Kubrick and the Nuclear Apocalypse

As I research next week’s column on and the potential for future accidental annihilation, I am reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s take on how Dr. Strangelove came to be a comedy.

As I tried to build the detail for a scene I found myself tossing away what seemed to me to be very truthful insights because I was afraid the audience would laugh. After a few weeks of this I realized that these incongruous bits of reality were closer to the truth than anything else I was able to imagine. After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two mega-powers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today?

Longtime readers are probably aware that Stanley Kubrick stands alongside David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch (a bit of an interesting mix, I know) as one of my favorite directors of all time. I have always enjoyed Dr. Strangelove , but substantially preferred films such as The Shining , A Clockwork Orange , 2001: A Space Odyssey , and, one of my without-a-doubt hands-down favorite films of all time, Eyes Wide Shut . Now that I am a bit more aware of the history of the United States’s nuclear programs, though, I feel compelled to recognize that Dr. Strangelove is more prescient than probably even Kubrick himself was aware at the time that he made it. I hope to have a chance to revisit it in full soon. I know I recommend this book tirelessly, but pairing Dr. Strangelove with Tim Weiner’s Blank Check would be potent indeed.

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