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Quotes / Stanley Kubrick

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By Kubrick

On 2001: A Space Odyssey

"2001 is a nonverbal experience; out of two hours and nineteen minutes of film, there are only a little less than forty minutes of dialog. I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing an directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content. To convolute McLuhan, in 2001, the message is the medium. I intended the film to be an intensely subjective experience that reaches the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does...You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film...but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear that he's missed the point."
— 1968 Interview with Eric Nordern.

"I will say that the God concept is at the heart of 2001 — but not any traditional, anthropomorphic image of God. I don't believe in any of Earth's monotheistic religions, but I do believe that one can construct an intriguing scientific definition of God...When you think of the giant technological strides that man has made in a few millennia — less than a microsecond in the chronology of the universe — can you imagine the evolutionary development that much older life forms have taken...Their potentialities would be limitless and their intelligence ungraspable by humans."
— 1968 Interview with Eric Nordern.


On Dr. Strangelove

Eric Nodern: Some critics have detected a not only a deep pessimism but also a kind of misanthropy in much of your work. In Dr. Strangelove, for example, one reviewer commented that your directorial attitude, despite the film's antiwar message, seemed curiously aloof and detached and unmoved by the annihilation of mankind, almost as if the Earth were being cleansed of an infection. Is there any truth to that?

Stanley Kubrick: Good God, no. You don't stop being concerned with man because you recognize his essential absurdities and frailties and pretensions. To me, the only real immorality is that which endangers the species and the only absolute evil, that which threatens its annihilation. In the deepest sense, I believe in man's potential and in his capacity for progress. In Strangelove, I was dealing with the inherent irrationality in man that threatens to destroy him; that irrationality is with us as strongly today, and must be conquered. But a recognition of insanity doesn't imply a celebration of itnor a sense of despair and futility about the possibility of curing it.
— On the reception of Dr. Strangelove

The danger that nuclear weapons may be used — perhaps by a secondary power — is as great if not greater than it has ever been, and it is really amazing that the world has been able to adjust to it psychologically with so little apparent dislocation...In addition, the serious threat remains that a psychotic figure somewhere in the modern command structure could start a war...This, of course was the theme of Dr. Strangelove; and I'm not entirely assured that somewhere in the Pentagon or the Red army upper echelons there does not exist the real-life prototype of General Jack D. are you going to objectively assess the sanity of the president, in whom, as commander-in-chief, the ultimate responsibility for the use of nuclear weapons resides? It's improbable but not impossible that we could someday have a psychopathic president, or a president who suffers a nervous breakdown, or an alcoholic president who, in the course of some stupefying binge, starts a war. You could say that such a man would be detected and restrained by the aides — but with the powers of the presidency what they are today, who really knows?
Stanley Kubrick: Interviews, Pages 63-64, 1968 Interview with Eric Nodern.


The fact that Alex is the very personification of evil and is still in some strange way attractive is due to several things: his honesty, his lack of hypocrisy, his energy, and his intelligence. I've always compared him to Richard III, and I think it's a very good comparison. Why do you find yourself liking Richard III? But you do, in a very stylized way...Perhaps, more importantly, we recognize our own unconscious. This may also account for some of the antagonism the film has created. The unconscious has no conscience — and the perception of this makes some people very anxious and angry.
— Interview with Gene Siskel, 1972, on A Clockwork Orange and its reception.

Since I have not written any original screenplays all the films I have made have started by my reading a book. Those books that have been made into films have almost always had some aspect about them which on first reading left me with the sense that, "This is a fantastic story; is it possible to make it into a film?"...The hardest thing for me to do is finding the story. It's much harder than financing, writing the script, making the film, editing it, whatever. The fact that each of the last three films has taken about five years has been because it is so hard to find something I think is worth doing.
— Interview with Gene Siskel, 1987.

About Kubrick

You see, right after that everybody was saying, "Go back to work." At the time I was in the middle of a film...Everybody said, "Work, work. That's the best medicine." I remember talking to Stanley Kubrick on the telephone. He was the only person who said, "I'm sure everybody tells you go to work...I know you can't work. Why don't you just go away, do some sports or something. And there will be a moment when you feel like getting out of the room." Incredible — I remember that. You know, he's very interested in everything — like I am, by the way. We'd spend endless hours talking. I could see he was trying to understand my feelings and I don't blame him for it. It's the part of being a film director. He's a very wise man.
Roman Polanski, Interviews, Pages 56-57, describing Kubrick consoling him after the murder of Sharon Tate.


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