2001: A Space Odyssey Reviews
Stanley YOU ARE MY HERO!!
Kubrick is such a skilled craftsman of building up, then stripping away; a chess player in every since, strategizing moves, taming temptations to act hastily in order to achieve the most winning, precise result. There is plenty of imagination here, but he's not so interested in the mythology as he is the experience. While Clarke would go on to build up the backstory of the monoliths, Kubrick did everything he could to tell no story. We know a few things that are apparent and need no explanation. First, it's an object of design, it's symmetry the product of intelligence. Already this intrigues primitive man. And second, it has sailed through and touched the fabric of space. How far and how deep is up to us, but we're led to believe it's a gateway into the beyond, in which limitless potential seems to await. In this case, it seems that the monolith has brought the light of creation and possibility to evolve the lesser minded. Whatever else this shape is does not generate as much interest as our interpretation of it's mystery. Every measure Kubrick took was to ensure that this remain entirely experiential, a legitimate odyssey that the viewer is taking firsthand, not a conventional plot-heavy narrative.
It is also an exercise in tedium, because despite all our lavish fantasies, that is the nature of space travel and dealing with AI as your superior. Long drawn out beeps, flashing signs, ships crawling through space from one end to the other, astronauts operating, primates being, deprogramming HAL; almost every aspect of the film seems stretched to the threshold of viewer tolerance, if not slightly beyond it (as is Stargate's literal function). Once the viewer becomes comfortable knowing this is a meditation, that major plot points will be sparse and put on hold while we sit with and contemplate the nature of things, transcendence occurs moment to moment, and it's unlike anything in any film before or after it.
It is still a movie, there are narrative threads, it's not so experiential that it's an amusement park attraction, a film for a motion ride or anything like that. But those experiences could never match the kind of trip 2001 is, without moving seats and the illusion that you're flying inside of it. What happens to various parts of the brain during 2001 is what one might experience during meditation, chanting, even psychedelics. Emotional, spiritual, and intellectual areas of the brain are stimulated at different points, but as we get into the Stargate, it almost seems encoded to merge them all together through a kind of euphoria one couldn't experience with drugs. And it is encoded, there are paintings going by us through slit scan that we are only subconsciously aware of; we're not quite sure what we're looking at - is this a recreation of the universe? Or a replay? A creation of a new universe exclusive to Dave Bowman? Just some way for alien beings to communicate? We ask a thousand questions and are left with no answers, which keep those parts of the brain active long after viewing. We don't have a dumb explanation to dumb us down and reduce our curiosity about things outside of the movie. For that alone, I'd prescribe this film as a healthy occasional activity. The only thing encoded is mind expansion, curiosity, hypnosis to imagine further, deeper. If we can't let ourselves get there, it's our loss.
We talk about symmetrical form being the leading idea behind the monoliths and driving the next step in evolution. This idea is threaded when we get to the Stargate and see the only other foreign symmetrical form: tetrahedrons projecting their own mirror Stargate in each triangular face. This is the only form between the purely abstract clouds that have been shaping and the formation of land, which begins as a stretched flat plane going over the top of Bowman's vision. After the colorful land journey, we arrive at something familiar, yet obviously foreign, perhaps created by the intelligent beings to make whatever Dave is about to experience easier. It's baroque, refined, compulsively neat and clean. Meanwhile, Dave goes through a relatively fast aging process, and seems to see himself at each next stage before the previous disappears. Kubrick has us completely gripped with intrigue, it feels like the answers to everything life has to provide are here. When we see the third Bowman come back to look for the second, it's like he senses an echo of his own ghostly past standing there, which it seems like it had been. The journey takes us so that one and two may seem like just a time lapse, but two seems to see three by the cut back to him... enter the fourth dying man, and now we see there are two at a time as three and four are framed together. They are echoes through time, and time is moving fast all around him while he's in a suspended state. He comes to death, and the monolith reveals itself to him. He is reborn as the Star Child. We move into the black of the monolith, and we are back home near Earth, but soaring above it omnipotently. Is this a transition, or are we literally traveling into the monolith, in which our solar system is a mere microcosm of whatever this place represents. Is it that Dave is larger than life now? As big as the Sun, or bigger? Perhaps everything in this room is huge, and Dave has truly transcended to the level of a star. The magnificent effect, with Wagner's recurring score, has certainly transcended us. The film itself, like the monolith (some have indicated the film is the monolith, indicated by the lack of visuals during the overture, making it a horizontal black bar), has inspired us to seek higher and evolve.
Un film que trascenderá por los siglos de los siglos en la ciencia ficción. Con profundidad filosófica de una compleja trama e increíble destreza cinematográfica.