2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★½

This year marks the 45th anniversary of Kubrick's masterwork, and I decided to make it my goal to finally sit down and see the film that I'd been meaning to watch for at least the last decade. So much about this film exists ephemerally in our culture (the music, the references, the visuals) and influences the science fiction genre that I had always felt like I knew how the film would play out. I'd heard throughout my life that the film was "slow" and "didn't make a whole lot of sense". Caveats noted, I decided to find out for myself.

This film has generated 4 and a half decades worth of discussion, so I don't feel that my interpretations of its narrative or meaning would add much that hasn't already been said. I do however, want to present my perspective on this classic film from the perspective of someone who thought they knew what this film would be: a slow, unintelligible work that would leave me disappointed.

That was not my experience at all.

The film is long, and the scenes are long. In many scenes, not much happens. These are reasons why I've been told by some that the film was "slow". It's not slow. It's deliberate. There's a ridiculous amount of beauty and visual information packed into every frame and I never found myself thinking "okay, I'd like to move on now." At many moments, I actually found myself hoping the camera would keep moving to show me more - the environments Kubrick created are both deep and broad, and the amount of consideration put into each set piece is staggering.

The narrative makes sense to me - part of the sense it makes actually comes from not understanding the bits of the film that people are still trying to understand. A basic premise of the film is that something "alien" in nature - and "alien" does not necessarily mean little-green-man "alien" - wields huge influence on the role of human evolution, somehow. But like the apes that are the first conveyor of this principle, we (as humans, and as viewers who are humans) will not or can not understand how that influence is wielded. In short, I didn't have a problem with not understanding what was going on at the beginning and end of the film simply because I understood that not understanding is an integral part of this narrative. I was expecting an open-for-interpretation approach like many of Malick's (equally beautiful) poetic and emotional journeys (which I love). Kubrick's is all intellectual.

The film wasn't what I thought I knew it was. And I loved it.

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