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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Stanley Kubrick’s favourite book of all time

Undoubtedly, Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors in history. With such a distinct style, Kubrick’s tropes are infamous, from his love for symmetry to his meticulous attention to detail. But no one starts out that good; even Kubrick needed to learn his technique from somewhere, and one book stands out as incredibly impactful to the director.

Born and raised in New York, Kubrick started out as a photographer while teaching himself about film production and directing. It seems he always knew he wanted to make movies, beginning to make his own short films in the 1950s. Eventually, Hollywood called, and Kubrick made his first mainstream feature film, The Killing, in 1956.

Eventually, after getting a few pictures under his belt, Kubrick took total control. His dislike for Hollywood prompted him to move to the UK, where he wrote, researched, directed and managed his own movies. 

It was during this time that he became interested in increasingly weird or controversial movies like Lolita, Dr Strangelove and Clockwork Orange. Best known for his artistic take on scenes of incredible violence or horror, Kubrick’s twisted vision revolutionised the horror genre, especially after The Shining.

His perfectionism became infamous as he regularly demanded his actors do over 100 takes of scenes, gaining a reputation for being a nightmare to work with. Actors like Shelley Duvall have spoken openly about the trauma of working with the director.

But Kubrick was always determined to get the best, a trait he might have picked up from his most-loved book. According to Joe Turkel, a favourite actor of Kubrick’s, the director was obsessed with Vsevolod Pudovkin’s Film Technique And Film Acting.

“Stanley Kubrick became Stanley Kubrick because of this book”, Turkel says, “He found it enchanting.”

Considered to be one of the most valuable books on the practice and theory of filmmaking, Pudovkin was a soviet producer and director who pioneered the montage format. Writing two volumes on filmmaking, the books share all of the skills, advice and expertise he picked up.

The book impacted Kubrick greatly. “He went to college and took a film course,” Turkel continues, “But it didn’t work. He bought a lot of those how-to books that didn’t work. Pudovkin on film made Stanley Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick.”

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