1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

8 Jul

Gary Lockwood talks to Keir Dullea in a scene from the film '2001: A Space Odyssey', 1968. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

dir. Stanley Kubrick

What is there to say about 2001: A Space Odyssey that hasn’t already been said about the classic in the almost five decades since its release? The fact that a film so hard to qualify (IMDB categorizes its genres as “Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi, all of which are – oddly – simultaneously accurate and misnomers) has a lasting legacy of prestige is quite curious. Kubrick used the film to make grandiose observations and insights about mankind’s origins and existence, but made arguably the most esoteric and inaccessible studio film ever. Additionally, great amount of work and innovation went into creating the Oscar-winning visual effects, yet frequency of long, static takes and infrequency of cuts results in a minimalism that is actually deceptively meticulous. It’s hard to find a point at which to start when it comes to talking about 2001because it does so much in such a remarkably controlled way that it’s completely understandable if you walked away thinking either (or both) “that was brilliant” or “that was pretentious.” That was on purpose – Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke admitted to wanting to raise more questions than answers and when it comes to such philosophical dense questions of mankind’s design, existence and (after)life, then how could anyone ever possibly offer anything satisfyingly concrete? Kubrick’s approach to tackling the ambiguous is by employing the most evocative tools of Art, the one way in which we experience and interpret life that still seems to hint at our intangible Otherness from the rest of creation. Juxtaposition through cuts, detailed geometric set design, and the marriage of music with image all allude to – without explicitly concluding anything about – the Force (for lack of a better word) that allows us to create, to change, and, perhaps most importantly, to contemplate it all. Kubrick’s meticulous nature has always elicited criticism of emotional coldness and while 2001 does not indulge in sentiment, its ambiguity hints at a mysticism or spirituality  that is equally as difficult to define in our real life, while the fusion of classical orchestrations with depictions of scientific discoveries imply that order and objectivity need not undermine art and subjectivity (classic compositions – indeed, most songs that you can think of – follow a meter and pattern, after all). Kubrick just happened to be brilliant enough to be aware enough of that to visualize it with a space station docking set to “Blue Danube.”

One Response to “1. 2001: A Space Odyssey”

  1. Steve B. July 13, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    Why I voted for 2001 as my #1? You know how reviewers often say about a film they like that it can be enjoyed on multiple levels? That’s 2001 for me. The story and symbolism can be interpreted on philosophical levels. The film was innovative in its artistic futuristic set design and its special effects for space technology, makeup, and costumes. There are distinct chapters or acts. Some that are quiet and artsy, and others that have more dialogue and the insane evil computer plot. It’s not an actor’s movie. You could argue that the characters aren’t very fleshed out, but it it is more a film about humanity than its characters. How far have we come, and are we really ready to take the next steps into the great unknown? Or will our collective arrogance be our undoing?

    The music which is altogether sublime, is so varied and made up of new orchestrations of previously written works. From the Blue Danube to the haunting “Gayane Ballet Suite” (also used later in James Cameron’s “Aliens”), to the vibrating screeching vocals of the monoliht and “From Jupiter and Beyond” themes the music is a perfect compliment to the visuals.

    From today’s standards its not a blockbuster – people find it boring with its slow paced scenes of grunting apes and spacecraft with no dialogue. But in 1968 it was the highest grossing film! I suppose I must still see the wonder today what the audience could see then. This is film as art, and you need to open all of your senses and keep your brain turned on.

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