James Vaughan/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA
Legendary director Stanley Kubrick was recognized to have stated that he was not likely a Jew, he simply occurred to have two Jewish dad and mom. However although he could have tried to divert from this truth, Kubrick, who handed away in 1999 on the age of 70, was born and died a Jew, and Jewishness threads by way of and underpins all 13 of his movies.
Kubrick was famously silent on the which means of his motion pictures, so their messages are open to interpretation on quite a few ranges. He lined many genres and matters – beginning with warfare film Concern and Need in 1953, and ending with marital drama in Eyes Extensive Shut (1999) – and his movies broke new floor in cinematic type.
However Kubrick, who’s probably probably the most written about movie director after Alfred Hitchcock, has hardly ever been regarded as a Jewish director. It is because few devoted researchers haven’t bothered to probe his ethnic background in any element.
Kubrick the Jewish man
Cowles Communications, Inc./Wikimedia
Kubrick had a historical past of working with Jewish actors as his main women and men. Notably Paul Mazursky, Joe Turkel (thrice), Kirk Douglas (twice), Peter Sellers (twice), Shelley Winters, Aubrey Morris, Miriam Karlin, and Sydney Pollack. He additionally labored with Jewish writers, together with Howard Quick, Michael Herr and Frederic Raphael, and regarded adapting the work of such Jewish authors as Arthur Schnitzler, Stefan Zweig and Louis Begley. He adored the work of Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis, and author Franz Kafka too. However this alone isn’t makes him a Jewish filmmaker.
Though Kubrick was by no means a practising Jew and the Jewish references and viewpoint will not be specific or apparent in his movies, when you contemplate his movies from the standpoint of his ethnicity, in addition to his cultural and mental milieu, then some resonant themes emerge.
Although Kubrick famously labored on a Holocaust movie, The Aryan Papers, which by no means got here to fruition, his physique of labor went far past that by way of Jewish references.
His first characteristic, Concern and Need (1953) is his spin on the World Conflict II platoon film, which generally contained a variety of ethnicities and races. True to kind, Kubrick forged Mazursky because the shaky (Jewish) recruit Non-public Sidney. Killer’s Kiss in 1955 could be very a lot moulded within the custom of the Jewish boxing film – options resembling Physique and Soul (1947), directed by Robert Rossen. Kubrick’s movie noir, The Killing (1956), may properly have as its tagline the Yiddish proverb, “Man plans, God laughs”. All three of those early movies may be described as existentialist, a philosophy widespread with Jewish intellectuals within the postwar period, particularly in Greenwich Village, New York Metropolis, the place Kubrick then lived.
In coping with a serious incident of French army injustice throughout World Conflict I, Paths of Glory (1957), remembers the antisemitic Dreyfus affair, a serious trigger célèbre of the nineteenth century. The epic Spartacus (1960) posits a Moses-like liberator who leads Roman slaves out of bondage whereas additionally contemplating such points as McCarthyism, the Hollywood blacklist, civil rights, the Holocaust and the delivery of the State of Israel – all problems with Jewish concern within the Fifties.
In 1964, Dr. Strangelove conflated nuclear holocaust with the Holocaust, notably by way of its titular character, the previous Nazi Dr. Strangelove, at a time when the Adolf Eichmann Trial was recent in individuals’s reminiscences.
Trying additional at Kubrick’s later movies, 2001: A House Odyssey – which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this yr – performs with the Hebrew Bible, Jewish liturgy, in addition to Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. It is filled with numerological references with the quantity 4 recurring regularly. A Clockwork Orange (1971) explores Judeo-Christian concepts of selection and conveys a really conventional Jewish viewpoint on the problem of free will. And Barry Lyndon (1975) warns of the hazards of social climbing in locations the place you don’t belong – a standard Jewish worry, notably within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Shining (1980) – Kubrick’s contribution to the horror style – offers with the very biblical theme of the sacrifice of the son by the daddy, as present in Genesis 22. And Full Metallic Jacket (1987), whereas ostensibly about Vietnam, is, on one degree, concerning the Holocaust and man’s propensity to evil and genocide.
That is all capped off by Eyes Extensive Shut, probably Kubrick’s most Jewish movie – given it was tailored from the work of Jewish writer Arthur Schnitzler and closely influenced by the theories of his Jewish modern Sigmund Freud. It additionally comprises probably the most explicitly Jewish character in any Kubrick movie, Victor Ziegler (performed by Sydney Pollack).
Kubrick’s movies by no means provide up something simple or apparent. He made few statements about them. However he spent a very long time engaged on his motion pictures. He was meticulous and paid nice consideration to element. He was extraordinarily cultured, properly learn, and cultivated. He definitely had views that he wished to share however did so within the least apparent methods. He wished to make viewers work to grasp his deeper messages.
Kubrick’s movies weren’t nearly Jews, Jewishness and Judaism, they’re far wider than any single theme. However despite the fact that the person himself tried to distract from his Jewish roots, it can’t be denied that a few of this materials was certainly intentional.
Nathan Abrams receives funding from The British Academy. He’s the writer of Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Mental (Rutgers College Press, 2018).