Kubrick's Napoleon 2010

  • Country UK
  • Production Year 2010
  • Duration 90 minutes

The Cambridge Film Festival invites you to explore Stanley Kubrick's greatest ever achievement never to reach the big screen. Through photos from pre-production, primarily sketches, and talks from people who knew Kubrick best, we sift the facts from fiction of the much-discussed aborted epic, Napoleon.

Even whilst working on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick's thoughts turned towards mounting the greatest historical film ever made. Describing Napoleon Bonaparte's life as "an epic poem of action", Kubrick's admiration for his idol knew few bounds.
Meticulous research for a large-scale biopic began in the mid-1960s when Kubrick despatched an assistant around the world to literally follow in Napoleon's footsteps. Casting considerations included David Hemmings and Audrey Hepburn, with Alec Guinness and Laurence Olivier as supporting characters.

Alas then that Kubrick's effort met its own Waterloo when the studios decreed that his dream was financially too risky, due to a clash with another Napoleon film, Waterloo, which was released in 1970. The dream lingered into the early 1980s when he still talked of wanting to make the film. Sadly Stanley Kubrick died in 1999 with his great work unrealised. Today Kubrick fans can console themselves that his vision may yet be realised in conjunction with talents of the calibre of Ridley Scott and Ang Lee.

For this live event Bill Lawrence will introduce the film producer and brother-in-law to Stanley Kubrick, Jan Harlan, and we hope to welcome filmmaker Andrew Birkin.

Screenings Book your ticket today

Arts Picturehouse

09:00 pm Monday 20th September 2010

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Will wrote

An educational and entertaining presentation giving an insight into the rather neurotically organised mind of a real film legend. Punctuated by fantastic commentary from a charismatic and ever so slightly eccentric Jan Harlan whose facts and anecdotes were tactfully corrected by an unbelievably well informed Alison Castle. Perhaps not the most fluid presentation of the images and video, but this is something I can easily forgive. This was my festival highlight so far.

Festival Daily wrote

KUBRICK'S NAPOLEON is the greatest film that never was. Listening to Jan Harlan tell the story of its aborted production it seems clear that we lost what could have been a classic.

Jan, Stanley Kubrick's brother-in-law, and producer for nearly thirty years, is an amusing speaker: bearded, waist-coated and with a distinct German accent he animatedly tells the history of the failed project with an enthusiastic and engaging manner. It’s hard not to share Jan's enthusiasm. Following the completion of his eighth feature length film, Kubrick turned his thoughts towards a new project. An epic production that would chart the life of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Kubrick's preparation for his new film was characteristically meticulous. Alison Castle, the second speaker at the evening's talk, and editor of two comprehensive books on the 'Kubrick archives', demonstrated with slides the breadth of the material Kubrick collected: boxes of notes; hundreds of books; thousands of slides; and a trunk full of script rewrites. His pursuit of making - in his own words, the 'greatest movie ever made' - was nothing short of exhaustive. Yet despite his previous successes, the funding was cut, and the film was never made.

It’s a standard Hollywood story, but it seems clear that the film Kubrick wanted to make had the potential to change cinema on just as fundamental level as any of his most genre-breaking films. The loss of such an intriguing piece of film makes an interesting tale in its own right, and was well worth attending.

Julian Harris

Mike, St Ives wrote

Kubrick's "Napoleon" event v interesting; level of SK's obsession re project was astonishing; what a film it might have been!!!

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