Stanley Kubrick: «If you understand a movie, it means we have failed»

Instructions for using the toilet at imponderability as a symbol of humanity destruction, a talkative computer-killer as the end of civilization, and other ideas and images of the film by Stanley Kubrick«Space Odyssey 2001»

«Space Odyssey 2001» was created at the same time the space age started: the film director Stanley Kubrick took a chance and made the film on a current topic in the genre, in which the industrial standards had been the products of the second chop before. Instead of obligatory alien intervention according to the plot spectators first saw the realistic, technically authentic movie that raises complicated philosophical questions. Its title refers to a poem by Homer, that is followed by author’s question: what is the final goal and common sense of human existence? And taking into consideration speed of space technology development in those years, the precise date in the title of the film caused neither surprise, nor doubts.

 

1. «At the dawn of humanity»: Prologue

«Odyssey» was a revolution in the genre because of the conscious rejection of everything associated with primarily science fiction, from voice-off the screen, a distinctly expressive acting, the music which does not mix with the voices of the people in the film. The first dialogue sounds only at the 26th minute, but it still does not explain the plot. The only concession to the audience  titles that reveal almost every part of the movie  bringing some clarity, but actually allow authors to keep silent.

2. Black Obelisk: extraterrestrial intelligence

Depending on the general interpretation of the film  either optimistic or pessimistic  the most mysterious image of the film is the black monolith, called either a force of the Good, transfers unavailable technologies to a person, or the purest Evil: which being touched by the monkeys give knowledge about weapon. What is this? Extraterrestrial intelligence? The memory of a disappeared civilization? Just an ordinary piece of basalt? The film does not give an answer. Black monolith is a symbol of the interpretation itself.

 

3. Symphony by Strauss: the world of Zarathustra

The key image of the film and Kubrick’s art in general: a monkey raises a bone from the ground and with the music by Strauss on the background turns into a killer. It turns out that the impulse of violence in our world is paradoxically associated with the Mind, and the evil is in the heart of human nature. The name of the symphony clearly refers to Nietzsche and his idea that man is only an intermediate step in the process of evolution from a monkey to a superman. Kubrick clearly gives the name of the God of this world  Zarathustra. This God is terrible, cruel and far from sympathy and mercy. The world where he reigns, is waiting for the inevitable disaster, and the spiritual man is doomed to be defeated.

 

 

4. Bone turns into a spaceship: 10,000 years for 10 seconds

A setting-up from a throw of the bone to the spacecraft embodies the history of mankind  from the invention of weapons to the space age. With this technique, the authors show a giant evolutionary progress of humanity and emphasize the link between violence and having the source of it in mind. Frames embody the power of cinema  the only art that can express such a complicated metaphor with the minimum techniques and maximum imaginative power.

 

5. Instructions for using the toilet in imponderability: the defeat of man

Humor in «Space Odyssey» exists only as the director’s irony. Example of the author’s sarcasm  instructions for using toilet in imponderability: that illustrates civilization inability to solve the basic problems of mankind, but only to change their shape. Flight to Jupiter is far more manageable than a victory over the human physiology.

 

6. The second touch to the monolith: no longer a monkey but not a sensible creature

The first («At the Dawn of Humanity») and the second parts of the film (The Trip to the Moon) clearly echoed each other: both monkeys and humans create weapons, and they both joined in the warring factions and in agitation examining the black monolith. Paying attention to the tiny details of life space, Kubrick shows humans have hardly changed for millions of years.

 

7. Computer HAL: «Polyphemus» of the space age

Hal (HAL) Red Eye  of the spaceship onboard computer «Discovery» and the only negative character of the film  another allusion to Homer«Odyssey»: Homers Odyssey uses a knife to gouge out the eye to the Cyclops Polyphemus, as well as an astronaut almost aiming at the same uses the turn-screw.

 

8. People of the future: empty and boring

Contrary to talkative Hal, astronauts are phlegmatic silent introverts with slightly expressed individual qualities, almost robots. Vacuity and emptiness of their dialogues are much more important than their number: this is an allusion to the spiritual crisis of humanity, which will overtake mankind by 2001, and will require the intervention of the evolutionary force, studied by the black obelisks.

 

9. The first mistake of the computer: a mate in three steps

During the game of chess, which HAL plays with an astronaut, the computer indicates a winning combination that will allow him to checkmate in three steps. In fact, he admits inaccuracy: mat is placed with two steps later. This minor error  the first symptom of his future «madness». Another possible interpretation: HAL is deliberately lying and pretending. Its a bluff, which is admitted in a scheme of simulation of human behavior by artificial intelligence. And then the error allows to speak of him as a creature being able to think and feel. However, acquiring human qualities, the computer becomes just as tough and unpredictable as people.

 

10. Astronaut kills computer: 4:1

Before his death, HAL sings the popular song of the late XIX century «Daisy Bell»: this is the last stage of the «humanization» of the computer  madness. Obvious and natural result of the development of the human mind: the absolute dead end.

 

11. «Stargate»: optical symphony

To emphasize the transition «beyond the infinity», Kubrick sets screen light show, radically updating cinematographic language. There is no more scriptwriting. We are witnessing the apocalypse at the boundary of time and space.

 

12. Apartments: beyond time and space

After optical Symphony «Space Odyssey» is likely to be turned back into a movie, which you can tell in words, but at the same time to become impenetrable and incomprehensible at all. In the weird XVIII century-style apartments usual logic expires to be acting, and time and space lose their earth parameters. With camera throwing Kubrick is trying to express the idea of a person’s intention to «go beyond one’s limits," and inappropriate room from the Earth Past is apparently turned up under a black monolith creators’ view  those who we can not imagine.

 

13. Space Baby: at the dawn of humanity

The irony of the first films title («At the Dawn of Humanity») is revealed in the final frames, when astronaut dies and is reborn as a superman  Star Child. Pessimistic view which is expressed by the director throughout the film suggests: humanity has nothing to hope for. People have no efforts to break up their own cycle of violence. Therefore, all that can happen to mankind, will not happen on its own will, but come from outside, through the intervention of higher powers.

Translated by Julia Sergeeva

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