Simon Ramshaw’s review published on Letterboxd:
If you read my review of 2001 six days ago, you may have been surprised by the sudden epiphany that I had with it, despite seeing it for the first time a good few years ago and only a month ago, dumbfounded by the film on both occasions. Like a flash, everything clicked into place. So, I took this whole, sprawling theory in mind when rewatching it this time, and guess what? I'm satisfied with my conclusions.
But, if those ramblings aren't clear enough, here's a bit of a more structured list of the big players:
- The Apes - humans, first discovering cinema.
- The Violent Apes - directors, experimenting with the carnal, envelope-pushing gratuity of violence as entertainment.
- The Spaceships in the 'Blue Danube' sequence - the safe, entertaining and structured means of current expression and entertainment in cinema.
- Dr Heywood Floyd and the Clavius adventures - elite film directors, sniffing out some new material and wanting to hoard its secrets for themselves before they let anyone else on. Ultimately, boastful and vacuous with their self-congratulatory efforts and self-satisfied camera snaps with the Monolith.
- Dave and the Discovery One crew - average cinemagoers, out of their depth and about to have their minds blown.
- HAL 9000 - the film and art critic, trying to stop the average cinemagoer from experiencing something out of his 'natural' comfort zone.
- The Monolith - Simultaneously, the following:
= Kubrick's message of the infinite possibilities.
= 2001 itself as a means of communicating pure cinematic magic.
= The concept of cinema as a kick-starter for the apes.
= The propulsive force that will make us truly understand the possibilities of cinema (see: also Kubrick)
- Jupiter and Beyond The Infinite - Said cinematic magic, the ultimate example of transcendence in the visual medium of cinema.
- The Starchild - the higher state of being, where cinematic transcendence is finally achieved and inexplicably understood.
- Kubrick - the prophet, of the past, of the present, and of the future of cinema.
2001 takes us on a journey of cinematic evolution, from A to Z, in 143 minutes. From the frantically adoring apes to the unparalleled perception of the medium in the most visual way possible in the climactic experimental sequence, Kubrick brings us from the past to the future, all in our present as the artefact of 2001.
The journey is encouraged and marked by the Monolith's presence. Every time it is sighted, the sun rises a little higher each time over it, the dawn of human understanding creeping over again and again until we enter the Monolith itself in Dave’s transformation into the Starchild. Kubrick goads us on to understand it all. We're nearly achieving that, according to him.
One thing that struck me on this viewing was how the use of music characterises the stage of cinematic achievement where we're at. In my previous review, I mentioned that the use of Requiem for Soprano signified the alien language at play, but I have come to notice that Also Sprach Zarathrustra appears whenever humanity makes a positive reach for something higher. First, it is in the opening credits, Kubrick telling us that this is important and, ultimately, progress. The next is when the ape discovers a tool to kill with, a seeming leap forward in terms of guilty pleasure. And the third and final time is in the birth of the Starchild, where humans achieve the highest understanding of the cinematic form possible. The triumphant tune has never sounded more triumphant.
That coupled with my previous review, I have nothing more to say for the meantime. 2001 has royally dry-cleaned my brain twice in one month, and although it’s divine, I can't take anymore.
Oh, and happy 23rd birthday, HAL!
(oh, and sorry for mentioning Kubrick, Lise, I really tried...)