The autodidact Kubrick’s success as a filmmaker enabled him to exert absolute control over his projects from start to finish while securing financing from major Hollywood studios. His films cover a range of genres and styles, draw on his nihilistic philosophy, and blend stark realism and satirical humour.
Kubrick was famously meticulous in his work, layering minute and subtle details into his films which continue to inspire speculation among academics and film buffs alike. Perhaps due to the technical prowess demonstrated in Kubrick’s 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as NASA’s willingness to assist the filmmaker in his research and subsequent execution of the film, conspiracy theorists went into overdrive hypothesising over Kubrick’s possible involvement in staging the 1969 moon landing.
In response, Kubrick stuffed his 1980 film The Shining with finespun references to the conjecture – during one scene, little Danny, wearing a knitted jumper emblazoned with the Apollo 11 spacecraft, rises from the floor of the Outlook Hotel, the geometric carpet alluding to the hexagonal landing pads used by NASA.
Kubrick’s films also often engaged with complex philosophical concepts, with the star-child in 2001 channeling Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch. Alex’s love of Beethoven in A Clockwork Orange, as well as Kubrick’s use of erotic imagery, provides a link to that same philosopher’s work on the Dionysian – the frenzied, irrational and chaotic nature of the primal human state which Nietzsche associated with the realm of music.
Kubrick was always tight-lipped concerning the meanings of his films, however. He preferred to leave them open to free interpretation, to the frustration of many of his fans.
Somerset House’s Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick exhibition sought to explore the filmmaker’s enormous impact across the arts. Christiane Kubrick, the filmmaker’s widow, and various artists were invited to provide a new or pre-existing piece of work in their chosen medium that responded to a theme, motif, character, or scene from a Kubrick film.
The entrance to the exhibition led visitors down a corridor patterned with a design by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, which channels the style of the carpet in The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel.
Inside, a waxwork of Kubrick dressed as The Shining’s Jack Nicholson – who is finally frozen in the hotel’s grounds, a maniacal grimace fixed on his sunken face – hangs suspended in a freezer. British political artist Peter Kennard, known for his provocative attacks on modern warfare, takes inspiration from the black comedy Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb to make a statement on the renewal of the Trident nuclear programme.
Musicians including Mick Jones of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite and composer Michael Nyman created a Kubrick-ian soundtrack that filled the exhibition’s rooms with a blend of tones that switch from eerie and chilling to exuberant.
There was even an aromatic element, with fragrance designer Azzi Glasser creating a scent inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Daydreaming With Kubrick is a disorienting and sensual journey into the mind and world of a indefinable talent and a perfect tribute to an uncompromisingly radical artist.