The late film director Stanley Kubrick made films with intriguing stories. A Clockwork Orange (1971) carried the weight of existential angst. Modifying the behaviour of a violent youth caused him to become a victim of violence. The question is what will happen to him next? Would he have learnt his lesson? Or would he become deranged? Barry Lyndon (1975) was about the futility of wealth, when striving for a fortune but losing it, chopping to the knees one’s reason for living. Kubrick’s immaculate 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is art first and foremost. It goes beyond the narratives of A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon and other Kubrick films. 2001 is a cinematic experience. It is not only one of my favourite films, it’s one of the great films. My only problem with 2001 is that it seems to be too evolutionary for me, but the art of this film takes precedence.
Beginning at the dawn of time as the subtitle tells the viewer, I was drawn into picturesque vistas of desolate plains and mountains which were filmed in the African open spaces of Namibia. In this world, primitive life is “depicted” as hominids sleep, eat, and vie for territory and use animal bones for tools, which is drawn out in the theme of a tool becoming a weapon. The dawn of man sequence is fascinating and is topped off by the mysterious presence of the Monolith, which is rectangular in shape, built like rock, and black. It appears impersonal. The hominids come around the Monolith, anticipating what it is, as Gyorgy Ligeti’s Requiem plays over the scene, eerily is perhaps overused to describe this effect, but it’s mesmerizing in any language.
At the end of the dawn of man sequence, the narrative transitions into the year 2001 with Strauss’ Blue Danube played over scenes of space, stars, planet, and space craft (exterior and interior). Technology has advanced, humans are more sophisticated, and base instinct hidden. Discovery 1’s journey to Jupiter shows how even the ship’s central computer HAL, programmed by humans, will fight to survive with a sense of “base instinct”, but oh so sophisticated, nevertheless.
The final sequences of mission commander David Bowman’s flight into the unknown is played over with spectacularly visceral visual effects and music, coming down on an epoch-making moment for Bowman. It perhaps signifies a greater moment for the rest of the world. 2001 is the kind of film that takes one on a journey through cinematic space, time and the spirit. This is a one of a kind.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, Douglas Rain (voice of HAL), William Sylvester. Written by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick inspired by Clarke’s “The Sentinel”. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.