2001 magical moments.

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Last night A and I headed over to the Music Box Theatre‘s 70mm Film Festival for an evening screening of Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I’d seen 2001 once before but never on the big screen, let alone 70mm. And to be honest, I didn’t at all absorb the weight of the film during my first viewing. I might have actually fallen asleep. But last night, it was magic moments at the Music Box for this girl. I was dazzled, enthralled, stunned by this space opera that now has my heart. There is so much in this film to love, fear (?), and reflect on. So much so that I barely noticed the nose nipping temperatures and the onset of a literal snowstorm as A and I walked to the car after the screening – me again trying to understand the entirety of the last act. Is it literal or figurative, or both? Something tells me I’ll be knee deep in film analyses titled “2001: A Space Odyssey Explained” this weekend.

So, this post is just to say that if you haven’t seen 2001, put it on the bucket list. It’s worth a first, second, and third take, as evidenced from my own experiences.

Here’s a sliver of the extraordinary imagery that Kubrick brings us…

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Is anyone else totally obsessed with Kubrick’s films?

Three of my top ten films fall under his directing: Eyes Wide Shut, The Shining, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. All the rest can be attributed to HitchcockLynch and Chicago’s own John Hughes

  • http://martinbrochhaus.com Martin

    You need explanations? Read this and prepare for your mind to get blown: http://www.alchemylab.com/

    ;)

  • http://www.jbound.com Julie

    You know, I’ve never actually seen a Kubrick film. I need to rectify that! 2001 will be my first :)

  • Marshall Fox

    Hi. I just ran across you over on Reddit, where, coincidentally, I had just finished answering a posted question about “2001.” (The OP was baffled by the final passage of the film, and was hoping for insights.) Those stills that you’ve put up here –were they, by chance, part of an older silver film booklet? I’m asking, because when I went to see the first run of this film (at a Cinedome in Las Vegas) the audience was given a special booklet containing these exact stills, along with about 20 others.)

    If you’re interested, here’s my breakdown of the final transcendent third of Kubrick’s masterpiece: (–feel free to delete as TL;DR):

    Forgive any excess length or seeming arrogance or vagueness in what’s to follow:

    Here’s what happens on a very simple level during the final passage of “2001″ (–there are lots of other deeper philosophical, mythological, scientific, and poetic concerns…but they are all best discovered on your own; but this can point you in the right direction):

    After HAL is “shut down” (and we realize that his paranoia, egomania, and madness was the result of him being PROGRAMMED to lie –i.e., “keep the astounding secret of the mission to himself”); astronaut Bowman, who has proved himself “transcendent” as a Human (that is, superior to the mere superpowerful MACHINE MIND of HAL by “doing the impossible”: Specifically: by taking the crazy chance that he won’t survive and launching himself across the void…and into the unpressurized airlock to re-enter the ship, an action that is utterly beyond conception to HAL), continues his mission towards “the infinite”…and we see this:

    Arriving at Jupiter orbit, Bowman finds ANOTHER monolith –this one massive. Checking it out in one of the pods, he discovers that it is “full of stars” –that is: IT’S A STARGATE. He enters/is drawn into this transgalactic portal, and we see the universe bend and explode and flare and be stretched into long lines of light before his astonished eyes as he moves at fantastic speeds that are beyond all Human science –and which burst the barriers of time and distance.

    He arrives at the other side of the Stargate and is pulled along/guided across the surface of an alien world, which he perceives in a “mind-blown” and distorted frame of mind…a “shock” which doesn’t start to clear until he finds himself in “the classical white room.”

    We see his blinking eyes finally “return to normal color,” and watch him “shuddering/trembling” as things finally start to settle-in, and he begins to grasp what’s happened to him…

    Now he enters and “explores” the white room –which can be looked at as a perpetual “holding cell,” created by whatever super-advanced alien minds have let him draw close to their magnificent existence. This exploration is where Kubrick shows us how Editing, Mind, and Time are all interrelated…by creating a sequence that compresses the rest of Bowman’s life (perhaps a hundred or more years) down to just several minutes of observation…and this is done to show us how Bowman’s mind (and, one might say, his very “soul”) has been altered and “advanced” by having traveled through the Stargate Light Tunnel: He now sees “Time” as massive “leaps” of thought (just as the Ape’s bone being thrown into the sky presages a massive leap forward in intelligence and technology –with the millions-of-years edit that jumps from “murderbone weapon,” all the way to the “first orbital nuclear bomb”).

    Now, here’s how Bowman’s “leaps of thought” progress: First, in “real time” (so to speak), the spacesuit-wearing astronaut finds himself IN the room, exploring it. The pod has vanished. He enters the elegant chamber’s bathroom and sees himself in the bathroom mirror, and for the first time realizes that he’s aged considerably –although he never noticed it during the Stargate travel. He suddenly hears something in the main room, and, frightened, looks around the doorway into the other room. What he sees is himself, even older, just as the older self “looks back towards” him. What Kubrick does in this shot is make PHYSICAL a “paired thought” that EVERY “REFLECTIVE” HUMAN BEING EXPERIENCES: It illustrates that moment when you think about yourself IN THE FUTURE, who you will be, what you will be doing (and in this case, it’s “younger Bowman” coming to grips with the thought that he’ll be living out his life in this magnificent Hotel-Room-like “cage,” as he sees himself as an old man still there, having a meal); then we leap across time –both metaphorically and ACTUALLY– and the second half of the Human thought occurs: That moment when we are older, and WE LOOK BACK ON OURSELVES AND REMEMBER THE TRANSCENDENT INSTANT when we saw that this future would play-out in a certain way –and now, in fact, it has…for Bowman; and we see this “memory”/Reality come-to-be as the aged man walks, limping (showing us that he’s still “all too human”) to the bathroom, where he checks it out and finds it empty… –Literally, youth is gone; time has passed.

    We are now ACTUALLY “with” the “old Bowman,” and watch a few moments of what his endless captivity/observation/”Monk like contemplative life” is like in the White Room, as he very precisely eats a fine meal and enjoys a glass of wine –all provided by his never-seen (and most-likely “bodiless”) alien captors/mentors.

    His movements have become as graceful as possible, simple and without wasted motion…but he’s still just a frail human, a glorious mind trapped in a decaying body. And Kubrick shows us, once again, Man’s “limitations” through a casual act of clumsiness (like the moment Bowman “forgot his space helmet”) –Bowman knocks his wine glass over, breaking it. This takes us to the next “leap forward” moment, as Old Bowman, considering the broken glass and the pool of blood-like wine, realizes he’ll be in this room forever, his body growing as brittle as the wine glass until one day it must inevitably shatter –and in that instant, THIS thought once again “becomes flesh,” as Old Bowman looks across the room and sees “Ancient, Dying Bowman” –himself; the being he must ultimately become (as must we all, as we fly towards Death, turning into different older versions of ourselves along the way).

    Then, again, we are ACTUALLY with this vastly old man, trapped with him as he breathes his last breaths, dying in a comfortable bed. As he begins to die, the Aliens perform their second miracle: They make another Monolith appear at the foot of his bed. (The “first miracle” was when the impossibly-ancient-and-wise aliens made a Monolith appear at the “Dawn of Man”: THAT time, we see that this “device” has the ability to super-accelerate the evolution of the ape’s minds, as we are shown how all of the small group of proto-humans who were first drawn to reach out and touch the perfect black creation INSTANTLY learn to use weapons and contemplate the Heavens –shown when one of them is seen looking up at the moon in wonder. This “miracle” of almost “God-like guidance” actually made Mankind possible –as these Monolith-Advanced ApeMen became the dominant force on the planet –illustrated when they drove the “lesser apes” away from the water hole).

    Now, dying ancient Bowman receives the alien’s next “blessing,” as he proves himself truly WORTHY of being once-again given a superjump in Evolution by the Monolith device. Here’s what made him worthy: His endless desire to KNOW what is beyond himself –which Kubrick sees as Humanity’s greatest strength, and the key to our grandeur. That’s why the aliens buried A DIFFERENT SORT OF MONOLITH on the moon; because IT COULD ONLY BE UNCOVERED if Man continued to grow and improve as a species, becoming smart enough and questing enough to make it to the moon. Then, there, the Moon Monolith was programmed to give Humans the next “clue” to follow –if they were advanced and inquisitive enough: It fired a signal towards Jupiter. Following this signal is what took humanity to the Stargate.)

    But “now,” in the White Room, as Bowman is dying, he PROVES what Humans really are: WE ARE THE QUESTING MINDS OF GODS TRAPPED IN FLESH THAT IS DOOMED TO DIE. But the Will to Know, the Need to Understand is so huge in us as a species that, even as we are dying, we still reach out to grasp that which stands “beyond us.” And THAT’S what we see Bowman embody, as he reaches out to touch the Monolith from his deathbed, mirroring the exquisitely Human gesture of those first Apes who showed they had minds that were beyond those of “mere animals” (and INTERESTS that extended beyond their bodies) in the movie’s first “chapter.” As Bowman has proved that he is still a glorious vessel of hope and desire-to-know…the Aliens give him the “next evolutionary leap forward.” Whereas the Apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence only had their MENTAL ability improved…Bowman receives THAT, along with a shift in his actual physical being: He’s not quite the Invisible, Non-Corporeal Entities that is the apparent state-of-being to which the aliens have seemingly evolved…but he is, now, “a Star Child.”

    And that’s what we see at the end of the film: Bowman, reborn as a “giant” fledgling superbeing, now able to exist in the Universe without the petty trappings of “technology” –and, in the film’s momentous crescendo, we observe as this near God-like being looks down upon our Earth…and, in the film’s final moments, gently contemplates HIS next move…and our astounding Future.

    This is just the bare bones stuff –but if you keep it in mind while re-watching the film, all kinds of wonderful new thoughts and perceptions might open to you, Pyrelord…ya nascent Starchild you. And if you find yourself evolving…you can say a prayer to sweet gone-but-never-forgotten Stanley.