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Why Stanley Kubrick never explained his work

American auteur Stanley Kubrick is regularly cited as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, known for his timeless masterpieces such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Barry Lyndon, among several others. One of the most influential figures in the world of cinema, his works have inspired younger generations of aspiring directors to pick up a camera and explore the mysteries of the universe that surrounds them.

To anyone who is familiar with the thinking processes of directors of the stature of Kubrick, they should already know that these artists do not like discussing the meaning behind their works. Most famously, David Lynch has continuously shut down interviewers with a simple “No!” every single time he is pressed for any elaboration on the unique sensibilities of his artistic vision.

If anything, these filmmakers are following the assertions of literary theorist Roland Barthes who ominously declared that the artist is dead in his seminal 1967 essay The Death of the Author. In it, Barthes wrote: “To give an Author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause, to furnish it with a final signification, to close the writing… the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the Author.”

Stanley Kubrick shared similar beliefs, insisting that a crucial part of the cinematic experience is deciphering things for yourself. It contributes to the multiplicity of interpretations that are inherent in postmodern structures of meanings, resulting in the creation of rich and fertile artistic creations. Over the course of his career, Kubrick often avoided interviews to preserve the sanctity of the interpretations conducted by the audiences.

“I never like to say anything about my films because I think that the pleasure an audience receives in discovering things for themselves is a great deal of what one likes about good films,” Kubrick claimed in a rare interview where he explained why he avoided discussing his works. “I don’t like to read what something is about., to be told before I see it… what it means.”

He continued: “I think the best thing is when an audience looks at the film and wonders whether something that they see is an accident or whether the director or writer meant them to know it. I think that subtlety in allowing the audience to discover for themselves what it is, is the most important thing. That’s why I’ve always tried to avoid interviews and explanations of the films. I think the film should be able to speak for itself.”

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