Fear and Desire opens with an off-screen narrator (actor David Allen) who tells the audience: “There is a war in this forest. Not a war that has been fought, nor one that will be, but any war. And the enemies who struggle here do not exist unless we call them into being. This forest then, and all that happens now is outside history. Only the unchanging shapes of fear and doubt and death are from our world. These soldiers that you see keep our language and our time, but have no other country but the mind.”
The story is set during a war between two unidentified countries. An airplane carrying four soldiers from one country has crashed six miles behind enemy lines. The soldiers come upon a river and build a raft, hoping they can use the waterway to reach their battalion. As they are building their raft, they are approached by a young peasant girl who does not speak their language. The soldiers apprehend the girl and bind her to a tree with their belts. One of the soldiers is mentally disturbed. He is left behind to guard the girl but when she escapes he fatally shoots her while shouting about William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A second soldier persuades the commander to take the raft for a solo voyage in connection with a plan to kill an enemy general at a nearby base. The remaining two soldiers successfully infiltrate the base. They locate and kill the general and one of his aides – only to discover the dead men looked exactly like them. —Wikipedia
Stanley Kubrick was born in New York, and was considered intelligent despite poor grades at school. Hoping that a change of scenery would produce better academic performance, Kubrick’s father Jack (a physician) sent him in 1940 to Pasadena, California, to stay with his uncle Martin Perveler. Returning to the Bronx in 1941 for his last year of grammar school, there seemed to be little change in his attitude or his results. Hoping to find something to interest his son, Jack introduced Stanley to chess, with the desired result. Kubrick took to the game passionately, and quickly became a skilled player. Chess would become an important device for Kubrick in later years, often as a tool for dealing with recalcitrant actors, but also as an artistic motif in his films.
Jack Kubrick’s decision to give his son a camera for his thirteenth birthday would be an even wiser move: Kubrick became an avid photographer, and would often make trips around New York taking photographs which he would… read more
To quote the cinema titan himself, FEAR AND DESIRE is indeed "a bumbling amateur film exercise". Still, it is a fascinating enough debut with fleeting glimpses of the director's future genius.
Stanley Kubrick's first feature film, about a group of soldiers who crash behind enemy lines, and after stumbling upon an enemy base, hatch a plot to assassinate the enemy general. A bit stiff, with a few awkward performances, but Kubrick's early interest in psychological deterioration and descents into madness is on full display. Great use of light and shadow as well as Soviet style editing.
Along with Kubrick’s Fear and Desire, four other films see their first New Directions/New Films screenings on Wednesday and Thursday.