directed by Stanley Kubrick
While there can be a lot of humor in randomness, there’s something to be said for the importance of context. Whether it be emotional, historical, or intellectual, context can be the difference between hilarity and indifference. A petty disagreement between two people can be sort of funny, if done well. However, put in the context of the End of the World- when small arguments should really be put aside in acknowledgement of larger realities- and suddenly bickering can be the funniest thing we’ve ever seen, with a healthy dose of social commentary thrown in.
Stanley Kubrick understood this when he made Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a film that was meant to be a serious exploration of nuclear war, but became funnier the deeper Kubrick delved into the material. In the midst of even the most harrowing drama, a little bit of comic relief can be both helpful and genuinely important in providing perspective. And, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis, we were actually living out an espionage thriller every day, with the threat of nuclear annihiliation hanging over our heads.
Some might say that to make a dark comedy about this possibility would be in poor taste, but Kubrick and his audience decided that it’s exactly what we needed, both as a release of tension and as a fresh perspective on the horrifying absurdity of being able to wipe out entire countries with the push of a button. History has shown just how vital this film still is, as the tunnel vision of the characters in Dr. Strangelove still resonates, through the Vietnam conflict, the War on Terror, and the general political discourse. There’s a lot we can learn from this film, and those lessons are pounded into us very thoroughly, not merely through scenes of tension, but with every bit of absurdity and silliness, which somehow manage not to undercut the horror, but enhance it.