It’s a pretty fair assessment to say that these days anything with Stanley Kubrick’s name beside it is guaranteed to generate a buzz…
Kubrick was a keenly perceptive filmmaker and creative; and his meticulous eye for detail translated on the silver screen so profoundly that very few in the history of cinema can boast such a large fan base with unwavering allegiance. Like Kurosawa and Roeg, Kubrick knew his way around a camera… and not unlike Hitchcock or Bergman, his contributions to the craft has left an indelible mark on film genre.
But as exhibition curator Tim Heptner of The Deutsche Filmmuseum in Frankfurt explains, all these remarkable feats still only manage to scratch the surface on an enigmatic genius. With the touring Stanley Kubrick Exhibition in it’s 13th year, Privilege of Legends gets a sneaky insider’s look at one of the more comprehensive and exciting film tours this side of the space odyssey.
- Firstly, could you give us some background information on how this fantastic project came about?
The Deutsche Filmmuseum in Frankfurt is an institution dedicated to the preservation and presentation of films and film related artefacts. It has more than 30 years experience in curating and producing exhibitions.
The idea to make an exhibition that would celebrate the work of Stanley Kubrick came up in the autumn of 2002 when the senior curator of the museum, Hans-Peter Reichmann met Christiane Kubrick (Kubrick’s widow) and Jan Harlan (Kubrick´s longtime executive producer and brother-in-law) in Frankfurt on the occasion of the museum´s Ken Adam Exhibition. Jan and Christiane were invited to join a special film screening of Barry Lyndon and to share their experiences and memories of the films’ production with the audience.
After the public event the small group went out for a drink, whereupon a conversation ensued concerning the Kubrick estate. It became apparent that there was a multitude of material that the director had left behind at his home and working quarters in St Albans after his passing in 1999. It wasn’t until Mr Reichmann personally visited the property in St Albans that he began to fully comprehend the scale of this important memorabilia; and upon return he immediately got to work penciling up an exhibition proposal and setting up a project team.
In 2003, a museum archivist was sent to St. Albans to trawl through the dozens of rooms, storage containers, boxes and shelves; where he got to work ordering and classifying the materials he found. Eight months later his findings were documented, photographed and listed in a database. Simultaneously, a small group of researchers, curators, designers, editors and project managers prepared the exhibition and catalogue in Frankfurt.
The exhibition premiered in the spring of 2004 at the Deutsche Filmmuseum, and started its international tour in 2005.
2. In your opinion, why do you think the work of Stanley Kubrick still holds so much relevance with a modern audience?
Stanley Kubrick was a visionary film director who created works which continue to resonate with it’s audience… not unlike Picasso or Beethoven have influenced subsequent generations with their respective crafts.
There are but a handful of important artists in every generation; and Kubrick is certainly amongst the most influential creatives of the latter half of the 20th century.
The subject matter of his films (the majority of these painstakingly chosen adaptations from novels and short stories) are still socially and politically significant. His cinematic style is distinct and unique. He re-shaped film genres, and to some degree re-invented them. A case in point would have to be the legacy that 2001: A Space Odyssey has had on the Science Fiction genre.
Kubrick has had a profound impact on his fellow directors; and his films are a source of inspiration for the young filmmakers of today… not to mention his mammoth cult status among cinephiles worldwide.
It’s worth noting that despite his work being backed with big Hollywood money, he still managed to exert complete artistic control. He put some highly iconic- and at times controversial characters on the silver screen: the likes of Lolita, Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, Alex and his ‘Droogs’ from A Clockwork Orange or The Shining’s hotel caretaker Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson in one of his best performances) exemplify this.
Kubrick was more than capable of handling almost every facet of his complex and expensive profession; and in this regard he almost appears as an ‘auteur’. His many titles included researcher, screenwriter, producer, director, photographer, and editor.
3. This seems one of the more comprehensive, eclectic and all-encompassing exhibitions on a highly influential filmmaker. How have you managed to gather such a wide range of material for this exhibition?
This was achieved through a fruitful collaboration with Christiane Kubrick and Jan Harlan, who gave the Filmmuseum exclusive access to the filmmakers personal estate.
The exhibition consists of more than 1000 objects, of which about 85% originate from Kubrick´s home in Hertfordshire, England. Other materials are loans from private and institutional collectors throughout Europe and the USA. Thankfully lenders were willing to make long-term commitments to this project which celebrates the oeuvre of one of the most outstanding film directors.
4. What makes this such an interesting project is the fact that it is touring internationally; and has been seen so far in Europe, Australia, North and South America. Could you shine some light on where the exhibition is currently, and where it is headed in the coming months?
As a matter of fact, the exhibition has already also toured Asia!
STANLEY KUBRICK is currently on display at the Cineteca Nacional (CN) in Mexico City, which is one of the largest cinematheques in the world. CN provides daily film screenings, exhibitions, events and lectures to all the cineasts in Mexico City.
On the horizon, the tour will continue onto the art forum GL Strand in Copenhagen from September 2017 until January 2018… we are trying to arrange further venues in Europe and Asia for 2018/19.
5. Could you inform our readers on some of the original props, documents, papers or photographs that they can expect to see at this exhibition?
Key pieces in this exhibition include costumes from Spartacus, Barry Lyndon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut… amongst them the ape suit worn by Dan Richter in 2001, and the twins’ dresses worn by the Grady sisters in The Shining.
Such distinguishable props as the ‘starchild baby’ from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the ‘born to kill’ war helmet from Full Metal Jacket, the typewriter from The Shining, a Transcripter record player from A Clockwork Orange, the B-52 survival kit from Dr. Strangelove, or Venetian masks from Eyes Wide Shut are also exhibited alongside replica models of famous film sets, including The Shining maze, the 2001 Discovery spaceship, and the war room from Dr. Strangelove.
Fans can also expect to see a collection of original film scripts including drafts, treatments, storyboards, continuity scripts, research and editing notebooks, plus various versions of screenplays. Nearly all of these documents show Kubrick´s handwritten annotations, comments and corrections; allowing visitors a rare window into the creative process behind many of these films.
On display too, are a selection of various cameras and lenses that give insight into some of the basics of analog filmmaking; but also shed light on such specific devices as the famous Zeiss f0.7 lens which Kubrick used for filming Barry Lyndon’s interior candle light scenes.
Last but not least: as the exhibition showcases the whole career of Stanley Kubrick, visitors can also find a gallery with black and white prints from images which Kubrick took as a staff photographer for the LOOK magazine in the late 1940s.
6. You mention online that some of Kubrick’s unrealised projects like his ‘Napoleon’ epic and his plans for the holocaust film ‘The Aryan Papers’ are also presented in detail. How far had the director actually come with regards to production, and is there any indication of why these projects weren’t pursued?
As a matter of fact, the director had gone quite far with preparations for each of these films. Extensive and meticulous historical background research for both projects had been carried out (in the case of Napoleon over several years).
Kubrick had written an original screenplay for Napoleon, and adapted Louis Begley’s semi-autobiographical novel Wartime Lies for Aryan Papers. Preproduction was also far advanced for both films… he had prepared production budgets, considered the basic stylistic, technical and organizational aspects, corresponded with his designated main cast, researched and arranged the shooting location, costume design and rehearsals. For both films he had also arranged detailed shooting schedules.
After years of preparation, the monumental Napoleon project failed in 1969/70 because of technical, financial, and organizational problems. After the commercial failure of Sergei Bondarchuk’s Napoleon-themed film Waterloo, no major studio was willing to take on the venture due to it’s exorbitant production costs.
Kubrick’s work on Aryan Papers ended after the 1993 release of Spielberg’s Holocaust-themed film Schindler’s List; prompting Warner Brothers and Kubrick to abandon the project. Reportedly, the director also found the subject matter increasingly depressing, and became uncertain that Holocaust could be an adequate subject for a movie at all.
Fans can find more information at these links:
Current exhibition information: