Loving The Bomb – Technology And Conquest In The Films Of Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) was undeniably one of the most brilliant and innovative motion picture directors of all time. His meticulously crafted works have influenced innumerable filmmakers all over the world, from Steven custom lashes packaging

to Gaspar Noe. Obviously, entire books have been written about Kubrick’s custom lashes packaging , so let us focus here on the peak of his career, from 1963 to 1971, and the three films that are, arguably, his greatest masterpieces: Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964); 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); and A Clockwork Orange (1971).

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Mcors  Throughout these films are many common themes; prominent among them are technology and conquest. All three revolve around the idea of technology’s relationship to modern Man and his quest to control the Unknown, represented by the Doomsday Machine in Strangelove, HAL (voiced by Douglas Rain) in 2001, and the custom lashes packaging Technique in Clockwork.

In Strangelove, the opening images of a B-52 bomber being refueled in midair, suggest both copulation and, to some degree, a sort of mechanical breastfeeding. These symbols of sex, death and birth (or rebirth) are prevalent throughout the three films, with the phallic bone and the Star-Child in 2001, and the violent sexuality of Clockwork. This is also just the first of many phallic symbols in Strangelove, including General Jack D. Ripper’s (Sterling Hayden) cigar, which gradually burns down to a stub as his base is conquered, and of course the apocalyptic erection straddled by Major “King” Kong (Slim Pickens) when he is dropped, screaming and hollering joyfully, from his womb-like bomber.

Kong’s name, like Ripper’s, is no idle joke: Ripper, who effectively kills everyone on the planet because of his own sexual inadequacies, is named after history’s most well-known sexual predator, and Kong’s name is a hint of the primitivism at work within the highly technological constructs of all three films (Man’s relative lack of spiritual advancement from the time of its Dawn in 2001; Alex’s (Malcolm McDowell) primitive brutality vs. the technological “cure” of the Ludovico Technique in Clockwork). Similarly, General “Buck” Turgidson’s (George C. Scott) name, which decodes as “swollen male who is the son of a swollen male animal” (according to Thomas Allen Nelson’s excellent 1982 book Kubrick: Inside A Film Artist’s Maze), indicates the lack of progress made by “Civilized” Man in the evolution of humanity from the “lower” animal. President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) is another name with obvious sexual meaning; a “merkin” is a slang term originating in the 17th century custom lashes packaging “pubic wig,” and “Muffley” alludes to a slang term for the female genitalia.

Throughout all three films, the human characters are constantly surrounded by technology, especially inStrangelove and 2001. Like 2001’s HAL-9000 computer, the technology in Strangelove is largely made up of devices that were once tools of communication and progress, but now function as weapons of destruction: the CRM 114 aboard Kong’s B-52, the Big Board in President custom lashes packaging War Room, and even the telephones used throughout the film mostly expedite rather than prevent the destruction of life.

Of course, the ultimate technological weapon of destruction is the Doomsday Machine, which is anthropomorphized in the title character (Sellers again), himself part machine, with his mechanical arm and automated wheelchair. Just as the Doomsday Machine will kill its creators along with their enemies, Dr. Strangelove’s mechanical arm attacks its owner at the end of the film. In fact, Strangelove’s original name, Dr. Merkwuerdigichliebe (which roughly translates as “cherished fate,” denoting his strange love of Armageddon), even bears the same initials as the Doomsday Machine (I am indebted to Richard Corliss’s book Talking Pictures: Screenwriters in the American Cinema for this insight into the mind of screenwriter Terry Southern). Strangelove reverts to the shadows, brooding, when it seems that the Doomsday Machine will not be detonated, only to experience a rebirth at the end of the film when he learns to walk.

Strangelove ends with the ironic use of song (Vera Lynn singing “We’ll Meet Again” over footage of nuclear explosions), another common thread in Kubrick’s work. His use of music throughout these three films is nothing short of brilliant, but it is his use of ’40s and ’50s pop music that has the greatest comic effect (as in HAL’s dying rendition of “Daisy” in 2001, and Alex’s “Singin’ in the Rain” in Clockwork, the latter of which actually becomes a plot device unto itself).

From the very opening frames of Kubrick’s next film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is clear how much wider his scope has become: the film was shot in stunning 70 mm, and the opening sequence has gone from planes to planets, with the ironic use of “Try A Little Tenderness” being replaced by Richard Strauss’s majestic “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” It is this film in particular that has influenced future generations of filmmakers, being imitated and/or referenced by filmmakers from Ridley Scott (Alien) to Mel Brooks (Spaceballs) to Noe (Irreversible), and of course it is also the direct predecessor of films like George Lucas’s Star Wars and Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the custom lashes packaging Kind.

From this beautiful opening sequence, Kubrick cuts to equally beautiful shots of Earth before Mankind, unspoiled and pure; tellingly, the first sign of life we see is actually a sign of death: a vaguely humanoid skeleton lying on the ground. On a second viewing, one might even conjecture that the film’s timescape is circular and that this is the skeleton of astronaut David Bowman (Keir Dullea), deposited back on Earth even before the monolith is sent back to enlighten the apes and create Man.

Conflict is also established very early on, first between the apes and the tapirs who later become their prey, and then between the apes and the leopard who preys upon them. The yellow glow of the leopard’s eyes foreshadows HAL’s single red eye with its yellow pupil, and begins an eye motif that continues throughout this film and into A Clockwork Orange.

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A theme that continues from custom lashes packaging is that of the tool as weapon, as seen in the ape’s discovery of the bone’s capacity to kill after having touched the enlightenment of the mysterious monolith. The famous and often imitated match cut, from bone to spacecraft, foreshadows HAL, the technological equivalent of the bone: a tool that is also a powerful weapon of destruction. The ship shown in this shot is a representation of the futuristic technology that created HAL, and of Man’s violence to the Universe in his selfish conquest of space. The interior of the ship shows once again the incredible leap forward in scope and technical achievement from the already impressive B-52 interiors of Strangelove.

 

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