2001: A Space Odysey (1968) - Stanley Kubrick


Plot - We follow mankind at various points in it's evolution as it encounters a series of mysterious monoliths and its effect on them...

Thoughts - An astonishing piece of film making. There are moments in the film that you just stare at and wonder how Kubrick worked the mechanics of filming such a scene, the meticulous attention to detail, the audacity to frame some of these images, at times more like a work of art than anything else. The classical score used is perfectly in synch with the on-screen drama; spaceships 'waltz' around to the tones of Blue Danube as they dock, the iconic Also Sprach Zarathustra is wonderfully used in the uncovering of a truth or discovery. Kubrick's use of symbolism, such as the 'emerging from the womb' metaphor that occurs throughout is one that, as the message of rebirth or progression of knowledge of man as he encounters the monoliths in the various ages, is fascinating. It is intriguing that Kubrick has man's first 'intelligent' action be to learn how to kill more effectively; a rather pessimistic view of humanity. There are numerous ideas in this film that will make you think long after the film has finished.

If there is one reservation I would have with the film is that it is emotionally cold. Ironically it is HAL, an advanced computer, that really moves the audience's sympathies. The rest are either too distant (the apes) or surprisingly robotic, talking in crisp emotionless tones (the humans). Is it Mankind's destiny to evolve to be more 'machine-like', more logical? Certainly that is the idea Kubrick puts out and ironically has the 'machine' act as a counterpoint by acting more emotional and irrational, like an early stage human. I've not mentioned the actors and their performances because they're really superfluous with one notable exception. The ape scenes, with an acrobat trope in costumes, were exceptionally done. I don't imagine it was ever Kubrick's style, nor his intent in this to tell that sort of emotional story. However without an emotional arc it does mean this is a film that can be difficult to hold on to, it's glacial pace at times should be used to absorb the myriad details on screen and to mediate on the journey Kubrick is taking us on. The last half hour and its interpretation has been much discussed, perhaps due to it's permeance and influence in popular culture it's less baffling to me than it would have been at the time.

A seminal piece of work, that has withstood the test of time like the perfectly formed looming monoliths it depicts, that everyone should at least try and watch at least once. Certainly one I will be sure to re-visit.