Exploring Characteristics of Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick as Auteurs


Both Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock are regarded as luminaries of modern cinema. They directed films whose pictures had a lasting impact on people’s perception. The creative work of the two directors has had a tremendous cultural and social influence on generations. Their work is admired by moviegoers, writers, and other directors.

The brilliance of Stanley Kubrick came to the fore when he was hired by an executive producer, Kirk Douglas to direct Spartacus. Initially, Kirk Douglas was hesitant about hiring a young director due to uncertainty about his editing skills. However, Kubrick proved his high proficiency through a display of his talent and creative vision, which made audiences flock to watch Psycho.


Most films directed by Hitchcock attract the attention of many people because of the skillful use of suspense. Due to this peculiarity, Hitchcock is commonly referred to as “The master of suspense,” while Kubrick is known to be an indisputable directing genius. Working together, the two have had a massive impact on the modern cinema. Although the collaboration of the two directors is understood to have a great influence on modern filmmaking, their contributions in the industry can be best examined by looking at their individual work. A special attention is given to the directors’ role in transforming motion picture history.

Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock’s Films

Richard states that there was a drastic change in the American Cinema after Hollywood studio system collapsed in the 1960s. The collapse impacted the American cinema as censorship laws got weakened. The cinema was filled with sex and violence as mainstream shows were based on these themes. The change was unhealthy for the society that valued morality and sanity. Directors have an obligation to ensure that their films do not have negative effects on the society. Being aware of the negative implications the emergence of excessive sexual and violence content in the cinema has, Stanley Kubrick came to the forefront to try and revolutionize the cinema industry by reintroducing the missing historical drama Spartacus. The initiative helped the young director to gain reputation and get an assurance of a bright future. On his side, Hitchcock took advantage of the changing public attitude towards cinema, which came about due to the massive sexual and violence content in cinema. The directors capitalized on shifting attitude towards cinema during the release of Psycho. The career of Hitchcock reached a desirable height in 1958 when Vertigo was released and after the success of North by Northwest in 1959.

Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock’s films are mainly focused on addressing issues revolving around the unpleasant side of life. In most cases, the works by Kubrick have a clear morose undertone. However, he experimented with different genres. Hitchcock’s pictures are characterized by vivid tension, suspense, and drama. His films had similar narratives and common elements, except for the film Under Capricorn. Due to the intense nature of the films, they were regarded as horror or thriller pictures. This also helps to explain the reason why Hitchcock was known as “The master of suspense”. His pictures left people thirsty to see the next unfolding scene with intensified anxiety.

Alfred Hitchcock

As opposed to many mainstream films that focused on the portrayal of violence and sex, Psycho gave a blatant depiction of the themes. The film is an example of Hitchcock’s attempt to fight infidelity, murder, and fraud in response to the changes observed in the cinema industry after the collapse of Hollywood studio system, which reduced the weight and practice of censorship. Many people refer to the film as to Hitchcock’s anti-romance picture due to its criticism of immoral sexuality. It is about a woman who is overwhelmed by the need to start a new life with her lover, hence ending up stealing 40,000 dollars from her boss. In the course of the story, the lady develops guilt over her act and decides to return the stolen money. Before the lady gets the chance, she is murdered at the hotel where she is staying.

The woman’s murder causes a series of events as investigations are convened to establish a killer and the reason behind her murder. In the process, Hitchcock succeeds in improving on the suspense that keeps his audience so attracted to the film. According to Rebello, Hitchcock used various camera skills to ensure that the film got a mainstream release. He had to find new ways of dealing with the censorship laws; hence he chose to have the entire movie shot in black and white. He clearly understood that, despite the selection of black and white colors for the shoot, controversies would obviously emerge over ‘shower scene’ based on perceptions that the scene was too grotesque. After foreseeing a possible resentment to the scene, Hitchcock used his skills in photography to ensure that the scene was portrayed in a manner that the audience would be unable to view the real flesh penetration. To achieve this objective, Hitchcock applied the use of a score that has the biggest recognition in cinematic history. Applying skillful camera work, Hitchcock shot the scene by himself. He used a camera chopping skill to have the audience imagine what had happened. It is a perfect example of how effective different camera techniques can be used to present controversial issues in a manner that is acceptable to the audience, hence eliminating conflicts.

There are perceptions that Hitchcock’s view of the society was very bleak as depicted by his work. It is because most of his works are focused on murders and perpetrators. He uses characters that are depicted to have little moral fiber like Marion Crane played by Janet Leigh. Almost all elements that were characteristic of a narrative were changed in Psycho. By challenging the norm in the mode of presenting narratives, Hitchcock violated viewers. As they started watching the film, they were influenced by their understanding of the traditional narrative style. The film denies them the ability to identify with the main character. Instead of associating themselves with Marion Crane, the audience is compelled to associate themselves with Norman Bates, the murderer. The manner in which Hitchcock presents the film shows the two extremities in the same society. The film shows that the presence of normalcy in the society does not necessarily indicate a lack of people with evil minds ready to perform the most horrifying acts.

Hitchcock also demonstrated his skills through his appropriate choice of the right time to have Psycho released. The film was released in 1960, at a time when teenagers, who are easily manipulated by advertisements, constituted the majority of cinemagoers. Hitchcock was convinced that he could attract an overwhelming audience by use of a properly calculated advertisement. Hitchcock was also aware of the growing demand for modern films. People were increasingly developing social attitudes towards cinema as it is evidenced by the ‘slasher’ film. They started viewing the film as a routine event that they could hardly miss. Audiences gathered having a perception that sexuality and violence were considered taboo. Orr states that the success that was achieved after the release of Psycho changed the perception of production companies as they started looking at several pictures in which violence, sexuality, besides other aspects, were hardly regarded as taboo subjects in cinema. From this understanding, it can be argued that a failure of Psycho would have different implications for the society as the pictures that portray sexuality and violence would have hardly been released to the market for viewership.

Before Psycho was released, Hitchcock was known as a master who created suspense without using horror. He effectively created suspense by showing nudity and violence as opposed to earlier films that hinted at their availability. In the process, Hitchcock changed the perception of what is acceptable in cinema. Currently, people use Psycho to determine which film should be regarded as a thriller and which should be considered as a horror. The photographic techniques that Hitchcock used in Psycho made Hitchcock the initiator of the shift towards liberation of film making. The new presentation of sexual experience and violence in film caused a change in the cinematic tradition by encouraging directors to make pictures that were formerly known to be explicit and unacceptable. Besides, Hollywood came to understand that the horror genre could attract a wider audience, hence generating more revenue. The narrative films lost their audiences as they were made to traverse successive visual and auditory thrills and shocks. In response to the pictures used in the films and the suspense created, the audience screamed and yelled, and those who could not withstand the magnitude of the terror opted to flee. Through his role in Psycho, Hitchcock successfully left a mark that will make him remembered in the field of cinema by many generations to come.

Stanley Kubrick

Apart from Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, a British filmmaker, also made history in 1960s and attracted great attention in Hollywood. He is no less popular in the cinema industry due to the important contributions he made. He showed that he was determined to display a cinematic vision of the actual size of the Universe. He used remarkable and influential stylistic techniques and came out strongly to correct the excesses of the public life. Considering the large gap he maintained between each of his features, the characteristics can be used to identify Kubrick as an auteur. In the process of his work, Kubrick embraced creative and personal control. He is also known to have succeeded in creating and keeping an artistic integrity from the start to the end of his career.

Stanley Kubrick was initially a photo journalist. He came to the scene in 1957 after Kirk Douglas directed one motion picture called Paths of Glory. He took over the drama project Spartacus. Kubrick’s talent started manifesting at the time when he worked with Douglas as he demonstrated possession of a clear vision for picture and was determined to make Spartacus the most realistic epic ever released. The epic was interesting due to the manner in which the aspect of war was depicted. Kubrick greatly contributed to the creation of the film as he showed much attention to detail and ensured that the visual aspects of the film were effective in complimenting the other elements to make a unitary whole. In some cases, the filmmaker would use his skills in photography to make some characters portrayed seem to have physical deformities as a reflection of those who got wounded during the war. He was aware that his audiences were focused on detailed presentation of a realistic film. As such, he went to the extent of casting an actor with part of his head missing so as to make the actor suitable to play the role of a wounded soldier. Kubrick’s battle was more close to reality as he went to the extent of using animal intestines in his portrayal of those who were wounded during the war. By use of skillful photography, Kubrick was able to make his viewers visualize the events that occurred during the war and see its implications. It was realized through an accurate choice of characters and a perfect shot selection.

The direction that Kubrick showed in Spartacus was effective as it suited the acting style of the most distinguished actors with whom he worked. He worked alongside Peter Ustinov, Sir Lawrence Olivier, and Charles Laughton among others. At the production stage of the film, Kubrick tested the effectiveness of using music in setting the scene for the actors. The skill had been applied in setting the scene for actors in silent films, hence making it viable for use in Spartacus.

In his role as a filmmaker, Kubrick focused on ensuring that he perfectly captured every shot. He took his time to take over twenty shots from which he would select the best to be used in the film production. In some instances, the tendency of taking several shots was unpleasant for those with whom Kubrick worked. Some felt that he took too much time taking a series of shots, hence making the production process very slow. However, Kubrick was dedicated to the art of photography, taking the best shots to be used to the point when his creativity became wild. Together with his colleagues, Kubrick moved to Spain to shoot a battle scene.

The misunderstanding over the number of shots he was taking is noted by Falsetto, who states that Kubrick had several conflicts with Douglas due to his concern over the need to ensure a realistic representation of the battles. To him, it was essential to have a set piece showdown of the battle field that would make the audience convinced that the film is an actual representation of the battle. Without that, Kubrick believed that the audience would perceive the film to be far from realistic; they would feel that they were cheated; hence, they would withdraw their interest in the film. Working together with Calder Willingham, Kubrick incorporated a climatic confrontation, including the visual style by which he had been overwhelmed. He displayed an admirable skill in the way he shot the battlefield that was full of corpses. He illustrated how Crassus and Julius Caesar walked among those who were fallen in search for Spartacus.

Stewart states that Kubrick had only thirteen films produced through his 46 years career. However, as already noted, the films attracted much attention of Kubrick’s audiences. As time went by during his career, the gap between Kubrick’s films increased. It is because he gained much interest in finer details of the film production process, hence strived to have his subsequent films produced in a better way than the preceding one. Kubrick is known for his dedication to oversee all aspects of his film production to ensure that everything is in the correct order. Due to his passion for perfect films, Kubrick created his production company that was known as Kubrick-Harris Pictures. He took this initiative to control his financing to facilitate distribution of his films. Together with Douglas Trumbull, Kubrick is acknowledged to have created the special effects in 2001. He also obtained camera lenses from NASA to shoot Barry Lyndon’s low-light scenes. As opposed to most directors, Kubrick was concerned with the technical and economical aspects of his film production.

Summary and Conclusion

The role of Kubrick was appreciated after the production of Spartacus was completed. Spartacus was released for public viewing in 1960, achieving a resounding success. Kubrick was credited for the success of the film as he helped to move it from a status of a limping project to that of a complete, smooth, and confident epic. After Spartacus was released, people flocked to watch it. It made it one of the highest grossing films. After it was reproduced, the number of audiences it attracted made Kubrick to standout as a key figure highly recognized and acknowledged by Hollywood.

Based on the illustrations given above, it is clear that Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick displayed great skills in their films. They worked hard to ensure that distinctive visual styles were incorporated in the films. It is because the filmmakers were concerned about detail and the need to produce films that were as close as possible to the realistic representation of the situations depicted. The films by Hitchcock and Kubrick have far reaching implications, and they are highly valued even by the current generation. The films also set the pace for other directors to follow as they strive to attain the same heights of excellence. Hitchcock died more than 26 years ago, while Kubrick died at least ten years ago. Despite their death, the individual and collective legacies that they created are still strong and cherished by the present filmmakers and those who like watching perfectly produced films.

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