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Stanley Kubrick's Longtime Producer Trashes 'Room 237' and Lists 'Eyes Wide Shut' As His Favorite Kubrick Film

Photo of Casey Cipriani By Casey Cipriani | Indiewire March 31, 2014 at 10:51AM

Jan Harlan sat down with Indiewire at the Bermuda International Film Festival to talk his favorite Kubrick film...and his not-so-favorite documentary.
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Tell me about the Kubrick exhibit you've put together. 

The exhibit is fantastic. The whole exhibition was created because of the film institute in Frankfurt. We were very resistant because why Germany? Kubrick really had nothing to do with Germany; it should have really been New York or London where such an exhibition should open because these were his two cities. But nobody came from New York and nobody came from London to this very day. So Frankfurt pushed very hard, and finally the federal government came and guaranteed certain funding because they thought that Kubrick - it was irrelevant that he was American or lived in England, he was a world artist like Picasso or Beethoven, it didn't matter. He was a really important artist of his generation. I'm sure it will come back to America. But it should really come to New York. But nobody wants it.

Is there a lot of the "Napoleon" work in it?

"Napoleon" is very much presented in that exhibition. And of course there's this book on "Napoleon" in the exhibit there's this Taschen book, I think it's the only book made about a film that has never been made!

How come it never came together?

That's a question for film studio executives to decide because they have to evaluate, quite rightly, the cost of doing it versus the potential audience, and I cannot judge this. Right now we are talking about maybe a television series; that would be the solution, no doubt.

Especially now since TV is so good.

Absolutely. Television is now the answer, there's no doubt about it. Finally it may come into it's own.

'The Shining'
'The Shining'

You have a very famous uncle. (Harlan's uncle was the infamous Veit Harlan, who directed the Nazi propaganda film "Jew Suss.")

Yeah he was, I don't know much about him, but he was very famous in Germany. He did some schlock films, some terrible movies. I can't tell you much about it I would have to Google it like you. 

But my parents were opera singers, both of them. I grew up with music, with classical music, that's my home territory. I like great composers; it was one of the first things that brought me together with Kubrick because I brought to him "Thus Spoke Zarathustra." I came for Christmas to England, and he said to me [of "2001" A Space Odyssey,"] "The music I don't really like yet. Do you have anything that is really great, and comes to an end, and is not too long?" So I brought a whole stack of LP's and one of them was "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" and he loved it instantly. He was already taken by the title. It suggests something which is spiritual. He liked that because his film actually was quite a spiritual film. "2001" takes a big bow to the unknown or the creator of the universe. Kubrick was not a religious guy at all, but he was very respectful to life and to the fact that we know nothing. And we are surrounded by miracles. He was an agnostic.

That was always a sideline of what I did later, I suggested music. I didn't choose it, I suggested it. He knows what he likes; he was very musical himself. He was very interested from jazz to contemporary to Ligeti, which he used three times. Ligeti in "The Shining" and Penderecki. "Dies Irae" by Berlioz is an interesting example because the beginning of the film looks like it's National Geographic but it's the music that tells you there's something wrong here.

You do a lot of teaching now; what is your biggest piece of advice that you give to students?

You've got to love it. You've got to love what you're doing because why should anybody else love it if you don't yourself? This goes for all of the elements. You've got to love your script; you have to really have passion for wanting to tell a story. It's a difficult task because you know many students just have to make a short film as part of their studies and it’s a big demand.. But on the other hand most of these films are also not interesting. So it's tough. I'm not saying it's easy. You have to love it and this is something I really love from Kubrick, he would not use music he didn't love. Now comes the question of what fits. Let's talk about music, what fits? Music fits if the director loves it. Does a Viennese waltz fit as space music for a futuristic film? Of course it doesn't. If you love it enough and that's what you want to do then it fits. This is artistic freedom, yeah? Art is not about being realistic. Art is about being real. Big difference.

The video of the panel, which addresses even more topics, is posted below, courtesy of BIFF and filmmaker Robert Zuill.


This article is related to: Jan Harlan, Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, Film Festival, Filmmaker Toolkit: Festivals, Festivals, Filmmaker Toolkit







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