Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kubrick and Kelly In 'The Box'

By Lars Trodson 

The confluence of Richard Kelly, the creator of “Donnie Darko”, and Stanley Kubrick is a compelling one, but it doesn’t seem that the convoluted psycho-sci-fi thriller “The Box” was the right venue for the combination. 

The Kubrick flourishes that can be seen in “The Box” (from 2009) don’t seem terribly organic to the kind of story being told. Kubrick, of course, could tell any kind of story in any kind of style he wanted. That was his business. But if you’re going to copy a style as distinct and as famous as the one Kubrick formed in the films between “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Eyes Wide Shut” I think there had better be a pretty good reason for it. 

The only reason I can think of why Kelly conjured up Kubrick in "The Box" was because maybe, unfortunately, he didn’t have any visual ideas of his own. The Kubrick found in “The Box” seems to be both random and not, in the end, quite enough. Either go all in or let it go. In “The Box”, it’s somewhere in between. 

Still, it’s an interesting trip if you’re into this kind of cinematic puzzle. I found almost a dozen Kubrick cues in “The Box.” Maybe you can find more. Or maybe I’ve made connections that aren't there. Here’s the list:

    •    The cheerless Christmas atmosphere -- Found in “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999)

    •    Big, creepy mansions -- “Eyes Wide Shut” and “The Shining” (1980)

    •    Oval overhead sectional hanging light fixture -- Seen in “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)

    •    Snowy landscape -- “The Shining”

    •    The “Kubrick look.” (Head tilted down with eyes looking up and out, distantly.) -- Everything between “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Full Metal Jacket” (1987). I can't find it in "Eyes Wide Shut"

    •    Obligatory bathroom scene. Just about everything, it seems, including “Spartacus” (1960).

    •    Gaudy wallpaper. Reminiscent of what can be seen in P & M’s apartment in “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)

    •    Kid with a bowl haircut who is randomly victimized. “The Shining”

    •     Strange baroque room interiors -- “2001” and “Eyes Wide Shut”
    •    Glacially paced conversations -- “Lolita” (1962), “2001”, “Clockwork”, “Barry Lyndon” (1975), “The Shining”, “Full Metal Jacket”, “Eyes Wide Shut”

    •    Sideways tracking shots -- Everything from “Clockwork” through “Eyes Wide Shut”