Stanley Kubrick is hailed as one of the best and most innovativefilm directors of the twentieth century. He was a filmmaker of ideas, and usedhis films as a medium in which to promote his ideas about topics to the rest ofthe world. After moving him and his family to England, Kubrick had fullcreative control over his filming process, including casting, light, sound,score, script, and production. Having this amount of control meant that hewould only make the films that he chose to, meaning that he would more thanlikely continue to return to the same beliefs and themes across many of hisfilms.
By consistently referencing the same ideas in several films, Kubrick waschallenging his audiences to find and dissect them, however he did not do thisby simply showing them. Rather he focused on motifs and symbolism to encodethese ideas into each film, repeating them as he continued to produce, making allhis films philosophical and entertaining concurrently. Interestingly, no matter the era, genre, or plotline of his films,Kubrick’s characters always end up in a bathroom.
Bathrooms are not only a practicalfacility but also a social construct that represent that duality of humansattempting to retain their civilisation whilst going to perform one of the mostanimalistic acts. Between the release of the 1960 epic Spartacus, and his final film EyesWide Shut in 1999, Kubrick had dedicated nearly 40 years of his life toshowing that regardless of the appearances people may wear in public, humanswill always be a flawed species, and never achieve perfection. As bathrooms arethe place in which the man-made pretence of civilisation is removed, and therefore,the primal instincts of humans rise to the surface, resulting in disastrousconsequences. Bathrooms have become ‘his creation of magnificent interiors thatbecome horrifying once we realise that they support what are essentiallykilling machines’ (McDougal, 2003).There are many signature themes and techniques that StanleyKubrick uses throughout his career, and his films are typically concerned withthe comedy, mayhem, fear, and chaos that is unleashed by the animals that existwithin in all humans. Each of Kubrick’s films can eventually be boiled down toarguing that despite the advancements that the human species has made, they arestill simply animals of dual personalities. The animalistic side essentiallyperverts the human counterpart, causing destruction, seen in the form ofKubrick’s characters, General Ripper (Sterling Hayden), HAL 9000 (DouglasRain), and the Ludovico technique.
In such films, Kubrick was always critiquingthe idea of a completely perfect system, and demonstrates to the audience thatno matter how pristine these systems may be, they will all ultimately fail andbreak down due to the weaknesses of humans. This leads to such a break downneeding a physical space, which for Kubrick, was the bathroom. Because,’Kubrick’s representations of toilets and bathrooms work to convey subtleinformation about human beings’. (White in Kolker, 2006), he thusly usedbathrooms to show his characters true motivations and natures, as the bathroomis the place on which where the human imposed pretence of civilisation isstripped away, and consequently, animalistic instincts rise to the surface.These locations function as a physical representation of the themes foundwithin each individual film, and the overarching themes present across all ofKubrick’s films. Humans tend to feel safe and secure in bathrooms, as ‘in manyhouseholds bathrooms are the only rooms in which the solitary person canproperly lock himself. And it may be only under these guaranteed conditionsthat some individuals will feel safe in manifesting certain situationallyimproper involvements’. (Goffman, 1963: 39).
Bathrooms can represent the emptyspace between civilisation and human nature, and serves to bridge such a gap.The bathroom is the place where humans go to reclaim their animalistic nature,however, bathrooms have also become the place that civilisations havesanitized, ritualised and formalised the most fundamental act of being human.Emphasised with the list of ten instructions found in the zero-gravity bathroomin 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Aside from his first few films, almost each Kubrick film featuresa bathroom, and they are usually coded as being villainous. The first we see ofthis connotation is during The Killing (1956),in which the bathroom operates as a weapon storage rooms, in addition to whereJohnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) is keeping the people hostage. Despite the entirefilm revolving around crime, the actual demonstrations of such acts take placein and around the bathroom. Kubrick’s obsession with using bathrooms as keylocations is seen to have begun with Spartacus(1960). This was the film that led to Kubrick withdrawing from Hollywoodfor good, and moving to and continuing his career in England, where he hadcomplete creative control over all his films.
Spartacus was the first film to contain several scenes taking placein bathrooms, and regarding the plotline, it is within a bathroom where themen’s treacherous nature is brought out into the open. In the primary bathroomscene of the film, the Roman general is shown to have the same animal-likeurges as the soldiers he commands.