2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

Absolutely brilliant.

I’m probably not going to say anything that hasn’t already been said a million times before, but I loved:

- HAL. What extraordinary moments and interactions these are - that voice, those tight shot on HAL’s cold all-seeing ‘eye’, the slow realization that HAL is up to something. In an age that wonders about what robots and AI will lead to, this was well ahead of its time.

- The special effects. With big moments and lots of little touches Kubrick transports us to space, whether it’s spinning, floating, or drifting, and it all holds up very well 50 years later.

- The symmetry of ‘The Dawn of Man’ bookended with ‘Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite.’ Early man reaching up to a mysterious monolith and take the first crude step in evolving; modern man reaching a distant monolith and seeing things far beyond his understanding, and maybe taking another step at evolving? There are other parallels; we go from early man using an animal femur as a club to kill early on, to Dave quietly killing HAL by unplugging him/it. We go from tight shots on HAL’s eye to Dave’s as he tries to fathom the psychedelic mind-blowing experience.

- The score. So well chosen, starting with the epic sound of Strauss’s ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’.

- The scope. Man reaches for the stars, into the unknown, so vulnerable in the vastness of the universe, and also vulnerable to his own technology. The scale is cosmic, and we see that the jump from early man to man in space really was as sudden as the jump in the film. It explores man’s place and fate in the universe, but is wisely ambiguous and open to interpretation.

- The aesthetic. It all goes so well together. The visual appeal, the use of grand music and silence, it’s all very poetic, and there is great attention to detail. The all-black monolith, such a perfect symbol that there is greater knowledge out there, but hard to comprehend. There is such a unifying, artistic vision Kubrick brought to this film.

I saw it when younger a few times, and was put off a little bit by its slow pace. I think it’s perfect now.

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