2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Directed by Stanley Kubrick

I am tickled by the idea that intelligent life form from another planet turns out to be a boring black obelisk resembling a tomb stone. It does not relate to our experience of the animate. Stone is inanimate, soulless, and expressionless here on earth. 2001 A Space Odyssey is full of such subtle but shattering moments of imagination. It has also become a kind of visual bible of how we are used to imagining the space out there.

Ultimately, this movie is trying to grapple the question where are we and what are we in relation to everything. That's a little too much to take on I fear – and yet, I'm glad some of us keep asking that question and acting to find answers. In the context of cinema, I am happy to witness an approach to narrative and plot, which still seems revolutionary and challenging. The lack of resolve and human interest in a 3-hour-piece makes me liken the film to a classical concert or possibly opera. The result was that I was often bored and willing to give up on it all.

The use of classical music and human voice in 2001 is astonishing. While I am staring into the vast emptiness of the space, I hear the disturbing mesh of a mixed choir and it acts as a connection to humanity – the audience. Much of the drama comes from music, while the visuals alone would not guide us to the same emotions. Of course, silence has an even greater part in the film. It is powerful and can stretch the experience of time. The whole movie speaks in the language of dissociation and hallucination. I will probably never feel like watching this one again.

Here we are in 2011, ten years after the events depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some of the ideas and progress shown in the picture have come to be true. An over-reliance on computers. Communication has reached the same level that 2001 imagined in 1968. Looking at the space ship interiors as featured here, the film's influence on design is still apparent now. But theories on evolution and our origins still divide most of the world. Although space stations  and various space programs exists, an ambition to discover and venture to other planets is sadly curtailed. This aspect of 2001 has not come to fruition. Our capacity for human error though, is a constant.

Stanley Kubrick makes claims, after Arthur C. Clarke whose book this is based on, that the evolution of man was prompted (or encouraged, perhaps) by some artificial artifact (a black obelisk). In my view, this is as credible as any other theory proffered about our evolution. The early scenes of primates territorial rights establishes a key behavioral pattern that still dominates the way we behave today. But once the picture moves into space, other than offering us a psychotic computer (Hal), the picture refuses to give any other great notions. It becomes a slow burning thriller, based on one's man's endless, lonely journey to Jupiter and beyond.

I'm not such a Kubrick fan. I admire more than love his films. 2001: A Space Odyssey represents the peak of Kubrick's fascination with cold surfaces, be they human or in space. This is as radical a picture as any mainstream director has offered. There is no reliance on narrative or performance for that matter. Here we can just marvel at what we see on screen, from the spaceship design to the barren earth, through to the colorful shards of light that dominate the screen in the latter part. I'm not sure this means anything. This picture didn't say anything to me. But the visual atmosphere created by Kubrick aligned with his use of music by the two Strauss' (Johan & Richard) creates a creepy intensity that is fascinating.


  1. Space Monolith Action Figure: http://www.thinkgeek.com/geektoys/collectibles/e1e0/

  2. Both of your sets of observations are going to force me to view it again.

    However, now I am going to view it as a film that drops the constraints of language and logic and story even... narrative drops away and we are left with images, sounds, and music.
    Sort of a slower version of "Koyaanisqatsi".

  3. Janne, I want a figurine like that!

    Montag, I think a slower "Koyaanisqatsi" is very apt.


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