Fear and Desire: Premiere Version

Stanley Kubrick · 1952
70min · 4K DCP
  • Sunday, Nov 19, 2023, 3:00pm
  • Monday, Nov 20, 2023, 7:00pm
  • Tuesday, Nov 21, 2023, 7:30pm

In this existential drama – which has the feeling of a waking dream rather than a conventional war film – four soldiers return to their senses after crash-landing in a forest behind enemy lines. Blindly navigating their way back to their unit, they attack an isolated cabin occupied by enemy soldiers, then apprehend a peasant woman (Virginia Leith) who is tormented by the deranged young soldier assigned to guard her (Paul Mazursky). On the verge of freedom, they discover an outpost of enemy officers, and must decide whether to slip silently past or stage a violent confrontation with their doppelgängers.

Upon the movie’s initial release, Kubrick was stung by negative audience reactions and immediately decided to tone down the philosophical aspects of the film. In a pattern repeated throughout his career, he pulled the film from release and made additional cuts, removing approximately nine minutes of material (about 12% of the film’s total length). These edits made FEAR AND DESIRE less of a metaphysical experience and more of a conventional war picture.

Recently, the Library of Congress came into possession of 35mm elements of the original 70 minute cut, which was the version shown at the Venice Film Festival on August 18, 1952, under the title Shape of Fear, and which has not been seen since its interrupted theatrical run in 1953. Now, seven decades later, audiences can finally see FEAR AND DESIRE as it was first released and witness the tentative blossoming of 23-year-old Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic genius.

“A revelation… strikingly photographed.” J. Hoberman, The New York Times