The Killing by Stanley Kubrick

I recently moved to London and being the cinema fan that I am, I looked up the different cinema venues in the city of Shakespeare and found the Prince Charles Cinema, a jewel at the heart of London just off Leicester Square for any cinema enthusiast looking for something else than blockbusters.

On Tuesday, the Prince Charles Cinema was presenting The Killing, a 1956 film noir directed by Stanly Kubrick. telling the story of the heist of a racetrack vault by a group of ordinary men led by a a former inmate.

Kubrick is well-known for his many classics such as 2001: Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange and The Killing was his sixth movie.

For anyone living in the era of 3D movies and surround sound, a movie made more than half a century ago seems to be coming from a strange planet only seen through a telescope. We try to imagine what it feels like to be there but we can’t truly grasp it since we’re forever stuck in a different era with no recollection of the previous one.

For once however, I didn’t try to compare a movie from a previous era to today’s cinematography and instead I remembered the only movie made before 1956 that I could remember: Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith.

Griffith’s movie, taking place before, during and after the Civil War, was and still is controversial due to its glorification of the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and how African-Americans are portrayed.

But the Director was nonetheless deemed the ‘father’ of American cinema due his ability to make cinema an art and shed its reputation from being merely the bastard child of theatre.

Kubrick’s The Killing is no doubt debtor to Griffith’s transformation of cinema into an art as Kubrick uses high and low shots as well as close-ups shots and different scenes taking place simultaneous as the story unfolds, all novelties from Griffith 40 years earlier.

Of course Kubrich himself made cinema history, especially with his allegorical and aesthetically groundbreaking 2001: A Space Odyssey that made use of technology to a degree never seen before.

In conclusion, The Killing achieves something original in our own times, despite coming from the past: it doesn’t leave us with an aftertaste of having been force-fed a certain form of moral preaching as too many movies do nowadays (think pro-environmental Avatar) that, in the process, only succeed in commercializing the cause they supposedly defend.

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