When most film historians are asked to classify the works of Stanley Kubrick within the aesthetic frameworks of a particular time period, they are usually at a loss. His works are so fiercely original that there are almost no predecessors or successors in terms of style, even though Kubrick himself was inspired by the likes of Max Ophüls and New Hollywood auteurs, in turn, drew inspiration from Kubrick.
There are many modern filmmakers who have tried to follow in the sacred footsteps of Stanley Kubrick, including contemporary masters such as Christopher Nolan and Alfonso Cuarón. However, none of them have been able to recreate the majesty of his artistic vision. Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro explained why Kubrick’s films resonate even after all these years by citing the example of his favourite film by Stanley Kubrick.
‘I admire Kubrick greatly,” del Toro said. “He is often accused of being a prodigious technician and rigid intellectual, which people say makes his films very cold. I don’t agree. I think that Barry Lyndon or A Clockwork Orange are the most perfect marriages of personality and subject. But in fact, Full Metal Jacket is even more so.”
Adding, “It is, for me, a singular film about the military, about war and its consequences. The famous induction scene with R Lee Ermey, where he renames the soldiers and reshapes them into sub-human maggots, had a particular impact on me. Also the suicide scene with Vincent D’Onofrio in the bathroom. And the sniper set-piece at the end. Those are absolutely virtuoso pieces of filmmaking.'”
Whenever a Vietnam war film is made, directors have to deal with the absurd accusation of making ‘anti-American’ propaganda, but Kubrick shut those accusations down very quickly upon the release of Full Metal Jacket. The filmmaker insisted that art is reserved for the pursuit of truth and Full Metal Jacket was an addition to his other attempts at capturing the grotesque realities of war on the cinematic medium.
“I certainly don’t think the film is anti-American,” Kubrick clarified. “I think it tries to give a sense of the war and the people, and how it affected them. I think with any work of art, if I can call it that, that stays around the truth and is effective, it’s very hard to write a nice capsule explanation of what it’s about.”
Kubrick also agreed with the general consensus that Ermey was born to play this part: “It was quite clear that Lee was a genius for this part. I’ve always found that some people can act and some can’t, whether or not they’ve had training. And I suspect that being a drill instructor is, in a sense, being an actor. Because they’re saying the same things every eight weeks, to new guys, like they’re saying it for the first time – and that’s acting.”