Having viewed in class five of Stanley Kubrick’s films and a documentary about him, a decent understanding of Kubrick’s process and vision is learnt; the two films Spartacus and Full Metal Jacket were the most inspirational and significan films of the bunch. Spartacus is about a rebellious (slave of the same name) purchased by Lentulus Batiatus, owner of a school for gladiators. For the entertainment of corrupt Roman senator Marcus Licinius Crassus, Batiatus’ gladiators fight to the death.
On the night before the event, the enslaved are “treated” with female companionship. Spartacus refuses to engage with Varinia, a slave from Brittania, and they form a sturdy relationship. When Spartacus later learns that Varinia has been sold to Crassus, along with the murders of his brothers (the slaves forced to fight), this ignites a burning desire inside him, a yearning to seek freedom. He leads fellow gladiators in revolt, and they flee out of Italy collecting money as they go, in order to buy sea transportation from the pirates of Cilicia.
They are united by additional runaways, which transform the rogue slaves into a colossal army; escaping to join his cause is Varinia, who has fallen in love with Spartacus, and Antoninus. Crassus bribes the pirates to abandon Spartacus and pushes them toward Rome, were panic that Spartacus means to attack the city, causes the Senate to give Crassus absolute power. In the battle, most of the slave army is killed by Crassus’ forces. Afterward, when the Romans try to locate Spartacus, every surviving man shields him by shouting “I’m Spartacus! Varinia and her new son are held prisoner by Crassus who forces Spartacus to fight Antoninus to the death, the survivor is to be crucified, along with all the other men captured after the battle. Spartacus wins the match and is crucified, this leaves Spartacus with the potential to become a martyr. Batiatus rescues Spartacus’ family from Crassus and carries them away to freedom. Varinia is able to comfort him in his dying moments by showing him his little son, who will grow up without ever having been a slave. The movie was created to depict the brutal and unforgiving Roman Empire and the hardships the average slave could endure every day.
It also shows anti slavery propaganda and the story not only of one’s man’s quest to revolt against his oppressors and to rise up from a state of disempowerment, but more importantly it is a story which offers hope and strength to mankind. The act of sacrifice is a dominant theme in the film and is essential to the idea of Spartacus’ character. Sacrifice is first seen before the revolt when the Draba, after defeating Spartacus in battle, refuses to kill Spartacus and instead sacrifices himself by attempting to attack Crassus. It this act inspires Spartacusand his actions for the rest of the film.
Spartacus also proclaims during the film that everything he has done will be a success if his son can be born free, regardless of whether Spartacus is killed or not. In the final act of sacrifice Spartacus is crucified, sharing similarities with Jesus and his sacrifice for all mankind. Associated with sacrifice is the fight for freedom. Sacrifice is knowing that there might be a point were things must be used for the greater good and dying is a possibility, while fighting for freedom is having the courage to stand up for beliefs, never backing down and starting the movement to end oppression.
This is shown when Spartacus is crucified, becoming a martyr and thus creating his legend. The path to freedom is the one goal that all the slaves had in common the thing that kept them united and strong. It gave them the strentgh to continue their journey and put everything on the line, with hope for the future as the backbone of their fighting spirit. This is put in the film to show the power that one man can create when uniting people under a common goal. In our society freedom is everything, without it we would all be the same, with no individuality or passion, not truly being alive.
This helps the audience relate to the slaves and form a connection with them as they too would be quite upset if they were in the same coditions. The film takes a strong look at political lobbying and the corruption of goverment. In our society many feel as if the goverment tries to control and limit their freedoms, while the poloticians are greedy and many don’t come through on the promises they make. They are seen as untrustworthy and unhelpful causeing many to try to take actions into their own hands. The film shows how people of political status abused their power and used any means to achieve their goals.
This is shown constantly throught out the film, one example is how Crassus and his rival Gracchus fight over control of the Roman army when the Roman Senate sees Spartacus and crew as a threat. Gracchus own protege, a young Julius Caesar goes over to Crassus, when Gracchus reveals that he has bribed the Cilicians to get Spartacus out of Italy and rid Rome of the slave army. Kubrick wanted to show modern people how Rome’s republic and upperclasses were much more cutthroat and savage than our own, but at the same time not that dissimilar to the average modern poloticians in today’s world.
Some people may view Spartacus and frown upon the savage slavery and brutality of the ancient world, but the fight for freedom from oppression and the common man rising to greatness through bravery is something that will forever be remember and celebrated by all cultures. The second film Full Metal Jacket begins by following a platoon of Marine Corps recruits, focusing on the relationship between Sergeant Hartman and Privates Pyle and Joker. The second chapter continues with Joker, and how he joined the Corps to become a killer, but is mostly behind the scenes, as a combat correspondent.
This is interupted when the Tet offensive puts him in real combat and tests him on his real worth as a soilder, and if he really is a killer. Full Metal Jacket demonstrates the psychological break down of the soilders, as seen with the transformation of the character Pvt. Pyle. He comes to the Marine Corps as a naive, harmless young man who is guided by the belief that he is serving his country. Due to his failings of performing the tasks presented to him, he is constantly verbally and physically insulted by the drill instructor, Sgt.
Hartman. Along with the torment from his drill instructor Pyle recieves additional abuse from his fellow recrits, beauase of the punishments they recieve due to his failures. In retaliation, the platoon hazes Pyle with a blanket party, restraining him to his bunk and beating him with bars of soap wrapped in towels. Joker, the Pvt. Squad leader, seeks to help Pyle, but as Pyle starts to become more productive, Joker recognizes signs of mental breakdown in Pyle, such as him talking to his M14 rifle.
The internal struggle in the mind, is a characteristic of every human being, one that all can relate to. Humans all contain that good verses evil, that little devil on the left shoulder and the angle on the right. Kubrick uses this to make the audience sympathetic towards Pyle, but also for them to really think about what the story is trying to show and how this also plays a role in their lives. Private Joker had on his helmet “Born to kill” but on his uniform he had a peace symbol.
This was an incredible symbolic representation of the film because it was exactly what Kubrick was trying to establish in the audiences minds; the change in ones mind during war and the struggle that continues to take place during war between good and evil were represented between the born to kill on his helmet and the peace symbol on his chest. Joker can be seen as another victim of war, due to his being inthe back, when he finally kills someone, he achieves the thousand-yard stare, a limp, unfocused gaze of a battle-weary soldier.
The film is successful in providing a perspective glance at the trials of a soldier. Like with most war movies, it relies heavely on powerful imagery; the film also adds the sense of “thereness” at boot camp, the sickening feeling from the sight of dead bodies, and the perspective from an enemy sniper. They force you to look at the world and don’t let you look away, or pretend, when things are gruesome, or violent, or terrible. Full Metal Jacket’ examines the morality of war and military existence.
This was significant because it showed one how much the United States Military officials had to change ones mind set and character to be able to fight and kill men, women and children who were just defending their country in a country that no one was used to and that some did not even know was there. The audience leaves the film with Kubrick’s selective snapshot of the Marine Corps and of Vietnam, hopefully with some sense of a soldier’s reaction to it all.