Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey

As I write this, the year 2001 is a mere seven years away. Unless there are some truly astounding changes in store between now and then, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey will remain science-fiction. This frequently fascinating, sometimes tedious, two hour and 19 minute film, advertised as “The Ultimate Trip” when re-released in 1974 (no doubt, in an attempt to appeal to those still trapped in the drug culture of the previous decade), portrays space travel as a mundane fact of life, and computers as thinking bodies independent of human thought. It’s a cold, dry impersonal world, and 2001 is a cold, dry film depicting a future that I am not impatient to see arrive.

The “stars” of the film, Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, are not stars at all, so the special-effects are the most commanding presence. Chief among them is the sinister, lisping machine known only as HAL, voiced by Douglas Rain. As for the plot, there is a skimpy one, but it’s not very important. This is a film to experience, not as a story, but for its remarkable visuals and music score (one of the first to utilize previously recorded music, composed by the likes of Beethoven and Strauss).

2001 doesn't really seem to be “about” anything, which means the viewer is free to interpret it in any way he likes, in which case it could be the most meaningful or most pointless film ever made. It is justifiably a landmark in cinema, one that will leave you inspired, bewildered, or both.

© 1994 Brian W. Fairbanks


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