Stanley Kubrick was fascinated by the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). In 1969, after extensive preparation, Kubrick finished a screenplay about Napoleon; assembled here, his research materials for this project by far exceeded those for any of his other films. Between 1968 and 1969 he had more than two dozen assistants and historians at work researching the minutiae of the emperor’s life and times. The monumental project was abandoned in 1969 due to budget and production challenges that proved insurmountable. Kubrick’s plan to film the indoor scenes by candlelight was achieved in “Barry Lyndon” (1975), thanks to new developments in technology.
Kubrick’s films deal with human vanity and frailty and with the observation that we tend to be governed more by our emotions than by rational thinking in situations of despair and threat. He would not exclude himself from this assessment; hence his fascination with Napoleon, the perfect example of the successful genius who lost in the end because he did not abide by the rules of the “royal game.”