I'll never forget the first time I watched the film that would become my favorite film of all time: 2001: A Space Odyssey directed and written by the genius Stanley Kubrick, co-written by Arthur C. Clarke and based on Clarke's short story The Sentinel. I was a teenager and watched it via TV, I was enthralled by it in a way few movies have achieved, the feelings it evoked in me are hard to describe, I was amazed, curious and even scared by the environment this movie had, I had never seen anything like it.
The film is about a strange object, an alien Monolith, that has been discovered on the surface of the moon and which is sending signals to Jupiter. Two astronauts, Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole, are on a mission to go to Jupiter to investigate these signals, accompanied by the AI HAL-9000, an artificial intelligence that basically runs most of the ship.
Throughout the film, the audience is met with a sense of both mystery and fear, as we know little to nothing about the nature of this monolith and the signals it's emitting, we often ask ourselves about what is on the surface of Jupiter, what do those signals mean and more importantly:
Why is HAL-9000 malfunctioning and threatening the lives of the entire crew?
One of the Most Visually Stunning Films of All Time.
It is not a secret for anyone that has seen any other one Stanley Kubrick's films such as A Clockwork Orange or The Shining that the man was a genius in making images so strong that they last forever in the memory of the viewer. He has a very specific visual style that is instantly recognizable, however, I must say that in my humble opinion, this film is his ultimate masterpiece.
This science fiction film was made in 1968, a year prior to the moon landing. This meant that the entire design of the spacecraft and suits were made with meticulous research of what real ones would look like, they didn't want this film to feel outdated a few years after its release. It's impressive how accurate it is, everything looking so real that it did not only take the audience's breaths away but it also started the conspiracy theory that Stanley Kubrick had directed the moon landing video footage.
This movie even had many predictions on the future of technology as we know today, like videocalls, HAL-9000 being similar to Siri or Alexa, and even showing devices very similar to laptops and ipads.
The props that were made for this movie are stunning and revolutionary as it was made in the 60s, this film has so many details that no matter how many times I watch it, I keep finding new ones every time. I've always loved everything related to space and as a teenager, I was shocked at these images that just looked so real on my TV. I would've loved to watch it at the cinema.
Technology as Our Enemy
HAL-9000 is an unlikely villain and one that would be remembered even in today's day and age.
The idea of technology as a villain might not sound new to many, but at the time, it was a novel idea. In the 60s the technological revolution was a far cry from what it is today, and thus, only a few directors actually dared to touch on the subject.
The first time I watched the movie I actually despised this robot that turned on the crew, betraying their trust. But the more times I rewatched the film, I realized something: HAL is the most human character out of them all.
Many criticize this movie for having lackluster main characters, as the astronauts act monotone, as if they were robots, we don't get the sense that they are emotional, only following orders. However, this was intentional, as HAL-9000 is the more compelling character, the one that makes mistakes, the one that actually begs not to be disconnected, the one that admits to feeling scared.
A Mind Blowing Conclusion
This film truly blew my mind, the ending being one of the most confusing yet fascinating endings I have ever seen and elevating the number of times I'd rewatch this movie, if only to grasp more of what it meant.
You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film—and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level—but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he's missed the point. - Stanley Kubrick, 1968.
2001 A Space Odyssey ending has always fascinated me, it is not meant to be understood but to evoke strong emotions in the viewer's subconscious, it truly is visual hypnotism, accompanied by an amazing classical music score.
Dave, our protagonist, goes inside the monolith after finding it in Jupiter, and thus, he becomes in contact with something not only does he not understand, we as the audience are just as confused as he is.
Do humans need an external stimulus to evolve?This is a question asked by the movie, as it shows us that evolution only happens after a greater being, perhaps some sort of god, puts a monolith on earth, the humans only evolving from primates after they come in touch with it as if it sparked something else in them, an epiphany.
The monolith appears both at the start of the movie and at the end of it, turning Dave into something greater in the last part of the film, a rebirth, a new step in evolution, a starchild.
The god-like entities that spark the evolution in mankind are never addressed directly in the movie, the way they act is utterly confusing as they are beings higher than men. It is naive for us to think that we could understand something so great.
Nietzsche's Thus Spoke ZarathustraThe movie makes a great use of the song Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, based on Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical tract of the same name, where Nietzsche Nietzsche states that man is a bridge between the ape and what he calls the Übermensch, often translated as the supermen, humanity's ultimate goal.
"Somebody said man is the missing link between primitive apes and civilized human beings. You might say that is inherent in the story too. We are semicivilized, capable of cooperation and affection, but needing some sort of transfiguration into a higher form of life. Man is really in a very unstable condition." - Stanley Kubrick, 1968.
A Cult Classic
This film is a classic, one of the most influential movies of all time and an experience that is impossible to forget.
Many movies such as Interstellar or Arrival have been deeply influenced by it, I even remember my daughter watching cartoons that would make references to it, such as recess where they had a HAL rip-off in one episode called SAL-3000 or WALL-E's main villain.
This is a movie that for many people is hard to watch, perhaps it's because it barely has any dialogue and is considered too boring or confusing. Each scene is made with purpose but also with great hopes for the future of technology, it's a visual feast.
Even though the ending sequence has been deeply analyzed, there is something about it that is impossible for me to describe. Although many have come to the conclusion that it is about the evolution of mankind to our ultimate beings, perhaps it is also a hopeful message, one that Kubrick made before men had even gone to the moon, one that touched on the subject of space being the next stage to our evolution.
This film left a huge impression on me, I was a teenager deeply interested in space and science, I had never seen anything like it. Perhaps it also played a role in me deciding to choose Physics as a career path. This film actually follows every rule in physics, it is extremely realistic.
Even the score left a huge impact on me, as I bought the LP record of the film.
It is my favorite movie, one that I can watch over and over and still find new meaning in each scene. I know it is not everyone's cup of tea, but it managed to amaze me, make myself deeply philosophical questions and find tremendous beauty in space and what it could look like.
2001: A Space Odyssey is the Mindblowing Experience of a Lifetime
This is an entry for League of Movies (HIVE WRITING CONTEST): Third Edition | Week 04 - "Mind Blowing" sponsored by @wiseagent