American auteur Stanley Kubrick is considered by many to be one of the greatest artistic forces of the 20th century. With masterpieces such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove in his illustrious filmography, Kubrick will always be remembered and admired by newer generations of audiences for his strikingly original voice.
While discussing the best way that an aspiring filmmaker can prepare for the job, Kubrick said: “Seeing movies. One of the things that gave me the most confidence in trying to make a film was seeing all the lousy films that I saw. Because I sat there and thought, Well, I don’t know a goddamn thing about movies, but I know I can make a film better than that.”
Adding, “Because of my background in photography, I have been able to quickly figure out the best visual way to photograph or represent a scene on the screen. But I never start thinking in terms of shots. I first begin thinking of the main intent of the film. After the actors rehearse the scene and achieve a level of reality and excitement, only then do I really look through the viewfinder and try to figure out the best way to put this on the screen.”
In order to understand the various influences that other filmmakers had on Stanley Kubrick’s artistic vision, we take a look at six directors who have had a profound impact on Kubrick’s cinematic journey.
Stanley Kubrick’s 6 favourite filmmakers:
English actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin is undoubtedly one of the most important figures of the silent film era. Over the course of his glorious career which lasted around 75 years, Chaplin produced countless iconic masterpieces like The Great Dictator and Modern Times which are enjoyed by fans to this day.
Kubrick once said: “If something is really happening on the screen, it isn’t crucial how it’s shot. Chaplin had such a simple cinematic style that it was almost like I Love Lucy, but you were always hypnotised by what was going on, unaware of the essentially non-cinematic style.
“He frequently used cheap sets, routine lighting and so forth, but he made great films. His films will probably last longer than anyone else’s.”
One of the great European masters, Max Ophüls had a seminal influence on many future filmmakers who were mesmerised by the smooth camera movements and complex visual techniques employed by him. His finest films like Letter from an Unknown Woman and The Earrings of Madame de… continue to be studied and discussed.
When discussing Max Ophüls, Kubrick said: “Highest of all I would rate Max Ophüls, who for me possessed every possible quality. He has an exceptional flair for sniffing out good subjects, and he got the most out of them. He was also a marvellous director of actors,” the director commented.
David Lean needs no introduction since his works like Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai are almost synonymous with great filmmaking in the public consciousness. The innovative editing methods and pictorial sensibilities of Lean elevated his art to the zenith of cinematic power.
While paying tribute to his formative influences as a filmmaker, Kubrick commented: “There are very few directors, about whom you’d say you automatically have to see everything they do. I’d put Fellini, Bergman and David Lean at the head of my first list, and Truffaut at the head of the next level.”
Elia Kazan‘s theatrical as well as cinematic investigations are timeless and invaluable. Known for his masterful films like A Streetcar Named Desire and A Face in the Crowd, Kazan was described as “one of the most honoured and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history”.
Kubrick considered Kazan to be the greatest filmmaker in the history of American cinema. In a bold statement, Kubrick insisted that Kazan was a master of cinematic magic: “Without question, the best director we have in America, [and] capable of performing miracles with the actors he uses.”
Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s existential experiments with the cinematic medium are unforgettable, especially in brilliant works like The Seventh Seal and Persona. Bergman’s interpretations of the human condition remains a definitive cultural artefact from the 1950s and the ’60s.
“Your vision of life has moved me deeply, much more deeply than I have ever been moved by any films. I believe you are the greatest film-maker at work today,” Kubrick informed Bergman in a personal letter while commending the filmmaker’s incomparable artistic achievements.
He added, “[You are] unsurpassed by anyone in the creation of mood and atmosphere, the subtlety of performance, the avoidance of the obvious, the truthfulness and completeness of characterisation. To this one must also add everything else that goes into the making of a film; […] and I shall look forward with eagerness to each of your films.”
Italian maestro Federico Fellini is another regular entry on multiple lists which contain the names of the greatest auteurs of the 20th century. Fellini’s way of injecting fantasy into the monotonous structures of reality have contributed to the evolution of cinema as well as the development of the oneiric film theory.
Kubrick explained: “I believe Bergman, De Sica and Fellini are the only three filmmakers in the world who are not just artistic opportunists. By this I mean they don’t just sit and wait for a good story to come along and then make it. They have a point of view which is expressed over and over and over again in their films, and they themselves write or have original material written for them.”