Stanley Kubrick’s film oeuvre: Enigma and Allegory – or parable?

Ed Park, MD News Leave a Comment

Stanley Kubrick would have been 88 next week so let’s discuss his films. They can be quite disturbing. Jesus said “let he who has ears, hear” and perhaps those stories were meant to be understood on many levels.

Likewise, the films of Kubrick are never just simple story telling but he enjoyed “enigma and allegory” while delving into some pretty dark realms.

What are the themes that recur? Conspiracies of upper classes, aliens or artificial intelligence, mind control, pederasty, the inauthenticity of social class, paranormal psychology, and the duality of man.

With regard to conspiracies, his final work, Eyes Wide Shut, was set at a prominent home of a banking dynasty and involves an upper middle class physician stumbling into a group sex ritual of the ruling elite. Paths of Glory presents generals as elites who set up enlisted men to die so that they can achieve military glory and post-war influence. Dr. Strangelove featured the water fluoridation conspiracy and Nazi infiltration of science and defense which have basis in fact.

2001: A Space Odyssey reveals that there is a guiding intelligence to human evolution and that this intelligence has a base on the dark side of the moon. There are plenty of people who believe such a thing is possible although most do not. Interestingly, Laura Eisenhower, the great-granddaughter of President Eisenhower corroborates the Valiant Thor alien visitor story. Hal9000, the entire Kubrick-driven movie AI: Artificial Intelligence, and the very inorganic nature of the monoliths in 2001 suggests a fascination with AI that dovetails with some folks who believe we could be living in a giant simulation, like Elon Musk

Mind control is the central theme of A Clockwork Orange but it also is alluded to in Full Metal Jacket during the Marine training. If you believe the stories about MK Ultra mind control and sex slavery then the story of Lolita as well as the sex kittens in Eyes Wide Shut start to rhyme.

Pederasty is of course central in Lolita but there is also a disturbing reference to this in the costume shop that the Tom Cruise character visits in Eyes Wide Shut which alludes to the alleged connection with The Wizard of Oz.

The inauthenticity of class is never more masterfully handled than in the movie Barry Lyndon, where Ryan O’Neil plays an Irish picaresque anti-hero who marries a wealthy widow. The nobility of the chattel class is depicted in the movie Spartacus.

Paranormal psychology is the titular theme of The Shining in which the son of the Jack Nicholson character is clairvoyant and perceives the horrors of the historical site of the Overlook Hotel, which eventually take possession of his father and drive him to madness.

I think one of the finest scenes of the oeuvre is this scene from Full Metal Jacket which exposes the grave seriousness and the hopeless absurdity of the human condition.

So who was Stanley Kubick and why did he choose these projects? On a literal level, perhaps he really did believe most of the themes he explored were based upon real world problems and that he was the ultimate insider and the original Julian Assange/Edward Snowden sanctioned discloser. Perhaps he was a mere entertainer tapping into the duality of man and our thirst for knowing both aspects of the human spirit: love and hate.

Whatever Mr. Kubrick wished to impart upon us, he succeeded in his mission to entertain, fascinate, and reflect back to us a very complex, rich, and ultimately hopeful portrait of ourselves, despite the abuse, violence, and manipulation that we subject ourselves to.


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