Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dr Strangelove

Stanley Kubrick, 1964, 94m

A plane carrying nuclear bombs on a routine patrol near the Soviet borders suddenly receives foolproof instructions from their commander, General Jack Ripper to drop the nuclear warheads on specified targets, an action sure to trigger a war leading to the destruction of the planet. Back at the command headquarters, Group Captain Mandrake (the first of Peter Seller's triple role in this film), Ripper's second in command realizes the catastrophic situation but is unable to do stop without the insane General's help. The General is convinced of a Soviet plot to emasculate the American population by poisoning their "vital fluids" through the scheme of fluoridation of drinking water.

Meanwhile at the American war room panic prevails as President Muffley (Sellers again) debates with General Turgidson, who recommends pre-emptive destruction of the enemy before they have a chance to retaliate to the bombing by the straying American plane which is going to occur in a matter of thirty minutes.. Contact is established with the Soviet Premier to somehow defuse the crisis, but it seems a certain Soviet doomsday machine is likely to be automatically triggered engulfing the earth in a lethal radioactive cloud cover for the duration of a century. We are introduced to the third and final incarnation of Sellers in the role of the unforgettable Dr Strangelove, a handicapped former Nazi scientific genius. He proposes a solution in the form of a settlement of several thousand inhabitants, ten females to a male, to stay deep underground, till it is safe to come out. The film concludes as the turgid mushroom clouds from the detonation of the bombs.

The film is a dark comedy, which draws silent chuckles but little laughter. The fate of the world hangs on the flawed mental processes of demented leaders. General Ripper who initiates the conflagration is a psychopath. General Turgidson is a strategist for whom life has little value. The Soviets are happy to leap to death so long as the enemy is going too. The point is the deadly concentration of power in single individuals, fallible creatures subject to uncertain emotions, not to mention ego. The Soviet Premier is in the company of his wife when all this is happening and Turgidson also is thinking of his girlfriend, not to say his congenital dislike for the Soviets.

This spoof about nuclear war is nevertheless a well balanced evaluation of the risks we are living with.. In its sharply contrasted geometric black and white photography, it takes us into an eerie netherworld, where comedy serves to accentuate the bizarre reality we are living with.


Anonymous said...

It was my first Kubrick movie. And one of my favorites.

As a young boy, I could not believe what happened in the end. It was like slap in the face, but, as I watched it again and again(probably around 10 times), it has become darkly hilarious.

S M Rana said...

I saw it only the second time but would prefer to call it a chilling satire more than a comedy, because it closely resembles the current scenario, which many top guys are worrying about about.

Although highly caricaturized, the situation where some crazy (in all probability the guy will look as cool as a Harry Truman) is one which is a possibility which has to be considered and averted. "The Fog of War" was a movie which brought out this thing clearly from the Bay of Pigs experience.

And Strangelove, Seller's brilliant third impersonation, can be a cartoon for Oppenheimer and company, as an example of intellectual arrogance bereft of humanity.