Irving Singer compares Kubrickean and Homeric epics and analyzes in depth the self-referential mythmaking of Federico Fellini in many of his movies, including 8½

Appearing in 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey declares its mythic intentions in the subtitle itself. Just as we cannot mistake the fact that Orphée and Pygmalion originate in the myths that have come down to us through Ovid, so too do we recognize immediately the kinship between 2001 and the epic that Homer wrote. At the same time, Kubrick’s title conveys an aura of academic or documentary research, as in the contents of a nonfiction book. The works of both Homer and Kubrick consist of voyages through unknown spaces enacted by a hero and his crew; the travel in each employs current modes of transportation available to the human race through the technology of the relevant period; and they culminate in a homecoming by the protagonist, who is the sole survivor of his adventures.

Kubrick’s movie mainly occurs in the future, though only a little less than forty years later, while Homer’s pertains to some undated era in the ancestral past. But that doesn’t matter. The two of them are alike insofar as they contain cosmological as well as hero types of mythology. Homer presents the deities in scattered religions of the Greeks as characters who determine the course of his narrative about the heroic Odysseus. He must cope with the hostility of Poseidon, partly on his own but also with the aid of Athena, and his final victory is an achievement that is personal as well as social and generically human. Having no belief about divinities such as those, and no anthropomorphic religion that might be similar, Kubrick constructs a new kind of pantheon related to the materialistic ideology of our present culture.

In one respect, however, Kubrick’s effort is more mythological than Homer’s. The voyage and return of the twenty- first- century hero delves into cosmic mysteries beyond anything envisaged by the story of Odysseus. There is no longer the motif of coming back to a wife and one’s kingdom in Ithaca, or some other city, but rather the major theme is the discovery of humanity’s place in the universe. Dave Bowman’s mission ends with his being reborn as himself a demigod, a star-child or superlative superman in the making. Though 2001 begins with prehuman primates in their hostile terrain, we never see Dave’s reentry into his native planet, or his ever having lived on it. Other than a couple of messages to and from family back home while the spaceship is in flight, and occasional communications from headquarters, the only creatures like ourselves that we see on earth are the ancestral apes fighting with each other or huddled in a cave and frightened by a storm outside.

The primate behavior represents our own condition as well, and in the same manner as the characters of Kubrick’s other movies, both early and late. The normal state of homo sapiens is shown to be nasty, brutish, and infinitely aggressive. In the mythology of 2001 a new dimension arises, proclaimed by the fanfare of Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra. It is an anthem for the benign aspiration to self- transcendence inherent in our technology at any level, however humble it may initially be. The fanfare is parodied in Jerzy Kosinski’s satire Being There (1979) when the semidemented character played by Peter Sellers descends from protected seclusion and enters the slums and corrupt politics of Washington, D.C. Because of his simplemindedness, he is treated as a Zarathustra- like savior. In 2001, the sequence with the primordial creatures ends when one of them, glorying in his acquisition of a more effective tool for destroying his enemies, throws the wondrous object he has found—a bone of some other animal—into the air. The camera turns it into a spaceship serenely voyaging to the moon.

Not just in Méliès’s fantasy but throughout the centuries, a trip to the moon has resided within a region of human imagination that is able to contemplate the pleasures and the challenges to be found on that celestial body. For Kubrick it is just a way station on a path that leads beyond our solar system. As we learn, a black monolith that is identical with the one we saw in the primate scenes has been found on the moon. We infer that the developmental distance between the primitive beasts and the greatly evolved human beings who have managed to defeat terrestrial gravity must somehow result from whatever powers are embedded in these monoliths. Thereafter the narrative depicts the search for intelligent beings on Jupiter who have used it to transmit radio waves to this local area in space.

Thirty-five years after Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke had written the screenplay for the movie, out of which Clarke then made a novel based on it, he quotes Kubrick as having said: “What I want is a theme of mythic grandeur.”1 What Kubrick got and gave us was a film that differs from any usual adaptation inasmuch as 40 percent of it is silent. Even the words of a narrator, which Kubrick had included at first, are entirely absent. Though his movie is a work of science fiction, it is product that only motion pictures can fabricate. In being simultaneously a visual and literary artifact, it illustrates—like most of the subsequent science fiction films that have capitalized on its enormous success—how greatly the purely visual can tell the story and retain our interest without needing more than a minimum of spoken continuity.

There is, however, a price that the filmmaker must pay for that mode of presentation. While the succession of engrossing images in 2001 is mesmerizing and increases the suspenseful unfolding of the plot, it also diminishes the cognitive dimensions of the underlying myth. In more than one place, Kubrick insists that he wished to reach the “subconscious” of a viewer, which he sometimes refers to as his or her “emotional” state, and he claims that this requires an avoidance of the rationality in ordinary life. “I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophical content.”2 Various problems are related to this intention. For one thing, it depends on presuppositions—in Kubrick’s case, specifically Freudian, as I will presently argue—that must be supported separately. Kubrick himself makes no such attempt, and neither does he justify his assumption that the subconscious, whatever it may be, is the same as the emotional.

The most interesting discussion of this issue occurs in an interview that appeared in Playboy shortly after 2001 was released. In that exchange Kubrick appears extremely well informed about recent research in aeronautical astronomy, space travel, and the possibility of life in other parts of the universe. He reveals a largeness of intellect that few other filmmakers can possibly match. But his own ideas, in most fields, seem amateurish and unformed. That does not affect his capacity as a mythmaker or one who sought for mythic grandeur in 2001 and other films. But it is a key to understanding what constitutes the mythology that he created in this work.

In the course of the Playboy interview, Eric Nordern asks Kubrick how he can account for the hostile reception that New York film critics bestowed upon 2001 at its premiere. In Nordern’s words they felt it should be “exempted from the category of art . . . [and] castigated it as dull, pretentious, and overlong.”3 Kubrick replies by suggesting that “perhaps there is a certain element of the lumpen literati that is so dogmatically atheist and materialist and Earth- bound that it finds the grandeur of space and the myriad mysteries of cosmic intelligence anathema.”4 Though the film attests to the fact that Kubrick’s imagination is certainly not earthbound, his own views are typically scientistic and materialist as well as tritely atheistic. The extent and the limitations of his thinking appear in responses that he later gives to Nordern’s questioning.

When Kubrick is asked whether he agrees with critics who consider 2001 “a profoundly religious film,” he states: “I will say that the God concept is at the heart of 2001—but not any traditional, anthropomorphic image of God. I don’t believe in any of Earth’s monotheistic religions, but I do believe that one can construct an intriguing scientific definition of God, once you accept the fact that there are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, that each star is a life-giving sun and that there are approximately 100 billion galaxies in just the visible universe.”5 Having been challenged to show how this is relevant to his speculations about highly evolved biological species elsewhere in the universe, Kubrick says that since these other forms of life may have acquired powers beyond our comprehension they would be regarded as gods by lesser races such as ours. He concludes that “anything is possible, and it’s unlikely that we can even begin to scratch the surface of the full range of possibilities.”6

What I find crucial in this line of thought is the recurrent allusion to “possible” facts within the parameters of scientific (which is to say, empirical and technological) exploration. That in turn belongs to an ever- expanding realm within the imagination of our species. Kubrick is masterful in creating cinematic situations that awaken our desire to entertain such possibilities by treating them with a fidelity to detail that mimics what we experience daily in life on earth. Nevertheless, the ideas that might bolster adherence to the conclusions he suggests are almost totally absent. His talent consists in making fictional, and ultimately undefended, projections that draw upon commonplace beliefs—all of which may be justifiable perhaps—that he has glazed over with quasi- religious language conveniently supplied by our astounding imagination.

In that vein Kubrick, and many others, have interpreted this aspect of his endeavor as “spiritual”—which is not the same as being religious while also allowing it to be considered “quasireligious.” Seductive as this range of terminology may be, its cash value resides in the mythological nature of filmmaking itself that I have been discussing throughout this book. Before analyzing the mythic scope that pervades 2001 and other Kubrick films, it will be useful to compare the creative mentality in them with the opposing type that results in the achievements of Federico Fellini. The two great filmmakers are very different, and yet also alike in ways that warrant investigation.

The nearest that Fellini comes to matters of space travel occurs in 8 ½. The beleaguered film director in it is trying to complete a movie about efforts to leave this planet after a nuclear holocaust has occurred. We see the scaffolding for the launch pad at the beginning of the movie and then in scenes toward the end. The actual takeoff is aborted because the movie in the movie is itself scratched. At his wit’s ends throughout 8 ½, the director finally gives up on the project and cancels all further shooting for it. In that sense, Fellini’s character having failed and his dreams of space travel disintegrating, Kubrick himself succeeds as a filmmaker who depicts a comparable enterprise in advanced stages of completion.

The famous opening sequence of 8 ½ prepared us for the movie’s denouement insofar as what we observe is not only a dream but also a nightmare portraying one failure after another. At first the man who we later learn to be a director stifles from exhaust fumes that fill his car as it sits in a silent, eerie traffic jam. Then, when he somehow escapes from that, he fl oats through the air and soars beyond the clouds, with arms outstretched like the statue of Christ at the beginning of La Dolce Vita. Now, however, this embodiment of a savior is not held aloft triumphantly by a helicopter on its way to the Vatican. Instead he reaches a height along the sea tethered to the earth like a kite or balloon. At the other end of the rope, he is attached to a man who suddenly pulls him into a terrifying plunge. He falls like Icarus in Greek mythology, crashing down as punishment for having flown too close to the sun. This serves as the meaning of the nightmare, and as verification for the pervading anxiety in it that foreshadows the collapse of the director’s plans for his film.

Though the contents of the movie within the movie never amount to anything, the greatness of 8 ½ results from its portrayal of the creative daydreaming of the director who thinks about episodes drawn from his past and present life that might contribute to this film. Fellini’s cinematic skill is so accomplished in uniting these alternate presentations that we are never in doubt about their reality or irreality. The basic narrative itself is trivial and prosaic: the director has to deal with both his wife and his mistress, who hate each other, and who simultaneously visit him on the set in a counterproductive attempt to help him through his agony; the director has to negotiate with his producer and other coworkers by conning them as best he can about his nonexistent progress; he has to humor his actresses, whom he would rather dominate, as in the harem fantasy, as if he were their beloved master.

All this is projected as a movie about the life we know in everyday existence. Stylistically, it continues the neorealism in which Fellini’s career began with films such as I Vitelloni, Lo Sceicco bianco, La Strada, and Il Bidone. Moreover, the notion of a spaceship leaving earth with survivors of a nuclear disaster reflects the fear- filled sensibility of many people in 1963, a year after the Cuban missile crisis. That alone could not sustain the shooting of 8 ½, any more than the doomed movie within it, but it adds a useful background to Fellini’s film. What makes the movie we do see so exceptional is something more than its paltry, though slightly engaging, realism. The sheer inventiveness of Fellini’s cinematic imagination creates all the difference. It consists of two basic ingredients: first, the ability, the daring, the unrelenting courage to draw upon personal and normally private experiences of the filmmaker; and second, the implied assumption by him that he is a clown, as in the circus, and therefore that he can be truthful about his own life by providing the self-effacing and usually dismissive vision of the world that a clown purveys.

In films like Amarcord and The Clowns, these motifs supply the essential material with which Fellini’s camera functions recurrently. In 8 ½, however, the two elements assert themselves overtly as the guiding principles that inspire Fellini’s narrative to proceed as it does from scene to scene. More than one critic has suggested that the movies of Fellini are more autobiographical than those of almost any other filmmaker. Fellini and Ingmar Bergman are akin in this respect. Perhaps that is why Bergman called him once his “fratello” (brother). Without jeopardizing the fictionality of their films, they both draw extensively from their off-camera existence. In Bergman, too, there is a fascination with clowns and with clowning. It is most explicit in the drama Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), but it also occurs in several of his comedies and even in The Seventh Seal. The painted white face of Death in that movie establishes him as some kind of clown, and the holy family perform on stage (also in whiteface) in a clownish manner. In Fellini this predilection merges with his self- referential tendency in a way that defines his genius and constitutes his mythological outlook. The entire world as he sees it, and as we watch it in the images he uses to represent it, is a visual expression of both himself and his awareness of what it is be a clown. His imagination in film after film is entirely geared to that.

I think this may be what Bergman perceived and had in mind when he said: “I love his work and I love him as a person, if he is a person, which I doubt, because he has no limits; he’s just like quicksilver—all over the place.”7 By extrapolating from this, one can see Fellini’s output as a continuous attempt to present through his films the person that he really is and has been, as demonstrated by the autobiographical data to which he constantly reverts. It is therefore fitting that 8 ½ ends not only with the demolition of the director’s plans about his space travel movie but also with scenes that come straight out of the circus. Having been dressed throughout his anguish in dark clothes, the director appears in a white suit that signifies the gaiety of his newfound freedom while also attesting to his status as the leading clown. He stands on a small stage and directs a musical marching band of four other clowns (also dressed in white), on parade and playing a quirky lighthearted circus tune by Nino Rota.

At the same time the director orchestrates a long line of actors and members of the crew who walk and then run in a large circle, as members of a circus do at the end of a performance. They are no longer the characters we have seen, or the crew that has been filming them, but rather real men and women showing their stuff before the camera and proud of what they have done as professionals. They are the people who evoke and relive what Fellini, like the director of the aborted movie, has imaginatively chosen to include in the making of a work of art. 8 ½ can end on this high note of aesthetic achievement, instead of desperation, since the display of personal failure has elicited Fellini’s ability to fulfill the two impulsions that have predominated from the start. In effect he is saying: You see, it’s all been clownishness and that’s what I, Federico Fellini, am in myself.

In a documentary called Federico Fellini’s Autobiography, he is quoted as having remarked about Lo Sceicco bianco (1952): “I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I have no message for humanity. I’m sorry. In all sincerity, I was trying, first and foremost, to make an entertaining film. Actually, I wanted to entertain myself. You see—and I hope no producers are listening—I think of films as wonderful toys, marvelous pastimes.”8 The truth in this confessional applies to all of Fellini’s movies. While retaining a background of verismo in keeping with his neorealistic origins, they revel in large numbers of bizarre and sometimes grotesque characters whose antics are not only amusing in themselves, as in a circus, but also representative of what Fellini called “the vivid confusion of life.”9 With his great storehouse of cinematic effects, Fellini regales us with images that may pretend to be derived from thoughts or dreams the characters undergo within their narratives but are really testaments to the filmmaker’s own imagination. If there is mythic grandeur in Fellini’s work, it consists in the grandeur of that.

Giulietta degli spiriti (1965) is a good example of what I mean. In the context of a pedestrian housewife’s suspicions about her husband’s sexual infidelity, we observe social events that dazzle us with the rapid overlays of conversation by out landish men and women. Their hectic verbal exchanges, speeded up as if to emphasize the absurdity in what they say to each other, are somewhat boring intrinsically. But then they lead into magnificently constructed fantasies more or less pertaining to Giulietta’s psychological crisis. How she recovers from it is never explained, but we do not care. What has enchanted us throughout the film is the demonstration of Fellini’s imagined varieties of sights and sounds that are coherent with her imaginings when she is either awake or asleep. In Fellini’s hands the camera articulates in a very original way the myth of imagination itself as a supreme and all-justifying phenomenon that exists for its own sake, and as a creative force throughout human life as a whole. His celebration of it is a triumphant display that reverberates and remains endlessly enjoyable.

Satyricon, Fellini’s loose adaptation of the novel by Petronius, he cogently describes as “a science-fiction picture in a sense.” Assuming that we really know very little about life in ancient Rome, he unites this fact to his own condition as someone in the present creating a cinematic story about the past: “I felt a bit lost, but I feel that the healthiness of these adventures rests on looking into the complete obscurity in myself. I understood that the real key to making this picture was this unknown dimension.” Fellini then explains his calling Satyricon science fiction by stating: “Science fiction is something that we don’t know because we don’t know what has been lost or, at any rate, what is unknown.”10

This sense of the “complete obscurity in [himself]” provides the mythological authorization of Fellini’s imaginings. At the end of the interview from which I have been quoting, he remarks: “I am not a movie director who consciously plots the movements of the camera, because they are very natural. Imagination is everything. The picture is in my head, and I just try to make it.”11 This in turn reinforces his belief that “it is absolutely impossible not to be autobiographical. I think that Satyricon is maybe much more autobiographical than 8 ½ because it is not an adapted biography. But maybe the anguish, the fear, the faith, the atmosphere that is in Satyricon, maybe that has to do with myself in a more immediate way.”12

At the same time, Fellini’s type of mythmaking does not prevent him from having at least one message he’s always ready to impart. He is highly scornful in his later work of the tasteless and insidious outpouring of television as a rival form of entertainment. In addition to sarcastic short films to that effect, his Ginger and Fred is largely a polemic against this new development in Italian culture. But there, also, Fellini’s predominant perspective takes over in the course of that effort. The movie begins with the spectacle of freakish people who are assembling for a television program and are then subjected to the chaos of their disorganized rehearsals. Having been delighted by the amusing nonsense of it all, we finally view the show itself, virtually from the beginning to the end. In it the strange characters behave like dedicated and seasoned professionals, clownish as required on occasion but not at all freakish, and quite successful in their authentic desire to please the live audience. In his love of entertainment as such, Fellini cannot refrain from making an artistic reenactment of their performance. He thereby undercuts his general derision of television shows geared to a low level of mass receptivity. His preconceived message succumbs before this opportunity to employ, once again, his manifold and limitless powers of creative imagination.

In Kubrick the myth of imagination operates in another way. He and Fellini are alike in their total reliance upon aesthetic inventiveness as a cardinal resource in human nature, but they are completely disparate in their interpretation of what this involves. Playful as Kubrick’s directing is, the absurdity of its clowning is not designed as autobiographical diversion. Though his personal vision permeates his work, it never turns that into self-reflective entertainment. Kubrick and Fellini elucidate each other’s talents as contrasting, rather than similar, masters of their trade. 

In saying this, I realize that in Kubrick’s films clowning continually occurs. In Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the antics of General Buck Turgidson, as played by George C. Scott, are performances straight out of the circus. He even does an accidental backflip that corresponds to the wrongheadedness of his reasoning. In A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell’s cavorting from start to finish resembles the shticks that clowns in vaudeville might use on stage in imitation of a circus. His name alone is risible: Alex DeLarge, though he has none of the majesty of Alexander the Great. As if it were the straight man in each of his exploits, Kubrick’s camera revels in the outrageous aspect of every scene. As a spoof of comedic silent films that make us laugh at the magical speeding up of reality, it even shows in very rapid motion the overt sex with the young girls whom Alex has picked up. Accompanied by the pounding rhythm of “The William Tell Overture,” the filming condenses the many acts of fornication, and the repeated dressings and undressings, into events that are funny because devoid of recognizable feeling, and as mechanical as the camera itself. In The Shining, when the Jack Nicholson character goes berserk, he insanely parodies the TV announcer Ed McMahon introducing Johnny Carson. He fiendishly grimaces as he says, “Heeere’s Johnny!

In these, and many other instances of Kubrick’s coruscating wit, the effect is very different from the clowning in Fellini. That constantly remains a self- deprecatory and often sad enunciation of the director’s feelings about the lack of meaning in his own life. In the case of Kubrick, nothing of the sort appears, for the simple reason that Kubrick never reveals himself. He communicates his humor, and whatever ideas about the world he may have, through the camera that hides him from us. He really is a camera, as in the title of the play and then movie adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin. In all his productions, Kubrick was a director who also did the cinematography, or else supervised it very closely. He began his career as a news photographer and retained the mentality suitable for that occupation throughout his life.

The first rule of news photography is Get the facts! Which is to say, remain faithful to the visual appearance of reality, and as evidence of something that has happened in a particular place at a particular time. This alone tells us much about the “mythic grandeur” that Kubrick wanted for 2001. The event that would occur in that year is presented as a great, perhaps the greatest, occurrence in human history. Though our primate ancestors could not comprehend the first magic monolith, it symbolized the search for life that has motivated the progress of mankind and the growth of its varied civilizations. And of great importance in Kubrick’s conception is the notion that the ultimate completion of this process takes place in the proximate future.

Since the future is always a blank until it becomes the present, virtually anything can happen then. All the optimism and hopefulness that people have felt devolve from that unverified belief. What is truly mythic about Kubrick’s vision in 2001 manifests his faith in the boundless opportunities for exploration that await us in the coming years. The astronauts, above all Dave Bowman as their leader, are equivalent to the pioneers whom Americans have idealized in film and story as the founders of what became the United States.

Kubrick’s epic must therefore be categorized with the many films—those of John Ford, for instance—that have helped create the myth of the West, how it was won and settled through the bravery and futuristic commitment of heroic men and women. Earth having been conquered and ravaged since then, their descendants turn to outer space as the reality about which contemporary imagination can now construct a viable mythology. In documenting this, Kubrick remains the news photographer who learned his craft by snapping arresting shots for magazines like Newsweek and Look. The picturing of fictional space travel in the twenty- first century would have to be as precise and as graphic as illustrations for these periodicals.

Approaching Kubrick’s mythmaking from this point of view, we can well argue that all his films fit a similar pattern. A great deal of the power and grim propulsion in Dr. Strangelove, for example, comes from the business with the dials and exact protocols on the airship that will finally deliver the devastating bomb. The same holds for the detailed routine for confirming the contents of the crew’s emergency equipment. It causes us to feel that this is what would really be done by servicemen in that situation and at that moment. It is a ritual whose absolute realism seduces our imagination into accepting this as a possible scenario for the final calamity. In being so conscientious about the correctness of their behavior, the crewmen seem to be truly intent upon carrying their suicidal mission to its mythically ordained conclusion.

Therein lies the horrible absurdity that Kubrick wants to undermine by subjecting it to the contrary absurdity that resides in his kind of sardonic humor. Though 2001 is neither sardonic nor humorous, Kubrick’s depiction of the minutiae of daily life in an interplanetary rocket ship relies upon the same technique. Our spectatorial involvement is thereby lured into believing that the imminent reality will be comparable. In its subtle, and often soundless, dependence upon the visual, 2001 is thoroughly convincing. Previous science fiction movies had none of this representational expertise.

Because the frequent absence of conversation works so well in 2001, continuous discussion or a narrative voiceover would have diminished, not augmented, the film’s persuasiveness. While we observe the spaceship from the exterior, as it glides through the blackness of the firmament, we hear the gracious and soothing strains of “The Blue Danube Waltz.” This sonic effect is not descriptive; rather, it superimposes a sense of lulling and supportive assurance. The combination of sight and sound makes the optimistic mythmaking irresistible.

At first glance the structure of the plot seems straightforward and easy to follow. In the beginning, at the origin of humanity, there is primitive creativity somehow related to the brute aggressiveness that is characteristic of our species. At the end, we are captivated by the prospect of a new and peaceful race of supermen generated from the star- child pictured in its fetal stage. On the voyage, we see the mythic oneness of buddies united in a joint pursuit, together with secondary comrades waiting in hibernation until they are needed.

The survivor of this trip that no other human beings had ever made surmounts the perils of space travel and also the rebellion of a social subordinate. Though Hal has cognitive abilities superior to Dave and Frank, he belongs to the lower class of beings that are mechanical rather than organic. In the television interview soon after liftoff, Dave says Hal is just another member of the crew, and so great is his reliability that he is treated as if he were an equal. But he is nevertheless a servant who does not have the same rights and privileges as his masters, not even a right to exist beyond the time that he remains useful to them.

In keeping with this persona, Hal’s voice is always unctuous and self-denying. Its quiet and creamy timbre resembles the voice of a preacher whose cunning one might suspect straightaway. Nevertheless, he emerges as the first computer slave of his genus to malfunction or misbehave as he does. He is himself a mythically heroic figure. He is a Spartacus of his electronic people, and the movie about the anti-Roman insurgent that Kubrick directed in part as a hired substitute may have spawned that conception of the wayward computer in 2001.

In a manner that is perfect for this plot, the overly compliant voice that Kubrick has given Hal coheres with stock portrayals of a villain in B movies. Since Hal is the only true intellectual in his film, Kubrick was also drawing upon the typical American animosity toward mad scientists and corruptible geniuses. At the same time, we in the audience are initially charmed by this example of a wholly serviceable machine that talks like a human being and plays winning matches like a chess master (which Kubrick was himself). Until we learn differently, we see Hal as an ancestor of R2-D2 and C-3PO, the likable droids in Star Wars (1977). The three of them seem to show unstinted good will toward lesser creatures like us. Once Hal has defected to the dark side, we recognize that except for his natural and normal fear of annihilation he is a kind of psychopath, and hence affectively deficient.

Beyond these dramatic components, it would be unreasonable to interpret Kubrick’s narrative as an important probing into the relationship between technology and the modern version of human nature. His work yields little, if any, insight into problems of that kind. In being a bad guy whose astounding capacity for goodness we greatly admire, Hal, as well as his discontents, belongs to the category of magical marvels that all mythic fantasies, including cosmological ones like Kubrick’s, introduce for the sake of impressing us with their exciting wonderment. In that regard, Hal is a special effect comparable to the alignment of earth, moon, and sun that precedes the appearance and activation of the black monoliths. This celestial conjunction is presented as a bit of astronomical magic that furthers the myth, and at momentous occasions in the tale fortifies our aesthetic acceptance of its cosmic realism. To infer any further meaning would be unwarranted.

Instead of having a plethora of ideas, Kubrick manifests a considerable degree of cleverness in addition to his superb technical facility. In 2001 the dominant man- ape who sees the first black monolith reaches out and touches it with his finger. The gesture may well be interpreted, as it has been by at least one commentator, as a reference to Michelangelo’s Adam extending his finger to receive life from God in the mural on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.13 When Dr. Floyd approaches the second monolith, in the Clavius plain on the moon, he also uses a finger to make contact. But now, with four million years of evolution having elapsed since the first one appeared, the finger is enclosed in Dr. Floyd’s thickly insulated glove. At the very end, when a severely aged Dave Bowman is about to be born again as the star- child, from his deathbed he points his outstretched finger at the monolith before him. Kubrick zooms in on it to tell us that the cosmic consummation has been attained.

Kubrick’s employment of the “World Riddle” theme from Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra is rightly thought to be one of the most brilliant musical devices in the history of film. It occurs several times in 2001 as an accompaniment to the black monoliths and their mission on the earth, on the moon, and then beyond Jupiter. In Strauss’s tone poem, the allusion to the Nietzschean idea of the superman is likewise applicable. But the movie makes no attempt to consider the implications that Nietzsche built into this word—for instance, his emphatic assertion that the nature of the superman is to be found in artistic creativity as contrasted with Germanic or any other militarism.

This omission need not be deemed a failing on Kubrick’s part. There is no supervening need for him to burden his spectacular with fundamental questions of that sort. It is worth noting, however, that whatever the differences in subject matter between him and Fellini, his mythmaking—like Fellini’s—remains largely confined to the surface values of cinematic visualization. It thus evades the crucial questions about ultimate reality that Kubrick, at least, pretends to engage. His blithe suggestion that superhuman beings may inhabit the universe and possess “limitless potentialities,” including “the twin attributes of all deities—omniscience and omnipotence,” seems empty and unpersuasive.14 Despite its splendid technological veneer, the myth that Kubrick offers so inventively is far from being able to vindicate his claim to have formulated “an intriguing scientific definition of God.”15 Instead of bypassing reason and speaking directly to the subconscious, he ends up in an uncharted land of wish fulfillment. 

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In all of Kubrick’s mythmaking there is no room for a heroic female. The hero is always a man, and usually one who is sullied by noxious forces that Kubrick depicts as basic in the material realities of our species. Prominent among them is sex and violence, which he presents with the detached fascination of a clinician or criminologist. Sustained by his meticulous and inspired cinematography, this combination of interests is very impressive in films like The Killer’s Kiss, The Killing, and Paths of Glory. The intellectual thrust of these fi lms reaches a higher level of achievement in Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, and A Clockwork Orange. In each of them, the nature of both sex and violence is shown from a somewhat different point of view.

Lolita begins with Humbert’s murder of Quilty as an event whose instigation the rest of the movie explores through a prior account told to us by Humbert in a quasi-confession of his maniacal obsession. He portrays himself as a sex-driven man who is willing to marry a woman he abhors in order to remain close to her teenage daughter, the object of desire that he stalks throughout the film. As in Proust and the Nabokov text that became the modified source of the screenplay, Humbert’s need to retain and possess Lolita is intensified by her refusal to respond with any ardor. Male longing and pursuit is all we are given to inspect, and even that appears as an instinctual drive that includes little of the creativity that infuses human sexuality.

Part of the reason for this lies in the limited yet menacing censorship that curtailed what could be seen on-screen at the time, 1962. Production was held up because a Catholic board of review criticized, for example, the scene in which Humbert is engaged in foreplay with his wife but keeps looking at a small portrait of Lolita. The board complained that this undermined the sanctity of marriage. The scene remained in the final cut, but somewhat changed. More explicit sexuality or violence was taboo, and even the shooting of Quilty occurs when he is hiding behind a large painting and we cannot see his wounds or terminal agony. As a result, the movie focuses exclusively on a superficial showing of sex and violence, any love that the rival men may have felt for Lolita remaining unexamined, while its limited presentation of the primordial drives comes through as mainly cold and mechanistic.

By the time A Clockwork Orange was released in 1972, social mores had eased enough for Kubrick to exhibit graphically the viciousness in the psychopathic cruelty and rape of naked women that constitutes the delinquency of the juveniles in Anthony Burgess’s novel. The moral issue that Kubrick dramatizes deals with the deleterious effects of tampering too radically with the inclination of males to vent their hostility toward society through criminal acts of sex and violence. Once Alex has been brainwashed by the shock treatment we see in great detail, he loses his vital energy. It returns when corrupt politicians and mindless public opinion forgive his past deeds, even treating him as a victim rather than a miscreant. From having been viewed as a hideous monster, he is suddenly treated like a noble survivor who believes in the love of mankind as embodied in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Alex’s adoration of that music had appeared earlier in the movie as a paradoxical contrast to his vicious behavior. When his libidinal and aggressive appetites are restored in the happy conclusion designed to underline Kubrick’s abomination of the social status quo, Beethoven’s music blares forth as if in approval of the anarchistic message.

In 2001 there is no sex and, except for the man-ape mauling of a hapless opponent together with the slaughter of tapirs, no violence. When Hal kills the three hibernating scientists, he merely removes their life-support systems; and when he kills Frank, he deftly separates him from his umbilical tether. These acts are performed as sanitized and unemotional events. They constitute murder, but of a sort that is too passionless to express any of the hatred or physical mutilation we generally associate with violence.

The demolition of Hal is comparable in being a technological procedure as remote from a willed annihilation of life as switching off an electric light. Hal’s remission step-by- step into lesser forms of digital experience is intriguing but hardly capable of eliciting feelings of compassion. We may be amused by his singing the popular love song “Daisy” toward the end, but the inherent poignancy of his demise can scarcely create much sympathy in us. The scene embodies the same irony as Alex’s performance of “I’m singin’ in the rain” while he batters the husband and prepares to rape the wife in A Clockwork Orange.

The two songs belong to the enormous body of literature that poets, mainly males, have created as a glorification of the supreme goodness in romantic love. That is a lofty castle in the air that our species has constructed over the morass of negative feelings intertwined in its biological program. If 2001 can be called “spiritual,” it is because its usual adherence to the reductive view of life has transmuted the violence and sexuality of ordinary experience into the more splendid attainments that our evolved technology may someday achieve. The hopefulness is spiritual, but the causative attributes are not. When Hal and Dave play chess, it is the computer who wins. But when Dave dismantles Hal, he has checkmated him in a fashion that Kubrick could well have savored. Of greater significance is the fact that the analytical mind of Kubrick enables him to organize and to plot the minute opportunities afforded by the film equipment at his command. Through it he checkmates reality itself, and beyond the capacity of any board game.

* * *

Warfare as a whole being a magnification of the aggressiveness in activities such as the playing of chess, Dr. Strangelove contains anomalies of this sort in several places. One is when we see Captain Kong ride his hydrogen bomb like a hobbyhorse into the Russian nuclear installation; another is when the idiotic sergeant reluctantly fires bullets into the vending machine whose coins will release the change that Captain Mandrake needs to call the White House, and then warns Mandrake that he’ll have to answer to the Coca-Cola company for this; and finally, the last is a mano a mano demonstration of what it’s all about, when General Turgidson wrestles the Russian ambassador, who is taking snapshots of the “big board,” after which the president pompously chides them for fighting in the War Room (of all places!). As the sign on the army base insists, “Peace is our profession.”

For its part, explicit sexuality is never shown in that movie, or only obliquely, as when Turgidson’s girlfriend, in bed and scantily attired, moans suggestively that she isn’t sleepy. The general, who has now been informed about the danger they are in, tells her that he’ll just mosey over to the War Room to check out some things and that she should start her countdown, since he will be back before she can say “Blast off!” Without ever seeing his physical lovemaking, we recognize that for Turgidson this action is just an extension of his macho sensibility as a conquering warrior. We infer that the same is true of others in the chain of command. In the last moments of the film, even cold-blooded Dr. Strangelove gets aroused by the prospect of unbridled sex that will be available in their mineshaft to the male survivors of the holocaust.

This kind of sexual wit pervades Dr. Strangelove and elucidates its title. It is a strange love indeed that subordinates all erotic possibilities, whether libidinal or sensuous or romantic, to a desire to fight wars and kill other people instead of enjoying their company as fully as one can. In the 1960s the slogan “Make love, not war” served as a pacifist weapon against war itself. Kubrick enlarges that maneuver by portraying how not making love can lead to the self-defeating madness of nuclear suicide. His proof largely relies upon the inspired use of innuendoes and absurdist language about sex. By getting us to laugh, he rightly assumes, he may well cause us to understand what we truly want and how foolish the belligerent alternatives must be. Even the bonobos have learned that lesson, but human beings need to be kicked on their funny bone in the most imaginative fashion. Cinema is well equipped to do the job. Kubrick knew how to employ it in this capacity, better perhaps than anyone else.

In his review of Dr. Strangelove, Tim Dirks proffers an exhaustive catalog of the sexual references, sometimes subtle, sometimes gross, but always amusing, that give Kubrick’s movie a kind of mythic grandeur of its own:

In addition to numerous sexual images and jokes throughout the film (including large phallic cigars, mating airplanes, guns, Ripper’s impotent “loss of essence,” and the orgasmic atom bomb that Kong rides between his legs) many of the absurd, omnipresent names of the male, military characters (caricatures) have sexual connotations or allegorical references that suggest the connection between war, sexual obsession and the male sex drive: [ten examples follow, the first of which is Jack D. Ripper, described as “a notorious English psychopathic killer of prostitutes, or a killer in general.” Two others are: Buck Turgidson, “a ‘buck’ is a male animal or stud; ‘turgid’ means distended or swollen; and his delayed love-making to a real-life Playboy centerfold Tracy Reed—the only woman in the entire film”; and Merkin Muffley, the president, “merkin=slang for female pubic area or pudendum; muff=a woman’s pubic area or genitalia, or specifically, the pubic hair / fur / wig for the female crotch.”].16

Fellini films such as La Dolce vita, Satyricon, Amarcord, and Ginger and Fred also contain a great deal of sexual humor. But it is generally good-natured and lacking in any of the caustic overtones that Kubrick introduces to document the inescapable violence of sex. In their bland adherence to the idea that love and hate are inseparable and that by its very being love reduces to sexuality, the two filmmakers both accept the usual Freudian dogmas. They nevertheless differ in their interpretations of them. In Fellini one always senses the reverence that Italians have commonly bestowed upon mothers and male babies. The frequent male fascination with large-breasted women recurs in several of the Fellini films, reaching its peak in the more than comic scene of Amarcord when the boy voraciously sucks on one and then the other breast of the bountiful female who responds with profuse enjoyment that validates his ecstatic pleasure. In Ginger and Fred, among the performers preparing for the television show, there is a troupe of seventeen midgets and also an extremely large cow. Having examined the cow, one of the male midgets squeals with great excitement that she has eighteen nipples and therefore they can all suckle her at the same time.

This kind of frivolity about reproduction and the nurturance of the young exists in none of Kubrick’s films. His mythology ignores such matters, with the possible exception of the image of the star- child’s fetus in its sac, which seems as large as the earth itself in the closing frame of 2001. But that mythic being who will somehow turn into a super-Christ issues from no madonna and peers at us with eyes that are too big to be human. From this terminating shot, we can hardly make any inferences about affective attachments, whether desirable or undesirable. In Eyes Wide Shut (1999), his last film, Kubrick did, however, seem to be searching for some clarification about the nature of love in relation to sexuality. 

* * *

Ever since the 1970s Kubrick had wanted to adapt Arthur Schnitzler’s novel Dream Story. When he finally did so, just before he died, his film had a very mixed reception. In its general conception, and specifically in its including female (but not male) nudity, it was dismissed out of hand by many who called it anachronistic—made twenty- five or thirty years too late. Some critics did consider it a fitting culmination to his life’s work, but mainly because of its daring cinematography and realistic use of shocking obscenities, which in fact were no longer shocking to its likely audiences.

I see it as an extension of Kubrick’s mythological approach to aspects of marital intimacy that he had largely neglected before. The Shining, based on Stephen King’s novel, prominently featured the little family that lives through the frightening unfolding of their horror story. In it the Nicholson character is a kind of psychotic inversion of the mythically heroic male. But we are told very little about his private feelings toward his wife, played by Shelley Duvall. In the Schnitzler novel that aspect of married life was the focus of attention, its narrative progression being developed in dreams as well as conscious events intermeshed with them. The dreams are never presented directly by the narrator himself, but only through descriptions that the husband and wife give each other. The challenge for Kubrick was to render the sleeping states, as well as the interspersed world in which they exist, through images that are both dreamlike and realistic at the same time. In doing so, he uses effects of sight and sound that yield the same eerie atmosphere as in The Shining, but now much less surreal and more greatly akin to perceptions in daily experience.

In the Schnitzler text, there are places that make the reader wonder whether the entire narrative is the telling of a dream. For instance, when the protagonist, Fridolin, leaves the mysterious house of carnal indulgence, he is taken back to the city in a coach from which he cannot escape. Despite his frantic attempts, he is unable to open either the right- or left-hand door. The carriage stops abruptly in a deserted area, both doors spring apart simultaneously, he alights without knowing where he is, and the coach then drives off “through the open fields into the night.”17 This sense of dreamlike uncanniness permeates the novel and is captured in Kubrick’s movie by the fairly unrealistic shots of nighttime streets, presumably in New York, and through the use of pinging, sharp and high-pitched, notes strategically placed in Gyorgy Ligeti’s background music. What is lost, however, is Schnitzler’s insight into the mentality of the main character.

In the Kubrick version, his name is Dr. Bill Harford. He is played by Tom Cruise with less than total success. In both the story and film, we follow the protagonist in his odyssey of nocturnal adventures that are fundamentally, though often covertly, sexual. In an early scene Bill is stunned by the revelations of his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) about unfulfilled desires she has had toward a stranger. During his wanderings away from her and what she has told him, Bill keeps having flashes of jealous images, filmed in grayish black-and-white in this otherwise brightly colored film. We see his thoughts of Alice having sex with the man she mentioned, but we are not provided with the actual jealousy, the jealous feelings and ideas, that are coursing through his mind and that Schnitzler describes very carefully. That alone changes the nature of the odyssey. In Kubrick it is more or less reduced to a man’s hunger for extramarital experience as occasioned by his wife’s having wounded his male vanity. In Schnitzler the situation has much further implications.

I can best illustrate this by quoting a passage that presents Fridolin’s cogitation about the weird night he has just had and that ended with his being “redeemed” by a naked beauty in the house from which he has been expelled: “And he vowed not to rest until he had again found the beautiful woman, whose dazzling nakedness had so intoxicated him. Only now did he think of Albertine [his wife’s name in the novel]—and even so he felt as though he was obliged to conquer her as well, as though she could not, should not be his again until he had betrayed her with all the others he had met that night.”18

These other women are willing sex partners whose overtures the doctor has declined. Encounters with them, or their equivalents, also appear in the film and remain equally unconsummated, but without the doctor’s thoughts about these experiences. Also omitted is Schnitzler’s description of his final awareness of what his wife really means to him. In the novel the process begins after he reads a newspaper story about the death by poisoning of a young woman who, he thinks, might be the beauty that saved his life. He decides to visit the corpse in the mortuary, but then realizes that her face was veiled and would be unrecognizable except for “the eyes—eyes which were now extinguished.”19 Reflecting on this, he concludes that “ever since he had first read the notice in the paper he had imagined the faceless suicidal woman as having Albertine’s features, indeed, as he now realized with a shudder, his wife had been incessantly hovering before his eyes as the woman he was seeking.”20

Schnitzler’s text is likewise mutilated by Kubrick’s handling of the scene in which the husband returns home, awakens his wife from a nightmare she has had, and gets her to disclose its contents. In the movie version, her account finishes with her painful memory of having submitted in the dream to sexual intercourse with a horde of men who were using her as a common whore. Since this is what happens to all the beautiful women in the enchanted castle that the husband had visited, Kubrick is obviously linking this strange coincidence to the sheer fantasy of Bill’s night on the town. In Schnitzler the wife’s statement is a lengthy and extremely convincing revelation not only of her ongoing desire for the stranger she had told Fridolin about, but also of her having sex with that man in her dream while Fridolin was being tortured by some cruel princess because he insisted on remaining true to his wife “until all eternity.”21

As if to compensate for these deletions and the consequent minimalization in the depth of the narrative, Kubrick enriches it with the visual allure of the naked women. He also depicts Alice as a much more liberated person than the character is in the novel. In Kidman’s enactment, Alice is not fully emancipated but well on the way to that. The first time we see her she is dressing for the grand party to which she and Bill have been invited. In the privacy of their apartment, her preparations are routine and unerotic. While she is on the toilet, Bill shows no interest in her body. He hardly takes notice of it, and she makes no attempt to cover her seminudity.

As a counterpoint to this scene of familial domesticity, Bill will later become an observer of the gorgeous nudes who participate in the ritual at the magic castle, so unlike the one in Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête. That one sustained a myth of pure love; the rites and formal mythology of this one celebrate unfettered sexuality. At the same time, the unimpassioned orgies that are discreetly shown serve as a commentary upon the institutional sex that is legitimized by marriage and, at its best, eventuates in marital oneness. The password to the public privacy upon which Bill intrudes is “Fidelio,” the title of Beethoven’s mythic opera—the greatest opera ever written about married love.22

Yielding to the commands intoned by a head priest in the presence of a congregation whose members are all wearing masks and formal cloaks, the naked women silently do what they are told to do. Having been instructed, they pair off with men as they would in a brothel. Kubrick allows us to see all this beyond anything Schnitzler or even a modern novelist could portray in words. The prior sequence in the apartment he amplifies by including brief scenes with the couple’s daughter, who needs a sitter while the parents are out together, as well as other such accoutrements to life in Manhattan.

In bringing Schnitzler up-to-date, Kubrick alters the kind of language that the characters speak. They use the common obscenities to which I referred, but also there are other notable variations in the exchange between husband and wife when their matrimonial reconciliation is attained. Schnitzler closes his story as follows:

“Now we are truly awake,” she said, “at least for a good while.” He wanted to add: forever, but before he had a chance to speak, she laid a finger on his lips and whispered as though to herself: “Never enquire into the future.” And so they both lay there in silence, both dozing now and then, yet dreamlessly close to one another—until, as every morning at seven, there was a knock upon the bedroom door and, with the usual noises from the street, a triumphant sunbeam coming in between the curtains, and a child’s gay laughter from the adjacent room, another day began.23

Kubrick’s ending is of another sort:

Alice: The important thing is we’re awake now and hopefully for a long time to come. Bill: Forever.
Alice: Forever?
Bill: Forever.
Alice: Let’s . . . let’s not use that word, it frightens me. But I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible.
Bill: What’s that?
Alice: Fuck.24

The title Kubrick gives to his last film proclaims an idea he had long held but never fully developed before. When eyes are wide open, we get information we need for living in the real world; when they are shut, we dream and have fantasies. In his art as a filmmaker, Kubrick experimented with ways in which the two conditions may be not only combined but also harmoniously integrated. The dreaming and fantasizing then become mythological vehicles that enliven reality, which movies do not, cannot, duplicate but can possibly transform into aesthetic truthfulness. Far from excluding reality, eyes that are wide shut employ its contents as a photographer’s viewfinder does.

Having successfully confronted their interpersonal problems through ordeals they overcame, Bill and Alice have been engaged in a myth about marriage much as Tamino and Pamina are in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. They utter the words of their happy ending at Christmastime in a store where they are buying presents for their daughter. She gets the teddy bear she wanted, after Alice makes sure the price is right. This tells us that the American mythos of family happiness is now totally satisfied. 

* * *

By defining love in terms of sexuality, Kubrick remains faithful to the philosophical orientation of Schnitzler’s fiction. Max Ophüls does so as well in La Ronde, his cinematic rendition of Schnitzler’s play with the same title. In it all the characters enact a posy ring as both recipients of sex and as transmitters of it to the next man or woman in the chain, starting with the prostitute played by Simone Signoret and ending with Gérard Philippe (the count). We never learn whether they are united by some venereal disease they have now passed on to one another. That is not the point of Schnitzler’s play or Ophüls’s movie. Instead the instinct in itself pervades and dramatically dominates both works as the Schopenhauerian force of nature that joins male and female into a unifi ed, or at least integrated, state of being. The same mythic attachment is expressed in the ironic song about intersexual oneness that Richard Wilbur wrote for Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, except that there it is indeed syphilis or gonorrhea that each person gives to his or her libidinal partner.

The mythology of both Eyes Wide Shut and Dream Story is of another type. In glorifying the possible goodness and all-inclusive mystery of human sexuality, they simultaneously subsume it within the myth of the Wandering Jew or Flying Dutchman. As in Wagner’s Romantic opera, the searching, and to that degree heroic though basically evil, male travels through the world in the hope of finding a beautiful woman who will release him from his miserable condition by dying because of love for him. When the protagonist finds her, the two die together in a Liebestod, a mingling of love and death, that establishes the linchpin of a mythological merging between them. As a variation of this theme, Verdi’s Rigoletto introduces a motif that derives from the perspective of Christian saintliness. In the purity of her love, Gilda gives her life to save the lascivious man who has betrayed and even raped her. This is only a partial Liebestod: the female’s love leads to her death but the beneficiary of it, the duke, never merges with her. He stays on earth and continues to follow his wicked ways.

Though the religious message of these versions is secularized by Kubrick as well as Schnitzler, its idealistic components remain as a determining motif that propels the perilous adventures of Fridolin / Bill Harford within his bourgeois and contemporary milieu. In both Schnitzler’s novel and Kubrick’s film, the male protagonist fails in his attempt to learn the identity of the beauty who has offered to sacrifice herself. His quest is fruitless, even in the mortuary to which he travels like Orpheus seeking Eurydice among the dead in Hades. In the Kubrick movie, the plot is tidied up with the invention of the character Ziegler. At the beginning he procures Bill’s medical help with an unclothed woman who has overdosed on drugs and passed out in his mansion. At the end Ziegler tells Bill that the woman he has been looking for is the same person, a suicidal hooker who didn’t die for him as he had come to think but rather because she could no longer live with her drug habit.

That deflationary explanation eliminates the transcendental underpinning of both the Wagnerian and the Verdian myths, and in Kubrick as in Schnitzler the husband goes back to his wife with a feeling that their marital relationship has been strengthened by the bizarre but cathartic experiences they have endured. He has been unmasked as one who tries to alleviate his middle- age frustration through sexual wandering, incomplete as it may be. Finding on his side of the bed the mask he had worn that night but lost, he bursts into tears and makes a confession to his wife that is parallel to her earlier depiction of her erotic dream. This reunites them and thereby completes the mission of the mythology. Whether the hero is Odysseus or Dave Bowman or Bill Harford, the history of his voyaging ends in revealing home truths about himself and his masculinity within a trajectory that returns him to the wife, the family, the country, or the planet to which he rightly belongs.25 At our present level of development, film—by itself and through its interaction with other art forms—serves as the most advanced mode of making and perpetuating myths of that sort.


1. Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey (New York: New American Library, 1999), viii.
2. Kubrick interview in
The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, ed. Jerome Agel (New York: Signet, 1970), 328.
3. Eric Nordern, “
Playboy Interview: Stanley Kubrick,” in Stanley Kubrick Interviews, ed. Gene D. Phillips (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001), 49.
4. Nordern, “
Playboy Interview: Stanley Kubrick,” 49.
5. Nordern, “
Playboy Interview: Stanley Kubrick,” 49.
6. Nordern, “
Playboy Interview: Stanley Kubrick,” 51.
7. In John Simon, Ingmar Bergman Directs (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), 22.
8. Paquito del Bosco,
Federico Fellini’s Autobiography, documentary in La Strada, DVD, directed by Federico Fellini (1954; Criterion Collection, 2003).
9. Del Bosco,
Federico Fellini’s Autobiography, documentary in La Strada.
10. “Federico Fellini,” in
Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute, ed. George Stevens Jr. (New York: Knopf, 2006), 632.
Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age, 638.
Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age, 635.
13. Tim Dirks, “
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968),”, 4.
14. Nordern, “
Playboy Interview: Stanley Kubrick,” 50.
15. Nordern, “
Playboy Interview: Stanley Kubrick,” 49. His italics.
16. Tim Dirks, “
Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964),”, 2–3.
Eyes Wide Shut, A Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael, and the Classic Novel that Inspired the Film, Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler (New York: Warner Books, 1999), 234.
Eyes Wide Shut, 235–236.
Eyes Wide Shut, 271.
Eyes Wide Shut, 271.
Eyes Wide Shut, 245.
22. On the mythological dimensions of Beethoven’s
Fidelio, see my book Mozart and Beethoven: The Concept of Love in Their Operas (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 118–152 and passim.
Eyes Wide Shut, 281.
Eyes Wide Shut, 164–165.
25. For further discussion, see Karen D. Hoffman, “Where the Rainbow Ends:
Eyes Wide Shut,” in The Philosophy of Stanley Kubrick, ed. Jerold J. Abrams (Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 2007), 59–83. In the same volume, see also Jerold J. Abrams, “Nietzsche’s Overman as Posthuman Star Child in 2001: A Space Odyssey,” 247–265. See also James Naremore, On Kubrick (London: The British Film Institute, 2007), 222–242.

Irving Singer, Cinematic Mythmaking. Philosophy in Film, The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusett


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