2001: A Space Odyssey Masterpiece. [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


View Full Version : 2001: A Space Odyssey Masterpiece.

10-16-2007, 11:01 PM
In 1968 director Stanley Kubrick released his 3-year in the works film 2001: A Space Odyssey and the medium, while unprepared, would never be the same. The film itself is a whole lesson on form, style, and structure. It's a film that stands the test of time and has some of the most memorable scenes ever caught on celluloid. The special effects are top-notch and still hold up well even decades later. Not only that, but the brilliant use of 70mm scope filmmaking has never been so effective and Geoffrey Unsworth's cinematography is masterful throughout. The use of various lens, angles, and framing make this film iconic in just about every way imaginable.

When 2001 was released, audiences were not expecting what they got in return. The film was marketed as ‘an epic drama of adventure and exploration’, but people did not know how much influence this film would eventually have on their lives. Filmmakers and critics alike did not understand the film at first, but over time realized that the film was working on so many levels that it would take numerous viewing to fully comprehend. The first barrier that the film poses is its form. Before this film came along most narratives had a similar form to their narrative. Unlike those films, 2001 is broken into four parts, which provide its structure. 2001 is made up of four parts and each part has a cause and effect and when the four parts are put together they complete a larger picture, which also has a cause and effect on a larger scale.
Each segment is similar, while at the same time slightly different. The only constant in each segment is the mysterious black monolith, which is treated the same in each part of the film. Everything else around that monolith is altered slightly from section to section. This is a film that provides a possibility or ‘what if’ as to our existence and our evolution. It also goes beyond this and explains what life would be like beyond our world.

The Dawn of Man

The first sequence that we encounter is a place far removed from today. We are taken back millions of years. This is certainly not what people were expecting to see from a work in science fiction. 2001 broke almost every rule to the genre! This first part of the film creates a motif and lays a foundation for the film. Some people have even commented that this section could almost have been a short film within the film. This is also the argument made for why the film works as an epic piece of science fiction. The fact that 2001 is in parts that make up a whole story and each part, while seemingly different, is simplistically alike.

Stylistically the Dawn of Man segment is done in series of ‘still’ shots. There are quite a number of still shots pieced together to give a very slow and calm effect. There is little movement or motion going on in these first few scenes. Even when the apes come around their movement is quick, deliberate, but short. This again demonstrates a very peaceful state. Life is beginning. Then as the apes begin to evolve and use tools the camera cuts become faster and the movement of the apes become more rapid and longer. Time now is starting to move quicker and we are to assume that time is passing quicker than what is seems. Evolution is not overnight.
When the monolith emerges from out of nowhere there is a visual motif created by the way the camera acts upon it. This same visual will be used every time a monolith appears throughout. The camera glides along the object showing its exact form. The object is dark, solid, and has straight edges. This is exactly why we know that the object has been created by a higher power or more intelligent life. When the apes react to this object we then understand that they have never seen anything like this, which shows their inferiority.

The Lunar Journey in the Year 2001

When the camera jumps ahead a few millions years to the year 2001 we are also in a entirely different type of film. The mood changes and we are quickly brought to a world a little more familiar to the way we are now. The camera once again changes to many cuts from room to room. Most of the scenes are given in very long takes. The first one for example is the boardroom scene in which Haywood gives the briefing. The entire meeting the camera is positioned in the back of the room as if we the viewer are just another person sitting in the room. However, our placement is distant and we feel somewhat disconnected from what is going on. This is done to make us feel as most of the others within that room feel. The speech that is given is purposely brief and acted out as if ‘everything is normal’, which is not the case because there has been a huge breakthrough, but everything remains calm. Only one person has a question and the atmosphere of this room is very unsettling and unsure.

We also see many shots on spacecrafts moving freely around in space during this sequence. People typically think of space as being fast, but in 2001 space appears slow. The shuttles move around like a slow dance to the music of “The Blue Danube”. This is probably a more accurate interpretation of space, as it is because distance in space is so vast that objects moving through it appear slow no matter what the speed. The camera never rotates, but it always appears to be moving in a circular patter within the ship.

Jupiter Mission, 18 Months Later

In this sequence we are on the manned mission to Jupiter aboard the ship The Discovery. While on the ship there is a scene in which Frank Poole is jogging around the interior of the spacecraft. This scene is laced with a sense of sarcasm as Frank jogs and jogs, but never appears to be moving. Its as if he is on a treadmill. The joke of this scene is that man, while thinking that they are achieving, sometimes are never really doing anything at all.

The style never really changes much in the sequence, but the form now changes as we are introduced to HAL-9000. He will be another character within the story as well as the most important character. Some argue that HAL-9000 is the main character to the story. HAL is treated like a person even though he is a programmed computer. We even see from his red-eye perspective as the two men talk about HAL. We learn from this that HAL can lip read. We also see the men talking towards HAL. The computer is never treated differently than any normal person. HAL asks questions and answers them as well. This section is the most dialogue heavy as we see interaction between HAL and the two ‘awake’ crewmembers as well as interaction between those two members.
The scene is which Bowman disconnects HAL is treated very interestingly as HAL begins to beg for his life as if he has feelings and tries to keep Bowman from doing this. The lighting in this scene changes from the rest of the very bright white and clean texture of the rest of the film as we enter a world of red. This red is a blood red symbolizing a type of death, even though HAL is a machine. Once again he is given human characteristics.

Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite

In the final, and most important, segment of the film the style and from change entirely. This is also the section that loses most people, partially because people do not know what to make of it because they expect a definite answer to the film. Although there is a type of closure to the film it is still one of the most open debates ever. This is also the section where the entire film comes full circle completing its cycle. You do not realize until the very end that everything that has been progressing forward now returns to the most simple, which is the fetus.

The style of this sequence is very much like what was expected of space. After killing HAL Bowman begins his journey into the unknown. He is following the monolith deeper into space. Then we begin the light show that shows rapid beams of multicolored lights zipping by Bowman. This is what people expected to see from Space, which is something similar to a Star Trek episode.

This is also where form is completely changed as well. There is no dialogue in the section as a comparison the opening 20+ minutes of the film. Bowman is alone until he reaches what appears to be a Louis XIV styled room. The meaning of this segment is that Bowman has aged on his trip and therefore been brought by a higher power to be reborn. The monolith is the force that ‘causes’ life near it to evolve. Throughout the film the style follows the intentions. Each segment is linked together even though each has a different ‘feel’ caused primarily by certain camera movements or character interaction.

Stanley Kubrick was a master of creating a visual experience and allowing those visuals to tell the story. This is one reason why 2001, while light in dialogue, is still effective. The film was also experimenting around with the idea of a few types of life. Life as we have never known it, which would be before man. Life as we now know it, which is on time on the ship. Life created by us, which is represented as artificial intelligence HAL. The final type of life is an unexplained extra-terrestrial, higher power, life form that we never meet. This is the ‘God’ like being that is somehow present, yet never seen.

2001: As a Whole

When the four parts of the film are looked at as a whole it is virtually seem-less even though each part in some way, shape, or form is different. The film can be interpreted many ways. It can be seen as mans journey from very primitive beings to very knowledgeable creatures. It can be interpreted as a sarcastic approach to mans view of himself. Even the title sequence “Dawn of Man” has a sardonic tone. As the parts are put together we see the grand scheme of the film. Each segment had its own cause and effect, which were pushed by the monolith entering. We can assume that since the monolith has been the main motivator that the entire film was a test on mankind brought by from a higher power. The test was to see if man was up for the challenge of going beyond what he has ever done before.

The implicit meaning of the film is never realized until the film is finished. We gain an understanding that this mysterious black monolith is causing something to happen, but we are not given the last piece of the puzzle until the end. Once we see the end we must then go back and put it into perspective in each section and this is why this film bears multiple viewings. It also bears repeating because the film is about intellect over time. An evolving intellect, which is why over the course of ones life they should watch the film at different stages to get something out of it that they may have not thought of before.
2001 will always have a profound effect no matter what year it is. The simple fact that the film was made so ahead of its time and was actually working on more levels than most can bear. Everything about this film is noteworthy and there has never been anything like it or near it. Even the follow up film 2010: The Year We Made Contact attempted to answer some of the questions that 2001 set into motion. This was such a poor attempt and proved just how powerful its predecessor was at conveying a message that had more than just one meaning.

2001 is not a film that has all the answers nor does it claim to. Its purely a work of imagination and genius combined to create an unforgettable ride beyond the intellect. Few films can come close to the impact of this film, but the beauty is that 2001 works on you without you even realizing it until its too late.

Here are some screen captures from the new DVD transfer....

10-17-2007, 04:37 PM
Damn, your review is longer than the movie :skep:

It must be at least 15 years since seen that movie. But I remember as it being one of the quietest movie I've seen with hardly any dialog.

Looks like next Tuesday (23th) two disc edition will be released. If regular DVD picture quality look good as the ones you posted, I am there :)

jim goulding
10-17-2007, 05:43 PM
What can you say but Masterpiece. I saw this when it first came out in a theater with a very large screen. Twas very impressive. Subsequently, read the book. Twice, years apart. In the book, I think I remember our world firing missiles at the sphere as it came into the atmosphere. Classic. Skies, I think your synopsis is right on.

10-17-2007, 06:06 PM
What can you say but Masterpiece. I saw this when it first came out in a theater with a very large screen. Twas very impressive. Subsequently, read the book. Twice, years apart. In the book, I think I remember our world firing missiles at the sphere as it came into the atmosphere. Classic. Skies, I think your synopsis is right on.

...think that I don't contribute to this site, this is the big F-U post that demonstrates that I not only try to keep this place active, but also contribute knowledgeable material that hopefully inspires, educates, or entertains those who cross it.

jim goulding
10-17-2007, 06:22 PM
Who in their right mind would think you didn't?

10-17-2007, 06:38 PM
Who in their right mind would think you didn't?

Check out the NEWS AND RUMORS section sometime....

10-17-2007, 06:38 PM
I didn't realize there were term papers due. :D

An interesting comparing/contrasting film is 1997's Contact. While it is a wholly different film, in that last act it crashes headlong into some of the same themes explored in 2001. Not surprising since both films were based on novels from highly accomplished writers. If you ever want to feel small, read the Wikipedia entries for "galaxy" and "universe."