When was the last time something melted your brain? Kubrick films, no matter how many times you watch them, always manage to warp your mind, but the real brain melters of Stanleyton are the Kubrick fans who have found evidence of a Stanley Kubrick shared universe. That’s right, people out there have posed some wild Kubrick theories. A lot of these theorists believe most, if not all, his films are related to each other. The basis for many of these theories come from self-referential Kubrick moments, though a few arose from painstaking hours of parsing the auteur’s films frame-by-frame to find the tiniest slivers of evidence of a Full Metal Clockwork Space Odyssey.
Whether you’re a cinephile who wants to see what the fuss is about or are intrigued by shared cinematic universe theories, these Kubrick film fan theories will turn you into a raving lunatic. Maybe. Probably. Seriously, they're kind of insane.
Regardless of whether or not these fan theories are true, it’s possible Kubrick was the last director working with a sizable budget who was able to control his productions to such a degree he could make visual and aural references to his previous work while creating an all-new subtext with which to view his films in such a complex way. Okay, maybe Tarantino. Certainly not JJ Abrams, who does seem to have a shared universe, but not in any meaningful way.
Kubrick's work eclipses that of any modern director. Even though passed away in 1999, after finishing Eyes Wide Shut, his body of work is why directors like poor Chris Nolan will never eat at the big boy table as long as they continues to try to court the mainstream, rather than forcing the sheeple to come to them. Keep reading for all the Stanley Kubrick fan theories you can handle, then go throw a tennis ball at a wall for a couple of hours.
It's possible Private Arnaud in Paths of Glory and Lloyd the bartender in The Shining are the same person. After all, they're both played by character actor Joe Turkel, and they share some eerily similar dialogue. In Paths of Glory, Private Arnaud says, "May I tell you something, Father? Back in my hometown there was a certain little cafe with a amusing sign over the bar. It read 'Do not be afraid to ask for credit, for our way of refusing is very polite.'" In The Shining, Lloyd tells Jack his "credit's fine."
Did you think you were going to make it through a list of theories about Stanley Kubrick without reading about a death cult? Are you a star baby who was born yesterday?
According to Jay Weidner, every film in Kubrick's oeuvre from Lolita to AI is "an exposé of a hidden elite obsessed with dark Saturnian sexual rites, paedophilia and the planned ritualistic transmutation of mankind." Which, duh.
AI, which Kubrick intended to direct before passing it on to Steven Spielberg, was originally about a group of pedophiles who manufactured 12-year-old boy sex bots. Spielberg made it about sad moms. And 2001 was Kubrick's attempt to expose "an occult agenda to launch us as a species into space where we will be able to embrace our destiny as future star children and join the greater cosmos."
Weidner leaves Barry Lyndon out of the equation, which is a shame because it looks so good and probably has a secret message about NASA or something hidden in one of the candlelit shots.
There are a few theories about the relationship between 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. The first is that they take place in the same quasi futuristic time period. Obviously, 2001 takes place in multiple time periods (and no time period at all), but one fan believes that, because of their equally strange-looking technology and decor, the films share some space-time overlap. It's entirely possible that, while Alex was having his mozg grazzied, Dr. Bowman was investigating the monolith. If this is true, it means Kubrick took the liberty of slotting Anthony Burgess's material (he wrote the novel A Clockwork Orange) into the timeline of his own work. You can read some interesting back-and-forth on this notion here.
Ultimately, the real shared universe of every Kubrick film is that of cinema - they aren't meant to be enjoyed as theater (although they can be), but viewed frame-by-frame as a master class for how to watch and understand cinema. The Shining is basically an editing workshop on how to create subtext in post production, and Barry Lyndon is really about how to read a movie visually through symbols and composition. By making films that relied on mood and silent visual cues, Kubrick was showing filmmakers how to do their job at the best of their abilities and audiences how to interpret a visual medium beyond assuming it's a filmed version of a novel or script.