Fear and Desire (1953)

Fear and Desire (1953)You could probably make an argument that Fear and Desire, Stanley Kubrick’s debut feature film (later described by the man himself as “amateurish”), is some kind of lost masterpiece. The argument would likely involve cherry-picking the film’s rudimentary anti-war themes and include a lot of stills. Unfortunately, when you actually watch the damn thing – which Kubrick infamously tried and failed to bury – you’ll see that the argument doesn’t hold a lot of water.

At a mere sixty minutes and now widely available on DVD, Fear and Desire is a thankfully painless option for Kubrick completionists, but it isn’t an especially good film. It does – as I hinted at above – include some really impressive shots, demonstrative of Kubrick’s nascent skill with composition and light, but it’s largely defined by an overuse of voiceover, wooden acting (with the exception of future Oscar nominee Paul Mazursky, who chews the scenery with glee), some atrocious editing and a muddled screenplay. There’s some attempt to convey the madness of war in there, but it mostly fails to evoke either fear or desire. I’d much prefer to see that hypothetical argument about the notion of the film as a masterpiece than, well, watch the film again.

2 stars

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