Is there anyone on the planet who hasn’t seen a Stanley Kubrick film? My Kubrick of choice, and one of my all-time favourite films, is the lesser-known Barry Lyndon, the tale of a rake’s progress where every scene is a delicious 18th century painting. To watch it is to step inside a William Hogarth, a Joshua Reynolds or a Thomas Gainsborough. Filmed entirely in natural light or by candlelight, and set to Handel’s masterpiece, Sarabande, Barry Lyndon is a feast for the eyes and the ears. And over at the Design Museum, I discover that one of the secrets to the beauty of the film is a three-wick candle, commissioned by Kubrick, and a nifty piece of kit: a NASA-manufactured lens used for the Apollo moon landings, perfect for capturing candlelight just as it would in a Hogarth painting. Another 700 objects explore all aspects of Stanley Kubrick’s incredible craft as a film maker, storyteller, editor, director and as an inventor in Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition.
Kubrick was American, but he was also a Londoner. He lived and worked here for 40 years, and most of his films were shot in or around the capital. He was a craftsman, and the last of the great analogue film directors. It becomes clear as you walk through the exhibition how prophetic he was with technology and with the game of politics. Kubrick was also a notorious control freak, involved in the nuts and bolts of every stage of the film-making process.
In a pre-Google, pre-CGI world, Kubrick would go to tremendous lengths to gather the nuggets of information he needed to create a masterpiece, and he worked with good old-fashioned film techniques using sketches, models, choreographers and designers to map out the details – down to the minutest detail.
Give yourself plenty of time to explore this exhibition. It’s massive, and it’s full of details you won’t want to miss. It’s as meticulous as the man himself and a real portrait of the artist.
This isn’t just any red carpet: it’s the retro-chic pile from hotel corridor in The Shining. The entrance to the exhibition has been decked out in Kubrick’s famous one-point perspective camera angle, a technique which has since been copied by Wes Anderson.
Herman Makkink’s Rocking Machine (left) from the rape scene in a Clockwork Orange, Alex’s costume and the Allen Jones-inspired Korova Milk Bar mannequin. The iconic sets in the film were designed by John Barry and the Milk Bar mannequins were produced by Liz Moore. The pair would work again on Star Wars when Moore designed C-3PO and the famous Stormtrooper helmets.
Yes, that’s the one: Jack Nicholson’s “all work and no play” letter from The Shining.
The Grady daughters in The Shining are thought to have been inspired by Diane Arbus’s iconic “Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J, 1967.”
The Mitchell BNC Camera was an industry standard from the 1940s to the 1970s, but Kubrick had the lens rebuilt for the filming of Barry Lyndon. The new highspeed lens was made by NASA for space photography, and Kubrick used it to re-create his famous candlelight scenes. No electric lighting was used in the film.
Barry Lyndon was a portrayal of life in 18th-century Europe and almost every scene is a translation from a well-known piece of art. Kubrick’s archive includes 120 boxes filled with references torn from art books featuring paintings by Joshua Reynolds, Johann Zoffany, Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth, Jean-Antoine Watteau and George Stubbs. “The designs for the clothes were all copies from drawings and paintings of the period.”
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is on at the Design Museum until 15 September.