The dramatic music from the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey plays as the drill sergeant paces past the recruits in Full Metal Jacket, and young Danny Torrance flees from his dad in a snowy maze. Played across layered screens, it’s the perfect dramatic entrance to Design Museum’s exhibition on filmmaker extraordinaire Stanley Kubrick.
While this exhibition has sections dedicated to many of his films, it’s really all about Kubrick himself and how he went about creating cinematic genius. Ask aspiring directors and nearly all would cite Kubrick as an inspiration, and with good reason — he was obsessed with filmmaking to the point where he simply wouldn’t shoot it unless he could realise it the way he wanted a scene to play out.
I am never concerned with how much difficulty there was to shoot something, how much it cost… [but] When you’re editing you want to get rid of everything that isn’t essential
It’s this obsessive drive for perfection that ensures his legacy is so strong 20 years after his death. It’s this attention to his art that enabled him to make classics like Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut. Ok, scrap that last one — even geniuses make mistakes.
Very much in keeping with Kubrick’s obsessive style, this exhibition is packed full of material, including props, concept art, scripts and diagrams. It’s pure information overload and it would take at least four hours to absorb everything on display. Die-hard Kubrick fans and those in the film industry will adore this exhibition for leaving nothing out.
However, for your average Kubrick dabbler, it’s very cluttered and overwhelming. When you’ve never heard of the film Barry Lyndon, learning how it’s made isn’t all that exciting, and it’s tempting to skip right over it.
There are plenty of fantastic clips from the films to keep visitors entertained, including Jack Nicholson showing off his acting chops as he descends into madness at the Overlook Hotel, and the creepy voice of the supercomputer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey — ‘I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that’.
It’s clear Kubrick was a master of his art, but we leave feeling overwhelmed and not entirely sure whether we liked it or not, much like we felt after watching the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The show still had enough of an impact on us that we’re now off to watch his films again. After all ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’… just keep those creepy twins away from us.
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at Design Museum is on until 15 September 2019. Tickets are £16.