May 20, 2014

Let Stanley Kubrick Tell You Why Life is Worth Living

Maybe Stanley Kubrick isn't the first person you'd think of to answer an existential question like why life is worth living -- it's not like his body of work screams (or even really whispers) confidence in humankind. However, he did offer an incredible answer in a 1968 Playboy interview with Eric Nordern, one that has been reproduced in a remarkable comic by Zen Pencils' Gavin Aung Than that not only illustrates Kubrick's quote, but tells a story depicting the life of a young man being turned upside down by the legendary director's work. 

"However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."

Kubrick doesn't seem like he was a sunshine-and-rainbows kind of guy -- A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket -- they're not films you'd watch to be convinced that life and all the people in it are worth sticking around for. ("Whoa, V. Sounds dark!") Hold your horses! Kubrick did say that life is meaningless. ("You're not helping, V.") Okay, okay -- he did say life is meaningless, but he goes on to say that because of that, people must create their own meaning. ("Hmmm -- that's kind of nice.")

It is, especially for filmmakers, because his words, especially the quote in bold above, makes sense to us on two different, yet intertwined levels. Without being overly saccharine, in the same way that we cast light onto a scene in order to illuminate that which we find beautiful, meaningful, and valuable, so too must we cast light into our lives in order to find those same things. (Forget it, Hallmark. I'm already employed.)

In 1968, the director sat down with  Playboy's Eric Nordern for an interview, in which they talked about, among other things, his fear of flying. This turned into a long meditative discussion about mortality and life, purpose and meaning. Gavin Aung Than, illustrator of Zen Pencils, which adapts inspirational quotes into cartoons, created the comic as a fun, entertaining, and rather heart-felt way to share Kubrick's incredible insight into what it means to exist. Check it out below:

You can read Stanley Kubrick's original Playboy interview here at Brain Pickings.

What did you think about the comic? Do you think Kubrick's thoughts on life, death, and meaning are reflected in his films? How? Let us know in the comments below.

Links:

[via Filmmaker IQ]

Your Comment

32 Comments

This is beautiful. And great connection between the light we provide to our sets being the same light we need to find vision in this world.

May 20, 2014 at 7:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ken

This post was great. Thanks for sharing this story.

May 20, 2014 at 7:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Alessandro

Thanks V, I always enjoy your posts.

I randomly found a mashup montage video of Kubrick films on vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/38211613

From the video its interesting to note the similar themes and actor "beats" frequenting his films.

May 20, 2014 at 8:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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rather, actions based on "beats"

May 20, 2014 at 8:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Great post as always, V

May 20, 2014 at 8:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rishaar

I wish Kubrick had lived longer, at least long enough to see where we'd evolved to today with mass communication and the Internet.

I imagine the films he would have continued to make would have been exceedingly important to our time.

May 20, 2014 at 9:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Swissted

True that.

May 21, 2014 at 12:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

Could be, but I always thought that because of that same reason, he wouldn't been able to adapt to this modern and strange society. Once I said to myself that he'd be lost and would've gone crazy. Of course, there wasn't nor it will be someone like him, so he could've surprised me there.

May 22, 2014 at 11:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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M

Great comic. Seems a little bit autobiographical... I really enjoyed it!

May 21, 2014 at 1:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I believe especially Kubriks interpretation of the human spirit is reflected in his films; when he states that the meaninglessness of life is what incites people to create a meaning for it I think he uses the same approach to invoke the mystery and hype around many of his films, especially the shining and 2001, all the conspiracy theories, hidden messages... he has never given an answer to any of those and their meaninglessness may just be what makes them so mystic!

May 21, 2014 at 4:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Raul

this is so beautiful

May 21, 2014 at 10:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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jasmine coprada

Thank you for sharing this. Kubrick understood that to move people emotionally and wake them up to the depth, wonder and sheer magnitude of life you have to bring them to face to face with death, depravity, insanity, lust, desire and fear - the dark primal center of our consciousness which we are always trying to deny His films never feel exploitive or manipulative for manipulation's sake, unlike some of Lars Von Triers work amongst others. Kubrick's deep belief in humanity can be felt in all his films. This is a kick in ass to ask myself, am I diving deep enough? Have I gone far enough into the darkness where the light is really needed?

May 21, 2014 at 11:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matthew

Beautiful words and art

May 21, 2014 at 12:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Thank you, this came at a pretty good time :)

May 21, 2014 at 1:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Zach

This is just typical existentialism as with Sartre and Camus. It offers no real hope. The guy needed to read his Bible about the God of love. The universe is far from indifferent. The end of this life is not the end of our existence either.

May 21, 2014 at 1:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harold3H

But evidence does point to the universe being indifferent. However that indifference is harmonious in its own right. The universe works the way it does and is perfect in doing so. Your belief is exactly what Kubrick says when he says you extract your own meaning out of it. It's a defence mechanism I believe since to accomodate the idea that the universe is truly indifferent is terrifying . . . until you stop worrying about it and be creative. To have a care for friends, for family, for the human race is not diminished by the truth of the universe without meaning. Experiencing love is not dependant on adding anything extra either, such as a belief on the after life or in god. One can be as happy and as positive as one wants to be without these things.

May 21, 2014 at 6:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

Was waiting for this thread to crap out with a facile theological chestnut. Someone had to not get it. So thanks for playing the part. On the other hand, that kind of reassuring fiction is one way we've tried to provide that light, and one can sympathize with the need for it. Storytime for infants. Harmless...much of the time.

May 21, 2014 at 10:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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xjdj

Not if it maintains the prison.

May 22, 2014 at 12:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

*tips menorah*

May 22, 2014 at 2:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Natt

Ugh. This guy.

May 22, 2014 at 3:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CT

FYI, this is an absurdism, not existentialism.

July 2, 2014 at 11:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tim

Stanley was the frikken Man. If only would he made more films in his own lifetime for us to learn and enjoy.

May 22, 2014 at 2:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Natt

I love this. I went through this exact process from about 21 to 31 (now) and feel more liberated in my thirties than I ever could have before now. I can make films, appreciate the natural world, make music and know the people I want to know. Life is easier than you think when you accept that you are insignificant and just get on with it.

May 22, 2014 at 7:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Holy crap its like seeing my life on these panels. Very moving.

May 22, 2014 at 4:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Carl

Wow, the background commentary with the comic, this point suddenly hit home for me!

Really Great Post !

May 23, 2014 at 5:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Sheryl

I'm just speechless! More naked truth in here than in a lot of cults/ religions/ fairy tales. Bravo

May 27, 2014 at 3:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rex Hunt

too good............

May 29, 2014 at 12:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gaurish akki

Succinct, aware and compassionate. Could the cult of Kubrick spread and bring meaning to the masses?

June 10, 2014 at 5:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tim Flood

So many people trying to understand Kubrick shows that he truly was a philosopher other than a moviemaker. I think a better "translation" would have been: "Life is meaningless, but you still have to try finding a meaning" rather than saying "you have to create one". There are people who create a meaning and believe in God, and there are people who look for a meaning; Kubrick was one them, in fact he was Agnostic.

July 2, 2014 at 7:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Merland

Space Odyssey didnt have confidence in humankind? Poor writing. Good interview.

August 9, 2014 at 7:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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asdf

This is great, choked me up by the end

October 25, 2014 at 9:58AM

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Damn, I just finished watching 2001 like 5 mins ago...

October 25, 2014 at 4:18PM

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Rean Combrinck
Film Maker
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