As part of July’s KubrickFeast, we asked the FeastFam team of writers to have a long, hard think about Stanley Kubrick and then wax lyrical accordingly. The results were…interesting! Today, Anna Scaife takes on Full Metal Jacket
The first time I saw Full Metal Jacket (1987) I took it on face value. A war movie. A good one. A movie with the greatest drill sergeant character ever to be wound onto a reel.
Years later, on second viewing, the film grabbed me in a different way. Along with everybody else, I wanted to know; What was Kubrick really trying to say, what does it all mean? It bugged me, if the movie is about the duality of man —“The Jungian thing” — why does the director have Joker say it so explicitly.
Kubrick himself wasn’t keen to solve this conundrum for fans. In a reluctant interview for Rolling Stone in 1987, Kubrick responded to the question of what the film means by saying; “They want you to say, “This is the story of the duality of man and the duplicity of governments.” I hear people try to do it — give the five-line summary — but if a film has any substance or subtlety, whatever you say is never complete, it’s usually wrong,”
Perhaps Kubrick felt that the debate, not the answer, was the important thing.
Watching again, 30 years after its release, I am struck by how many of the lines are lodged in the popular vernacular. For better or worse, ‘love you long time’ is still a thing. I hadn’t even realised I had Kubrick to thank for knowing what a ‘reach around’ is.
So, I see what Kubrick did there. He made a movie that was shocking in its brutality and yet made us laugh. He dragged startling performances from his actors and gifted them lines we still quote. He delivered a narrative we didn’t expect; setting his characters adrift without the backstories that might have excused their behaviour. The result stuck with us, made us think about war, humanity, brainwashing and bullying; forcing conversations we didn’t know we needed to have.
What do you think Kubrick was trying to convey in Full Metal Jacket? Let us know in the comments below.