Stanley Kubrick is frequently cited as one of the greatest filmmakers in cinematic history.
His films are noted for their realism, dark humor, unique cinematography, extensive set designs, and evocative use of music.
A dislike of the Hollywood industry prompted Kubrick to move to the United Kingdom in 1961, where he did his writing, research, editing, and management of production details.
This allowed him to have almost complete artistic control over his films.
Next up is a portrait of THE INDEX favourite Kubrick movies.
Paths of Glory is a 1957 American anti-war film co-written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb.
Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refuse to continue a suicidal attack, after which Dax attempts to defend them against charges of cowardice in a court-martial.
General Georges Broulard, a member of the French General Staff, asks his subordinate, the ambitious General Mireau, to take a well-defended German position called the “Anthill”.
Mireau initially refuses, citing the impossibility of success, but when Broulard mentions a potential promotion, Mireau quickly convinces himself the attack will succeed.
The attack on the Anthill is a failure. Dax leads the first wave of soldiers over the top into no man’s land under heavy fire.
None of the men reach the German trenches, and B Company refuses to leave their own trench after seeing the first wave sustain heavy casualties.
Mireau, enraged, orders his artillery to open fire on them to force them onto the battlefield. The artillery commander refuses to fire without written confirmation of the order.
At a meeting with Broulard and Dax, to deflect blame for the attack’s failure, Mireau decides to court martial the soldiers for cowardice.
Dax, who was a criminal defense lawyer in civilian life, volunteers to defend the men at their court-martial. The trial however, is a farce.
There is no formal written indictment, a court stenographer is not present, and the court refuses to admit evidence that would support acquittal.
In his closing statement, Dax denounces the proceedings:
“Gentlemen of the court, to find these men guilty would be a crime to haunt each of you till the day you die.”
Nonetheless, the three are sentenced to death.
After the execution, some of Dax’s soldiers are carousing at an inn. They become more subdued as they listen to a captive German girl sing a sentimental folk song.
Dax decides to leave without informing the men that they have been ordered to return to the front.
His face hardens as he returns to his quarters.
The film was nominated for and managed to gain several international awards and accolades as it garnered many positive reviews thus helping to establish Kubrick’s already growing reputation.
It won the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.
The film holds a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 61 reviews and an average rating of 9.00/10.
The site’s critical consensus reads: “Paths of Glory is a transcendentally humane war movie from Stanley Kubrick, with impressive, protracted battle sequences and a knock-out ending”.
On Metacritic, the film has a score of 90 out of 100 based on reviews from 18 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.