On the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick‘s science fiction masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, one wonders if we have spent the last 50 years in a self-fulfilling prophecy. The film remains one of the most tantalizing visual experiences on the big screen. It’s iconic and mesmerizing, but it’s difficult to know if 2001: A Space Odyssey is the chicken or the egg. 2001: A Space Odyssey is about… well, no one really knows still, but its influence is undeniable. The film’s reach is like concentric circles rippling through time, its influences can, literally, be seen throughout film and television, just take a look at WALL-E, South Park, The Simpsons, etc., references abound. The film has even inspired interior décor, and museum installations, and much more. Conspiracy theorists love to talk about how 2001: A Space Odyssey may have even inspired the 1969 moon landing a year later and that this was staged using Kubrick’s expertise and leftover props.
But back to the film, when 2001: A Space Odyssey opened hundreds of people walked out complaining that it didn’t make any sense. I confess, the first time I saw the movie I fell asleep, I attributed it to being too young and too distracted, it was a bit like reading a great book at the wrong time; Since then, It’s become a favorite movie, I know this because I own a copy, and think about it randomly now and then. I think about how 2001: A Space Odyssey was made, what it means, and how Kubrick propelled a vision of the future that was adopted by generations. I think about how Kubrick got the dreaded philosophical angst of impermanence right, and how he captures the emerging distrust of technology based on the idea that human beings have the capacity to be the creators of their own destruction. However, Kubrick also missed the opportunity to reflect the shifting social dynamics of the time around the power structures, so instead of envisioning a different social order into the future, Kubrick puts on blinders and creates a future world in which misogyny persists and people of color don’t exist. 2001: A Space Odyssey was done after television shows Star Trek were also projecting a science-fiction future of their own, only they managed to bring diversity on to the screen and address taboos like interracial relationships, but 2001: A Space Odyssey does none of that, and this is perhaps the biggest disappointment about 2001: A Space Odyssey today because audiences simply expect more than audiences of the past. However, 2001: A Space Odyssey by any production and cinematic standard remains a must see.
2001: A Space Odyssey is an experience, with one of the best soundtracks ever, with classical works like “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss II, and works by Aram Khachaturian and György Ligeti. The music holds a subliminal narrative that gives enough information, like markers on a road, to get the viewer to his or her own destination. The film reinforces visual cues that generations have taken for granted like black, slick-looking monoliths that hold the key to eternity, dimensions, consciousness, or any mystery still in need on exploration. 2001: A Space Odyssey also introduces HAL, an omnipotent computer that seems to make the leap from tool to sentient being, and in doing so HAL’s relationship to the crew changes, putting “his” (because the voice is male) own existence in peril. One can’t help think that HAL stops short of reciting Hamlet’s own words, “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”
2001: Space Odyssey (1968) ~ 50th Anniversary Presentations
Monday, September 10 at 9:30 PM
Thursday, September 20 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, September 22 at 10:30 PM