|Stanley Kubrick Directed by||previously directed Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb|
Mankind finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, artifact buried on the moon and, with the intelligent computer HAL, sets off on a quest to discover who made it.
Despite being a noted artistic touch, the use of classical music was originally intended as a placeholder while composer Alex North completed the score.12 More Trivia
|Arthur C. Clarke||Screenplay/Short story (The Sentinel (suggestion)|
|Keir Dullea||Dave Bowman|
|Gary Lockwood||Dr. Frank Poole|
|William Sylvester||Dr. Heywood R. Floyd|
|Leonard Rossiter||Dr. Andrei Smyslov|
|Robert Beatty||Dr. Ralph Halvorsen|
|Sean Sullivan||Dr. Bill Michaels|
|Douglas Rain||HAL 9000|
|Frank Miller||Mission Controller|
|See Full Credits|
2001: A Space Odyssey’s plot spreads across a massive timeline. Beginning at the dawn of man the film ends at a future date well beyond our own imaginations. Most of the film has no dialogue and the story is carried by action and images more than characters and an explained story narrative.
The film opens on a black screen with a musical intretlude. The MGM logo is cut in and is quickly cut out. Audiences are then treated to the first opening shot of the film. The Earth, Moon, and Sun are aligned in the sky and the famous music of Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra.
Kubrick then invites the audience to the first leg of the journey with the title card ‘The Dawn of Man.’ The sun rises on the Earth that has no real comparison to our beloved planet. Most of the surface is endless deserts filled with sparce animal life and the occasional rock formation.
In the desert there lives a tribe of early human primates scavenging for food off of the dead plants. With them are a type of pig that lives in harmony with the tribe. With water being scarce the tribe finds a watering hole, however when a tribe of more aggressive apes arrives they are forced from the hole.
Finding shelter in a rock formation the tribe gathers around to sleep through the dangerous night. The next day the first Monolith is stuck in the rock in the center of the tribe. The Monolith is a large rectangular black stone of sorts. It is completely smooth and accompanied in the film by a haunting sound giving it a terrifying presence.
The apes immediately step away from the forgein object with fear. One of the apes slowly gets closer to the Monolith testing it and feeling it out to see if it is a threat. Finally the brave proto human touches the massive stone and is eventually joined by the rest of the tribe.
A short time later the tribe is foraging for food again with the thought of the Monolith no longer haunting them. Admist the sun cured bones one of the apes picks up a hip bone. He begins to throw it around and realized he can break other bones with it. Quickly he kills one of the pigs with the new tool and feeds the tribe. The rest of the tribe picks up bones as well and they return to the watering hole where the aggressive tribe had ran them off. With tool in hand the apes kill one of the others and reclaim the watering hole. One of the apes throws it’s bone into the sky in celebration. As the bone flies through the air the film cuts to an image of a similar looking space craft hanging in the blackness.
A Pan American flight flies gently through space to the space station spinning silently above the planet. On board Dr.Heywood R. Floyd is asleep in zero gravity.
Once aboard the station Dr. Floyd announces his final location of Clavius, a colony on the moon. He meets several nice Russian doctors on their way back to earth. They ask him about the rumor’s coming out of Clavius. Evidently there is a story about a virus spreading through the colony and it had to be quarantined. Dr. Floyd tells them he hadn’t heard the rumor and that he really couldn’t talk about why he is going to Clavius.
On the way to the moon Dr. Floyd sits alone in the passenger seating watching TV and enjoying a meal.
Once at Clavius Floyd meets up with the scientists and thanks them for their patience about the situation. He mentions that the cover story about the virus epidemic will have to continue until the government makes a decision about revealing the situation to the world. He tells them that he has been sent to prepare a report and if things run smoothly the better the situation can be for everyone.
Floyd and several of the scientists make their way to the dig sit. It is explained to Floyd that the diggers tried excavating around the artifact to find any other evidence but found none. They also determined that the artifact had been dated at four million years old and buried intentionally.
Arriving at the dig sight Floyd and the team take pictures of the artifact which is the second Monolith. As they pose for a group photo in front of the Monolith the scientists are incapacitated by a frequency the Monolith begins to omit.
The spaceship Discovery One has a compliment of six members. In hyper sleep, Charles Hunter, Jack Kimble, and Victor Cominsky await to be awoken once the ship reaches Jupiters orbit. David Bowman and Franke Poole are two highly trained astronauts in charge of keeping the ship working as they journey through space. Lastly there is HAL 9000 a super computer AI tasked with dealing with the mass calculations required to travel through space.
Poole and Bowman must stay awake through the trip and try their best to stay entertained. The centrifuge of the ship creates an artificial gravity that allows the astronauts to work out. At other times they draw and play chess with HAL. And being the first manned mission to Jupiter the press interviews them and they watch the broadcast later.
One day as Dave shows his drawings to HAL, HAL shows concern over the nature of their mission. He tells Dave about the rumors of something being found on the moon. And he asks Dave why were the scientists in hyper sleep trained separately from Dave and Frank.
Before Dave gives it much thought HAL informs them that a component on their radar dish is about to fail. Immediately Dave decides to bring the part in to fix it. He exits the ship in one of the pods and replaces the part with a temparory part so that way they can bring it back and see what’s wrong.
Testing the equipment Dave and Frank can find nothing wrong. HAL suggests putting it back and letting it fail so that way they can see what happened. Mission control tells them that their HAL 9000 did not anticipate this malfunction and they suggest putting the part back in as HAL suggested.
Dave and Frank talk about HAL within one of the pods. They are afraid that something may be up and its possible HAL has been lying to them. They conclude that if they need to shut him down they will but at the moment there isn’t a reason too.
Frank gets in his space suit and goes out to put the original part back into the radar dish. HAL takes over the pod and cuts Franks air line causing him to fly off into space. Dave quickly gets into his another pod, without his space helmet, and retrieves Franks now lifeless body.
Back at the ship Dave demands that HAL open the pod bay doors but HAL refuses. He tells Dave that he read Dave’s lips when he was planning to deactivate him. While Dave tries to find a way back on the ship HAL shuts off the life support systems to the scientists and kills them.
Dave lets Frank's body float into space and lines the pod up with an emergency exit. Blowing the doors off, Dave is able to float through space and reestablish the air so that he can breathe.
The last remaining survivor of the Jupiter mission climbs into HAL's computer systems. As HAL begs Dave to stop Dave slowly starts deactivating HAL’s higher brain functions. As the last of HAL’s memories are gone he begins to sing the song Daisy Bell until Dave completely deactivates him.
As Dave finishes, a prerecorded message, made by Dr. Floyd, begins to play on HAL’s monitor. The message states that intelligent life has been found and the only evidence of it was the second Monolith on the moon. Except for a large radio transmission aimed towards Jupiter the Monolith has remained inert. The Jupiter mission was to discover what was at Jupiter.
Alone, Dave flies one of the pods towards the Monolith floating in space around Jupiter. As he gets closer Dave seems to be sucked either into the third Monolith or is transported across the universe. It seems as if Dave is crossing emense distances and the film cuts in shots of Dave being terrified.
At one point five pyramid shapes seem to join Dave on his journey. Shortly after Dave observes a planet not much unlike Earth but is filled with unnatural colors.
Suddenly the pod stops. A shaking Dave Bowman can see a classically furnishd bedroom outside the window of the pod. Still in his suit Dave now seems to be an older man and sees himself standing in the bedroom. He then becomes the version of himself standing in the bedroom. At a table Bowman sees an even older version of himself eating dinner at the table. He pauses his meal for a moment and turns around to find no one there. Before he continues his meal Bowman sees himself on his death bed. In front of the last human Bowman now stands the Fourth Monolith at the foot of his bed. Bowman tries reaching out for it but is too weak to touch it.
The film cuts back to Bowman who has now transformed into the Star Child. It is a fetus suspended in a ball of light. The last shot of the film is of the Star Child floating in Space looking down on Earth.
2001 was made at the height of the space race between the US and Russia. Arthur C. Clark and Kubrick saw the journey to space not as a way to beat the Russians but as the next big leap for the human race.
The story first originated from one of Arthur C. Clarks shorts. It was called The Sentinal, 1950, and was about the finding of an alien artifact on the moon. At the world’s fair Kubrick had met with several animators that could make the world of 2001 a possibility. Con Pederson, Doug Trumbull, and Brain Johnson worked together with Kubrick. It was also at the 1964 World’s Fair that the first computer sang the song Daisy Bell which would be the last song HAL would ever sing.
To play the apes at the beginning of the film Kubrick hired mime’s and stage actors. Dan Richtor played the main ape that discovered how to use tools. He convinced Kubrick that he could do the role by making a test reel. After getting the part Richtor watched hours and hours of footage that involved various apes. Richtor created the way the apes would move and taught the other actors.
The concept of the Monolith is that it is a teaching machine. The original idea was that it was transparent and images would appear on the Monolith. Clark and Kubrick felt this idea was to naïve and changed it so that the Monolith was something that got into the minds of the beings it wanted to teach.
Kubrick also brought on scientific advisors to make sure that every detail of the film would be based in reality. Every piece of equipment that was on screen was approved by these advisors. This created an effect not seen before in science fiction. Most ships at the time were slick and looked like flying saucers, however Kubrick's ships looked similar to the rockets people where watching being launched on the news.
One of the first big effects of the film was the pen floating in space. It was achieved by using double sided tape, newly invented, and attaching it to a clear piece of plexiglass that the crew would rotate in front of the camera giving the illusion that the pen was floating.
Kubrick was notorious on set. Most of the cast and crew thought of him as a kind man, however some of his behavior they found puzzling. Kubrick would never address the actors on set directly. If he was giving direction he would tell his assistant director what he wanted and then the assistant would tell the actors. And when the actors tried addressing Kubrick directly he would ignore them.
The music played a huge part of the editing process. Kubrick had hired a composer for the film but in the end went with the classical music that was only supposed to be a place holder until the composer was finished.
Originally HAL was suppose to be a mobile robot and it is unclear when it was changed to the single red light that would become 2001's greatest icon.
The centrifuge was built in its entirety. It was constructed so that the two halves could separate and the scene’s could be shot with ease. There was also a small slit that when the halves were together they could still shoot inside the centrifuge. At times, this meant that the actors would have to turn on their own cameras because there would be no room for a camera man.
Various types of aliens where designed for the ending of 2001, however, after a meeting with Carl Sagan, Kubrick changed the ending of 2001. Sagan suggested that the human mind could not even fathom what aliens would look like and instead of showing aliens in the film it should imply alien life. Another factor was that the production simply ran out of time to shoot anything else.
Kubrick never allowed anyone from MGM onto the set so when the film was first shown to the executives it was a bit of a shock. With the film several million dollars over budget one of the producers actually had a heart attack after the screening thinking it would be the end of his career.
For a little while he was right and the film didn’t do that well with critics or the box office. However after some time passed theatre owners started seeing more and more young people coming to the late showings of the film. There are report's of people taking drugs and lying down on the floor directly in front of the screen.
Over time 2001 has become one of the most revered science fiction films of all time. Up until that time science fiction films were viewed as corny or for kids. However 2001 made the genre relevant to adults in a way that hadn’t been seen before.
One of the most famous cuts in cinematic history is when the lead ape throws his new found weapon into the air and the film cuts to the spacecraft in orbit around earth. This single cut demonstrates the ability film has to create atmosphere, the passage of time, and illustrate meaning by using juxtaposition.
2001 takes place across a long span of time and Kubrick knew he had to communicate that to audiences as simply as possible. Using the new found tool used by the apes Kubrick connected the idea that space craft’s are just larger tools. By using the similar shapes of the bone and the space craft Kubrick cut the film between the two objects giving the radically different objects meaning juxtaposed to each other.
There are several theme's to 2001 that can be hotly debated. Instead of trying to translate the films meanings I will simply state some of the obvious points Kubrick was trying to make.
From beginning to end 2001 tracks the growth of man's evolution. Starting with early apes the film progress to a possible outcome that defies explanation.
Even with the character of HAL we see a very quick version of evolution. At the time of is creation HAL was like any other computer however due to the journey towards the third Monolith he begins to change. HAL begins to express emotions and realizes his own mortality. In the film he even begs for his life.
Knowledge must come with Responsibility
Very quickly the film tells it's audiences that tools can be used for good or for evil. The apes are able to use their tools to feed its family but also uses it to commit murder.
The same can be said about Dave Bowman, humanities analog in the film. Dave uses HAL as a tool to do his bidding but when his life is threaten he again resorts to murder.
Not only has 2001 become one of the great influential films in cinema but its iconic images have penetrated the larger world of popular culture. Even if you have never seen the film at some point in time you have seen it referenced and can recognize the imagery, characters, or music.
With its minimalist filmmaking 2001 can be interpreted many ways. The debate over the film's meaning was accentuated by Kubrick's own refusal to provide any clarifications. In an interview with Playboy in 1968, he actually encouraged the viewers to come up with their own interpretations for the movie:
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. I think that if 2001 succeeds at all, it is in reaching a wide spectrum of people who would not often give a thought to man's destiny, his role in the cosmos and his relationship to higher forms of life. But even in the case of someone who is highly intelligent, certain ideas found in 2001 would, if presented as abstractions, fall rather lifelessly and be automatically assigned to pat intellectual categories; experienced in a moving visual and emotional context, however, they can resonate within the deepest fibers of one's being.
The Academy Awards or Oscars, bestowed by a large group of important figures in the film industry, famously did not nominate 2001 for Best Picture (Oliver! won). This is widely considered one of their worst mistakes in their eighty-plus years. However, it is worth noting that they did honor 2001 in several other categories, and it was for that movie that Stanley Kubrick won his only Oscar. Oddly, it was not for writing or directing, but for his impressive work as special effects designer and director. The nominations were as follows:
Best Director--Stanley Kubrick
Best Art Direction--Anthony Masters; Harry Lange; Ernie Archer
Best Visual Effects--Stanley Kubrick WON!!!
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