Study Guide

2001: A Space Odyssey Director

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Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick makes almost everybody's list of the most influential film directors of the 20th century, and his works are well-known for their use of visual storytelling as well as his obsessive attention to detail. (Source)

As a result of his perfectionist craftsmanship, Kubrick only directed 13 feature films throughout a more than 40-year career. There's a seven-year gap between the release of The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), meaning you could earn a Ph.D. in the amount of time it took Kubrick to make one film. Of course, his films are self-contained seminars in the art of filmmaking, so they're worth the wait.

Despite some serious love for his films, Kubrick only won one Oscar, and that was for 2001: A Space Odyssey's visual effects. Even this would prove a controversial win, as giving the Oscar solely to Kubrick cold-shouldered all the people who helped him make those special effects.

A quick glance at his directing credits doesn't show much connection between his choices of subjects. Spartacus (1960)—which was a director-for-hire job for Kubrick after Kirk Douglas fired the first director—is about a Roman slave turned rebel, while Dr. Strangelove (1964) is a dark satire of Cold War atomic politics. The Shining is a horror story themed around alcoholism and the destruction of a family, and Barry Lyndon is an 18th-century period piece. And, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey out-sciences most other science fiction movies. Beyond the fact that Kubrick based most of his movies on novels—pretty loosely in some cases—there's not much that seems to connect them.

Leave it to Steven Spielberg to tell us what does connect them: Kubrick himself. "The only thing that bonded all of his films was the incredible virtuoso that he was with the craft" (Source). Carl Freedman makes a similar point when he says that "a typical Kubrick film tends to remake or redefine the genre to which it belongs" (Source).

And that's a great way to look at Kubrick and his works. His career seems aimed simply at advancing the form of visual storytelling, of creating a story through visual information and contrasting images from one frame to the other, 24 frames per second.

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