The symbolism of chess, a game that originated in India, bears a resemblance to that of military strategy. It represents a conflict between black and white pieces, between shadow and light, between the Titans and the Gods . . . What is at stake in the conflict is the supremacy of the world. . . . The conflict can be transposed onto the existential plane where the player's skill coincides with universal intelligence. There was nothing fortuitous about Kubrick's collaboration with another great lover of chess, Nabokov (whose Laughter in the Dark he also considered adapting), and Edmond Bernhard has analysed the themes of the novel LOLITA in terms of the game. (Ciment, p. 88) [Interviewer Ciment put the question to Kubrick directly] * * * * * CIMENT: You are a chess player and I wonder if chess-playing and its logic have parallels with what you are saying? KUBRICK: First of all, even the greatest International Grandmasters, however deeply they analyse a position, can seldom see to the end of the game. So their decision about each move is partly based on intuition. I was a pretty good chess-player but, of course, not in that class. Before I had anything better to do (making movies), I played in chess tournaments at the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs in New York, and for money in parks and elsewhere. Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing, and to think just as objectively when you're in trouble. When you're making a film you have to make most of your decisions on the run, and there is a tendency to always shoot from the hip. It takes more discipline than you might imagine to think, even for thirty seconds, in the noisy, confusing, high-pressure atmosphere of a film set, But a few seconds' thought can often prevent a serious mistake being made about something that looks good at first glance. With respect to films, chess is more useful preventing you from making mistakes than giving you ideas. Ideas come spontaneously and the discipline required to evaluate and put them to use tends to be the real work. (Ciment, p. 196)
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