AP3

2001: A Space Odyssey

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It was on last night, a movie that I’ve seen before more than once. I came in towards the end and waited for the commentary, but was disappointed because they didn’t cover the film’s specifics, speaking more about Kubrick himself. Did they choose 2001 to be part of the Essentials series because of only its special effects? There are several qualities open for discussion.

I started watching when Dave is passing through brightly rendered “dimensions,” if you will, seemingly borne right out of the psychedelic ‘60s and perhaps best enjoyed if you were a little high yourself. When he sits in his cockpit, the rumbling of the capsule readying to land somewhere deep, deep in space, Kubrick chooses a close-up of his face. It strongly echoes Jack Nicholson’s expression in The Shining which he directed years later, with the writer’s menacing glare permanently frozen in the snow.

At the end of the film, when Dave navigates an otherworldly, glaringly white realm, it all seems to be part of what we recognize here on earth, but yet it clearly wasn’t of this world. This eerie quality brought to mind a little bit the fantasy scene in Twin Peaks featuring the dwarf. Both sequences are a little strange, but in a way that’s true to the overall artistic vision. Although neither makes much literal sense in movies that clearly push the boundaries, each draws you in nonetheless, and is visually arresting.

When Dave ages suddenly in his space helmet, it could be a nod to Einstein’s theories of time and space - what space travel suggests about delayed aging with time stopping during travel at light speeds, rapidly returning all at once upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. When he knocks over a glass at a desk, I thought perhaps Stephen Hawking himself referred to this when fleshing out his theories of physics for A Brief History of Time. For me, I just wanted to know what it meant when Dave dies in bed and is reborn as an embryonic baby gazing down upon our planet. It surely has resonance, with that gorgeous orchestral accompaniment embellishing the moment. I just wish I knew exactly what Kubrick was going for (Oh dear planet, if only we could do it “all over again?”) or even how it ties to the apes and the monolith and the space voyage itself. It’s a very long ride; I just wish it had been a little more coherent with a clear, unifying theme.  

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There was a unifying theme, it's just that it was presented too indirectly for most people (including me) to grasp.  That didn't disappoint me, however.  The movie was so stunning in scope, the waltz from the Earth to the Moon so mind-blowing, and the cat/mouse game between the astronauts and HAL was so riveting that I hardly noticed what was going on with the story.  It helped to read the novel Arthur C. Clarke wrote in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick.  A lot gets elaborated.

 

It's often mentioned about how people went to see the movie a little high, or stoned.  But in my experience, it wasn't marijuana people were taking before seeing the movie.  They were much more powerful hallucinogens. 

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I have also seen the movie a few times and remain mystified about its meaning. I was hoping the commentary would shed some light on the issues you have articulated rather than just raving on about Kubrick's skills as a filmmaker. I have personally interpreted Dave's death and rebirth to symbolize evolution into a higher being, a thought which would hardly delight certain "conservatives". 

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43 minutes ago, AP3 said:

It was on last night, a movie that I’ve seen before more than once. I came in towards the end and waited for the commentary, but was disappointed because they didn’t cover the film’s specifics, speaking more about Kubrick himself. Did they choose 2001 to be part of the Essentials series because of only its special effects? There are several qualities open for discussion.

I started watching when Dave is passing through brightly rendered “dimensions,” if you will, seemingly borne right out of the psychedelic ‘60s and perhaps best enjoyed if you were a little high yourself. When he sits in his cockpit, the rumbling of the capsule readying to land somewhere deep, deep in space, Kubrick chooses a close-up of his face. It strongly echoes Jack Nicholson’s expression in The Shining which he directed years later, with the writer’s menacing glare permanently frozen in the snow.

At the end of the film, when Dave navigates an otherworldly, glaringly white realm, it all seems to be part of what we recognize here on earth, but yet it clearly wasn’t of this world. This eerie quality brought to mind a little bit the fantasy scene in Twin Peaks featuring the dwarf. Both sequences are a little strange, but in a way that’s true to the overall artistic vision. Although neither makes much literal sense in movies that clearly push the boundaries, each draws you in nonetheless, and is visually arresting.

When Dave ages suddenly in his space helmet, it could be a nod to Einstein’s theories of time and space - what space travel suggests about delayed aging with time stopping during travel at light speeds, rapidly returning all at once upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. When he knocks over a glass at a desk, I thought perhaps Stephen Hawkings himself referred to this when fleshing out his theories of physics for A Brief History of Time. For me, I just wanted to know what it meant when Dave dies in bed and is reborn as an embryonic baby gazing down upon our planet. Conservatives might be delighted by this image, while others merely scratch their heads. It surely has resonance, with that gorgeous orchestral accompaniment embellishing the moment. I just wish I knew exactly what Kubrick was going for (Oh dear planet, if only we could do it “all over again?”) or even how it ties to the apes and the monolith and the space voyage itself. It’s a very long ride; I just wish it had been a little more coherent with a clear, unifying theme.  

It's important to remember that Kubrick wrote the film in close collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke, and that Clarke's subsequent published book clearly explains the ending in easily grasped terms.

The monolith is a device of a far advanced alien race. The appearance of it in the caveman times was to allow the aliens to give the ape creatures a genetic "boost" in consciousness towards the next step in evolution. At the same time, they buried a companion monolith on the moon to serve as a signal. Once mankind had moved to the point where he would have the capability of unearthing the moon monolith, it meant that he was prepared for the next step, which led them to the monolith near Jupiter. That monolith acted as a wormhole through which Dave traveled to the planet/galaxy of the aliens. While being held in the "room" (a construct that allowed Dave to survive and comprehend his surroundings, as the aliens habitat was unknowable to human lifeforms, as it exits beyond normal space-time) Dave was prepared and "reborn" as the next step in evolution, after which he is sent back to humanity with the power/knowledge to guide the rest of mankind forward.

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Yes, that's the story.  Yet even if you don't get that from the movie, you can still get a general movement along a path of advancement to an ultimate transcendence.

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Thanks for your thoughts. They were well appreciated. I’m not sure the movie elucidated some of those details that you spoke of, but I haven’t seen it in its entirety for quite some time. Perhaps the book is something I’ll look into in the future. Anyway, I thought about Dave’s interactions with the increasingly unstable Hal in light of all the current research going on with artificial intelligence. We’ve got to be careful! And that baby at the end. I bet Kubrick had picked up a copy of the 1965 Life Magazine pictorial story on life before birth for inspiration when creating that image.

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10 minutes ago, AP3 said:

Thanks for your thoughts. They were well appreciated. I’m not sure the movie elucidated some of those details that you spoke of, but I haven’t seen it in its entirety for quite some time. Perhaps the book is something I’ll look into in the future. Anyway, I thought about Dave’s interactions with the increasingly unstable Hal in light of all the current research going on with artificial intelligence. We’ve got to be careful! And that baby at the end. I bet Kubrick had picked up a copy of the 1965 Life Magazine pictorial story on life before birth for inspiration when creating that image.

From what I've read, while Kubrick was of course invested in the whole film, he was especially intrigued by the HAL storyline and its implications (which is why he would later write the script for A.I.). It appears on the surface to have little to do with the rest of the film's cosmic implications, but it really does connect with it, in the sense that HAL was humanity's attempt to create intelligence, and the tragic result was a murderous impulse, which can be paralleled with the aliens giving the apes an intelligence boost with the monolith, which resulted in the apes creating weapons and committing murder.

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That's a very interesting connection you made regarding HAL. I'll keep that in mind should I see the entire film again.

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22 hours ago, Astrid Pike said:

Hi. When I first watched this movie A Space Odyssey (2001), I found it really boring. But now that you have taken out some interesting points about this film, my curiosity is urging me to have a look at this motion picture again. Thank you very much for this post.

Try and see it on a big, big screen.

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On 1/7/2018 at 7:03 PM, slaytonf said:

Yes, that's the story.  Yet even if you don't get that from the movie, you can still get a general movement along a path of advancement to an ultimate transcendence.

I like the general notion of passages that mankind passes through and in this general sense that you indicate. I don't like the idea that aliens are doing this. It diminishes the story, IMO. The story doesn't need that.

//

 

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40 minutes ago, laffite said:

I like the general notion of passages that mankind passes through and in this general sense that you indicate. I don't like the idea that aliens are doing this. It diminishes the story, IMO. The story doesn't need that.

It was a futurist's idea of Divine Intervention. Aliens standing in for God, or as the story implies, what's the difference?

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1 minute ago, LawrenceA said:

It was a futurist's idea of Divine Intervention. Aliens standing in for God, or as the story implies, what's the difference?

The futurist is mixing his metaphors, so to speak. Either have Divine Intervention or Aliens, but combining them is jarring to me. In fact, I would feel better if it were to be non-specific, or perhaps an idea of Evolution, not Darwinian perhaps but generally evolutionary. The concept of aliens is already too established in my mind relative to science fiction to suddenly represent divinity in a story like this. The conventional concept of alien and aliens carry a certain connotation that is too strong and it does not include being God. And this from me, an atheist.  This futurist can do what he wants and I am in no position to criticize because it's his story after all, but I still claim my right as a viewer to have my own personal take on the movie. And I feel, Lawrence, quite respectfully, that there might be a palpable difference to anyone like those of us here who constantly discuss movies on these pages which clearly includes splitting hairs over details just like this. That it begins with the apes and ends in a flourish of with what perhaps represents a ultimate leap for Mankind has too much grandeur to be attributable to mere aliens. It's something bigger than that to me. It feels better to me that it be divinity or of a non-specific evolutionary nature rather than an alien's experiment. 

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1 hour ago, laffite said:

The futurist is mixing his metaphors, so to speak. Either have Divine Intervention or Aliens, but combining them is jarring to me. In fact, I would feel better if it were to be non-specific, or perhaps an idea of Evolution, not Darwinian perhaps but generally evolutionary. The concept of aliens is already too established in my mind relative to science fiction to suddenly represent divinity in a story like this. The conventional concept of alien and aliens carry a certain connotation that is too strong and it does not include being God. And this from me, an atheist.  This futurist can do what he wants and I am in no position to criticize because it's his story after all, but I still claim my right as a viewer to have my own personal take on the movie. And I feel, Lawrence, quite respectfully, that there might be a palpable difference to anyone like those of us here who constantly discuss movies on these pages which clearly includes splitting hairs over details just like this. That it begins with the apes and ends in a flourish of with what perhaps represents a ultimate leap for Mankind has too much grandeur to be attributable to mere aliens. It's something bigger than that to me. It feels better to me that it be divinity or of a non-specific evolutionary nature rather than an alien's experiment. 

I understand your perspective. I think the best movies can be open to multiple interpretations. I also think that's why Kubrick left the film as vague as he did, so that you can take from it what you will, as opposed to his collaborator, Arthur C. Clarke, who was much more specific and explanatory in the written version.

Clarke was tapping into something that would become a major trend in some circles in the 1970's (perhaps even partially inspired by 2001), and would return to pop culture awareness in the last decade or so, and that''s the so-called "ancient aliens" movement, which espouses a belief that alien beings of some sort have visited humanity in the past, and may have had a hand in our genesis or evolution on some level. It's a sort of substitution of religion, in my mind, with something nearly as implausible, but more in line with the "science age", seeking to answer questions that will likely not have answers.

Back to the film for a moment: one reason I've always loved the final section of the film was for the audacity of what I felt was Kubrick's attempt to visualize something beyond human understanding. What we see doesn't make sense to Dave (nor the audience) because we are not equipped or enlightened enough to comprehend it in any traditional way.

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There are many websites that "explain" the movie 2001 and find other viewers insights will add to my enjoyment of the film.

I was told to see it on the big screen first and I did at a gorgeous vintage movie palace in Boston. It definitely adds to the experience, although I felt much of the audience was bored with it, shifting in their seats. (if cel phones had been around, everyone would have been playing candy crush)
It's just not a linear story, but that adds to my delight with this film. So much is left to personal interpretation....for example, "the room" Bowman occupies the rest of his human life within struck me as a man-zoo.

This opens the personal interpretation of his "keepers": robed human like Gods in the Heavens, bug eyed naked aliens, evolved shapeless human sprits....?
I once watched 2001 with a teen & narrated to help guide her through whenever she'd say, "whaaaa?" She vaulted off the couch at the end, holding her arms up in the air declaring, "That's the best movie EVER!!"
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I think all important points about this film have already been mentioned, so I will only add that though reading the book is a great idea for further resonance, read it for the enjoyment of a great novel and not as a primer to understand the film. I think it was Arthur Clarke himself who once made some statement about that if one understood totally the film, they he and Kubrick had failed in their objectives. The film is fun to dissect with the little bits about HAL's name being one step down in the alphabet from IBM, and why did some reviewers find Gary and Keir so boring on first viewing and the rewrite their reviews saying they finally got why the filmmakers may have created their characters in that way. I think it is interesting that many first time viewers don't even reflect upon the final setting in the bedroom with the overtly French furniture looking like it is from the time of Marie Antoinette. The film is unique and sine qua non and one can make of it what they want in my opinion, as it seeps over them like a blanket and they can dream the real meaning for them, if they want...or not.

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59 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

so I will only add that though reading the book is a great idea for further resonance, read it for the enjoyment of a great novel and not as a primer to understand the film.

!!!

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2 minutes ago, laffite said:

!!!

Shocking...I know, Laffite!

Sometimes reading the book after seeing the movie can also be a bummer. For years, I'd loved the film "The Letter" with Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall. Finally decided to read the book by Somerset Maugham, one of my favorite authors and lo and behold, one of my absolutely most admired scenes in the film of which I totally loved the dialogue, was nowhere to be seen. Bummer!

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1 minute ago, CaveGirl said:

Shocking...I know, Laffite!

No sarcasm intended though, Cave. 

It was a rather good comment.

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I was urged to read the novel years before ever (finally) seeing the movie. I was unimpressed by the book, whereas I think the movie is extraordinary.

And don't even get me started with 2010.

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13 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

I think it is interesting that many first time viewers don't even reflect upon the final setting in the bedroom with the overtly French furniture looking like it is from the time of Marie Antoinette.

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I thought those chairs in the movie were a little trippy. The're may have been a wide angle type perspective to them that made them take on a slightly creepy feeling for me. The above are not French style though I am not sure. They are not antiques and they were not overly expensive but they remind me a bit of those in the movie. After engaging in a bit of reflection (at your suggestion) of those in the movie does not seem to yield anything particularly substantive for me. What do they mean? They were very effectively used IMO.

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5 minutes ago, laffite said:

I thought those chairs in the movie were a little trippy. The're may have been a wide angle type perspective to them that made them take on a slightly creepy feeling for me. The above are not French style though I am not sure. They are not antiques and they were not overly expensive but they remind me a bit of those in the movie. After engaging in a bit of reflection (at your suggestion) of those in the movie does not seem to yield anything particularly substantive for me. What do they mean? They were very effectively used IMO.

Although the inquiry was not directed at me, here are my two cents: I always guessed that the trappings of the "room" at the end were either plucked from Dave's subconscious and made to try and make him more comfortable, with surroundings that he remembered or admired; or, that Dave's "hosts" had been cognizant of all of humanity's endeavors, even down to styles of architecture and home decor, and constructed a facsimile for Dave's dwelling based on their own knowledge of said items. I prefer the former idea. As to them having some sort of symbolic meaning, I don't see any.

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I agree with Lawrence. My take on the room was the "keepers" who had watched mankind evolve, just chose a "habitat" for him to live comfortably in. Not unlike the way any animal keeper would create a natural looking setting at a zoo. (I bet there's a degree for that nowadays: "natural habitat designer")

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2 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

I agree with Lawrence. My take on the room was the "keepers" who had watched mankind evolve, just chose a "habitat" for him to live comfortably in. Not unlike the way any animal keeper would create a natural looking setting at a zoo. (I bet there's a degree for that nowadays: "natural habitat designer")

I've always wondered whether Dave somehow "earned" this particular setting and end or whether it's supposed to be "the way of all flesh" and not unique to him. I love the room, where everything is radiant; even the floors and walls are luminous, like it represents a pinnacle of man's aesthetic achievement. But I've never felt this was some kind of eternal holding pen for Dave or Dave's spirit or whatever. It seems to me he was there to witness his own passage to another level, his rebirth. As everyone has said, it's open to interpretation on so many levels. And, if it's true that Kubrick originally considered ending with the explosion of an atomic device, we'd really have to revise all our thinking, wouldn't we?

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Dougie said: I've never felt this was some kind of eternal holding pen for Dave or Dave's spirit or whatever. It seems to me he was there to witness his own passage to another level, his rebirth.

Dave had to die in order to proceed to the next level, the "keepers" couldn't kill him. They built him a habitat to live out his natural life. We just see that passage of time in a few shots. As he dies, he drops the glass of wine & it spills symbolizing the container (body) breaking, but the wine (spirit) remains.

everything is radiant; even the floors and walls are luminous

Because the keepers saw the "Billie Jean" video & Studio 54 and thought that's what human floors looked like.

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26 minutes ago, TikiSoo said:

Dougie said: I've never felt this was some kind of eternal holding pen for Dave or Dave's spirit or whatever. It seems to me he was there to witness his own passage to another level, his rebirth.

Dave had to die in order to proceed to the next level, the "keepers" couldn't kill him. They built him a habitat to live out his natural life. We just see that passage of time in a few shots. As he dies, he drops the glass of wine & it spills symbolizing the container (body) breaking, but the wine (spirit) remains.

everything is radiant; even the floors and walls are luminous

Because the keepers saw the "Billie Jean" video & Studio 54 and thought that's what human floors looked like.

I suppose we could think of the room as a kind of chrysalis, then, like that big glowing Mothra egg. It's a protective environment which is left behind when the time comes. Anyway, I hope we all have "keepers" with such great production values.

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