This article was peer reviewed.


Stanley Kubrick oscillated between torturing his female characters and exhibiting sympathy for them. Sometimes, he both tortured women and exhibited sympathy at the same time and in the same film. Consider Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999), for example: it is true that Mandy (Julienne Davis) is erotic, silent, and dead, to coin Sabine Planka’s phrase,1 but there is also Alice’s (Nicole Kidman) spirited standing up to Bill’s (Tom Cruise) complacency. 

Mandy is erotic, silent, and dead in Eyes Wide Shut

Alice stands up to Bill in Eyes Wide Shut

Viveca Gretton says that, while Kubrick’s work does not reflect a feminist sensibility, there are “intense moments of disruption, resentment, and opposition that are not easily discounted or dismissed.”2 Both James Naremore and Michel Chion have remarked on Alice’s complex characterisation and Kidman’s outstanding performance, but both also opine that Kidman’s Alice is unique in Kubrick’s oeuvre, which bespeaks Kubrick’s androcentric focus elsewhere.3 However, I want to suggest that, in the context of Kubrick’s unrealised work from the 1990s, Alice does not seem such an aberration. She emerges, rather, as part of an evolution in women’s empowerment that can be traced from the 1950s to the 1990s. This is not to say that this is a smooth progression. As Dana Polan has remarked, Kubrick was ‘simultaneously a sexist director and one of the most interesting depicters of a fundamental sexism in men’s treatment of women.’4 In this article I do not damn Kubrick for misogyny nor rescue him from accusations of it, but mobilise Tania Modleski’s insight about Hitchcock: ‘the misogyny and the sympathy actually entail one another’5 and apply it to Kubrick. I work from Kate Manne’s definition: “misogyny primarily targets women because they are women in a man’s world (i.e., a historically patriarchal one, among other things), rather than because they are women in a man’s mind, where that man is a misogynist.”6 Kubrick shows women suffering, and the patriarchal power structures that cause that suffering, and he demonstrates sympathy with them. Women from early in his oeuvre, like the grotesque Sherry Peatty of The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956) or the confusingly touching Gloria of Killer’s Kiss (Stanley Kubrick, 1955) may be femmes fatales, but there are also sympathetically depicted women like the terrified German chanteuse played by Christiane Kubrick (née Harlan) in Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957).7 

Christiane Harlan in Paths of Glory

Their plights are part of his broader critique of patriarchy from a privileged position within patriarchy. The femmes fatales reveal the problems for women of living for and through men; the German girl is out and out terrorised. But Kubrick’s women are more than victims of patriarchy. Even the German girl wins the weary soldiers over with her song. Elsa Colombani has written about how Kubrick, while focalising men, nonetheless produces complex portraits of women finding their power, within and despite patriarchal structures, as they evolve from Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975), through The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), and Eyes Wide Shut.8 

Lady Lyndon languishing and suffering in Barry Lyndon

Wendy wielding a baseball bat in The Shining

Alice confronts Bill in Eyes Wide Shut

She describes the “slow rise of women” through Kubrick’s work. I extend Colombani’s argument, which she applied to three late films, to consider evidence from the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the London College of Communication about the development of Aryan Papers, which he worked on during the early 1990s. 

Contrary to the general view that Kubrick was always a director of, for, and about men (e.g. Richard Rambuss’ Kubrick’s Men),9 evidence from the Archive, including new, uncatalogued material, reveals that Aryan Papers focussed on a woman. Where Louis Begley’s novel Wartime Lies is narrated from the perspective of a boy,10 Maciek, Kubrick was developing Aryan Papers so as to centralize his Aunt Tania, as Mick Broderick points out.11 Kubrick’s plot modifications include a rape scene and three alternative endings, in one of which Tania takes violent revenge. According to Colombani, Kubrick both registered women’s relative powerlessness and explored their empowerment. The same is true of Tania, who is alternatively victimised and allowed to take power through evolutions of the script. In terms of the timeline Colombani suggests (1975-1999), Aryan Papers falls in the early 1990s, so relatively late in the developmental process that saw women rise in Kubrick’s work. 

I support my argument by recruiting two methodologies: adaptation studies, which calls for a detailed comparison of the novel and the draft screenplays, and archival research. James Fenwick asserts the currency of archival research and the “New Film History,” and particularly “Women’s Film History.”12 The current chapter, then, is au courant. However, Fenwick also draws attention to the limitations of novel-to-screenplay and screenplay-to-screenplay comparisons, on which the current article relies, as the fetishize the auteur at the expense of other film workers whose labour becomes submerged when a film fails to make it into production. This would appear to place the current trend in archival studies, at least as advocated by Fenwick, at odds with adaptation studies. However, I would seek to reassert the relevance of the kind of study I have undertaken in terms of Robert Stam’s observation that “adaptations…can take an activist stance toward their source novels, inserting them into a much broader intertextual dialogism. An adaptation, in this sense, is less an attempted resuscitation of an originary [work] than a turn in an ongoing dialogical process.”13 Kubrick has a history of taking an activist stance to his source novels, placing them in new ideological contexts. This is seen in the case of his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. The source novel was sympathetic to its Jack Torrance, supplying him with rationalisations, excuses, and ultimately, a reprieve. Kubrick remodels Jack Torrance to yield a much more uncompromising critique of patriarchal violence.14 Similarly, Kubrick takes an activist stance to Begley’s novel, repositioning the central characters to centralise Tania and explore her plight, as well as her agency. Nor does this approach mean that I neglect film workers other than Kubrick, as Fenwick fears. Rather, I emphasise the all-but-buried labour of the woman who was to have played Tania: Johanna Ter Steege. The apparent incompatibility of archival studies and adaptation studies is not a barrier, nor is conducting novel-to-screenplay and screenplay-to-screenplay comparisons redundant. Rather, bringing together these two methodologies—one relatively new, one relatively old—produces new insights.

Filippo Ulivieri identifies Aryan Papers as Kubrick’s “third big project” of the 1990s. The novel Wartime Lies was published in 1991, but Ulivieri says that Kubrick’s adaptation of it was “actually the tip of an enormous iceberg that floated around the director since the 1950s.”15 This was an idea concerning World War II and the Holocaust from the perspective of its victims. This illustrates a fact about Kubrick that it is important to understand. Because many of his projects gestated over a long period, and he returned to them and reworked them as he matured, he may also have reworked their central concerns, like gender, so that they may have evolved with the times. That Kubrick’s development of women in war evolved is clear when one considers the contrast between the terrorised victim-girls of Fear and Desire (Virginia Leith; Stanley Kubrick, 1953) and Paths of Glory to the girl sniper (Ngoc Le) in Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987). 

Fear and Desire

Full Metal Jacket

Where in the early films, Kubrick’s films register women’s relative powerlessness, in the later Full Metal Jacket he explored the growth of women’s empowerment, albeit in a terrible form. All these women are diegetically nameless, but where the women in Fear and Desire and Paths of Glory can only suffer at men’s hands, the woman in Paths of Glory almost wipes out a squadron of heavily armed and highly trained men, before she reaches the point of begging these same men for death. As I will outline below, the narrative arc and characterisation of Tania of Aryan Papers put her on the relatively powerful end of the spectrum in terms of these women of war.  

Wartime Lies: plot outline

The novel Wartime Lies is narrated retrospectively by a bookish man in his late middle age, looking back on his experiences of surviving as a young Jewish boy during the German occupation of Poland in WWII. The focalizer Maciek begins the novel comfortably ensconced in the upper-middle-class household of his widower doctor father and unmarried Aunt Tania. Maciek is a demanding and indulged male child who becomes a petty domestic tyrant to his self-sacrificing aunt and all the female servants. His entitlement to the women’s care may be related to his being a child, but it also relates to his being male.16 That Tania and the other women are expected to supply this reproductive labour is a result of what Manne calls the “asymmetrical moral support relations”17 which entitle men to women’s care, and which cast women as “givers.”18 Begley’s text, then, already participates in aspects of misogyny, even if apparently benign ones. 

The family lives in the town of T. Tania and Maciek are particularly close to Maciek’s grandparents, and particularly to Maciek’s grandfather (Tania’s father). As the war closes in, Maciek’s father is evacuated to Russia in the face of encroaching German forces, and the family does not hear from him again until after the war. Maciek, Tania, and the grandparents are first moved out of their comfortable apartment into uncomfortable and potentially treacherous cohabitation with another family, the Kramers. With neighbourhood boys, Maciek sings songs about rape and the rejection of female abjection, and Maciek’s games with Irena Kramer feature sex and torture fantasies. Tania begins an affair with a German officer, Reinhard, which she exploits to secure food and safety from the liquidation of Jews in T. The family reluctantly decides to split up. Tania, Maciek, and Grandmother stay with Reinhard while Grandfather goes to Warsaw. Eventually, for safety, Tania and Maciek leave Reinhard and Grandmother and go to live in Lwow using Aryan papers Grandfather has secured. While they are there, Reinhard is betrayed by the partisans. Rather than be taken prisoner, he shoots grandmother and turns the gun on himself. Tania secures different papers, and she and Maciek begin living under assumed names. They flee to Warsaw, where they see Grandfather again. Their existence is one long series of lies and impostures as they seek to conceal their Jewish identity from informers. Maciek is instructed as a Roman Catholic and prepared for his first communion. He develops a guilt complex about lying. A resistance organisation known as the Armia Krajowa mobilises a coup to overthrow the German occupying force, but retreats, leaving the population at the mercy of the Germans and the Ukrainians, who force-march the population – raping, torturing, and murdering on the way – to the main train station. Tania and Maciek escape the train to Auschwitz thanks to Tania’s bravado and resourcefulness. 

Maciek and Tania make their way to a village remote named Piascowe. Komar, a local vodka dealer, organises for them to be taken on by Kula’s farming family for labour in exchange for board. Eventually, Kula comes to resent their living there rent-free, and Komar negotiates for Tania to start dealing in “bimber,” a bootleg liquor for Nowak, who is a “repulsive gangster.”19 Tania exploits Nowak’s connections to gather intelligence about other refugees from Warsaw in the hopes of finding Grandfather. She receives word of a man who resembles him in a neighbouring village – Bieda. She travels there and discovers from Miska that Grandfather has been betrayed and shot. She returns shaken to Maciek. Tania drunkenly offends Nowak, possibly while repelling his overly familiar advances, but this is unclear because this section of the novel is narrated from Maciek’s point of view, and he is delirious with a fever. She learns from Komar that Nowak is planning to betray her and Maciek. They flee. The end of the novel sees them integrating into post War Polish society in Cracow using Aryan papers. They continue to live under assumed names as Roman Catholics. They are reunited with Maciek’s father. 

Aryan (Arian) Papers: Script revisions

Jan Harlan says that Kubrick “was not happy with his script […] his script should not even be read.”20 Kubrick was in the habit of improvising on set until he was happy, so scripts should be approached with caution. Nonetheless, screenplay versions in the Archive do reveal important things about how the film, and Tania’s role, were conceived and reworked during the drafting process. The earliest script treatment is very similar to Begley’s novel: no core narrative components are changed, although there are notes from Kubrick about potential ideas or elements to change in future.21 Like the novel, most treatments begin, in Kubrick’s words from a synopsis, with the “pampered comfortable childhood sequence.”22 Of Tania’s relationship with Reinhard, Kubrick notes, “we must decide if she stays with R out of love, fear or indecisiveness,” which would appear to be a matter of emphasis rather than outright infidelity.23 However, there are other changes, suggestive of Tania’s ruthlessness when it comes to survival. In an annotated draft treatment dated 12 June 1992 Tania will not let Maciek tell the Kramers that she could get them out of T with Reinhard’s help, because “she said there was no way for the Kramers to save themselves, even if they were warned. / They will simply panic and spread the word and we will be trapped too.”24 

Where Begley’s novel is titled Wartime Lies, emphasising the deceits and impostures Tania and Maciek must maintain, Kubrick’s treatment is titled Aryan (or sometimes Arian) Papers. This signals a reframing of the project. While both are concerned with the Holocaust, Begley’s novel focuses on the corrosive personal effects of lying and impersonation. Judith Grossman’s New York Times review of the novel appears twice in the archive, and it is highlighted. The highlighted portions, reproduced here, emphasise the differences between Maciek and his aunt when it comes to their responses to the War and the deceits survival makes necessary: 

Maciek fights an intense losing battle for his own integrity. It will turn out that his closest adversary is at the same time his saviour and the grand heroine of this drama of survival, his Aunt Tania […] Tania, however, even while the pace of harassment, eviction and degradation accelerates, discovers her extraordinary gifts for the outlaw’s life. Defiant and without scruples, Tania already knows and is prepared to do what is necessary to save her family […] [Maciek] is offended by the means Tania finds necessary for survival. […] The curse on Maciek’s life is this essential bond of apprenticeship to a mistress he must love, admire and terribly resent; to save his own soul he must not succeed at the craft of lying – yet he cannot afford to fail. […This is revealed in] Tania’s nightly critique of their progress – ‘as if one performer were speaking to another about their art.’25

To quote Manne, this Begley’s Tania projects the moral burden of necessary lying onto Tania:

She is morally in the wrong, as measured by the wrong moral standards – namely, his. […] They […] protect him from the ignominy of shame and the corrosive effects of guilt […]. They enable him to form views […]  with the default presumption that he is good, right, or correct.26

By contrast with Begley’s novel, Kubrick’s treatments focus on sheer survival. The first page contextualizes World War II thus:

In January 1942 Hitler decided to exterminate the ten million or so European Jews within his grasp. He called this “the final solution.” But there were many practical and logistical problems to be overcome to fulfil this task, and the ingenuity and resourcefulness of German bureaucracy was called upon. They experienced and employed a variety of means, finally designing factory-efficient death camps where a trainload of thousands of Jews could arrive at 7 am […] and be gassed and cremated by 9 a.m., their clothes and belongings inventoried, their hair shorn, their gold teeth pulled out, and the killing areas cleaned to lull the next arrivals. By the end of war in 1945, seven million Jews had been killed. / The world did astonishingly little about this, even failing to bomb the relatively few train lines the Germans depended on to maintain the flow of victims in the camps. / Thus it was left to every Jew to survive as best they could.”27

This emphasis on the necessity of Jewish survival by any means has a bearing on the rebalancing of the work away from Maciek and towards Tania, and a movement away from Begley’s Maciek’s projection of guilt onto her. Kubrick’s prefatory note rebalances Manne’s gendered moral asymmetry. 

There are even more dramatic changes to the end of the story. In some documents, Kubrick suggests that the ending should be changed so that Tania kills Miska, the man who brags about Grandfather being killed,28 as well as some village elders who are German sympathisers.29 Kubrick also references a ‘Kaputt’ ending, which refers to an ending that kills off all the major characters.30  Kubrick’s annotations indicate the potential problems with this finale: “If we use the Kaputt ending where Tania may be killed, you need the father to tidy up the ending.”31 Later draft treatments show another substantial change to the ending of the story.32 The section in Piastowe is entirely cut, in favour of Tania and Maciek joining the partisans after escaping Warsaw on a train, which puts Tania in the thick of the fighting. According to Kubrick’s notes, “If T [Tania] joins the partisans, some partisan military action is called for.”33 An annotated draft treatment dated 12 June 1992 ends thus: “The Russian offensive has smashed German resistance, and Tania and Maciek are caught up in the cruel and vengeful fighting between the partisans and the retreating Germans. / Their long battle for survival ends when they are overrun by the advancing Russian army.”34 In other treatments, Nowak is recast as a German informant and tells Tania where to find Grandfather; Tania finds Grandfather alive, and Maciek survives a battle between the partisans and the Germans. The three survive at the end of the script.35 

Overall, the scripts and the changes to the ending expand Tania’s centrality and agency considerably compared to the novel. In the novel, she discovers that Grandfather is dead second-hand from the bimber seller, and then she just goes home and tells Maciek. All proposed changes to the script, even in the early drafts, make Tania a much more active figure: whether that’s going to kill Miska (in the earliest drafts), or joining the partisans, then betraying Nowak in the restaurant, and killing the village elders. She essentially propels the action at the end of the film. She is resilient, resourceful, and powerful. Kubrick’s handwritten annotations on the novel include Tania is ruthless in her pursuit of survival. Unemotional. / […] Where is she weak: / The death of Reinhard / The death of her father.”36 This where his annotation suggests Sigourney Weaver to play Tania, a casting choice that bespeaks strength. 37 In other annotations and drafts, he arms Tania, suggesting she kills Miska “with a knife” and that “Komar gives Tania a gun when she goes out with the Bamber [sic] / Teaches her how to shoot it / Perhaps we see her use it.”38 One synopsis even suggests she kills Miska with a Baby Browning semi-automatic Komar has given her, not only emptying it into him but reloading the magazine in order to finish killing him.39

The centrality of Tania is made even clearer when it is considered that the script treatments depart from Maciek’s perspective. In the book, everything is told from Maciek’s point of view, and because Maciek and Tania are almost inseparable, we see a lot of Tania. Kubrick’s note is “Although M tells the story, it is the story of Tania.”40 In the end of the proposed film, Tania has lots of scenes without Maciek, foregrounding her at his expense. Archival material is explicit about this in notes on two documents labelled “Old draft:” 

In the novel, the story is told entirely from the boy’s point of view: we learn only what he sees directly, or is told. This is an effective stylistic device, and in this account of the story we have retained it. But there are some very powerful scenes the boy story-teller is not witness to, and he has to relate them second-hand. These scenes will be dramatize[d] and seen first-hand in the film. / There are also sexual matters that are only suggested in the novel, whose significance the boy does not appreciate or understand. These too will be developed in the screenplay.”41

How much the boy would not understand is a debatable point, as Begley’s Maciek is a singularly sexually aware child. It is possible that Kubrick was thinking about non-readers of the novel, audience members who would infer “innocence” from the casting of a child in the role. This, then, would become a problem for the scenario.42 But to return the novel, it is true that, thanks to a feverish delirium, Maciek is not fully cognisant of the meaning of one crucial incident which he reports. The novel’s Nowak over-steps with Tania in an exchange, overheard, but not seen, Maciek, who is in another room from the rest of the household: “All at once, I heard Tania shouting at Nowak that he must never again touch her arm, never again forget his place, the war was ending and so was her acquaintance with louts like him.”43 This is a woman breaking her carefully maintained imposture to retrieve the shreds of her dignity rather than adapting and surviving. The main consequence of Tania’s refusal to cater to Kowak’s desires is that he becomes offended and seems set to betray Tania and Maciek to the Gestapo. Kubrick takes this further: in two early drafts, Nowak rapes Tania.44 But by contrast with the novel’s Tania’s outrage, Kubrick’s Tania’s reaction emphasises the value of pragmatic acceptance and survival: 

One night Nowak got particularly drunk. That night he wasn’t interested in anything Tania had to say. She saw the fire rising in his eyes. He clumsily took her in his arms and fell on top of her on his couch. He was a strong man and easily held her down. In the end, it was a matter either of fighting, scratching and screaming, which in all probability would have accomplished nothing and very likely to have resulted in having to leave the job… or of giving in. She gave in.45

This would appear to be uncomfortably close to the sexual giving Manne says is characteristic of misogyny, but in later drafts, the rape scene is cut.46 Nowak’s interest is still obvious, but there is no explicit reference to a sexual relationship. In most drafts, Nowak does not rape Tania. In some he merely flirts with her (as he does in the novel); in some, he does not. Kubrick oscillates between more misogynist, and less misogynist, ideas about what could happen to Tania. 

And in fact, despite this early note that the film will have to contain sexual scenes that are beyond the childish Maciek’s ken, it seems there is no evidence in the evolution of the script treatments to suggest that this increase in sex scenes actually happens. If anything, it is the opposite. There are several notes from Kubrick where he’s wondering about whether to get Tania to have sex with Maciek’s father, or with Reinhard, but this doesn’t play out in any of the treatments. Several notes about scenes that involve Maciek experimenting sexually with a female servant are removed over time.47 There is evidence that Kubrick was reading about how partisans treated women,48 and wondering if Tania should stay in the partisan camp and get “romanced a bit,”49 but in the end, she has no romance or sexual encounter. The lack of romance itself is progressive in the context of early 1990s cinema, when few female protagonists escaped romance and its attendant sentimentalisation. The textual dithering about the rape indicates that Kubrick drew back from placing Tania in the worst imaginable and most dehumanizing no-win situation patriarchy has to offer in the way of sexual exploitation and violence – short of death.50 Tania is empowered in the scenes in which she takes vengeful action, and is disempowered by the rape scenes. It is notable that as the scripts evolved, survival and empowerment came to dominate over victimhood or sentimentalisation.

Abandoning Aryan Papers

However, Kubrick’s potentially powerful Tania remains unrealised. Perceiving overwhelming competition from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List, Kubrick abandoned Aryan Papers. Of course, Schindler’s List starred Liam Neeson as the industrialist who exploits his privileged position to save Jews, but Kubrick had rejected adapting Kenneally’s Schindler’s Ark because he perceived that it was “about success,”51 and from the perspective of the hero, rather than from the perspective of the victim. Kubrick’s Tania, who in some versions is powerful and self-rescuing, is potentially more subversive of the victim narrative that conventionally accompanies Holocaust stories about Jewish resistance and survival. In the Wartime Lies, Begley has the mature Maciek ask himself, “Why do we find it so difficult to admire those who are tormented and make no defiant gesture? Suppose they are neither meek nor proud, only frightened.”52 The Tania revealed by the Aryan Papers sometimes breaks through to make the defiant gesture – possibly admirable, possibly terrible. 

The traces in the Archive reveal interesting things about the Tania-who-might have-been. According to notes in the Archive, many actresses were considered, some more and some less associated with Hollywood. They included: Julia Roberts, Mia Farrow, Donna Dixon, Rebecca De Mornay, Ellen Greene, Andie McDowell, Ellen Barkin, Cherie Lunghi, Winona Ryder, Kim Basinger, Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Isabella Rossellini, Renee Soutendijk, Juliette Binoche, Meryl Streep, Kate Capshaw, Meg Tilly, and Elizabeth McGovern.53 The role eventually went to the delicate Dutch actress Johanna Ter Steege. 

Ter Steege did not carry with her the associational baggage of the other actresses mentioned, and could therefore function as a moral “empty vessel” for American audiences to interact with. However, she had previously appeared as Saskia, the murder-victim-by-live-burial in George Sluizer’s Spoorloos (The Vanishing, 1988), for which she won a Best Supporting Actress European Film Award. Ter Steege has, of course, had a long and successful career in European films, but it must be questioned whether the casting of a Hollywood star – like Spielberg’s Neesen – would have improved the marketability of Aryan Papers, and made it a viable competitor to Schindler’s List. In 2009, Jane and Louise Wilson made a video art installation from materials in the Stanley Kubrick Archive titled Unfolding the Aryan Papers. They attest to Ter Steege’s obscurity: they assumed she was a wardrobe model when they first encountered her images in the Archive.54 

Ter Steege as wardrobe model in Unfolding the Aryan Papers

Ter Steege’s lack of marketability in terms of Anglophone film is certainly suggested by Sluizer’s remaking of The Vanishing in 1993 in Hollywood, with Sandra Bullock reprising Ter Steege’s role. 

Traces of the soft and beautiful Tania Johanna Ter Steege would have made remain in the many Archival photographs of her in costume.55 

The soft and beautiful Johanna Ter Steege in Unfolding the Aryan Papers

Her stances vary frequently, from looking into the camera, or looking away, or looking slightly beyond; sometimes she is faintly smiling, and sometimes looks serious, but very rarely smiling widely or laughing. She is not a brassy Tania, but a quiet and dignified one. This sympathetic casting not only suggests developments in Kubrick’s thinking about gender by contrast with earlier films, but also a retreat from the Anti-Semitism Nathan Abrams detects in his characterisation of Shelley Winter’s Charlotte Haze as a “Jewish American Monster” in Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962).56 The script treatments make it clear that Tania may do monstrous things, including vengeful murders, but the casting of Ter Steege indicates that Tania was not going to be vilified. 

Ter Steege’s sympathetic qualities are also revealed in an interview with her about the role, in which she speaks of having a good working relationship with Kubrick,57 and again in the Wilson’s exhibition.58 This exhibition is, as production company AnimateProject’s logline says, “as much about a film that never was as it is a portrait of the chosen lead actress Johanna Ter Steege.”59 However, that trace remains elusive, as the exhibition is currently difficult to see. Only fragments are available on Vimeo,60 and even the DVD copy in the Stanley Kubrick Archive is corrupt and unviewable, although a copy may exist in BFI Archive. Unless one can visit that Archive, or get a bootleg copy (they are circulating), the closest one can come to experiencing the exhibition now is an interview with Louise Wilson on YouTube.61 The abandonment of Aryan Papers, and the degradation of the Archival traces of Ter Steege’s work, amounts to burying Johanna Ter Steege for a second time. 


Aryan Papers’ script evolution reveals that Kubrick was not always and only a man’s director. Nor was he simply misogynist. He placed his Tania in no-win situations, but made her resilient and resourceful, as well as ruthless. He valorised survival. He cast the warm and sympathetic Ter Steege to play her. In some iterations, he imagined her losing everything. In some, her taking power. Her plight, including the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t rape, is part of his broader critique of patriarchy, as well as of war. Above all, Tania represents an advance in imagining women’s resilience in the face of war, and the depredations of men, on the nameless girls in Fear and Desire and Paths of Glory. With Tania, it is as if Kubrick gives the girl sniper in Full Metal Jacket a backstory and vindication. At the same time that Kubrick’s films register women’s relative powerlessness, they also explored the growth in women’s empowerment that occurred off-screen parallel to the development of his career from the 1950s to the 1990s. The unrealizability of the project, however, reveals a lot about the economics of filmmaking. Without a marketable Hollywood star, and possibly without a masculine success narrative, Kubrick perceived that Aryan Papers was doomed to fail. In this, he reveals that he was not exempt from broader industrial conditions. Not only is it necessary to set his alleged misogyny in the political context of patriarchy, and to see him depicting women’s situation in a man’s world, it is also necessary to place his achievements, or frustrations, in the context of Hollywood. Perhaps Kubrick was not so exceptional after all. 

Ter Steege as Tania in Unfolding the Aryan Papers


  1. Sabine Planka, “Erotic, Silent, Dead: The Concept of Women in the Films of Stanley Kubrick,” Film International, Volume 10, Issue 4-5 (2012): pp. 52-67.
  2. Viveca Gretton, “Cracks in the King’s Armour: Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick and The Shining,” Cineaction (1990): p. 62.
  3. James Naremore, On Kubrick (London: BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 234; Michel Chion, Eyes Wide Shut, translated by Trista Selous (London: BFI/Palgrave MacMillan, 2006), p. 27.
  4. Dana Polan, “Materiality and Sociality in Killer’s Kiss” in Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick, Mario Falsetto, ed. (New York: G.K. Hall, 1996), p. 90.
  5. Tania Modleski, The Women Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory (London: Routledge, 2016), p. 4.
  6. Kate Manne, Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women (Penguin, 2020), p. 64.
  7. Richard Daniels suggests that the unnamed girl, whose appearance at the end is unmotivated by the rest of the drama, was opportunistically and cynically added to increase the marketability of a male-dominated film to women. See Richard Daniels, “Selling the War Film: Syd Stogel and the Paths of Glory Press Files,” in Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives, Tatjana Ljujic, Peter Krämer and Richard Daniels, eds. (London: Black Dog, 2015), pp. 80-97.
  8. Elsa Colombani, “Through a Glass Darkly: The Slow Rise of Women in Barry Lyndon, the Shining and Eyes Wide Shut,” in A Critical Companion to Stanley Kubrick, Elsa Colombani, ed. (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2020), pp. 179-192.
  9. Richard Rambuss, Kubrick’s Men (New York: Fordham University Press, 2021).
  10. Louis Begley, Wartime Lies (London: Penguin, 2007).
  11. Mick Broderick, “Kubrick, Gender and Sexuality,” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Stanley Kubrick, Nathan Abrams and I.Q. Hunter, eds. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2021), p. 180.
  12. James Fenwick, “Archival Fragments, Gaps, Absences, and Silence: The Unmade and Film History,” in Studying the Unmade, James Fenwick, ed. (Intellect, Forthcoming), N. Pag.
  13. Robert Stam, “Beyond Fidelity: The Dialogics of Adaptation,” in Film Adaptation, James Naremore, ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 64.
  14. Joy McEntee, “Paternal Responsibility and Bad Conscience in Adaptations of The Shining,” Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance, volume 9, issue. 2 (2016), pp. 175-86; Joy McEntee, “Kubrick, Marriage and Family,” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Stanley Kubrick, Nathan Abrams and I.Q. Hunter, eds. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021), pp.191-202.
  15. Filippo Ulivieri, “Waiting for a Miracle: A Survey of Stanley Kubrick’s Unrealized Projects,” Cinergie, Issue 12 (2017): p. 105
  16. Manne outlines the gendered dimension of care and giving in relation to children. Kate Manne, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 130.
  17. Manne, Down Girl, p. xiii.
  18. Manne, Down Girl, p. xix.
  19. Begley, p. 159.
  20. Interview with Jan Harlan by Filippo Ulivieri and Peter Krämer, September 16th, 2016, in Ulivieri, p. 110.
  21. SK/18/2/1/6 Annotated ‘Draft’ Treatment with Archive Newsreel use noted – 12 Jun 1992.
  22. SK/18/2/1/5 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/3) Synopsis – 16 May 1992, p. 1.
  23. SK/18/2/1/6 Annotated ‘Draft’ Treatment with Archive Newsreel use noted -– 12 Jun 1992, p. 44.
  24. SK/18/2/1/6 Annotated ‘Draft’ Treatment with Archive Newsreel use noted -– 12 Jun 1992, pp. 33-34.
  25. Aryan P SK Box 2. From Judith Grossman, “War and Memory,” The New York Times, 5 May 1991.
  26. Manne, Down Girl, p. xiv.
  27. Annotated Draft Treatment – SK/18/2/1/7 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/4) – May-Jun 1992.
  28. Notably SK/18/2/1/4 ‘WL Notes Book 1.
  29. War T Lies SK Box 3; Three script treatments are identical and dated 11-14-92 (14th November 1992), pp. 119-129.
  30. This is first mentioned in SK/18/2/1/5 Synopsis and then seen in SK/18/2/1/6 Annotated ‘Draft’ Treatment with Archive Newsreel use noted.
  31. SK/18/2/1/5 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/3) Synopsis -16 May 1992.
  32. See SK/18/2/1/7 Annotated Draft Treatment and all subsequent treatments.
  33. SK/18/2/1/4 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/2) WL Notes Book 1 – PDF – 26 Jul – 12 Oct 1991.
  34. SK/18/2/1/6 Annotated ‘Draft’ Treatment with Archive Newsreel use noted -– 12 Jun 1992 p. 125.
  35. SK/18/2/1/7 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/4) Annotated Draft Treatment -– May-Jun 1992.
  36. SK/18/2/1/4 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/2) WL Notes Book 1 – PDF – 26 Jul – 12 Oct 1991.
  37. SK/18/2/1/4 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/2) WL Notes Book 1 – PDF – 26 Jul – 12 Oct 1991.
  38. SK/18/2/1/4 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/2) WL Notes Book 1 – PDF – 26 Jul – 12 Oct 1991.
  39. SK/18/2/1/5 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/3) Synopsis – 16 May 1992, p. 12.
  40. SK/18/2/1/4 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/2) WL Notes Book 1 – PDF – 26 Jul – 12 Oct 1991.
  41. War T Lies SK Box 2/ Yellow Wallet. Has “old draft” written on the front, two script treatments contained inside, undated.
  42. Then there is also Kubrick’s own investment in childhood innocence. See Joy McEntee, “Someone to Care About: Children in Stanley Kubrick’s Films,” in Gender, Power and Identity in the Films of Stanley Kubrick, Karen A. Ritzenhoff, Dijana Metlić, and Jeremi Szaniawski, eds. (Routledge, Forthcoming).
  43. Begley, p. 169.
  44. SK/18/2/1/7 Annotated Draft Treatment and SK/18/2/1/8 Partially Annotated Draft Treatment.
  45. SK/18/2/1/7 (alt ref SK/18/2/1/4) Annotated Draft Treatment – May-Jun 1992, p. 86.
  46. SK/18/2/1/10 onwards Arian Papers’ treatment with scene list and shooting plan.
  47. War T Lies R-Kive 4 Orange folders – annotated – Feb 4, 1992, page 8: Loose script – dated 10-5-92.
  48. Aryan P SK Box 5, Soviet Partisans in World War 2, edited by John A Armstrong
  49. Aryan P SK Box 4 Binder containing ‘Men with a Clear Conscience’ – undated; “Girl Red Hair.”
  50. Manne, Down Girl, p. 168.
  51. Antony Frewin quoted in Ulivieri, p. 110. Footnote 111.
  52. Begley, pp. 110-111.
  53. War T Lies R -KIVE 1/ Brown folder called ‘Production Plans’, dated 10-7-91 (7th November 1991); SK/18/2/4/1 Actress filmographies.
  54. Jane and Louise Wilson on Unfolding the Aryan Papers,” AnimateProjects, 25 November 2010.
  55. SK/18/2/3/6/6 Johanna ter Steege costume tests.
  56. Abrams, Nathan. “A Jewish American Monster: Stanley Kubrick, Anti-Semitism, and Lolita (1962),” Journal of American Studies, Volume 49, Issue 3 (2015): 541-56.
  57. Johanna Ter Steege on Stanley Kubrick and his unmade film The Aryan Papers,” Eyes On Cinema @ RealEOC, 5 July 2016.
  58. Unfolding the Aryan Papers,” AnimateProjects Archive, 2009; “Jane and Louise Wilson on Unfolding the Aryan Papers,” AnimateProjects. 25 November 2010.
  59. Unfolding the Aryan Papers,” AnimateProjects Archive, 2009.
  60. Unfolding the Aryan Papers (extract) Animate Projects; “Exhibition /// Stanley Kubrick – Unfolding the Aryan Papers,LACMA.
  61. Unfolding the Aryan Papers at LACMA,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 6 November 2012.

About The Author

Joy McEntee SFHEA is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide. Her work focuses on American film, especially Stanley Kubrick, and literature-to-film adaptation. It has appeared in The Bloomsbury Companion to Stanley Kubrick, Camera Obscura, Screening the Past, Senses of Cinema, Adaptation, Literature/Film Quarterly and the Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance.

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