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Film

Stanley Kubrick explains the link between 'Dr. Strangelove' and 'A Clockwork Orange'

When an artist produces an extensive body of work, it is almost inevitable that individual projects start influencing each other, contributing towards the creation of one cohesive artistic vision. The cinema of Stanley Kubrick is no exception to this phenomenon, with many fans and scholars linking the thematic similarities between his most celebrated artistic achievements.

While many have already written, discussed and theorised about the manifestation of Kubrick’s perception of the human condition in his works, the director has seldom lent his authoritative opinion on the subject. Instead, whenever he was asked about his intentions, Kubrick often cited the words of famous modernist poet T.S. Eliot: “I meant what I said”.

However, the director did speak at length about the subjects his films approached from time to time. From his explanations about 2001: A Space Odyssey and finding a scientific concept of God to his views on the eroticism of violence in A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick has often dissected his own works despite his public stance against interpreting his cinema.

Kubrick once said that “there is no deliberate pattern to the stories that I have chosen to make into films. About the only factor at work each time is that I try not to repeat myself”. Although there weren’t any deliberate similarities that Kubrick had in mind when he made the films, the director did acknowledge minor connections between his films.

The best example of this is when he chose to point out the thematic congruencies of two of his finest works: Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange. In an interview, Kubrick spoke about the ending of both his films which explore the operations of different government institutions – the military-industrial complex and the punitive measures of the modern prison system.

In order to aid his comparison between the two films, Kubrick pointed out that Alex’s last line in A Clockwork Orange was “I was cured all right” while Dr. Strangelove exited with “Mein Fuehrer, I can walk”. Although there doesn’t seem to be any direct links between the two, Kubrick insists that there is a lot embedded in the heavy subtext of these loaded lines.

“The final images of Alex as the spoon-fed child of a corrupt, totalitarian society, and Strangelove’s rebirth after his miraculous recovery from a crippling disease, seem to work well both dramatically and as expressions of an idea,” Kubrick added. Indeed, these two different visions complement two sides of painting of a dystopian organisation of social structures where the concept of humanity is reduced to a cruel joke.

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