Two Cineasts’s review published on Letterboxd:
„Open the pod bay doors, HAL.“
(Keir Dullea as Frank Bowman)
Hi everybody, long time I just hide myself from writing something about this movie. No wonder, this pic is a so groundbreaking, earthshattering, everything changing experience and on top one of my absolutely favorite films, number 9 in „Our 111 favorite movies“ list, and maybe the best work from my absolute favorite director Mr. Stanley Kubrick. The man who only produced milestones and classics, at least since he brought his own imagination to screen, in my opinion namely since „Dr. Strangelove“. This guy reinvent the cinema and himself, nearly with every, of his movie releases. Even if it’s not everybody’s taste, you must accept the impact of his films on upcoming filmmakers and the way how pictures can be told. And with „2001“ he perfectly hits my taste, as a huge admirer of Science Fiction-movies and -books. Normally we now write a short, one, two or three sentences long, summary, to end our prologue and coming to the analysis part of our review. But hey, I simply can’t summarize this. Firstly because of the uncommon way of storytelling and secondly because of the multiple variations of interpretation, this is a motion picture you have to see and can’t describe it. Anyhow, I will try my best to write a short summary, you warned now.
A film in three chapters, one about our ape like ancestors thousands of years ago and a monolithic stone, next one about a really passionate photographed flight to the moon and a monolithic stone and the last one about an adventurous thrilling journey to Jupiter and a highly intelligent computer, and of course a monolithic stone.
Seriously what can I write, what isn’t been wrote a million times before, about this cult flick? This „thing“ can’t be analyzed for people who didn’t experienced the movie. Mastermind behind this so called film, it’s a piece of modern art, is Stanley Kubrick, the man who literally changes the way of filmmaking, with every single upcoming work since this one. A visionary artist who took a genre, only known for B- or C-movies until this year, maybe with a very few exceptions, and made it to a seriously taken genre.
The booklists were full of amazing story’s with SciFi background, from hard to soft, tales which show us worlds, places and things only the authors can imagine. And till the year of „2001“, no Hollywood production firm dared to bring some of this beautiful story’s to the big screen, as always it’s about money and the sentence „it’s impossible“, but it’s only impossible, if you don’t try it and Stanley showed them all what was possible. Long before computer generated images and special effects of modern cinema, he build miniature worlds and filmed them with an irresistible understanding of cinematography and creates pictures of never before seen quality.
Arthur C. Clarke is the writer who imagined this universe and the three following sequels, the so called „Odyssey“ series with the titles: 2001, 2010 which was later adapted by Peter Hyams, 2061 and 3001 which rights are bought from Tom Hanks and is rumored to be adapted in near future. Also, Mr. Clarke is the unintentional inventor of the geo stationery satellite, which he mentioned long before the first one leaves earth, in one of his books, together with all the mathematical understanding and the physically possibility. He belongs to the „big three“ of Sci-Fi authors, who did basically the same thing in the literature world, what Kubrick did in the movie world, they revolutionize the genre. The other two writers are Isaac Asimov author of „I, Robot“ for example and Robert A. Heinlein writer of story’s like „Starship Troopers“. Interesting fact: Originally the film based on a short story from the author with title „The Sentinel“ and the Novelle „2001“ just came out about contemporaneous with the cinema version. He also wrote the screenplay, in collaboration with Stanley.
After this praise of these two geniuses, as you can see I am a huge fan, now I want to try to give you an impression of the experience, without spoiler.
The grandmaster himself told in an interview, where he was asked about the right interpretation of his wild ride, that this film has no final or absolute „right“ way of interpretation, it is more a subjectively experience. Everyone must see what this picture does with him and then the audience can find a personal message. He said further, that he wanted to create a movie, which mostly thru visualization and barely thru spoken words, directly transport the influences into the subconscious. Means he made a piece of art that can be experienced individual, so in easy words, everyone watched the same film, but maybe understand it totally different...What in all names of „the great old ones“ has he done? This is, what we call, cinemagic at his absolute finest.
He just changed the way of filmmaking and storytelling with one movie. And now the funniest thing, he not produced an Arthouse cult film, no he made the biggest success of the year 1968, with a budget from over 10 million dollars, he delivered a box office total from over 190 million. Really this guy is awesome and still unequaled.
Not only his unique way of communication via pictures remains in memory. His practical work on set has the same innovation. In every of the three chapters he break threw the barriers of common filmmaking and did something that has never been done before. I won’t take away your chance to experience the film for the first time, by spoiling plot details. I just want to give you a few examples, without being to accurate about what exactly happened in the movie, so you still can be amazed.
For every chapter one example should be enough to see the brilliance behind this masterwork. Chapter one: I want to give you a quote to fully understand the particularity of what Kubrick did.
A great director, Mr. Hitchcock, once said, in filmmaking we have an unheeded trick to take some shortcuts in storytelling. If it’s not necessary to show how someone goes from A to B, then don’t show it. Some of my colleagues think it only means for the purpose, but they are wrong, well handled it’s an own form of art and right used it can generate stress, suspense, tempo, fear, fun or horror...
As always, Sir Alfred is right and obviously we already know what he was talking about, the film editing.
And now... Stanley Kubrick take this advice very serious and delivered a very specific radical interpretation of how to use editing, and really doesn’t show unimportant things for the story.
Chapter two: there are dozens of innovations, alone in this chapter, but I said one example per chapter, so I take out one thing which was really breathtaking to this time. Today we watching Sci-fi movies and being amazed by spectacular space battles or strange new worlds and all the little details just perish in the oversized effect movies. Details like weightlessness, nowadays they generate the images with effects and all the flying objects are not real, even fire bubbles like in „Gravity“ are possible. But back in 1968 the weightless scenes are groundbreaking and so unbelievable close to reality. By the perfect use of camera angles and motorized set decoration the imagination of space traveling becomes more then only SciFi.
I mean there are conspiracy theories, that saying that humanity never traveled to moon and the NASA just fooled us all. The one who was chosen to fool us all, you can guess now...? Right it’s Kubrick and you know what, I really don’t believe in this kind of conspiracy, but if it really would have happened, then the only one who could do such an impressive work, would be HIM. His understanding, for the astonishing use of innovative art direction, are immense. From oversized miniature models, multiple meters in diameter to motorized and movable sets. Only to write about takes my breath away...puhh.
Chapter three: And especially in this chapter the opinions are diverging. Even the persons who saying the effects are too old or the film is too lame, must recognize what an innovative movie it was and is, but the end of this LSD like ride where too much for them. These colorful pictures, strange forms and fantastic landscapes images are responsible for many people leaving the cinema or feeling dizzy after watching it. Like a laser beam, it burns directly into your brain. And the innovation was groundbreaking, the technique called Slitscan, the camera uses an open shutter aperture and different long exposure time while driving onto a slit in a paper and thru this slit different colored light is shining. The effect can be gazed at in wonder, in a ten minutes long sequence, known as the journey through the star gate.
Now you see what I mean, an unforgettable movie experience in literally every single minute.
I really won’t just praise this filmmaker and his achievements, but there is nothing I can criticize. Really I tried to be as objective as I can, but there are no flaws, nothing that is not at least perfect. Fun fact what has Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino in common? They both only using already written music for their films. Different to Mr. Tarantino Stanley mostly uses classical music or instrumental pieces. And his feeling for music arrangements are terrific. Who would let space stations dance in space to a Waltz from Johann Strauss? One word: magnificent.
But that’s not all, he also shows a great talent for casting. He knows when he needs a star who can carry a movie all alone or when he just needs someone to fill the role. In this film he definitely only needs gap filler, don’t get me wrong all the actors are highly talented, but there was no room for great acting, the real stars of the movie are the pictures and Kubrick knew that. Nevertheless the cast did a good job, in particular Keir Dullea as Dr. David „Dave“ Bowman and Gary Lockwood as Dr. Frank Poole both had the most screentime in the third chapter and showed the best parts of acting in the film. Another interesting fact: the character of Heywood R. Floyd, the leading part of the second chapter, was portrayed by William Sylvester and in the later sequel from 1984, he was played by beloved actor Roy Scheider.
Where we are at interesting facts, what have the two probably most visionary directors of all time Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick in common? They both had never received an Academy Award for best director... which leads me to my final topic.
A few weeks ago I wrote a review about „Once upon a time in the west“ and had mentioned how outrageously the fact was, that the movie didn’t received an Oscar or even a nomination. Now the same year 1968 and the unbelievable fact that this everything changing film only received 4 nominations and one absolute rightfully win, best effects for Kubrick himself. And no nominee for best picture or camera, just hilarious. Usually „Once upon a time...“ and „2001“ should had split up all the Awards among themselves. Such a big shame.
Well now I just did what everyone does, I wrote review in which I praise the movie. But I think that’s what the movie is about. You should watch it and you definitely should talk about, because it’s so much more then just a motion picture.
For me it is something like a „meta“ movie. Beyond moving pictures lies a world for any single one in the audience. Watch it and find out what it shows you.
Thank you Mr. Stanley Kubrick for this experience.