2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction film by Stanley Kubrick. More than a review, this article is an answer to all those who find this film slow-paced, and for those yet to watch it.
I’ll give you a word- ‘beauty’
Beauty is an under-rated concept. Sure, you’ll often see nice photography and so on in films. But when did you last see a film that contains beauty purely for the sake of it? There is a wrong belief among cinema goers that anything which is not plot or character related must be removed. There is nothing wrong with creating a beautiful sequence that may slow down of may have nothing to do with the plot. ‘2001’ requires a different approach. It requires you to relax. It requires you to experience strange and beautiful images without feeling guilty about not understanding parts of it. To enjoy ‘2001’ you must tune your brain to a different wavelength and succumb to the pleasure of beauty, PURE beauty, unfettered by the banal conventions of everyday films.
‘2001’ is primarily a technical film. It is slow, and filled with minute details, and successfully and realistically envisions the future of technology (and the past, in the awe inspiring opening scenes including an amazing jump cut sequence). Usage of tool, here a bone, is shown the tipping point when ape turns into man. And how evil a transformation it is! The film’s greatest strength is in the details. Remember that when this film was made, man still hadn’t made it out to the moon. To create such an incredibly detailed vision of the future that 35 years later it is still the best we have is beyond belief – I still can’t work out how some of the shots were done.
The film uses invisible but powerful forces to manipulate the plot but perhaps the most overwhelming one is the film’s vision of man. In Kubrick’s fantasy, the golden age of man is a neglected instant between a man-ape’s exaltation at discovering the first weapon and a nuclear-powered spaceship floating in a graceful orbit around the earth. The film is filled with brilliant sequences and extraordinary moments – the first interesting minutes in which the story of the apes is told visually, without a single line of dialog; the zero-gravity toilet with its great list of instructions; the stewardess defying gravity by walking the walls calmly upside down; the frightening moment when we realize that HAL is reading the astronauts lips; the magical alignments of Sun, Moon, and Earth; the ‘Starchild’ returning home to charm the orb.
‘2001’ is filled with poetic imagery – the view of the Sun rising over the Earth; the tossing of the bone into the air in slow motion; the slow images of the giant spaceship revolving in a cosmic ballet. It allows us to view more than the mystery of existence and destiny implicit in every man. The end troubles many viewers as they demand clarity – where there can only be mystery. They insist upon an answer where there can only be a question. Viewers have had different explanations of the mysterious end of Kubrick’s film. But for those who can accept mysticism, the climax is deeply moving.
Kubrick’s ‘Odyssey’ – much like Homer’s – is art in the highest sense, a magnum opus.