A group of several soldiers behind enemy lines confront their inner demons in Fear and Desire.
In a fictional war between two unidentified countries, a plane crashes six miles into enemy territory and a group of four soldiers must survive. They try building a raft and happen upon a girl that does not speak their language. When one guard is tasked with watching the girl, he shoots her after she frees herself. Two other soldiers come across two enemy soldiers eating stew in a cabin and kill them, only to find they look exactly like their enemy counterparts.
I could sing the praises of Stanley Kubrick all day long, but Fear and Desire, his first feature, is fairly dismal as a film. Though Kubrick directed, edited, photographed, and produced the film, the entire affair has a strong sense of being a student film…In a bad way. There are shots that are there for no real reason and the plot is bogged down, even though the film is only around 75 minutes long. Kubrick fans may find some commonalities of a young master director, but for the most part Fear and Desire is almost like a weird Twilight Zone episode.
Perhaps the most notable thing about Fear and Desire is Kubrick’s intent to destroy all copies of the film after its release. Obviously he didn’t fully succeed, but the new print of the film (distributed by Kino in the US and Eureka in the UK) is clearly cobbled together from various prints of differing quality. Even though I picked up the blu-ray for Fear and Desire, the picture quality ranges from very good to poor, though overall I stopped noticing the differences in film quality. Also included on the disc is The Seafarers, a promotional short film for the Seafarers Union that Kubrick took on to fund his next project, Killer’s Kiss. Unlike Fear and Desire, I found no trademarks of Kubrick in The Seafarers and it’s merely a curiosity at this point.
Fear and Desire is a unique piece of film / Kubrick history but unfortunately, that is about all it is at this point. While Kubrick would go on to be one of the greatest directors of all time (at least, in my opinion), his craft was clearly refined over the years. Fear and Desire is still recommended viewing for the novelty of seeing a long lost film and also Kubrick’s first, but on its own it’s not worth much else.
I give it 3 young Stanley Kubricks out of 5.