Re: Fear and Desire (1953)

Oksana Dykyj (
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 11:51:09 -0700 (PDT)

At 09:12 AM 4/13/99 -0700, you wrote:
>Oxana, what are the "good reasons" that Fear and Desire should be out of

Perhaps I was not clear in my earlier post when I said that Kubrick forbade
public screenings of this film with good reason. I did not mean to imply
that I believe that the film should not be in circulation, only that it is
not a very good film. I cannot speculate why Kubrick made that decision,
whether it was due to a sense of wanting to erase the past or some other
inexplicable reason, I really don't know. However I don't want to debate
whether an artist has a (moral or legal) right to prevent his/her art from
being consumed. It is also not clear to me, the extent to which his wishes
were legally binding after death along with all the other matters his
estate is presently dealing with.

I saw Fear and Desire with a group of people and among them was a
well-known Kubrick scholar. The consensus after the screening was that no
one was close to being overwhelmed by any aspect of the film. (Actually I
think I was the most optimistic of the group) I think that everyone was
hoping to be surprised or at least to see the seeds of his later style. It
is not an awful film but it is far from being a relatively mature work:
It's all over the place stylistically and did not give the appearance of
being as carefully constructed as his later films, which made me think of
all the student films I've seen where decisions are made to try out a
number of aesthetic and narrative elements hoping that some will be
successful and/or meaningful and cancel out the mistakes.

I believe that serious Kubrick scholars should obviously travel to see the
film if they can arrange it, just like any serious D.W. Griffith scholars
should see all the extant Griffiths, but I do not think it would be a
worthwhile title to show an undergraduate class, even if it were available,
particularly when the rest of Kubrick's work is so rich. I have not seen
the 3 documentary shorts, so I cannot comment on them. However, starting
with Killer's Kiss and working up to Eyes Wide Shut, an instructor has 12
titles to work with which easily translates to a full semester of
screenings and lectures/presentations.

A pertinent addendum here: we had a Kubrick course scheduled to start in a
couple of weeks (these things are planned almost a year in advance), and
we've had tremendous problems with cancellations from distributors. Warners
has pulled their non-theatrical prints for the time being, which involves
Kubrick's last 4 released films: Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The
Shining, and Full Metal Jacket, probably in anticipation of their release
of Eyes Wide Shut this summer.


My favorite character in Fear and Desire was the Doberman. She was a
beautiful dog with soulful eyes (great reaction shots) but miscast as the
soldiers kept referring to her as a male. I guess they couldn't get a male
and thought no one would notice.
Oksana Dykyj voice: 514-848-3443
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