Aneesh Chaganty

Movie #149 Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2011 at 8:44 AM

Movie #149 Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

(1964, UK/US, d. Stanley Kubrick)

It’s easy to overlook the importance of this film. But Stanley Kubrick’s political satire is anything but ordinary. Considered by many to be among the first political satires, this Cold War examination is a brilliant film that pokes fun at nearly every aspect of the American bureaucratic system as well as the rationale of high-level Americans. Like any Stanley Kubrick film, there are many avenues of analysis and deservedly so, for Mr. Kubrick often put an incomparable amount of intellectual thought and care into his films. On one level, Dr. Strangelove is a response to the apocalyptic fears of the ’50s. Infusing a more humorous tone (contrasted with the similar Sidney Lumet film Fail-Safe), Kubrick points out how ridiculous the whole situation is. Ridiculous and yet still disarmingly fragile. On another level it can be read as a commentary on the relationship between man and machine. As USC Professor Rick Jewell stated, “As machine become more like man, man becomes more like machine”. In fact, the opening titles can be visually compared to a sex act between a fueling jet and the “fuel-ee” jet. On a similar note, the film can be read as an analysis on the male’s relationship to sex. Considering the fact that every name here in the film is one sexual term after another, Kubrick is possibly offering up the theory for the real reason of war: sex. Sex is what drives the male characters in the film (there is only one female), regardless of whether they explicitly state so. After all, it is the reason the characters are able to reach some sort of resolution near the end. But all that aside, Dr. Strangelove is a very funny film. Peter Sellers – playing three different roles – is brilliant, especially as the mysterious, maniacal ex-Nazi Dr. Strangelove. One of the thoughts I had while watching it was how similar it was to Joel and Ethan Coen’s Burn After Reading, which featured similar themes, plot structure, and lack of any identifiable protagonist. In fact, one can consider it a sort of modern reprisal of the film. But that said, this Kubrick classic is a dense political satire, filled with allegory and humor – a rare feat in movie-making.

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