2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

All the eloquence I could hope to muster would only bring me to a surface glancing of this film. Language cannot properly strike at the cosmic sublime; it is too discrete, too linear, too symbolic. 2001: A Space Odyssey starts at the dawn of man— before those blunt tools of words were invented— and then stretches out far past the role of words. Language falls away, is jettisoned in order to reach the indiscernible, the unknowable, the absolute.

This film defines cinematic— in the sense that 2001 is entirely moulded into the medium of cinema. It takes cues from silent film for its classical music, perfectly paired to operatic sequences, and infuses that filmic philosophy onto a millennium-spanning journey, then uses the contemporary technical abilities to bring forth the biggest questions and musings that humanity has asked of the world. But the film never explicitly states this. Its ideas are inherent in its mesmerizing flow, inchoate and formless, awakened by the catalyzing connection of a viewer’s mind.

Nested interiors (ship, pod, spacesuit) give the illusion of safety— from both the cold silence of space, and the implacable red eye of Hal. They are shells that shield from extensive external wastelands. The harsh, sun-burnt yellow deserts of early time become the equally empty, blue deserts of the moon, which then become the black ocean of space. The universe is shaped more from emptiness than it is from fullness. But amidst that emptiness, there is something. It is something that can’t be sorted into any categories we have, something that is useless to be confronted with logic processors or rationality. It instead demands something innately human: awe, curiosity, desire. It is a call, from that inky unknown— a call and a challenge to skate out along the edge of our knowledge, to move forward across the fault-lines of deep grandeur, and to hold our faces up to the translucent ice where, from the other side, we can sense the dim, distorted movings of that hidden answer (what are we in the face of the universe?)

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