Unlikely compatriots

Each of Stanley Kubrick’s last five films echoes films which were made by Miloš Forman. Here are the many commonalities between Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Stanley’s The Shining (1980):

1) Jack Nicholson and Scatman Crothers in the cast.

2) Scatman played Turkle in Forman’s film, whereas an actor named Joe Turkel played Lloyd in Stan’s film. It would’ve been quite hysterical if Lloyd was played by Christopher Lloyd, seeing as how Stan had enough calcium in his funny bone to cast Jack as a man named Jack.

3) Set in Oregon.

4) They relate madness to physical confinement.

5) The treatment of Native Americans as a subtext.

6) Both have the American Dream and the American ideal of individualism as a subtext.

7) Television figures prominently. In Forman’s film, there is a subliminal association between television and medical techniques. In Stan’s film, television is connected with telepathy.

8) Nicholson’s character has contempt for the leading female character which indirectly causes his death.

9) It has been commented by others that the opening drive scene in both films resemble each other.

10) Interestingly, the films end with opposite images – Chief Bromden’s escape to nature and Jack Torrance’s integration into high society.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The People Versus Larry Flynt (1996) have thematic similarities. They deal with decadent society and the social pressures to suspend civil liberties in the cause of moral improvement.

Barry Lyndon (1975) has Valmont (1989) as a distant relative. They are based on novels which take place in the 18th century. The widow in each film is the MacGuffin.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) is a kind of inversion of and sequel to Hair (1979). The latter by Miloš deals with America’s drop-outs of the sixties; whereas Stan’s film deals with those who “stayed with the program” and dropped in on Vietnam.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) has certain affinities with Amadeus (1984), even quoting Mozart’s Requiem. The former by Stan has a hidden connection to Vienna in that it was based on a novel which originally took place there. Maybe if Stan had only changed the time period then it would be not only more relevant and mysterious but sexier. Both films share the theme of coping with mediocrity and dreaming of something better.

Themes of Eros and Thanatos are prominent in both films, as is the motif of the mask and the secret society. The Don Giovanni (Don Juan) theme in Amadeus parallels to some extent Bill’s sexual odyssey. Although Bill is no Mozartean child prodigy, he is something of a man child. One senses that he rose through the ranks with extreme facility – thus with some detriment to his humanity (in the sense that he has skimmed the surface of life and left its depths unexplored).

The unlikeliness of this compatriotism is that while Miloš is an enthusiastic immigrant to America; Stan was a somewhat reluctant emigrant. Forman’s films seem intellectually softer i.e. the edges rounded off for easier consumption – more conventionally liberal, whereas Stan’s approach seems more anthropological than political. But Miloš is no intellectual slouch – the projects which he takes up are bold and he handles them intelligently. Like David Lean, he strikes me as being like Stan – similar in the frequency and magnitude of the films which he creates that always combine visual splendor with a didactic underpinning.

Final note: It’s a shame that Stan died, because Richard Linklater’s filming process for Boyhood would not have been as distinctive. If Stan was alive, he would’ve told people that Richard got the selling point from when Stan was working on Aryan Papers (an unrealized project). The selling point of the filming process was to shoot scenes over a series of years so as to convincingly portray the growth of a boy.


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