There is an abundance of visual essays online pertaining to the films of both Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg. So perhaps it’s fitting that there’s one devoted to “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” the film Kubrick developed for twenty years before handing the project off to Spielberg, who wrote and directed it after Kubrick’s death. When “A.I.” finally came out in 2001, naturally many wrestled with whether or not Spielberg did Kubrick’s project justice. What portions of the film seemed tied to Kubrick? Which originated with Spielberg?
Benjamin Sampson’s video essay on the movie is meant to be a visual study, but goes significantly beyond simple comparison between the two filmmakers. Instead, Sampson is more interested in the ways in which their sensibilities complemented and bounced off each other. He argues that these dual sensibilities are key towards a better understanding of the themes of the movie. Sampson posits that the movie constantly employs motifs such as superimposed faces, character doubles, repetition between Mechas and humans and circular framing. These visual motifs come from a healthy combination of the visual style Spielberg employs along with the themes and circular narratives developed by Kubrick.
It’s a fascinating, visually involving video essay. Sampson does more than take random clips of the movie and splices them together —he uses a number of different editing tools to help keep this 16-minute video fresh. Check it out below.