Quick list of people that have continued to produce art, even after they’ve passed on: Elvis, Tupac, Jacko, Kurt Cobain, Bob Marely, Biggie, Heath Ledger. Each of these is famous for kicking the bucket and continuing to be productive, long after their passing. Well, now you can add one more illustrious name to that list… maybe.
Stanley Kubrick’s research documents for his unfinished film The Aryan Papers, were recently displayed at an exhibition. Artists Jane and Louise Wilson spent a great deal of time scouring Kubrick’s research for this film and put together a piece that not only builds on the late auteur’s efforts, but also the story of the main character, and the work of that character’s casted performer. As well, these documents were put on display at the Edinburgh Festival for attendees to see.
It is thought that in his research for The Aryan Papers – which is based on the novel Wartime by Louis Begley, about a woman who flees Nazi-occupied Poland with her nephew – Kubrick become despondent (thought there were other contributing factors) and as a result, abandoned the project. But not before he’d invested months and long hours researching in the obsessive, perfectionist fashion that made films like Spartacus, A Clockwork Orange, and Full Metal Jacket the seminal works they have become. Recently, the family of Kubrick expressed their interest in finishing this long-abandoned project.
The Aryan Papers spent almost twenty years in development, and finally entered pre-production in the early 90s, when Kubrick invested eight months of his life obsessively trying to get the film right. He wrote the screenplay, scouted possible locations in the Czech town of Brno, and even cast the Dutch actress, Johanna ter Steege as the lead character, Aunt Tania. The process went so far as to costume test the actress:
The film was set to be released in the early 90s, but with the release of Schindler’s List Kubrick felt that the public may not be prepared or able to handle another hard-hitting Holocaust movie, and pulled the plug. Kubrick’s brother-in-law and sometimes-producer, Jan Halran, said: “ I regret it never got made but it was a decision made by Kubrick and Warner Bros, probably very wisely.”
However, he feels that now seems to be the appropriate time for another Holocaust film, potentially with Ang Lee at the helm. But is this really the best idea? While there isn’t an overwhelming shadow of Oscar potential to contend with like there was with Schindler’s List, the past year and a half or so has already seen a slew of Holocaust films, including The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, Defiance, and Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Inglourious Basterds. However, a postmortem Kubrick piece hasn’t been seen since AI: Artificial Intelligence, which was co-captained by the director who originally sunk the project in the first place, Steven Speilberg. While AI was a Kubrick piece in spirit, it did NOT meet the expectations of so many of his fans.
And it turns out The Aryan Papers isn’t the only Kubrick piece in talks for reanimation. Rumors have circulated that Kubricks Lunatic at Large may be receiving some attention as well. So what do you think? Should Kubrick’s spirit be brought back, or should we leave cinematic history alone before mistakes are made and the memory of one of the art form’s greats is potentially tarnished?