Stanley Kubrick’s feature debut. During an unnamed conflict, four soldiers crash-land in enemy territory and confront the horrors of war. According to the IMDb, Kubrick disowned the film, comparing it to “a child’s drawing on a fridge.” Fair enough, if said child possesses Kubrick’s potential.
The execution waffles between genius formal rigor and overwrought amateur antics. Consider the scene where the group ambushes a pair of enemy soldiers. The inspired editing offers no gore but conveys the assault’s brutal violence. Yet it plays too long. Ditto Paul Mazursky’s performance, which begins low key, conveying volumes in simple gazes but grows unbounded into caricature. Young Kubrick had yet to master when less is more.
Despite these flaws, Fear and Desire proves worth watching. Running just an hour and two minutes, it requires a small investment. And for those who aspire to greatness, seeing (perhaps) the greatest formal master’s early work may offer inspiration. Kubrick didn’t emerge fully formed, he needed practice and time.