The movie " Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb» is a monument of his era. Its target audience remained in the '60s. The movie had a great mission — to prevent nuclear war at all costs, and it seems that the movie accomplished that. So today it is just a bright reminder of the disturbing times of the mid-20th century, when the mad mankind almost killed itself. Or is it not?
A really good war movie is a peacetime thing. Which, of course, is legitimate: such films are always about reflexion, but in war no one cares about it. But since we have come to living like this, we have to win somehow, and only after that to start to analyze what it actually was.
And, you know, that „then” will come one day: war cannot last forever. And then will the time come, the time for making a them-movie: Just let them get used to a peaceful life, so that the hatred for all wars in the world can be properly insisted on. And the masterpieces will go one after another — every talented filmmaker will consider it as a personal duty to warn the next generation: do something constructive, man. Value your life, stay out of this hell — it's very difficult to get back from there.
Of course, we appreciate such films immensely. Their whole performance, staging skills and all the people involved in the production — but above all is the rhetoric. Perhaps it really can save someone from a war nightmare. And you know what? It turns out that sometimes you don't have to wait for the war to end to make a masterpiece about it. And I don't care about the patterns.
How to find the right tools
In January 1964, the American director Stanley Kubrick presented one of the brightest anti-war films of all time — «Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to stop Worrying and and Love the Bomb”. To appreciate all the courage of this event, it is enough to remember that just over a year has passed since the end of the Caribbean crisis. The civilized world, which was almost riddled from inhuman tension in October-62, finally let itself exhale: an irreversible collision of superpowers has not occurred. Bye.
However, the Cold War still continued — as did the arms race. And despite some detente, the total fear of the nuclear apocalypse never went away — at least not on the other side of the Atlantic. Yes, in Kubrick’s place it was very difficult to choose the least appropriate time for the movie: it is, even by today's standards, too much to inflame the atmosphere in a country that has already suffered from alarming expectations.
But he's got it all figured out. The gloomy tone of the original source («Dr. Strangelove…» is based on Peter George's novel «Red Alert») Kubrick replaced with absurdity and frank satire. And in this vein, his tape no longer looks like a trolling of all humanity. Hell, it changes everything, because only a healthy laugh can cope with fear.
How to save the world
Just look at the tough guys, who keep the world in fear and decide the fate of all mankind! The Stanley Kubrick’s and Terry Southern’s script completely deprives the heroes of patriotism and other high feelings, leaving them only stupid uniforms and telling names. There is not a single real positive hero – in one way or another, even those who haven’t completely lost their minds yet are disgusting.
Such a character for the viewer is Captain Lionel Mandrake, who from the beginning suspects that something is wrong with his boss. His role in Kubrick's film is perhaps the most curious: the captain is the only one who really tries to stop the nuclear madness. Unfortunately, cowardice and indecision allow him to take up the case only after the danger to his own life has passed. Isn’t it a problem with priorities, or?
Well, we have nothing to complain about. The great Peter Sellers was cast as Mandrake. And not only for this role, but also for two others. Sellers also act as the US President and he got also the main role, Dr. Strangelove. And each of his characters is so strikingly different from the other two, that only towards the end of the uninitiated viewer can understand that it is the same actor.
It’s interesting, how Strangelove appears only in the middle of the story – this is it, the turning point. This character of Sellers is so odious and ridiculous that he overshadows all the other madmen. And now the viewer has no doubt: if it came to this, all this clearly will not end well. The fat is in the fire. From now on, Kubrick's plan is clearly to see. This is what awaits the planet if it trusts the military to keep the peace.
How to identify an enemy
In any war there are at least two opposing sides, so the viewer can't escape image of the enemy. However, «Dr. Strangelove…» shows the enemy quite unusually for its time. The USSR is not demonized here at all, and, except for the petty bumps like an unpleasant ambassador and drunken chairman of the Council of Ministers, on the whole, the Soviet Union looks much more humane than the United States. For example, the local defense has abandoned the arms race, releasing huge amounts of money that can now be spent for the benefit of the people. But even here it’s not without absurdity: instead of numerous nuclear missiles, the Soviet Union armed itself with one Doomsday device. It was a bomb, which will destroy the entire Earth.
This detail becomes crucial and perfectly shows Kubrick's attitude to the nuclear race of the Cold War. The doctrine of mutual destruction, which is supposed to protect both sides of the conflict, may not work. Instead, the human factor will decide everything. And the result could be fatal: it happened in «Dr. Strangelove…» — and who can guarantee that this will not happen in real?
So, the enemy in Stanley Kubrick's film is not the USSR at all. The enemy are the powers that be from both sides. The one, who somehow decided that peace can be achieved only by sabre-rattling.
How to learn to stop worrying and make a profit
«Dr Strangelove…» lasts just over an hour and a half and by current standards, it's a pretty modest timekeeping. However, Kubrick has enough time to deliver his message to even the most sensitive audience. It’s still satire, and it is not an easy tool; it is not irony that would have to be served more ornate. Satire is rude and get straight. And in the case of a Cold War movie, that was made during the Cold War, there is probably no other way to do it.
But what's left of us, half a century after the premiere? Is there anything we can do to benefit from today's realities? Well, Kubrick’s movie didn’t get a re-reading, thank God. It is still possible and necessary to show on his example how far everything could have gone then, in the 60s. How people were afraid of not waking up the next morning. How the whole planet just by miracle didn't disappear in nuclear dust overnight.
Many years have passed since then — and many wars. Real wars, with millions killed and maimed. Almost every one of them has been somehow reflected in cinematography – and generally these are good films out of time. Yes, many look much simpler than Kubrick films — but they show what happens if a normal person takes up a weapon. As long as there are wars, these films are aimed at everyone.
«Dr. Strangelove…» is a memorial to its era, its target audience remained in the '60s. Yeah, he had a great mission — to prevent nuclear war at all costs, and it looks like the movie accomplished that. And today it's just a bright and stylish reminder of the disturbing times of the middle of the last century.
Who should we play to keep it that way?