us see why the explanation of
a causal relation may be exhaustive and intact whereas the interpretation of an
intentional relation may only be speculative and approximate.5
Drawing on those premises, Glenn  Most indicates that evidential inter-
pretation in textual philology must consist in reconstituting from the text
itself a hypothetical intention, not from one single clue but out of an array of
concordant clues, which he calls an “intentional structure”. Thus, he chooses
to focus solely on the traces which permit to assume (what I shall call) a struc-
turing intention within the author’s mind, and not on the traces that would, for
instance, betray unintentional creative actions or even on the traces of isolated,
disseminated intentions. In this regard, he deeply concurs with Umberto Eco’s
view that the search for semiotic coherence is the best criteria to determine the
probability of an intentio operis –literally, the “work’s intention”.
How, then, shall one aim to achieve an evidential interpretation with regard
to a film? The making of a film is more complex than the writing of a poem
–possibly even more so, dare I add, than the planning of a murder– since
it is a long process, fragmented into several successive steps (development,
pre-production, production and post-production). It is both a collective and
a hierarchical process as it requires many people to provide contributions
throughout different steps of the process, contributions which vary in nature
–either executive, contributive or decisive. It is also a highly concrete process
and, as such, extremely dependent on circumstantial causalities and unin-

4 Glenn W. Most, «  Philologie et interprétation indiciaire  », in Denis  Thouard (éd.),


L’Interprétation des indices. Enquête sur le paradigme indiciaire avec Carlo Ginzburg, Villeneuve
d’Ascq, Presses universitaires du Septentrion, coll. « Opuscules », 2007, p. 65.
5 Ibid., p. 67-68.
From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining 63

tentionalized actions. So that a film’s evidential interpretation which aims


at retrospectively prophesying a creative process shall not be limited to the
conjectural reconstruction of a structuring intention, nor even to sorting out
traces of intentional and unintentional actions. It must also take into account
causal necessities and material contingencies.
In the first part of my book which is mostly centred on an evidential inter-
pretation of The Shining, I first sought to reconstitute the logic of the film by
attempting to sort out the clues of intentional structure, the vestiges of initial
or transitory intentions and the traces of circumstancial causalities within the
work. By confronting the film’s logic to the clues of a structuring intention
from the perspective of the intentio auctoris, I believe I managed to extract
the common thread of a diachronic and purposed creative process out of the
episodic, anecdotal chronicle of the film production. For the purpose of this
article, I will not attempt to synthesize all that I submit in my book; I will rather
investigate the genesis of a scene which, to my view, most condenses what one
may call, following Etienne Souriau, the “truth of instauration” (vérité d’in-
stauration) of Kubrick’s work6. I shall therefore delve into a “micro-genetic”
foray –as is said in genetic Criticism– of the successive strata of one particular
scene. Namely, the first one from the fourth part of the screenplay, which is
named after an object –The Scrapbook– and which corresponds, in the final
film, to the one where Jack idly roams around the hotel and ends up bending
over the maze’s model, while Wendy and Danny are visiting the maze.

A “micro-genetic” incursion into a few scenes of The Shining

Let us focus on the “elective” moment which symbolizes a major shift in


the film’s genesis and in its instauration (the process through which the crea-
tor’s attention to the upcoming work’s own necessity eventually dictates the
artist’s choices). In order to simplify the restitution of such a complex shift,
I will describe three different states of a narrative episode whose function
remained the same for a long time: it was meant to indicate the decisive
moment in which the hotel tightens its grip on Jack. Initially thought of as an
“enchantment” –and eventually “occulted”–, the moment of Jack’s subjuga-
tion coincided for a long time, as it does in King’s novel, with his stumbling
upon an evil object –that is, a scrapbook filled with press cuttings relating the
hotel’s sinister tale.

6 On Souriau’s notion of artistic instauration, one may read one of his texts which best summa-
rize his thought: “Du mode d’existence de l’œuvre à faire” (1956), rééd. in Étienne Souriau,
Les différents modes d’existence, Paris, éd. PUF, coll. «  Métaphysiques  », 2009, p.  195-217.
Regarding the notion of “truth of instauration”, cf. Ngô-tiêng-Hiên’s analysis, « Art et vérité
dans l’œuvre d’Étienne Souriau », in Revue philosophie de Louvain, 4e série, t. 69, n° 1, 1971,
p. 73-91 ; doi :10.3406/phlou.1971.5589.
64 Loig Le Bihan

I will thereafter refer to several states of the shooting script so as to examine


the variants between a state I shall here refer to as “initial”7 –corresponding
to the succession of events as prescribed by the shooting script finalized on
April 2nd and used by the team during the beginning of the shooting on May
2nd 1978– another I shall call “transitory” –referring to the description of the
events as it was altered after the first weeks of shooting, on the 23rd and 29th
of May 1978– and a “final” state, that is to say the events as they occur almost
identically in the two known versions of the film completed in 19808.

The final state / Jack roaming around the hotel; Wendy and Danny
visiting the maze (European version, 00:24:39 to 00:27:16 / American version,
00:37:25 to 00:40:19)

One will recall that after Jack, barely awake, discusses with the enthusias-
tic Wendy who came to bring him breakfast in bed, the next shot opens on a
slow backwards tracking shot centered on Jack’s typing machine laying on his
desk (Ill.1); it then reveals the character of Jack bouncing a tennis ball over the
hearth of the Colorado Lounge (Ill.2). Meanwhile, Wendy and Danny run into
the maze, in which they will lose themselves for a while (Ill.3). After a dissolve
indicating the simultaneity of the events (Ill.4), Jack gets near the maze’s model
and stops to scrutinize it (Ill.5). The shot cuts to a long shot overhanging the
real maze, zooming until one may discern the tiny effigies of Wendy and Danny
who have reached the centre of the labyrinth (Ill.6). Thanks to the montage,
one may wonder whether a fantastic occurrence of clairvoyance is going on.
The scene ends with the irruption of the intertitle card “Tuesday”.

The transitory state / The scrapbook is found on the working desk


(SK/15/1/35 “D. Parker Bound Script”, scenes 45 to 47)

Quoted below are the scenes which correspond to this moment in the film
as they are described in a transitory state of the screenwriting program, one
that can be found in a document available in the Stanley Kubrick Archives
under the title “D. Parker Bound Script”, numbered “SK/15/1/35”. The alter-
ations dated 22/05/78 are in italics, those from 29/05/78 are in bold letters.
Scene 46, whose paragraph is here indented, was cancelled in the screenplay
dated 29/05/78. Underlining is from the original document.

7 “Initial” here does not qualify an “original” state. I term this state “initial” as it is the state the
narrative was stabilized in at the end of the development period and at the beginning of the
production process.
8 On the various versions of Kubrick’s film, cf. chapter “Les trois  versions” from my book,
Shining au miroir, op. cit., p. 101-104.
From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining 65

SCENE 45 – LOUNGE – DAY


Jack is seated at a large table which he has arranged for his writing. It has, neatly
placed upon it, a typewriter, pencils, paper, stapler, scotch tape, ruler, etc. But
he is not working, and, after a while, he rises wearily, sighs and exits.
SCENE 46 – LOBBY – DAY – DELETED
Wendy is seated on a couch with Danny watching a TV film. Jack enters.
Wendy looks up.
WENDY – It’s almost over. Why don’t you sit down?
JACK – No, thanks. I’ve seen it already a couple of hundred times.
WENDY – How’s it going?
JACK – Fine. (meaning, not working)
WENDY – Where’re you off to?
JACK – I’m going to earn my money. I haven’t looked at anything for a week.
WENDY – Come back when you’re through and we can have some coffee.
JACK – Okay. See you later.
He exits.
Now substituted by MAZE – INT – SCENE 55
SCENE 55 – MAZE – INSIDE – WALKWAYS
Series of shots of Wendy and Danny wandering through the maze. Various ad
libs about whether they should go this way or that way, and what Tony thinks.
DANNY – How come Dad never comes out with us anymore?
WENDY – Oh, he’s real busy working on his book.
DANNY – He sure works hard.
WENDY – Yes, he does.
DANNY – He’s happy now, isn’t he?
WENDY – Yes, he really is happy.
SCENE 55A – MAZE CENTRE – PROMENADE
They find their way to the centre and Danny runs in laughing.
WENDY – It’s so peaceful in here, and pretty. It’s like a magic forest.
She takes out her Polaroid. Eventually, they find the centre of the maze, with
rows of arches opening to it.
DANNY – Hooray, we made it !
WENDY – (looking at her watch) It took us twenty minutes this time. We’re
getting good.
Wendy takes out her Polaroid camera.
WENDY – Danny, stand over there for a minute, and I’ll take your picture.
Danny laughs and poses for the picture. Wendys snaps it. It starts to snow
lightly and a fresh wind picks up. Wendy shivers.
WENDY – I think we’d better start going back now, Doc – it’s starting to snow.

SCENE 47 – LOBBY – DAY 


Jack enters and stops to examine the model of the maze. We will intercut a
shot of Wendy and Danny now in the maze to go against this. 
DISSOLVE
SCENE 47A – LOBBY – BALLROOM WALKOFF – DAY
Jack enters and walks toward the ballroom. This sequence of Jack wandering
around the hotel will be accompanied by a strange, magical music montage
mixed with just audible sounds of laughter, conversation and activity. It will
convey a sense of magic echoes of the past, and an ominous sense of Jack’s
enchantment by the hotel.
DISSOLVE
66 Loig Le Bihan

SCENE 47B – LOBBY – BALLROOM WALKOFF – DAY


Jack walks through.
DISSOLVE
SCENE 47C – BALLROOM WALKOFF TO BALLROOM – DAY
Jack enters and walks into the ballroom.
DISSOLVE
SCENE 47D – BEDROOM CORRIDORS – DAY
Jack walks down the bedroom corridors.
SCENE 47E – MEZZANINE – DAY – SCRAPBOOK ZOOM
Jack enters the mezzanine and looks down at the lounge below.
We will see his work table and slowly zoom down to the Scrapbook which has
mysterious been placed on his table during his walk around.
We know that Wendy and Danny are still in the maze. The music builds on
the zoom.
DISSOLVE
SCENE 47F – LOUNGE – DAY
Jack enters the lounge, walks to the table and opens the pages of the Scrapbook.
The music will build on this, too.
In this transitory state, one may notice a few variations from the final
state, notably the suppression of the end of scene 55A. If Wendy does stroll
with her Polaroid camera in hand, it is no longer used to photograph Danny
once they have reached the centre and she tells Danny they have beat their
best time, before she warns him it is time to go home as it will snow soon. But
one may also notice two sets of modifications as regards the original state of
events: first, the suppression of a dialogue between Wendy and Jack –scene 46–
during which she invites him to sit by her side and Jack replies he will rather
go “earn [his] money”, by which he means draining the boiler to prevent its
overheating9; then the significant expansion of scene 47, now extended with
several new scenes (47A to 47F). Scene 47 in its initial state merely showed Jack
roaming around “his” hotel before finding the scrapbook lying among a pile
of stuff in scene 48. Therefore, in this transitory state, the scrapbook is not
unearthed by Jack from the basement anymore; via a “SCRAPBOOK ZOOM”, it
is merely found by Jack upon his desk, as it was put there, but by whom?

The initial state / Reading the scrapbook in the basement (SK/15/1/24


“Annotated Bound Script”, Scenes 47 to 48)

Let us now see the way Jack found the scrapbook and took it up in the
initial state of the script…

9 In Stephen King’s novel as well as in the telefilm he produced (Stephen King’s The Shining,
Mick Garris, 1997), the boiler is the hotel’s real beating heart. Its explosion triggers the final
destruction of the place.
From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining 67

SCENE 47 – VARIOUS PLACES IN THE HOTEL – DAY


A series of shot of Jack walking through the hotel, which he gazes at with such
a fondness that one might think he had come home after a long absence.
SCENE 48 – BASEMENT – DAY
Jack enters to check the boiler. When he is through, he shifts his attention to
the stacks of boxes and crates, stuffed with papers, old files, invoices, etc.
He notices a scrapbook, covered with dust on top of some boxes. He picks it
up and starts to look at it.
We see pages with early photographs of the hotel; newspaper clippings pasted
on them which document the lurid and sinister history of the hotel: murders,
suicides, and fatal accidents involving its legendary rich and famous clientele.
An invitation card flutters to the floor. It reads :
The Overlook Hotel
Request the Pleasure of Your Company
At a Masked Ball
To celebrate New Year’s Eve
Dinner will be served at 8 pm
Unmasking and Dancing at Midnight
December 31st, 1919
We will film a visual impression of Jack spending hours sitting on the floor of
the basement, pouring through the pages of the scrapbook.
We will also show close-ups of the stories he’s looking at.
The cinematic approach, supported by the music, will be to suggest a sens of
evil enchantment.
Jack reads from a crumpled sheet of violet ladies’ stationery, which is pasted in
the book. It is dated 13th, 1932.
JACK – “Dearest Tommy, I can’t think so well up here, as I’d hoped, about us,
I mean. Of course, who else? Ha. Ha. Things keep getting in the way. I’ve had
some strange dreams about things going bump in the night, can you believe
that? And…”
The writing suddenly stops.
Jack looks at a menu, pasted on one of the pages and we see scribbled in pencil:
“Medoc
Are you here?
I’ve been sleepwalking again, my dear.
The plants are moving under the rug.”
One of the newspaper headlines says: “Gangland Style shooting in Colorado
Hotel” and written next to it in pen: “And they took his balls along with them.”
This scene 48 was eventually suppressed from the film, as was scene 46.
The scenes that follow and conclude the fourth part of the screenplay,
scenes 49 and 50 –quite logically displaced to the living room in the tran-
sitory state– were also suppressed. In these, Wendy, worried by Jack’s long
absence, decided to go look for him; once found, they engaged in a conver-
sation during which Jack would enthusiastically tell her about his wish to use
the content of the scrapbook for a new writing project. As for scene 47: after
being altered between the initial state and the transitory state so as to intro-
duce a synchronicity between Jack’s roaming within the hotel and Wendy
68 Loig Le Bihan

and Danny’s exploration of the maze, and extended in a serie (scene 47A to


47F), it was finally trimmed from this succession of brief scenes in which the
discovery of the scrapbook (initially found in scene 48) had been displaced

From zoom to zoom / from the initial to the final intention

In the completed film, though the scenes of the discovery of the scrap-
book are gone, they have nonetheless left something like “the smell of burnt
toast”, in the words of Halloran. An indelible vestige remained in the film in
the form of this prop lying on Jack’s desk. Even though it is somehow “inhib-
ited” from the film’s narrative logic and, for this very reason, few spectators
may notice the scrapbook, it does appear in the following scene which shows
Jack working (Ill.7), soon to be interrupted by his wife telling him snow has
been forecast (Ill.8); it even appears in the foreground (III.9)…
Diane  Johnson repeatedly expressed her regret about the suppression
of those scenes in which Jack discovered the scrapbook and then discussed
with his wife. In a 1999 interview with Nicolas Saada, shortly after Kubrick’s
death, she states: “in the novel, the character’s fairly weak nature led him to
succumb to the ghosts’ influence. He became the hotel’s creature, controlled
by the ghosts. A scene was shot but suppressed during post-production: Jack
Torrance (Jack  Nicholson) finds a scrapbook filled with pictures and press
cuttings telling the hotel’s history, articles alluding to the murder of the two
little girls and to other events connected to the ghosts haunting the hotel”10.
In another interview published in 2011, she adds: “He actually took out a
scene that I considered more important [than the original ending scene]. If
you’ve read the novel, it’s the scene were Jack finds the scrapbook in the boiler
room. And I thought that was very important because you had to know the
moment in which he came under the control of the hotel. It’s like the moment
in a fairy story when the hero takes the poison apple. The main character
makes a mistake that brings them into the grip of evil. That was when Jack
made his mistake. Before that, it could have gone either way. It’s his vanity and
his hope to be a great writer that leads him to take this scrapbook as a gold
mine of subjects. That was written and shot. I was sorry to see that Kubrick
cut that out. I would have argued to take out something else”11.
The co-writer has a hard time getting over the loss of the scrapbook scenes,
so useful were they, in her mind, to foster the understanding of the narrative
according to a generic horizon of expectation. From the moment Jack discov-
ered the scrapbook and decided to make a novel out of it, the film was on

10 Nicolas Saada, “The Shining, une histoire de famille. Entretien avec Diane Johnson”, Cahiers
du cinéma, n° 534, Avril 1999, p. 35.
11 Mark Steensland, “The Shining Adapted. An interview with author Diane Johnson”, Kamera,
n°2, republished by the blog: The Terror Trap, mai 2011. [Terrortrap.com (last accessed
5/12/2016).] my emphasis.
From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining 69

track, its generic “rails” were clearly set up. And yet her very statement could
explain the reason why the scrapbook “disappeared” more satisfactorily than
the motives generally put forward –even by Johnson herself12– of duration
requirements, which justify little. Indeed, once the scrapbook discovered,
the range of potential paths would narrow down to only leave room for
one, namely Jack being possessed by the hotel’s history. During the decisive
moment of editing, did Kubrick end up considering the scrapbook to be an
excessively determining object, to the point of being cumbersome?
In order to partially13 (though, I believe, probingly) answer this question,
one must highlight what the late invention of the MAZE ZOOM owes to its
antecedent, the SCRAPBOOK ZOOM –which did get shot, as Ray Andrew
asserted14. Unplanned during the writing of scene 55, shot at a late stage, the
MAZE ZOOM is some sort of “patch”. It is no trifling detail if the zoom on
the scrapbook in scene 47E, which was thought of as the moment in which
the hotel’s haunting take on Jack crystallizes (and whose importance is liter-
ally underlined in the typescript), was replaced formally by this singular, yet
equally “overlooking”, shot of the MAZE ZOOM. From an evidential inter-
pretative perspective, this substitution reveals the occultation of this turning
point –getting under the scrapbook’s spell– which is now missing; but it also
entails some sort of equivalent promotion for the maze. This decisive –shot for
shot– substitution of a SCRAPBOOK ZOOM by a MAZE ZOOM seems to me to
mark a turnaround in the film, which leaves the register of the Gothic and
enters a radical form of the Fantastic. It reveals something very deep regarding
what one may term the author’s final structuring intention.
This “matrix” shot15, inserted late so as to fill the void left by the late
suppression of a formally similar shot, emblematizes the film as a whole,
which is not now scary so much as it is uncanny, in the full –Freudian– sense
of the word. For the labyrinthine feeling of irremeabilis error (“inexorable
wandering”16) is closer to what Freud aims at analyzing in his essay on “The
Uncanny” –which is known to have been used as a source of inspiration for
the cowriters, along with Bruno Bettleheim’s The Uses of Enchantment. Such
acquaintance is made clear upon rereading Freud’s text.

12 Diane  Johnson, “Writing The Shining” in Geoffrey  Cocks, James  Diedrick, Glenn  Perusek
(éd.), Depth of Field. Stanley Kubrick, Film, and the Uses of History, Wisconsin, The University
of Wisconsin Press, coll. “Wisconsin Film Studies”, 2006, p. 58.
13 I say partially because the “case” of the scrapbook has been subject to many hesitations as
to what it should contain, notably through a hiatus between a “scripted” scrapbook and a
“crafted” scrapbook. Those hesitations might justify why it became cumbersome. Cf. my book,
section D’un album disparu, p. 67-83.
14 Cf. “Ray Andrew. Interview by Justin Bozung”, in Danel Olson (éd.), The Shining. Studies in
the Horror Film, Lakewood, Centipede Press, p. 721-722.
15 Cf. my book, section “La matrice de l’Overlook”, in Shining au miroir, op. cit., p. 193-200.
16 A term valued by Paolo Santarcangeli in his classic Le livre des labyrinthes (1967), Paris,
NRF-Gallimard, coll. “Bibliothèque des idées”, 1974.
70 Loig Le Bihan

Strolling one hot summer afternoon through the empty and to me unfamil-
iar streets of a small Italian town, I found myself in a district about whose char-
acter I could not long remain in doubt. Only heavily made-up women were to
be seen at the windows of the little houses, and I hastily left the narrow street at
the next turning. However, after wandering about for some time without asking
the way, I suddenly found myself back on the same street, where my presence
began to attract attention. Once more I hurried away, only to return there again
by a different route. I was now seized by a feeling that I can only describe as
uncanny [unheimlich], and I was glad to find my way back to the piazza that I
had recently left and refrain from any further voyages of discovery17.
It is this aesthetics of the uncanny which finally imposed itself in the instau-
ration of the film. It thus subordinates the generic remains remotely inher-
ited from fairy-tales and eventually “works” against the entire archigenesis18 of
the Gothic which nonetheless impacted deeply on the development process
–one may notably keep in mind that the hotel was built upon an Indian burial
ground, an invention of the two cowriters which perfectly fits the genre. The
Shining’s MAZE ZOOM reveals this idea of the film, an idea which finally imposed
itself on Kubrick in such a way that it ultimately led to the ruin of the genre
film which The Shining might have been, had the initial intention been firmly
respected until the end; if, in particular, the scrapbook scenes had been kept.
If one considers how much a kind of “labyrinthine necessity” governed the
deep reorientation the idea of the film went through in the ongoing process of
its instauration, one better understands the occultation of the scrapbook scene
as well as the accumulation of narrative dead-ends. It highlights, for instance,
the logic which governs the heteroclite patchwork of insane visions Wendy
experiences at the end of the narrative. This kind of carnival of seemingly
disconnected apparitions is the ultimate result of the film’s process of indeter-
mination. While Diane Johnson had claimed it had to “have no holes in the
plot”19, Kubrick, however, ended up saying upon the film’s French release that
“like a maze, it is filled with false exits and dead-ends”20.

Loig Le Bihan
EA 4209 - RIRRA 21
Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3
RIRRA 21 - EA 4209, Montpellier (France)
loig.le-bihan@univ-montp3.fr

17 Sigmund Freud, The uncanny. New York: Penguin Books, 2003, p. 144.
18 Through this neologism, I refer to the influence of the frames of the genre as well as to that of
the “architext” (in Gérard Genette’s definition of the term) on the work’s genesis.
19 Aljean Harmetz, “Kubrick Films The Shining in Secrecy in English Studio”, The New York
Times, 6 November 1978.
20 Robert Benayoun, «  Kubrick  : “Tous les fous n’ont pas l’air d’être fous” (entretien avec
Stanley Kubrick ) », Le Point, n° 422, 20 ctobre 1980, p. 181.
From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining 71

Résumé
La genèse de Shining témoigne de la complexité d’un long processus de création qui semble
avoir, en certains moments décisifs, bifurqué. Si l’idée de départ était d’adapter librement le
roman de Stephen King tout en inscrivant pleinement le film dans la tradition d’un genre,
le trajet de la production aura quelque peu dévoyé ce projet. Pour restaurer quelque chose
de ce processus qui aura mené depuis le substrat du roman de King jusqu’à l’achèvement du
film de Kubrick, il faut procéder à un type bien particulier d’interprétation, qu’on peut dire,
avec Carlo Ginzburg, « indiciaire ». On proposera, à l’occasion de cet article, une incursion
« micro-génétique » qui visera à remonter le cours des différents états d’une scène embléma-
tique marquée notamment par la disparition finale d’un « zoom sur un album » (SCRAPBOOK
ZOOM) remplacé in extremis par un « zoom sur un labyrinthe » (MAZE ZOOM). Cet événement
de détail dans la genèse du film condense au plus haut point ce qu’on pourrait appeler, avec
Étienne Souriau, la « vérité d’instauration » de l’œuvre de Stanley Kubrick.
Mots-clés
Shining, interprétation indiciaire, critique génétique, intention hypothétique/réelle, instauration
poïétique.
Abstract
The Shining’s genesis reveals the complexity of a long-lasting creative process which seems
to have branched off its original agenda at some key moments. If the initial ambition was to
adapt Stephen King’s novel freely while inscribing the film within the tradition of a genre,
it does seem that the film’s creative path has somehow strayed away from this project. In
order to shed light on the process which led from King’s novel to Kubrick’s film, one must
proceed with a particular kind of interpretation, what Carlo Ginzburg terms an “evidential
interpretation”. Throughout this article, I will delve into a “micro-genetic” incursion into
the various strata of an emblematic scene marked by the final suppression of a SCRAPBOOK
ZOOM, replaced in extremis by a MAZE ZOOM. This detail of the film’s genesis concentrates
to the utmost what one may call, following Etienne Souriau, the “truth of instauration” of
Stanley Kubrick’s work.
Keywords
The Shining, evidential interpretation, genetic criticism, hypothetical/actual intention, poietic
inception.
72 Loig Le Bihan

NOTICE BIOGRAPHIQUE

Maître de conférences en études cinématographiques à l’université Paul  Valéry


(Montpellier 3), Loig Le Bihan enseigne les méthodes de l’analyse filmique. Il a été co-éditeur
de la revue d’esthétique du cinéma Cinergon de 1995 à 2010 et est actuellement co-responsable
du groupe de recherche «  Analyse  » au sein de l’Equipe d’Accueil RIRRA  21 de l’université
Paul  Valéry. Il a dernièrement publié un ouvrage consacré à la genèse et aux interprétations
de Shining (Shining au miroir, Aix-en Provence, éd. Rouge Profond, coll. « Raccords », 2017,
393 p.).
From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining 73

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74 Loig Le Bihan

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From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining 75

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76 Loig Le Bihan

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From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining 77

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Inside the interpretative maze of
The Shining (1980).
The search for meaning in crisis

Vincent Jaunas

“People can misinterpret almost anything so that it coincides with


views they already hold”1, Stanley  Kubrick told Michel  Ciment regarding
The Shining. At the time, Kubrick could not have imagined that for almost
40 years, The Shining would arouse such a myriad of interpretations, many of
which bordering on pure speculation. And yet the director proves how aware
he was as to the challenge his film represented for whoever wished to give it an
excessively coherent interpretation. Today, one only needs to explore online
forums for a few minutes to observe how spectators are capable to go beyond
the limits of hermeneutics to detect supposed hidden meanings in the film.
The Shining is widely regarded as un film à clef, the hidden secrets of which
only a handful of sufficiently smart and tenacious spectators could discover.
The documentary Room 237 provides a handful of examples2 of what we
shall call overinterpretations. We may think of the theory arguing that the
director of 2001: A Space Odyssey disseminated clues in The Shining to secretly
admit he had shot a fake Moon Landing for the US government. I would also
like to refer to the publication in 2014 of the book Kubrick’s Code, in which
Isaac  Weishaupt argues that the whole filmography of the director aimed
at warning the world against a secret plot orchestrated by the illuminati for
world dominion3. The Internet also hosts a website, saturndeathcult.com, in
which we may find an analysis of The Shining as revealing the existence of an
international occult sect organised around “paedophilia and planned ritual-
istic transmutation of mankind”4.

1 Stanley Kubrick, Kubrick on The Shining, an interview with Michel Ciment, 1980: http://www.


visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/interview.ts.html (last visited 03/11/17).
2 Rodney Ascher, Room 237, Tim Kirk Production, 2012.
3 Isaac Weishaupt, Kubrick’s Code, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.
4 http://saturndeathcult.com/crimes-of-the-saturn-death-cult/stanley-kubrick-and-the-saturn-
death-cult/ (last visited 01/11/17).
80 Vincent Jaunas

In The Shining, the motif of the maze may seem to legitimize those spec-
tator-detectives in their investigations. In a maze, one must show perseverance
and cunning to overcome the obstacles laid down by the designer in order
to reach the centre. The omnipresence of the motif of the maze may thus
convince the most tenacious spectators that if they keep digging beyond the
surface, they may eventually reach a hidden centre and unlock a secret reading
strategy that would turn the film into a limpid message.
I would like to argue the maze of The Shining suggests that there is no
hidden centre, no secret key which would unlock all its mysteries and provide
a clear reading. As Roger Luckhurst wrote, “one must chart the structure of
the maze rather than arguing there is only one way through it”5. However,
in The Shining, the obsessive hermeneutic craze of the spectator seems to be
encouraged as well as challenged, so that one runs the risk of getting lost in
an interpretative dead-end. By creating a film-maze, Kubrick integrated the
spectator’s quest for meaning at the core of his aesthetics, to better question it.
In this labyrinthine film, there is no one good path to follow, at the exclu-
sion of all others. The film is what Umberto Eco calls an open work, for it
enables “the increase and the multiplication of the potential meanings of the
message”6. Each sequence, each scene, is a “semantic knot” which encourages
spectators to multiply viewing hypotheses.
As a result, the progression of the film is not linear and does not culminate
in a final revelation that would enable one to select one of those hypotheses
over all others, as in a detective film. On the contrary, it seems that each scene
opens a new interpretative path, and that each viewing hypothesis is eventu-
ally condemned to look like a dead-end. In this regard, one should keep in
mind that we do see the centre of the diegetic maze, as Wendy and Danny
play in it (Figure 1). However, this centre turns out to be an open area, filled
with various potential paths to explore. The centre is thus not a closing one,
but another opening. This constant opening of the film, which prevents any
restrictive interpretation, culminates in the final scene. According to Laura
Mulvey, “There are two grand conventions of narrative closure, devices that
allow the drive of a story to return to stasis: death or marriage”7.
In The Shining, however, the narrative closure which is Jack’s death is
instantly overcome with an extra scene, adding an excess of semantics compared
with the Hollywood convention. The camera zooms forward through a hallway,
a space open on each side which contrasts with the single paths available in a
maze, and then onto a wall filled with photographs. It finally reveals a picture

5 Roger Luckhurst, The Shining. London: BFI/Palgrave, 2013, p. 12.


6 Umberto Eco, L’œuvre ouverte. Paris : Éditions du Seuil, 1979, p. 61.
7 Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a second: stillness and the moving image. Islington: Reaktion Books,
2006, p. 71.
Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for meaning in crisis 81

from 1921 in which Jack seems mysteriously alive, out of our reality (Figure 2).
An apparent sense of closure is thus contradicted with the opening of countless
new potential interpretations. The polysemy of the film is therefore established
through the divide between narrative closure (Jack’s death) and the lack of
semantic closure (his death certainly does not attenuate the hermeneutic craze
of the spectator trying to figure it all out). One may keep in mind that the film’s
final screenplay contained an extra ending scene, in which Ullman visits Danny
and Wendy at the hospital8. This scene would have preceded the zooming on
the photograph, and would have added an extra sense of closure by making the
audience sure Danny and Wendy were alive and well. Deleting this scene thus
focused the ending on the semantic opening provided by the revelation of the
photograph. Such an open film therefore seems to exclude any possibility of
adopting a definitive interpretation of the film, excluding all others. To respect
the intention of the film, any attempt to interpret it must therefore acknowl-
edge its own limits and the coexistence of equally valid hypotheses.
This ultimate scene is one of the main alterations from Stephen King’s
novel. All the major alterations of the screenplay follow the same path and
maintain a narrative clarity while opening the semantic potential of the work.
Michel Chion explains how the changes made for the European version of the
film –a shorter version, modified after the American release– tend to suppress
the causal links binding the sequences together, thus making of each scene a
separate part of a puzzle which it is up to the viewer to piece together9.
If the film therefore celebrates the potentially unlimited semantics of
cinema, The Shining may lose some spectators through this excess of potential
meanings. The hermeneutic confusion of the spectator is heightened by the
loss of spatiotemporal bearings within the hotel. Indeed, spatial disorientation
within the maze-like structure of the hotel is coupled with temporal disorien-
tation. The cartons of the film are a case in point. They first indicate specific
time markers. “Closing Day” thus refers to a specific date, October 30th, and
a specific event, i.e. the closing of the hotel for the winter season. Later on,
however, the captions only refer to deictic markers like “Wednesday”, which
can only make sense if one knows when it was written and by whom, which is
not the case in a movie with no established external narrator. This Wednesday
could refer to any Wednesday. Therefore, as the film moves forward, the
feeling of dread provoked by the dilatation of time mixes up with a feeling of
temporal confusion. This confusion is of course accentuated by the coexist-
ence of three different timelines –the 1980’s, 70’s and 20’s– across which Jack
evolves effortlessly.

8 Anon, “The Shining Screenplay”, SK/15/1/38, Stanley  Kubrick Archives, University of the
Arts London.
9 Michel Chion, Stanley Kubrick : L’humain, ni plus ni moins. Paris : Cahiers du Cinéma, 2005,
p. 398-403.
82 Vincent Jaunas

One’s impossibility to hang on to any set of codes to make sense of what


one sees and hears is a powerful source of terror in the film. The multiplicity
of semantic associations such a film entails therefore creates a highly particular
form of fright that one may call, following Umberto Eco’s expression, “the
vertigo of the labyrinth”10. This specific horror encourages some spectators
to dig into the film, to overinterpret it, in the hope of finding some secret
code that would relieve the tension of openness, and bring a sense of definite,
all-encompassing closure.
According to Umberto  Eco, such an interpretative strategy is inherited
from a long tradition of hermetic thinking, which cultivates secrecy: accord-
ing to this tradition, “a secret knowledge is a deep knowledge. Thus, truth
becomes identified to the unsaid or the obliquely said and must be understood
beyond appearances”11. The power of attraction of such a way of thought is
undeniable. One who can unlock mysteries and decode secrets becomes in
his turn the bearer of some unique knowledge, as Georg Simmel –quoted by
Eco– explains: “the secret gives its bearer an exceptional position and is attrac-
tive for purely social reasons. This attraction is fundamentally independent
from what the secret reveals”12. Thus, for hermetic spectators, the one who
would try hard enough and eventually manage to find the key for the film’s
explanation would be gratified with a secret all the more attractive because no
one else possesses it. The maze-like structure of the film, seen as a challenge to
the audience, would be enough to attract hermetic interpretations.
Moreover, the reputation of Stanley  Kubrick certainly enhanced this
hermeneutic craze. In the 1980’s, the director was already widely perceived as
a recluse genius, a perfectionist whose unwillingness to divulge the meanings
of his films to the media only increased his aura. The attractiveness of such a
reputation for the hermetic spectator is clear: faced to such a genius, nothing
can be due to chance. Consequently, if some aspects of The Shining are not
comprehensible, it means they must hold some hidden meanings.
Kubrick seems to play as much with his reputation as with the codes of the
horror genre by displaying an overexposed horror film, in which everything
seems hidden in plain sight. Michel Chion considers the lighting of The Shining
to go against the entire tradition of horror cinema by displaying no shadows:
“not a single spot of darkness remains”13. Several scholars underline how the
film characters struggle with vision, from Danny’s “shining” glimpse of the
elevator overflowing with blood to Jack’s hallucinated gaze at the woman in
Room 237. Both Jean-Baptiste Thoret and Sam Azulys note how Jack’s eye is

10 Umberto Eco, De l’arbre au labyrinthe. Paris : Grasset, 2010.


11 Umberto Eco, Les limites de l’interprétation. Paris : Grasset, 1992, p. 14.
12 Georg Simmel, quoted in ibid., p. 54.
13 Michel Chion, op. cit., 2005, p. 391 (my translation).
Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for meaning in crisis 83

submitted to an “excess of visibility”14. For the viewer as well, such extra-vis-


ibility is troubling, as it creates the uncanny feeling that everything is a sign;
that each frame, each element within a frame, potentially signifies something
and has to be taken into account. As a result of the depth of field in the pantry
scenes, for instance, a can of baking powder branded with a logo displaying a
Native American is clearly visible in the background shelves (Figure 3), which
leads Bill Blakemore to interpret the film as a complex network of signs refer-
ring to the genocide of Native Americans15. The spatio-temporal and narra-
tive complexities of the film, in which everything nonetheless appears to be
explicitly shown, thus come to inspire a highly specific sense of dread. The
horror of The Shining is not a horror of the hidden, but a horror of the too
visible, by which viewers feel dread when faced with an apparent surplus of
information they are invited to decipher. Hence the many overinterpretations
using film stills16.
I would like to add, however, that the links between The Shining and
hermetic thought run deeper. Kubrick and his collaborators built a work
which, thematically as well as aesthetically, relates to hermeticism. In this
regard, we may keep in mind that, according to Umberto Eco, the director
once considered17 adapting the author’s novel Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)
which deals with hermetic thought: the hero, both fascinated and critical
towards hermetic thought, ends up falling under its spell and eventually inter-
prets the world as resulting from a secular plot orchestrated by the Templars
to gain world dominion. In The Shining, Jack Torrance fits all the conditions
of the hermetic spectator: in front of a scary, multi-layered world he cannot
control, Jack will fall into an all-encompassing interpretative strategy which
gives him back an illusion of control: it is by killing his family, the source of
all his problems, that Jack will finally be a part of the careless high society he
aspires to, and that the ghosts tease him to become a part of.
The many mirror effects spread throughout the film arouse the suspicion that
what the senses can perceive is only the surface of things, and that beyond it lie
depths which cannot be grasped, embodied by the ghostly presence in the hotel.
This is notably the case in Room 237: when a young naked woman gets out of

14 Jean-Baptiste Thoret, Remarques à propos de The Shining de Stanley Kubrick. Simulacres n° 01,


1999, p. 102 ; Sam Azulys, Stanley Kubrick : Une Odyssée Philosophique. Chatou : les éd. de la
Transparence, 2011, p. 301.
15 Rodney Ascher, Room 237, op. cit., 2012.
16 Most interpretations in Room 237 are thus based on either freeze frames or various audiovidual
manipulations permitted by DVDs and computers. This tendency also partly explains the
recent increase in overinterpretations of the film, as everyone may now manipulate images
using modern technologies.
17 Filippo Ulivieri, Waiting for a Miracle: a Survey of Stanley Kubrick’s Unrealized Projects. Cinergie:
il cinema e le altre arti, n°12, 2017. https://cinergie.unibo.it/article/view/7349/7318. Ulivieri
suggests such a project may never have been seriously considered by Kubrick. Eco’s claim
nonetheless underlines a shared fascination with hermeticism for both artists.
84 Vincent Jaunas

the bathtub, Jack lets himself be drawn to her, and kisses her in a confident,
serene embrace. It is only by watching the woman’s reflection in the mirror that
Jack discovers another aspect of this scene, hideous this time: the woman turns
out to be a rotting corpse. The only time Jack actually fears the ghosts of the
hotel is thus triggered by his look in the mirror. Afterwards, Jack ceases to look
at mirrors and to confront himself to what lies beyond appearances (Figure 4).
Instead of seeing the ghosts for what they are, he no longer distinguishes
them from the living, and walks around a 1920’s party without display-
ing any sign of doubt as to the ontological status of what he hears or sees
(“anything you say Lloyd, anything you say”). During this party, Jack accom-
panies Delbert Grady to the bathroom and seems to go through the looking
glass. In the bathroom, Jack faces the mirrors but he never explicitly looks at
them, as his eyes are fixed on Grady. At times he seems to catch sight of the
mirror reflections, but the camera never reveals the reflection itself. Three
180° shots and countershots then reverse the position of the characters and
objects within the frame as Grady asserts Jack is one of them. Without access
to what the mirrors display, the audience is encouraged to consider that this
time, Jack fails to see, or refuses to see, the oscillation of his own situation.
Jack’s own journey through the looking glass is announced earlier in the film,
when a zoom backwards reveals the shot did not show Jack but his reflec-
tion in a mirror. Mirror images are flat and two dimensional, its depths are
mere illusions, thus suggesting Jack gets trapped in a world of reflections and
appearances. Jack’s path is thus similar to that of the hermetic spectator who,
frightened by the sense that what one sees is only the surface, digs ever deeper
only to restore an appearance of perfect coherence through overinterpretation.
In The Shining, however, the feeling of dread does not arise from the ghosts
as much as from Jack himself. He enters a murderous rage when he decides
to close his eyes to the frightening multi-layered reality, and becomes in the
process the tool of the ghosts. Faced with a world he cannot fully compre-
hend, Jack sticks to an illusory interpretative strategy. If the immensity of the
world and man’s impossibility to comprehend it may be terrifying, Kubrick
suggests that refusing to face this fact is even worse and leads to madness.
Jack’s hermeneutic blindness is opposed to the clear-sightedness of Danny,
which results from his gift, his “shining”. Danny never stops perceiving the
ghosts in all their ungraspable alterity. Each of his visions are marked by audio-
visual effects insisting on the supernatural character of the ghosts (Figure 5): a
progressive zoom towards the character’s face, shaking with fear, and an over-
saturated high pitched sound. His first vision occurs before his arrival at the
Overlook. Danny is in the bathroom looking at a mirror. During this first
vision, the brevity of the images is interspersed with close ups of a terrified
Danny, shot before a black background which disconnects him from all diegetic
spatiotemporal situation. Like Jack in Room 237, Danny fears this new layer of
Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for meaning in crisis 85

the world which he glimpses at as he shines, but unlike his father Danny does
not shy away from it by mixing up the status of those visions with that of his
everyday reality. His visions maintain their fantastic quality. Danny experiences
them through his alter ego Tony (“the little boy that lives in my mouth”). Tony
prevents Danny from going through the looking glass by underlining the alterity
of his visions. Even at the end of the film, Tony takes over to warn Wendy of
Jack’s murderous intents –thus treating Jack as another fantastic vision, which
points to the fact the father is now trapped inside this other layer of reality.
To warn Wendy, Tony writes Murder backwards, a word that needs to be read
through a mirror: up until the end, Danny does not reduce the fantastically
ungraspable nature of his vision to a more understandable, everyday reality.
This other layer remains fundamentally Other, unthinkable, uncontrollable.
Thus, when Danny actually encounters ghosts in the hotel, he never shares
Jack’s madness and keeps considering these beings as inherently Other.
Danny’s visions overflow with meanings that neither the child nor the
viewers can fully comprehend. Conversely, Jack’s world becomes more and
more limpid as the film progresses and he gets stuck into a simplistic interpre-
tation: all his problems revolve around his family, and he needs to “correct”
them to reach a blissful harmony with the hotel dwellers. This interpretation
is forced upon reality, in a series of assertions terrifying because of their very
simplicity, such as his famous claim that “all work and no play makes Jack a
dull boy”. Jack’s increasingly simplistic worldview climaxes in the end, as he
becomes an animal –as underlined by Nicholson’s howling, screaming and
drooling performance– as well as a child, quoting the three little pigs.
Faced with a contingent world overflowing with ungraspable signs,
Kubrick therefore opposes two viewing models, Jack’s and Danny’s (Figure 6).
Like them, spectators have to face an open work, multi-layered and infinitely
open to interpretation. Like Jack, hermetic spectators deny this multiplicity
to look for a secret key to decipher the work and unify it into an all-encom-
passing, limpid narrative. In the process, they may, like Jack, get lost within
the semantic maze of the film, “for ever and ever”, by digging ever deeper into
the work in an attempt to, paradoxically, better negate its depth.
Danny, on the other hand, appears to be an ideal viewer. In the last
confrontation with his father, he runs into the various paths of the maze and
manages to get out of it alive. Instead of looking for the right path, Danny
accepts the complexity of the maze and plays with it. He decides to walk back
on his tracks. Danny cunningly elaborates a strategy –using his own tracks– to
get out of the labyrinth without trying to solve its mysteries. Its multiple paths
enable Danny to hide himself.
We have seen how, all along the film, Danny does not deny the fantastic
quality of his horrific visions, their alterity and therefore the impossibility to make
sense of them. The ideal viewer of the film is therefore a child, characterized by
86 Vincent Jaunas

his smallness in the gigantic setting he evolves in. From the very opening of the
film, all the characters seem like nothing compared to the sublime immensity of
the landscape, which shrinks mankind to the tiny spot which is the car within
the overall frame. Once inside the Overlook Hotel, the size of the building is
constantly emphasized in the scenes involving Danny. In the game room during
his first scene within the Overlook, Danny must step on a chair to take down the
darts he was playing with, since the target is too high. When he walks around the
kitchen, Danny’s body barely occupies the lowest quarter of the frame, whereas
Wendy and Halloran fill three quarters of it. We may add that in The Shining, the
ceiling is always visible in the frame. If it seems to lock the characters in a cage –a
signature Kubrick effect– it also emphasizes the hugeness of the Overlook. This
feeling is particularly strong when Danny rides on his tricycle. The low position
of the Steadicam follows Danny at his level, whereas the breadth of the frame
is blocked by the narrow corridor, which accentuates in an almost anamorphic
distortion the dreadful immensity of the hotel (Figure 7).
However, Danny manages not to be crushed by the Overlook. He uses its
immensity to his advantage. When Jack runs after him, he uses his small size
to crawl out of the bathroom window, and then hides himself in the kitchen
cupboards. In the early scenes, Jack also seems crushed by the size of the hotel
–all the characters do in the first tracking shots crossing the great hall. But
instead of using it, Jack tries to reduce this immensity, and to take control of
the film space. Nicholson’s paroxysmal acting gives his character an aura that
Kubrick accentuates by making him fill the frame, in various striking close-
ups (Figure 8). When he’s locked in the pantry, an extreme high-angle shot
has Jack fill the whole frame with a monstrous charisma that erases the hotel
around him. The most famous shot of the film is another telling example.
Jack’s face appears through the door he just tore down with an axe, so that
Jack literally destroys the architecture of the hotel and invades the frame.
The two relations of these characters with their environment is elegantly
underlined in their differing ways of dealing with the maze. Looking at the
maze’s model, Jack tries to distance himself from the maze’s depth, to tower
above it and to dominate it, whereas a cut connects this shot to a plunging
low angle shot of the maze. The viewer finally understands he is now looking
at the outside maze, in which Danny and Wendy look like mere dots and
enjoy getting lost in the place, rather than dominating it. “I didn’t think it
was going to be this big, did you?” says Wendy smiling. The film’s over-expo-
sure provides an almost constant depth of field which accentuates the three
dimensional quality of the hotel, and of the outside maze. Jack’s attempt to
dominate space is also an attempt to negate its depth, to make the image a
flat one. Jack’s previously mentioned association with mirrors, with their fake
sense of depth, also underlines his wish to flatten the image, to stick to a reas-
suring two-dimensionality (Figure 9).
Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for meaning in crisis 87

It is finally Jack who, after his attempt to control space, becomes


entrapped in it and dies whereas Danny escapes. Jack follows Danny’s snow
tracks without thinking they might fail to lead to his son. Those Snow tracks
are signs that Charles Pierce defined as indexes. An index, Mulvey explains,
is defined as “a sign produced by the thing it represents”18. According to the
critic, “the specificity [of film] is grounded in the index”19. Consequently, Jack
gets lost because in The Shining, an index can prove to be a false lead, a sign
which disorients when the viewer blindly trusts its direct relation to the thing
it signifies. Jack, like the hermetic viewers, blindly follows signs instead of
questioning their link with what they represent (Figure 10).
Jack’s rigid interpretative processes therefore parallel the hermetic specta-
tors’. By attempting to reduce the semantic polysemy of the film into a single
pre-established interpretative hypothesis, the hermetic viewer associates each
signifier with a single signified. This type of viewer does not question the
amalgam of the cinematographic index with a limpid language, here to deliver
a message. The labyrinth which the film is is therefore denied its aesthetic
quality, and becomes considered as a symbolic text aiming at delivering a
fixed, stable message about the real world, like the denunciation of a secret
sect or the admission of a secret conspiracy with the American government.
In this regard, the bedroom scene in which the viewer believes to be looking
at Jack whereas he is actually looking at his reflection acts as a metafilmic
equivalent of Jack’s pursuit of snow tracks. Kubrick indicates his spectators
they must be careful not to mix up an indexical sign with what it represents.
In other words, one must be aware not to equate representation with reality.
Cinema is an art of representation and should not be seen as holding a clear
and direct message about reality. The best way to deal with a contingent world,
The Shining suggests, is to create a work of art which embraces its openness,
its multiplicity, and becomes an interpretative maze. Any viewer mixing up an
index and the reality it represents blinds himself from the multiplicity of film
as well as from the multiplicity of reality itself.
The final photograph shows Jack stuck forever within the Overlook
hotel (Figure 11). Laura Mulvey insists on the inherently uncanny quality of
photography. Photography captures a slice of time which becomes fixed, out of
duration, “as a trace of the past that persists into the present”20. Jack’s wish to
escape the contingency of his world and to gain total control finds here an ironic
conclusion: the price to pay to remain in the Overlook for ever is to become a
fixed image oneself, to become the image of death. Furthermore, Mulvey’s claim
takes an extra dimension in The Shining: Jack remains fixed in an epoch that is

18 Charles Pierce, quoted in Laura Mulvey. Death 24x a second: stillness and the moving image,
op. cit., 2006, p. 9.
19 Ibid.
20 Ibid., p. 31.
88 Vincent Jaunas

not his. Jack becomes an aberration, a necessarily ungraspable representation,


just like the ghosts he did not perceive as such. The hermetic viewer who would
follow on Jack’s footsteps is therefore warned: Jack’s incapacity to accept the
complex nature of the signs surrounding him has condemned him to be locked
in a system of self-referential signs, seemingly disconnected from any reality.
Danny, as an ideal spectator, offers instead an open worldview, in which
any vision occupies a level of reality of its own, and retains its mysteries. Danny
observes his snow tracks and sees in it complex signs he can play with. Our
exploration of The Shining as a semantic maze thus leads me to conclude that
the film balances two opposite worldviews, Jack’s and his son’s. The Overlook’s
ghosts, not unlike the monolith of 2001, are signs of a radical alterity, glimpses
of an ungraspable layer of reality. Faced to this reality which overflows –like the
elevators overflow with blood– and that goes beyond any possibility of human
comprehension, two modes of perception oppose each other.
The Shining is therefore a challenge for the viewer. Faced with the depths
of the maze, Hermetic spectators run the risk of digging into the film to, para-
doxically, negate its depths and stick to a limpid, reductive reading hypothesis.
The spectators who follow Danny’s worldview, on the other hand, will have to
open their eyes to a world that is multi-layered, ungraspable and incompre-
hensible. If The Shining shows how this revelation may be a source of terror, it
is the price to pay to be able to avoid the trap of reducing it to a controllable,
well-defined entity. Given the immensity of the labyrinth, the film fosters a
worldview defined by humility, one in which human intelligence has to face
its own limits to get out safely.

Vincent Jaunas
Laboratoire CLIMAS
Université Bordeaux Montaigne
vincentjaunas@hotmail.com

Abstract
This essay examines the hermeneutics of The Shining (1980) in the light of the manifold
overinterpretations that became apparent since the advent of internet forums and gained visi-
bility with the release of Room 237 (Rodney Ascher, 2012). I suggest that, as highlighted by
the motif of the labyrinth, Kubrick constructed a hermeneutic maze in which Jack –subject
to hermetic thought– loses himself while Danny, whose humility enables him not to fall into
the traps of an organising reason striving to make sense of a world impervious to human
logic, escapes. In doing so, The Shining envisages its own reception through the staging of two
conflicting viewing models.
Keywords
Kubrick, The Shining, hermeneutics, overinterpretation, reception theory.
Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for meaning in crisis 89

Résumé
Cet article propose de réévaluer les enjeux herméneutiques de Shining (1980) à l’aune de
la vague de surinterprétations du film, manifeste depuis les années 2000 et l’avènement
des forums internet et ayant gagné en visibilité depuis la sortie du documentaire Room 237
(Rodney  Ascher, 2012). Nous suggérons que, comme indiqué par le motif du labyrinthe,
Kubrick envisagea son film comme un dédale herméneutique dans les méandres duquel se
perd Jack, personnage soumis à une pensée hermétique, tandis qu’en réchappe Danny, dont
l’humilité lui permet de ne pas sombrer dans la folie qui guette ceux dont la raison ordinatrice
cherche à faire sens d’un monde irréductible à la logique humaine. Ce faisant, le film envisage
sa propre réception en mettant en scène deux modèles de lecture conflictuels.
Mots-clés
Kubrick, Shining, herméneutique, surinterprétation, réception.
90 Vincent Jaunas

NOTICE BIOGRAPHIQUE

Vincent Jaunas est doctorant contractuel à l’Université Bordeaux Montaigne. Sa


thèse porte sur «  La subjectivité dans l’œuvre de Stanley  Kubrick  », sous la direction de
Jean-François  Baillon. Avec ce dernier, il a co-organisé en 2016 le colloque international
« Stanley Kubrick : nouveaux horizons », puis co-dirigé le présent ouvrage. En 2017, il a publié
dans le n° 12 de la revue cinergie Acting Out of the World: The Distancing and Underplaying
of the Main Actors in 2001 et Eyes Wide Shut, puis en 2018, Life Functions Terminated: The
Aesthetics of Distanced Subjectivity in 2001, dans l’ouvrage collectif Understanding (édité par
J. Fenwick, édition Intellect).
Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for meaning in crisis 91

Figure 1: The maze and its open centre.

Figure 2: An ending that denies closure.

Figure 3: An excess of visibility.


92 Vincent Jaunas

Figure 4: Jack and mirrors.

Figure 5: Danny’s visions of alterity.

Figure 6: Two conflicting viewing models.


Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for meaning in crisis 93

Figure 7: A dwarfed mankind.

Figure 8: Two opposed relations to space.

Figure 9: Towering over the labyrinth or enjoying its depth.


94 Vincent Jaunas

Figure 10: misleading signs.

Figure 11: An uncanny photograph.


Eyes Wide Shut
Emmanuel Plasseraud
Dijana Metlić
Partie 4
Les Masques de la vanité.
Kubrick, Schnitzler, Ophüls,
Maupassant

Emmanuel Plasseraud

Dernier film de Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut (1999) est une adapta-
tion d’une nouvelle d’Arthur  Schnitzler, Traumnovelle, parue en 1925.1 Ce
récit, qui se déroule à Vienne, est transposé par Kubrick et son scénariste,
Frederic Raphael, à New-York, à la fin du XXe siècle. Il raconte l’aventure d’un
médecin (Bill Harford) qui, vexé par la révélation faite par sa femme (Alice)
qu’elle a éprouvé du désir pour un autre homme, essaie de la tromper et se
retrouve notamment dans une orgie dont il n’aurait jamais dû faire partie. Du
fait du changement d’époque et de lieux, mais aussi de la difficulté à adapter
au cinéma le texte de Schnitzler, qui est émaillé de réflexions intérieures, cette
transposition ne pouvait que provoquer un certain nombre de changements
importants par rapport au texte originel. Pourtant, comme Michel Chion l’a
constaté en analysant le film, Kubrick en suit « la ligne narrative avec une éton-
nante fidélité  »2, prenant le risque que ce récit d’adultère fantasmé paraisse
désuet à des spectateurs de l’an 2000. Il y a tout de même quelques libertés
que Chion repère, comme l’ajout d’un personnage nouveau, Ziegler (incarné
par Sidney Pollack). Les objets du monde de la fin du vingtième siècle inter-
viennent parfois, comme lorsque Bill, qui s’apprête à avoir une relation avec
une prostituée, est interrompu par un coup de téléphone de sa femme, alors
que dans le livre, il renonçait de lui-même. Inversement, des aspects devenus
trop lointains culturellement sont gommés dans le film, comme le phénomène
de télépathie onirique qu’on trouve chez Schnitzler – la femme rêve que son
mari se trouve dans une orgie qui tourne mal pour lui –, qui n’a pas été repris.
À propos du personnage de Ziegler, principale innovation par rapport à
la Traumnovelle, Chion mentionne le témoignage de Jan Harlan, qui explique
qu’il « provient d’une envie de Kubrick qu’un personnage de la vie quotidienne de

1 Arthur Schnitzler, « Rien qu’un rêve », repris dans Les Dernière cartes, Paris, Calmann-Lévy,
1953, p. 125-220. La nouvelle est plus connue aujourd’hui sous le titre La Nouvelle rêvée.
2 Chion Michel, Stanley Kubrick, L’humain, ni plus ni moins, Paris, Cahiers du Cinéma, 2005,
p. 452.
98 Emmanuel Plasseraud

Bill fasse le lien avec (la) société secrète »3 qui organise l’orgie. Chion remarque
d’autre part qu’il « appartient indubitablement à la famille des figures paternelles
choquantes et libidineuses, provocantes, unissant intelligence et grivoiserie, que
l’on retrouve dans toute l’œuvre de Kubrick  »4. Mais ce personnage, ou plus
exactement les modifications scénaristiques qu’engendre sa présence, possède
deux autres fonctions qui pourraient expliquer aussi son invention.
La première de ces fonctions est de l’ordre de la stratégie scénaristique,
permettant la mise en place en début de récit d’un implant narratif qui prépare
la fin du film. En effet, c’est chez Ziegler que se déroule un événement impor-
tant pour la suite du récit, qui n’apparaît pas dans la nouvelle de Schnitzler : le
malaise d’une prostituée, avec qui Ziegler a couché, à la suite d’une overdose5.
Appelé à son chevet, Bill parvient à la ranimer, mais la prévient qu’elle doit
faire une cure pour se sortir de son addiction, qui pourrait lui coûter la vie. Or,
à la fin du film, c’est cette prostituée qui est retrouvée morte d’une overdose
dans une chambre d’hôtel. Entretemps, elle a « sauvé » Bill durant l’orgie en le
rachetant. Bill pense que derrière cette overdose se cache un meurtre commis
par des membres de la société secrète, ce qu’il explique à la fin du film à Ziegler,
dans une scène ajoutée par Kubrick et Raphael au récit de Schnitzler. Ziegler y
révèle à Bill qu’il est au courant de son intrusion durant la cérémonie orgiaque
puisqu’il y était aussi. Il tente de lui faire comprendre que les membres de
la société secrète n’ont fait que chercher à l’effrayer, qu’ils n’ont donc pas le
pouvoir qu’imagine Bill et qu’ils ne sont pas non plus responsables de la mort
de la prostituée, dont le mode de vie était à risque. D’où l’intérêt de l’implant
narratif de début de film, qui légitime l’opinion de Ziegler et fait douter Bill et
le spectateur : ce que Bill pense être un meurtre n’est peut-être qu’un accident,
qui d’ailleurs était prévisible étant donné l’hygiène de vie de la jeune femme. De
cette manière, Kubrick substitue à la question posée à la fin de la Traumnovelle
sur l’identité de la victime celle de l’implication de la société secrète dans sa
mort, orientant le récit vers un questionnement sur la véracité de ce que Bill a
vu. Réalité et faux-semblants se mêlent, dans une indistinction qui fait écho au
thème principal du film, résumé dans le dialogue final entre Bill et sa femme :
rêves et fantasmes font partie de la réalité au point que celle-ci ne peut plus être
tout à fait distinguée d’eux.
L’autre fonction de l’ajout du personnage de Ziegler, ou plutôt de cette
scène où une prostituée fait une overdose dans ses bras, est d’ordre inter-
textuel. En effet, l’intertextualité d’Eyes Wide Shut ne se limite pas à l’inter-

3 Ibid., p. 460.
4 Ibid., p. 460.
5 Il y a d’ailleurs un autre implant narratif, puisque le pianiste ami d’enfance de Bill Nightingale
– important car il indique à Bill l’existence des cérémonies orgiaques – y apparaît, alors que
chez Schnitzler, le médecin le rencontre par hasard dans un café.
Les Masques de la vanité. Kubrick, Schnitzler, Ophüls, Maupassant 99

textualité hétérofilmique propre à la pratique de l’adaptation. Il y a aussi,


de manière moins flagrante, une intertextualité homofilmique sous la forme
d’une allusion à un autre film6. Frederic Raphael a mentionné, comme sources
d’inspiration, le Décalogue de Krzysztof Kieślowski7, Maris et femmes (1992)
de Woody Allen, ou encore Pulp fiction (1994) de Quentin Tarantino (pour
son tempo, ce qui est assez curieux étant donné la lenteur voulue d’Eyes Wide
Shut, notamment dans la déclamation des dialogues)8. À sa sortie, le film a été
rapproché d’After hours (1986) de Martin Scorsese, pour l’errance nocturne.
Mais l’ajout de la séquence de l’overdose, durant la soirée de Ziegler, constitue
aussi, et peut-être plus fondamentalement que tous ces rapprochements avec
d’autres films, une allusion au film Le Plaisir de Max Ophüls (1952), et à son
premier sketch, intitulé « Le Masque »9. Cette allusion a en tout cas le mérite
de permettre d’éclairer une dimension importante du film de Kubrick.
À la fin de ce sketch, qui est adapté d’une nouvelle de Maupassant, un
médecin venu raccompagner chez lui un vieil homme qui s’est écroulé de
fatigue sur la piste de danse d’un bal, reçoit de la femme de ce noceur invétéré
la leçon Ophülsienne par excellence : l’homme dans sa quête vaine du plaisir,
rend la femme malheureuse en amour, elle qui aspire au bonheur conjugal10.
Le sketch s’achève dans une rue montmartroise, alors que le docteur remonte
dans sa calèche. Mais a-t-il retenu la leçon ? Le docteur songe qu’il vient de
voir « une scène de l’éternel drame qui se joue tous les jours, sous toutes les formes,
dans tous les mondes », selon les termes de la voix off qui est censée être celle de
Maupassant. Toutefois, cette phrase ne provient pas de la nouvelle elle-même,
qui se clôt avant le retour du docteur au bal. Chez Ophüls en effet, contrai-
rement à Maupassant, le docteur demande à son cocher de le ramener au
Palais de la danse, tandis qu’on entend déjà une musique endiablée entendue
auparavant durant le bal.
Ce docteur qui n’a donc pas retenu la leçon, que les plaisirs de la fête
tentent plus que la sagesse, pourrait être un ancêtre de Bill Harford. Eyes Wide
Shut apparaîtrait alors comme un prolongement et une variation sur le thème

6 L’intertextualité hétérofilmique désigne la référence d’un film à une œuvre qui n’est pas
un autre film (le roman de Schnitzler ou encore l’utilisation du morceau Musica ricercata
de György Ligeti dans Eyes Wide Shut) tandis que l’intertextualité homofilmique désigne un
renvoie d’un film à un autre film. La notion d’intertextualité, d’origine littéraire, a été élaborée
par Julia Kristeva dans Sémiotiké, recherches pour une sémanalyse, Paris, Seuil, 1969.
7 Sur l’influence du Décalogue 3 de Kieslowski sur Eyes Wide Shut, voir Gaspard Delon, « Échange
de regards : Schnitzler, Kubrick et Kieslowski », dans Cinéma, littérature : projections, études
réunies et présentées par Marie Martin, La Licorne, n° 116, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de
Rennes, 2015, p. 187-199.
8 Chion Michel, Stanley Kubrick, L’humain, ni plus ni moins, op. cit., p. 460.
9 Par ailleurs, Ophüls a lui aussi adapté un roman de Schnitzler, La Ronde, en 1950.
10 Sur ce thème, voir Claude Beylie, Max Ophüls, Paris, Lherminier, Cinema classique – les cinéastes,
1984.
100 Emmanuel Plasseraud

Ophülsien – et plus généralement baroque, d’ailleurs – de la vanité. Mais d’un


film à l’autre, d’une époque à l’autre, d’une référence littéraire à l’autre, la
vanité change de forme et de sens, tout en s’accompagnant de figures récur-
rentes. Les situations dramatiques initiales sont différentes, tout en possé-
dant une certaine similarité. Chez Ophüls, un médecin, qui profite d’un bal
pour faire la rencontre de femmes –  ce qui n’est d’ailleurs pas précisé chez
Maupassant  –, est appelé au chevet d’un danseur qui cache son âge avancé
derrière un masque11. Dans Eyes Wide Shut, le médecin n’est plus seulement
un témoin ; il devient le personnage central de l’intrigue. À la différence du
médecin d’Ophüls, Bill Harford est marié, information donnée dès la première
scène du film au spectateur. Il se rend avec sa femme à un bal, au cours duquel
on lui demande d’intervenir pour une urgence médicale, alors qu’il flirte avec
deux  femmes. C’est alors qu’intervient la bifurcation entre l’intertextualité
hétérofilmique et l’intertextualité homofilmique, car la scène où le médecin
flirte avec deux femmes tandis que son épouse danse avec un inconnu étranger
se trouve bien chez Schnitzler12. Mais elle s’arrête d’elle-même, alors que dans
Eyes Wide Shut, c’est une urgence médicale qui l’interrompt. Or, c’est juste-
ment ce qui arrive au médecin d’Ophüls, alors qu’il se trouve lui aussi en
charmante compagnie. Il découvre alors l’homme âgé qui se cache derrière son
masque, qui a fait un malaise en compagnie, d’une danseuse, donc un couple
ressemblant à celui formé par Ziegler et la call-girl (sauf que c’est la prosti-
tuée qui a fait un malaise chez Kubrick, et non l’homme âgé). De plus, le bal
d’Eyes Wide Shut n’est pas masqué, comme chez Maupassant et Ophüls, alors
qu’il l’est chez Schnitzler. Cela peut aussi se comprendre si l’on fait l’hypo-
thèse qu’en adaptant Schnitzler, Kubrick et son scénariste ont songé au récit
d’Ophüls-Maupassant, où le bal ne pouvait être masqué dans la mesure où
il fallait que le vieux danseur masqué se distingue par cet attribut même des
autres noceurs, plus jeunes que lui.
De cette bifurcation intertextuelle, qui semble mener au film d’Ophüls
plus même qu’au récit de Maupassant, peut-on extrapoler et envisager une
référence plus générale qu’en ce point précis  ? Les deux scènes de bal sont
très différentes  : au rythme effréné de la musique populaire, des danseurs
et de la caméra du film d’Ophüls, Kubrick a préféré un rythme lent  : une

11 Ophüls insiste plus sur ce médecin que Maupassant, qui se concentre sur le couple du danseur
âgé et de sa femme. En effet, de nombreux dialogues où la femme explique quelle a été sa vie
avec son mari noceur ont été coupés dans le film d’Ophüls, qui en revanche comprend des
scènes inédites destinées à mieux caractériser le médecin (dialogue avec une femme lors du bal,
aveu qu’il est célibataire et qu’il fréquente les bals, morale de l’histoire et retour au bal). Tandis
que Maupassant concentre son portrait sur le danseur âgé dont il fait, à travers son masque, un
symbole de la vanité de la lutte contre le vieillissement, Ophüls fait de ce personnage le reflet
de ce qu’est en train de devenir le médecin, qui semble en prendre conscience sans toutefois
changer son comportement.
12 L’inconnu est polonais chez Schnitzler, hongrois chez Kubrick.
Les Masques de la vanité. Kubrick, Schnitzler, Ophüls, Maupassant 101

danse langoureuse, au son d’une musique classique, des paroles échangées


avec retenue, chuchotées, des mouvements de caméra planants réalisés au
steadycam. De ce point de vue, le bal d’Eyes Wide Shut s’oppose à celui du
Plaisir. Ce n’est donc pas sur ce plan qu’il faut chercher une forme d’allu-
sion. Kubrick n’a pas non plus conservé les figures accompagnant le thème
de la vanité chez Ophüls : la chute (le danseur âgé s’écroule sur la piste) et les
ombres, symboles de l’inconsistance (le plan sur le visage masqué du danseur
âgé, sur lequel s’agitent les ombres des danseurs). Il a choisi un objet symbo-
lique qui revient souvent dans le film, sans d’ailleurs être mentionné dans le
texte de Schnitzler  : le miroir, devant lequel aussi bien Bill, seul, qu’Alice,
seule aussi, ou les deux ensembles se regardent. En revanche, Le Plaisir et Eyes
Wide Shut ont en commun deux autres figures de la vanité : le masque, même
si celui-ci n’a pas le même sens ni le même aspect dans les deux films, mais qui
se retrouve chez le danseur âgé et chez Bill, une fois qu’ils ont été démasqués,
comme un symbole de leur vanité ; les guirlandes lumineuses, omniprésentes
dans le film de Kubrick, mais aussi dans le décor du Palais de la danse chez
Ophüls, qui inscrivent la dimension festive au cœur des deux films, la fête
étant un moment de dépense éphémère qui a pu aussi acquérir une dimension
connotative liée au thème de la vanité.
L’allusion au Plaisir oriente donc la vision d’Eyes Wide Shut en mettant sur
la voie du thème de la vanité. Par rapport au film d’Ophüls, Kubrick propose
sur ce thème une variation. Dans Le Plaisir, Ophüls mêle trois dimensions
propres à la vanité : la recherche masculine du plaisir, éphémère, dépensière
d’énergie, par opposition au bonheur conjugal ; l’attention portée à l’appa-
rence, thème qu’on trouve d’ailleurs dans d’autres nouvelles de Maupassant
(La Parure)13 ; la vanité métaphysique de la lutte contre le vieillissement et la
mort. Dans Eyes Wide Shut, la recherche masculine du plaisir est également une
forme essentielle de vanité, mais la femme n’est pas en reste, puisqu’elle ne se
contente pas du bonheur conjugal14. L’attention portée à l’apparence subsiste,
mais prend un autre sens du fait que le thème de la vanité métaphysique de
la lutte contre le vieillissement et la mort ne concerne que des personnages
secondaires (mort d’un des patients de Bill, séropositivité d’une prostituée).
Bill est encore jeune, et donc pas encore touché par ce problème. En revanche,
il doit prendre soin de son apparence en louant des vêtements pour entrer
dans l’orgie, intégrant là un monde auquel il ne devrait pas avoir accès,
d’hommes riches et puissants. Plus que la vanité métaphysique, c’est donc la
vanité sociale qui est le thème principal d’Eyes Wide Shut, l’envie d’appartenir
à une sphère sociale qui semble en même temps inaccessible, à la fois invisible

13 Guy de Maupassant, La Parure (1884), repris dans La Parure et autres scènes de la vie parisienne,
Paris, Flammarion, 2006, p. 23-35.
14 La recherche du plaisir n’est pas non plus l’exclusivité des hommes chez Ophüls, comme le
montrent certains sketches de La Ronde.
102 Emmanuel Plasseraud

(à l’exception de Ziegler, Bill ne saura jamais qui sont ces gens), inatteignable
et omniprésente (à partir du moment où Bill est repéré, il est suivi et tous ses
faits et gestes sont connus). L’échec de sa tentative d’intégrer ce monde est
d’ailleurs résumé par la séquence où Bill reçoit un message à travers le portail
du manoir où s’est déroulée l’orgie, lui intimant de cesser immédiatement
toute recherche sur ce qu’il a vu, tandis qu’une caméra située plus haut que
lui le filme à côté d’un globe, symbole de toute-puissance divine15. Mais en
liant cette aventure vécue par Bill au récit du fantasme de sa femme, Kubrick
suggère en même temps que cette vanité sociale, qui est une impuissance à
accéder à un monde plus élevé, est la traduction dans l’espace public d’une
impuissance sexuelle dans la sphère privée. La dernière phrase prononcée par
Alice – qui ne se trouve pas dans la nouvelle de Schnitzler – semble le confir-
mer, rappelant à son mari qu’il est temps de « baiser ».
Eyes Wide Shut n’est pas le seul film de Kubrick où celui-ci se penche sur
la vanité de la vie humaine. Son versant social est également évoqué dans
Barry Lyndon (1975), sa dimension métaphysique, liée au passage du temps,
dans Lolita (1962). 2001, L’Odyssée de l’espace (1968) aborde aussi la vanité
métaphysique sous l’angle de la quête de connaissance de l’Humanité, à jamais
éperdue et inachevée. Les entreprises humaines chez Kubrick sont souvent
vaines, condamnées à l’échec. Collectivement, quand on s’entraîne pour la
guerre en pensant que ça suffira pour la gagner (Full Metal Jacket, 1987), ou
qu’on imagine des programmes de réinsertion des délinquants (Orange méca-
nique, 1971). Mais aussi individuellement, comme Jack Torrance, incapable
d’écrire son roman et sombrant dans la folie, dans Shining (1980). On cherche
parfois ce qui permet de lier thématiquement les films de Kubrick, dont
on connaît le caractère hétérogène sur le plan de leur affiliation générique.
La bifurcation intertextuelle, ouvrant sur une allusion au Plaisir d’Ophüls,
permet de reconnaître en la vanité l’un de ces thèmes. Elle est l’une des carac-
téristiques fondamentales, pour Kubrick, de l’existence humaine.

Emmanuel Plasseraud
MCF en études cinématographiques et audiovisuelles
Université Bordeaux Montaigne
Équipe CLARE - Centre ARTES
emmanuel.plasseraud@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr

15 Voir Peter Sloterdijk, Globes, Sphères II, Paris, Méta-Éditions, 2010.


Les Masques de la vanité. Kubrick, Schnitzler, Ophüls, Maupassant 103

Résumé
Adaptation de La Nouvelle Rêvée d’Arthur Schnitzler, Eyes Wide Shut propose une bifurcation
intertextuelle au cours de laquelle le film intègre au récit, qui dans l’ensemble suit plutôt fidè-
lement celui de la nouvelle, une référence au premier sketch du Plaisir de Max Ophüls. Cette
référence est l’occasion d’une étude sur les jeux de renvois qu’opère Kubrick entre Schnitzler,
Maupassant et Ophüls, qui oriente l’interprétation que l’on peut donner du film dans le sens
d’une réflexion sur la vanité de l’existence, thème qui se trouve chez ces trois auteurs mais que
Kubrick prolonge à sa manière.
Mots-clés
Max Ophüls, intertextualité, Eyes Wide Shut, Maupassant, Schnitzler.
Abstract
Adapted from Arthur Schnitzler’s “Dream Story”, “Eyes Wide Shut” offers an intertextual curve
during which the film’s narrative –which overall follows the novella rather faithfully–integrates
a reference to the first sketch of Max Ophüls’s “le Plaisir”. This reference allows for a study of the
cross references between Schnitlzer, Maupassant and Ophüls, which calls for an interpretation of
the film centred on the vanity of existence, a theme common to all three authors that Kubrick deals
with his own way.
Keywords
Max Ophüls, intertextuality, Eyes Wide Shut, Maupassant, Schnitzler.
104 Emmanuel Plasseraud

NOTICE BIOGRAPHIQUE

Emmanuel Plasseraud est maître de conférences en Études cinématographiques à l’Uni-


versité Bordeaux Montaigne, dont il co-dirige le Master « Documentaire et archives ». Il a
publié deux ouvrages aux Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, Cinéma et imaginaire baroque
(2007) et L’Art des foules, théories de la réception filmique comme phénomène collectif en France
(1908-1930) (2011), ainsi que des articles dans des revues comme Vertigo, Ligeia, Cinergon
ou Éclipses, ayant pour sujet Kubrick, mais aussi quelques cinéastes russes (Lopouchanski,
Yufit), d’Europe centrale (Skolimowski, Huzsarik), ou encore Raoul Ruiz, Carmelo Bene et
Satoshi Kon. Il travaille actuellement à une histoire de la théorisation de la réception filmique
comme phénomène collectif et comme expérience individuelle. Il est aussi réalisateur de films
de fiction et de documentaires.
Stanley Kubrick and
Hieronymus Bosch: In
The Garden of Earthly Delights

Dijana Metlić

In 1999 Stanley Kubrick completed his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, based
on the 1926 book Traumnovelle by Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler. Set in
early 20th century Vienna, Schnitzler’s story analyses a marital crisis and infi-
delity, psychological pressures caused by dreams and phantasms, and offers
potential solutions for overcoming such unpleasant situations. Kubrick made
a geographical and temporal shift to late-twentieth-century New York, other-
wise remaining faithful to the original novella. He focuses on the relationship
between prosperous doctor Bill  Harford and his charming wife Alice, who
suddenly shatters their family harmony by confessing her past temptation to
commit adultery. By revealing her hidden sexual desires that are obviously not
properly fulfilled in the marital bed, she causes a psychological crack in her
husband, who will have to suffer a painful process of self-discovery to recover
his reputation of a doctor, father and family man.
Eyes Wide Shut can be understood as essentially an intimate film about the
unbearable lightness of (domestic) being. It questions sexual confidence on
which family life depends, and tries to highlight the importance of conjugal
trust that is easily shaken by the world’s incitements. Signified as a millennial
work, released in the final year of the previous century, Eyes Wide Shut seems
to summarise Kubrick’s thoughts on crucial existential issues like fidelity,
desire, jealousy, sex, and death. It deals with romance and passion, rethinking
the old presumption that women want love, and men want sex.1 It forces the
spectator to consider the reasons for the (un)expected weakening of erotic
compulsion in marriage and the fading of everlasting love at first sight. It
looks at sex as an important marital driving force whose unifying powers must
not be forgotten and underrated. As Celestino  Deleyto pointed out, Bill’s
sexual odyssey taught him a lesson that making love in marriage can be about

1 Further on romantic and passionate love, consult: Anthony Giddens, The Transformation of


Intimacy, Stanford University Press, 1992, p. 37-87.
106 Dijana Metlić

enjoying more freedom in the flesh of his own wife Alice. “The measure of
their reconciliation will depend on their ability to turn it [sex] into the joyous,
healthy, and pleasurable affair.”2
Kubrick had been preoccupied with Traumnovelle since at least 1968.3
In the first place, he admired the Viennese author, expressing esteem for his
work in a 1960 interview: “It’s difficult to find any writer who understood
the human soul more truly and who had a more profound insight into the
way people think, act and really are”4. Secondly, Kubrick’s affinity for the
stylistic beauty of the film La Ronde (1950), based on a Schnitzler novel and
directed by Max  Ophüls, was also well acknowledged. This Austrian film
maker, according to Kubrick, never “received the critical appreciation he
deserved”5. Finally, Kubrick’s early interest in Sigmund Freud6 was confirmed
by his desire to direct “a contemporary story that really gave a feeling of the
times, psychologically, sexually”7. In 1980 Kubrick sent Schnitzler’s novel to
screenwriter Michael Herr who said that “it intrudes on the concealed roots
of Western erotic life like a laser, suggesting discreetly, from behind its dream
cover, things that are seldom even privately acknowledged, and never spoken
of in daylight”8. It is not surprising that the director waited for almost three
decades to develop this project, although Warner Brothers announced its
production just after the premiere of A Clockwork Orange (1971).9 Therefore,
Eyes Wide Shut unintentionally became Kubrick’s final and most personal
work, the one that underscores the importance of harmonious marriage for
the regularity and stability of daily existence. As Michel Ciment remarked,
this film “is focused on the most intimate aspects of our individuality, the
problems of the couple, the crisis of identity”10.

2 Celestino Deleyto, “1999, A Closet Odyssey: Sexual Discourses in Eyes Wide Shut”, Atlantis,
28.1, June 2006, p. 29-43.
3 Kubrick’s fascination with Schnitzler was analysed in many articles. Consult: Lucy  Scholes
and Richard Martin, “Archived Desires: Eyes Wide Shut” in Tatjana Ljujić, Peter Krämer and
Richard  Daniels (eds), Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives, London, Black Dog Publishing,
2015, p.  344-356; Ernesto  R.  Acevedo-Munoz, “Don’t look now: Kubrick, Schnitzler
and ‘The unbearable agony of desire’”, Literature Interpretation Theory, v.  13, April 2002,
p.  117-137; James  Naremore, On Kubrick, London, British Film Institute, 2014, p.  223;
Peter Loewenberg, “Freud, Schnitzler and Eyes Wide Shut” in Geoffrey Cocks (eds.), Depth of
Field: Stanley Kubrick, Film, and the Uses of History, Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin
Press, 2006, p. 255-279; Michel Ciment, op. cit., p. 259.
4 Castle (ed.), The Stanley Kubrick Archives, Köln, Taschen, 2008, p. 482.
5 Alexander Walker, Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis, New York, London,
W. W. Norton and Company, 2000, p. 14.
6 See: Naremore, op.  cit., p.  228-231; Michel  Ciment, Kubrick: The Definitive Edition, New
York, Faber and Faber, 2003, p. 259-260.
7 Alison Castle (ed.), op. cit., p. 482.
8 Michael Herr, Kubrick, New York, Grove Press, 2000, p. 8.
9 See announcement entitled Kubrick drama from Kine  Weekly, issue dated 8  May 1971,
reprinted in: Alison Castle (ed.), op. cit., p. 482.
10 Ciment, op. cit., p. 259.
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 107

Talking with Ciment, Kubrick explained that Rhapsody: A Dream Novel


is a difficult book that “explores the sexual ambivalence of a happy marriage,
and it tries to equate the importance of sexual dreams and might-have-beens
with reality”11. The appeal of this story lies in the fact that Kubrick constantly
blurred the boundaries between the real and the imaginary, basically relying
on the impressions induced by Schnitzler: “Fridolin opened his eyes as wide
as possible, passed his hand over his forehead and cheeks and felt his pulse. It
scarcely beat faster. Everything was right. He was completely awake”12. These
uncertainties contribute to the mysterious atmosphere in the film, making it
one of the most incomprehensible and ambiguous works in Kubrick’s oeuvre.
His sudden death caused silence and left us wondering about the film’s hidden
meanings. By choosing universal themes such as love and jealousy, commit-
ment and trust, sexual intimacy and sexual immorality, monogamy and lust,
Kubrick forced us to seek after the true motivation of his final personal and
emotional unmasking. As Ciment pointed out, “Eyes Wide Shut breaks with
the past. It no longer evokes a love that remains unrequited but explores the
abyss of the psyche in a ‘normal’ adult couple, where, as in all Kubrick’s films,
Eros and Thanatos meet”13.

In his book on Kubrick, Thomas Allen Nelson indicated that the disparate


narrative elements of Eyes Wide Shut are composed into a three-part unity
that metaphorically imitates the musical form of a sonata.14 In this paper I
will try to establish a link between the film and a different kind of tripartite
structure –Hieronymus Bosch’s15 large triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights,

11 Kubrick in Ciment, p. 156.


12 Arthur Schnitzler, A Dream Story, Los Angeles, Green Integer, 2003, p. 68.
13 Ciment, op. cit., p. 259.
14 Thomas Allen Nelson, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze, Bloomington, Indiana University
Press, 2000, p. 268.
15 Hieronymus Bosch lived and worked from around 1450 till 1516 in ’s-Hertogenbosch,
one of the four largest cities of the duchy of Brabant, near the present-day Belgian border.
Familiarly known as Jeroen or Joen, he was born as the fourth of five children in the
marriage between Antonius van Aken and Aleid van der Mynnen. There is a relatively small
number of records about Bosch’s life. He left no letters or diaries, and there are only few
references to him in the account books of the Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady. After he
married Aleid  van  der  Mervenne (probably in 1481), the daughter of a wealthy merchant,
his social status improved and he was admitted to the elite and the clerical inner circle of
“sworn brothers” of the Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady. Members of this fraternity were
well educated priests, theologians, lawyers, and doctors, and by 1500 the membership was
extended to few architects and painters. Among them was Master Bosch. He was a devout
Catholic, led a peaceful, religious life, and left no children. Occasionally he was commissioned
by the Brotherhood to produce altarpieces and panels for their chapels. Interest in Bosch’s
work revived in the late 19th and increased throughout the 20th  century, and many differ-
ent interpretations of his oeuvre appeared. He was called fantastic and capricious (Vasari);
painter of frightful and horrid dreams (Lomazzo); creator of strange appearances, spooks and
108 Dijana Metlić

made around 1503. My interpretation of Eyes Wide Shut is founded on the


three inner scenes of Bosch’s painting: Paradise and the Creation of Eve (left
wing), Humankind before the Flood (central panel) and Hell (right wing).
The Hartfords’ harmonious life in a paradisiacal apartment disrupted by
Alice’s first confession is viewed as a mirror-image of Bosch’s left inner wing;
the central and the right panels are consulted in the interpretation of the
Somerton sequence; in the discussion of Alice’s complex verbalised dream-
image (visually designed by artist Chris  Baker and never actually filmed),
and finally, in an attempt to explain the cycle of Bill’s temptations, signalling
the risks of secular love and the dangers of surrendering to carnal needs. I
will try to demonstrate how both Bosch and Kubrick construct “a didactic,
moralising vanitas world picture”16, and how they use their unique artistic
visions to entertain the viewers and instruct them how to overcome their
personal weaknesses through tolerance and love. Encapsulated in the concept
of docere et delectare, this phrase refers to Horace and his poem Ars Poetica
(19-18 BC) in which he said: “Poets aim either to benefit, or to amuse, or to
utter words at once both pleasing and helpful to life”.17
Although Bosch’s impressive masterpiece incorporates numerous individual
stories that can hardly be found in Kubrick’s film, it relates to the medieval
view of the sexual act, most often understood as a testimony of the “man’s fall
from the state of angels, at best a necessary evil, at worst a deadly sin”18. Unlike
the twentieth-century individual who accepted sex as a normal part of the
human condition, The Garden of Earthly Delights arguably depicts the sensual
life, more precisely the deadly sin of Lust (luxuria).19 Although painted in
vivid colours and in a surprisingly modern style attractive to spectators, Bosch’s
work obviously had different intentions. Its aim was not to evoke and praise
the utopian, idyllic world of uninterrupted (sexual) freedom20, but to show a

phantoms of Hell (Van Mander). One of the earliest interpretations of his triptychs was intro-
duced by Father José de Següenza, who in 1598 wrote: “I should like to show now that his
paintings are not at all [absurdities], but like books of great wisdom and art, and if there are
any foolish actions, they are ours, not his, and let us say it, it is a painted satire of the sins and
inconstancy of men.” See: Virginia Pitts Rembert, Hieronymus Bosch, New York, Parkstone,
2012, p. 18. On Bosch’s life and work, further read: Carl Linfert, Hieronymus Bosch, New
York, Harry N. Abrams, 1972; Stefan Fischer, Jheronimus Bosch, Köln, Taschen, 2016.
16 Stefan Fischer, op. cit., p. 101.
17 “Aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poatae / aut simul et iucunda et idonea dicere vitae”, in:
Fischer, ibid.
18 Walter Bosing, Hieronymus Bosch: Between Heaven and Hell, Köln, Taschen, 2010, p. 51.
19 Ibid.
20 See: Hans Belting, Hieronymus Bosch: The arden of Earthly Delights, Münich, Prestel, 2016,
p. 85-105. The Garden of Earthly Delights has been studied by many scholars who proposed
contradictory interpretations of its central panel. Some of them see it as a panorama of paradise
lost, while others think of it as a moral warning. Belting interprets it as a vision of humankind in
Paradise untouched by the fall. His arguments rely on the thesis proposed by Fraenger in 1948,
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 109

false Paradise whose transient beauty leads mankind to ruin and damnation.21
His garden is situated between Eden and Hell, the origin of sin and its
punishment. As a common motif in medieval literature, the subject of love and
the consequences of irresponsible sexual behaviour came into Kubrick’s focus
with his final film, his most developed and most mature work, the one that
shows the deceptive nature of the outside world and the ephemeral character
of sensual pleasures.
According to screenwriter Frederic Raphael, Kubrick refused to agree that
the assumptions of marriage, the nature of jealousy and sex, had changed
since Schnitzler’s time: “Stanley turned a book about Central Europe at the
beginning of the century into a modern American story and asks, ‘What’s the
difference?’”22 Already in 1968, the director claimed that the basic love rela-
tionship is too deeply ingrained in the man’s psyche, and that the same sets
of pair-bonding instincts (love, jealousy, and possessiveness) still exist even in
this allegedly enlightened, and liberated times.23 His photo-essay “Jealousy: A
Threat to Marriage” published in Look on 24 October 1950, can be perceived
as an early proof of his fascination with the primitive emotional programming.
Jealousy is “a great source of dramatic conflict”24 and one of the main driving

who believed that sexuality that inspires mankind in the central panel seems to be pure joy,
pure bliss. He also thought that Bosch’s triptych was commissioned by the Adamites, a heretic
sect which imbued the concept of lust with a paradisiacal innocence. (See: Wilhelm Fraenger,
Hieronymus Bosch, 2nd edition, New York, Dorset, 1989) Interpretations offered by De Tolnay
(1937), Bax (1949), Baldass (1960) and Vandenbroeck (1980s) are unanimous and rely on
Bosch’s confirmed religious background, literal sources that inspired him, and his early works.
These art historians assume that the triptych represents a nightmare of the humanity and the
consequences of ephemeral sensual enjoyment. According to Fischer who follows the above
mentioned critics, Bosch’s Garden is produced in conjunction with a marriage and, as such,
it had to deliver a serious, didactic message. It also reflects the primary religious and moral
perspective from which marriage was viewed in Northern Europe. Similarly complex wedding
presents were, for example, Botticelli’s paintings Primavera and Minerva and the Centaur
commissioned by the Medici family in 1482. See: Fischer, op. cit., p. 120. Approaching Eyes
Wide Shut through the theories proposed by De Tolnay, Bax, Baldass, and Fischer, I will try
to interpret it as a film about the safety of marriage and the power of true love which helps
wedded partners to overcome the illicitness of earthly delights.
21 Bosing, op. cit., p. 56. Bosing (following Baldass) notes that the medieval man was very suspi-
cious of material beauty. Behind physical loveliness often lurked death. Many artworks (little
ivory carvings and drawings) popular in Bosch’s time often displayed embracing lovers, but
when turned around reveal rotting corpses. The moralising context of these works was accepted
by Bosch in many of his well-known paintings: Ship of Fools, Death of the Miser, Haywain, and
The Garden of Earthly Delights.
22 Ciment, op. cit., p. 270.
23 See: Eric Nordern, “Playboy Interview: Stanley Kubrick”, in Gene D. Phillips, Stanley Kubrick,
Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2001, p. 67.
24 Philippe Mather, Stanley Kubrick at Look Magazine, Chicago, Bristol, Intellect, 2013, p. 166.
Mather also mentions other jealous characters in Kubrick’s films: Rapallo in Killer’s Kiss,
Humbert Humbert in Lolita, and Lady Lyndon in Barry Lyndon.
110 Dijana Metlić

forces behind Bill’s desire for revenge. In fact, Kubrick’s, Schnitzler’s and
Bosch’s worlds are the same: the only true change concerns religion. Bosch’s
phantasmagorical visions of punishment can hardly correct the behaviour of
individuals living in the “modern godless universe”25, or “forbid what is called
‘living out your fantasies’”.26 As Següenza noted, his Garden had warned us
“that wicked blind humanity would not heed the lessons of the Christian
faith, but would indulge in a sinful life in a world that must surely end in
hell”27. Bosing stresses that “to the medieval moralists, it was a woman who
took the initiative in leading man into sin and lechery, following the prece-
dent set by Eve”28. The most important role in The Garden of Earthly Delights
is given to the first woman, beautiful Eve, whose sexual powers cause Adam’s
expulsion from Paradise, because he accepts her proposal instead of keeping
God’s commandment. Kubrick decided to give Alice the role of Eve, who
unadvisedly destroys heavenly love in favour of dangerous earthly love whose
rules new Adam/Bill is not at all familiar with. Eyes Wide Shut alludes to
“Judeo-Christian fall-and-redemption myth”29, depicting mankind as given
over to sin. “Letting the unconscious go its own way and [experiencing] it
as reality”30, Kubrick’s protagonists prove how even an unconsumed sexual
adventure can destroy fidelity and shatter a fragile family peace.

Painted as a marriage gift for Henry III of Nassau Breda (1483-1538) at


the beginning of the XVI century, The Garden of Earthly Delights was intended
to serve as a nuptial mirror –as a guide to a successful marital alliance and a
study of its benefits and hazards.31 Commissioned by Engelbert  II (1451-
1504) for his successor Henry  III, this work possessed suitable moral and
religious dimensions while, at the same time, it sought to satisfy the artistic
expectations of a sophisticated courtly audience.32 Engelbert II suffered from
syphilis and probably intended The Garden of Earthly Delights to serve as a

25 Tim Kreider, “Introducing Sociology” in Geoffrey  Cocks (eds.), op.  cit., p.  286. Kreider
suggests that Kubrick’s “biblical references serve to show us how bankrupt the Christian ethic
is in America by the end of the second millennium AD, how completely it’s been co-opted
and undermined by commerce”. Although I agree with his point, I still argue that Bill’s final
unmasking and the Harfords’ reunion can be understood as Kubrick’s last effort to believe in
humankind’s possibility to change and its capacity to choose true (moral) values.
26 Michel Chion, Eyes Wide Shut, London, BFI, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, p. 88.
27 Següenza in: Pitts Rembert, op. cit., p. 47.
28 Bosing, op. cit., p. 53.
29 Kreider, op. cit., p. 285.
30 C. G. Jung in: Pitts Rembert, op. cit., p. 101.
31 Fischer, op. cit., p. 101.
32 The Garden of Earthly Delights is mentioned in a journal kept by Italian canon Antonio de Beatis,
who in 1517 visited Henry’s palace in Brussels. Along with other paintings, the triptych was
intended to intrigue and entertain the guests of his court.
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 111

warning for his nephew. Kubrick replaced this medieval panic over syphilis
with the actual fear of HIV/AIDS. Bosch’s nightmarish visions of Hell corre-
spond to death threats that Bill receives, forcing him to stop his wanderings.
From the very beginning of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick creates an impression
of the Harfords’ perfect life in the garden of Eden, in their huge apartment
luxuriously decorated with representations of vegetables, flowers, plants, and
domestic pets, painted in bright colours33 and recalling Bosch’s description of
the sixth day of the Creation with God, Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:20-31). The
Harfords are new, twentieth-century Adam and Eve, enjoying God’s blessing
pronounced upon their marriage: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and
subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). In her fair and slender elegance, Alice is already an
image of temptation: her enchanting nakedness fascinates spectators before
the film’s opening credits, attracting Adam’s gaze, “the first step towards sin”34.
Regardless of the fact that upon his waking Adam directly looks at the newly
created woman and turns towards the world of the senses, he has not yet fallen
from grace. Kubrick’s Bill does not even look at Alice while preparing for
Ziegler’s Christmas party: she is the only woman for him, the one he adores
and loves. It was believed that previous to the Fall, Adam and Eve had copu-
lated without lust, solely for the purpose of producing children.35 After the fall,
the situation changes: initiated by Alice’s first confession, Bill’s self-confidence
is shaken and the marital fidelity is ruined. His wife’s imagined sexual encoun-
ter with another man haunts him and expels him from the safety of home.
Various situations subtly prepare Bill’s expulsion from Eden: Alice’s flir-
tation with the Hungarian Szavost; Bill’s naive conversation with two aggres-
sive models “twined and undulating like two serpents”36; Alice and Bill’s first
sexual encounter in front of the mirror and finally, her confessed fantasy about
the naval officer, that, according to Nelson, reveals “an ordinary female desire
for a passionate, illicit sexual experience outside the restrictions of duty and
commitment”37. On the inner left wing of Bosch’s masterpiece, these danger-
ous situations are symbolically introduced through carefully chosen animals

33 Blue and red dominate Eyes Wide Shut, just like The Garden of Earthly Delights. Although
Bosch’s symbolic use of colours has not been fully explained, it can be assumed that the red
represents temptation, danger, strong energy and libido, while the blue may refer to fear and
lovers’ grief. It is difficult to fully decipher meanings of Bosch’s colours, because they cannot
be separated from fruits, animals or creatures which alter their precise connotations. Kubrick
also shapes the psychology of his characters and the specific atmosphere of each scene by using
red and blue. On the symbolism of Kubrick’s colours, consult: Chion, op. cit., p. 15; Deleyto,
op. cit., p. 32-33; Julian Rice, Kubrick’s Hope: Discovering Optimism from 2001 to Eyes Wide
Shut, Maryland, Scarecrow Press, 2008, p. 187-190.
34 Tolnay in: Fischer, op. cit., p. 102.
35 Bosing, op. cit., p. 57.
36 Kreider, op. cit., p. 286.
37 Nelson, op. cit., p. 281.
112 Dijana Metlić

(an owl, a horse, a cow, a stag, a deer, reptiles, birds, a giraffe, and a swan),
suggesting Adam and Eve’s weakness, spiritual blindness, malevolence, sin,
temptation, seduction, and arrogance.38 The division of the composition into
the male side on the left and the female side on the right can be explained in
the terms of fifteenth-century art: the wife is assigned to the domestic sphere
and the husband to the outside world.39 Throughout the film, Alice proves
her commitment to the family and home. She is seen in various interiors: in
the bedroom, in the kitchen, in the bathroom or the ballroom, and finally
in a toy shop. Kubrick never shows her in the street, thus alluding to Bosch’s
assumption that the woman belongs to her household. Even when innocently
flirting with the Hungarian, Alice stresses that she is married, and explicitly
rejects to agree with Szavos’ observation that “one of the charms of marriage
is that it makes deception necessary for both parties”40. While making love
with her husband, the reflection of Alice’s face with her eyes wide open is seen
in the mirror. A similar woman (Eve) can be found in Bosch’s Hell panel –a
reference to the deadly sin of superbia (vanity, pride). This was considered to
be the very first of all the deadly sins, the one to which Eve surrendered even
in Eden. Therefore, the woman in the Hell panel, facing the mirror, is the
negative complement not just of Adam, but also of Eve, as she is portrayed
before the fall in the Paradise wing. She is associated with lust because of the
devil who puts his arms around her: in almost the same way Bill approaches
Alice before they make love after Ziegler’s party.
By revealing her unconscious desires to Bill, Alice stops at the safe line
and decides not to let her “waking life turn into a nightmare”41. Resisting
the temptation to disappear with the naval officer, she chooses not to sacri-
fice everything– her husband, Helena and her whole future –and admits
that, at the same time, “her love for Bill was both tender and sad”42. Thus
Mrs.  Harford confirms that she is aware of the fact that “the wedding is a
God-given union of love between man and woman; [it is] a holy sacrament
performed under the protection of Christ, both at the spiritual and the prac-
tical level”43. Bill will acknowledge this after going down a long and hazardous
road of enticements, obsessed with Alice’s fantasy to which he responds with
jealousy and unsettled desire for vengeance.

38 Fischer, op. cit., p. 105.


39 Ibid. As an example of this division into the male and female sides, Fischer specifies
Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434), painted on the occasion of the marriage of the couple.
Giovanni Arnolfini is seen in front of the window –signifying the public sphere assigned to the
male, while Giovanna Cenami (his wife) is depicted beside their marital bed, as an integral part
of her domesticity.
40 Quoted from the film.
41 Nelson, op. cit., p. 283.
42 Quoted from the film.
43 Fischer, op. cit., p. 106.
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 113

The two most important sequences in the development of Eyes Wide Shut
are: the secret orgy in Somerton, and Alice’s verbalised dream image that
was never actually filmed, although Chris  Baker made numerous prepara-
tory drawings before the shooting. Kubrick organised these complementary
sequences as realistic and dreamlike manifestations of one and the same event,
which serves to unmask the doctor, make him face his unconscious fears of
infidelity, sexually transmitted diseases and death, and finally show him the
way back home. During his nocturnal journey, Bill will pass through Bosch’s
hell full of temptations before reaching the Somerton mansion where the
orgiastic ceremony is staged. Marion reveals her love for the doctor, bringing
to light her true longings. Prostitute Domino unsuccessfully tries to seduce
Bill who will be saved by Alice’s phone call. Nick Nightingale, “compared
to the devil, the great tempter, particularly at the Sonata Café”44 allows Bill
access to the Somerton ball by giving him the password Fidelio –hinting at
his marital fidelity which is about to be shaken. Finally, “Mephisto” Milich,
the owner of the costume shop Rainbow, who negotiates “like Shakespeare’s
infamous merchant of Venice”45, provides Bill with a mask and a black cloak
with a hood. Thus he prepares the doctor for joining the sexual ritual of a
mysterious group whose members know him already, since he was trustfully
answering their “house calls” for a while.
Unlike Bosch’s nightmarish creatures (a tree-man, a bird-headed monster46,
a woman with a dice symbolising a prostitute, men tortured on an oversized
musical instruments47) –who are trapped in a situation from which there is
no escape, and in which they repeat their activities on earth– Kubrick’s hero
Bill will be saved from various unintentional and unconsumed (sexual) adven-
tures which will remind him that he is “lucky to be alive”. According to Jan
Harlan, “Schnitzler’s blasphemous concept of depravity was already voyeur-
ism in substance, but Stanley changed this by attempting a pornographic

44 Chion, op. cit., p. 83.


45 Nelson, op. cit., p. 285.
46 The Red Judge from Eyes Wide Shut can be seen as a correlative of a bird-headed monster, sitting
on a giant potty chair. Bosch’s creature consumes and excretes human bodies simultaneously.
The same action can be assigned to the Red Judge. He makes decisions on one’s life and death,
which is proved by Mandy’s “unintentional” overdose, Nick Nightingale’s sudden disappear-
ance, or at least two warnings given to Bill. Somerton symbolises Bill’s hell: his suffering is
psychological and his soul is driven mad by fear, anxiety and distress induced by Alice’s fantasy.
47 The church disapproved of secular music. Allowing improvised music-making would only lead
to immorality. Bosch depicts a figure being crushed by a giant lute. On his backside a four-line
musical staff appears as a tattoo on his skin. Today, musical scores are written on a five-line
staff. It remained a complete mystery what the musical notes on the buttocks might have
sounded like. Several musical historians have attempted a transcription into modern musical
notation and Amelia Hamrick, a student of Oklahoma Christian University, finally transcribed
it in 2015. Visit: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/bosch-butt-song-from-hell-309732.
114 Dijana Metlić

Hieronymus Bosch type of hell, a fantasy world for faceless voyeurs”48. The
password Fidelio unlocks the door to an alternative world in which real social
circumstances are turned upside down, the arbitrary is set as the new ordering
principle, marriage is mocked, and fidelity is nonexistent. Unlike the ever-
lasting garden of Heaven, Somerton becomes an underground kingdom of
carnal love that praises lust, but eventually, “‘the dances will reach their end
and dancers fail’; everything will crumble and decay, for Death lies in waiting
for all”49. The orgy organised in the distant villa for “all the best people” is
actually Kubrick’s modern vision of Bosch’s chaotic hell, dominated by the
“evil inn”, the term referring to brothels and shady taverns in which listening
to secular music, gambling, alcohol, and prostitution led to the sins of lust,
anger, vanity, and greed.50 With imaginative freedom, in many weird episodes,
Bosch shows the humanity succumbing to vices: the couples circling hand in
hand in intimacy around the tree-man’s hat symbolise unbridled sex.51 The
same applies to Kubrick’s disguised wealthy patrons and their irresistible cour-
tesans who enjoy their passionate games freely, regardless of the penalties for
leading a life of sinful pleasures. This is the fallen humankind, the one that
forces Bill to choose between the celestial safety of marriage and the illicitness
of the outside world. For the first time, in front of his widely opened eyes, he
witnesses that the “man has abandoned the true paradise for the false; he has
turned from the Fountain of Life to drink from the fountain of the flesh which
(…) intoxicates and brings death”52.
Finally, Bill’s fear of public humiliation in Somerton is transformed into
the substantial fear of the private embarrassment in front of his wife, after
her second confession. Her erotic and sexually explicit dream shifts Bill from
“Somerton’s Old World masked fakery to the honest emotional landscape of
Alice’s Brave New World of female sexual expression”53. It obviously brings to
mind the central panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights, the extensive park-
like landscape crowded with nude men and women, who eat giant fruits,
play with birds and animals, enjoy the water and above all, indulge in various
amorous sports blatantly and without shame.54 Enjoying their nakedness and

48 Castle (ed.), op. cit., p. 512.


49 Bosing, op. cit., p. 56.
50 Fischer, op. cit., p. 113.
51 Ibid.
52 Bosing, op. cit., p. 57.
53 Nelson, op. cit., p. 290.
54 Dirk Bax’s extensive knowledge of old Dutch literature helped decipher the hidden symbol-
ism of fruits and animals in the central panel. Relying on popular songs, sayings and slang
expressions of Bosch’s time, the critic noted that many of the fruits serve as metaphors for the
sexual organs. “To pluck fruit” was a euphemism for the sexual act. Vandenbroeck associates
the cherry with fertility, marriage, and eroticism. The blackberry refers to love; the strawberry
signifies the pleasure of love, while song-birds and fish are phallic symbols. See further: Fischer,
op. cit., p. 109; Bosing, op. cit., 51.
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 115

sexuality, consistent in their beauty, these lovers merge into Alice’s dream as an
apotheosis of (appealing) liberated sexuality.
In secular fifteenth-century compositions, these fictive gardens, reminis-
cent of locus amoenus (pleasant places) which had its roots in the literature
of Antiquity, are usually occupied by women and men seen in conversation,
playing games or making romantic advances to each other, while music is
played and food and drink lie close at hand.55 Staged with the help of imagery
drawn from the natural world, Bosch intensifies this sensuality to the point
of sarcasm. His garden is designed as a secular garden of earthly love, the one
in which various aspects of Lust are acted: a couple in a bubble, a group of
figures in a red cylindrical object, a pair concealed in a mussel shell, people
standing, sitting or resting in physical intimacy, eating, picking fruit or
squeezing into vessels, all point to the erotic significance of the scene. When
Alice finally wakes up, she recalls the Boschian sinful world, the one in which
she felt wonderful, lying in the beautiful garden, stretched out naked in the
sunlight, and where “there were all these other people around us, hundreds of
them, everywhere. Everyone was fucking and then I was fucking other men,
so many, I don’t know how many I was with”.56 Residing at a safe distance
from her monotonous, but secure family life, Alice’s fantasy is nothing else
than the central panel of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, where lovers
enjoy themselves, unaware that Death chases them from behind.
A fantastical setting for lovers in Alice’s dream is gradually translated into
the closed garden of Somerton, the one in which Bill remains a voyeur because
he is incapable of living out his fantasies. Bosch’s didactic image was probably
inspired by the second part of the well known medieval allegory Roman de la
Rose written in the XIII century and modelled on Ovid’s Art of Love, in which
heavenly and earthly love are irreconcilably opposed as good and evil.57 The
woman, symbolised by the Rose, connotes only temptation and danger. Alice,
Marion, Domino, Mandy, and finally Sally, ultimately signify the power and
dominion of women, which in Bosch’s association are the complementary of
male sinfulness and folly. In the preparatory drawings of Alice’s unrecorded
dream sequence, Chris Baker shows Alice being kissed by multiple male figures.
When the naval officer steps out of a nearby wood towards her, he is shown as
part of the trees, as he moves. The most significant series of drawings illustrate
Alice and the naval officer making love in a variety of positions on the back

55 Fischer, Ibid. Fischer notes that Bosch deliberately changes the pleasant mood and idyllic
atmosphere of late fifteenth-century engravings, such as Large Garden of Love with Chess-
players by Master ES or Small Garden of Love by Master of the Gardens of Love. His enclosed
garden contains hidden symbolism indicating poisonous side of the sexual enjoyment.
56 Quoted from the film.
57 Bosing, op. cit., p. 56. Fischer, op. cit., p. 109-110.
116 Dijana Metlić

of a galloping horse.58 Animals traditionally symbolised the lower appetites of


mankind, and personifications of sins are often depicted on the backs of various
beasts.59 The motifs of riding in a circle and of riding wildly on animals, accord-
ing to Vandenbroeck, can be traced back to popular fertility rites, to dances of
invocation and bindings, and dances of choosing and wooing a partner. They
were commonly employed as a metaphor for the sexual act.60
In the middle of Bosch’s central panel, a caravan of vices has formed a
ring around a circular pond in which women are bathing. The acrobatic riders
galloping endlessly around this pool are “fools of Venus, blinded and whipped
up by their desire for love”.61 In formal terms, the motif of the circle can be
found in each segment of Bosch’s triptych: the spherical Earth on the exterior
shutters; the convex disc with the owl in the Paradise panel; the round pool
with female bathers in the central panel; and the circular brim of the tree-
man’s hat in the Hell-scope, upon which three couples are walking around. The
circle is also an important part of Kubrick’s aesthetics, an essential device of his
narrative structure and an inevitable element of his visual style. The high-an-
gle long shot of people standing or sitting in a circle can be seen in Spartacus,
when the freed gladiators gather in the arena to plan their next action; in Dr.
Strangelove’s War Room where politicians decide about humanity’s fate; Danny
endlessly rides his bicycle along the circular corridors of the Overlook hotel in
the Shining. From the moment of Alice’s first confession, Bill walks around the
symbolic mind circles unable to find his way out. When he comes to Somerton
he sees the Red Judge choosing disguised beauties from the circle outlined with
their bodies. Attendees of the ball encircle Bill accusing him of inconsiderate
disturbance of their sexual satisfaction. He is expelled from his paradisiacal
home where he will return after a long period of roaming around New York.
Although the circle can symbolise the perfection of the cosmos, in the specific
situations of Kubrick’s and Bosch’s worlds, “it may betoken the sinner whose
physical desires drive him to wander endlessly and meaninglessly in a circle,
without ever reaching a destination”62. After all his wanderings, Bill manages
to find his way home, to the eternal heavenly garden, whose harmony must be
restored in the marital bed, before any of those unfulfilled sins become true.
A didactic, aphoristic poem based on the marriage proverbs, written in
1450 says: “From bad people one can learn  / unchastity, dicing, drinking
and swearing / unseasonable drinking and eating / and also to forget days of

58 Lucy Sholes, Richard Martin, op. cit., p. 353. The authors suppose that Kubrick did not shoot
the “Alice’s dream” sequence because “the cinematic versions risk being whimsical, hazily-lit
soft-core pornography”.
59 Bosing, op. cit., p. 53.
60 Fischer, Ibid.
61 Ibid.
62 Fischer, op. cit., p. 117.
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 117

fasting  / and thus all the commandments  / that one should observe before
God”.63 The strange and the astonishing became both Bosch’s and Kubrick’s
means to design visually appealing works through which the spectators could
experience a different world, the one that transports them beyond the mundane
bounds of daily life. Although it can be argued that at the end of the twen-
tieth century “Kubrick shows himself to be a sexual conservative, since he
confirms the importance of monogamous married relations and the heterosex-
ual, nuclear family”64, he convincingly proves that “there are very few things in
this world that have an unquestionable importance in and of themselves and
are not susceptible to debate or rational argument, but the family is one of
them”65. Ultimately, the viewers will choose their own path: the marriage of two
faithful partners with the aim of producing offspring, the uninhibited sexuality
of Alice’s dream or Somerton’s reality or an in-between possibility in which
marriage and erotic impulses may be combined. Towards the end of a long,
comprehensive study, Erwin Panofsky observed that “the real secret of [Bosch’s]
magnificent nightmares and daydreams has still to be disclosed. We have bored
a few holes through the door of the locked room; but somehow we do not seem
to have discovered the key”66. The same conclusion stands for Kubrick’s Eyes
Wide Shut, a work of art that will inspire new interpretations, sooner or later.

Dijana Metlić
University of Novi Sad
Academy of Arts
dijana.metlic@gmail.com

Acknowledgments
My special appreciation goes to Jean-François  Baillon and Vincent  Jaunas who helped me
during my work on this article. I am grateful to the staff of the Museo Nacional del Prado
in Madrid, who generously allowed me to use the reproduction of Hieronymus Bosch’s large
triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights.

63 See: Fischer, op. cit., p. 114.


64 Naremore, op. cit., p. 242.
65 Kubrick in: Eric Nordern, op. cit., p. 67.
66 Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Harvard University Press, 1966, p. 357.
118 Dijana Metlić

Abstract
In 1999 Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut was released. It was based on the 1926 book
Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler. The director focuses on the relationship between prospe-
rous doctor Bill Harford and his beautiful wife Alice, who unadvisedly shatters their conjugal
harmony by confessing her past temptation to commit adultery. In my paper I approach Eyes
Wide Shut by consulting Hieronymus Bosch’s large triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights,
painted at the beginning of the XVI century as a marriage gift for Henry III of Nassau Breda.
This intricate artwork was intended to serve as a nuptial mirror, as a guide to a successful marital
alliance, and a study of its benefits and risks. Similarly, I understand Kubrick’s film as an
essentially intimate film about the safety of family life and the threats to marriage introduced
by the world of incitements. My attempt was to apply three inner scenes of Bosch’s master-
piece in the interpretation of Eyes Wide Shut. The Harfords’ harmonious life in their paradisia-
cal apartment disrupted by Alice’s first confession is viewed as a mirror-image of Bosch’s left
inner wing showing Paradise and the Creation of Eve. The central panel (Humankind before the
Flood) and the right wing (Hell) are consulted in the interpretation of the Somerton sequence;
in the discussion of Alice’s complex verbalised dream-image, and finally in an attempt to
explain the cycle of Bill’s temptations, which signals the risks of secular love and the dangers
of surrendering to carnal desires. Examining the narrative content and visual styles of both
artworks, I tried to demonstrate how both Bosch and Kubrick construct a didactic, moralising
world picture, and how they use their unique artistic expressions to amuse viewers and instruct
them how to overcome their personal weaknesses through tolerance and love.
Keywords
Stanley Kubrick, Hieronymus Bosch, Eyes Wide Shut, moralizing, painting.
Résumé
En 1999 parut le dernier film de Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut, adapté du livre
d’Arthur Schnitzler, La Nouvelle Rêvée, publié en 1926. Le réalisateur explore la relation entre
le riche docteur Bill Harford et sa magnifique femme Alice, qui bouleverse leur harmonie
conjugale par inadvertance lorsqu’elle avoue avoir envisagé une relation adultère. Dans cet
article, nous envisageons Eyes Wide Shut à l’aune du grand triptyque de Jérome  Bosch, Le
Jardin des délices, peint au début du XVIe siècle, cadeau de mariage pour Henri III de Nassau-
Breda. Cette œuvre complexe devait servir de miroir nuptial, un guide pour parvenir à un
mariage réussi, et d’étude quant à ses avantages et ses dangers. De même, nous considérerons
l’œuvre de Kubrick comme un film essentiellement intime explorant la sécurité de la vie de
famille et les dangers pesant sur le mariage dans un monde aux tentations multiples. Nous
interpréterons Eyes Wide Shut à l’aide de trois scènes du chef-d’oeuvre de Bosch. La vie harmo-
nieuse que connait le couple dans son appartement paradisiaque et sa perturbation suite à
la confession d’Alice sera mise en parallèle avec le panneau gauche de l’œuvre de Bosch, Le
Paradis et la création d’Ève. Le panneau central (L’humanité avant le déluge) et le panneau de
droite (L’enfer) permettront d’interpréter la séquence de Somerton, le récit du rêve complexe
d’Alice ainsi que le cycle des tentations de Bill, qui évoquent les dangers d’un amour séculaire
et les risques de succomber aux désirs charnels. Grâce à l’étude des contenus narratifs et des
styles visuels de ces deux oeuvres, nous analyserons la façon dont Bosch et Kubrick élaborèrent
chacun une vision du monde didactique et morale, ainsi que leur capacité à tirer profit de
leur expression artistique unique pour divertir les spectateurs tout en les instruisant quant aux
possibilités de dépasser leurs faiblesses grâce à l’amour et à la tolérance.
Mots-clés
Stanley Kubrick, Hieronymus Bosch, Eyes Wide Shut, moralisme, peinture.
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 119

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Born in Belgrade, 1978.


In 2012 successfully defended PhD Thesis “From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Eyes Wide
Shut: An Analysis of Different Forms of the Image Presence in the Films of Stanley Kubrick”
at the Department of Art History, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade.
In 2013 published a book Stanley Kubrick: Between Painting and Film (Belgrade: Film
Centre Serbia) and several articles on Kubrick in Serbian journals. In 2016 attended Stanley
Kubrick: A Retrospective, conference at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. In 2017
published Unmasking the Society: The Use of Masks in Kubrick’s Films in Cinergie : il cinema e
le altre arti, vol.12.
Currently holds the position of Associate Professor at the Academy of Arts, University of
Novi Sad. Teaches history of European Art from Renaissance to the present day.
Fields of research: Modern Art, Historical avant-gardes and Film studies.
120
Dijana Metlić

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1503.


© Photographic
Archive Museo Nacional del Prado
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 121

Bill and Alice Harford, Adam and Eve, Paradise,


new Adam and Eve. H. Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1503.
S. Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut, © Photographic
1999. Archive Museo Nacional del Prado

Alice’s flirtation with Hungarian Szavost. H. Bosch, Detail from the


S. Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut, Humankind before the Flood.
1999. © Photographic
Archive Museo Nacional
del Prado
122 Dijana Metlić

Bill’s with two aggressive models H. Bosch, Detail from the


“twined andundulating like two serpents”. Humankind before the Flood.
S. Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut © Photographic
Archive Museo Nacional del Prado

Alice (Lust) and Bill (Devil) in front Woman (Lust) and Devil in front
of the mirror, before making love. of the mirror, H. Bosch, Hell panel.
S. Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut © Photographic
Archive Museo Nacional del Prado
Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of Earthly Delights 123

The motif of the circle, The motifs of riding in a circle and of riding wildly
H. Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. on animals as a metaphor for the sexual act.
© Photographic © Photographic
Archive Museo Nacional del Prado Archive Museo Nacional del Prado

The circle as an important device of Kubrick’s aesthetic.


Le « monde fictionnel »
Pierre Beylot
Rod Munday
Partie 5
Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau :
du concept à l’espace mental

Pierre Beylot

Quel rapport le cinéma entretient-il avec la pensée ? Cette question que


soulève Gilles Deleuze dans L’Image-Temps et qu’il considère comme l’un des
enjeux de la modernité se pose de manière particulièrement aiguë à propos
du cinéma de Kubrick. Chez lui, la pensée ne s’oppose pas au corps, elle
s’exprime à travers lui, dans la corporéité de ce que Deleuze appelle le « film-
cerveau », concept qu’il formule à propos de l’œuvre de Kubrick :
« Si l’on considère l’œuvre de Kubrick, on voit à quel point c’est le cerveau
qui est mis en scène […]. C’est que, chez Kubrick, le monde lui-même est un
cerveau, il y a identité du cerveau et du monde, tels la grande table circulaire
et lumineuse de Docteur Folamour, l’ordinateur géant de 2001, l’odyssée de
l’espace, l’hôtel Overlook de Shining. La pierre noire de 2001 préside aussi bien
aux états cosmiques qu’aux stades cérébraux  : elle est l’âme des trois  corps,
terre, soleil et lune, mais aussi le germe des trois cerveaux, animal, humain,
machinique. Si Kubrick renouvelle le thème du voyage initiatique, c’est parce
que tout voyage dans le monde est une exploration du cerveau. Le monde-
cerveau c’est L’Orange mécanique »1.
Nous voudrions envisager les différentes facettes de cette métaphore du
« film-cerveau » qui articule le dedans et le dehors, l’intériorité de la pensée
et l’extériorité des événements, des motifs et des espaces que le film met en
scène. En effet, il nous semble que plusieurs strates interprétatives se cristal-
lisent dans cette image : le film-cerveau, cela peut être la pensée en acte du
cinéaste ; cela peut être aussi le monde diégétique envisagé comme cerveau ;
il peut s’agir enfin de l’espace mental du personnage parcouru selon un axe
qui relie l’œil et le cerveau. La première strate est celle du cerveau de Kubrick
lui-même, cinéaste souvent perçu comme «  conceptuel  », à la fois dans sa
manière de concevoir ses films que dans sa propension à soumettre la matière
narrative à un concept ou à une hypothèse intellectuelle. La structure de ses
films porte la marque de cette prééminence de la pensée sur le récit  : une

1 Gilles Deleuze, L’Image-Temps, Paris, Éd. de Minuit, 1985, p. 267-268.


128 Pierre Beylot

armature conceptuelle s’y dessine, souvent de manière assez appuyée, elle


enveloppe et circonscrit la pensée du film, elle lui donne forme et structure
et encadre le récit. La deuxième strate est celle du monde fictionnel envisagé
comme monde-cerveau  : il ne s’agit plus d’un cadre, mais d’une relation,
d’une interface conceptuelle. Celle-ci se traduit par l’émergence de figures où
se cristallise la relation entre espace mental et espace physique. Un processus
d’échange s’élabore entre le fictionnel et le notionnel : des objets, des lieux,
des dispositifs – monolithe, labyrinthe, huis clos… – y fonctionnent à la fois
en tant que motifs diégétiques et figures de pensée. Enfin, la troisième strate
est celle où s’affirme plus particulièrement la corporéité du film-cerveau, celle
de la pensée, souvent tourmentée des personnages. Il ne s’agit pas ici d’une
pensée abstraite, mais d’un lien étroit qui s’instaure entre le penser et le voir,
l’œil et le cerveau. Chez Kubrick, l’exploration mentale est envisagée dans sa
dimension problématique, dans ses apories. En effet, son cinéma donne à voir
des univers mentaux obsessionnels et traumatiques et souligne en même temps
les limites de cette exploration psychique. Nous allons donc pénétrer dans le
labyrinthe du film-cerveau –  où parfois Kubrick tente de nous égarer  – en
privilégiant une décennie élargie, celle des quatre longs-métrages des années
1970 allant de 2001 (1968) à Shining (1980) en passant par Orange méca-
nique (1971) et Barry Lyndon (1975), car cette période très dense de l’activité
créatrice de Kubrick offre un éventail très large et diversifié d’interrelations
entre le film et la pensée.

Armature conceptuelle et exosquelette narratif

On pourrait envisager cette relation entre la pensée et le film sous


l’angle du processus créatif : l’univers mental que le film donne à voir, c’est
d’abord celui de Kubrick lui-même. D’après les témoignages recueillis dans
le documentaire de Jan Harlan, A Life in Pictures (2001), Kubrick était un
créateur désireux de maîtriser complètement toutes les étapes de sa création.
Steven Spielberg indique ainsi que Kubrick « commençait tous ses films de
façon très conceptuelle » et le décrit comme un « illustrateur conceptuel de
la condition humaine ». Alan Parker, pour sa part, souligne son contrôle sur
le film qui devait apparaître comme la traduction exacte de sa pensée sur
l’écran. Mais notre propos porte moins sur la genèse de la création kubric-
kienne que sur l’univers de pensée qu’elle génère. À cet égard, il faut se
demander dans quelle mesure le conceptuel gouverne l’expansion du monde
fictionnel. La pensée l’emporte-t-elle chez Kubrick sur le récit ? Sans enfermer
l’auteur de Shining et de 2001 dans une alternative manichéenne – cinéaste
conceptuel versus raconteur d’histoires – il semble que l’imaginaire kubrickien
soit traversé par une tension entre ces deux  pôles  : l’investigation philoso-
phique d’un côté, l’invention de mondes fictionnels de l’autre. Certes, les
Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau : du concept à l’espace mental 129

films de Kubrick ne sont pas des films à thèse, ils ne défendent aucune vérité
positive, ils ne prétendent véhiculer aucun message, ils développent plutôt
une hypothèse dont la signification reste profondément problématique, telle
que  : «  comment associer voyage interstellaire et méditation sur l’existence
humaine  ?  » ou «  comment le hasard conduit-il un individu de la richesse
à la chute  ?  ». Nous prenons délibérément deux exemples diamétralement
opposés, l’un 2001, affirmant ostensiblement sa dimension spéculative,
l’autre Barry  Lyndon, plus riche en péripéties narratives, voire plus anecdo-
tique. Mais, dans un cas comme dans l’autre, on a affaire à un film-cerveau
que l’on pourrait aussi qualifier de « film-concept », à condition de considérer
que le concept a chez Kubrick une dimension problématique plus que théo-
rématique, pour reprendre l’opposition opérée par Deleuze entre le théorème
et le problème2. Ainsi, le « film-concept » met-il à l’épreuve une hypothèse
qui génère une construction intellectuelle autant qu’une matrice narrative, un
univers mental autant qu’une diégèse autonome.
L’hypothèse sur laquelle se fonde le film y imprime sa marque en traçant
un cadre – argumentatif aussi bien que narratif – qui charpente fortement le
film par des annonces, des cartons, des voix over et des musiques qui forment
un discours d’escorte et orientent la lecture du spectateur. C’est là un premier
versant du film-cerveau : celui qui consiste à bâtir une armature conceptuelle,
à cartographier par avance les parcours interprétatifs en posant des balises
aisément repérables. On verra plus loin que cette grille interprétative est en
partie un faux-semblant car le film-cerveau peut nous égarer autant que nous
guider dans le dédale des connexions logiques qu’il établit. Pour caractériser ce
premier mouvement, celui d’une structuration conceptuelle du film, on peut
se référer à la notion d’« exosquelette narratif » proposée par Michel Chion3.
Le terme est usité dans les sciences biologiques et en architecture et désigne
le squelette externe de certaines espèces (la carapace des mollusques ou des
insectes) ou, par métaphore, l’armature de certains bâtiments (les tubulures de
Beaubourg, le treillis métallique du Nid d’oiseau de Pékin).
Dans les films de Kubrick, l’exosquelette repose sur des effets très osten-
sibles  : chapitrage, musiques extradiégétiques, voix over –  celle-ci n’étant
présente dans notre corpus que dans Orange mécanique et Barry Lyndon. On
pourrait penser que la fonction de cet exosquelette est d’abord une fonction
d’élaboration et de balisage narratifs  : les cartons donnent des repères, par
exemple, dans 2001, la mission Jupiter a lieu dix-huit mois après la mission
sur la lune (Figure 1) ou entretiennent la tension dramatique (l’entracte inter-
vient à un moment d’acmé narrative après que Hal a lu sur les lèvres des
deux astronautes). Mais ces jalons échappent en grande partie à la chrono-

2 Ibid., p. 227.
3 Stanley Kubrick, L’Humain ni plus, ni moins, Paris, Éd. Cahiers du Cinéma, 2004, p. 44-49.
130 Pierre Beylot

logie d’un récit : le point de départ (« l’aube de l’humanité ») renvoie à une


période difficilement situable et qui a pu s’étaler sur des millénaires (même si
elle ne représente que dix-sept minutes de film) et le point d’arrivée (« Jupiter
et au-delà de l’infini ») ne désigne plus une planète ni une temporalité iden-
tifiables, mais un point de bascule dans une autre dimension, cosmique et
métaphysique, celle de l’abstraction temporelle où apparaît le fœtus astral.
Le chapitrage et les cartons sont donc en partie des leurres : ils semblent des
ponctuations narratives, mais jouent en fait le rôle de jalons conceptuels sans
que l’on puisse jamais savoir avec certitude en quoi consiste la démonstration.
Dans 2001 comme dans les autres films de notre corpus, tout un travail de
distanciation s’opère par rapport à l’exosquelette narrativo-conceptuel que le
film élabore, comme si Kubrick s’ingéniait à ruiner l’édifice qu’il est en train de
bâtir. L’ironie est l’un de ces effets de distanciation : ainsi, dans Barry Lyndon,
les cartons sont utilisés sur le mode du pastiche, reproduisant le style et la
graphie du roman picaresque des XVIIIe et XIXe siècles et venant annuler, dans
le carton final, l’enjeu narratif des intrigues qui agitent des personnages, puis-
sants ou misérables, mais « tous égaux maintenant » dans la mort (Figure 2)…
Un autre effet distanciant est l’arbitraire des repères qui forment l’exosquelette
narratif. Dans Shining, notamment, la succession des indications temporelles,
de plus en plus rapprochées les unes des autres, crée une sorte de pyramide
dramatique, un effet compte-à-rebours qui culmine au climax de «  4pm  »
(Figure  3). Mais ces indications ne s’inscrivent pas, là non plus, dans une
chronologie, un calendrier de l’action clairement établi, les jours de la semaine
semblent interchangeables et leur succession crée une temporalité circulaire et
paradoxale. L’exosquelette constitue ainsi une mise en abyme de la structure
d’ensemble du récit où les événements dramatiques de 1980 reproduisent ceux
des années 1920, comme le révèle le zoom final sur la photographie du bal du
4 juillet 1921 où apparaît la figure fantomatique de Jack Torrance.
La distanciation peut également provenir de l’éclectisme des accompagne-
ments musicaux : le choix d’une illustration musicale est un choix fortement
structurant dans l’esthétique de Kubrick4. On peut y voir à la fois une des
dimensions de l’exosquelette narratif qui oriente la lecture de l’image –  que
serait 2001 sans Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra et Le Beau Danube bleu ? Que serait
Orange mécanique sans la Neuvième symphonie de Beethoven ou Barry Lyndon
sans la Sarabande de Haendel et le Trio de Schubert ? – mais aussi un élément
de déstabilisation du spectateur. Celui-ci est confronté à un patchwork musical
où les références les plus hétéroclites se combinent, de la musique symphonique
à la comédie musicale, du rock à la musique électronique, comme en témoigne
le générique final d’Orange mécanique aux couleurs saturées et violemment
contrastées (Figure 4). La musique opère donc à la fois un effet de construction

4 Cf. Rémy Sanvoisin, Kubrick et la musique, Paris, Vrin, 2014.


Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau : du concept à l’espace mental 131

et de déconstruction. Le déphasage entre la parole et l’image que l’on pourrait


appeler «  effet d’hétérochronie  » est un autre effet de distanciation pratiqué
par Kubrick  : la voix over hétérodiégétique, dans Barry  Lyndon, anticipe sur
ce que montre l’image (par exemple, la mort du comte Lyndon) ou adopte
une position surplombante (« combien différent aurait été le sort de Barry s’il
ne s’était pas épris de Nora  »). Elle participe à l’élaboration d’une armature
narrativo-conceptuelle – souvent plus un commentaire des événements qu’une
ponctuation narrative – mais qui est souvent en décalage avec les images, d’où
un effet de déséquilibre et d’incertitude quant au sens à attribuer au récit.
Toutes ces observations rejoignent l’analyse de Michel Chion qui souligne
« la tendance à dé-fusionner les éléments » (parole, image, musique) créant
une « fragilisation du récit ». L’exosquelette produit alors « une superposition
flottante d’armatures narratives moins contradictoires qu’indépendantes [qui]
a pour résultat de fragiliser l’histoire, de donner un sentiment de mystère et
de précarité »5.

À l’intérieur du film-cerveau : l’interface conceptuelle

Venons-en maintenant à la construction du monde fictionnel comme un


monde-cerveau, autrement dit à ce que nous avons appelé l’interface concep-
tuelle, la circulation entre espaces mentaux et espaces physiques au travers de
lieux ou de figures symboliques. L’un des lieux les plus emblématiques de cette
circulation est sans doute le jardin-labyrinthe de Shining (Figures 5, 6 et 7) :
c’est d’abord un espace physique, un lieu de déambulation un peu inquiétant
de Danny et Wendy dans le premier tiers du film et un lieu terrifiant de pour-
suite dans le finale ; mais aussi un espace de représentation : la maquette que
surplombe littéralement Jack Torrance ; et enfin, un espace symbolique cadré
dans une plongée presque verticale qui en fait un lieu abstrait, réactivant la
figure mythologique du labyrinthe antique – celui du Minotaure dont Jack
est un avatar –, une métaphore du récit et de ses pièges ainsi que de l’espace
mental tortueux et torturé des personnages. Le labyrinthe est donc à la fois un
lieu physique, matériel, où un certain nombre de péripéties se déroulent, mais
aussi un motif visuel qui tend vers l’abstraction.
De manière comparable dans 2001, le monolithe est un objet physique que
l’on perçoit par la vue et par l’ouïe (son sifflement strident assourdit les astro-
nautes de la base lunaire), mais c’est aussi une figure symbolique dont la signi-
fication reste profondément énigmatique (Figures 8, 9 et 10). Michel Chion a
répertorié quelques-unes des interprétations possibles de cette figure :
- Le monolithe est un symbole anthropologique à la manière des pierres érigées
de Stonehenge.

5 Stanley Kubrick, L’Humain ni plus, ni moins, op. cit., p. 47.


132 Pierre Beylot

- Le monolithe est totem, phallique.


- Le monolithe est l’anti-monument, l’anti-sépulture.
- Le monolithe, horizontal ou vertical, est symbole de l’abstraction.
- Le monolithe est l’écrit (le livre fermé) en tant qu’il se tait (Hal parle).
- Le monolithe est là et puis « plus là » (cf. Lacan).
- Le monolithe est le Père6.
Le labyrinthe, le monolithe ou encore la chambre Louis XVI d’« Au-delà
de l’infini », sont des opérateurs d’abstraction qui convertissent les motifs et les
lieux fictionnels en espaces symboliques sans opérer une clôture du sens, car
la chaîne des interprétations de chacune de ces figures reste infinie. Le dernier
chapitre de 2001 témoigne bien de ce glissement vers une symbolisation
ouverte à une multiplicité de possibles interprétatifs : la chambre Louis XVI
y apparaît d’abord dans le cadre ovale de la capsule spatiale avant de s’éman-
ciper de cette référence à l’univers de la science-fiction et de se présenter clai-
rement comme le terme symbolique de l’existence humaine. On semble donc
sortir du récit très codé de SF pour emprunter la voie beaucoup plus abstraite
et énigmatique d’une méditation métaphysique, mais il faut bien garder à
l’esprit que chez Kubrick coexistent toujours ambition conceptuelle et sens de
la dérision qui se manifeste ici par le kitsch du décor d’un blanc immaculé de
la chambre Louis XVI qui crée un effet de distanciation ironique.
Deux autres phénomènes témoignent de cette conversion de l’espace
fictionnel en un espace symbolique focalisé autour des processus mentaux des
personnages : le premier est l’intériorisation de l’action qui se manifeste notam-
ment par la récurrence de la figure du huis-clos. Les vaisseaux spatiaux hermé-
tiquement clos de 2001, les intérieurs éclairés à la bougie de Barry Lyndon, les
espaces spectacularisés de violence ou d’enfermement dans Orange mécanique,
le labyrinthe et les couloirs de l’hôtel Overlook dans Shining sont autant de
dispositifs de restriction de l’espace diégétique qui enferment les personnages
dans des espaces de socialisation très restreints, voire dans une solitude presque
totale. À des milliers de kilomètres de la terre, au fond d’une prison ou dans
un hôtel perdu dans les Rocheuses, les personnages sont coupés du monde et
cet isolement entraîne des actions plus intériorisées dans lequel le personnage
est d’abord confronté à lui-même et à ses fantasmes violents ou mortifères. La
clôture de l’espace fictionnel tend à symboliser la clôture de l’espace mental
des personnages, même lorsque ces derniers se trouvent au sein d’un groupe,
comme on peut le voir dans Orange mécanique dans le Korova  Milkbar où
Alex DeLarge siège au milieu de ses droogies ou dans la petite cuisine étriquée
aux couleurs criardes des parents d’Alex dans le même film (Figures 11 et 12).
Le deuxième procédé qui tire l’espace fictionnel vers l’abstraction consiste
à traiter les espaces extérieurs comme des décors, et non pas comme des
espaces réalistes qui permettraient une immersion illusionniste dans un

6 Stanley Kubrick, L’Humain ni plus, ni moins, op. cit., p. 268-270.


Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau : du concept à l’espace mental 133

univers transparent. Les effets de rimes visuelles, jouant sur la répétition et la


variation autour de certains motifs, contribuent à cette stylisation des espaces
fictionnels qui tendent vers la déréalisation et se chargent d’une dimension
symbolique. Ainsi, dans Shining, les vues extérieures de l’hôtel Overlook,
de plus en plus enseveli sous la neige, ponctuent le déroulement de l’action
et effacent progressivement le décor environnant  : plus on avance dans le
film, plus s’impose une seule réalité tangible, celle de l’hôtel qui n’est plus
un lieu matériel, identifiable géographiquement, mais un lieu symbolique
où se déchaînent les fantasmes meurtriers de Jack  Torrance. La tendance à
traiter la réalité diégétique comme un simulacre apparaît d’une autre manière
dans Barry Lyndon, où se produit un effet « carte postale » avec les plans de
châteaux qui rythment le parcours de Barry : le récit picaresque devient une
sorte de toile de fond devant laquelle se déploie une action dominée par l’idée
fixe du protagoniste, celle d’aller jusqu’au bout d’une ascension sociale qui le
conduira à d’amères désillusions et à une fin misérable.

L’axe œil-cerveau : exploration mentale et opacité

Nous avons décrit les espaces kubrickiens comme des espaces de circula-
tion symbolique où le monde fictionnel renvoie comme en miroir à l’espace
mental, mais nous avons pour l’instant laissé de côté un des vecteurs de cette
circulation que l’on pourrait appeler « l’axe œil-cerveau », où se manifeste de
la manière la plus profonde la relation entre le corps et la pensée. C’est au
travers de l’organe du regard – l’œil – que s’opère cette relation envisagée par
Kubrick comme problématique, car l’œil peut donner accès à l’univers mental
du personnage, souvent de manière violente, forcée, mais il peut aussi bloquer
tout accès à son intériorité, littéralement faire écran. On peut donc envisager
cet axe « œil-cerveau » selon deux modalités opposées : celle de l’exploration
mentale ou celle de l’opacité.
Avec l’axe œil-cerveau, on n’a plus affaire à des figures symboliques inscrites
dans la matérialité d’un objet ou d’un décor (monolithe, labyrinthe), mais
d’une figure profondément anthropomorphique qui est celle de l’œil. Le traite-
ment particulier de ce motif dans le cinéma de Kubrick consiste souvent à l’as-
socier à un contexte de violence, d’aliénation, de dépossession comme l’illustre
par excellence le « traitement Ludovico » dans Orange mécanique (Figure 13).
La vision optique en tant que perception sensorielle – les images de violence et
de sexe étant associées ironiquement à la musique de « Ludwig van » – conduit
ici à un formatage psychique qui transforme de fond en comble la personnalité
du malheureux Alex DeLarge soumis à cette expérimentation.
La vision peut être aussi associée à une autre forme d’expérience-limite,
celle de la traversée de « l’au-delà de l’infini » dans 2001 où l’image de l’œil de
l’astronaute, soumis à différentes sortes de déformations chromatiques, s’ins-
crit dans un paysage de formes abstraites et colorées, un univers psychédélique
134 Pierre Beylot

dont on ne sait s’il est un espace cosmique ou un espace purement mental.


L’œil de Dave est ainsi détaché de son corps, passant dans une autre dimen-
sion, dans un au-delà de la vision. Dans le même film, Kubrick joue également
sur les limites de la vision et le rapport problématique œil-cerveau en repro-
duisant le regard machinique, « l’œil-caméra » en fish-eye de l’ordinateur Hal,
d’autant plus redoutable qu’il s’agit d’un œil panoptique, sans lieu assignable,
sans corps, mais doté d’un cerveau surpuissant et de capacités perceptives hors
du commun comme celle de lire sur les lèvres des astronautes (Figure 14).
L’axe œil-cerveau est également au centre de Shining où s’opère une sorte de
court-circuit entre vision optique et vision mentale : le regard fixe, exorbité de
Danny, de Jack, de Hallorann et de Wendy face aux hallucinations sanglantes
qui les habitent est un regard qui refuse de voir et qui va au-delà de la vision en
tant qu’expérience perceptive. Il fait de la vision une expérience traumatique
que le personnage ne maîtrise pas et qui nous donne accès à un espace mental
dépersonnalisé, puisque partagé par plusieurs personnages de la diégèse : c’est
le principe du « shining » comme vision extra-sensorielle (Figure 15).
L’axe œil-cerveau a un premier versant que l’ont vient d’évoquer où l’on a
une accessibilité immédiate à l’intériorité tourmentée du personnage. L’autre
versant est au contraire celui de l’opacité où l’œil de la caméra ne saisit rien
de ses pensées et donne au contraire à voir un visage impénétrable, souvent
filmé par de longs zooms arrière. Tous les films de notre corpus offrent de
nombreuses occurrences de cet autre traitement de « l’axe œil-cerveau » : c’est,
par exemple, le visage énigmatique de Lady Lyndon, perdue dans ses pensées
d’épouse délaissée, ou bien le travelling arrière sur le groupe figé d’Alex et de
ses droogies au Korova Milkbar, ou encore le zoom avant sur le rictus inquié-
tant de Jack  Torrance, habité de pensées que l’on suppose mortifères mais
qu’il est impossible d’identifier précisément. Tous ces moments constituent
des stases narratives où le récit est mis en suspens ou entre parenthèses : le seul
mouvement est celui de la caméra qui explore le visage mutique des person-
nages selon une esthétique marquée par une intertextualité plus picturale que
cinématographique, entre peinture intimiste pour Barry  Lyndon et extrava-
gance kitsch pour Orange mécanique.

Pour conclure, nous voudrions revenir sur la tension, voire la contra-


diction, entre pensée et récit sur lesquelles nous commencions cet article en
retenant deux points en particulier. D’une part, rappelons les trois mouve-
ments qui permettent à cette tension de se déployer au sein de la «  noos-
phère7  » kubrickienne  : celle d’une armature narrative et conceptuelle qui

7 La notion de « noosphère » a été introduite par Teilhard de Chardin en 1925 et reprise par le


philosophe russe Vladimir Vernadsky pour désigner l’univers de la pensée comme système clos.
C’est moins la dimension totalisante de la noosphère que nous retenons ici que sa dimension
dynamique : chez Kubrick, la sphère de la pensée est un lieu de tensions et de conflits, c’est,
selon les mots de Deleuze, « le circuit dans lequel [les pensées] entrent avec l’image-mouvement,
Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau : du concept à l’espace mental 135

encadre le récit mais produit aussi bien des effets de déphasage que de struc-
turation ; celle du jeu d’écho et de réflexivité entre intériorité et extériorité,
entre espaces fictionnels et espaces mentaux, entre motifs visuels et figures
symboliques ; celle, enfin, de la relation problématique entre le regard et le
psychisme autour de l’axe « œil-cerveau ». D’autre part, nous insisterons sur
le caractère problématique, incertain et ambigu de ce processus d’élaboration
conceptuelle et fictionnelle qui est au cœur de la création kubrickienne et qui
doit avant tout être entendu, non pas comme un geste de clôture du sens,
mais comme un mouvement indéfini de construction et de déconstruction.

Pierre Beylot
Université Bordeaux Montaigne
Pierre.Beylot@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr

Résumé
Quel rapport le cinéma entretient-il avec la pensée ? C’est au travers de la métaphore du « film-
cerveau » proposée par Gilles Deleuze que nous envisageons cette question sous trois aspects :
celui de la pensée en acte du cinéaste qui déploie une armature conceptuelle qui enveloppe et
circonscrit le développement du récit sans que, cependant, celui-ci lui soit totalement inféodé ;
le deuxième aspect est celui du monde fictionnel envisagé comme monde-cerveau peuplé de
figures – monolithe, labyrinthe, huis clos… – où se cristallise la relation entre espace mental et
espace physique ; enfin, la corporéité du film-cerveau s’affirme dans la relation entre l’œil et le
cerveau quand le cinéma de Kubrick donne à voir des univers mentaux obsessionnels et trau-
matiques et souligne en même temps les limites de cette exploration psychique. Ce parcours
dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau sera mené au travers d’une période particulièrement dense
de la création kubrickienne, allant de 2001 (1968) à Shining (1980).
Mots-clés
« Film-cerveau », cinéma et espace mental, cinéma et abstraction, motif de l’œil au cinéma,
exosquelette narratif.
Abstract
What kind of connection does cinema entertain with thought? Through Gilles Deleuze’s metaphor
of a “film-brain”, I envision this question under three different lights: the active thought of the film-
maker which builds up a conceptual framework, envelopping and circumscribing the narrative yet
without fully subordinating it; secondly, the fictive world envisionned as world-brain and filled with
motifs –monolith, maze, enclosed space– where the relation between mental space and physical space
crystallises; lastly, the corporeality of the film-brain which is highlighted by the eye-brain relationship
whenever Kubrick’s cinema depicts obsessive, traumatic mental spaces, and which simultaneously
underlines the limits of such mental exploration. This journey through the maze of the film-brain
relies on Kubrick’s particularly active creative period, from 2001 (1968) up to The Shining (1980).
Keywords
“film-brain”, cinema and mental space, cinema and abstraction, motif of the eye on film, narrative
framework.

la puissance commune de ce qui force à penser et de ce qui pense sous le choc : un noochoc »,
autrement dit le « choc qui éveille le penseur en vous », L’Image-Temps, op. cit., p. 204.
136 Pierre Beylot

NOTICE BIOGRAPHIQUE

Pierre Beylot, professeur des universités en Études cinématographiques et audiovisuelles


à l’Université Bordeaux Montaigne, est spécialiste du récit de fiction au cinéma et à la télévi-
sion. Il est notamment l’auteur du Récit audiovisuel (Armand Colin, 2005), d’Analyse d’une
œuvre : Conte d’été, É. Rohmer, 1996 (avec Martin Barnier, Vrin, 2011), de Buffet froid de
Bertrand Blier (Atlande, 2017). Il a également dirigé ou co-dirigé plusieurs ouvrages collec-
tifs, parmi lesquels Emprunts et citations dans le champ artistique (2004), Les Séries policières
(co-dir., 2004), Fictions patrimoniales sur grand et petit écran. Contours et enjeux d’un genre
intermédiatique (co-dir., 2009), Les Images en question. Cinéma, télévision, nouvelles images :
les voies de la recherche (co-dir., 2011), Images pour/suite : remake, franchise, filiation (co-dir.),
MAP, n° 10, 2018. Il est actuellement responsable de la section Cinéma et du Master Cinéma
et Audiovisuel de l’Université Bordeaux Montaigne.
Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau : du concept à l’espace mental 137

Figure 1 : 2001 : l’odyssée


Figure 1 : 2001 : l’odyssée
de l’espace de l’espace.
; Figure 2 (ci-dessous) : Barry Lyndon
Figure 1 : 2001 : l’odyssée
Figure 1 : 2001 : l’odyssée de l’espace
de l’espace; Figure 2 (ci-dessous)
; Figure 2 (ci-dessous) : Barry Lyndon
: Barry Lyndon

Figure 2 : Barry Lyndon.
138 Pierre Beylot

Figure 3 : Shining.
Figure 3 : Shining
Figure 3 : Shining

Figure 4 : Orange mécanique


Figure 4 : Orange mécanique.
Figure 4 : Orange mécanique
5 5 6 6
Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau : du concept à l’espace mental 139

5 56

5 6
7 7 8 8
7
5 5 7 6 6 8
Figures
Figures
5, 6, 7 : Shining
5, 6, 7 : Shining
; Figures 8, 9, 10 : 2001
Figures ; Figures 8, 9, 10 : 2001
5, 7
6 et 7 : Shining. Figures 5, 6, 7 : Shining
8 ; Figu
Figures 5, 6, 7 : Shining ; Figures 8, 9, 10 : 2001
5 6 Figures 5, 6, 7 : Shining ; Figures 8, 9, 10 : 2001

7 7 8 8

Figures
Figures
5, 6, 7 : Shining
5, 6, 7 : Shining
; Figures 8, 9, 10 : 2001
; Figures 8, 9, 10 : 2001 9
7 8 9 10
9 10
9Figures98, 9 et 10 : 2001. 10 10
Shining ; Figures 8, 9, 10 : 2001

9 9 10 10
11 12 11

Figures
11 11 et 12 : Orange mécanique 12
Figures 11 et 12 : Orange
9 10

Figures 11 et 12 : Orange mécanique


11 11 11 11 12 12 12 12
Figures 11 et 12 : Orange mécanique.
Figures
Figures
11 et 12 : Orange mécanique
11 et 12 : Orange mécanique
Figures
Figures
11 et 12 : Orange mécanique
11 et 12 : Orange mécanique
11 12

res 11 et 12 : Orange mécanique

Figure 13 : Orange mécanique.


Figure 13 : Orange mécanique
Figure 13 : Orange mécanique
140 Pierre Beylot
Figure Figure
13 : Orange mécanique
13 : Orange mécanique
Figure 13 : Orange mécanique
Figure 13 : Orange mécanique

Figure 14 : 2001.
Figure Figure
14 : 2001
14 : 2001
; Figure 15 (ci-dessous)
; Figure 15 (ci-dessous)
: Shining
: Shining
Figure 14 : 2001
Figure 14 : 2001
; Figure 15 (ci-dessous)
; Figure 15 (ci-dessous)
: Shining
: Shining

Figure 15 : 2001.
The Kubrick Cinematic Universe

Rod Munday

In this paper, I will explore Kubrick’s body of work as a cinematic universe.


The concept is particularly associated with the comicbook universes of Marvel
and DC and their film franchises. I intend to apply it to a textual analysis of
Kubrick’s film oeuvre. I define a cinematic universe as a closed system in which
the meta-storyworld of “the universe” represents a synthesis of the various
storyworlds and iconography of individual Kubrick films, which have hitherto
been interpreted separately. I will claim that this meta-Kubrick film, as an
analytical object, can tell us something about the Kubrickian, or the sensibi-
lities of the person who created it. However, the Kubrickian is not the same
thing as Kubrick the person, the former does not represent the biography of
the filmmaker, nor his personality, but rather is an aggregated impression of
Kubrick’s preferences and values that are communicated via his body of work.
A similar idea to this is outlined by Claude Lefort,1 writing from within
the framework of auteur theory. Lefort claims that the auteur and the
oeuvre represent a reciprocal system, both aspects of which serve as a mutual
guarantee. Kubrick himself lends some credence to this idea when he said
“I would not think of quarrelling with your interpretation nor offering any
other, as I have found it always the best policy to let the film speak for itself.”2

Method

The main method I shall use is a form of textual and semiotic analysis,
based upon network theory –a discipline whose impact has been amplified
due to the rise of the Internet as a mass communications medium. A network

1 Lefort C., Machiavelli in the Making. M.B. Smith (trans.). Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern
University Press, 2012, p. 23.
2 Hollis, A. “War and Justice.” Saturday Review, December 21, 1957, quoted in Kagan N. The
Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, New York: Continuum, 2000, p. 137.
142 Rod Munday

is defined as an object comprising of both nodes and the links between them.
For example, the nodes of a computer network are the individual computers
and its links are the hardwire or Wi-Fi connections. Networks appear in many
different topographical guises, although the form I am interested in using as a
way to structure an analysis of Kubrick films are called “scale free networks.”
These are naturally evolving networks where a minority of nodes within the
network attract many more of the links than other nodes, thus forming hubs.
Scale free networks are found in a wide variety of naturally occurring objects,
from the cellular level of life,3 to the structure of galaxies.4
Scale free networks have three main characteristics that identify them.5
The first is a phenomenon known as high clustering coefficiency. The nodes
of an evolving network are not just randomly distributed but tend to form
into groups surrounding one particular node, which is more connected than
the rest.6 The second is that these clusters then themselves cluster around one
particular node that becomes a hub, or the most connected node over the
entire network.7 The third characteristic is that connectivity over the entire
network can be achieved involving very few steps. Communication across a
network takes place in the form of a dyadic connection between individual
nodes. But due to the presence of both clusters and hubs, communication
occurs between any two nodes in the network in a surprisingly small number
of steps. This is otherwise known as six degrees of separation, or the small
world phenomenon, studied by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s.8 No matter
how large or complex the network is, the steps linking its individual nodes
remain about the same number. For example, there are just 4.7 steps connect-
ing all the users of Facebook, which has over two billion members.9
The network is the cinematic universe itself. Its nodes are the various signs
that can be considered meaningful elements within the individual films. Its
links are the affinities between nodes that occur in different films. Clusters and
hubs in network theory are today called “influencers”10, because their opinions

3 Barabási A.L. & Bonabeau E., “Scale-Free Networks”, Scientific American, 2003, 288: p. 60-9.
4 Barabási A.L., Linked: How Everything Is Connected To Everything Else And What It Means For
Business, Science, And Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books, 2014, p. 71-2.
5 Zhang Z., Zhou S. & Chen  L., “Evolving Pseudofractal Networks”. The European Physical
Journal B, 2007, 58(3): 337-344.
6 Watts D.J. & Strogatz S., “Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks”. Nature, 1998,
393(6684): 440-442.
7 Barabási A.L., Linked: How Everything Is Connected To Everything Else And What It Means For
Business, Science, And Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books, 2014, p. 54.
8 Milgram S., “The Small-World Problem”, Psychology Today 1 May, 1967: 62-67.
9 Ugander J., Karrer B., Backstrom L. & Marlow  C., “The anatomy of the Facebook social
graph”, 2011, p. 4. Online, URL: Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.4503 [last accessed
13 Oct. 2017].
10 Kietzmann J.H., Hermkens K, McCarthy I.P. & Silvestre B.S., “Social media? Get serious!
The Kubrick Cinematic Universe 143

set the trends for the whole network. In the Kubrick cinematic universe, the
clusters are the pervasive themes found across Kubrick’s films and the hub is
the sensibility of Kubrick himself, who, like a composer, orchestrates these
themes in his work. The nodes are the sign elements found in his films that
the digital theorist Espen Aarseth terms “textons”.11 These are the signs that
are materially present in any text, examples of which include instances of
dialogue, or elements of the mise-en-scène of a film. The interpretation of
textons when viewing a film produces what Aarseth calls “scriptons”.12 These
are the signs created in the mind of the reader from the textons that are avai-
lable. In digital texts such as videogames, for example, the textons can be
reconfigured by the user at the level of the text; however, in traditional media
(such as films), textons cannot be altered, although the scriptons that make
up the readings of them can differ considerably between one interpreter and
another, because the interpretation that a reader makes is unique to them.
In applying these ideas to an analysis of cinematic universes, one can say that
the hubs of the universes of comicbook films are the reoccurring characters or
events of the meta-narrative. For example, the character of Tony Stark is a hub
in the Marvel universe, because his character’s timeline intersects with those of
many other characters. To extend the concept to an analysis of Kubrick films, we
can say that the hubs in this universe are more centred upon common thematics
and aesthetics. For example, a candidate hub is the theme of how otherwise
perfect systems are let down by human fallibilities. Or how the reoccurrence of
symmetric compositions in the mise-en-scène of his films suggests a worldview
that interrogates the human condition in an ordered or systematic way.
2001: A Space Odyssey is an exemplary film to demonstrate how an inter-
pretive method that is already applied to an individual film can be scaled up to
apply to his entire oeuvre. 2001 comprises a mostly visual text; the language
elements that would anchor its meaning to a preferred interpretation13, are
therefore mostly absent. Consequently, thematic points and ideas are commu-
nicated pictorially rather than lexically. The trick at arriving at a satisfying
interpretation for the film –one which draws all of its disparate elements
together into a coherent explanation– is to link the textons intratextually
as a network of signs. An interpreter does this by comparing or contrasting
textons found in one part of the film with those found in other parts. In so
doing, the interpreter constructs a storyline for the film that organizes its affi-

Understanding the functional building blocks of social media”. Business Horizons, 2011,
54(3):241-251.
11 Aarseth Espen J., Cybertext: Perspectives on Egodic Literature. Baltimore, US: John  Hopkins
Press, 1997, p. 63.
12 Ibid.
13 Barthes, R., Image, Music, Text. S.  Heath (trans.). London: Fontana Press, HarperCollins
Publishers, 1977, p. 39-40.
144 Rod Munday

nities and dissaffinities as scriptons into a covering explanation. For example,


the prehistoric scenes in the “Dawn of Man” section are connected to events
that happen later in the narrative: the glowing eyes of the leopard are linked
to the glowing eyes of HAL, and this trope identifies them both as threats to
the existence of humanity. Another instance is how the barren landscape of
the prehistoric hominids is linked to the barrenness of the lunar landscape (or
to outer space), both of these extraterrestrial environments suggesting similar
challenges for human species survival.
If these connections are not made, 2001 would appear to interpreters
to be just a series of random unconnected events. So the hermeneutic work
involves joining both contingent and associative textons within an indivi-
dual film to create a coherent series of scriptons that explains them. I suggest
this method can be expanded to look for connections across the whole of
Kubrick’s body of work. Furthermore, it is often the case that interpreters
will draw upon other semiotic elements that occur outside of the film text
to endorse their coherent interpretation. For example, in 2001, a commonly
discussed connection links the various stages of humanity (hominid, contem-
porary and starchild) to the stages outlined in the philosophy of Nietzsche.
This, however, is a riskier strategy, since the texton-scripton relationship has
been stretched beyond the intratextual into the realm of the intertextual.
Nevertheless in some cases, Kubrick’s textons actually seem to suggest such
associative readings. For instance, by the use of Richard Strauss tone poem,
“Thus Spake Zarathustra” as the title music for 2001.
A full analysis is beyond the scope of this paper. I will begin by focusing
on just three films: Fear and Desire (1953), Killer’s Kiss (1955), and The Killing
(1956), as the springboard for connections that will range over the entirety
of Kubrick’s oeuvre. I have chosen these films because they are the least
written about.

Fear and Desire

Kubrick’s first feature film, Fear and Desire, made when he was twenty
four years old14, is a contested addition to the Kubrick oeuvre, because of the
efforts the director made to disown it; allegedly attempting to purchase all
the copies so that he could destroy them.15 While the film is very much an
apprentice work, Kubrick’s moody black and white photography stands out.
However, his handling of the performances and elementary mistakes made
with the editing betray the fact that he was a filmmaking novice.

14 Life, “A Silent Virginia is Discovered”, Life Magazine (11th May, 1953), p. 122 & 125.
15 Rhodes Gary D., Stanley Kubrick: Essays on His Films and Legacy. Jefferson: McFarland &
Company Inc., Publishers, 2008, p. 30.
The Kubrick Cinematic Universe 145

Fear and Desire takes place in an unspecified country at a time when a war
is raging. Four soldiers are stranded behind enemy lines. The film begins with
a sonorous monologue that foregrounds the films status as a fiction.
There is war in this forest. Not a war that’s been fought, or one that will
be, but any war. And the enemies who struggle here do not exist, unless we
call them into being.
The reflexive strategy of foregrounding the film’s fictional status is
mirrored in other places in the narrative. Kubrick and his writer, Howard
Sackler, make frequent references to Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest –a play
that is also concerned with its ontological status as a fiction. The opening
narration, for example, echoes the themes of Prospero’s famous “our revels
now have ended” speech in Act  4 Scene  1: “Yea, all which it inherit, shall
dissolve; And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind.”
The Tempest also provides the frame for Sidney’s descent into madness. Sidney,
the youngest and most childlike of the four soldiers, is given the duty of
guarding an enemy captive (credited only as, “the girl”). She is restrained by
being tied to a tree, like Ariel in The Tempest, trapped by the witch Sycorax.
Sidney’s madness involved quoting from the play and when he eventually
kills the girl, he blames her death on the magician (Prospero). At the end of
the film, Sidney is found wading in a river singing Ariel’s song, “Full Fathom
Five.” An additional more oblique reference to The Tempest appears in the
scenes between the enemy General and his dog, “Proteus”. Proteus is named
after the ever-changing god of the sea, whose name means “the first being”16,
the source for the adjective “protean”. Ideas of metamorphosis and the sea
connects to the theme of Ariel’s song to the god, Proteus, who is also used by
James Joyce as the title for the third part of his novel, Ulysses, as a metaphor
for “the fluctuations of consciousness.”17
While these allusions are interesting, Kubrick does not manage to find a
dramatically satisfying way to weave them into the narrative. Consequently it
is difficult to know how to interpret them. The filmmaker is clearly ambitious.
He strives for gravitas and sophistication. But he lacks the subtlety and the
artistry to achieve his aims. For example, in the film’s opening narration he
uses an authoritative voice to tell us to doubt the film’s ontological authority.
Kubrick thereby undercuts his own authority as a filmmaker, through telling
us of his reflexive intentions. In his later works, he would find ways to hide
this crude didacticism. In Barry Lyndon, for instance, the narration is used as
an ironic counterpoint to the events shown in the narrative.18 The pronounce-

16 Jung C.G., Kerényi K., Science of Mythology: Essays on The Myth of The Divine Child and The
Mysteries of Eleusis, R.F.C. Hull (trans.). London: Routledge, 2002, p. 58.
17 Spinks L., James Joyce: A Critical Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009, p. 102.
18 Ciment M., Kubrick: The Definitive Edition. London: Faber and Faber, 1999, p. 170.
146 Rod Munday

ments of the Thackerayan narrator are constantly contradicted by the events


that are shown in the film.19 This technique undermines the authority of the
narrator, through persuading audiences to question the trustworthiness of the
narrative, without directly telling them to do so.
Fear and Desire is an instructive film because it demonstrates that Kubrick
was always interested in incorporating big themes into his stories, therefore
countering accusations that his admirers are suffering from interpretive over-
reach by reading too much into them. In Fear and Desire the allegories and
symbolism are blatant. Kubrick in later life would find more sophisticated
and subtler ways to disguise them. However, he remained the ambitious and
intellectually curious person who was the director of Fear and Desire. In his
preface to the published scripts of The Dekalog, Kubrick discusses that, “very
rare ability of writers and directors who are able to dramatize their ideas rather
than just talking about them.”20 In Fear and Desire he had clearly not mastered
this ability yet.
In his subsequent films, Kubrick deploys many reflexive strategies to
separate an audience’s intellectual appreciation from their emotional engage-
ment. Like Bertolt Brecht, he would specialise in alienation effects.21 Reflexivity
operates across a number of dimensions in his films. For example, stylistically
the sugar-glass bottles and the break-away balsa-wood furniture featured in
the fight between Alex’s Droogs and Billy Boys gang in A Clockwork Orange
are reflexive because they recall many of the standard gags used in the choreo-
graphy of saloon bar brawls from Classical Hollywood Westerns. He also shot
Alex’s daydream of a crucifixion scene in the style of a Hollywood Biblical
epic –similarly Kubrick remarked that the characters of Dr Strangelove and
Dr Zempf from Lolita were parodies of movie clichés about the Nazis.22 This
preference for stylistic artifice is also shown in A Clockwork Orange with
the obvious rear projection used in the Durango 95 scenes, and in the self
conscious use of dialectical montage to represent Alex’s masturbatory day-
dream sequence –which include the intercutting of other films– the hanging
scene from Cat Ballou (Silverstein 1965) and the rocks falling on cave people
from Creatures the World Forgot (Chaffey, 1966). These techniques are the
visual equivalent to the phrase, “it’s only a movie”; they function both to show
the full horror of Alex’s actions, but also to soften them sufficiently, so that the
anti hero character can still serve as a sympathetic protagonist.

19 Miller M.C., “Kubrick’s Anti-Reading of The Luck of Barry Lyndon”, Comparative Literature,
1976, 91(6): 1360-1379.
20 Kubrick S., “Forward”. Kieślowski  Krzysztof & Piesiewicz  Krzysztof, Decalogue: The Ten
Commandments. London: Faber & Faber, 1991, p. vi.
21 Esslin M., Brecht: A Choice of Evils. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1971, p. 129.
22 Ciment M., Kubrick: The Definitive Edition. London: Faber and Faber, 1999, p. 156.
The Kubrick Cinematic Universe 147

Kubrick made frequent references to his previous films in his oeuvre. In


Lolita, for example, Quilty, dressed in a sheet, declares that he is Spartacus, and
asks Humbert if he has “come to free the slaves or something?” In A Clockwork
Orange, the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey is prominently displayed in the
record store that Alex visits. And in the same film, the Ludovico serum labelled
as “serum 114” –is a pun on the “CRM 114”, the communications scrambling
device featured in Dr  Strangelove. Finally in Barry  Lyndon, the painting that
Barry wants to purchase is by the artist Ludovico. There is even a subtle reference
to Fear and Desire in Eyes Wide Shut. Alice Hartford watches the film Blume In
Love (1973) on television as she phones her husband Bill. The film is directed
by Paul Mazursky, who played Sidney in Fear and Desire. Its title also references
Joyce’s Ulysses. In Mazursky’s film Blume (a play on Joyce’s Leopold Bloom) is
a man who is trying to come to terms with his divorce, which connects to the
central theme of marriage and infidelity in Eyes Wide Shut.
The main dramatic interest in Fear and Desire comes from the juxtapo-
sition between the motives of the soldier, Mac, and those of the unnamed
enemy General. The film’s central theme is a striving for significance in an
otherwise uncaring universe. This is explored through the motif of self-sacri-
fice. Mac’s idealism is contrasted with the weary cynicism of the General,
through the intercutting of their scenes. In proposing his idea to assassinate
the General, Mac speaks directly about his life to his commanding officer,
Lieutenant Colby. He says: “Here I am. I’m 34  years old. I’ve never done
anything important. When this is over I’ll fix radios and washing machines.”
Later, when Mac is paddling down the river to meet his destiny, he says in
a voice-over narration, “It’s better to roll up your life into one night than
to be hurt with all the separate hates exploding day after day.” Meanwhile,
the General in his cabin meditates on the futility of his power in a speech
addressed to his Captain: “Frankly, I still become uneasy when I find myself
trapped directing the courses of frightened men. I cannot quite admit that it
is I who am creating a slaughter in this abyss.” Both characters are shown to
be imprisoned by their respective social positions. Both are trapped between
the twin polarities of a fear of consequences and a desire for consequentiality.
The futility of war theme is one that Kubrick will return to again and
again. Like Joker in Full Metal Jacket, Mac and the General are in a “world of
shit”, not of their making. And like the soldiers who are sacrificed in Paths of
Glory, or the millions who die at the end of Dr Strangelove, they are people
who are the victims of forces beyond their control –a failing that Kubrick
suggests is hardwired into the human condition itself. This sense of futility
as a motivation for human heroism and anxiety is also present in films that
are ostensibly not about war. For example, in 2001:A Space Odyssey it is refe-
renced in the central preoccupation of the film: the question of the possibility
of alien life. Kubrick stated in a Playboy interview promoting 2001 that: “The
148 Rod Munday

very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning… however
vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”23

Killer’s Kiss

Killer’s Kiss (1955) is a contemporary Film Noir, dealing with boxing and
gangster life in New York City. It was again written by Howard Sackler, this
time in collaboration with Kubrick. It is a far more straightforward genre
picture than Fear and Desire. The story of Killer’s Kiss is essentially a fairy tale;
the good knight, Davey Gordon –a boxer in the twilight of his career– sets
out to rescue a princess, Gloria, from the amorous clutches of a vicious ogre,
Vinnie Rapallo, a part-time gangster, who is also the owner of the taxi-dance
hall where Gloria works.
As a means to emphasise his virtue, Davey Gordon is given a corny back-
story worthy of Clarke  Kent. We discover, through letters and telephone
calls, that Davey grew up on a farm in Seattle with his Uncle George and
Aunt Grace, both of whom yearn for him to return home again. As was the
case with Fear and Desire, the photography, lighting and composition of the
images in Killer’s Kiss is strikingly accomplished, and in marked contrast to
the acting, writing and editing. However, Kubrick shows that he is a quick
study as a filmmaker, and demonstrates a better understanding of pacing and
drama than in his previous work, especially in its climatic last quarter and in
the boxing match featuring Davey Gordon.
Boxing –a staple subject of Kubrick’s photography work with Look and
also of his first short film, Day of the Fight (1951)– features strongly in the
narrative. Kubrick covers the fight scenes with roving handheld camerawork
and the use of a subjective point of view, which recalls both the fight scene
between Alex and the Cat Lady in A Clockwork Orange, and the fight between
Barry and O’Toole in Barry Lydon.
The director of Killer’s Kiss is clearly not afraid to experiment with film
techniques. For example, Davey Gordon has a nightmare, which is depicted
in the form of a startling tracking shot through the backstreets of New York
City, in negative, and accompanied by a woman’s scream. The movement
of this tracking shot and its abstract expressionism anticipates the stargate
sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Foreshadowing events in the narrative, a favourite storytelling technique
of Kubrick, is also present in this film. Kubrick was attracted to this technique
because it minimised the effect of surprise. As he stated in an interview with
Michel  Ciment: “What is important is not what is going to happen, but

23 Nordern E., “Playboy Interview: Stanley Kubrick”, 1968, in Stanley Kubrick Interviews,
Gene D. Phillips (ed.). Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2001, p. 47-74.
The Kubrick Cinematic Universe 149

how it will happen. […] to gain a greater sense of inevitability and a better
integration of what might otherwise seem melodramatic or contrived.”24 In
Killer’s Kiss, the entrance to the taxi-dance hall is at the end of a long flight
of stairs where a sign that reads, “watch your step” is prominently displayed.
Undoubtedly the presence of this sign is serendipitous, given the guerrilla
filming techniques that Kubrick used. However, its presence symbolises the
sense of dread faced by Gloria. In later films, Kubrick would utilise fores-
hadowing frequently. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the point of view shot of
the astronauts’ lips moving reveals to the audience that HAL knows they are
plotting against him. Similarly the scene depicting the strained marriage at
the beginning of The Shining already suggests fault lines that will open up
later in the narrative. Finally the death of Barry’s son, Bryan, in Barry Lyndon,
removes all sense of surprise and shock over the tragedy and lends instead
a sense of inevitability about Barry’s impending downfall. The narrator also
underscores this sense of fatalism through dramatic irony.
The climax of Killer’s Kiss is a fight scene between Gordon and Rapallo that
takes place in a warehouse full of tailor’s mannequins. It is a scene that attests
to Kubrick’s fascination with masks. At the end of the fight Gordon spears
Rapallo and Kubrick cuts to the face of one of the mannequins. This is a shot
choice that is recapitulated in A Clockwork Orange, with a crash zoom into a
painting as Alex kills the Cat Lady. The mask motif is one that will appear in
many Kubrick films. In The Killing, Sterling Hayden wears a clown mask when
robbing the racetrack. Alex’s droogs wear masks in A Clockwork Orange when
they invade the homes of both the Writer and the Cat Lady. And the Somerton
orgy sequence in Eyes Wide Shut depicts a masked ball, with the rich and
powerful disguised by striking Venetian and expressionistic face coverings. As
Roger Caillois points out, masks have long been associated with erotic fetes and
with conspiracies.25 The mask liberates its wearer from social constraints, in a
world in which sexual and power relationships are otherwise taboo. In addition
to actual masks, Kubrick is also drawn to the face depicted as a mask. Especially
in times of heightened emotional intensity, his characters wear the rictus grins
and frozen expressions of both agony and ecstasy. Notable examples of this
trope are the painted face of Dolores Haze in Lolita in her confrontation with
Humbert, the astronaut Bowman as he prepares to blast through the airlock
in 2001, and Jack’s famous “Here’s Jonny!” line as his head appears through
the shattered bathroom door in The Shining. Masks are also part of the mise-
en-scène of Kubrick films. In the scenes that take place in the derelict casino
in A Clockwork Orange, the sides of the stage are framed by two enormous

24 Ciment M., Kubrick: The Definitive Edition. London: Faber and Faber, 1999, p. 170.
25 Caillois R., Les jeux et les hommes (Man, Play and Games). M. Barash, (trans.). Chicago, IL:
University of Illinois Press, 2001 (1958).
150 Rod Munday

carnival masks, their comic, and exaggerated features are associated with inde-
cencies, jostling, provocative laughter, exposed breasts, mimicking buffoonery,
and a permanent incitement to riot.26 Also, masks feature in the apartments of
Marian’s dying father and Domino the prostitute in Eyes Wide Shut.
On many occasions throughout his oeuvre, Kubrick uses the dichoto-
mies between the sacred and profane to shine a light on the otherwise private
aspects of the human condition. The Kubrick Cinematic universe is, for the
most part, a Godless place, but one in which the vestiges of a divine absence
are to be marked everywhere, in the rituals that Kubrick’s characters perform.
As with his fascination for bathrooms (which arguably perform a similar
functions to masks, in that they hide the user’s identity), Kubrick focuses on
these secular rituals as ways to reveal hidden facets possessed by his characters.
Oscar Wilde said “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give
him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”27 And Kubrick incorporates this
insight into his storytelling.

The Killing

The Killing, based on Lionel White’s (1955) novel, Clean Break, is the first
Kubrick film to be adapted from another source. The film’s script represents
a massive leap forward in quality from his earlier work. In his later works
Kubrick would favour adaptation over original screenplays, commissioning
material from writers to develop stories he could later turn into films. Being
able to analyse a completed narrative played to his strengths as a filmma-
ker. Like planning ahead in a chess game, he could strategise the best way to
present the scenes and foreground the thematics of the narrative. He excelled
at finding visual ways to dramatise the psychology and interiority of novels.
The Killing demonstrates Kubrick’s mastery over the complex, multi-threaded
narrative. The Robbery itself is a meticulously handled operation and Kubrick
manages to integrate all of the members of his large ensemble cast into a satis-
fying drama, where none of the roles seem superfluous or underwritten. In a
novel technique for the time Kubrick elects to tell this story out of temporal
sequence, an artistic decision that helps to foreground the dramatic irony of
Johnny Clay’s predicament, as the robbery unravels. This film also introduces
the pervasive Kubrickian theme of the perfect operation that is thwarted
by human fallibilities. This is a theme that is revisited, notably in Lolita,
Dr.  Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, although
there are traces of it in all his works.

26 Caillois R., Les jeux et les hommes, (Man, Play and Games). M. Barash, (trans.). Chicago, IL:
University of Illinois Press, 2001 (1958), p. 130.
27 Wilde O., “The Critic as Artist”, Complete Works, Vol. 4, Robert Ross (ed.). Massachusetts:
Wyman Fogg, 1921, p. 99-226.
The Kubrick Cinematic Universe 151

The Killing also marks the debut of another pervasive trope in the Kubrick
cinematic universe –the Kubrickian anti-hero. From Lolita onwards, Kubrick
displays a preference for flawed protagonists. Unlike other auteurs, such as
Fellini with his frequent casting of Marcello  Mastroianni, Bergman with
Max  von  Sydow, Tim  Burton with Johnny  Depp, or David  Lynch with
Kyle MacLachlan, Kubrick is an auteur who in many of his films does not
present the image of a sympathetic protagonist. His heroes tend not to be
virtuous, nor particularly admirable people. In some cases, such as Lolita, A
Clockwork Orange, and The Shining, they are monsters. Notable exceptions
to this trend are found in his work with Kirk Douglas, in Paths of Glory, and
Spartacus, where the real dramatic intrigue is provided by the machinations
of the powerful generals and senators who oversee the fates of the otherwise
noble protagonists. Even in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the ostensible hero roles
of Bowman and Poole are realised, not through their nobility or dramatic
passions, but through the systematic competences that would be expected of
those who would occupy such positions.
The antihero of The Killing, Johnny  Clay, is a professional criminal,
although he is presented a little too sympathetically in the narrative for his
criminality to be entirely credible. The moral universe of The Killing is one in
which bad deeds must not go unpunished. Possibly Kubrick was anxious about
maintaining audience sympathy, so he includes several scenes where Johnny’s
virtues are fulsomely praised by other characters such as Fay, Marvin, and
Maurice. In later films, Kubrick would gain more confidence as a storyteller
and make his hero less overtly likable and more interesting, so that the narra-
tive did not suffer whether audiences cared for them or not. Kubrick would
discover that he could be a more effective moralist if he confronted hegemo-
nic moral frameworks rather than endorsing them. By placing audiences in
the duplicitous position of sympathisers, Kubrick allows a productive tension
to develop between the emotions that his films elicit and the ideas they raise.
Kubrick’s cinematic universe is one in which immoralities produce a sense
of cognitive dissonance. The psychologist Leon Festinger defines this as the
struggle for internal consistency when a person is presented with inconsistent
events.28 Kubrick uses this dramatic technique to place moral questions at the
forefront of his narratives. In The Killing, for example, one of the characters,
Maurice, a chess-playing wrestler, becomes a kind of conduit who articulates
this very Kubrickian perspective.
Johnny, you have not yet learned that you have to be like everyone else. The
perfect mediocrity. You know, I often thought that the gangster and the artist
are the same in the eyes of the masses. They’re admired and hero-worshipped,
but there is always present an underlying wish to see them destroyed at the
peak of their glory.

28 Festinger L., A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. London: Tavistock, 1962, p. 1.


152 Rod Munday

This anti-mediocrity theme also underpins Mac’s speech in Fear and


Desire. As David Gerrard points out,29 Kubrick also spoke about this theme
in a 1957 interview: “the criminal and the soldier at least have the virtue of
being against something… in a world where many people have learned to
accept a kind of grey nothingness.”30 The admiration Kubrick felt for the
criminal, the soldier, as well as for the artist is one directed at society’s outsi-
ders. In challenging hegemonic norms, these characters have the potential to
jolt people out of their complacency and to address issues of true existential
import. But, in his later films Kubrick became more subtle in his presentation
of this theme. His characters for the most part remain outsiders, but they do
not speak of their predicament so directly. They lie, they euphemise; they
mask their condition in obfuscation. For example, Bill Harford in Eyes Wide
Shut repeating back what other characters have just said to him, the repeti-
tion functioning to cast their words in an ironic new light through the partly
naïve, partly knowing doubling, or Jack Torrance in The Shining, burying his
anger in platitudes in his conversation with Lloyd the barman. The challenge
to hegemonic norms is only occasioned by the narrative in these films, their
ideas are dramatised in the situation the characters find themselves in, rather
than being spoken of directly. This was the main lesson Kubrick learnt from
making Fear and Desire.
A final important theme of The Killing is the loveless marriage between
George and Sherry Peatty (their names a play on petty). George and Sherry
are the first in a long line of Kubrick screen marriages, from Spartacus to Eyes
Wide Shut. Marriage for Kubrick is depicted as a domestic battleground, that
mirrors the director’s interest in the theme of war in the public sphere. Kubrick
uses marriage not just to explore issues of fidelity and betrayal, but also to
unmask the complex motivations and failings of the human condition. The
novelist James Ellroy, in a conversation with his wife, stated, “It’s easy to write
the hot fast love story where the man meets the woman… but the long haul of
monogamy that’s something else.”31 Kubrick’s focuses on this challenge rather
than on romance. Kubrick wrote in 1960 the one thing that has always distur-
bed him is the endings of films, because they tend to introduce a false note:
“When you deal with characters and a sense of life, most endings appear to
be gratuitous.”32 This is what separates his earlier work –especially Killer’s Kiss

29 Gerrard D., “The Heard and Self Reflexiveness”. The Kubrick Site, 1999. Online URL: http://
www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0015.html [last accessed 13 Oct. 2017].
30 Hollis A., “War and Justice.” Saturday Review, December 21, 1957, quoted in Kagan N., The
Cinema of Stanley Kubrick. New York: Continuum, 2000, p. 137.
31 Ellroy J., “Feast of Death”. BBC Arena Documentary, directed by Vikram Jayanti. BBC, 2001.
(The quotation comes 43 minutes and 14 seconds into the film).
32 Kubrick S., “Kubrick’s, ‘Notes on Film’”. The Observer Weekend Review. 4th December, 1960,
p. 21.
The Kubrick Cinematic Universe 153

and The Killing– from his later films. The moral universe in which Kubrick’s
stories are set becomes more ambiguous and less certain as his confidence as
a filmmaker and the opportunities afforded him to tell such stories increased.
The work of making meaning is something that is often left for audiences
to decide. In his depiction of marriage, Kubrick was not a polemicist. He was
happier showing the way things are between men and women rather than
presenting an idealised vision of how they should be. In this regard, he was
often accused of misogyny, in the critical responses to The Shining, notably
by Stephen King.33 Critics picked up on the fact that the character of Wendy
is not framed according to the grammatical conventions of Hollywood films.
Like Bowman and Pool she is not heroic, although critics miss how capable she
is, running the hotel and then saving Danny and herself from Jack. Kubrick’s
critics accuse him of misogyny, not because of what is shown on screen, but
because of his reluctance to sentimentalise or idealise. Compared to his later
depictions of married life, the marriage in The Killing is easily read according
to the conventions of Hollywood Film Noir. And yet there is something in
the duplicity, inventiveness and intelligence of Sherry, the wife, that starts to
sketch out an approach that will later transcend Hollywood conventionality.
As with his moral outlook, Kubrick realised that it was far more dramatic to
show behaviour and not to explain it. This desire is most successfully realised
in the character of Alice from Eyes Wide Shut, whom Thomas Allen Nelson
calls the most “complex and layered” and “the strongest of all of Kubrick’s
female protagonists.”34
Killer’s Kiss marks the beginning of the truly Kubrickian film; a film in
which the director’s strengths and his vision combine into a work that not
only excels because of its photography, but also because of the director’s
command of visual storytelling. Kubrick would make other similar “quantum
leaps” in the quality of his technique during the course of his career. But after
The Killing the presence of his strong personal sensibility, that of an endlessly
curious moral satirist would start to become more apparent in his work.

When you consider the totality of a director’s oeuvre as a cinema-


tic universe, it also creates an image of the director as the sovereign of that
universe. In this paper, I have utilised network theory to begin the task of
identifying the links that connect the hubs, which I have identified as the
dominant themes and aesthetics found in Kubrick’s work. In different pheno-

33 Barry D., “Stephen King Hates The Shining Because It’s Misogynistic”. Jezebel, 2013.Online,
URL: https://jezebel.com/stephen-king-hates-the-shining-because-it-s-misogynisti-1361182451
[last accessed 10 Jan. 2018].
34 Nelson T. A., Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2000,
p. 296.
154 Rod Munday

mena across many domains, scale free networks have been identified as a
naturally occurring mode of self-organisation.35 In the context of semiotics,
scale free networks are a candidate for the deep structures that underpin the
organisation of meaningful systems.36 In subsequent papers I hope to revisit
this topic to construct a more complete picture of this universe.
It has not been the aim of this exercise to impose a kind of homogeny
upon Kubrick’s work, at the expense of its diversity. The Kubrick cinematic
universe is a complex analytical object. As a network, it contains hubs but
also nodes that are not thematically conjoined to any others. Kubrick was
a director who constantly tested the boundaries, including those of his own
aesthetics and thematics. The main instances of affinities I have identified so
far include a preference for stories about war and conflict, a liking for masks,
the antagonism for mediocrity, and a self-reflexive quality. However, there is
much to be discovered that lies outside any of these patterns. Indeed there are
also many instances where the texton elements in his films can be read against
the grain of the interpretive scriptons offered here.
A primary interest in exploring the Kubrick Cinematic Universe has been
to regulate the analytical discourse surrounding Kubrick and his films. This
is not to limit the study of Kubrick to a few reoccurring tropes, but rather
to strike a balance between the expansionist discourses of runaway fan inter-
pretations and the overly reductive perspectives associated with Kubrick’s
filmmaking colleagues. Both of these perspectives can be limiting in their
own way, because both attempt to foreclose further discussion. However, the
quality that really drew me to Kubrick’s films in the first place was the seemin-
gly limitless interpretive possibilities that they offered. The horizon shrinks to
the dimensions of the perceiving mind, and I discovered through an apprecia-
tion of his films that my horizons haves been greatly expanded. I think this is
his true legacy as a filmmaker, as well as the gift he gives to his admirers. The
intellectual pathways which are opened up by visiting the Kubrick cinematic
universe is at the root of the pleasure of being an admirer of his work.

Rod Munday
Aberystwyth University
odm@aber.ac.uk

35 Barabási A.L., Linked: How Everything Is Connected To Everything Else And What It Means For
Business, Science, And Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books, 2014, p. 78.
36 Chandler D., Semiotics the Basics. (Third Edition). London: Routledge, 2017, p. 117.
The Kubrick Cinematic Universe 155

Abstract
My paper is an attempt to diagram Kubrick’s body of work as a cinematic universe. Cinematic
universes initially emerged in fan discourses as ways to expand the storyworlds of comicbook,
film and television texts, however, they have more recently been taken up by media producers
as the bases of successful cinema franchises, for example, the new “Star Wars” Sagas. Out of
these instances, a definition of a cinematic universe can be elaborated. It is a closed system
in which the meta-storyworld of “the universe” represents a synthesis of various component
storyworlds which have hitherto developed separately and in isolation.
This paper applies insights from the study of network topology to the textual study of
Kubrick’s films. The internet is an example of a self-organizing system, which is the object
of a branch of mathematics know as network topology. What was hitherto thought of as a
random distributed network, consisting of computer servers and links, is now known to be
a scale-free network; a self organising system of hubs, clusters and short-path-lengths. Such
self-organizing systems were also found to exist in a wide range of phenomena, from the
structure of cells, to galaxies. So it can be inferred that all modes of self-organisation follow
this pattern of organisation. I intend to study Kubrick’s thirteen films as a scale-free network
–in this paper, I focus on just the first three– applying principles from network topology to
explore commonalities and differences between them. The goals of this exercise are twofold: to
discover the hubs of Kubrick’s cinematic universe; those themes and tropes through which is
body of work can be understood, and through this knowledge, to infer the central concerns of
Kubrick, the filmmaker. This approach represents, therefore, a new method to study the work
of a filmmaker as an auteur, through their body of work, or oeuvre.
Keywords
Comic-book universes, network topology, scale-free-networks, the Kubrikian, auteur theory.
Résumé
Cet article explore l’œuvre de Kubrick en tant qu’univers cinématique. Le terme d’univers
cinématique origine chez les fans de comics, de films et de séries télévisées désireux de perpé-
tuer un univers narratif, et a récemment été récupéré par les producteurs de franchises cinéma-
tographiques à succès telles que la saga Star Wars. Ces utilisations du terme permettent d’en
proposer une définition, soit un système clos dans lequel une méta-narration de cet « univers »
représente la synthèse de diverses narrations jusqu’alors développées séparément et isolément.
Nous appliquerons les concepts issus de la topologie des réseaux à l’étude textuelle des films de
Kubrick. L’internet offre un exemple de système auto-organisé qui fait l’objet d’une branche
des mathématiques appelée topologie des réseaux. Ce qui était auparavant envisagé comme
un réseau de distribution aléatoire (constitué de serveurs informatiques et de réseaux) est
désormais compris comme un réseau invariant d’échelle, une plateforme de correspondances
auto-organisée. Ces découvertes furent appliquées à l’étude de nombreux phénomènes allant
des cellules aux galaxies. On peut ainsi inférer que tout mode d’auto-organisation suit ce
même schéma. Nous étudierons par conséquent le corpus filmique de Kubrick comme un
réseau invariant d’échelle (en nous concentrant sur ses trois premières œuvres pour les besoins
de cet article) et appliquerons les principes de la topologie des réseaux afin d’en explorer les
points communs et les différences, et ce avec un double objectif : il s’agira de découvrir les
correspondances auto-organisées de l’univers kubrickien (ces thèmes et motifs grâce auxquels
l’œuvre trouve son unité), et d’en déduire les questionnements centraux du cinéaste Kubrick.
Cette approche explore ainsi une nouvelle méthode permettant d’étudier le travail d’un auteur
en se concentrant sur son corpus plutôt que sur une œuvre individuelle.
Mots-clés
Univers de comics, topologie des réseaux, réseau invariant d’échelle, auteurisme kubrickien.
156 Rod Munday

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Rod Munday is a lecturer in new media at Aberystwyth University. He worked for


twenty years television post production. He has worked on programmes including Band of
Brothers (2001) and The X Factor (2004-2010). He also worked as a web designer for two years
on sites such as Greenpeace International and The Royal National Theatre. He has curated
The Kubrick Site since 1999 and started the alt.movies.kubrick group on Facebook, which
has over 1300 members. He is the co-author with Daniel Chandler of A Dictionary of Media
and Communication (Oxford University Press, 2011) and has written a chapter on videogame
music included in the volume, Music Sound and Multimedia: From the Live to the Virtual,
Edited by Jamie Sexton (Edinburgh University Press, 2007).
Collaboration
Manca Perko
Simone Odino
Partie 6
Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s
Collaborations

Manca Perko

There is an undeniable connection between a filmmaker’s life and his work,


and as a result, his personality defines his working practice. Personal characte-
ristics assigned to Kubrick affect our image of the director, our understanding
of his working methods and the nature of his collaboration.
Such a man takes –and gives– immense pains in carrying out a resolve like
this. To be a part of his team is to surrender a part of one’s life in a very real
sense. Self-discipline in this kind of director demands a degree of despotism
–basically benevolent, yet ruthless in never allowing anyone or anything to
jeopardize the work of constructing a movie in his own image of it.1
Alexander Walker, a prominent Kubrick academic, portrayed the director’s
“ruthlessness” which serves as an example of the myth of Kubrick as the “master
controller”, whose working practice was not based on collaboration. The myth
is still widespread today. Paul Edwards ascribes Kubrick’s despotism to his calcu-
lating nature, his behaviour on the set of The Shining (1980) exemplifying it:
Shelley Duvall, the leading lady in The Shining, portrayed a character that
became more distressed, exhausted and distraught as the film goes on. Kubrick
deliberately instilled a poisonous atmosphere around her, haranguing her at
every opportunity, ordering the entire crew to ignore her, so that as the shoot
progressed her performance naturally began to mirror her character’s own.2
Shelley Duvall3 recently confirmed Kubrick’s implementation of this method,
indicating how his perfectionism and manipulation had led her to question
whether her collaboration with Kubrick was a success in terms of personal expe-

1 Alexander Walker, Sybil Taylor & Ulrich Ruchti, Stanley Kubrick, director. New York: Norton,
2000, p. 8.
2 Paul Edwards, The Life and Myths of Stanley Kubrick - Death By Films. 2017, Death by Films,
[www.deathbyfilms.com/the-life-and-myth-of-stanley-kubrick], last accessed 6 October 2017.
3 Flashback: Shelley Duvall & Stanley Kubrick, Battle Over “The Shining”, 2018. Rolling Stone
[www.rollingstone.com/movies/flashback-shelley-duvall-battles-stanley-kubrick-w450947],
last accessed 6 October 2017.
160 Manca Perko

riences. But the following examination of the testimonies and debates on the
collaborative nature of Kubrick’s work provides information of the opposite;
that, in fact, Kubrick’s working process was actually of a highly collaborative
nature. This article investigates how various academic and practitioner accounts
of collaboration in Kubrick’s crews fit or challenge the myths and clichés of
Kubrick as a co-worker. I refer to these testimonies as origin stories.
Origin stories is a term I use to refer to individual stories and anecdotes
from Kubrick’s crew members on the topics of entering a collaboration with
Kubrick, their perceptions of him and how collaboration with Kubrick affected
their work and personalities. The analysis of these origin stories attempts to
shed light on the ways in which Kubrick possibly defied the clichéd assump-
tion about his ability to collaborate and, in the process, questions the applica-
bility of auteurism in Kubrick studies.
Dennis Bingham4 already points out that the problem academics face
regarding Kubrick studies relates to the question of auteur theory’s place
within film studies: “Kubrick is a problematic figure for academics because of
discredited auteurist baggage his reputation has carried.” Therefore auteurism
and the director’s absolute creative autonomy over his films should be chal-
lenged by breaking free from the existent prevailing perceptions of Kubrick
and welcome a new perspective. Instead of focusing on the search for new
interpretations of his films, relevant information on his work practice can be
found in considering Kubrick as a collaborator and not as a single, uncompro-
mising authority. In the quest to identify the collaborative practices employed
in Kubrick’s films, collaborative relationships become my focus. I examine the
connotation of information attainable from Kubrick’s film productions and
aim to identify the nature of both, group and individual work processes.
Kubrick managed his crews with a set of complex ideas on filmmaking.
The way he applied them in his productions displays patterns of behaviour,
actions and the nature of the relationships, developed in Kubrick’s crews.
Collaborative relationships affected the film, Kubrick himself and the indivi-
dual workers on his team. However, the opposite is the case as well; behaviour,
actions and relationships influenced the effectiveness of the collaboration.
The intricate connection between the collaboration and co-working relation-
ships requests an explicit elaboration of the characteristics of these processes.
The characteristics of collaboration mimic group formation in the society in
general and I elaborate on them by taking into account the creative factors in
group formation. I approach the analysis of their implementation in Kubrick’s
case by considering collaboration as a social phenomenon.

4 Dennis Bingham in Mario Falsetto (ed.), Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick, New York: G.K. Hall,
1996, p. 218.
Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s Collaborations 161

A film crew is a group of film workers who engage in the creative process
with the common aim of producing a film. At the same time, the crew is not
only a unit but a body formed of individuals. This fact places collaboration
in a social process which takes place in a social environment. In this analogy,
the crew represents a form of social environment and consequentially displays
its own social rules and practices. I employ Vlad-Petre Glăveanu’s5 two theo-
retical social approaches to analysing collaborative creative work as they will
enable me to identify the representative characteristics of collaboration in
Kubrick’s projects –a socio-cognitive and a sociocultural approach. The socio-
cognitive approach encompasses cognitive elements, such as the conditions
that guide working in film industry. Examining them will allow me to identify
the circumstances present in Kubrick’s working environment. The socio-
cultural approach explores techniques used in connecting the individuals in
a film crew. In the attempt to achieve compromises between collective and
individual intentions, the socio-cultural approach explores communication
techniques used to achieve a higher motivation in groups. The socio-cognitive
and socio-cultural features detail an individual’s career path up to the moment
of becoming a part of Kubrick’s crew. Disclosing workers’ stories on origins
of collaboration displays various perceptions of the circumstances in which
they entered a collaboration with Kubrick. At the same time, the origin stories
address the myths on collaborative relationships between individual workers,
crew as a group and Kubrick himself.
Kubrick operated with the two social concepts simultaneously, and the
constant shifting between them resulted in a mixture of methods and practices
used in his collaborations. Collaboration in Kubrick’s crews can be analysed
with the use of the same approaches employed in observing groups operating
in the society in general. The film industry is not only a part of the society
but functions as a society on its own. It follows certain conventions which
I identify by separating the stories into two thematic blocks; perceptions of
the crew’s shared creative vision and perceptions of individual power on the
ladder of hierarchy in the film industry.
As soon as workers entered Kubrick’s crew, their creative process ceased
to be individual work. They formed a working relationship that was led by a
joint intention. The common intention was represented by attempts to make
sense of their specific working world. As John Thornton Caldwell6 explains
it; the common intentions are the “glue matter”, intended to create social
cohesion in a group of workers. The individual workers were glued into a crew
using a collective effort, a collective intention.

5 Vlad-Petre Glăveanu, How are we creative together? Comparing sociocognitive and sociocultural
answers. Theory & Psychology, Vol. 21, no. 4, SAGE Publications, 2011, p. 473-492.
6 John Thornton Caldwell, Production culture, Durham N.C.: Duke University Press, 2008.
162 Manca Perko

Without collective intention, we have no obvious explanation for the coor-


dinated action. For instance, is the performance of a symphony simply an
aggregate of individual performances motivated by the belief that by inten-
tionally performing part of a score one is contributing to the performance
of the piece, or does each individual performance directly correspond to the
collective intention “we will perform this symphony”?7
Coordinated actions, or successfully operating collaborating relation-
ships in the crew, are a result of intentions the crew members share. In the
simplest form, this is the intention to create a film. A more complex definition
would be the common perception of ideas and concepts in the making of the
project. A shared vision is so represented by group intentions as motives of
“we-intentions”8. These intentions have to be communicated in such a way,
that each crew member understands them. They then have a choice to follow
or not to follow the shared vision.

A shared vision (socio-cultural approach)

I begin by breaking the myth of Kubrick as the uncompromising leader


of his crew. In fact, Kubrick was a good communicator. Despite his intention
of delivering his vision, he was also open to suggestions/ideas from other crew
members. In an interview, James  B.  Harris, Kubrick’s partner in their first
production company, commented on Kubrick’s collaborative techniques: “He
was a listener, which is rare. When he was with people, they really felt that
they were appreciated. He was very interested in what people had to say.”9
Kubrick communicated his vision to his co-workers by using techniques, such
as telephone persuasion, employing the principle of divide and rule and deve-
loping mentorship relations.
Kubrick’s frequently communicated over the telephone to get somebody
interested in a project and collaboration. Actor Leon Vitali received Kubrick’s
invitation for continuous collaboration six months after finishing Barry Lyndon
(1975):
I got a phone call, and he said, “How would you like to go to America and find
a little boy (the character of Danny) for The Shining?” He’d sent me the book
actually. He’d sent me the book with the equivalent of a Post-It on the cover.
He said, “Read it!” It was like an instruction. And so I thought, if he tells me
to read, I better read it. And I read The Shining in a day. And he rang me the

7 Paul C. Sellors, Collective Authorship in Film. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism [online],
Vol. 65, no. 3, 2007, p. 263-271 [www.cronistas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Collective-
Authorship-in-Film.pdfWiley-Blackwell], last accessed 19 February 2016.
8 John Searle, Collective Intentions and Actions, in P. Cohen, J. Morgan & M.E. Pollack (eds.),
Intentions in Communication, Cambridge, Mass: Bradford Books, MIT Press, 1990.
9 Jamie Duvall, The Kubrick Series Uncut: James  B.  Harris [online], 2010, [www.movie-
geeksunited.net/uncut.htm], last accessed 10 December 2016.
Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s Collaborations 163

next night. And I picked up the phone and he said, “Leon, did you read it?” It
wasn’t like, “Hello, it’s Stanley,” or anything like that. He says, “Leon, did you
read it?” I said, “Yeah, I read it.”10
Vitali’s immediate reaction to Kubrick’s command cannot only be ascribed
to his desire to collaborate again but the result of Kubrick’s efficient telephone
technique of persuasion. The latter was a reoccurring practice in forming
crews for his projects. Larry Smith recalls being approached for the position
of a DOP on Eyes Wide Shut (1999):
Just having worked with Stanley on Barry Lyndon and The Shining and knowing
really what’s required in terms of body and soul. I didn’t say yes immediately
which a lot of people find hard to understand. But I didn’t say yes because I
had my own career, I was working as a DOP and I had a company which I
was running as well. I just thought I don’t know how difficult this would be?
So I went away and said I will speak to you in a few days. I thought about it. I
thought about it long and hard. […] Thought about it some more. And then,
in the end, I said that I would do it.11
Kubrick’s telephone persuasion was successful because, in his negotia-
tions, he relied on his “social capital”.12 Social capital establishes the position
in the film industry business and dictates the choice of whom to approach
and with which means. Social capital represents the nature of the relation-
ships one builds in the industry. Kubrick was aware of this, employing the
being close without being close approach in his telephone conversations. These
tactics were employed to negotiate collaborations but they also gave him suffi-
cient control over the production of the film. He would ensure his creative
control over a project by following the divide and rule principle. The divide
and rule is a strategy for gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger
concentrations into pieces that individually have less power than the ruling
one. Kubrick exercised division of power by giving freedom to an individual
worker to express his ideas by leading a smaller unit in the crew, i.e. becoming
a sector’s leader. The advantage of this approach is not only that it divides the
tasks between workers; it also prevents small powers from linking forces by
creating smaller collaborations in the form of mentorships.
Such a division of power can be observed in Kubrick’s camera depart-
ment. A small camera crew meant building collaborative relationships in the

10 Brad Schreiber, On Kubrick: An Interview with Leon Vitali, Tin House [online], 2013 [www.
tinhouse.com/on-kubrick-a-conversation-with-leon-vitali], last accessed 25 October 2017.
11 Jamie Duvall, The Kubrick Series Uncut: Larry Smith [online], 2012 [www.moviegeeksunited.
net/uncut.htm], last accessed 10 December 2016.
12 Candace Jones & Robert J. Defillippi, Back to the Future in Film: Combining Industry and
Self-Knowledge to Meet the Career Challenges of the 21st Century, Academy of Management
Executive [online]. 1996, Vol.  10, no.  4. [www.researchgate.net/publication/233857487_
Back_to_the_Future_in_Film_Combining_Industry_and_Self-Knowledge_to_Meet_the_
Career_Challenges_of_the_21st_CenturyResearchGate], last accessed 25 October 2017.
164 Manca Perko

sector was faster. Often they took a form of a student-mentor relationship.


DOP John Alcott13 assisted in executing the Kubrick vision but he was at the
same time aware that he had started his career by following on the footsteps
of many DOPs and camera assistants: “I was Geoffrey Unsworth’s assistant
and I was naturally brought in to work with him on 2001,” (Alcott 1980).14
He entered the relationship as Kubrick’s student and later became a mentor
himself. Alcott built a good collaborative relationship with his focus-puller,
Douglas Milsome, working with him on a few films15. He was on track with
Milsome’s training and progress. Together with Kubrick, they recognised
Milsome’s working quality and Kubrick offered him a promotion. “If he saw
someone that he thought had potential, was young, very enthusiastic, hard-
working and had some talent, he would give any young person a break in that
role,” Brian W. Cook16 wrote, explaining Kubrick’s work practice. Kubrick’s
willingness to function as a mentor was an amazing opportunity for film
workers. Peter  Hannan, a focus-puller, recalls: “I was being paid to go to
university, really. It was extraordinary.”17

Hierarchy of individual power (socio-cognitive approach)

Despite the fact that working with Kubrick was a once-in-a-lifetime


chance, some of the previous collaborators, such as Ken Adam, a production
designer, were offered collaboration and refused it:
And so I got out of doing 2001: A Space Odyssey. But he got me on Barry Lyndon.
I didn’t want to do it. He was a very difficult man to work with –extremely
talented but on Barry Lyndon, had a sort of nervous breakdown and I said to
myself, no film is worth going around the bend for– it’s because we were so
close, you know. He was impossible at times and I used to take his guilt onto
me, apologizing to actors for something we had done, when I was really apolo-
gizing for Stanley. I lost my perspective, and so did he.18
The intensity of Kubrick’s demands seems to have been perceived by his
crew members as a distinctive form of control over the project and the group’s
creative process. At this point, a question of power arises. Did collaboration exist
or was Kubrick, in fact, the sole ruler of his projects? The answer can be found

13 He worked as a cinematographer on the following Kubrick’s films: A Clockwork Orange (1971),


Barry Lyndon (1975) and The Shining (1980). He did additional photography (second camera
operator) on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
14 Michel Ciment, Kubrick, New York, N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart &Winston, 1984.
15 The Shining (1980) and Barry Lyndon (1975).
16 Jamie Duvall, The Kubrick Series Uncut: Brian  W.  Cook, 2010 [online] [www.movie-
geeksunited.net/uncut.htm], last accessed 10 December 2016.
17 Interview with Peter Hannan, 2016 [in person].
18 Fionnualau Halligan, Ken Adam in his own words, Screen Daily [online], 2016 [www.screen-
daily.com/ken-adam-in-his-own-words/5101706.article], last accessed 25 October 2017.
Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s Collaborations 165

by bringing attention to cognitive elements inspected in the process of the crew


formation. Some of the crew’s testimonies presented in the introduction of the
article indicate that Kubrick was the individual power at the top of the ladder of
hierarchy. If that were the case, the socio-cultural feature of the collective inten-
tion would have initiated greater motivation and emotional satisfaction of the
group by recognising every individual work to the same extent. The issue with
this aim is that, although film productions aspire to do so, the extent to which
it occurs in practice is questionable. Actual working practices in film produc-
tion can be ambiguous. To comprehend them, one should observe the real film
working practice from a cognitive perspective on crew formations.
Learning about the industry requires knowledge of the film production
process. An existing hierarchy dictates the individual worker’s career path
in the form of restrictions. Producers might seem the main actors in enfor-
cing the “corporate scripts”19 but they, in fact, follow the rules set by film
culture. The rules refer to various limitations, forming a framework of film
industry rules which are implemented by people on directorial positions. For
example, a producer or other financier of the film project implements certain
ethical restrictions (e.g. Video Recordings Act’s tests of suitability potential
for under-age viewing)20 or legislative restrictions that come from the posi-
tions of power in the industry (e.g. British Board of Film Classifications21).
For instance, BBFC employs legislation regarding allowed work material: “If
a work is found to contain material which falls foul of UK law, then it will
be cut from the work. If the work as a whole is found to be in breach of the
law, then it may be denied a certificate and rejected.”22 The rules, imposed on
institutions and people in positions of distributing power, have to be followed
by workers operating in the film industry. The impact the hierarchal order has
on the framework of rules in film industry profoundly affects the relationships
formed in the process of the film production.
Kubrick manipulated the framework of rules and hierarchies existing in
the film industry, too. He was notorious for persisting on his vision, which
dictated his behaviour, actions and affected the nature of the relationships he
formed in the process of filmmaking. Film workers were aware of the intensity
and the extent of Kubrick’s overview of the production process, but they still
decided to enter collaboration. Martin Hunter, Kubrick’s sound assistant and
later editor of Full Metal Jacket (1987), explains his decision to become a part
of Kubrick’s crew:

19 John Thornton Caldwell, op. cit., 2008, p. 3.


20 British Board of Film Classifications [www.bbfc.co.uk/education-resources/student-guide/
legislation], last accessed 3 January 2018.
21 Ibid.
22 Ibid.
166 Manca Perko

I understood from the beginning that that was the way it was going to be and
it’s not a way that I like to work with most directors but in Stanley’s case I just
looked at his past track record and realized that I was going to come out of it
with my name as editor on a very good film.23
Despite not being familiar with his work methods, Hunter decided to
collaborate with Kubrick. The decision was based on a compromise; the impor-
tance of the outcome of a collaborative relationship with Kubrick had for his
career outweighed the negative aspects. Previous knowledge of Kubrick’s work
methods had generated some predispositions on expectations when entering
the collaboration. It follows that film industry, as a business, follows certain
conventions in the process of forming working relationships. I focus on the
first act of entering collaboration in film production –the negotiating process
between two parties, a process which I understand to be a communication
process of a minimum of two people, commonly between the producer and
the film worker entering the production crew.

Negotiations: Combining the socio-cognitive and the socio-


cultural aspects

The success of a negotiating process depends on the individual worker’s


prior knowledge of the film industry, its demands and opportunities, and
understanding of the social conventions that guide the process of forming
collaborations. Film workers considerably benefit from being aware of the
structure of the film production, of the kind of work expected from each
specific working position and where their role fits in the collaboration.
Hunter’s previous collaboration with Kubrick on The Shining had given him
insight into Kubrick’s production structure, and into the characteristics of
his collaborative environment conventions. This knowledge, based on expe-
rience, had given him an advantage in negotiating for continuous collabora-
tion with Kubrick:
I first worked as a sound assistant on The Shining and I helped Kubrick with
the making of the foreign versions of The Shining. At a certain point, The
Shining had been released for more than a year and I was anxious to get on
with my career, so I said to Stanley that I was looking for other work and
he said, “no, no, don’t do that, stick around, I’ll have something for you”.
Eventually, I said “well, if it’s the editing job on your next picture, then yes, I
will stick around”. And so he eventually said, “all right, yes, you can edit Full
Metal Jacket.”24

23 Revisiting “Full Metal Jacket”: An Interview with Stanley  Kubrick’s Editor, 2014 [online].
Twitter, [http: //ow.ly/VxOOy], last accessed 10 November 2017.
24 Ibid.
Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s Collaborations 167

Hunter’s knowledge of the film industry is reflected by a better understan-


ding of the hierarchy that existed in Kubrick’s productions. He was conscious
of its effect on the collaborative environment of the production he was about
to enter. Hence, he employed a negotiating technique that resulted in a fruitful
collaboration. Hunter’s example represents a skilful use of socio-cognitive
aspects found in collaborations. Knowledge in developing and maintaining
relationships by working on his social capital and excellent communication
skills made Hunter a good negotiator.
It follows, that for negotiations to end productively for both parties a
combination of the socio-cognitive and the socio-cultural aspects has to be
used. Communication, specifically conversations, are the basis of negotia-
ting. While it is possible for discussions between producers and the potential
collaborators to run smoothly, this was not standard practice with Kubrick.
The origin stories testify of constant bargaining in negotiating collaborations.
The challenge was negotiating the work fees. Evidence of Kubrick’s rigorous
constancy in negotiating an economically profitable agreement is observed in
lists of exact calculations on payrolls for all the crew members25. The lists are
long and often include a comment from Kubrick on whether the calculated
amount should really be as high as it is and how to lower it.
Kubrick’s meticulous financial organisation was one of the reasons he was
a successful producer and a hard negotiator. Because of the high amount of
social capital he had accumulated in his career, he had the power to dictate
the work process and consequently, affect someone’s career. At the top of the
hierarchy, he had an advantage in negotiating. His implementation of the
socio-cultural features, such as the telephone technique of persuasion, divide
and rule strategy and willingness to function as a mentor, incorporated the
socio-cognitive features of Kubrick’s knowledge of the rules and restrictions
in the film industry. He exercised his power of decision-making by taking
advantage of his hierarchal dominance in the film industry. Some collabora-
tors adhered to his conditions and work practice for professional reasons, such
as the benefit of the experience for their career. However, a few film workers
were offered collaboration and refused it because Kubrick’s control, in their
opinion, was not only exercised over the project but over the crew as well. Ken
Adam declined future collaborations precisely because he had had previous
collaborative experiences with Kubrick.
Adam’s reaction indicates how Kubrick’s negotiating techniques some-
times caused confusion and discontent among his collaborators. This dissa-
tisfaction originated from the discrepancy between workers’ perceptions and
expectations of work in the film industry and Kubrick’s actual working prac-
tices. His crew members perceived his demands as a very distinctive form

25 The Stanley Kubrick Archive. London. University of Arts: Stanley Kubrick Archive, 2007.
168 Manca Perko

of control over the project. Andy  Armstrong, Kubrick’s assistant director


on Barry Lyndon (1975), admitted he and Kubrick did not speak the same
language: ”He was obsessed that certain things were the best things for that
job,”26. Armstrong argued against Kubrick’s ability to collaborate by addres-
sing Kubrick’s practice of hindering an individual worker’s autonomy of
creative expression. Armstrong claimed that the collaborating conditions
he had accepted came solely from Kubrick’s side and, consequently, he felt
unappreciated as a crew member. Garrett Brown, the Steadicam operator on
The Shining, concludes that a collaboration with Kubrick was not possible.
Kubrick supposedly considered his co-workers, for example, DP John Alcott,
who Brown had collaborated with on The Shining, as assistants who would
merely carry out the director’s idea:
We executed Stanley’s vision. I think John himself would have agreed that
it wasn’t his conception, he was the implementer. As we all were. I don’t
think many directors would say that about their DPs, that are really strong,
even design the shots even the moves. John contributed certainly but I think
none of us would stand out and say we were responsible for the look of that
movie. Mere contributors. As was the art director and the production designer
Roy Walker and the costume designer, the great Milena Canonero. All of us
were marching to Stanley’s tune.27
Brown disputed the collaborative nature of Kubrick’s work practice.
By referring to Kubrick as the single-authority in his films, he endorsed
Armstrong’s interpretation of the director’s behaviour and actions as uncom-
promising. The two exemplified unsatisfied collaborators set an example of
the effects of the hierarchy in film production on the relationships formed in
the work process.
Although many collaborators depicted their experience of working with
Kubrick negatively concerning creative freedom, it does not mean that Kubrick
imposing his position in the hierarchy always hindered collaboration. Some
of the crew members felt uniquely appreciated and treated as genuine colla-
borators. Martin Hunter defended Kubrick’s collaborative nature, relating the
director’s behaviour and actions to the uniqueness of his working practice:
I know his methods drove some people nuts. They’d say, “it’s completely illogi-
cal, the way he’s doing this”, but my response would always be, “I don’t think
logic has anything to do with this. This is part of his process and his process has
proven to yield pretty wonderful results and I’m happy to go along with it.”28

26 Jamie Duvall, The Kubrick Series Uncut: Andy  Armstrong [online]. 2011 [www.movie-
geeksunited.net/uncut.htm], last accessed 10 December 2016.
27 Ibid.
28 Revisiting “Full Metal Jacket”: An Interview with Stanley  Kubrick’s Editor, 2014 [online].
Twitter [http: //ow.ly/VxOOy], last accessed 10 November 2017.
Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s Collaborations 169

While some collaborators shared Hunter’s opinion, some disagreed with


Kubrick’s collaboration practice. The feeling of being “cheated” out of reco-
gnition of their creativity by having had their freedom of expression entirely
constricted, does not affirm the myth of Kubrick as the know-it-all director.
It results in the opposite; it creates confusion among film workers who
thought they understood the industry’s working environment and the social
conventions ruling film productions. But in fact, experiencing Kubrick’s work
practice gave them new knowledge on forming successful collaborative rela-
tionships, on how to socially nurture them for future collaborations and as
such, embark on a journey of a successful career in film industry. From this
point of view, the confusion caused represents a learning lesson for the film
workers and, at the same time, justifies the difficulty of breaking the myth of
Kubrick, the master controller.
Those Origin stories informed on the various circumstances in which the
individuals entered into collaboration with Kubrick, their vision of it and how
it affected their perception of the myths that are present in the film industry. By
referring to group formation in pre-production as a social process, the already
established approaches to studying creativity have been helpful in detecting
the moments to focus on. Inspecting the circumstances of the time when
Kubrick’s crews were formed, helped to identify the cognitive elements, such
as the conditions and the rules that guide film production (e.g. the hierarchal
order of power) and the cultural elements, such as Kubrick’s use of different
techniques (all based on the strength of his social capital) in forming colla-
borations. The gathered information from Kubrick co-workers’ testimonies
and archival material allow me to conclude on how these findings affected
individual perceptions of group work and how they function in the industry.
The myth of Kubrick as a throat-cutting tyrant who is well aware of his
status and exploits it to get his way can be broken with the existence of his
mentoring work practice. An individual worker’s learning experience could end
with a promotion in another Kubrick film, as was the case with Hunter, Adam,
Milsome, etc. However, Kubrick’s work practice could also be understood as a
controlling tool that disputes their individual creativity. Such ambiguity created
confusion and dissatisfaction among workers who thought they understood
the working environment of film production. It appears that Kubrick had
the knowledge of all the processes taking place in the production and tried to
manipulate them to have had his vision realised on the screen. But there are
inconsistencies in the development of the relationships, and they can lead to
the conclusion that Kubrick not only had the understanding but also practised
the idea of collaborating. To creatively operate he had to –and did– cooperate.
Origin stories of successful and unsuccessful individual negotiations between
the working conditions in the film industry and Kubrick’s vision, indicated
the intricacy of creative environments in film production. The observation of
170 Manca Perko

the collaboration process through the eyes of Kubrick crew members, who can
still be accessed today, would further expand the evidence that would help to
determine in what way the process of collaboration had been affected by the
changing circumstances over the years. It is possible that if the circumstances
had been different, Kubrick’s work practice might have taken a different shape.
Manca Perko
University of East Anglia
manca.perko@gmail.com

Abstract
Origin stories represent the information on the beginnings of forming collaborations, specifi-
cally in pre-production, in Stanley Kubrick’s film crews. The common perception of Kubrick
is that he was a brilliant tyrant with little to no ability to cooperate. The manner in which
I challenge these myths is by analysing Kubrick’s work practice as seen in the eyes of his
co-workers and approaching it from a more sociological point of view.
The vast information available on the relationships between Kubrick and individual workers on
his crew appears to take the form of data given in forms of interviews left to individual inter-
pretation. Connecting them and looking from a broader theoretical perspective opens room for
debates that have not been addressed from that angle. This paper presents the stories of origin
that provide the information on the collaborative relationships and consequentially Kubrick’s
(un)collaborative nature itself. I explore the crew formation and indications it had for their
career and their attitude towards film industry. Forming a good relationship can undoubtedly
result in a good collaboration. But was that the case with Kubrick and how did it work?
Information obtained from interviews, data acquired from Kubrick’s archive in London, and
a careful analysis of the practices in the production permit to draw a conclusion on the nature
of collaboration in Kubrick’s crews.
Keywords
Collaboration, crew formation, hierarchy, creative control, autonomy.
Résumé
Origin Stories se réfère à l’étude de la formation des collaborations des équipes de
Stanley Kubrick, particulièrement lors des pré-productions. On se représente généralement
Kubrick comme un brillant tirant incapable de coopérer. Nous questionnerons ce mythe en
analysant les pratiques professionnelles de Kubrick, telles que vues par ses collaborateurs, ainsi
qu’en abordant la question d’un point de vue plus sociologique.
La vaste quantité d’informations disponibles quant aux relations qu’entretint Kubrick avec ses
collaborateurs prend essentiellement la forme d’interviews, par conséquent ouvertes à inter-
prétation. Mettre en relation ces diverses interviews et les confronter à des perspectives théo-
riques permet d’ouvrir un débat inédit. Cet article explore divers récits d’origines qui éclairent
plusieurs relations professionnelles, et par conséquent le potentiel collaboratif de Kubrick
lui-même. Nous explorerons la formation des équipes et les conséquences de ces expériences
sur les carrières et les rapports à l’industrie cinématographiques de ces individus. La formation
d’une relation solide permet indubitablement de mener à une bonne collaboration. Mais cela
fut-il le cas pour Stanley Kubrick, et de quelle manière ?
Les données recueillies par les interviews, mais aussi dans les Archives Stanley  Kubrick de
Londres, associées à une analyse des pratiques de production permettent de conclure quant à
la nature de l’aspect collaboratif des équipes de Kubrick.
Mots-clés
Collaboration, formation d’équipes, hiérarchie, contrôle créatif, autonomie.
Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s Collaborations 171

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

I am a PhD student at the University of East Anglia finishing my research on Kubrick


and his collaborators in terms of authorship and autonomy. I have been researching London’s
Kubrick Archive for over 3 years and have a long and useful practical background of a still
active freelance assistant director.
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?”
The Kubrick-Clarke collaboration in their
correspondence from the Smithsonian and
London Archives

Simone Odino

During their work together on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Stanley Kubrick


would often close his letters to the English writer Arthur  C.  Clarke with
the sentence “What do you think?” 1. This expression immediately suggests a
collaborative dimension not usually associated to the director; at least, not
until the reassessment of his work that started after his passing, made possible
by the donation, by the Kubrick Estate, of the director’s vast collection of
production materials to the University of Arts in London. The resulting
Stanley Kubrick Archive has instigated a new wave of scholarly study of his
films and production methods, of which one of the most significant results
is indeed the reappraisal of Kubrick as collaborator, summarized as such by
Peter Krämer: “Kubrick’s role in the making of films was not much a question of
making up his mind and then imposing his decisions on everyone else, but to select
collaborators and establish work procedures which were likely to produce results he
could not have come up with on his own”.2
The most celebrated of Kubrick’s collaborations, namely his work with
Clarke on 2001: A Space Odyssey, has usually been discussed only through the
lenses of Clarke’s early published memoirs about the making of the movie.3

1 For example in the letter from Kubrick to Clarke, 11  April 1966, Correspondence 1966
Jan-May, Box 4, Folder 2, Arthur C. Clarke Collection; Archives Department, National Air
and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
2 Peter Krämer, Complete total final annihilating artistic control, in Tatjana Ljujic, Peter Krämer
& Richard Daniels (eds.), Stanley Kubrick New Perspectives, London, Black Dog, 2015, p. 361.
See also Catriona McAvoy, Creating The Shining: Looking beyond the myths, in Ljujic, op. cit.,
p.  3280-307; James  Fenwick, I.Q.  Hunter & Elisa  Pezzotta, The Stanley  Kubrick Archive:
A Dossier of New Research, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 37:3, 2017,
p. 367-372.
3 See Arthur C. Clarke, The myth of 2001, Cosmos - The Science-Fantasy Review, No.1, April
1969, p. 310-11; Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001, London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1972; Clarke,
Son Of Dr. Strangelove, first published in Clarke, Report on Planet Three and other speculations,
London, Corgi, 1969, p. 3244-55, reprinted in Ian MacAuley, (ed.), Greetings, Carbon-Based
174 Simone Odino

Mainly focused on the author’s struggle to come up with a satisfying plot and,
perhaps most infamously, on his efforts to finalize a deal for the publication of
the book that the two were concurrently writing, these works have contributed
to a misunderstanding about the relationship between the writer and the
director, that has often described in the general press as difficult or conflicted,
true to the usual narrative about Kubrick the “dictatorial genius”. Actually,
the two enjoyed a long friendship; the usually hard-to-please director said
that his relationship with Clarke was one of the most “fruitful and enjoyable” 4
he ever had, and when the director passed away in 1999, the writer said “My
professional career owes more to Stanley than to anybody else in the world.” 5
By making use of the correspondence held in the Kubrick Archive and in
the recently opened Arthur C. Clarke Collection in the Smithsonian Museum
in Virginia, I will shed some light on the collaboration between the director
and the writer on 2001: A Space Odyssey, using as case histories the key points
in the evolution of the plot and the issue over the publication of the book.
I will also cover their (so far) largely ignored collaboration in the development
of a screenplay based on Brian Aldiss’s short story Supertoys last all summer long
in the early Nineties (a project eventually brought to the screen in 2001 by
Steven Spielberg as A.I.: Artificial Intelligence), to compare the two experiences
and see if their attitudes, interests and working methods changed over time.

“I was not interested in working with anyone else’s ideas”

The circumstances in which Kubrick first got in touch with Clarke are
well known: in early 1964 a mutual friend, Roger  Caras, suggested the
writer as an appropriate collaborator for the director’s intended movie “about
extraterrestrials”.6 In his two previous works, Lolita and Dr.  Strangelove,
Kubrick had worked with the authors of the very texts he wanted to adapt
(Vladimir Nabokov and Peter George); in general, all his movies originated
from pre-existing literary works, because the director’s main problem had
always been “to find a strong story, from which he could develop a strong script”.7

Bipeds!: Collected Essays 1934-1998, London, Voyager, 2001, p.  3259-263; Clarke, Back to
2001, first published in Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, London, Legend, 1990, p.  39-18,
reprinted in MacAuley, op. cit., p. 3ix-xix; Neil McAleer, Odyssey: The Authorized Biography of
Arthur C. Clarke, London, Victor Gollancz, 1992, p. 3190-211.
4 Michel Ciment, Je suis un détective de l’Histoire…, L’Express, n.1312, 30 August - 5 September
1976, p. 318.
5 [Associated Press], Arthur Clarke hopes Kubrick will get Oscar posthumously, The Asian Age,
10 March 1999, p. 18.
6 McAleer, op. cit., p. 3190-191.
7 Filippo Ulivieri, The problem is to find an obsession: An Analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s Numerous
Unmade and Unfinished Projects, paper presented at “Stanley Kubrick: A Retrospective”, De
Montfort University, Leicester (UK), 11-13  May 2016. See also Peter  Krämer, Adaptation
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 175

But when the director set his mind on space, he didn’t show interest in any
specific books by the writer who had been recommended to him.
In his first letter written to Clarke on March 31, 1964 Kubrick did instead
establish that he wanted to work with the English author on a movie that
would explore “the reasons for believing in the existence of extra-terrestrial life”
and “the impact (or lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on
Earth”.8 As these subjects had been, in Clarke’s own words, his “main preoccu-
pation for the previous 30 years”,9 the writer replied enthusiastically and took
the initiative, suggesting to use his short 1948 story The Sentinel 10 as a possible
basis for the movie: its core concept of an alien artifact discovered on the moon
“would give all the excuse [they] needed for the exploration of the Universe”.11
Kubrick and Clarke met for the first time in New York in April 22, 1964 and
hit it off right from the start-talking, on their first day together, “for eight solid
hours”;12 it was in one of their early conversations that a surprised Clarke found
out that Kubrick did have in mind a pre-existing work he wanted to adapt. The
director had been intrigued by a science fiction radio drama broadcast by BBC
in late 1961, Shadow on the Sun, (a story about the invasion of alien lizards
from Jupiter’s moon Europa) to the point of asking Clarke to work on it as
a starting point for their project.13 But only ten days after their first meeting,
Clarke wrote the following note: “2 may. S. scrapped ‘Shadow on the Sun’ and
agreed on ‘Sentinel’ basis for movie” 14 and Kubrick was promptly informed that
the writer “was not interested in working with anyone else’s ideas”.15
This usually overlooked false start in the history of 2001 suggests Clarke’s
importance in the project from the very beginning. It was the writer that
convinced the director that The Sentinel had a greater dramatic potential for
an exploration of mankind’s destiny in space; Kubrick, at the same time, might

as Exploration: Stanley  Kubrick, Literature, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Adaptation, 8 (3),
p. 3372-382.
8 Kubrick to Clarke, 31 March 1964, “Clarkives” MSS 005 2001 A Space Odyssey - General Notes,
Box 103, Folder 4, Arthur C. Clarke Collection, Smithsonian.
9 Clarke, Son of Dr. Strangelove, in MacAuley, op. cit., p. 3259.
10 Clarke, Sentinel of Eternity, Ten  Story Fantasy, Spring, 1951, p.  341-47; reprinted as The
Sentinel in Clarke, Expedition to Earth, New York, Ballantine Books, 1953, p. 3155-167.
11 McAleer, op. cit., p. 3178.
12 Clarke, Son of Dr. Strangelove, in MacAuley, op. cit., p. 3261.
13 Jon Ronson, Lost At Sea: The Jon  Ronson Mysteries, London, Picador, 2016, p.  177-178;
Simone Odino, “God, it’ll be hard topping the H-bomb”: Kubrick’s search for a new obsession in
the path from Dr. Strangelove to 2001: A Space Odyssey, in James Fenwick (ed.), Understanding
Stanley  Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: representation and interpretation, Bristol, Intellect
Books, forthcoming (2018).
14 Clarke, handwritten note, “Clarkives” MSS 005 2001 A Space Odyssey - General Notes, Box 103,
Folder 4, Arthur C. Clarke Collection, Smithsonian.
15 Clarke, Son of Dr. Strangelove, or how I stopped worrying and love Stanley Kubrick, first draft,
p. 35, ibid.
176 Simone Odino

have realized that working with a brilliant and enthusiastically committed


writer presented him with the opportunity to do what he hadn’t managed to
do ever since his first two juvenile works: to write an original story that dealt
with a theme he cared for.16 It would take him and Clarke the next eighteen
months to succeed in the task.

“You can construct this as a logical reason for it if you try”

It was Kubrick that decided to write a novelistic treatment instead of a


traditional screenplay, and develop both a movie and a full-fledged book from
it; the director thought that this would make him and Clarke “concentrate
less on [a] scene than on the truthful working out of the many problems [of the
plot]” 17. On the strength of such treatment, the project was green-lighted
by MGM in early January 196518 and in the summer Clarke went back to
Colombo (present Sri Lanka), while the director moved to Borehamwood,
fifteen miles north of London, where the movie that was by then known
as 2001: A Space Odyssey would be shot19. The plan was for the novel to be
completed by mid-1965, and for the script to then be derived from it; but by
the end of that summer, with the shooting of the movie now looming over
the horizon, both texts –now being written “simultaneously, with feedback in
both directions” 20– were still incomplete and posed several problems still to be
resolved. The two authors worked well together on the solution of such plot
points –the most prominent being, no less, the very ending of the movie.
The novelistic treatment used to sell the project to MGM21 was indeed
coherent, but ended rather abruptly: after pursuing various solutions, it was
Kubrick who suggested, in October 1964, to have the astronaut Dave Bowman
arrive, at the end of the trip through the so-called “Star gate”, in a hotel
room-type environment set up by aliens “to put our heroes at ease”.22 Bowman
crossed a doorway in the room, encouraged by a voice on a telephone, and the
story ended with him seeing the same alien artifact that had appeared in the
prologue, set in primordial Africa: a transparent cube that had kick-started

16 See Ulivieri, op. cit.; Peter Krämer, Stanley Kubrick: Known and Unknown, Historical Journal of
Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 37, No. 3, 2017, p. 3373-395; I.Q. Hunter, From adaptation
to cinephilia: an intertextual odyssey, in Thomas Van Parys & I.Q. Hunter, (eds.), Science fiction
across media: adaptation/novelization, Canterbury, Gylphi, 2013, p. 343-63.
17 Hollis Alpert, Happiness is a film-maker in London, Saturday Review, 25  December 1965,
p. 313. See also Krämer, Stanley Kubrick: Known and Unknown, p. 19-20.
18 McAleer, op. cit., p. 3201.
19 Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001, p. 337.
20 Ibid., p. 331.
21 Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke, Journey Beyond the Stars: A Film Story, Part. II, p. 3251, in
Piers Bizony, The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Cologne, Taschen, 2014.
22 Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001, p. 333.
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 177

human evolution by influencing the minds of a group of ape-men. The effect


that the cube would have on the astronaut was only implied by the text to be
of a similar nature, but it was left entirely to the viewer’s imagination.
In the attempt to avoid an ending that worked on paper, but that in a
movie would have made people –Clarke said– “queuing at the box office to
get their money back” 23, the two gave way, in July 1965, to the temptation of
showing a “majestically tall and graceful extra-terrestrial creature” 24 that would
take the astronaut’s hand,“looking not unlike a parent leading his child”.25 This
was abandoned, too, in favor of what Clarke first introduced in an August 24,
1965 letter to Kubrick; that is, the idea of actually showing Bowman’s trans-
formation while he was sleeping in the hotel room: the astronaut would be
seen “become transparent” 26 and be subject of a series of transformation “such as
apparently being peeled away layer by layer”.27 Kubrick’s handwritten comment
–“Interesting” 28– was short but encouraging, but the very next day Clarke
proposed a different, and more traditional, conclusion. Bowman would
return to Earth after having gained knowledge of extraterrestrial science, with
a “beautiful” spaceship gifted to him by the aliens; he wrote to Kubrick: “The
ship is man’s new tool –the equivalent of Moonwatcher’s weapons. It symbolizes
all the new wisdom of the stars.” 29 The director expressed doubts about such an
explicit explanation, and in a handwritten reply he explained: “I prefer present
non-specific result for film. Maybe this can work in a book but it won’t on film”.30
Bowman’s “transformation” would indeed have been a more elegant
solution for what the director feared was the problem of the movie; that
is, to potentially fall into the “silly simplicity” 31 typical of the science fiction
stereotypes he had wanted to avoid ever since the beginning. It was Clarke
that, in October 3, had the decisive idea on this direction: “Stanley on phone,
worried about ending… gave him my latest ideas, and one of them suddenly
clicked –Bowman will regress to infancy, and we’ll see him at the end as a baby in
orbit.” 32 A couple of days later Clarke justified Bowman’s transformation with

23 Ibid., p. 3188.
24 Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, 2001 A Space Odyssey, p. 374, “Clarkives” MSS 003.1: 2001:
A Space Odyssey - Screenplay by ACC & Kubrick 6/7/65, Box 103, Folder 1, Arthur C. Clarke
Collection.
25 Ibid.
26 Clarke to Kubrick, 24 August 1965, SK/12/8/1/12, Stanley Kubrick Archive.
27 Ibid.
28 Kubrick’s handwritten note, ibid.
29 Clarke to Kubrick, 25  August 1965, SK/12/8/1/11, Stanley  Kubrick Archive, quoted in
Peter Krämer, 2001: A Space Odyssey, London, British Film Institute, 2010, p. 347.
30 Kubrick’s handwritten note, ibid.
31 Kubrick to Clarke, 11 April 1966, Correspondence 1966 Jan-May, Box 4, Folder 2, Arthur C. Clarke
Collection.
32 Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001, p. 338.
178 Simone Odino

a “logical reason”: it was “his image of himself at this stage of his development”.33
He would present Kubrick a readable version of the final chapter of the book
by mid-January 1966 –a piece that the writer called “probably the most difficult
thing I’ve ever written” 34; the solution finally satisfied the director, who was
reportedly “very happy” 35 with Clarke’s work.
Another “logical reason” would be needed to explain the exact nature of
the events in a key section of the movie: the trip of the spaceship Discovery
to Jupiter, that had presented Kubrick and Clarke with even more problems,
as the writer put it: “We had the beginning and (approximately) the end; it was
the center portion which refused to stay in one place. I sometimes felt that we were
wrestling with a powerful and uncooperative snake, anchored at both ends”.36
In the final version of 2001: A Space Odyssey the real purpose of the mission
is revealed to the astronaut Dave Bowman –and to the audience with him–
only after the dramatic scene of the disconnection of Hal 9000. But in the
drafts of the script developed by mid-1965, the astronauts Bowman and Poole
and the on-board computer Athena, as it was by then called, were instead
fully aware of their goals, which was to investigate Jupiter’s moons in search
of the destination of the signal emitted by the alien artifact dug up on the
moon. The news of its discovery had indeed been made public, because “No
one could give a completely plausible reason why [the aliens] might be hostile”.37
All the excitement in the story was, by then, provided by a series of random
in-flight accidents; Poole destroys the Discovery main antenna by mistake and
is marooned in space, and the first hibernated crew member Bowman tries to
revive dies because of a fault in the procedure.38 The accidents were not caused
by a malfunctioning computer; Athena was only a laconic and, if anything,
pedantic machine. When Bowman decides to retrieve a section of the antenna
that is rapidly drifting away, she does not allow him to leave the Discovery
because safety rules prevent the ship to be left unmanned; the baffled astro-
naut “curses angrily” 39 and loses precious time to re-program the computer; a
scene that foretells the direction that the story would soon take.
The key change in the whole plot was suggested by Kubrick; perhaps
confident in the potential of adding an element of mystery, he introduced the
momentous idea that the real purpose of the mission could be kept a secret to

33 Ibid.
34 Clarke to Scott Meredith, 19 January 1966, Correspondence 1966 Jan-May, Box 4, Folder 2,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
35 Ibid.
36 Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001, p. 3125.
37 Kubrick, Clarke, Journey Beyond the Stars, Part II, p. 370, in Bizony, op. cit.
38 Kubrick, Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, p. 374, “Clarkives” MSS 003.1: 2001: A Space Odyssey -
Screenplay by ACC & Kubrick 6/7/65, Box 103, Folder 1, Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
39 Ibid., p. 380.
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 179

the crew. Clarke’s reaction to the idea was not, at first, at all encouraging: in
a letter from August 24, 1965 he wrote to the director “It’s simply insulting to
men of this calibre to assume that they can’t keep a secret that hundreds of others
must know”.40 While the writer recognized that this was an element of surprise
in the story, it looked to him “rather artificial and improbable” 41, and it would
have made the astronauts look “irresponsible”.42 Kubrick did not justify his
insight to the writer; in a handwritten comment he cleverly appealed, instead,
to his sense of intellectual curiosity: “Don’t agree. Only if you fail to try to make
it work. […] You can construct this as a logical reason for it if you try”.43
In September Clarke rejoined the director in Borehamwood and the two
discussed the issue, coming up with a brilliant “logical reason”: if Bowman and
Poole didn’t know the purpose of the mission, that meant that Athena was the
only one who had to, because she had to run the ship in case of emergency.
Hence, the computer needed to conceal to the astronauts the true nature of the
trip; but this necessity interfered with the normal behavior of the computer,
so that “it starts to make mistakes, which in turn give rise to desperate attempts to
cover up the mistakes, eventually leading to multiple murder”.44 We gather how
Clarke was able to understand the possibilities that Kubrick’s idea entailed
from an October 12 note to the director, in which he suggested that instead
of being “just an episode invented for excitement”, the accidents depicted so far
could become more integral to the film’s story: “After all, our story is a quest for
truth. Athenas [sic] action shows what happens when this truth is concealed”.45
A justification for the mission to be veiled in secrecy was therefore devised:
as Heywood Floyd revealed in a scene cancelled from the movie, the inten-
tions of the aliens were now deemed “potentially dangerous” and the infor-
mation was now needed to be “kept on a need-to-know basis”.46 The random
mishaps of Bowman and Poole were therefore attributed to the computer’s
behavior, and the switch from Athena to HAL “the villain” was written into
the screenplay between November and December 196547, a mere two months
before the beginning of the shooting of the Discovery sequence.

40 Clarke to Kubrick, 24 August 1965, SK/12/8/1/12, Stanley Kubrick Archive.


41 Ibid.
42 Ibid.
43 Ibid.
44 Peter Krämer, 2001: A Space Odyssey, p. 346.
45 Clarke to Kubrick, 12  October 1965, SK/12/8/1/12, Stanley  Kubrick Archive, quoted in
Krämer, 2001: A Space Odyssey, p. 346.
46 Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, p. 3c127, “Clarkives” MSS 003.2:
2001: A Space Odyssey - Screenplay by ACC & Kubrick, Box 103, Folder 2, Arthur C. Clarke
Collection.
47 Ibid., p. 3c1-c128.
180 Simone Odino

“I am certain it will all come out right in the end”

Regarding the nature of the “accidents”, Clarke would later admit that
“HAL’s episode is the only conventional dramatic element in the whole film. And
so in that way you might say that it was rather contrived. You know, we’ve got two
and a half hours, something has to happen”.48 Still, he and Kubrick had managed
to devise two brilliant plot devices whose conception match the description
given by Roger Caras of the collaboration between the two: “When those two
were together, bouncing ideas off each other, it was like watching two intellectual
duelists”.49 From a creative standpoint things had worked well between the
two, but the archives hold significant hints as well about the nature of their
personal relationship.
In February 1967 Dave Maness, LIFE Magazine’s editor, asked Arthur Clarke
to “spice up” one of his articles about the making of 2001: perhaps there
was “a crisis, an explosion, a showdown” 50, in which Kubrick could have been
depicted in a more sharp of caustic way? The writer answered: “There was never
any friction at all –not even a single blow-up– during the working-out of the
script. This makes it rather difficult to generate any excitement”.51 Clarke’s reply
is especially significant in the light of some bitter remarks that he had made
in the press, as in a March 1966 interview where he said that his work with
Kubrick had been “a beautiful experience streaked with agony”.52 As a matter of
fact, Clarke was expressing his concerns about a very specific issue, that is, the
delay in the publication of the book that he had developed from the initial
novelistic treatment.
A substantial offer to publish the novel had arrived from Delacorte-Dell in
early 196653, and Clarke, that had devoted two years on the project delaying
other sources of income, and had business activities in Ceylon that were
going through financial troubles, felt that he needed the deal closed as soon as
possible. From the spring to the summer of 1966 his agents pressed Kubrick as
well as his lawyer Louis Blau: they were convinced that with the movie release
planned, by then, for Easter 1967, it would have been impossible to put out
the book on time if Kubrick did not green-light the offer. That, in turn, would

48 Gene Youngblood and Ted Zatlyn, Free Press Interview: Arthur C. Clarke, Los Angeles Free
Press, 25  April 1969, reprinted in Stephanie  Schwam (ed.), The Making of 2001: A Space
Odyssey, New York, Modern Library, 2000, p. 259.
49 Piers Bizony, 2001 Filming The Future; Aurum Press, London 2000, p. 374.
50 David Maness to Clarke, 2  February 1967, VIP Letters, 1943-2004, Box  1, Folder  4,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
51 Clarke to David Maness, 8 February 1967, ibid.
52 Godfrey Smith, Astounding Story! About a Science Fiction Writer!: Astounding Story!, New York
Times, 6 March 1966, p. 3SM115.
53 Meredith to Ken McCormick, 13  March 1968, Correspondence 1968, Box  5, Folder  1,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 181

have jeopardized the chances of a serialized publication that, it was implied,


would have guaranteed a vast amount of publicity to the movie; hence the
substantial pressure that was put on Kubrick to finish his share of revisions
on the manuscript in a timely manner.54 In October 1966 the director had
promised Meredith a revised manuscript by February  5, 1967 “if humanly
possible” 55, but he wasn’t able to respect this deadline, justifying his delay in
delivering his share revisions with his busy schedule. The director actually felt
the need to apologize, in a letter to the publisher Donald Fine: “I’m sorry about
this. I am not usually a hang-up artist”.56 To Clarke’s agent, Scott  Meredith,
Kubrick delved into more detail about his excruciating daily routine : “I get up
at 7.00 am hit the studio by about 8.15 and begin a day that generally ends about
8.30 pm. I go home, say goodnight to the children, have dinner, work on the novel
and go to bed around midnight. I do this seven days a week.” 57
The initial general plan was to release the book before the movie (in a
February  23, 1965 press release, MGM had announced that it would be
“published this winter” 58) but the evidence from the archives indicates that
Kubrick was not under contractual obligation to sign any publishing deal or
to commit to delivery dates: ever since the beginning, Clarke was an employee
of Kubrick’s Polaris Production company, and it was Polaris who had the final
say.59 It was a position of strength that the director reminded to the writer in
more than one occasion: “I have obviously had no opportunity at all to do my share
of the revision to the book. It is my right to do this and I have repeatedly expressed to
you how important I believe the revisions to be.” 60 In another occasion, Kubrick
wrote to Clarke that he was aware of the writer’s concerns, “but this is one of
those situations where there is no choice. I am certain it will all come out right in
the end. I have no options now. I don’t want the novel published in a form I consider
unfinished.” 61 As a closing thought, Kubrick reminded Clarke that he had his

54 See the following letters from the Arthur C. Clarke Collection: Clarke to Mike Wilson, 12 March
1966, Correspondence 1966 Jan-May, Box 4, Folder 2; Clarke to Louis Blau, 16 March 1966,
ibid.; Meredith to Clarke, 25  April 1966, ibid.; Clarke to Ian  Macauley, 1st  February 1967,
Correspondence 1967, Jan-May, Box 4, Folder 7.
55 Meredith to Blau, 26  October 1966, Correspondence 1966 July-December, Box  4, Folder  3,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
56 Kubrick to Don Fine, 14 January 1967, SK/12/8/1/10, Stanley Kubrick Archive.
57 Kubrick to Scott Meredith, 5  October 1965, in Anon., The letters of Stanley  Kubrick, The
Telegraph, 7  July 2008 [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/3555933/The-letters-of-
Stanley-Kubrick.html, last accessed 24 August 2017].
58 A.H. Weiler, Beyond the Blue Horizon, New York Times, 21 February 1965, p. 3X9.
59 Polaris Production to Clarke, 26  May 1965, “Clarkives” MSS 005 2001 A Space Odyssey  -
General Notes, Box 103, Folder 4, Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
60 Kubrick to Clarke, 12 July 1966, SK/12/8/1/12, Stanley Kubrick Archive, in James Chapman,
Nicholas J. Cull, Projecting Tomorrow: Science Fiction and Popular Cinema, London, I.B. Tauris,
2013, p. 3100-101.
61 Bruce Handy 2001: A film Odyssey, Variety, 2 February 2018, p. 3197.
182 Simone Odino

own share of problems: “As you can imagine, there is a considerable amount of
money involved in the film, too, and as many good reasons for people wanting
it finished. The only difference has been that instead of continual pressure and
oblique recriminations there has been an objective understanding of the problem,
something that would be greatly appreciated regarding the novel.” 62
It is tempting to see Kubrick’s delay as yet another example of his legend-
ary perfectionism, as Clarke did comment to one of the publishers inter-
ested in the book: “It is just that he is a perfectionist, and does not appreciate
all the problems of the publishing business”.63 Despite the concerns about his
own financial situation, the writer remained remarkably sympathetic and
supportive of his friend’s difficult position; to a collaborator who complained
about Kubrick’s attitude, he observed that he didn’t agree that the director
was “insensitive to the needs of others –he is very sensitive but his artistic integrity
won’t allow him to compromise. I have to admire this attitude even when it causes
me great inconvenience!”.64 But Kubrick’s insistence was not a mere matter of
tight schedules, legal rights or “obsessive” control: the evidence suggests that
the director felt it was his creative role in the writing that entitled him to make
changes to the book up to the last minute –a book in which, for that matter,
he held a significant 40% stake.65
Ever since his early interviews the director made clear that his method
of collaborating with his co-author consisted in doing one chapter each, and
then “each other would kick the other’s work around”;66 also, the corrections
Kubrick made to an article Clarke wrote about the making of 2001 suggest
that he was keen in setting the record straight about the breadth of his input,
as is evident from the following series of notes: “slight implication you alone did
the story ideas”,67 “again implication you do the creative writing”,68 “the implica-
tion here is that you wrote novel alone”.69 It was a contribution that Clarke did
acknowledge with Kubrick’s lawyer Louis Blau: “I must admit that [Stanley’s]
previous alterations [to the novel] have resulted in vast improvements”, although
he added “… but one has to stop somewhere”.70 Kubrick’s creative role in the

62 Ibid.
63 Clarke to William Jovanovich, 22 June 1966, Correspondence 1966 Jan-May, Box 4, Folder 2,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
64 Clarke to Tom Craven, 29 January 1967, Correspondence 1967, Box 4, Folder 5, Arthur C. Clarke
Collection.
65 McAleer, op. cit., p. 3197.
66 Alpert, op. cit., p. 313.
67 Arthur C. Clarke, Son of Dr. Strangelove, first draft, p. 38, “Clarkives” MSS 005 2001 A Space
Odyssey - General Notes, Box 103, Folder 4, Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
68 Ibid., p. 310.
69 Ibid., p. 311.
70 Clarke to Louis Blau, 16  March 1966, Correspondence 1966 Jan-May, Box  4, Folder  1,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 183

writing is certified by the fact that it was him that suggested to end the novel
with the very same words that had already been used to end the prologue
set in primordial Africa, that described what the ape-man Moonwatcher had
felt after his evolutionary leap: “For though he was the master of the world, he
was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something.” 71 In an
August 24, 1965 letter Clarke wrote Kubrick: “I’m very happy about your finale
(‘He would think of something’) and am drafting various approaches to it”.72
Still, by the end of the project Kubrick might have felt that he had a moral
obligation of sorts towards his collaborator. In later interviews he would grad-
ually shift most of the credit for the novel to Clarke, and while the original
plan was that the names on the book jacket would read “by Arthur C. Clarke
and Stanley  Kubrick” 73, it was the director that eventually decided that it
would be the writer alone to appear as author of the novel74. Clarke was later
forced to admit that “In the long run, everything came out all right –exactly as
Stanley had predicted” 75: when the director eventually authorized the publica-
tion in March 196876, apparently without any major revision77, even Clarke’s
agents had to admit that, appearing after the movie, the book would have an
“unprecedented benefit”: the millions already spent in promotion by MGM.78
2001: A Space Odyssey premiered in Washington in April 2, 1968, and
became the critical and popular phenomenon that we all know; the novel,
eventually published by New American Library, sold an estimate of 4 million
copies by the end of the Sixties alone.79 The generous returns prompted Clarke
to comment “Stanley Kubrick and I are laughing all the way to he bank”.80

71 Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, Journey Beyond the Stars: A Film Story, Part I, p. 332, in
Bizony, The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey,
London, Legend, 1990, p. 3297.
72 Clarke to Kubrick, 24 August 1965, SK/12/8/1/12, Stanley Kubrick Archive.
73 (Anon.), Kulerick and Clarke, Clarke and Kulerick (sic) Get Billing Problem for Space Film Solved,
The Atlanta Constitution, Feb. 7, 1966, p. 37A; Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001, p. 331; Clarke
to Kubrick, 4 March 1968, Correspondence 1968 Jan-Jun, Box 5, Folder 1, Arthur C. Clarke
Collection.
74 Meredith to Blau, undated, SK/12/8/1/12, Stanley Kubrick Archive.
75 Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001, p. 49
76 Meredith to Ken McCormick, 13 March 1968, Correspondence 1968 Jan-Jun, Box 5, Folder 1,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
77 Meredith to Louis Blau, undated, SK/12/8/1/12, Stanley Kubrick Archive.
78 Ibid.
79 Bizony, The Making of Stanley  Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, p.  3422. The contract with
The New American Library was signed on 22 March 1968; see 2001 Publicity, 1965-2003,
Box 147, Folder 6, Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
80 Clarke, The myth of 2001, p. 311.
184 Simone Odino

“Only you can write ”

In the years after 2001: A Space Odyssey Kubrick and Clarke kept in touch
regularly, and for a brief period at the beginning of the Nineties it seemed
there was a chance for the two to collaborate again.81 By then, the director
had been working for a long time on the 1969 short story Supertoys Last All
Summer Long 82 by the English writer Brian  Aldiss, set in an overpopulated
future in which a childless woman adopts David, an android resembling a five-
year-old boy. In 1982 Kubrick had signed Aldiss to work on Supertoys in order
to develop it into a movie83; to the writer, who doubted that such a short story
could be expanded into a full length script, the director replied: “Why not? I did
it with Arthur Clarke’s ‘The Sentinel’. It’s the same length, 2000 words” 84, indeed a
testament of how satisfied he had been of the collaboration with his old friend.
Kubrick would try to come to grips with the story for almost a decade,
despite the help of other science fiction authors like Ian  Watson and
Bob Shaw85, but to no avail. After the release of Full Metal Jacket (1987), his
work on Supertoys overlapped with the very same project he had discarded in
1964: Shadow on the Sun, whose rights he bought in 1988, and reportedly
worked on for a while.86 It is unclear if the two projects where related to one
another; still, the adaptation of the radio drama was evidently not meant to
happen, because the director abandoned it again.
Clarke had consulted unofficially with Kubrick on Supertoys ever since
1989; when he wrote to the director on the last day of 1991, asking how the
work on the script was evolving, Kubrick answered with a fax for which, in
Clarke’s own words, “many writers would have murdered their entire families”:87
“Only you can write ‘Supertoys.’ How much money would it take to get you to

81 In the decades that followed Clarke produced several sequels to 2001: 2010: Odyssey Two, New
York, Ballantine, 1982; 2061: Odyssey Three, London, Grafton Books, 1987; 3001: The Final
Odyssey, London, Voyager, 1997. Kubrick’s involvement with 2010 and with Peter  Hyams’
movie 2010: The year we make contact (1984) seems to have been limited to the contrac-
tual negotiations needed because the sequel rights were co-owned by Polaris and MGM; see
MGM-UA In Tug-Of-War With Phillips And 20th-Fox Over Film Righs to “2010”, Daily Variety,
December 21, 1982, p. 1, 13; Peter Bart, Fade out: the calamitous final days of MGM, New
York, Morrow, 1990, p. 63; McAleer, op. cit., p. 307-317.
82 Brian Aldiss, Supertoys Last All Summer Long, Harper’s Bazaar, December 1969, p.  70-72,
reprinted in Aldiss, Supertoys Last All Summer Long and Other Stories of Future time, London,
Orbit, 2001, p. 1-11.
83 Brian Aldiss, Meet the man behind the myth, The Observer, 13 March 1999, p. 143.
84 (Anon.), Brian Aldiss : Young Turk to Grand Master, Locus Magazine, August 2000, [http://
www.locusmag.com/2000/Issues/08/Aldiss.html, last accessed 23 August 2017].
85 See Krämer, Stanley Kubrick: Known and Unknown.
86 Ronson, op. cit., Odino, op. cit.
87 Gary Dalkin, To The Last Word: an Interview with Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 21 April 2000, [http://
tothelastword.com/interviewer/arthur-c-clarke/, last accessed 23 August 2017].
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 185

do it? Name a figure”.88 That was, the writer later said, “a challenge I couldn’t
resist”.89 In his reply to the director he admitted that he was flattered by the
offer, but he added that, besides the fact that noney was no longer a problem,
his deteriorating physical conditions and the logistic challenge of working
long distance would have been hard to overcome. He also added something
that, arguably, even his most ardent fans wouldn’t disagree with: “I still don’t
understand why you think I’m the person to help on Supertoys because this sort of
emotional family drama is exactly the kind of thing I’m bad at”.90
Still, Kubrick kept calling Clarke and sending him faxes, trying to lure him
into working together again. In a letter to the writer the director commented
the present state of the manuscript and recalled their successful past collabo-
ration, in the attempt to convince him: “I think overall it lacks poignancy and
rarely captures the sense of an intelligent but limited robot mind. You had it in
the Dawn of Man […]” Kubrick believed that there was “a major story here,
with the subconscious, myth-making power 2001 had, and a degree of emotional
involvement so rare in the genre”.91
Although Clarke said later that “… really I did [Supertoys] because I owed
him so much”,92 the letters he wrote to his friend suggest that he was intrigued
by the idea of seeing the headlines in newspapers “Clarke and Kubrick together
again!”.93 He therefore suggested to produce an outline of his take on the
story, and if this was green-lighted by the director, he would then write a novel
based on this and have Kubrick develop a screenplay from the novel, basi-
cally repeating the modus operandi that they had followed for 2001. Putting
his other projects on hold, in late March 1992 Clarke began sending ideas
to the director; because overpopulation was a key feature of the 21st century
envisioned by Aldiss in Supertoys, Clarke devised a short opening set in the
year 2032 and featuring a black Pope (for the actor Clarke suggested Sydney
Poitier) declaring that birth control was now condoned and authorized by the
Catholic Church.94 Kubrick thought it was a promising start: “…now for just
the next 37 thousands words”.95
As he advanced, though, Clarke became increasingly critical of the work
previously made on the story (especially of the epilogue devised by Ian Watson
before him, that featured robots from the future resurrecting David’s mother

88 Dalkin, op. cit.


89 Dalkin, op. cit.
90 Clarke to Kubrick, 10 January 1992, Correspondence with Kubrick 1991-2005, Box 56, Folder 4,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
91 Kubrick to Clarke, 19 January 1992, ibid.
92 Dalkin, op. cit.
93 Clarke to Kubrick, 10 January 1992, Correspondence with Kubrick 1991-2005, Box 56, Folder 4,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
94 Clarke to Kubrick, 31 March 1992, ibid.
95 Kubrick to Clarke, 2 April 1992, ibid.
186 Simone Odino

from her DNA, that he called “scientific nonsense”96), and slowly moved away
from it. This is evident in the five-page outline Clarke titled “Child of the sun”,
which was radically different especially in the conclusion; it described David
awakening after 150  years in a world that has made contact with an alien
superior civilization, that sends humans the instructions on how to build a
starship. As the trip would last a thousand years, the ship would be crewed by
androids, and David embarks with them as ambassador of Mankind.97
The themes touched upon in this ending are easily comparable with those
in 2001; Clarke had indeed previously reminded Kubrick that his specialty
was “hard sciences, and not even robotics, but space”.98 The writer recalled years
later that the outline he had sent to Kubrick was “Rejected instantly! […] He
hated it and asked me to tear it up” 99; actually, Kubrick wrote him a more subtle
and amusing fax on May  26, 1992, in which he admitted he had “enjoyed
[it] immensely”. There was a problem, though: the director believed there was
great material in the manuscript, and feared that Clarke had “not only thrown
out the baby with the bath water, but the bathtub, the bathroom, indeed, the
house itself ”.100 The fact that Clarke wasn’t sufficiently interested in the previ-
ously developed material left the director unsure about “what to do next”.101
The writer replied mildly complaining about the lack of direction from
Kubrick, that in the meantime had mysteriously stopped replying his faxes.
Clarke had felt he had no chance but going ahead, developing the ideas he
liked while ignoring those deemed “silly, unconvincing, or uninteresting…” 102
Replying in similar irony to Kubrick’s “bathroom” fax, he admitted their
artistic differences, but declared himself “still excited at the idea of working
with you (and getting into the Guinness book of records as the only writer who’s
survived two rounds.)” 103
The main reason behind Kubrick’s lack of response appears to be the
concurring project he was working on. By the summer of 1992 the director
had already developed two drafts of the script of Aryan Papers, an adaptation
of Louis Begley’s book Wartime Lies about a boy and his aunt hiding from the
Nazi regime during the Holocaust, and was getting involved in the logistics

96 Clarke to Kubrick, 8 June 1992, ibid.


97 Arthur C. Clarke, Child Of The Sun, undated draft, ibid.
98 Clarke to Kubrick, 10 January 1992, ibid.
99 Gregory Feeley, The Masterpiece a Master Couldn’t Get Right, 18 July 1999, New York Times,
[https://partners.nytimes.com/library/film/071899kubrick-ai.html?mcubz=0. Last accessed
28 August 2017].
100 Kubrick to Clarke, 26 May 1992, Correspondence with Kubrick 1991-2005, Box 56, Folder 4,
Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
101 Kubrick to Clarke, 2 June 1992, ibid.
102 Clarke to Kubrick, 27 May 1992, ibid.
103 Clarke to Kubrick, 6 June 1992, ibid.
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 187

attached to the intended shooting in Poland.104 Clarke, in the meanwhile, had


several other book projects going on; the available correspondence suggests
that the two had such a tight schedule that even on the occasion of Clarke’s
trip to London in July to celebrate his 75th birthday they had not time to sit
down and talk about Supertoys thoroughly. Kubrick intended to contact Clarke
again once the writer got back to Sri Lanka, but after a month of silence, in
September 6 the director wrote apologizing and telling him abruptly that he
was about to start a new film. “…I believed it would be possible to handle the
day to day demands of this and still have time to work things out with you. […] I
hope I haven’t screwed up anything for you”.105
The secrecy that Kubrick had considered as paramount for Aryan Papers
had evidently prevented him to tell even to his friend what he was working
on, as we see from Clarke’s surprised reply: “I was quite taken aback by your
fax of 6  September –I’d assumed that ‘Supertoys’ was your ‘next film’”.106 On
these terms, their second, short-lived collaboration ended, and Clarke wished
his friend the best of luck for the continuation of his projects –after all, this
would allow him to focus on his others businesses, that he admittedly consid-
ered “more exciting, as well as being all mine!” 107; it was something Kubrick
had already realized when he had confessed the writer “I understand how you
feel about re-working someone else’s semi-story”.108

The roughly 150 exchanges between Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke held in


their combined archives constitute an impressive amount of primary sources,
especially when compared to other collaborations the writer developed with
writers on movies he produced and directed (or researched and didn’t direct).
The Clarke collection now provides the opportunity to evaluate the other side
of the creative process behind 2001, and the tentative findings included in
this essay seems to both confirm and expand the conclusions of the authors
that made use of the London Archive in the last decade: without relinquish-
ing any control over the project, on 2001 Kubrick was remarkably capable
of creating a “creative space”109 in which his collaborator was put in the best
position to contribute effectively to the final product.

104 Jan Harlan, Alison Castle, From Wartime Lies to “Aryan Papers”, in Alison  Castle (ed.), The
Stanley Kubrick Archives, Cologne, Taschen, 2005, p. 3509; Artur Piskorz, Aryan Papers: The
Polish Connection, Media –Kultura– Komunikacja społeczna, 12/2, 2016, p. 373-79.
105 Kubrick to Clarke, 6  September 1992, Correspondence with Kubrick 1991-2005, Box  56,
Folder 4, Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
106 Clarke to Kubrick, 9 September 1992, ibid.
107 Clarke to Kubrick, 2 August 1992, ibid.
108 Kubrick to Clarke, 2 June 1992, ibid.
109 Interview with Mick Broderick included in Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying
and Love the Bomb, Blu-Ray, Criterion, 2016.
188 Simone Odino

The correspondence between Kubrick and Clarke seems to indicate that


their relationship might indeed have developed along the lines of what their
mutual friend Roger Caras suggested: “Stanley is probably the only person in the
last forty years that Arthur has had to take a back seat to. […] Kubrick is much
more the forceful personality of the two. Kubrick says yes, Kubrick says no; it is yes
or no. Arthur says yes, Arthur says no; it is maybe.” 110 Their exchanges show the
director’s skill in subtly directing his co-author, his determination in imposing
his will on the book deal and the breadth of his creative input in the writing
of the novel; still, from the very beginning Clarke proved that he was not only
Kubrick’s yes-man, or a mere sounding board. He pointed the project towards
the right direction from the very beginning, supplied the director with his
unique writing skills, and worked successfully towards the solution of plot
points, as well as being a relentless supporter of the project both in public and
in private.
By comparing their collaboration on the seminal 1968 science fiction
movie with the subsequent failed attempt in working on Supertoys it seems,
nevertheless, that the success of the Kubrick-Clarke collaboration on 2001
did not rest only in the immediate connection and mutual respect between
them –the aspect that Caras described as a fruitful “cerebral marriage”.111
The production of the “proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie” 112 was a
success because the director trusted the writer enough to expand the scope of
his original vision “in time and space” 113, and because Clarke was intelligent
enough in following the director’s lead; but even more importantly, on that
project they shared a definite goal and a keen involvement with the themes
they were dealing with –that is, the impact of the discovery of extraterrestrial
life on mankind.
On this regard, their subsequent collaboration on the development of
Supertoys, although of lesser importance when compared with the extent of the
work produced by the other writers Kubrick worked with during the convo-
luted development of what eventually became Spielberg’s A.I.114, is a sort of
mirror image to their previous work together. Supertoys was not Clarke’s story,

110 McAleer, op. cit., p. 3202.


111 Smith, op. cit.
112 Samuel Wigley, The letter from Stanley Kubrick that started 2001: A Space Odyssey, 9 June 2016,
British Film Institute website, [http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/letter-
stanley-kubrick-started-2001-space-odyssey. Last accessed 30 March 2018].
113 Clarke, Son Of Dr. Strangelove, in MacAuley, p. 3262.
114 See Jan Harlan, Jane M. Struthers, A.I. Artificial Intelligence from Stanley Kubrick to Steven Spielberg:
The Vision Behind the Film, London, Thames & Hudson, 2009; A.  Castle, Stanley  Kubrick’s
A.I., in Castle, The Stanley Kubrick Archives, p. 3504-508; Peter Krämer, Spielberg & Kubrick,
in Nigel  Morris (ed.), A Companion to Steven Spielberg, Chichester, Wiley  Blackwell, 2017,
p. 3195-211.
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 189

but Aldiss’s; the writer, admittedly working on the project only out of a debt
of gratitude, wasn’t involved as he had been with his own The Sentinel, and
couldn’t cope with the director’s requests. Supertoys wasn’t Shadow on the sun
either, because this time, Kubrick –increasingly frustated– was not willing to
see the project deviate from a story he had cherished for so long, and that he
had envisioned to expand into a “sentimental, dream-like fable”.115
The available evidence suggests that Clarke was not particularly hurt by
Kubrick’s decision to abandon Supertoys (the two would later meet again in
1994, and would keep in contact regularly until the director’s death in 1999);
still, when the director surprised him with his last communication about his
“new” next film, Clarke could not let him get away without one of the jokes he
was famous for, sending his agents a fax that at the same time vouches for the
unflappable humor of the English author and the inevitable difficulties that
most writers experienced when dealing with the demanding and “stimulating,
occasionally exasperating –but great fun” 116 director: “I’m thinking of writing a
piece entitled “If Stanley Kubrick calls, say I’m out.” 117

Simone Odino
simoneodino@gmail.com

Abstract
From their fruitful four-years partnership on one of the watershed in the history of movies,
2001: A Space Odyssey (1964-68) to the unsuccessful effort –in the early 90’s– of develop-
ing a story based on Brian  Aldiss’s short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long (eventually
brought to the screen by Steven Spielberg as A.I.: Artificial Intelligence), Stanley Kubrick and
Arthur C. Clarke enjoyed a long friendship that lasted until their deaths, and that has been
described as a “successful cerebral marriage”; the two constantly stimulated one another with
a flow of ideas and challenges, ever since the first letter written by the director on March 31,
1964, where he mentioned his intention to work with the writer on the “the proverbial ‘really
good’ science-fiction movie”.
Usually discussed only through the lenses of Clarke’s published memoirs about the making
of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the relationship between the writer and the director has often been
described as difficult or conflicted, true to the usual narrative about Kubrick the “dictatorial
genius”. By making use of the correspondence held in the Kubrick Archive and in the recently
opened Arthur C. Clarke Collection in the Smithsonian Museum in Virginia, I will shed some
new light on their collaboration on 2001, using as case histories the key points in the evolu-
tion of the plot and the issue over the publication of the book. I will also cover their (so far)
largely ignored collaboration in the development of Supertoys to compare the two experiences
and see if their attitudes, interests and working methods changed over time.

115 John Baxter, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, New York, Carroll & Graf, 1997, p. 3355.
116 [Associated Press], op. cit.
117 Clarke to [Jack and Jacqueline?], undated, Correspondence with Kubrick 1991-2005, Box 56,
Folder 4, Arthur C. Clarke Collection.
190 Simone Odino

Keywords
Kubrick, Clarke, 2001, Odyssey, collaboration.
Résumé
De leur collaboration fructueuse sur l’un des films les plus marquants de l’histoire cinéma-
tographique, 2001 : L’odyssée de l’Espace (1964-1968) jusqu’à leur tentative avortée, dans les
années 90, pour développer une histoire inspirée de la nouvelle Supertoys Last All Summer Long
de Brian Aldiss (finalement adaptée par Steven Spielberg avec I.A. : Intelligence Artificielle),
Stanley Kubrick et Arthur C. Clarke entretinrent une longue amitié jusqu’à leur mort, qui fut
décrite comme un « heureux mariage cérébral » ; les deux hommes se stimulaient l’un l’autre en
s’échangeant des idées et se lançant des défis, et ce depuis la première lettre écrite par le réali-
sateur le 31 mars 1964, dans laquelle il fait part de son intention de collaborer avec l’auteur
pour créer « le tant attendu “premier chef d’œuvre” de science-fiction au cinéma ».
La relation qui s’établit entre l’écrivain et le cinéaste, essentiellement envisagée à travers
le prisme des déclarations de Clarke au sujet du tournage de 2001 dans ses Mémoires,
fut souvent décrite comme difficile voire conflictuelle, en accord avec l’image d’Épinal de
Kubrick, le « génie dictatorial ». Grâce à l’étude de la correspondance conservée aux Archives
Stanley Kubrick ainsi que dans la collection Arthur C. Clarke récemment ouverte au musée
Smithsonian de l’état de Virginie, cet article propose de ré-explorer cette collaboration en se
concentrant sur certains moments cruciaux dans l’évolution du script de 2001 ainsi que sur
les problèmes liés à la publication du roman éponyme. Enfin, nous reviendrons sur la seconde
collaboration des deux artistes, actuellement peu étudiée, lors de l’adaptation de Supertoys ;
nous pourrons ainsi comparer ces deux expériences et considérer les évolutions quant aux
attitudes, aux méthodes de travail et aux intérêts du duo à travers le temps.
Mots-clés
Kubrick, Clarke, 2001, Odyssée, collaboration.
“Dear Arthur, what do you think?” 191

BIOGRAPHIC NOTE

Simone Odino is a public librarian and archivist in Bologna (Italy), where he studied
Political Science. For the last four years he has been actively researching the movie 2001: A
Space Odyssey conducting interviews with cast and crew and visiting archives in the United
Kingdom, the United States and Italy. An extended version of a presentation given at the
Stanley  Kubrick conference in Leicester (May 2016) is due to publication in the forthco-
ming book Understanding Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey - representation and interpretation
(Intellect, 2018). He also runs the website www.2001italia.it.
Réception et intermédialité
Matthew Melia
Filippo Ulivieri
Partie 7
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface
of film and television

Matthew Melia

During his keynote address at the 2016 conference Stanley  Kubrick: A


Retrospective1 Jan  Harlan2 announced that Napoleon, Kubrick’s great unrea-
lised project3 would finally be produced, as a HBO TV mini-series, directed
by Cary  Fukunaga (True Detective, HBO) and executively produced by
Steven  Spielberg. He also suggested that had Kubrick survived into the
21st century he would not only have chosen TV as a medium to work in, he
would also have contributed to the contemporary post-millennium zeitgeist
of cinematic TV drama.
There has been little news on the development of the project since and we
are left to speculate how this cinematic spectacle eventually may (or may not)
turn out on the “small screen”. Alison Castle’s monolithic edited collection of
research and production material surrounding Napoleon4 gives some idea of
the scale, ambition and problematic nature of re-purposing such a momen-
tous project for television. In the introduction to the collection Harlan writes:
For Kubrick, Napoleon offered a chance to make a big epic film on sweeping
subjects: an important episode in European history5, a compelling personality,
a unique historical figure, a tale that embraces glamour, revolution, romance,
envy, intrigue and betrayal, battles on land and sea, and above all power. It was

1 De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, 11-13th May 2016.


2 Stanley Kubrick’s producer, brother-in-law, and spokesman for the Kubrick Estate 1.
3 Originally intended for release in the wake of 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was beaten to the
punch by Sergey Bondarchuk’s 1970 film, Waterloo, starring Rod Steiger.
4 Alison Castle (ed.), Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made, Köln, Taschen,
2011.
5 The serialised World War II HBO docu-drama Band of Brothers (2001) a landmark piece of
television, executively produced by Spielberg, similarly dealt with “an important episode in
European [Military] History” from a globally expansive and televisually ambitious perspective
may offer a framework for understanding how the HBO Napoleon could turn out. Spielberg,
of course, has form when it comes to bringing to life Kubrick’s unrealised projects, with the
2001 film, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.
196 Matthew Melia

a chance to portray all of Europe and North Africa –from Lisbon to Moscow,
from the dry deserts of Egypt to the snowy wastes of the Russian Steppes– in
an era of upheaval6.
In a 1969 interview with Joseph Gelmis (in the same collection) Kubrick
discusses plans for staging the film’s intended battle sequences and their
projected scale:
We’re now in the process of deciding the best places to shoot, and where it
would be most feasible to obtain troops we need for battle scenes. We intend
to use a maximum of forty thousand infantry and ten thousand cavalry for
the big battles which means that we have to find a country which will hire its
armed forces out to us –you just imagine the cost of fifty thousand extras over
an extended period of time.7
Once, the limited scope and dimensions of the home TV set, and the
economic limitations of TV production would have made such a project
impossible. With 21st  century advances in home televisual technology8, new
broadcasting technologies and the epic production scale of contemporary
programming (from documentary to drama), television as a cultural medium
is once again challenging the cultural dominance of cinema, and is increasingly
up to the task of accommodating such an enormous project as well as the vision
of a director synonymous with expansive cinematic spectacle and idiosyncratic
design: HBO’s monolithic flagship fantasy series Game of Thrones (for instance)
recently included comparatively similar epic battle sequences of the size and
scale envisioned by Kubrick for Napoleon, one battle sequence9 in the serial
using only 500 extras digitally reproduced and replicated in their thousands10.
The centrality of television to Kubrick’s work has so far been critically
overlooked and few studies have been dedicated to the “tele-centricity” of the
films. The hope of this study is to examine Kubrick’s own position at the inter-
face of the two mediums. I aim to illustrate the “tele-awareness” of Kubrick’s
cinema, suggesting that as the scope, ambition of contemporary television
programming has widened Kubrick’s films are becoming more than just a
point of knowing iconographic homage and pastiche but that the language of
his cinema (stylistic, thematic, formally, in design) is increasingly becoming a
referent and part of the new 21st century cinematic language and vernacular
of television itself.

6 Jan Harlan, “Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon”, in Alison Castle (ed.) Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon:


The Greatest Movie Never Made, Köln Taschen, 2011, p. 15.
7 Joseph Gelmis, “Kubrick talks about Napoleon”, in Alison  Castle (ed.) Stanley  Kubrick’s
Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made, Köln: Taschen, 2011, p. 43.
8 The displacing of the TV itself within the domestic space with “Home cinemas”.
9 “The Battle of the Bastards”, S9E6, broadcast: 19/6/2016.
10 Megan McClusky, The Astounding number behind Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards”,
2016. www.Time.Com, http://time.com/4372304/game-of-thrones-battle-of-the-bastards-
numbers/. Last viewed: 01/11/2017.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 197

Contemporary criticism is only starting to engage with the director’s


presence in 20th and 21st century television. Mick Broderick11 has, for instance,
recently charted the history and presence of Kubrickian homage, pastiche and
the “Auteurist influence” of Kubrick in the long-running animated sitcom
The Simpsons.12 Later I will illustrate how televised animation also plays a role
in the latter half of Kubrick’s own career: in The Shining (1980). Full Metal
Jack (1986) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999) where TV cartoons are associated with
corruption of innocence, the loss of childhood and the dissolution of family.
Furthermore Robert Kolker writes:
Homer and Bart Simpson have been dreaming themselves into 2001 and A
Clockwork Orange for some time. Still, the infiltration of Kubrick’s images into
popular culture is not exactly the same as influence. And none of it is the same as
the deep seepage of, for example, the Hitchcockian design into Martin Scorsese’s
work, or even the Fordian fantasies of homestead into Spielberg’s. Many film-
makers try to make Hitchcockian or even Fordian films. No one sets out to
make Kubrickian films. They are completely boxed in by an inimitable style and
an intellectual complexity that is impossible to duplicate or recreate.13
Later I suggest that television is becoming a space where Kubrick’s cultural
influence is increasingly being felt; where contemporary “quality” television
drama not only homages and pastiches but also shows a “deep seepage” of “spec-
tacular” Kubrickian design and style in the architecture, design and space of
global auteurist TV dramas, such as Westworld (Nolan, HBO, 2016), Hannibal
(Fuller, NBC, 2013-15) and The Young Pope (Sorrentino, Sky Atlantic, Canal+,
2017)14: television which Helen Wheatley would describe as “Spectacular”:
It is programming which is designed to be stared at, to be ogled, contemplated
and scrutinised, to be gaped at and gawked at. It is programming that abso-
lutely conforms to (at least in part) to the Oxford English Dictionary’s defini-
tions of spectacle as both “a visually striking performance or display” and “an
event or scene regarded in terms of visual impact” or to Geoff King’s definition
of spectacle as “the production of images at which we might wish to stop and
stare”. It is the image on the television which holds the viewers gaze and which,
if only for a moment, can be appreciated outside of the drive of the narrative.15

11 Film scholar and author and authority of Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop
Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).
12 Mick Broderick, “Animating Kubrick  - Auteurist Influences in The Simpsons”, Screening
The Past (“Post Kubrick Dossier”), Issue  42, October  4th 2017, Melbourne, LeTrobe
University. http://www.screeningthepast.com/2017/09/animating-kubrick-auteur-influenc-
es-in-the-simpsons/. Last Viewed: 05/03/2018.
13 Robert Kolker, “Rage For Order: Kubrick’s Fearful Symmetry”, in Raritan: A Quaterly Review,
Summer 2010, Vol. 30 (1), p. 53.
14 For the purposes of this discussion and for expediency’s sake I have chosen to focus on contem-
porary “quality” television drama rather than other forms such as documentary or popular
entertainment shows.
15 Helen Wheatley, Spectacular Television: Exploring Televisual Pleasure, London: IB Tauris, 2016,
p. 1-2.
198 Matthew Melia

TV sets also have a significant presence in Kubrick’s films serving a number


of purposes; the watching of television is a recurring act. Broadcasting, televi-
sion and the televisual are part of the intertextual matrix of Kubrick’s cinema,
which Rod Munday terms the “Kubrick Cinematic Universe”16. The Shining,
for instance, proves to be the most televisually rich of the films and makes a
useful comparative paring with Eyes Wide Shut, in which there also moments
where the TV set has a significant presence, this film also adopts an aesthetic
televisual “identity”.
While my research at the Kubrick archive has uncovered no specific inter-
views or correspondence where the director directly articulates any thoughts on
the medium or its technological potential17 the Kubrick archive does contain
a number of production materials (continuity scripts; early script drafts and
treatments) which reveal redacted TV-centric dialogue; design research, etc.
and illuminate the role and immersion of television in Kubrick’s cinema and
help shed light on and reveal not only Kubrick’s own interest in the medium
of television (particularly as self-reflexive device) but also an apparent ambi-
valence and scepticism towards it.

Television In Kubrick

The Stanley Kubrick Archive houses a transcript of a speech, given in 1965


to a cohort of journalism students at the University of Indiana by Elmer Lower,
then President of ABC News. This speech celebrated the influence of science
fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke over the evolution of “Global television”, broad-
cast communication and satellite technology. He identified Clarke’s article,
“The Future of Communications” (Wireless Magazine, October 1945)18 as a
pivotal and prophetic moment which foresaw the genesis of the synchronous
communications and anticipated (the then recently launched), “Early Bird”19:

16 Rod Munday, A Kubrick Cinematic Universe, in Vincent  Jaunas and Jean-François  Baillon,
“Stanley Kubrick. Nouveaux horizons”. Bordeaux: Essais, hors série, 2018, p. 135-150.
17 The archive does contain a large amount of documents relating to the television marketing of
Kubrick’s films: a letter from Kirk Douglas for instance, dated 13th April 1959, proposing a
“television spectacular” around the release of Spartacus as well as documentation and research
materials for “TV-Spots”. The television marketing of Kubrick’s films, however, will form the
subject of a later study and for expediency’s sake have been omitted from this discussion.
18 This scientifically complex and mathematically dense article was editorially retitled to “Extra-
Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give World Wide Radio Coverage?”, for publication.
19 “Early Bird” was the first International geosynchronous commercial communications satellite
or “Intelsat  1”, launched from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday, 06  April 1965. J.  Terry  White
describes it: “Though primitive by today’s standards, Early Bird functioned well its role as
a communications satellite. Among its many accomplishments, the satellite helped make
possible the first live television broadcast of the splashdown of a manned spacecraft when
Gemini 6 returned to earth in December of 1965. Early Bird was deactivated in January of
1969” (J.  Terry  White, “Early Bird Satellite Launch”, White Eagle Aerospace, 2012. http://
www.whiteeagleaerospace.com/early-bird-satellite-launch/. Last viewed: 19/11/2017).
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 199

Clarke did predict synchronous communications satellites in an article he


wrote for the British magazine Wireless World under the title “The Future of
Communications”. The Article envisioned a communications network using
satellites whose orbital speed is synchronised with the earth’s rotation, a system
in which three space stations, arranged equidistantly above the earth, could
cover the globe. It theorized that if a rocket could reach a speed of 5 miles a
second, it could continue to circle the Earth indefinitely like a second moon…
All of the electrical energy needed to run the relay stations, according to the
article, could come from the Sun… One thing that the 1945 Clarke article did
not foresee was that the satellites would be unmanned… Up to this point, the
communications satellites could not transmit images.20
This discussion of Clarke’s work provides a context for understanding
and interrogating the presence of the televisual in Kubrick’s films which deal
imaginatively and iconographically, with the transmission and reception of a
“Wireless” broadcast signal; broadcasting and receiving bodies and the relay
and transmission of images. The transmission and relay of the “broadcast
image” is embedded within the narrative of the films at an inter and meta-
textual level: Kubrick scholar Rod Munday has observed how Kubrick’s films
offer a matrix of intertextuality, exhibiting a communicative relay of images21.
Munday noted (for instance) how the violent battle between the hominids at
the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey is relayed and restaged in the fight between
Alex’s Droogs and Billy Boy’s gang in A Clockwork Orange (1971), Kubrick’s
next film. Within this “Universe” television casts a mesmerising, hypnotic,
controlling spell and exists in close (often physical) proximity to the break
up and dispersal of the family unit and the collapse of familial communi-
cation [see discussion below regarding both The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut
(1999) where this is iconographically expressed and where the television itself
becomes a literal barrier between family members]. Clarke’s speculative and
somewhat utopian view of the “future of communications” is therefore set
in tension with Kubrick’s own more ambivalent relationship to the medium.

The synchronised wheeling, orbiting astral bodies of 2001: A Space


Odyssey’s space ships and stations recall the orbiting satellites of Clarke’s vision,
Strauss’s “Blue Danube” conjures a sense of river-like flow and relay. Clarke’s
communicative satellites are also recalled in the Danny/Halloran relation-
ship in The Shining and in the way Danny, Wendy and Jack become similar
detached bodies in the cavernous, maze like space of The Overlook: receptors
for images “broadcast” and projected by the hotel itself (see below).
David Pescovitz argues that not only are televisions narratively present in
2001: A Space Odyssey, they were also present at the conceptualisation of the
text. In an early draft of the novel from which the film emerges22 (a collabora-

20 Stanley Kubrick Archive, University of the Arts, London, ref. no. SK/12/8/2/55.


21 Rod Munday, op. cit., 2018, p. 135-160.
22 Housed at the Clarke archive in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
200 Matthew Melia

tion between Clarke and Kubrick23) the alien artefact the hominids encounter
was imagined as a glowing television-like cube rather than the film’s enigmatic
black Monolith. Citing Bruce Sterling24 he states:
As they worked together, conjuring up the novel and the film, correspondence
reveals a pre-occupation with “the Cube” (later transmuted to “The Monolith”).
Responding to Clarke’s suggestion in 1966 that the cube communicates
directly with the man-apes who would populate the film, Kubrick instead
advocated a more enigmatic presence: “We see only the hypnotic image and
the spellbound faces of the apes.25
Watching or gazing is Kubrickian trope and with the troubling, invasive
and enigmatic “Kubrick Stare” characters repeatedly look beyond the screen
boundary into the audience space. In 2001: A Space Odyssey the celestial
and hopeful (according to Peter  Kramer26) gaze of the Starchild into the
camera is relayed and challenged in the opening shot of A Clockwork Orange
with Alex’s conversely malevolent stare beyond the fourth wall (Figure  1).
Barry Keith Grant reminds us that:
In Kubrick’s cinema, eyes figure prominently as images of vision and percep-
tion, or the lack of it. A Clockwork Orange features numerous close ups of
Alex’s eyes, first in droogie garb with make-up and eyeball cufflinks and later
when his eyes are propped open during the Ludovico technique. Kubrick’s last
film, completed just before his death shows people blinded by the quotidian
world, entrapped within their own egos with “eyes wide shut”.27
In Kubrick’s films television is an “enigmatic” and suspicious techno-
logy which controls the viewer and holds them “spellbound” (not unlike the
Monolith in that regard). During the “Ludovico treatment” sequence in A
Clockwork Orange Alex is physically restrained and unable to look away from

23 Kubrick scholar, author and 2001 expert Simone Odino offers a comprehensive analysis of
the relationship between the two in his paper “Dear Arthur, What Do You Think? The Clarke-
Kubrick Collaboration on 2001: A Space Odyssey and A.I. from their Letters from the Smithsonian”
(paper delivered at the conference Stanley Kubrick: Nouveaux Horizons, Université Bordeaux
Montaigne, 17/05/2017).
24 Bruce Sterling, Personal Writings of Arthur  C.  Clarke Reveal the Evolution of 2001: A Space
Odyssey. Smithsonian.com: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/person-
al-writings-arthur-c-clarke-reveal-evolution-2001-space-odyssey-180954967/, May, 2015. Last
Accessed: 17/02/2018.
25 David Pescovitz, 2001’s Monolith was Originally “The Cube” BoingBoing. https://boingboing.
net/2015/04/29/2001-a-space-odysseys-mon.html, April 2015. Last Accessed: 17/02/2018.
26 At 2018 during the Inaugural Stanley Kubrick Lecture, London Community College, University
of the Arts, London, Kramer suggested that the final shot of 2001: A Space Odyssey, signified
both a rebirth and hopeful fresh start for humanity. This paper argues that this view is countered
by the next film A Clockwork Orange, and the malevolence of Alex’s stare into the camera.
27 Barry K. Grant, “Of Men and Monoliths: Science Fiction”, Gender and 2001: A Space Odyssey,
in Robert  Kolker (ed.), Stanley  Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, NYC, OUP USA, 2006,
p. 112-113.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 201

the bombardment of violent, extreme images to which he is being forcefully


subjected28 (Figure 2). Here the broadcast, televisual image is appropriated by
the state as a mode of Pavlovian control and brainwashing.29
During the “World Tonight” sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey the
viewer observes Bowman and Poole as they sit to breakfast (Figure 3), each
absorbed in his own televised image, broadcast back via the screens of their
proto-iPads. They are watching an interview recorded and broadcast by the
BBC via satellite link up between Earth and Space. As they do so each seems
acutely unaware and unresponsive to the other’s presence, “spellbound” and
transfixed by the self-image on-screen. Interviewer Martin  Amer opens the
interview and documentary by declaring:
The World Tonight recorded an interview with the crew of the Discovery at
a distance of eighty million miles from earth. It took seven minutes for our
words to reach the giant spacecraft but this time delay has been edited from
the recording.
An examination of the archived continuity scripts used during the films
production reveal further TV-oriented dialogue redacted from the finished
film (and which was to come after the above sequence):
Bowman: “Well I thought that went reasonably well”.
Poole: “Yes, I thought I was a bit grim. I usually am on television”.
Bowman: “You know they always cut off all the best answers”.
Poole: “Yes, but you can always count on them asking all the same questions
can’t you?”.
HAL: “The favourite question seems to be the one about why the mission was
advanced 5 years”.30
Martin Amer’s proclamation that they have edited the 7 minutes time delay
from the recording self reflexively calls to mind the dramatic (and cinematic)
jump cut between pre-historic bone and spaceship at the start of the film: an
edited time delay of several million years. The mechanics of cinema and televi-
sion are aligned and Television is presented as part of the evolution of cinema:
an idea borne out by the current milieu of cinematic “spectacular”31 television

28 This image may be seen reflected in the staging of Samuel Beckett’s, 1973, production of Not I
at the Royal Court and the way in which actress Billie Whitelaw was physically restrained for
the performance. A reading of Beckett in Kubrick will, however, be the subject of a later study.
29 In the first episode of the podcast, The International Anthony Burgess Foundation Graham Foster
suggests that this has its roots in author Anthony Burgess’s familiarity with the text The British
Way and Purpose: a collection of essays/textbook used by members of the education corps in
teaching student soldiers abroad the way of the “responsible citizen” as well as the formative
influence of Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited (1958) and it emphasis on social condition-
ing, totalitarianism and Pavolvian control.
30 Stanley Kubrick Archive, University of the Arts, London, ref. no SK/12/3/4/3/19.
31 Helen Wheatley, Spectacular Television: Exploring Televisual Pleasure, London, I.B.  Tauris,
2016, p. 1-2.
202 Matthew Melia

(Section 3 of this discussion). During the World Tonight sequence Kubrick’s


film camera adopts the “persona” of a television documentary camera training
itself sequentially on parts of the ship, in a montage, as they are discussed
by Amer. TV becomes a mirror for film, a medium within a medium. The
TV/Film relationship is another Kubrick double like doubling Alice Harford
and daughter Helena in Eyes Wide Shut in front of the bathroom mirror or
Bowman and Poole at the start of the sequence:
Not only does Kubrick choose two actors with significant physical resem-
blances, but he repeatedly places them in visual or comparative contexts that
create a mirroring effect: Bowman is left-handed and Poole right-handed, and
both eat the same food while narcissistically watching, on separate newspad
screens, a BBC telecast (ironically titled “The World Tonight”) where their
images, along with HAL’s eye, are duplicated.32
However, the redacted exchange Kubrick’s possible concern with TV’s
ability to edit and manipulate the truth. Kubrick exposing human insecu-
rities about the self and identity when reflected back, translated and filtered
through the medium of the screen, aligning with the films obsession with
artificial intelligence, human design and identity.
Further redacted dialogue from the continuity scripts, reveals other key
changes: when Amer asks Bowman if HAL is capable of genuine emotional
response he responds:
As far as I’m concerned HAL has feelings and emotional responses and for all
practical purposes IS a human being.33
In the finished film’s dialogue Bowman responds that it would be impos-
sible to make a judgement on such an issue. Ironically Bowman and Poole
elicit few emotional responses during the film but especially, seemingly, when
caught in the tractor beam of the small screen. This is evident when Poole
receives a celebratory Birthday transmission from his parents, an event to
which he articulates no response at all.
“The World Tonight Sequence” anticipates the later sequence in which
Bowman encounters and views subsequent versions of himself projected
(or “broadcast”) within a glowing, starkly lit, cube like structure (Figure 4)
recalling the initial conceptualisation of the alien-artefact as TV-like cube
(as identified by Pescovitz). The mise-en-scène, lighting and staging with its
“confusing combination of styles” resembles a television set.
Barry Grant describes the sequence:
After the Stargate, Bowman appears in a room that looks, at once old and
new, a confusing combination of Louis  XVI and modern styles, where the

32 Thomas Allen Nelson, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artists Maze, Indiana, Indiana University Press,
2000, p. 123.
33 Stanley Kubrick Archive, University of the Arts, London, ref. no SK/12/3/4/3/19.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 203

astronaut confusingly watches himself die… In a detailed formalist analysis


of this sequence, Mario Falsetto has shown how Kubrick’s editing consistently
subverts the viewer’s understanding of narrative space by violating such
normally inviolable techniques as the conventional shot/reaction shot… Each
time Bowman sees another, more aged version of himself, we first see the new
yet older Bowman from the physical point of view of the older but younger
Bowman; but the next shot reveals that the earlier Bowman is no longer there.
This apparent point of view shots cease to be point-of-view shots and their
perspective –and ours, as viewers, becomes disembodied.34
Images of disembodiment and dislocation when set in proximity to the
television recur across Kubrick’s work (next section). Here Kubrick presents
an aesthetically designed TV space for this process of disembodiment to take
place in where the act of viewing the (self ) image is foregrounded. Its confined
3 dimensional quadrilateral space and architecture also in direct contrast to
the expansive, infinite cinematic space of the Stargate.
The Shining (1980) is Kubrick’s most televisually rich work: TVs, TV
watching and televisuality are embedded within the narrative and the Mise-
en-scène, architecture, style, and space of the film itself. Here I will consider,
the film’s US extended cut rather than the shorter, internationally theatrically
released version as it exhibits a greater number of instances where television
has a prominent presence and role. Archival research and an examination of
an early draft of the script for The Shining from 1978, like the continuity
scripts from 2001, further expose TV-centric moments of dialogue redacted
from the final film (both versions).
At the start of the film, Jack phones home from the Overlook prior to his
meeting with hotel manager Ullman, we cut to Danny and Wendy sat around
the breakfast table in Colorado. Mirroring the breakfast sequence in 2001,
Danny is engrossed in a cartoon being broadcast on an off-screen television
while Wendy sits on the other side of the table reading Catcher in the Rye.
This image is later communicatively relayed into Eyes Wide Shut during the
sequence in which Bill Harford phones home from his office and we observe
Helena engrossed in the television and Alice opposite her reading a newspa-
per. In each of these situations parent and child are detached, transfixed and
unresponsive to the other’s presence. Furthermore in The Shining, Wendy’s
statement to Danny that in going to live at the Overlook: “We’re all gonna
have a real good time” seems as programmed, automated and self-convincing
as HAL’s response to Amer during the interview when asked about the status
of the mission: “It’s all going extremely well thank you”. In Eyes Wide Shut, the
television itself acts as a physical barrier between Alice and Helena (Figure 13)
coding the film’s themes of the breakdown of familial communication.

34 Barry K. Grant, “Of Men and Monoliths: Science Fiction”, Gender and 2001: A Space Odyssey,
in Robert Kolker (ed.), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, NYC, OUP USA, 2006, p. 112.
204 Matthew Melia

In this sequence Helena watches the Bugs Bunny cartoon The Fright
Before Christmas (1979); in The Shining (extended cut), in one sequence we
observe Danny watching a Roadrunner cartoon in a shot which follows the
brief sequence of Halloran wending his way back along the snowy night time
mountain pass to the Overlook. In the final image of Full Metal Jacket the
young platoon advance across a hellish warzone yomping to the theme tune
to The Mickey Mouse Club: “Who’s the leader of the gang, the one for you
and me?”. Animated TV cartoons recur across Kubrick’s films rendering the
idea of childhood in crisis: the stability of Helena’s childhood is threatened
by the breakdown of her parent’s relationship (and the first time we meet her
she is palmed off onto a babysitter and asks to stay up watching television);
Danny seems to find refuge from his own (abusive?) childhood trauma in
the comic violence of Warner Brothers cartoons used meta-textually within
the film’s narrative when at the end of the film the lupine Jack becomes
“Wile  E.  Coyote” to Danny’s “Roadrunner”; and, the wholesomeness and
all-American-ness of Disney’s Mickey  Mouse is set in contrast to both the
dehumanisation of these young men, barely out of childhood, the destruc-
tion of innocence AND the unwholesomeness of the American presence in
Vietnam. In a further example of intertextual, communicative relay, Helena’s
Bugs Bunny cartoon recalls Danny himself, whose pet name, as Halloran
detects (through his mental connection with the boy) is “Bugs”.
Tom Klein contextualises Kubrick’s use of TV cartoon animation, citing
Dr Alberta Stiegel’s research into the effect of “violent” cartoons by animators
and artists like Walter Lantz and Shamus Culhane:
Conventional wisdom prescribed that watching film violence was cathartic
and would mitigate aggression in an audience. However, soon Dr. Siegel was
famous for disputing this idea and the American press effusively covered the
story. She launched a whole cottage industry of research-driven social science
around media violence which endures to this day. The momentum for this
concern was probably not that kids might imitate Woody [Woodpecker], but
rather that a handful of skilled animation directors –Avery, Jones, Culhane,
Hanna and Barbera– had pushed cartoons to such an outrageous level of noto-
riety… It was the adults who were shocked at their children’s delight in seeing
bombs, weapons, rockets, dropping anvils and unchained malice.35
During the sequence in which the Torrances travel to the Overlook they
discuss the Donner Party, the pioneers in “Covered Wagon” times, who were
trapped in the mountains during a savage winter and who, allegedly, turned
to cannibalism36. After Wendy objects to Jack’s mentioning of cannibalism to
Danny, Danny states that “I know all about cannibalism, I saw it on TV”. Jack

35 Tom Klein, “Stanley  Kubrick and Violent Cartoons”, Walter  Lantz Archive, Cartoon Research,
22/08/2015. https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/stanley-kubrick-and-violent-cartoons-1956/.
Last Viewed: 22/11/2017.
36 Anticipating the situation the Torrances will later find themselves in.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 205

responds sarcastically “See, its ok, he saw it on the television!”. This recalls Stiegel’s
influential research as well as further drawing attention to Kubrick’s somewhat
suspicious view of the medium. Here Danny’s conditioning to TV violence is
presented as an inverse to the enforced aversion therapy of A Clockwork Orange.
The transmission of wireless broadcasting signals, communication and
images occur throughout the film, and here we may observe the extended
influence of Arthur  C.  Clarke’s work on Kubrick beyond 2001: A Space
Odyssey. Danny and Halloran, share a telepathic link in their ability to “shine”.
They are synchronous bodies for the broadcasting, relay and reception of a
wireless signal, which in the archived 1978 script is described as a sort of elec-
trical signal. Describing the sequence in which Halloran returns to the hotel,
the script directions read:
131 – SNOWCAT CAB – INT-DUSK-BP
Halloran driving. Maybe he is being communicated to by both Tony and
the hotel. The hotel causing electronic reverberate echoes in his skull, sinister
phrases repeated over and over.37
Elmer Lower’s earlier appraisal of Clarke’s article: “All of the electrical
energy needed to run the relay stations, according to the article, could come
from the Sun”38 shares similarities with how Kubrick conceptualises the tele-
pathic link as “electronic reverberations” relaying, transmitting and emana-
ting from a central hub –in this case the Overlook hotel itself. This “wireless”
link and relay between Danny and Halloran is foregrounded in the sequence
in which Halloran lies on his bed at home watching the television and receives
the transmission from Danny / Tony at the hotel, Danny appears to be under-
going a seizure or form of electric shock (Figures 5 and 6), this is heightened
by tense, high pitched (electronic) tone. The twinning of Halloran and Danny
is coded in the mise-en-scène and framing of the Halloran’s bedroom where
the television, reporting the blizzard is framed centrally between two table
lamps on either side, we view the television from Halloran’s perspective as it
is framed also between his two feet (Figure 7). The “wireless” link between
Danny and Halloran is also coded by the twin images in the symmetrically
opposed paintings on opposite facing walls.
Kubrick’s suggestion in the ’78 script that “maybe he [Halloran] is being
communicated to by both Tony and the hotel” has further implications. The
extended U.S. Cut of the film contains a sequence in which we see Danny and
Wendy watching a film, The Summer of 42 (Mulligan, 1971) on the television
set in the hotel lobby. Danny is positioned at its feet, on the floor looking up,
engrossed in its images; Wendy, is positioned further back on the couch, both are
separated (again) by some distance (Figure 8). The TV is positioned absolutely

37 Stanley Kubrick Archive, University of the Arts, London, ref. no. SK/15/9/17-31.


38 Stanley Kubrick Archive, University of the Arts, London, ref. no. SK/12/8/2/55.
206 Matthew Melia

centrally, dominating the frame (as it does in Halloran’s bedroom) –it is on but
not plugged in. It is afforded a ghostly, almost demonic presence, an embodiment
of the hotel’s control over the family, breaking it up. Kevin McLeod observes:
Television connects the film to The Summer of ’42: an older child than Danny
and a younger woman than Wendy flirt in the Kitchen and it combines with
another scene in the film: the breakfast sequence mirroring Jack’s breakfast in
bed earlier, even coffee is poured (this TV is a mirror). 42 is a doubling of 21,
the year of the July 4thball Jack attends in the film’s final shot. The image is lit
by the same light as Jack’s transfixed solo previously (in the black sweater, the
reverse on Danny and Wendy is no less contrasted… (if they are not careful
the Hotel will absorb them as well)… the TV is a phantom of the hotel: there
are no cables that connect it to a power source.39
TV’s control over Torrance family life is further hinted at in the ’78 script:
after Ullman leaves, Jack comments (in dialogue redacted from both cuts of
the film), “Well folks, I think we should go inside, get something to eat and
make sure the TV works!”. Television is a priority for the family. McLeod
suggests that the TV is a “Phantom” of the hotel, but the hotel itself may
be read as “phantom” and an embodiment of television. Danny spends a lot
of time looking at screens, and he is established as a receptor for the (small)
screened image. The archived ’78 script directions indicate (during the games
room sequence): “Pinball machines, electronic TV games, pool tables, table
tennis. Danny is blasting away at a Star Raiders game…”40.
Earlier script directions read:
DANNY’S VISION
“A Montage of shots which will include Jack talking to Ullman at the hotel,
and the POV shot of the car driving up to the hotel. The Images are stylized
in some special way. We will also see terrifying but unintelligible fragments of
sinister violence at the hotel. We will not recognise the people involved, nor
will we be sure what is happening.”41
These fragmented bursts of violent imagery to which Danny is subjected
recall the subjection of Alex to the intense bombardment fragmented violent
imagery in A Clockwork Orange. During The Shining’s games room sequence
Danny encounters the Grady twins for the first time, they are the first image
relayed and broadcast by the hotel and their repeated “Come and Play with us
Danny…” becomes akin to a televisual catchphrase. Later it is used in proxi-
mity to the dramatic jump cut to their mutilated bodies, recalling the juxta-
position of children, play and violence signified through Kubrick’s interest in
animation. The Hotel is a broadcaster, a transmitter of the image, and each of

39 Kevin McLeod, Physical Cosmologies: The Shining. http://www.mstrmnd.com/log/960, not


date available. Last Viewed: 22/11/2017.
40 Stanley Kubrick Archive, University of the Arts, London, ref. no. SK/15/9/17-31.
41 Ibid.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 207

the Torrances become receiving satellites in the final third of the film, orbiting
the hotel, picking up its transmissions. This is not only true of Jack but also of
(“confirmed horror movie addict”) Wendy, who receives a range of “broadcast
images”: the “Manbearpig” and the “Guest” framed through a hotel room
doorway; the party guest with the axe wound to the head; and in the film’s
extended cut the Buñuelian skeletons in the deserted space of the ballroom
(Figures 9, 10 and 11). Ghosts, after all, may be read as synonyms for the
television42: simultaneously present and absent, an image or imprintand were
recognised as such in the work of the British sci-fi / horror television writer
Nigel Kneale43. These images are part of the hotel’s violent narrative and each
of the Torrances are in danger of being “absorbed” or written into it (as Jack
is shown to be at the end, in the final “Photograph” shot).
The film’s mise-en-scène also offers further evidence of the film’s televisua-
lity: the yellow carpet of the corridor which extendd into the hotel ballroom
(Figure  12) is patterned with squares, inside of which appear to be stars:
TV-like glowing cubes, an image again observed in the light fitting illumina-
ting the maze in the film’s finale and recalling the original conceptualisation
of the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In the article “Ted Kramer Has A Nightmare” Greg Keeler draws critical
comparison between The Shining and Kramer Vs. Kramer (Benton, 1979):
In The Shining Daddy has lost his job and has been forced to find a new one,
but this time the original job was not so glamourous (an English teacher) and
the new job is shaky to say the least (an erstwhile novelist-come-caretaker. And
Mom, Mrs Torrance, perhaps more realistically has chosen not to abandon the
little tyke for a brilliant career, but to stick out and help Dad with his.44

With The Shining reduced down in this way, the family-driven narrative of
the domestic television drama begins to emerge. Eyes Wide Shut also exhibits
an identifiable televisual identity in its privileging of the home-space and its
domestic interior; its family narrative (the breakdown of communication,

42 The term “Ghost” has particular televisual resonance. “Ghosting” according to Jorma Hyypia
(“Beating Interference”, Popular Mechanics, June 1980, p. 126) refers to a replica of the TV
image, offset and superimposed on top of the actual broadcast video image, it’s caused by the
TV signal making its way to the antennae by two different paths causing problems in the time
of its arrival. It causes the image to become distorted, uncanny.
43 Kneale is a recognised influence over author Stephen  King and certainly a figure Kubrick
might have been aware of (the influence is certainly felt in The Shining). His TV plays deals
with the Ghost/TV image juxtaposition and with television as a haunted space. This is most
clearly evident in the 1972 BBC2 television play The Stone Tape in which the spectre of a maid
servant is pronounced as is through a degraded video image –this has also been noted By
Stacey Abbot and Lorna Jowett, TV Horror: Investigating the Darker Side of the Small Screen,
London, I.B. Tauris, 2013, p. 94.
44 Greg Keeler, “Ted Kramer Has a Nightmare”, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Vol. 8,
1981, p. 3.
208 Matthew Melia

tensions in the family unit, infidelity) is broadly soap-operatic. The Shining


and Eyes Wide Shut are almost companion pieces in Kubrick’s cinema presen-
ting a more intimate, (more claustrophobic?) form of family drama: and the
breakdown of the family “machine” (a Kubrickian trope observed across the
canon of Kubrick’s work from 2001).
Towards the beginning of Eyes Wide Shut Kubrick presents an establishing
shot of the outside of the Harford’s luxury apartment block. We then cut to
the interior where Bill and Alice are getting ready to leave for Ziegler’s party
and where Bill is looking for his wallet. This establishing shot also borrows
from another televisual trope, used particularly in the (family-driven) sitcom
format (e.g. Establishing shots of “Monk’s Coffee Shop” in Seinfeld) which, as
Andrew Costa was once a ubiquitous part of the visual lexicon of the televi-
sion sitcom, its presence now diminished:
Today, the establishing shot is a thing of the past. Often viewed as tasteless
and passé, modern sitcoms like HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER and THE BIG BANG
THEORY resort to sound cues or quick visual transitions to seamlessly bring the
viewer from one location to another. Long gone are the days of “upward tilt on
tall building,” “shot of school with sound of bell ringing” or crowd favourite,
“slow zoom into bedroom window…45
As with The Shining, televisions have a significant presence throughout
Eyes Wide Shut (I earlier discussed the film’s breakfast table sequence). In one
sequence, Alice asks Bill to wrap Christmas presents with her, a festive and
joyful family task, he declines, deferring the moment. Prior to this Bill is
framed at a right-angle to the television, staring past it, distracted while it plays
the football. Later when he calls Alice from the prostitute Domino’s flat, a
television, this time turned, significantly, off (this is unusual in a Kubrick film
–TV’s are always on!), is present in the back ground: Bill appears to connect
to Domino in a way he does not to Alice. However, Alice (on the other end)
is again framed around the breakfast table where the television is showing the
1973 film Blume in Love directed by Paul Mazursky, star of Kubrick’s first film
Fear and Desire (in another example of TV’s self-reflexive presence in Kubrick’s
cinema). Throughout TV is placed in proximity to instances where the family
seem least connected to each other. Although neither Alice nor Bill appear to
engage with the images on the television sets, its in-shot presence seems to
subdue, distract and sedate. If in The Shining, TV has an almost supernatural
presence and hold over family life, in Eyes Wide Shut its fulfils a similar role and
becomes a coded signifier for the fragmentation of the family unit.

45 A. Costa, The 90s Sitcom Establishing Shot - A Dying Art Form, 23/11/2010. https://stevebusce-
mifanfiction.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/the-90s-sitcom-establishing-shot-a-dying-artform/.
Last viewed: 22/11/2017.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 209

Kubrickian Design in contemporary television: “This is my design”

Having discussed the significant role television plays within Kubrick’s


cinema, I would like now to demonstrate Kubrick’s position at the inter-
face of the two  mediums by interrogating the increased role and presence
of Stanley  Kubrick in contemporary quality, (“spectacular”) TV auteur-led
drama.46
In the drama The Path (2015, Amazon Prime) for instance, a man, the
founder of a cult (“movement”), the aim of which is to transcend through the
threshold of “The Light”, lies dying in a starkly lit hospital bed. The man in
question is played by Keir Dullea, the scene a deliberate homage to the ageing,
dying Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey (Figures 15 and 16). In the recent
BBC regency costume drama Taboo (BBC, 2016) the staging, use of symmetrical
space, one point perspective, set design, and internal lighting recalls Kubrick’s
own revisionist take on the costume drama in Barry Lyndon (1975). Taboo, part
of a post-Downton Abbey, re-interrogation of the genre makes uses of staged,
symmetrically spaced tableaux/mise-en-scène, like Barry Lyndon, its staging and
imagery is “Spectacular” (as Helen Wheatley has defined the term (Figure 17).
If Kubrick is currently undergoing a cultural renaissance then his influence
has been “cultural rather than cinematic”47 and that he has not enjoyed the
same “deep seepage” of influence in cinema as, for example, Robert Kolker
suggests Hitchcock has, then it may be argued that, in fact, increasingly
modern cinematic television is increasingly looking to Kubrick –not simply
as a point of homage and pastiche but as a template for set design and mise-
en-scène, complex and maze like narratives, images that challenge and test the
borders and parameters of televisual space and narrative.
De Valck and Teurlings maintain that:
Within Television Studies there seems to be a growing consensus that tele-
vision as we know it is irrevocably changing. Some are gleefully announcing
the death of television, others are less sanguine but insist that television is
changing before our eyes. Paradoxically, the question “What is television?” has
gained relevance as the medium falls into demise.48
Television, has since its inception been under a constant state of technolo-
gical and artistic change, experimentation and evolution. The current milieu
of cinematic television has been made possible by the evolution of home
viewing technologies and the cinematic aspiration and scope of contempo-

46 I will be expanding this part of the discussion in a future publication.


47 Robert Kolker, “Rage For Order: Kubrick’s Fearful Symmetry”, in Raritan: A Quaterly Review,
Summer 2010, Vol. 30 (1), p. 53.
48 Marijke De Valck and Jan Teurlings, After The Break: Television Theory Today, Amsterdam,
Amsterdam University, 2013, p. 8.
210 Matthew Melia

rary, design-led television has seen a vanguard of Kubrick-influenced film


auteurs venturing into the medium: David  Lynch pioneered the way with
Twin Peaks in the 1990. Lynch’s presentation of the austere, uncanny and
surreal Black Lodge with its zig-zag patterned carpet design and minimalist,
extradimensional “other” space: “The Red Room, owes an aesthetic debt to
the early 20th century modernist designs of architect Josef Hoffman, whose
own designs are part of the production design research for Kubrick’s The
Shining contained in the Stanley Kubrick archive”.
Part of the criteria for 21st century notions of “Quality” in television is
inter-textuality and self referentiality, it calls into question pre-suppositions
of what television is and what it’s potential is. Hence Kubrick, is an apposite
point of reference for writers, showrunner and producers of this televisual
milieu. In Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino’s stylised The Young Pope (a 2016
global cross production between Sky Atlantic, HBO and Canal+), the newly
elected Pontiff Pius XIII (Jude Law) offers Vatican Marketing Chief Executive,
Sofia, a litany of “most important” 20th century cultural icons: Salinger, most
important author; Daft Punk, most important electro music act; contempo-
rary artist, Banksy. He asks her “Most important film director?” To which she
answers “Spielberg”. “No” he corrects her “Kubrick”. What do these icons
have in common? What connects them all? They kept themselves hidden
behind their work, and rarely if ever allowed themselves to be seen in public.
The presence of Kubrick on this list is of interest for a couple of reasons:
firstly we may an in-joke: Jude Law played the robot escort Gigolo Joe, of
course, in Spielberg’s 2001 film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, a film with a long
and troubled production history49. In that film Kubrick’s presence is felt but
hidden behind that of Spielberg’s. Pope Pius’s claim is true and deliberately
recognises the increasing presence of Kubrick hiding behind both the narra-
tives and visual style of contemporary television drama. The Pope’s claim
may be read as a statement by Sorrentino himself who invites us look for
Kubrick within his own shooting of the Vatican interiors. Kubrick’s “spiri-
tual” presence is felt throughout the series, hidden but always there in terms
of staging, composition, lighting and use of space which recalls, in particular
both Barry Lyndon and 2001: Space Odyssey.
Luke Ottenhoff observes the presence and influence of Kubrick in The
Young Pope:
Kubrick’s movies often centred on a deep, gnawing fear or unease, promp-
ting the question, the unifying thread, that runs through his films: is fear
the underlying energy of human affairs? It’s there from Paths of Glory to
Dr. Strangelove to Eyes Wide Shut. But Kubrick didn’t always pose it to us in an

49 Explored in depth by Peter Kramer in the article “Adaptation as Exploration: Stanley Kubrick,


Literature and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence”, Vol. 8, No. 3, August 2015, p. 373.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 211

obvious, in-your-face way; his was a more manipulative, slight-of-hand-style


craft, which made us think things without him telling us to think them. It’s
become increasingly clear that Paolo Sorrentino’s affecting, remarkably fasci-
nating series The Young Pope shares many of these Kubrick-isms.50
Hannibal (NBC, 2013-15) Bryan Fuller’s contemporary gothic, guignol
and experimental interpretation of the novels Thomas  Harris, homage’s
Kubrick51 in the use of space, design and staging of tableaux. Furthermore
showrunner Bryan Fuller has openly acknowledged the show’s debt. In inter-
view with Vulture he offers:
[Director] David Slade and I had long conversations about the Kubrickian feel
of the show. We are telling the story of a man who makes his living from his
imagination and who slowly loses his mind over the course of the show… We
are telling a version of The Shining except that this guy is not an alcoholic.52
He continues:
I understood watching it [The Shining] as a ten year old that this was psycho-
logical story telling.53
While Hannibal openly acknowledges Kubrick’s debt through homage,
more broadly its experimentation with the dimensions and symmetry of the
televisual space, the spatial arrangement of characters (in Hannibal Lecter’s
office the profile of doctor and patient mimics the Kubrickian trope of
seating characters in profile, facing each other); its recurrent use of grotesque
tableaux / staged murder scenes (one particularly grisly tableaux recalling the
framing of Halloran’s bedroom in The Shining, Figure  18) and minimalist
aesthetic confer upon it the “spectacular” nature Kubrickian cinema.
In season 3 of the show Hannibal’s cell deliberately recalls the Louis XVI
room towards the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey (Figure 19). Furthermore,
profiler Will Graham’s mantra when embodying the space of the psychologi-
cal space of the killer and when confronted with said tableaux is “This is my
design”, reminding us not only of the show’s own use of “spectacular” archi-
tectural (often Brutalist) design, but also of Kubrick’s own concern for design
in the films. The Kubrick Archives contain folder upon folder, box upon box
of detailed design and production research carried out for each film –pages
and cut out from design magazines, architecture journals, car magazines, etc.

50 Luke Ottenhoff, “The Young Pope is Kubrick for Millenials”, A. Side, 13/2/2017. http://onth-
easide.com/culture/the-young-pope-is-kubrick-for-millennials/. Last Viewed: 22/11/2017.
51 Not least in Season 3, Episode  5: “Contorno”, in which a violent, climactic fight between
Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is staged in slow
motion to the overture from Rossini’s opera, The Thieving Magpie, A Clockwork Orange.
52 Zach Dionne “Bryan Fuller Explains Hannibal’s Nod to The Shining”, Vulture, 5/05/2013.
http://www.vulture.com/2013/04/bryan-fuller-explains-shining-homage.html. Last Viewed:
22/11/2017.
53 Ibid.
212 Matthew Melia

TV Dramas like Hannibal and Westworld (HBO) offer a series of (tele)


visual puzzles, “Easter eggs”, to engage the viewer. Like Danny in The Shining
the viewer is encouraged to follow a trail of “sweets” and in the case of Westworld
offered an actual maze to navigate. In his paper “Inside the Interpretive Maze
of The Shining” Vincent Jaunas54 suggests that in The Shining the maze is at the
centre of a narrative that is full of mazes (the hotel itself stands a maze). The
Maze is a trope, a signifier of Kubrick’s invitation to the viewer to the enter
the Maze (the hotel; film itself ), to willingly become lost in it, to navigate
it’s impossible corridors, and in doing so to unpack its various textual and
aesthetic meanings:
The omnipresence of the motif of the maze may thus convince the most tena-
cious spectators that if they keep digging beyond the surface, they may even-
tually reach a hidden centre and unlock a secret reading strategy that would
turn the film into a limpid message… the maze of The Shining suggests that
there is no hidden centre, no secret key which would unlock all its mysteries
and provide a clear reading. As Roger Luckhurst wrote, “one must chart the
structure of the maze rather than arguing there is only one way through it”.
However, in The Shining, the obsessive hermeneutic craze of the spectator seems
to be encouraged as well as challenged, so that one runs the risk of getting lost
in an interpretative dead-end. By creating a film-maze, Kubrick integrated the
spectator’s quest for meaning at the core of his aesthetics, to better question it.55
Westworld, an “adaptation” (another Kubrickian trope, like Hannibal)
of the 1973 film directed and written by Michael  Crichton and starring
Yul Brynner, centres around a Wild West themed theme park’ where human
guests interact with artificial intelligence so authentic as to be undetectable
from real people; a space where total authenticity is set in tension with arti-
ficiality and where A.I. eventually attempt to break their programming and
rebel56. Guests are able to engage with an environment which is both real and
televisual. At the centre of the “Gamespace”57 and “Parody Space”58 is a meta-
textual maze to be navigated, and to which Ed Harris’s psychopathic (human)
gunslinger is on a quest to find its centre, where, it is revealed, his prize will
be self-knowledge and understanding, a search for meaning. Like Kubrick’s
“Hermeneutic” “film- maze” in The Shining so Westworld offers “TV-Maze” in
which viewers are asked to conquer the “maze” of the programme itself.

54 Film scholar, Kubrick researcher and co-convener of the conference Stanley Kubrick, Nouveaux
Horizons, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, 16/05/17 - 17/05/17.
55 Vincent Jaunas, “Inside the Interpretive Maze of The Shining”, in Vincent Jaunas and Jean-
François Baillon, op. cit., 2018, p. 76.
56 Kubrick’s films are full of children who attempt to break their programming: HAL, Alex,
Private Pile, even David in Spielberg’s 2001 “adaptation” of Kubrick’s own unmade A.I.:
Artificial Intelligence.
57 Stephen Mamber, “Kubrick in Space”, in Kolker R. (ed.), 2001: A Space Odyssey, New Essays,
NYC, OUP USA, 2006 p. 58.
58 Ibid., p. 59.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 213

Westworld, also offers a juxtaposition between “game space” and


“Institutional-official space”59 –the park’s minimalist circular control room, a
technocratic hub of authority, brings to mind the “War Room” in Dr Strangelove.
Furthermore in S1E2, William, a guest, crosses from one apparently sealed-off
space to the other down a starkly lit corridor (recalling Bowman in 2001: A
Space Odyssey) through a large black door, which resembles nothing less than
the Monolith (Figure 20). Upon going through the door, he then experiences
a dramatic cut in time (2001) finding himself in the starkly contrasting saloon
of a wild west bar.
The emphasis on design in both Hannibal and Westworld, engages similar
Kubrickian concerns in terms of their mutual emphasis on cinematic/tele-
visual design and the interrogation of Human design (this illustrated in the
opening titles to Westworld which offers image of mechanised, industrial
design) (Figure 21).

In conclusion I have tried to reveal Kubrick’s place at the interface of two


mediums: television and film. Television has a significant, complex, presence
as a self-reflexive device in Kubrick’s cinema, and I have attempted to unders-
tand and theorise Kubrick’s own complicated relationship to the medium via
a close reading of a selection of films. Furthermore I have attempted to show
how Kubrick is starting to be appropriated as a key stylistic and textual point
of reference in contemporary design-led, cinematic “Quality” TV drama, part
of the vernacular of contemporary “spectacular” television itself.

Dr Matthew Melia
Kingston University, UK
M.Melia@kingston.ac.uk

Abstract
This essay explores and posits Stanley  Kubrick’s relationship to the medium of television
through a close reading of a selection of films (2001, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut) and
an analysis and observation of the presence of televisions, the act of television watching and
the appropriation of TV aesthetics into this most cinematic of oeuvres. This is the first time
such a study has been undertaken and the essay draws upon a body of research carried out at
the Stanley Kubrick Archive, London. In part 2 of the essay, I further examine the position
of Kubrick at the interface of film and television by offering critical discussion of the current
Cinematic, auteur led “Spectacular” TV revolution and Kubrick’s status as a key point of
stylistic reference, homage and appropriation.
Keywords
Kubrick, television, communication, broadcast, inter-textuality.

59 Ibid., p. 56.
214 Matthew Melia

Résumé
Cet article envisage la relation entretenue par Stanley Kubrick avec le médium télévisuel à
travers l’analyse détaillée de trois de ses films (2001, Shining et Eyes Wide Shut) ainsi que
l’étude et l’observation quant à la présence de télévisions, de personnages regardant la télévi-
sion et de l’appropriation de l’esthétique télévisuelle dans cette œuvre si cinématographique.
Cette approche est inédite et se base sur un ensemble de recherches effectuées aux Archives
Stanley Kubrick de Londres. Dans une seconde partie, nous examinons la position kubric-
kienne à l’interface du cinéma et de la télévision en proposant une discussion critique centrée
sur l’actuelle révolution télévisuelle, davantage spectaculaire et auteuriste, et sur le statut
central de Kubrick, générant références stylistiques, hommages et appropriations.
Mots-clés
Kubrick, télévision, communication, médias, inter-textualité.
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 215

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Matthew Melia is a senior lecturer in film and TV at Kingston University, UK. He has
research interests in the work of Kubrick and Ken Russell and the role of space and architecture
in visual culture. His PhD was on Architecture and Cruelty in the work of Samuel Beckett,
Antonin Artaud and Jean Genet.
216 Matthew Melia

Figure 1 Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 217

Figures 5 and 6

Figure 7

Figure 8
218 Matthew Melia

Figure 9 Figure 10

Figure 11

Figure 12

Figure 13 Figure 14
Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television 219

Figures 15 and 16

Figure 17 Figure 18

Figure 19 Figure 20

Figure 21
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”:
an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s
mythology1

Filippo Ulivieri

In June 1987, Stanley  Kubrick1was in his office at Pinewood, ready to


receive a string of journalists and film critics. He was there to be interviewed
to promote his new film, Full Metal Jacket (1987), but also, for the first time,
to take the chance to challenge the stories that had been plaguing his image in
worldwide media. “Part of my problem is that I cannot dispel the myths that
have somehow accumulated over the years,”2 he admitted regretfully. “The
stories get more elaborate as they’re repeated in the papers,”3 he explained to
a different reporter, so that –he concluded to a third one with a hint of bitter
humour– “The general picture is that I’m a recluse surrounded by high walls
and computers who wears a football helmet while driving at 30 miles an hour
and has a helicopter spray his garden.”4
Kubrick tried to make fun of this image, but he admitted it was indeed a
problem. After all, in 1972 he had already appeared a bit bothered when he
dismissed the stories that were circulating as “your usual Kubrick anecdotes.”5
In 1975 he described himself as “a demented perfectionist, according to the
publicity mythology around me,”6 and in one of his last given interviews, he
summarised: “Practically everything I read about me is grotesquely wrong.”7

1 This essay is a revised and expanded version of a talk I presented at “Stanley Kubrick : Nouveaux
Horizons”, an international conference at the Université Bordeaux Montaigne, France, on
16-17 May, 2017. I would like to thank the organisers, Vincent Jaunas and Jean-François Baillon,
for accepting my proposal.
2 Tim Cahill, “The Rolling Stone Interview: Stanley Kubrick”, Rolling Stone, n. 507, 27 August 1987, (http://
www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-rolling-stone-interview-stanley-kubrick-in-1987-20110307)
last accessed 6 October 2017.
3 Gene Siskel, “Candidly Kubrick”, Chicago Tribune, 21 June 1987, p. 4.
4 Jack Kroll, “1968: Kubrick’s Vietnam Odyssey”, Newsweek, n. 109.26, 29 June 1987, p. 65.
5 Jay Cocks, “Kubrick: Degrees of Madness”, Time, n. 98.25, 20 December 1971, p. 85.
6 Richard Schickel, “Kubrick’s Grandest Gamble”, Time, n. 106.24, 15 December 1975, p. 75.
7 Gene Siskel, op. cit., p. 4.
222 Filippo Ulivieri

The common view of Kubrick is indeed peculiar: a master technician,


an unrelenting perfectionist bordering on the maniacal, a tyrannical boss for
his cast and crew, a cryptic auteur, a man progressively alienated from the
physical world, rarely conceding interviews, never seen in public, sitting “in
the dark, surrounded by computers and machines, controlling the Earth.
Doctor Mabuse No. 2.”8
If one tries to list all the concepts that are usually associated with Kubrick’s
name, the outcome would likely be as follows.

The above-mentioned beliefs, easily singled out in the thousands of


articles that were published in American and English media while Kubrick
was alive, are what constitutes the Kubrick mythology: a set of characteristics,
progressively repeated with less and less evidential support, that became in
effect myths describing Kubrick’s physical appearance, his personality, his
behaviour during the making of his films, his attitude towards the world.
Kubrick’s own explanation for the origin of the mythology  has been
accepted by those who study his life and work: the myths are the combined
product of Kubrick’s media shyness and the laziness of reporters; because
Kubrick never spoke to the press and kept his actions undisclosed, journalists
had to invent stories they could then supply to their readers.

8 Hellmuth Karasek, “Sind Sie ein Misanthrop, Mr. Kubrick?”, Der Spiegel, n. 41, 5 October
1987, p. 238. English translation by the author.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 223

So successful journalists have been in creating, circulating and repeating


these stories for decades that the Kubrick mythology is still something that has
to be confronted. Although almost twenty years have passed since his death,
the discourse over Kubrick and his cinema is still influenced by these myths.
Yet, no systematic study has been attempted so far. The mythology has
simply gone unquestioned, as something that followed Kubrick despite his
attempts to counteract its most extreme aspects.9 Indeed, even the documentary
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001) –which is the equivalent of an authorised
biography since it was directed by Kubrick’s brother-in-law and long-lasting
executive producer Jan Harlan and distributed by Warner Bros– adhere to the
prevailing view by opening with a montage of newspaper articles that highlights
the classic myths10 and then moving to more balanced interviews with friends
and colleagues with the overt purpose of setting the record straight.11
This essay investigates into the Kubrick mythology with the aim to
explore the birth and the development of Stanley Kubrick’s public persona,
and to study how the mythology originated, where its building blocks were
first introduced, and how it changed throughout the years.
As a matter of fact, as soon as we start looking into the published articles it
is immediately apparent there has been quite an evolution in how the director
was depicted: in what is his earliest known interview, a 1948 profile for The
Camera magazine, Kubrick was presented as a determined, already experienced
and successful young photographer, so knowledgeable about the camera that
the instrument “has served him like the genie served Aladdin.”12 Kubrick

9 The dichotomy between “the mythological filmmaker” and “the real man” has permeated all
the Kubrick literature, and the trope “the man behind the myth” has been attached to Kubrick,
too, even before his death. Cf. Vincent LoBrutto, Stanley Kubrick. A Biography, New York,
Donald I. Fine Books, 1997, p. 1; in a prologue titled “The Myth of the Reclusive Auteur”,
LoBrutto writes: “Kubrick’s notorious secrecy, obsessive perfectionism, and ever-widening
chasm between films have created a torrent of apocryphal stories, producing a mythology more
than a man.” The authors who have touched Kubrick’s public persona in their studies so far
have shared this perspective. Cf. David Church, “The ‘Cult’ of Kubrick: Cult Cinema in the
Land of the Auteur”, Offscreen, n. 10.5, May 2006 (http://offscreen.com/view/cult_kubrick),
last accessed 9 October 2017; Kate Egan, “Precious footage of the auteur at work: framing,
accessing, using, and cultifying Vivian Kubrick’s Making the Shining”, New Review of Film
and Television Studies, n. 13.1, 2015, p. 63-82.
10 The words “perfectionist”, “mysterious,” “eccentric,” “megalomania,” “recluse,” ”demented,”
“control,” “controversial,” “secrecy,” “genius,” “obsessive,” “meticulous,” “enigma,” “hermetic,”
“shocked,” “demanding,” “tyranny,” “subversive,” “phobia” are just a few of those that flash in
quick succession at the very beginning of the film to the Kubrickian tune of Gioacchino Rossini’s,
La Gazza Ladra: Ouverture.
11 Jan Harlan has affirmed several times that this was the purpose of the documentary. See for
example Matthew Hays, “Life with Stanley”, Globe and Mail, 15 November 2001, p. R1: “the
main reason I wanted to make this film was to impress upon people that Stanley was not a lunatic.”
12 Mildred Stagg, “Camera Quiz Kid”, The Camera, October 1948, p. 37.
224 Filippo Ulivieri

“had turned nineteen a week [prior], and [had] been a staff photographer for
Look magazines since age seventeen.”13 Similar laudatory descriptions occur in
articles that appeared subsequently in American newspapers, as soon as Kubrick
left Look to pursue a filmmaking career.14 When his first feature film, Fear and
Desire (1953), financed independently, was acquired for national distribution
by Joseph Burstyn, Kubrick became a “wunderkind,”15 a “boy genius.”16
Conversely, in 1998, at the end of his life, Kubrick was described using very
harsh tones in an anonymous column in the English tabloid Punch featuring a
report from the set of Eyes Wide Shut (1999):
We’re hearing stories that suggest Kubrick is even more insane than psychia-
trists have led us to believe […] There’s a thin line between being an artistic
perfectionist and being a barking loon. Stanley has clearly crossed that line,
and then some.17
Kubrick’s 50-year journey from “boy genius” to “barking loon” is the
subject of this essay.

A number of the myths that surrounded Kubrick are undeniably true:


by all means he was a “perfectionist” –he did many takes to achieve a desired
result, he shot for longer and longer periods of time, and so on– and he was
also “obsessive” –a word that he himself used to describe how absorbed he
needed to be about a subject to sustain the years of work that were necessary
for him to make a film.18
Kubrick was not suggesting he was obsessed in a medical sense, of course,
even though the press often exploited the implication. Indeed, some of the

13 Ibid., p. 37.
14 Cf. Thomas M. Pryor, “Young Man With Ideas and a Camera”, The New York Times, 14 January
1951, p. X5; A.H. Weiler, “By Way of Report [Producer]”, The New York Times, 19 June 1952,
p. X3.
15 A.H. Weiler, “By Way of Report [Youths’ Entry]”, The New York Times, 15 March 1953, p. X5.
16 Arthur Juntunen, “Snap Hundreds, Says ‘Boy Genius’”, Detroit Free Press, 11 June 1953, p. 30.
More ensuing articles repeat the concept: Kubrick is defined “boy wonder” and again “wunder-
kind” in Laura Lee, “More Action, Less Talking in Movies”, The Sunday Bulletin [Philadelphia],
26 July 1953, p. 8, 10. Again the label “boy wonder” can be found in Simon Burgin, “29 And
Running, the Director With Hollywood by the Horns… Dissects the movies”, Newsweek,
n. 50.23, 2 December 1957, p. 96-97. Finally, in Will Jones, “Boy Genius Holds His Own
Amid the Alumni”, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, 15 March 1959, p. 3.
17 Anon., “Lowdown: Kubrick’s buzz word”, Punch, n. 60, 1-13 August 1998, p. 4.
18 Cf. Mike McGrady, “Stanley  Kubrick: a Filmmaker Obsessed”, Newsday, 11  February 1964,
p. 3C. The article summarises Kubrick’s obsession with the subject of nuclear war. In the end,
the reporter asked Kubrick what will his next picture be. Kubrick replied he did not know yet: “I
haven’t found anything I can get so obsessed with. It takes me two years: that’s too big a commit-
ment for something that may suddenly go flat. Other directors don’t work this way. Why should
they? They get the same money for working 12 weeks that they would get for two years. There’s
no reason to do it my way unless you are, as I said, obsessed. You must be obsessed.”
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 225

labels show a negative take on what could otherwise be viewed as a neutral


or positive quality in order to increase media resonance, such as “tyrannical”
being the showy slant on a director doing his job. As his daughter Anya said:
There are certain themes […] that are journalistic exaggerations of his charac-
teristics. Recluse is a word that gets thrown at him in every article, and as far
as I can work out, recluse must be defined as someone who doesn’t talk to
journalists.19
In the same vein, “secretive” can be considered the media embroidery of
“elusive,” as “megalomania” of “self-confidence,” and so on.
Christiane Kubrick gave two examples to illustrate how a myth was created
through misrepresentation or exaggeration of trivial anecdotes:
Once he hurt his back and couldn’t move so he drove at 30  miles an hour
because he should have been in bed. Also, his parents lived in New Jersey
where every window has a bug screen. So he arrives in England and says,
“Aren’t there any screens on the windows?” The next thing you hear is he sprays
his garden with a helicopter.20
I am quoting from a lengthy interview that Christiane, Anya and Kubrick’s
adopted daughter Katharina gave to Sight & Sound magazine to “adjust the
myth before it sets in concrete.”21 After the director’s death, the Kubricks
radically changed their relationship with the media and, during the summer
of 1999, opened their house and minds to the international press and began to
challenge the mythology with an unprecedented determination.22 Christiane’s

19 Nick James, “At home with the Kubricks”, Sight & Sound, n. 9.9, September 1999, p. 12-18.
20 Ibid., p. 14.
21 Ibid., p. 12.
22 The new course in media management happened very quickly, almost instantaneously. So
highly felt must have been the need to present a truer account of the director’s persona that
at the end of March 1999, three mere weeks since Kubrick’s death, his widow Christiane
opened her own website, then available at the address http://www.eyeswideshut.com/ck/, and
wrote: “On this website I intend to take the opportunity to confirm the truths about Stanley
and correct the inaccuracies, at least the gross ones.” As she later admitted, “Shortly after
the funeral a few things happened that made me think I ought to have a website so I could
immediately write back, but then Warners and Rick Senat said, ‘Be very careful, you’ll reap
the whirlwind if you do that’ […] I would have been very stupid to blurt out any and every
indignation I felt and they quite correctly warned me not to do it.” Cf. Nick James, op. cit.,
p. 15-16. In fact, Christiane only used the website to criticise Frederic Raphael’s book, Eyes
Wide Open. The Kubricks chose to use traditional media instead and inaugurated their new
strategy by asking journalist Peter Warren to “write an article designed to correct the myth
which has built up around Stanley Kubrick.” Cf. Peter Warren, “Let’s tackle some of the more
ridiculous lies straight away”, Scotland on Sunday, 11 July 1999, and Peter Warren, “Myths and
the legend of Kubrick”, The Express, 11 July 1999. Then the Kubricks summoned reporters to
cover virtually all the major European countries. Cf. Leonetta Bentivoglio, “Definire Stanley
un genio era una scusa per insultarlo”, La Repubblica, 22 August 99; Urs Jenny, Martin Wolf,
“Er war einfach schüchtern”, Der Spiegel, n. 35, 30 August 99; Serge Kaganski, “Madame K”,
Les Inrockuptibles Hors Série, September 1999; Dalya Alberge, “Window opens world’s eyes
226 Filippo Ulivieri

rationalisation dutifully mirrored her husband’s: “It was an accumulation of


made-up stories. It’s the press cuttings –everyone who’s given a piece to write
goes there and repeats the last thing written.”23
In addition to sloppy, sensationalistic journalism, Anya offered an
alternative explanation when she said she believed the mythology originated
from a negative attitude some people had towards her father: “those who
knew him well and liked him and respected him and respected his wishes
didn’t speak to the press about him. So the stories that exist come from people
who are in some way disaffected.”24
Anya was referring specifically to the recently published Frederic Raphael’s
bitter memoir Eyes Wide Open, and to John  Baxter’s scandalmonger-like
biography.25 But, given the examples the Kubricks gave in the interview, they
were commenting on something else, too: The Invisible Man, a documentary
that, when it was broadcast on British television in 1996, presented quite an
unflattering image of Kubrick, focused more on his personality than on his
artistic work.
For example, the programme featured film historian David  Thompson
who blatantly compared Kubrick to Jack Torrance, as if The Shining (1980)
was a way for Kubrick to deal with his own retirement “into a world of his
own, [where he] tries to get rid of people and sort of goes crazy.” Thompson,
although a film critic, spoke very little about the films while expressing instead
his own take on Kubrick’s personality:
I’m not sure he believes in people, and I’m not sure he believes in personal
relationships, I don’t think he believes in women, I don’t know that he believes

to the real Stanley  Kubrick”, The Times, 4  September 1999 (abridged in the international
editions with an even more catchy title: “The Kubrick I knew was no monster”); Danae Brook,
“I’m sick of all these lies about my husband. They wounded him so much”, The Mail on
Sunday, 12 September 1999; Eric Dahan, “Stanley était ridiculement optimiste”, Libération,
15  September 1999; Jean-Luc  Wachthausen, “Christiane Kubrick: ‘Stanley n’était pas
sociable’”, Le Figaro, 15 September 1999; Patrick Amory, “Dans l’intimité de Stanley Kubrick”,
Paris Match, #2626, 23 September 1999. During the summer the Kubricks also invited docu-
mentarian Paul Joyce, interestingly the same director who made the negatively-biased docu-
mentary The Invisible Man, to interview the family for his film The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick
and Eyes Wide Shut, broadcast on Channel Four on 5 September 1999. The Kubricks’ attack
against the mythology culminated with the self-produced documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life
in Pictures. I would argue that this new course has not been entirely successful: my impression
is that there might now be two distinct images of Kubrick, one exemplified by the mythology,
which still persists, and one stemmed from the glaringly positive depictions of Kubrick that
the members of his family and his closest collaborators have been offering in interviews since
he died –perhaps a new mythology in itself.
23 Nick James, op. cit., p. 14.
24 Ibid., p. 16.
25 Frederic Raphael, Eyes Wide Open. A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick, New York, Ballantine Books,
1999; John Baxter, Stanley Kubrick. A Biography, New York, Carroll & Graf, 1997.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 227

in family, I don’t think he believes in country. I can’t think of other things he


might believe in, but I don’t think he believes in them.26
Thompson concluded that Kubrick’s behaviour on set was “not far from
the madness of the character in The Shining.”27 Barry Lyndon (1975) composer,
Leonard Rosenman, recalled the hundreds of takes with the orchestra and said
he and the musicians “looked at each other as if we were dealing with an
insane person.” Although Rosenman conceded that Kubrick “knows more
than anybody about the making of a film,” he again indulged in scathing
descriptions of the director’s character:
I don’t know about humanity, I don’t know about what he knows about rela-
tionships between people, because I haven’t seen any party with whom he had
a real relationship, he just was either a kind of an enslaver in some way or just
totally insensitive.28
Malcolm McDowell, after speaking about Kubrick eating pork and cream
cake at the same time because “that is how Napoleon ate,” brought the
documentary to an end and said:
What stopped Kubrick from being a genius was his lack of humanity. […] At
the end of the day, they say, well, what was he like as a man? What was he like
as a human being? I think that’s probably the test that he doesn’t do well at.29
The Invisible Man is symptomatic of how Kubrick was treated in the
English press. Most of the selected speakers are –exactly as Anya suggested–
people who were disaffected and who offer sensationalistic stories, while little
time is left to those who had positive experiences, who are only allowed to
contribute with bland, factual information.30 Some of the people interviewed
in the documentary also made such clear innuendos at Kubrick’s mental
health that it is very possible that the infamous Punch article was in reality
freely expanding on the film’s content and mischievously pushing it to the
limit, as tabloids usually do.
By browsing through my database, I noticed a remarkable difference
between the articles written before or after 1990. To put it shortly, before
the ’90s there is nothing really nasty. I believe that, since the media didn’t

26 Paul Joyce, The Invisible Man, Lucida Productions, 1996, originally broadcast on Channel 4 on
20 June 1996.
27 Ibid.
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 Paul Joyce, producer and director of The Invisible Man, maintains that his film is critical of
Kubrick but fair. Joyce, an artist and a filmmaker himself, says he wanted to make a docu-
mentary about Kubrick because he was fascinated by the “incredible power” he had managed
to obtain in the industry. His concept behind the invisible man was “to cover Kubrick with
something so that we could see, the shape you know, what’s there? Maybe there’s nothing
there. Maybe it’s all The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Filippo Ulivieri, Interview with Paul Joyce,
10 September 2017.
228 Filippo Ulivieri

have anything new about Kubrick after Full Metal Jacket, they exaggerated
what they knew for the sake of creating a juicy story, in a decade increasingly
devoted to gossip and celebrity cult.
This escalated so much that, apparently, in his later years, Kubrick was
“starting to worry about it, and minding the maliciousness and inaccuracy”31
of what appeared in the press.
Indeed, the “barking loon” article is significant not only because it stands at
the farthest point of the spectrum, but also because it succeeded in achieving
something unprecedented: Kubrick sued Punch magazine. Prior to this, at
most, he had written a few letters to the editors, and only to defend his films
–most notably A Clockwork Orange (1971) from the accusation of being
a fascist movie.32 Kubrick never cared to defend himself but, when Punch
questioned his very sanity, when it claimed that he was clinically insane, he
took the magazine to court for libel.33

If the outcome of the mythology is clear, to find its origin we have to


look back in time. Let’s focus for a moment on Kubrick’s last encounter with
the press, in 1987 for the promotion of Full Metal Jacket. We left him in his
office, speaking out and protesting about how he was depicted in the media.
Surprisingly, it almost looked as if the director who was notoriously in charge
of every minute aspect of his films had not been able to control his image.
But we did know that he, in fact, controlled his image. For example, it is
well-known that he exerted a strong control over the interviews he conceded,
by demanding final approval before any text could be published. Kubrick’s
excruciating editing process has been described by Jeremy  Bernstein for his

31 Nick James, op. cit., p. 15.


32 Stanley Kubrick, “Now Kubrick Fights Back”, The New York Times, 27 February 1972, p. D1,
D11. Kubrick also wrote a letter to the editor of The Detroit News to protest against the
publicity ban for X-rated films. Cf. Anon., “Stan Kubrick to Detroit News”, Variety, 19 April
1972. Earlier, he had sent a cable from New York to London to defend Lolita from a “viciously
flippant and rude” article that had mocked the film and its cast and crew. Cf.: Stanley Kubrick,
“Lolita and the press”, The Observer, 24 June 1962, p. 22.
33 For details about the trial, see: Rick Senat, “Kubrick’s KO Punch”, The Times, 8 June 1999, p. 37.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 229

New Yorker profile,34 Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune,35 and Lloyd Grove of
The Washington Post,36 among others. The same happened with the publications
that sought Kubrick’s cooperation: we have drafts of Jerome Agel’s The Making
of Kubrick’s 2001 and Alexander Walker’s Stanley Kubrick Directs, extensively
amended by Kubrick, who checked these texts very carefully, clearly considering
them as opportunities to promote his films and himself.37
Despite what has been said, Kubrick did talk to journalists. I collected
almost 350 reports containing original quotes by Kubrick, given to international
media over the course of his 50  years of work, from brief press releases to
lengthy, articulate pieces. For a director who only made 13 films, certainly it
is not a small amount. The myth that Kubrick never gave interviews is simply
not true.38

34 Cf. Jeremy Bernstein, “Newton’s Rings. Memories of Stanley  Kubrick”, London Review of
Books, April 1999. “My interviews were done before tape recorders were commonplace. I
certainly didn’t have one. Kubrick did. He did all his script-writing by talking into it. He said
that we should use it for the interviews. Later on, when I used a quote from the tape he didn’t
like, he said: ‘I know it’s on the tape, but I will deny saying it anyway.’ I had sent him the
galleys of the articles before publication and they came back to me marked with numerous
corrections in ink. This was followed by a phone call. He said the profile was terrible and that
if the ending came out in its present form he would never speak to me again. […] I had ended
my profile with this story. I met him at the studio in Elstree to discuss the ending. ‘Look at
it,’ he said, ‘you get all the good adjectives. ‘I get nothing but shitty adjectives.’ ‘OK,’ I said,
we’ll take all the adjectives out and divide them up so we both get the same number of good
an shitty adjectives.’ That is what we did. We put them on slips of paper and divided them up
evenly. That is how they appear in the published profile.” Bernstein’s profile was “How about
a little game?” The New Yorker, #42, 12 November 1966, p. 70-110.
35 Cf. Gene Siskel, “Kubrick’s Creative Concern”, Chicago Tribune, 13  February 1972, p.  L3:
“Before I could start my tape recorder, he began saying how he hopes the article I will write will
turn out. Once a director… He says he doesn’t want it to contain only or primarily his words.
If that is the case, he explains, it will turn out to be like an article he had neglected to write
and now had hastily conceived. He stresses he does not want two or more of his answers strung
together for the sake of reading simplicity. If that is done, he explains, it will leave the reader
with the impression that Kubrick has logorrhea. Furthermore, he asks if I had been informed
[I had] that he wants to edit any quotes of his I plan to use. It’s not so much that he doesn’t
want to be caught making an untoward remark, he explains, it is that he cares about what he
says. [The changes he made bear that out.]”
36 Cf. Lloyd Grove, “Stanley Kubrick, at a Distance”, The Washington Post, 28 June 1987, p. F5:
“Midinterview, Kubrick requests to see a transcript of his quotes. He wants to make sure that he
can recognize his voice. Some days later, after 18 pages of transcript are dispatched to London,
he sends back 28 pages of corrections. He insists during a subsequent discussion that he has no
interest in appearing spontaneous in an interview, that he sounds inarticulate to himself that
that’s not the way he talks. (A few of his suggestions were incorporated into this piece.)”
37 Cf. Jerome Agel, annotated drafts of The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, Stanley Kubrick Archive,
University of the Arts London, SK/12/5/47; annotated drafts of Stanley  Kubrick Directs,
Fondo Walker, Cineteca del Friuli, Gemona (Udine).
38 We may amend the definition of recluse that Anya Kubrick gave: recluse is not someone who
doesn’t talk to journalists but someone who doesn’t go to celebrity events.
230 Filippo Ulivieri

If we look at the distribution of these reports over the years, we can


see that naturally the peaks occur when a new film was released, but more
interestingly we can observe a sustained high number of contacts with media
outlets up until the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 (the exception
being the year 1967, when the film was frighteningly behind schedule and
it was wiser to keep mum and work). During those years, it was Kubrick
that quite often initiated a contact with a journalist –for example he used to
supply information to several Hollywood columnists, such as Louella Parsons,
Army Archerd, Leonard Lyons, and others– and even invited reporters at the
studio while he was shooting Dr.  Strangelove (1964) and 2001.39 It is only
when he relocated permanently in England that he drastically cut down his
contacts with the press, and met reporters only when he had to promote a
new film.40 I would then say that Kubrick talked to journalists, but on his own
terms: he solicited media exposure as long as he needed it, while once he had
established himself as a relevant filmmaker he preferred to select the reporters
he found agreeable and edit their articles to be sure they presented an image
of himself that he liked. In short, Kubrick understood the value of promotion
and tried to control it as much as he could.
Consequently, a different explanation for the origin of the Kubrick
mythology is to be found. Within the thousands of articles about Kubrick,
I will now focus precisely on those that were written by a reporter after he
or she had met with Kubrick personally, either on set during the shooting
of a film or in a studio office for a film’s promotion. In other words, I will
focus only on first-hand, non-derivative reports. They sometimes present

39 Inviting reporters at he studio is a common practice, in use during the making of Paths of
Glory, Spartacus, and Lolita as well. What sets Dr. Strangelove and 2001 apart is that the report-
ers didn’t only do cast and crew interviews but were given a guided tour of the sets and were
invited to read portions of the script.
40 Still, with an average of 15 to 25 interviews for his later films, Kubrick can’t really be defined
an inaccessible filmmaker.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 231

colourful descriptions of Kubrick, such as he looked “like an undernourished


Marlon Brando,”41 or “[he] has the somewhat bohemian look of a riverboat
gambler or a Rumanian poet,”42 or even “of an apprentice Mephistopheles.”43
These are personal impressions, but also factual glimpses into how Kubrick
appeared to the eyes of a journalist, and therefore they may help us understand
how his image evolved. Bearing in mind Kubrick’s wish to control, they may
help us understand his role in self-promotion, too.
The first profile of Kubrick was published in Look magazine in 1948.
Presenting his assignment at the Columbia University documenting Dwight
Eisenhower as the new President, the article says Kubrick “pushed around
[…] the distinguished faculty members and officials” because “like any
experienced photographer, Stanley  Kubrick knew exactly what he wanted.”
A “quiet, brown-eyed youngster” of 19, Kubrick was “a two-year veteran on
the Look photographic staff. And even before [graduation] in 1946, he sold
his candidly shot pictures to Look. […] his fellow photographers were quick
to observe his intense preoccupation with his work” and helped him not to
forget his keys and glasses. They also influenced his clothing tastes for the
better: “Once given to wearing teen-age trade-marks –saddle shoes, lounge
jackets and sports shirts– Stanley now leans toward glen plaid business suits
and white shirts.” The profile stressed that, “photographically, Stanley doesn’t
need any help in bringing himself up,” and ended by saying that “In his spare
time, Stanley experiments with cinematography and dreams of the day when
he can make documentary films.”44
As soon as he did start shooting documentary shorts and planning his
first feature, Kubrick, most likely thanks to the contacts he had made at Look,
contacted people in the New York newspapers to write about his projects. The
tone of the resulting articles is similar to that of the Look profile, highlighting
again his determination and experience. For example, a 1951 piece in The
New York Times described Kubrick as “a young man from the Bronx with a
passionate interest in photography and a determination to make a name for
himself in the movie world.” Not an ordinary tyro, though: “an adventurous
young man […] but one who apparently knows his way around” thanks to
“four and a half years spent as a top-flight magazine still photographer” and
two short-films ready for distribution at RKO Pathé.45

41 Anon., “The New Pictures”, Time, n. 67.23, 4 June 1956, p. 106.


42 Jeremy Bernstein, op. cit., p. 85.
43 Peter Lyon, “The Astonishing Stanley Kubrick”, Holiday, n. 35.2, February 1964, p. 103.
44 Anon. “A veteran photographer at 19, Stanley Kubrick makes up for youth with zeal”, Look,
n. 12.10, 11 May 1948.
45 Thomas M. Pryor, op. cit.
232 Filippo Ulivieri

Two years later, in 1953 when Fear and Desire debuted, for a New York
Post reporter the wunderkind had already become a “star” even if his casual
look didn’t match his new stature: an “unconventionally garbed, sensitive,
brown-eyed youth with a mop of unkempt dark hair.”46 Articles from this year
combine expertise –a “new all-around movie wizard,”47 a “factotum”48– with
modesty: a reporter said that, “Unlike most youthful prodigies [Kubrick] is
quiet spoken and graciously modest. He has his snare of self-confidence but
he keeps it to himself.”49
In 1957, when Paths of Glory opened, the New York Times found Kubrick
a “slightly elusive, seemingly diffident young man who talks little, wears dark
suits in the bright sunshine on Canon Drive, and makes astonishing movies.”50
The same year, an Esquire profile called Kubrick “a phenomenon” and
noted how his “air of self-confidence has been commented upon by everyone
who has known him.” After adding that he was “genuinely sloppy [with] a
constitutional inability to match his clothes,” the profile also reaffirmed that
“While not exactly a recluse, Kubrick tends to keep to himself.” Kubrick’s
unusual frugality was also addressed in detail:
He doesn’t own, or rent, a Beverly Hills home, doesn’t have a swimming pool.
His only conspicuous piece of property is a small black Mercedes he brought
back with him from Germany. He rents furnished rooms, and moves from one
to another, carrying with him the stack of books he is currently going through.
He doesn’t collect anything, and never buys anything he doesn’t need.51
In another article we can read words such as “sureness,” “awareness,”
“guiding perception often not duplicated in directors twice his age and many
times his experience,” “a quiet but determined young man, not easily deterred
from his objective. He is polite, he listens, he offers his own point of view
–then he goes ahead and shoots it his way.”52 “Self-assurance, in fact, is the
personality trait most apparent in this intense and dark-browed young man,”
wrote another reporter, who called Kubrick “Indomitable.”53

46 Irene Thirer, “Kubrick Another Boy Film Producer”, New York Post, 27 March 1953, p. 58.
47 Anon., “Sultry New Siren and New All-Around Movie Wizard Spark ‘Fear and Desire’”, People
Today, 8 April 1953, p. 58-60.
48 Samuel L. Singer, “24-Year-Old Is ‘Factotum’ Of New Film”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 26 July
1953, p. 16.
49 Alton Cook, “Non-Pro Features May Set a Trend”, New York World Telegram, undated clipping
found in the Stanley Kubrick Archive, SK/5/4, most likely from April 1953.
50 Joanne Stang, “Film Fan to Film Maker”, The New York Times Magazine, 12 October 1958,
p. 34.
51 Hollis Alpert, “Tell Me, Who is Kubrick?”, Esquire, July 1958, p. 44-47.
52 Dick Williams, “Stan Kubrick’s Mettle Tested by ‘Spartacus’”, Mirror [Los Angeles], 21 September
1960.
53 Eugene Archer, “Hailed in Farewell”, The New York Times, 2 October 1960, p. X9.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 233

When Spartacus (1960) was about to open, we see a first change: a newspaper
wrote Kubrick “had a reputation for trouble,”54 possibly because the friction
with Kirk Douglas had leaked from the set, or simply as an embellishment of
his determination. In any case, until 1964 Kubrick’s image was fundamentally
that of an unusual and potentially controversial but ultimately benign
presence within the film industry:55 an interesting rising filmmaker with a
strong personality and a few bizarre but innocuous eccentricities that were the
standard mark of a genius. It is with the distribution of Dr. Strangelove that
Kubrick’s image altered dramatically.
The customary interview with The New York Times called Kubrick
an “argumentative director who, in his stormy career, has quarreled with
practically everyone.” The once enfant prodige had metamorphosed into an
“enfant terrible.”56 It is also during the production of this film that we find
the word “perfectionist” attached to Kubrick for the first time.57 Interestingly,
this change happened when Kubrick further expanded his control and began
taking charge of the marketing and promotion of his work.58
This then exploded with the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey: from
1966, when shooting was under way at the studio, Kubrick supervised the
publication of a number of articles in different media to raise awareness of his
film among the public.59 A multitude of press releases was also distributed,
describing the many technical innovations Kubrick devised and the futuristic
gadgetry used in the film.60

54 Alton Cook, “Kubrick Unshattered By $12 Million Epic”, New York World Telegram, undated
clipping found in a scrapbook in the Stanley Kubrick Archive, SK/9/2/1, most likely from
September 1960.
55 “Controversial” is the obvious tag attached to Lolita, the novel by Vladimir  Nabokov that
Kubrick selected as his next film in 1958. The resulting picture, approved by the Production Code
Administration “for persons over 18 only,” proved to be less scandalous than the source novel.
56 Eugene Archer, “How to Learn to Love World Destruction”, The New York Times, 26 January
1964, p. X13.
57 Voice of Broadway column by Dorothy Kilgallen, retrieved as Anon., “Anthony Quinn Having
Ball in Paris”, The Washington Post, 23 August 1963, p. B11.
58 Again, like the presence of reporters on set, Kubrick’s interest in marketing and promotion is
something that can be traced back to Lolita when Kubrick employed famous photographer
Bert Stern to shoot sexy pictures of Sue Lyon for the film’s poster, but it is with Dr. Strangelove
that Kubrick gained reign over these areas, a process not entirely without frictions with
Columbia Pictures. For Dr. Strangelove Kubrick devised a highly imaginative campaign featur-
ing a trailer done by advertising genius Pablo Ferro using his revolutionary quick-cut tech-
nique, and a cartoon rendition of the film’s characters for the film’s poster. Cf. David Nylor,
Inside Dr. Strangelove, Columbia Pictures, 2000.
59 See for example: Anon., “Backstage Magic for a Trip to Saturn”, Popular Mechanics, April 1967.
60 Among these, the employment of closed-circuit television to check the actors’ performances
when they were inside the centrifuge and a video tape recording system to watch them minutes
after a take. Press releases covered the use of prototypes of “newspads” –basically what we now
know as tablets– and electronic dictaphones that can transcribe a speech.
234 Filippo Ulivieri

To promote the film in England, Kubrick commissioned Victor Davis of


the Daily Express an exclusive series of articles61 to coincide with the London
premiere. These articles describe Kubrick as “one of the world’s most inventive
filmmakers,” a “genius,” a “technical wizard among film directors,” a man
with a “grand obsession” whose “insistence on perfection drove his designers
to despair.” The series was embellishing the earlier descriptions of Kubrick
with a bit of sensationalism, which is always good for a film’s opening. But it
also added a new myth, perhaps an evolution of Kubrick’s tendency to keep
to himself that we saw in earlier articles: here Kubrick is called a “secretive
gifted man” who has “an abhorrence of publicity.” Davis wrote: “his workers
are sworn to secrecy: his stages are guarded like bullion vaults.” Kubrick is “an
enigma even to his close associates.”
To call these descriptions myths is particularly apt here: not only because
Davis wrote total fabrications –we’ve seen that Kubrick had the very opposite
of publicity abhorrence and that his stages were far from sealed, with dozens
of reporters invited to have a tour of the futuristic sets– but also because he
used the very word mythology: after recounting some anecdotes from the set,
Davis wrote:
These tales gave rise to a studio mythology. It begins: “In six days God created
heaven and earth. And on the seventh day Stanley Kubrick sent it back for
modifications.” Whatever his status as a deity, there’s no doubt he commanded
devotion.62
The last two articles in the series are especially noteworthy because Davis
wrote about Kubrick using the myths we are now familiar with. Kubrick is
said to have an
astonishing capacity for work. He has laboured 18 hours a day without a single
day off for four years. […] He appeared to be both permanently on the phone
and ubiquitous: directing actors, setting camera focus, supervising wardrobe
and make-up, script-writing. He has a compulsion to dabble in everybody’s
job. When he showed his film to the New York critics he was constantly in
and out of the projection box, adjusting sound levels and focus. Earlier he had
insisted on a trial run of the theatre’s air conditioning.63
When he arrived in England in 1965, Kubrick “drew up a plan to have
a helicopter bomb the town near his studio with DDT” because he couldn’t

61 Victor Davis, “Only 33 years away –an air hostess on the moon!”, Daily Express, 29 March
1968, p. 7; “Tomorrow will decide if Kubrick has goofed”, Daily Express, 1 April 1968, p. 6;
“It’s a fantastic world –wrapped in reality”, Daily Express, 3 April 1968, p. 8; “Give me the
moon, baby…”, Daily Express, 16 April 1968, p. 7; “‘how to spend £4 million without even
trying’”, Daily Express, 17 April 1968, p. 6; “So who wants to die on the moon?”, Daily Express,
18 April 1968, p. 13.
62 Victor Davis, op. cit., 17 April 1968.
63 Ibid.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 235

stand flies and was informed that a plague of flies was imminent. And finally:
“He refuses to fly,” and “His chauffeur is not permitted to go above 25 miles
per hour.”64
We have found, I believe, the origin of the “usual Kubrick anecdotes.”
With such an outcome, one would think that Kubrick would have been
crossed with Victor  Davis. Yet, in a letter he sent him in summer 1968,
Kubrick was very cordial and thanked him dearly for his work.65 Four years
later, Kubrick summoned Davis again and conceded him an interview for A
Clockwork Orange, where some of the same myths are reiterated.66 We have
not only found the origin of the Kubrick mythology, but also its originator.
Kubrick didn’t use a single journalist to shape his persona. The text that was
featured in the Clockwork Orange program was a profile by Alexander Walker
where Kubrick is called “enigmatic as the monoliths” in 2001 and “almost as
elusive,” a “hermit” keeping the world “always at a distance,” behind “gates
encrusted with verboten notices guarding his privacy.” Walker writes Kubrick is
“fanatical in preparing his films” even using “maps of the incoming flight paths
at the nearby airport. […] If this director takes infinite pains, he gives them
too. A Clockwork Orange demonstrated once again his ruthlessness in pursuit
of absolute authenticity.”67 It is worth remembering that Walker was not an
ordinary writer but one of the very few journalists that Kubrick trusted.68
A second program for A Clockwork Orange contained an editorial
biography that reads: “Kubrick’s reputation for control is legend. In addition
to producing, directing, and adapting A Clockwork Orange, he operated the
camera, lit the sets, was involved in every decision regarding casting, art
direction, scoring and mixing.”69 Combining the “control freak” myth and
some eccentricities, the Barry Lyndon press kit states: “There is only one boss
on a Stanley Kubrick film –that’s Stanley Kubrick.” A “painstaking genius”

64 Victor Davis, op. cit., 18 April 1968.


65 Stanley Kubrick, Letter to Victor Davis, 27 June 1968, Stanley Kubrick Archive, SK/12/8/1/19.
66 Cf. Victor Davis, “This Violent Age”, Daily Express, 6 January 1972, p. 5.
67 A Clockwork Orange English theatre program, 1972.
68 Walker wrote the first authorised study of Kubrick’s films, Stanley Kubrick Directs (New York,
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971) and served as a ghost writer for the article “Now Kubrick
Fights Back”, op. cit. Cf. several drafts of these two texts, annotated by Kubrick and Walker, in
Fondo Walker, Cineteca del Friuli, Gemona (Udine). From the 1970s, Walker furthered the
Kubrick mythology with virtually every article he wrote about Kubrick. See for example his inter-
views: Alexander Walker, “The Man of Many Myths”, Telegraph Sunday Magazine, 26 October
1980, p. 17-18, 22, 24; “Vietnam on Thames”, The Evening Standard. Metro, 25 June 1987,
p. 27-28; “Kubrick’s Odyssey”, Highlife, July 1987, p. 86-87; “Inexactly expressed sentiments
about the most private person I know”, in It’s only a movie, Ingrid, London, Headline Book
Publishing, 1988, p. 285-302.
69 A Clockwork Orange theatre program, in the shape of a fictional newspaper titled Orange Times,
1972.
236 Filippo Ulivieri

and a “self-admitted perfectionist,” Kubrick “drives his own car, because he


wouldn’t trust a driver. His car is fitted with the best safety devices available.
[…] Stanley  Kubrick works under a heavy cloak of secrecy to produce the
cinematic miracles with which he has astonished the world.” He is a “unique,
retiring, obsessive and unpredictable genius.”70
These portraits, officially distributed to media outlets, are an indication that
Kubrick must have seen a positive, exploitable marketing value in such a peculiar
image of himself. Indeed, similar descriptions occur in the press material for
The Shining and Full Metal Jacket.71 Pushed persistently into the media circuit at
every film’s opening, the mythological image of Kubrick cemented and became
proverbial. At the end of the ’70s, Kubrick had successfully established himself
as a one-of-a-kind filmmaker: hermetic and hermitic.
This is the point of arrival of a strategy that Kubrick put in place as soon
as he entered the business. I found out what I believe is his very first move,
a 1950 news story written by a New York-based Associated Press reporter72 –a
very effective move, in actuality, because the article was syndicated around the
United States and reached a readership of millions, with boasting headlines
such as “Young photographer making excellent movies at a low cost,” and
“22-year-old makes successful movies,” up to bombastic fanfaronades like
“Kubrick is teaching Hollywood how to produce low-cost films” and “Are
you listening, Sam Goldwyn?”
This article shows not only the young Kubrick’s boldness in promoting
himself as a precocious filmmaker who was trying to break into Hollywood,73
but also the early signs of a carefully constructed image. At just 22 years old,
Kubrick juxtaposed himself against the Hollywood producers and directors:
they had costly sets, big offices, swimming pools, hoards of assistants, while
he didn’t even own a house and his only staff was his wife. The article stated
that “His obsession was movies.” Kubrick watched some films “as many as ten
times,” to learn the art, the craft and the business. During the shooting of Day

70 Anon., “Stanley Kubrick profile”, in Barry Lyndon American press kit, 1972.


71 For The Shining, the press material reproduced two articles from The Daily Mirror and
Newsweek, containing several elements of the mythology. A “talented and secretive director,”
a “powerful and mysterious” personality,” “Kubrick is famous for his obsessive attention to
detail. He will shoot a scene over and over,” with “reports [from the set] of eighty-seven takes
for some scenes.” “He’s become a movie-business legend for his obsession with privacy as well
as with filmmaking.” The same thing applies for Full Metal Jacket, whose press kit included
an article from Premiere magazine, where Kubrick, again likened to the monolith –“a force
of supernatural intelligence, appearing at great intervals and amid high-pitched shrieks, who
gives the world a violent kick up the next rung of the evolutionary ladder”– is described as a
“hermit baron.”
72 Saul Pett, Associated Press wire story for Hal Boyle column, 27 December 1950.
73 Cf. Peter Krämer, “Stanley Kubrick and the internationalisation of post-war Hollywood”, New
Review of Film and Television Studies 15, no. 2, 2017, p. 250-69.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 237

of The Fight he “did everything himself, from directing to arranging the lights,
stands and reflectors.” Kubrick said he was certain he could do his next film
for $50,000, instead of the millions required by Hollywood standards. How?
The answer is carefully planning. We have worked out on paper every scene,
every shot. There will be no writers, producers, directors or art directors to
contend with. There won’t be any time lost in argument or discussion. There
will be only one boss –me.74
Basically, this survey of media reports and promotional profiles shows
variations on the same concepts. And it also reveals the mastermind behind
them. The 1950 news story marks the birth of an image that Kubrick nurtured
for 40 years. It started with the picture of a precocious, unusual, reserved but
determined young director and then evolved and expanded to incorporate
an obsessive drive, an uncompromising pursuit of perfection, a penchant for
secrecy, and a number of eccentricities.75
The most extreme example of Kubrick manipulating his own image, I
think, is given by Gordon Stainforth regarding the editing of the documentary
The Making of The Shining:
There were two sequences that we put together for Vivian’s documentary of
Stanley actually directing […] they showed him in a rather warm light and they
didn’t show him in that kind of aggressive light that has been rumored about.
[…] In our cut he was very warm and nice, and he wanted those scenes cut
out and what was left were the sequences of him shouting at Shelley [Duvall]
in the snow. It was almost as if he wanted that side of him to be shown and not
the side where he was very gentle and nice to his actors.76
I spoke with Jay Cocks, who met Kubrick in 1968 to write a profile for
Time magazine.77 He was also the author of that article were Kubrick dismissed
the myths as “your usual Kubrick anecdotes.” In those years, Cocks became
friendly with Kubrick and it’s interesting to see how a text written not by a
journalist but by a friend still repeats the mythology, and asserts “all the stories
are true.”78 Cocks said to me:

74 Saul Pett, op. cit.


75 The eccentricities were first presented as “somewhat endearing” by Victor Davis and only later
became canonized and were often given a wounding tone by other reporters. Cf. Victor Davis,
op. cit., 18 April 1968: “His film crew soon learned of his phobia, and of a number of other
eccentricities that were somewhat endearing. They made his superhuman drive and inflexible
personality more acceptable to the easier-going English character.”
76 Danel Olson (ed.), The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film, Lakewood, Centipede Press, 2015,
p. 642.
77 Cf. Jay Cocks, SK, in Stephanie Schwam, The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, New York,
Modern Library, 2000, p. xi-xviii.
78 Cocks wrote that Kubrick “can even tick off, in rapid succession, the most common stories
about himself. There is the grooming story: how his wardrobe consists almost exclusively of
blue blazers, gray trousers, black shoes and socks, thereby ending any worry about what to
238 Filippo Ulivieri

I was always very amused at this ‘mad genius’ stuff, and I can tell you for a
fact, Stanley thought it was pretty funny too, but –Cocks stressed this word
strongly– but he was aware of the publicity advantage of it. He constructed a
mysterious persona of himself. There was nothing mysterious about him. He
was just a wonderful, funny guy, a great companion.”79
“The wonderful, funny guy” is the image we are starting to appreciate
thanks to the people who are speaking about Kubrick since he died. But it was
definitely not his image while he was alive.
As Cocks suggested, the construction of a controversial image was done to
the benefit of the filmmaker: being a megalomaniac, perfectionist, obsessive,
reclusive and eccentric genius helped Kubrick find and keep a place in the
business. These are all positive, or captivatingly negative qualities. Having a
mystique was useful for his work –to hire actors, to secure collaborators, to
keep his independence, to turn his films into great occasions.
The “Crazy” part of the mythology was instead problematic. It was neither
created nor nurtured by Kubrick: it originated externally, and mostly in the
’90s, and it was this nasty part that worried him in his last decade, because
it was both offensive and damaging. And it was against these myths that he
consequently took action.80

wear. Then there are the stories about his mania for safety: how he will not ride in a car going
more than 30 m.p.h. (unless he is behind the wheel), and how he wore a special helmet while
working on some of the intricate 2001 sets.” Incidentally, we could consider this as a likely
origin for the “helmet inside the car” myth.
79 Filippo Ulivieri, Telephone interview with Jay Cocks, 29 March 2017.
80 It is intriguing to note that Christiane, Anya, Katharina and Jan Harlan protested against the
entirety of the Kubrick mythology, instead. What they said to reporters as a result of their new
course in media relationship questions how much they were aware of Kubrick’s intentions. For
example, the explanations Christiane gave for the “30 mph” and the “insecticide with an heli-
copter” myths to Sight & Sound clearly contradict what I believe was Kubrick’s strategy. The
Kubricks’ new course was indeed somewhat problematic. When a journalist asked Christiane
if Kubrick would have liked her speaking with the press, she sincerely replied: “No.” Cf.
Urs Jenny, Martin Wolf, op. cit. In addition to that, the Kubricks have implied that, taking
the chance of the publicity campaign of Eyes Wide Shut, had he not died, Kubrick would have
done something to counteract his increasingly peculiar image. We do not know what Kubrick
would have done, but some of those who worked closely with him don’t think he would have
changed a life-long attitude: Cf. Julian  Senior quoted in Francesco  Alò, Robert  Bernocchi,
“Stanley Kubrick: una vita per il cinema”, Caltanet.it, September 2000. Indeed, according to
Michael Herr, Kubrick wanted him to write a “classy piece of P.R.” for Vanity Fair, inclusive of
an interview with him, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Cf. Michael Herr, Kubrick, Picador,
2000, p.  66-68. If the similar pieces that were published to coincide with the opening of
Kubrick’s earlier films –Barry Lyndon in Time magazine, The Shining in Newsweek, Full Metal
Jacket in Newsweek and Rolling Stone– are an indication to what would have followed, it does
seem unlikely that we would have read something radically different: Kubrick consistently
selected those reporters who wrote extensively about the mythology. What we do know is that,
after Kubrick’s death, there is a quick decline in the number of media reports that drew from
the “Crazy” part, perhaps following the maxim that it is inappropriate to speak ill of the dead.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 239

The fabrication of a mythology is rather common with film directors.


When it succeeds, it makes them recognisable in the eyes of an audience that
has always been more interested in actors than directors, and consequently
it helps them get more power in a fiercely competitive industry. Thanks to a
well-crafted mythology, a director can become a household name, his films
part of an oeuvre, thus deserving repeated viewings, careful appraisal by film
critics, and academic studies.81 A director may even achieve cult status.82
For example, we know Alfred  Hitchcock as a morbidly ironic, jovial
man, an image that clearly helped him sell his films. Or we can remember
Federico Fellini who never missed an opportunity to expose how great a liar
he was, inventing the most outrageous stories about himself –a process that
effectively turned him into a Fellinian character. Most recently, the sarcastic,
often troubling and sometimes plain shocking exploits of Lars  von  Trier
mirror his abrasive films.83
What sets Kubrick apart from his fellow directors is that he pretended he
had nothing to do with his image,84 and even that he was irritated by it. From
mid ’70s, he repeatedly complained about this mythology while at the same
time providing the very same stories to media outlets through authorized press
kits and the help of assisting journalists. Actually, this trick predates the ’70s; a
1953 article said: “‘Boy wonder’ is one expression that makes Stanley Kubrick
feel ‘queasy,’ and if he never hears it again it will be fine with him.”85 This
expression had appeared only three times by then, and was very likely solicited
by Kubrick himself.

81 This might be especially true for Kubrick, a director who worked within different genres
and explicitly said he tried not to repeat himself. Cf. Michel  Ciment, “Entretien avec
Stanley Kubrick (sur ‘A Clockwork Orange’)”, Positif, n. 139, June 1972, English version in
Kubrick, New York, Faber and Faber, 2001, p. 153.
82 Cf. David Church, op.  cit.: “By remaining intensely private and secretive on the fringes of
an industry built upon public exposure, the notion of Kubrick-as-auteur fostered a ‘cult of
personality’ by his very refusal to exploit the limelight occupied more comfortably by other
prominent directors.”
83 To give another example, Anthony Burgess, writer of A Clockwork Orange, was, according to
his biographer, “an author who is at some level engaged in creatively reimagining the history
of his own work.” Most likely, Burgess invented the mythology surrounding his infamous
work: his biographer didn’t find any evidence supporting either the incident upon which A
Clockwork Orange is said to be created (a catharsis for Burgess after his previous wife was
raped and subsequently died –a scene mirrored in the book) or the circumstance of its writing
(a way to provide for his family after Burgess was diagnosed with a brain tumour). Burgess
also constantly reported that the excision of the 21st  chapter from his book was made by
his American editor, something that has been contradicted by documents in his archive. Cf.
Andrew Biswell, The Real Life of Anthony Burgess, London, Picador, 2005, p. 247-256.
84 This view was shared also by Warner Bros. publicity people. For example, Julian  Senior,
European publicity director, insisted the mythology was “created outside of him and around
of him.” Cf. Paul Hughes, “A Clockwork lemon”, Punch, 5 September 1997, p. 7.
85 Laura Lee, op. cit.
240 Filippo Ulivieri

This, to my knowledge, is unheard of. I cannot think of any other director,


or any other artist, who expressed discontent with the fictional persona he or
she contributed to create. An answer to this peculiarity can be found, I think,
in what Kubrick said about the value of mystery in cinema:
I believe movies have lost a lot of their romance and glamour through the
present-day custom of having stars open up their private lives […] I have
a nostalgia for the days before my time when Hollywood was a mysterious,
exciting place [where] every star was a fabulous person. They didn’t tell all
about themselves. They encouraged rumors but they never divulged facts […]
I like stars to have a mystery.86
Kubrick was speaking about the reason why Sue  Lyon was kept secret
during the filming of Lolita (1962), or as he repeatedly phrased it, “clouded
in absolute mystery,”87 but I don’t think it’s a stretch if we apply this attitude
to Kubrick’s own persona.
Apart from the unwanted, bitter turn of events of the last decade of his
life, I believe Kubrick successfully created a mythological image for himself
that helped him be perceived as a powerful, distinct director –basically an
auteur, and a quirky, always interesting personality, endlessly able to attract
media coverage. He did so by not telling all about himself, by encouraging
rumours, by never divulging facts –in short, by becoming himself a star
clouded in absolute mystery.

Filippo Ulivieri
filippo.ulivieri@gmail.com

Abstract
If a general member of the public is asked who Stanley Kubrick was, the answer would likely
feature such expressions: a master technician, an unrelenting perfectionist, a tyrannical boss
for his cast and crew, an obsessive genius, a cryptic auteur, a man progressively alienated from
the physical world, rarely conceding interviews, never seen in public, sitting “in the dark,
surrounded by computers and machines, controlling the Earth. Doctor Mabuse No. 2” –as
Kubrick himself quipped in an interview.
Despite Kubrick’s repeated attempts to counteract the most extreme aspects of such a peculiar
public persona, and despite the new, largely positive insights into his personality and modus
operandi that have been offered by the members of the Kubrick family and his closest collabo-
rators since he died, this mythological image of Stanley Kubrick stuck in the people’s imagi-
nation and is still largely believed.

86 Stanley Kubrick, “Why Sue (“Lolita”) Lyon was guarded as if actress were an atomic secret”,
Lolita Exhibitor’s Campaign Book, MGM, 1962.
87 Ibid.
From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s mythology 241

Yet, no systematic study has been attempted so far. The mythology has simply gone unques-
tioned, as something that followed and troubled Kubrick, and whose origin are to be placed
somewhere in the media, sometime in the past.
This essay investigates into the Kubrick mythology for the first time, with the aim to explore
the birth and the development of Kubrick’s public persona, to study how and why such a
mythology came to light, where its building blocks were first introduced, and how it changed
throughout the years.
By surveying news stories that have been published in American and English media from
1948, the year of Kubrick’s first interview as a photographer, to 1999, the year the director
died, this essay chronicles Kubrick’s 50-year journey from “boy genius” to “barking loon” and
takes a new look into the role the director played in marketing himself with the audience and
within the film industry.
Keywords
Kubrick, marketing, promotion, interviews, film.
Résumé
Demandez au public qui était Stanley Kubrick, et il vous répondra probablement: un techni-
cien hors-pair, un perfectionniste insatiable, un patron tyrannique pour son entourage et son
équipe, un génie obsessionnel, un auteur cryptique, un homme de plus en plus isolé du monde
réel ne donnant jamais d’interviews, jamais aperçu en public; « sitting in the dark, surrounded
by computers and machines, controlling the Earth. Doctor  Mabuse, n°02  », plaisanta Kubrick
lui-même en interview.
Malgré les tentatives répétées de la part du cinéaste d’aller à l’encontre des aspects les plus
excessifs de cette persona si étrange, et malgré les nouveaux commentaires, essentiellement
positifs, quant à sa personnalité et à son modus operandi que fournirent depuis le décès de
Kubrick des membres de sa famille ainsi que ses plus proches collaborateurs, l’image mythique
de Stanley Kubrick endure dans l’imaginaire collectif et continue à être partagée par le plus
grand nombre.
Aucune analyse systématique n’a néanmoins été entreprise jusqu’à maintenant. Cette mytho-
logie reste, sans remise en cause, perçue telle une chose qui a suivi et dérangé Kubrick et dont
les origines sont à chercher du côté des médias, à un moment indécis.
Cet article interroge pour la première fois la mythologie Kubrick, dans le but d’explorer la
naissance et le développement de la persona du cinéaste afin de comprendre comment et
pourquoi elle vit le jour, comment elle se construisit et évolua à travers les ans.
A travers l’étude des articles publiés dans les médias américains et britanniques depuis 1948,
année de la première interview de Kubrick (alors photographe) et jusqu’à 1999, l’année de
son décès, cette étude recense 50 ans de perception du cinéaste, de ses débuts en tant « boy
genius » à son statut de « barking loon », et réévalue le rôle du réalisateur lui-même dans le
façonnement de son image auprès du public et de l’industrie cinématographique.
Mots-clés
Kubrick, marketing, promotion, interviews, film.
242 Filippo Ulivieri

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Filippo Ulivieri is a writer and teacher of film theory. He is the leading expert in Kubrick’s
cinema in Italy: his features on the director’s career have appeared in several international news-
papers and magazines. He is author of the biography of Emilio D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick
and Me (Arcade, 2016) and co-scenarist of Alex  Infascelli’s documentary S is for Stanley
(2015).
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Hors série Stanley kubrick. Nouveaux horizons
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◗ Dossier – Stanley Kubrick Nouveaux horizons

Hors série - 2017


ESSAIS
• Avant-propos .............................. 7
Vincent Jaunas
◗ Approche philosophique générale
• Stanley Kubrick : le corps et l’esprit. Volonté de puissance et Mètis
dans l’œuvre du cinéaste ............................ 19
Sam Azulys
◗ Paths of Glory
•P
 aths of Glory. Aux croisements de l’Histoire ............................ 43
Clément Puget
◗ The Shining Revue interdisciplinaire d’Humanités
• From Zoom to Zoom. An evidential interpretation of The Shining ............................ 61
Loig Le Bihan
• Inside the interpretative maze of The Shining (1980). The search for

ESSAIS - Revue interdisciplinaire d’Humanités


meaning in crisis ............................ 79
Vincent Jaunas Stanley Kubrick
◗ Eyes Wide Shut
• Les Masques de la vanité. Kubrick, Schnitzler, Ophüls, Maupassant ............................ 97 Nouveaux horizons
Emmanuel Plasseraud
• Stanley Kubrick and Hieronymus Bosch: In The Garden of
Earthly Delights .......................... 105
Dijana Metlić
Études réunies par Vincent Jaunas et Jean-François Baillon
◗ Le « monde fictionnel »
• Dans le labyrinthe du film-cerveau : du concept à l’espace mental .......................... 127
Pierre Beylot
• The Kubrick Cinematic Universe .......................... 141
Rod Munday
◗ Collaboration
• Origin Stories: Stanley Kubrick’s Collaborations .......................... 159
Manca Perko
• “Dear Arthur, what do you think?”. The Kubrick-Clarke collaboration
in their correspondence from the Smithsonian and London Archives .......................... 173
Simone Odino
◗ Réception et intermédialité
• Stanley Kubrick at the Interface of film and television .......................... 195
Matthew Melia
• From “boy genius” to “barking loon”: an analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s
mythology .......................... 221
Filippo Ulivieri

ISBN : 979-10-97024-04-8 Hors série - 2017


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