2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

I don't think there are any other cinematic experiences that pushes an audience as far out as Kubrick's 2001. We can follow the monolith from the dawn of man to the moon but a certain point we're going into a realm that we can't begin to understand. And that's something I've struggled with in the past in regards to this film. Previously, I wished I was grounded in the final moments of the film. I had hoped that questions being asked of me as a viewer and the images presented to me could be deciphered and comprehended.

And perhaps seeing it now, for the first time in a theater, the full genius of the film can be appreciated. The vast stretches of silence, the plodding pace of what should be a thrilling rescue of a crewman, and the melancholy vastness of the images on screen, entirely command an audience. It's a startling effect to watch an audience (and to be part of that audience) become totally submissive to what is happening on screen. If good science fiction guides us to progress by an assessment of our own human values, 2001 undergoes that journey and embraces the terrible inability to know or understand it all.

Kubrick's films, are for me, always so immersive because below the immaculate images his film give us, I always find that the movie offers another fascinating aspect. It's the idea that his movies are constructed in a way that the experience of the narrative/plot/characters on screen is mimicked back to the audience. We inhabit the maze-like quality of the overlook hotel, the camera running around those hallways, just like the characters in The Shining. There seems to be an active acknowledgment that what the characters in a Kubrick film undergo is shared with the viewer. In a potent set of moments in this film, a human eye, a frozen and disoriented face witnessing a journey through time(?) space(?) , are projected back to a room full of people no doubt undergoing that very disorienting feeling. It's tremendous.

And I can go on about how every decision in this film strengthens some visual motif (even the way 2 characters walk around a conference table is important in the circular-ness of all things in this film) and how the effects and images are more pristine, more genuine, and more potent than anything released today. I never fully loved this picture, it never quite engrossed me fully, until watching it in a movie theater.

We may go to cinema for a variety of reasons. Movies can offer an escape. They are pieces of art to dissect. They are an accepted form of cultural diversion. But ultimately our experience at a film is dependent on the filmmaker. And when we get that first image looking up at the monolith with the sun and moon above, it's the moment that signals we are in the hands of a very gifted filmmaker that will show us things and take us places we may never fully understand. But the journey will leave its mark on you.