2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

2001: A Space Odyssey is a very special film to me—one that I once shared with someone very dear to me. Ever since we watched the film together (it was sometime in the late 90s), the film has become a memory trigger back to that perfect time when I watched him watch the film for the very first time. I remember how we set up the environment, the snacks we picked, how we turned off every light in the house, and how we hunkered down together. Most of all, I remember the awe on his face as he watched the film with virgin eyes. Like I was for my first watch of the film (which was in the late 70s), he was hypnotized and mesmerized by it. Watching the film last night for Lise’s Hal Birthday Watch was sad for me because I watched it alone and not with him.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to him on the phone and I asked, “Do you remember when we watched 2001 together?” He replied, “Of course. It’s one of my favorite memories.” “It’s one of my favorite memories too,” I said. I must bow to a filmmaker whose work is so special that it created a cherished, favorite memory between two people.

So last night, I tried to take notes while I was watching, but I got too deep into it that I barely wrote anything. My first thought was I can’t remember when I watched it last, but it must be longer than I thought because last night’s viewing felt very fresh to me.

Following are my thoughts while watching the film (Sorry, Lise, but I cannot NOT reference Kubrick in some of my comments):

-I wonder how many people think something is wrong with their picture screen and don’t realize that they’re looking at the monolith up close at the beginning. I guess a person can’t possibly know what he or she is looking at on first watch, but on subsequent watches, it’s clear what the black screen represents.


-The music is utter perfection. I can’t think of another film, other than Star Wars and maybe Close Encounters, where the music is as iconic as the film.

-The Dawn of Man is my favorite sequence. It spells out clearly that the film is about human evolution. I love the wide landscape shots, which are realistic, warm, and beautiful. They are in great contrast to the wild, psychedelic, and scary unknown landscapes that Dave sees during the Stargate sequence later in the film. The other contrast between the two sequences is, of course, the intelligence of the beings.

-Ape has killing tool and idea! I’ve always been a little bothered that killing with a tool is the first evolutionary advancement that the monolith seeds. It’s a really dark idea to present man’s first evolutionary step as one on how to kill better.

-Grip shoes close up! I really don’t know what I find appealing about this shot. I guess it’s the detail Kubrick puts into his space world. It’s almost as if he’s saying with this shot, “I spared no detail for you.”

-25:38: first line of dialogue spoken by the stewardess

-I have always wondered what the zero gravity toilet instructions are. I can’t even begin to guess. The way Heywood tips his head while reading the instructions and the puzzled expression on his face are funny. I love that Kubrick inserts this funny moment in an otherwise serious film.

-"Congratulations on your discovery." This line of dialogue spoken by Heywood gives me the shivers every time.

-Kubrick’s #1 thought of brilliance related to this film was using György Ligeti’s Requiem as the voice of the aliens via the monolith. This seemingly atonal music, which sounds like distorted, random notes (almost like bees buzzing), is actually a coordinated choir of microtonality. It’s creepy and otherworldly. A perfect fit to the monolith.

-"Do you believe HAL has genuine emotions?" I like how Dave hesitates slightly before he answers.

-One of the scenes that I most admire in the film is the one in which Frank and Dave watch their interview while eating. The view is similar to a mirror in mirror image. It’s multiple views: them on screen, them watching themselves on screen, and us watching them watching themselves. The fact that they’re doing something as mundane as eating adds a comical touch.


-I am sure that George Lucas stole the underbelly fly-by ship shot from Kubrick.

-Frank go bye-bye. Naughty HAL!

- “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do! I'm half crazy, all for the love of you!” I remember learning this song in elementary school. It’s funny that Baby HAL and Baby me had similar educational beginnings. I wonder when I will malfunction. Technically though, HAL did not malfunction. He was following instructions. So I guess I’m good.

-Stargate sequence: Dave, I believe you’re very far from home. Like another galaxy or dimension far.

-Ah, the beauty and majesty of Strauss’ The Blue Danube!

-So now I’m at the sequence where most people get lost. I can’t remember exactly what I thought about it on first watch, but I remember relating it to an episode of Star Trek in which the world was faked. The sound of the animals tell you that Dave is in an alien zoo and his environment has been fabricated for his comfort, much like cages at a zoo mimic the creature’s natural surroundings. Again, Kubrick employs a kind of mirror view, one in which Dave is watching himself.

-The one thing that I have never been clear on is how quickly time passes for Dave in the zoo. Does he actually age as he would at home, or is it accelerated in the zoo? I lean toward it being accelerated because of how the cuts are put together, but it is ambiguous. I guess time doesn't really matter where he's at.

-And we end with the Starchild. Dave will be reborn as an advanced being. It is human evolution.

I cannot comprehend anyone watching this film and not being blown away by it. I believe that it is THE greatest film ever made.

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