Andrew Sarris said the auteur theory could be broken down into 3 premises and these premises can be visualized as 3 circles. The outer circle the middle and the inner. Outer being the director’s technique, the middle being the personal style of the director, and the inner being the interior meaning. An auteur can be looked at in a way as someone who reinvents cinema. . An auteur can change the way we think about cinema.
To put a literal definition to the word, an auteur is a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie. Stanley Kubrick was an auteur and an iconic influence in film. He is an artist of great intellect and has been called one of the finest filmmakers in the history of cinema. He challenged his audience like he was playing a game, exposing them to new views and perceptions of cinema. It is the director’s vision that creates the art behind film, and Stanley was “Kubrilliant” when it came to this.
His use of image, lighting and composition show the real talent he puts into his films. Also, his personal input on his work makes his style more compelling and mind boggling than most other filmmakers. These trademark characteristics about Stanley and his work in film classify this man as one of the greatest authors of film, one of the most talented visual artists of his time and one of the most recognizable, and respected auteurs in cinema history. To begin, the outer part of the circle is the technique.
The technique that the director personally develops heavily influences the way the film looks and feels. Stanley Kubrick was known for his input on new perception of cinema, and this is why he is considered an Auteur. At an early age Stanley’s father bought him his first camera and was very supportive of his photography. In 1946, he became an apprentice photographer with look magazine and began shooting hundreds of picture essays.
His love for photography and unique obsession with lighting and sound were early components in his technique. He had distinct visual trademarks that were instantly recognizable. It is said that if you walked in to a movie half way through, you would be able to tell it was a Kubrick film, just by the visuals. He constructed his films like visionary paintings and often was compared to famous artists. His iconic use of tracking shots can be seen most notably in the Shining (1980). In the classic horror film, Kubrick is constantly moving the camera across the vast emptiness of the Overlook Hotel, slowly, even if there is no one else in the frame as this gives the shot a sense of life or a presence of someone.
The results of this technique were surprisingly creepy. It is important for an Auteur to include personal experiences, and one’s own psychological thoughts and realism into films. Kubrick did exactly this with his camerawork. He was known as a very meticulous individual when it came to his work. His perfect technique was derived straight from his perfectionist mentality. So perfect that he even took the time to rip apart pages from hundreds of art books just so that he could keep and rearrange the pictures and file them to use as references in the future for his movies. He claimed to have thousands of different pictures filed, in order. He used these pictures to make his movies look more like paintings, describing himself as a detective looking for clues when he needed a reference for a scene. His absolute mastery in use of lighting in the film Barry Lyndon (1975) is said to be the most exemplary use of lighting in film history.
The second circle of the Auteur theory involves personal style. Over Stanley Kubrick’s long career in film, often times people criticized Kubrick’s films as not being personal enough, due to the intense psychological things and extreme characters depicted in his films. But also it is said that we learn more about Stanley Kubrick through his art than any other filmmaker. So how can people hate on lack of personal experience? They cant. Stanley was nothing other than the most personally involved director of his time. Everything in his life was personal. He brought his personal life into his films on purpose. It was all part of his style of forming visual art. Stanley worked in his house for a long time in his life with his wife and kids which strongly influenced his work.
Steven Spielberg said in an interview that he actually envies Stanley because of all the years he got to sit home with his kids and wife as he watched them grow up. Stanley learned not to stray or separate from the personal things in life from his work but to ultimately use his personal life to influence his creativity. This style of crafting film worked on making the audience think and use their brain when watching. Being home and not working in an office is a whole different way of approaching work and Stanley used it to his advantage to achieve the exact details he required in his films.
Stanley also used his name in the titles of his films. The impact of his work saw that almost every poster of every Kubrick film read his first and last name followed by the title ie: “Stanley Kubricks Dr. Strange love”, Stanley Kubricks Full metal Jacket.” One of the many reasons why audiences flocked to see his films are simply because of those 2 words and I think that this has a lot to say about his personal style in his work which directly reflects the second premise of the auteur theory. The last part of the circle is the inner part, the interior meaning. It is known that most Auteurs have an underlying theme that runs through the majority of their work. Early in Stanley’s career he stated, “We are capable of the greatest good and the greatest evil and the problem is that we often cannot distinguish between them when it suits our purpose.” This idea travelled throughout Kubrick’s films whether it be dream vs reality, good vs. evil, or man vs. machine.
There was always a character with a conflicting attitude or thought process in his films. On the cover of full metal jacket it can be seen on the helmet, the words written: BORN TO KILL, next to a peace badge. Over all his early statement on the capabilities of good and evil lived on through his work and his thinking process when making movies. Kubrick’s flaws were mainly because they weren’t emotionally engaging to most people. The feelings weren’t being forced upon the audience but rather were being visually expressed while keeping the audience at arms-length so they could use their minds to interpret what was happening on screen and develop their own ideas and opinions and feelings through observation.
He involved the use of observation on emotion. He asked us to think and use personal judgement to provide our own solution to problems in his movies. The job of an artist is to reflect society for what it is and that’s what makes Kubrick and artist. Or in other words, a true auteur. He said once that he wanted to make a movie that changes the form of cinema Kubrick made only 13 films throughout his life which is a smaller number by comparison to other filmmakers. His ideas and his diversity in films though were the mass of his work that spanned almost 50 years. Steven Spielberg stated “Stanley was a chameleon. He never made the same picture twice. Every single picture is a different genre, a different story, a different risk.
The only thing that bonded his films was the incredible virtuoso in which he was with craft, with story, with composition, with camera placement. But every film was different.” .Kubricks auteuristic sense about his films were what made him so unique. The Kubrick film, A Space Oddysey 2001 (1968), was incredibly far ahead of its time in terms of style and visual technique which only further backs up his innovative and advanced camera work. With todays’ technology and the advancements in camera and editing equipment it is almost impossible to imagine what Kubrick would have been doing with film now.