|My favorite (if rather inaccurate) foreign poster.|
Some films never seem to become outdated. Unfortunately - one might add considering the fact that what keeps DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) still fresh is the current revitalization of the policy of deterrence in some parts of the world. Fortunately however, even 50 years later the film itself remains compelling and dead-on.
I am currently preparing an introductory lecture focussing on dialogue and acting for a theatrical screening on June 13, 2013 in Zug (Switzerland). As usual, I cannot possibly incorporate every detail that I find into my lecture. So after a short summary of what I intend to center on, I will have a look at two rigid compositions that caught my eye.
Stanley Kubrick's third film about the absurdity of war and his last black and white picture was also the beginning of his trademark style of ambiguous narrators (just think of Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971). While he exposed a seemingly omniscient third-person narrator as slightly unreliable in THE KILLING (1956) and a literary first-person narrator as delusional in LOLITA (1962) he not only opens DR. STRANGELOVE with a Brechtian news-reel narrator but presents us with three self-proclaimed first-person narrators who each impose their perspective on an isolated group of people.
|Capt. Mandrake - Gen. Ripper - Dr. Strangelove - Maj. Kong - Gen. Turgidson - President Muffley|
Disordered Communication and Framed Isolation
There are certain shots that fans and scholars have come to identify as Kubrickian: the low angle shot of a staring face, highly symmetrical long shots and the neverending tracking shot. A former photographer who often drove his DOP crazy or even operated the camera himself, Kubrick relied on meticulously composed images in almost every shot, though. This may be one of the reasons why his filmic worlds seem so inescapable and claustrophobic at times.
It is amazing in how many ways he is able to exploit Ken Adam's stylized James-Bond-type "war room" set, for example. When President Merkin Muffley talks to Premier Kissoff on the phone, a black bar in the background visually separates him from the Russian Ambassador, emphasizing the rift between the two and the film's major theme of communication between isolated spaces. Furthermore, this black bar looks like the splitscreen indicator common in movie and comic phone conversations. However, in this film, the phone seems to complicate communication - it separates the characters rather than bringing them closer together.
|Ambassor and president in isolated spaces within the same frame.|