Fear and Desire (1953)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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Legendary director Stanley Kubrick made his feature debut with this allegorical drama about war. Four soldiers whose plane has crashed discover they're behind enemy lines in an unnamed country. Desperate to escape, they decide to build a raft and travel up the nearby river into allied country. However, their presence is discovered by a local woman who stumbles across them in the woods, and they learn that an enemy general is nearby, determined to flush them out. Stanley Kubrick served as producer, director, screenwriter, editor, and cinematographer on Fear and Desire, which he made on a budget of only $40,000. One of the soldiers was played by Paul Mazursky, who later went on to a distinguished directorial career of his own. Kubrick displayed little enthusiasm for his debut feature later in his career, and is said to have attempted to prevent it from being screened on several occasions. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Fear and Desire
Treat it like a wobbly, precocious demo from a 24-year-old with mighty aspirations, filled with hints of what he would become, and you'll be properly enthralled.
If Fear and Desire is uneven and sometimes reveals an experimental rather than a polished exterior, its over-all effect is entirely worthy of the sincere effort put into it.
A dismal expression of a lousy script... every bit the work of a young kid with lots of ideas and no clue what to do with them.
Kubrick does show some brash invention and a yearning to experiment with angles.
Audience Reviews for Fear and Desire
Kubrick's first (and little seen) feature is clunky and mishandled. It's fair to see that he loathed this film and did his best to keep it out of circulation forever; however, much like Killer's Kiss, one can really see the seeds of a budding phenom at work -- how he plays with chiaroscuro lighting, the unorthodox cutting between shots with different eye levels, and the instinctual way in which he always knows where to put the camera to inform not only the narrative, but his character's motivations, and by extension, their development. These early works signify a legendary director who perhaps hadn't quite figured it all out yet, but whose potential is through the roof.
Stanley Kubrick's first feature film is also his least seen, mainly because until Kubrick's death, the film had been locked away in the vaults at his request. This should give you some idea as to the film's quality. It's not that Fear and Desire is a bad movie, it's just that it's still very amateurish (Kubrick was only 24 when he made it). Obviously, expectations wouldn't normally be high for a low budget, fifties movie about soldiers trapped behind enemy lines, but "directed by Stanley Kubrick" changes the nature of things quite a bit. Four soldiers from an "undetermined" country attempt to return to base after their plane goes down while on a reconnaissance mission. The four are of disparate personalities: the leader is pragmatic, the private is scared and on the verge of cracking, and then there's the gung ho sarge, who wants to take down a general. The group attempts to build a raft out of logs, they also kidnap a girl who was washing clothes in the river. They also kill some enemy soldiers with their bayonets and take their guns and dinner. They do some other things too. The characters with the disparate personalities do things and then react according to their personalities. It's weird, but the entire film feels like an extra long version of "The Twilight Zone" or perhaps "The Outer Limits" (two shows that would come about ten years after this film). Kubrick directs the action with a photographer's eye, but sometimes the acting just doesn't cut it and brings things down to unintentionally comical levels of maudlinism. It's all pretty standard fifties B-movie stuff.
I saw this ten years ago and I remember not being impressed. You could easily tell it was Kubrick's first film, but his technique was poking out. I was glad I saw it but I wouldn't recommend killing yourself to get a copy.
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