2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

A few months ago I saw Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker at a one-off cinema screening of the restored print. Afterwards I declared it was my new favourite movie, having beaten my long established favourite 2001: A Space Odyssey. Well today I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in a cinema. Forgive me Kubrick, for I have sinned. I should never have doubted, 2001: A Space Odyssey IS the best film I've ever seen (of course, "best" is subjective). 

2001 is the purest of cinema, the most visually lyrical of all. Every second without words is perfect, and the few pieces of dialogue are purely perfunctory. With such nothing, merely images and sounds (beams and vibrations), Kubrick shows us our place in the universe. Time as nothing but stepping stones, moments that accumulate, 2001 stretches from the birth of man to the birth of a new species. There's a quietly nihilist streak to 2001, for this life is nothing. Just one insignificant existence in a pre-planned cycle. Mankind will become better, it will perfect itself, it will advance through weaponry, technology, influence. But there is no such thing as man, as we journey through the infinite. This is a film with no people, just a sterile collection of objects with some that appear human. What they lack is emotion, a deficiency that reveals their deception, but there is one hope: HAL, the computer that is the only source of emotion in 2001. Mankind advances only through dehumanisation and through the suppression of our most unique trait: emotion. Only when we create something else capable of feeling do we become the gods that created us. We become reborn, freed, susceptible to destruction only from ourselves. We long for rebirth because it is the only thing to free us from our inhumanity. We must unshackle ourselves from our quest to the wondrous because we must experience the banality of life before we can ascend to greater heights. 2001 shows us the beauty of the universe, but the path to reaching such an ideal is long and arduous, a history in the making.

Truth be told, I'm scared of analysing 2001: A Space Odyssey. I can talk more objectively - it has the best final two shots of any film (a rebuttal to another Stalker review of mine), the first and final sections are perfect whilst the middle two sections have minor flaws - but what's the point? 2001: A Space Odyssey is a contradiction, a physically expansive but mentally intimate work, and it's a totally new experience to every viewer on every watch. I love it more than I love/hate myself, what else is there to say?

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