It’s been 20 years since the death of one of the greatest and most revered movie makers of the last century: Stanley Kubrick throughout his career never failed to shock, push boundaries and bust taboos in every aspect of filmmaking.

Now an extensive and internationally acclaimed exhibition exploring his meticulous processes and ground-breaking outputs has finally hit the UK’s capital, which the auteur called home and where he worked from for 40 years, after touring cities worldwide.

Housed at the Design Museum in West London, this new exhibition allows visitors to step all-too-briefly into Kubrick’s creative world, following the painstaking levels of research and detail that went into the preparation of each of his movies, his revolutionary filming techniques, how he collaborated with artists and architects from Hardy Amies to Saul Bass, Eliot Noyes to Ken Adam, to create iconic aesthetics and sets, the bold and often counter-intuitive use he made of contemporary and classical music, his hands-on and ruthless approach to editing and the intensity with which he worked and directed his actors and crew.

Themed rooms immerse viewers in the genre-defining cinema-scapes Kubrick brought into existence through film extracts and stills, props and paraphernalia, paper clippings and correspondence. Watch Kirk Douglas’s impassioned speech defending his French soldiers as Colonel Dax in Paths of Glory, the thousands of extras marching in geometric formation in Spartacus and behind the scenes footage of Jack Nicholson warming up for his notorious axe-swinging scene in The Shining.

Read interviews with the young Sue Lyon who played Dolores in Lolita and the many iterations of the title of Dr Strangelove. See the mask worn by Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, the provocative furniture adorning the milk bar in A Clockwork Orange and the evolution of the droogs garb, a model of the £500,000 orbiting space station made for 2001: Space Odyssey, the real-life photos of shell-shocked Vietnam War soldiers that inspired scenes of Full Metal Jacket and the illustrious costumes and NASA-designed camera lens used to shoot in candlelight in Barry Lyndon.

Plus, the exhibition offers the opportunity to gain insight into the impact of the filmmaker’s most controversial projects through reading statements made by Christian groups, scathing reviews in newspapers and personal typed letters from cinema-goers, which demonstrate the exception some took to movies such as Lolita and A Clockwork Orange (which was banned from being screened in the UK until after the director’s death) and the fear many held of the effect on society of putting the subject matter he chose to explore – such as the insanity of war, complexities of sexuality, the brutal yet innately human impulse for violence – on screen.

Cinephile or no, Kubrick fan or no, this exhibition cannot fail to leave you in any doubt of the sheer genius, staggering dedication and astonishing legacy of this man and his supreme craft. Those who feel inspired to (re)watch his back catalogue through fresh eyes should get down to the BFI for their coinciding season of Kubrick films.


By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 26th April 2019.
Photo: Ed Reeve

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is at the Design Museum from 26th April until 15th September 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.