From the start of his career, Kubrick had high-art aspirations, and these are evident even in his first feature-length work. Fear and Desire
, perhaps the first independently-made American art film, is an allegorical war picture that explicitly locates its conflict, and its primal motivators, in the province of the mind. Kubrick acted as producer, director, and editor, and though his mise-en-scène
was limited by available locations and props and a mostly static camera, he nonetheless evinced a flair for evoking moods with eye-catching compositions and subtle nuances of light, and an analytical, poetic approach to montage.
Ultimately, the film's miniscule budget was insufficient to fully realize its maker's intent, particularly when it came to performances, including that of a young and spastic Paul Mazursky
. Kubrick, who would become notorious for requiring multitudinous takes in pursuit of his ineffable vision, was unable to indulge this maniacal perfectionism in Fear and Desire
, and would suppress the film as his career advanced. But close examination reveals the seeds of themes that pervade his later work: the imperviousness to reason of man's subconscious, often destructive impulses; his isolation (Kubrick eschews "normal" displays of emotion, and he frequently refuses to provide us a charismatic, conventionally sympathetic protagonist to identify with); and a fascination with the grotesque.