The Cinematography in Dr. Strangelove

The first noteworthy takeaway I had after watching Dr. Strangelove was the phenomenal cinematography and mise-en-scène in the film. The choice to produce the film in black and white is an interesting one, and it adds a few elements to Kubrick’s work. Given the subject matter, moments of narration, and overall style of the film, the black and white shooting is reminiscent of an old newsreel. Additionally, the black and white contributes to the film from an aesthetic point of view. This style of filmmaking allowed Kubrick to creatively use shadows, and create a film noir tone for the viewers, particularly during the shots of General Ripper and others smoking cigars. The low angle close ups on General Ripper while he is smoking (which occurred several times during the film) parallels with his power position throughout the film.  The subtlety of Kubrick’s mise-en-scène can be seen during many moments of the film, most of which play on its satirical nature. For example, during the battle at the military base, there is a sign that reads, “Peace is our Profession.” On a similar note, the bombs in the aircraft toward the conclusion of the film read “Hi there” and “Dear John,” making light of a serious situation. These subtleties of the mise-en-scène contribute to the satirical humor seen throughout the film, and combined the other elements form one of Stanley Kubrick’s most impressive cinematographic films.

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