Watching some classics 1.: All the Kubrick’s Men

ImageOne of the first things I’ve done after arriving in London was to go to the BFI Southbank cinema and buy a membership card. Okay, it was after I met my teachers in the school, because they told me about it. I’ve seen this year’s program at BFI Southbank, and I’ve seen that they’ll have some pretty interesting screenings, so I’ve decided to buy this membership I was talking about. It was pretty cheap thanks to my student card, but anyway, after I’ve had it in my hands, I could go to these screenings at a very low price. I’d like to write about two of my film experiences at BFI Southbank right now.

Both movies I will talk about were made by the great Stanley Kubrick. I don’t consider myself a Kubrick-fan, I’ve only known him and his movies for 2 years, but whenever I watched a Kubrick-film, I felt something special happening. It’s really hard to explain, but I will try to do so. The first screening I went to was a special screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The other one was The Shining, and I don’t want to talk about these two separately, in detail, I’d just like to give you my general experience when watching these films. Because these films have a lot in common, and they tell a lot about Stanley Kubrick and his style.

I’ve already seen both 2001 and The Shining before, but I thought I should watch them in cinema, on the big screen. I was right, because the cinematography of Kubrick-films is always extraordinary. He (or his cinematographer, I’m not sure) was very fond of these very stylized, symmetric images. That makes most of his movies very painting-like; most of the images look like a very stylish and beautiful painting. That’s one thing I like about his movies, but I’ve never understood what the other thing was. Because whenever I watched one of his movies, I always felt like “okay, it wasn’t bad, it was pretty good, but not so amazing”. But after a few hours or days were gone, these movies began to grow on me. I almost felt like I want to watch them again as soon as possible. There was a really enigmatic vibe to Kubrick’s films, some sort of mysterious force that drives them. What is that force? I’ve never found out until I’ve watched the aforementioned movies here at BFI Southbank.

Either you’re watching 2001 or The Shining, you’ll immediately notice that these movies aren’t about the characters. I’m sure some would argue that I’m wrong. How can I say that The Shining is not about Jack or Danny Torrance? Or that 2001 is not about Dave and his journey, his discovery? But I, personally, never felt that when I was watching them I’ve seen these fully formed, true film-characters. I’ve always seen these shades or puppets moved and driven by the story; and events that took place throughout the movie. And that’s one of the most interesting aspects of his movies, or at least these two I’ve mentioned: they aren’t about human beings, they are about much more. 2001 and The Shining tell us stories motivated by things far superior to mankind. When such things happen as in these films, people affected by these events aren’t important at all. They become puppets, lifeless objects that are completely moved around by these certain events.

And, you know, for some reason I always loved stories like this. Stories about events far beyond the comprehension of average (The Shining) or even smarter people (2001). I don’t really know why, but sometimes I love to forget about us, people. It gives me the feeling that there are greater, more supernatural or more cosmic events going on out there. It just always gives me goose bumps. That’s the main thing I like about The Shining and 2001. They show us that mankind, as a whole, is not that important. Not that I agree with this “message”, it just raises interesting aspects in narrative and storytelling. Kubrick’s stories are so iconic that you don’t have to think about the characters in it. You just have to witness things happening. You cannot do anything about them, just like characters in the movie.

And that is, I think, what drives these films. Epic, mysterious events that decide over the characters’ fates once and for all. These poor fellows like Jack and Dave cannot help themselves at all. Even though at some point it looks like Dave is getting in charge of the mission (and his fate), it turns out after a few minutes that this just wasn’t the case. For lot of viewers, Kubrick’s films can feel very cold and rigid. And I can understand, why: you can hardly relate to any of these characters. As I’ve said, they are more like “shades”. But if you look beyond that, you can discover the main thing happening here: this movie wants to tell a story for you. A horrible event, be it the ultimate story and fate of mankind or just a demonic vacation at a hotel. If you realize this; if you realize that people in this story are unimportant (or maybe that even people in the audience are unimportant?), then you can fully understand Kubrick’s approach to films. I hope I understood it well. But I know, I’m not that important at all. It’s not about me, it’s about a legendary filmmaker and his story. And I enjoy watching it pretty much.

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