On the occasion of the Stanley Kubrick's exhibition at The Design Museum, London, my interview to the curator Mr Adrienne Groen.
(My interview to Mr Adrienne Groen, together with the review of the exhibition and an interview to Ms Georgina Orgill of the Stanley Kubrick's archive in London, is available in Italian language featured on Artribune as well as on the printed issue Grandi Mostre #16)
It must have been really hard to choose between Mr Kubrick’s massive archive. What kind of criteria did you use? And how did you collaborate with the SK Archive at UAL?
AG: This is the first time that the role of design within Kubrick’s films has been highlighted in an exhibition, which was key to developing the exhibition narrative. As the exhibition is in London, Kubrick’s home and ‘office’ for over 40 years, we have focussed the filmmaker himself, the relationship between his films and the city as well as Kubrick’s way of working – his research material and his process, from finding the story, to editing and filming. We’ve been very fortunate to have worked closely with Kubrick’s family, who have also played an important role in shaping this exhibition.
The exhibition displays only a fraction of Kubrick’s archive (it’s more than 800 meters long). During the first few months, I visited the archive (UAL) regularly, looking for hidden gems, film by film. Some of the material I have selected is very personal and/or reveals Kubrick’s unique approach to filmmaking. In addition, we have tracked down some never-seen-before items from designers and artists that Kubrick collaborated with.
How did you deal with the major themes of Love/Eros, War/Violence, Madness presented in Mr Kubrick’s films?
AG: While the exhibition guides the visitor from film to film, instead of following a chronological approach we decided to re-arrange the order of the films. This has created interesting overlapping narratives, for example with the censorship and controversy surrounding Lolita and A Clockwork Orange or Kubrick’s treatment of war and violence in Spartacus, Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket.
Long before Wes Anderson, on several films such as Full Metal Jacket, The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick put the character in the middle of the scenes exactly at the vanishing point, surrounded by symmetrical shots. Did you choose to reflect the Kubrick’s perspective, while working on the exhibition’s scenography?
AG: Kubrick’s one-point perspective is one of his most iconic film techniques and it was important for us to give it a prominent place within the exhibition. We have worked very closely with the exhibition’s designers, Pentagram, on a beautiful entrance installation that everyone should come and see!
Kubrick’s editing, and “match-cut” technique; the steadicam, the front-projection and slit-can. A meticulous obsession for details, and the fearless ambition to push the boundaries of everything that had been invented before. Mr Kubrick’s photography, and pioneering use of Zeiss Planar lens, originally designed for the NASA, to shoot Barry Lyndon, as well as other ground breaking implementation of zoom, and photographic technologies. And again, his selection of the music in the movies, of which he said: "A film should be more music than a novel. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what lies behind the emotions, the meaning; all this comes later ". How are these subjects addressed within the exhibition?
AG: A great selection of subjects and I can tell you that, in fact, all are addressed in the exhibition, either in the context of process and development, in relationship to the final picture or from the point of view of the designers and engineers Kubrick collaborated with. One of my favourite items in the exhibition is actually the NASA lens (developed by Zeiss) which allowed Kubrick to film by candlelight. We have also invited designer Moritz Waldemeyer to create an installation that comprises of 100 digital candles inspired by Kubrick and Barry Lyndon.
Stanley Kubrick is considered the most important film director of our time. What is the legacy of his aesthetic values nowadays? AG: Kubrick continues to inspire filmmakers and designers today. What I love most about Kubrick films is that each of his films explore a different genre, yet, at the same time, redefine said genre. With 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick changed the science fiction film genre, paving the way for others such Star Wars or Blade Runner. Today, 51 years after its premiere, it still continues to amaze its viewers. His vision of the future was spot on – the Newspad (designed by Eliot Noyes, IBM, and Harry Lange) is a spitting image of today’s iPad; the Bell Picture Phone that Heywood Floyd uses to video call his daughter (she was, in fact, Kubrick’s daughter), is a clear forerunner of Facetime and Skype. He was a filmmaker who collaborated closely with designers and used the latest technology to build screen worlds in obsessive detail. He researched every detail in search of authenticity, always looking for something to be ‘just right’. His approach to filmmaking was unique and that makes his films still relevant and exciting today.