Screen/Society showcases Kubrick films connected to existentialism
Screen/Society, part of the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image, will show three Stanley Kubrick films as a part of the Kubrick and Existentialism series. The films that will be screened are the psychological horror film "The Shining," the doomsday comedy "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" and the anti-war "Paths of Glory."
Screen/Society Program Coordinator Hank Okazaki described the Kubrick and Existentialism series as "a subseries of the 'AMI Showcase' series within Screen/Society."
"The AMI Showcase series is a collaborative effort that I organize together with a group of faculty in the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image (AMI)," Okazaki said. "The AMI Showcase series is an ongoing series in Screen/Society, with different themes, films and sub-series each semester.”
Associate professor Michael Morton chose these specific films in relation to his course “The Existentialist Imagination.”
Morton explained, “Given the extent to which existentialist themes and perspectives have come to permeate virtually all areas of our culture—even if existentialism itself is perhaps no longer as widely discussed as it once was—it was more or less inevitable that we would find ourselves in the course drawing from time to time on various films that in one way or another reflect and engage with that tradition.”
This year, it was decided that the films would largely be those by American director Stanley Kubrick.
“It seemed to me that three of his films in particular—the relatively early 'Paths of Glory,' the brilliantly dark absurdist comedy 'Dr. Strangelove,' and the pathbreaking visionary epic '2001: A Space Odyssey'—were, each in its own distinctive way, especially well-suited to a consideration of existentialist themes as realized in cinematic form," said Morton.
Since "2001: A Space Odyssey" will already be shown by Freewater Presentations on Nov. 14 and 17, the film was replaced by “the disturbing and enigmatic 'The Shining.'"
"The Shining" starts off innocently enough as the story of a family watching a hotel that has been deserted for the winter. The film takes a turn for the worse, however, due to the horrific combination of ghosts, insanity, creepy twins and gallons of RedruM. In the black comedy "Dr. Strangelove," a paranoid American General sets the commands for a nuclear attack on the USSR: “Stanley Kubrick dared to make a film about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button—and played the situation for laughs.” Finally, "Paths of Glory" is a poignant anti-war film about the dehumanizing effects of war as well as the bureaucratic webs that often lead to these effects.
At its heart, existentialism is a philosophical theory that focuses on the individual in a world that is seemingly meaningless, irrational and absurd. While the plots of these movies are radically different, they are connected by their relation to various themes of existentialism.
Professor Morton described that "Paths of Glory" relates to existential themes such as “human abandonment to a situation of ultimate absurdity, and the inescapable requirement of choice and decision (and thus also the equally inescapable burden of responsibility) as the only possibilities open to us in that situation." "Dr. Strangelove" depicts “all-consuming absurdity (including, in effect, the end of the world) as precipitated by madness (extreme paranoia) and enacted with a sort of manic glee (the basic existential situation as thoroughgoing comedy).” Finally, "The Shining" portrays “the imperiled self, prey to demons of its own creation” as well as the “radical uncertainty, undecidability of reality.”
"The Shining" will fittingly be shown on Halloween night in White Lecture Hall. A rare 35mm copy of "Dr. Strangelove" will be shown on Nov. 19 in Griffith Theater. "Paths of Glory" will also be shown in Griffith Theater on Dec. 3. All films start at 7 p.m. and will be introduced by Professor Morton.