2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

Finally got to see it on the big screen in 70mm. It was like no simile used to express perfection has been used to express perfection before. I still think Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite is the greatest thing I've ever seen. Still inspires awe after all these years (just kidding, not so many years, I'm still a child, but you know what I mean).

Two things I focused on this time through:

1. The motif of horizons. The Dawn of Man sequence opens with some truly gorgeous landscape shots which all centrally feature the horizon line in one way or another, whether it's the rising/setting sun or the intricate contour of rocky crags against the skyline. It occurred to me that the formal structure of these shots is recreated almost identically in the Beyond the Infinite sequence when we see color-shifted landscapes whiz by as the camera moves toward the horizon. The primary difference between these two sequences is that of motion: the Dawn of Man landscapes are static, while the Beyond the Infinite landscapes are moving.

We are rushing toward the horizon, whether it be simply a literal horizon in the sense that we're exploring more of the physical world, or a metaphorical horizon in the sense that we're pushing our physical and psychological boundaries. As pessimistic as some readings of HAL as the inevitability of demonic technology can be, 2001 blends this with a much more bold, almost insolent optimism in the potential of human progress (particularly in the symbol of the starchild). After all, what is the famous slit-scan sequence (arguably the central visual moment of the film) if not a reckless rushing forward toward an abstract artistic rendering of a horizon line?

2. The pervasiveness of the monolith. There's a point in the Dawn of Man sequence when the monkeys have not yet encountered the monolith (when we could say it does not yet exist in the world of the film), but there's no such point once we jump cut into outer space. The first thing we see in this second part of the film is Dr. Floyd's shuttle carrying him on his mission to investigate the discovery of the monolith on the moon. Modern man in the film has always been dealing with the monolith's existence, so whatever meaning you read into it as a symbol is something that (narratively speaking) humanity has been dealing with for its entire existence.

A closing question to ponder: when did technology go bad? The bone tool the monkeys discover after their encounter with the monolith helps them take back the watering hole they lost and move up the food chain, but once we fast-forward into the future we get HAL, the bone tool who turns evil and attacks its users. Is it that we've let technology control too much of our lives and we need to return to the purity of the reborn starchild, or is HAL an inevitable outcropping of the inherent violence of technology present all the way back in the moment the monkeys kill one of their own with the bone tools?

Retro Theatrical Screenings

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