2001: A Space Odyssey - Film (Movie) Plot and Review





USA-UK, 1968


Director: Stanley Kubrick

Production: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Corp.; Technicolor and Metrocolor, 35mm, Super Panavision; running time: 141 minutes, premiere versions were 160 minutes. Released 3 April 1968,

2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey
New York. Filmed beginning 29 December 1965 in MGM's Shepperton and Borehamwood Studios, England. Cost: $10,500,000.


Producers: Stanley Kubrick with Victor Lyndon; screenplay: Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, from "The Sentinel" in Expedition to Earth by Clarke; photography: Geoffrey Unsworth; additional photography: John Alcott; editor: Ray Lovejoy; sound supervisor: A. W. Watkins; sound mixer: H. J. Bird, sound editor: Winston Ryder; production designers: Tony Masters, Harry Lange, and Ernest Archer; art director: John Hoesli; music: from works by Khatchaturian, Ligeti, Johann Strauss and Richard Strauss; special effects director: Stanley Kubrick; supervisors: Wally Veevers, Douglas Trumbull, Con Pederson and Tom Howard; costume designer: Hardy Amies; scientific consultant: Frederick Ordway III.

Cast: Keir Dullea ( Dave Bowman ); Gary Lockwood ( Frank Poole ); William Sylvester ( Dr. Heywood Floyd ); Daniel Richter ( Moon-Watcher ); Leonard Rossiter ( Smyslov ); Margaret Tyzack ( Elena ); Robert Beatty ( Halvorsen ); Sean Sullivan ( Michaels ); Douglas Rain ( HAL's voice ); Frank Miller ( Mission Control ); Penny Brahms ( Stewardess ); Alan Gifford ( Poole's Father ).


Awards: Oscar for Special Visual Effects, 1968; American Film Institute's "100 Years, 100 Movies," 1998.

Publications


Script:

Clarke, Arthur C., 2001: A Space Odyssey , New York, 1968.

Books:

Agel, Jerome, editor, The Making of Kubrick's 2001 , New York, 1970.

Dumont, Jean-Paul, and Jean Monod, La Foetus astral , Paris, 1970.

Predal, Rene, Le Cinéma fantastique , Paris, 1970.

Walker, Alexander, Stanley Kubrick Directs , London, 1971.

Clarke, Arthur C., The Lost Worlds of 2001 , New York, 1972.

Clarke, Arthur C., Report on Planet 3: And Other Speculations , New York, 1972.

De Vries, Daniel, The Films of Stanley Kubrick , Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973.

Geduld, Carolyn, Filmguide to 2001: A Space Odyssey , Bloomington, Indiana, 1973.

Phillips, Gene D., Stanley Kubrick: A Film Odyssey , New York, 1975.

Ciment, Michel, Kubrick , Paris, 1980; revised edition, 1987; English edition, London, 1983.

Kolker, Robert Phillip, A Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, Altman , Oxford, 1980; revised edition, 1988.

Short, Robert, The Gospel from Outer Space , San Francisco, 1983.

Dettmering, P., Literatur, Psychoanalyse, Film: Aufsätze 1978 bis 1983 , Stuttgart, 1984.

Hummel, Christoph, editor, Stanley Kubrick , Munich, 1984.

Brunetta, Gian Piero, Stanley Kubrick: Tempo, spazio, storia, e mondi possibili , Parma, 1985.

Cagin, Seth, Born to Be Wild: Hollywood & the Sixties Generation , Boca Raton, 1994.


Articles:

Clarke, Arthur C., "The Sentinel," in Expedition to Earth (New York), 1953.

Crist, Judith, "Stanley Kubrick, Please Come Down," in New York , 22 April 1962.

Robinson, David, "Two for the Sci-Fi," in Sight and Sound (Lon-don), Spring 1966.

"Kubrick, Farther Out," in Newsweek (New York), 12 Septem-ber 1966.

Spinrad, Norman, "Stanley Kubrick in the 21st Century," in Cinema (Beverley Hills), December 1966.

Sarris, Andrew, "Stanley Kubrick," in The American Cinema (New York), 1968.

Adler, Renata, in New York Times , 4 April 1968.

Shuldiner, Herbert, "How They Filmed 2001 ," in Popular Science (New York), June 1968.

Trumbull, Douglas, "Creating Special Effects for 2001 ," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), June 1968.

Barker, Cliff, and Mark Gasser, in Cineaste (New York), Sum-mer 1968.

Hunter, Tim, and others, in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Sum-mer 1968.

Austen David, in Films and Filming (London), July 1968.

Tavernier, Bertrand, "Londres a l'heure de Stanley Kubrick," in Lettres Françaises (Paris), 21 August 1968.

Capdenac, Michel, in Lettres Françaises (Paris), October 1968.

Ciment, Michel, in Positif (Paris), October 1968.

Walter, Renaud, "Entretien avec Stanley Kubrick," in Positif (Paris), December 1968.

Alpert, Hollis, in Film 68–69 , edited by Hollis Alpert and Andrew Sarris, New York, 1969.

Rapf, Maurice, "A Talk with Stanley Kubrick," in Action! (Los Angeles), January-February 1969.

Eisenschitz, Bernard, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1969.

Michelson, Annette, "Bodies in Space: Film as Carnal Knowledge," in Artforum (New York), February 1969.

James, Clive, "Kubrick Versus Clarke," in Cinema (London), March 1969.

Sineux, Michel, in Positif (Paris), April 1969.

McKee, Mel, " 2001 : Out of the Silent Planet," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1969.

Gelmis, Joseph, "Stanley Kubrick," in The Film Director as Superstar (New York), 1970.

Kael, Pauline, "Trash, Art, and the Movies," in Going Steady , Boston, 1970.

Youngblood, Gene, "The New Nostalgia," in Expanded Cinema (New York), 1970.

Sargow, Michael, in Film Society Review (New York), January 1970.

Pohl, Frederick, in Film Society Review (New York), February 1970.

Canby, Vincent, in New York Times , 3 May 1970.

Daniels, Don, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1970–71.

Kozloff, Max, in Film Culture (New York), Winter-Spring 1970.

Kauffman, Stanley, in Figure of Light (New York), 1971.

Phillips, Gene, "Kubrick," in Film Comment (New York), Winter 1971–72.

"Issue on 2001 " of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), Summer 1972.

Fisher, J., "Too Bad Lois Lane: The End of Sex in 2001 ," in Film Journal (New York), September 1972.

Boyd, D., "Mode and Meaning in 2001 ," in Journal of Popular Film (Washington D.C.), no. 3, 1978.

Kuckza, P., in Filmkultura (Budapest), March-April 1979.

"Le Dossier: 2001 , Stanley Kubrick," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 July 1979.

Hibbin, N., in Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 6, 1981.

Burgoyne, Robert, "Narrative Overture and Closure in 2001: A Space Odyssey ," in Enclitic (Minneapolis), Fall 1981-Spring 1982.

Rood, J., in Skoop (Amsterdam), November 1983.

Strick, Philip, "Ring Round the Moons," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), March 1985.

Shelton, R., "Rendezvous with HAL: 2001/2010 ," in Extrapolation (Kent, Ohio), no. 3, 1987.

Carter, S., "Avatars of the Turtles," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, DC), no. 3, 1990.

Fantauzzi, S., in Quaderni di Cinema (Florence), July-September 1992.

Hanson, E., "Technology, Paranoia and the Queer Voice," in Screen (Oxford), no. 2, 1993.

Debellis, J., "'The Awful Power': John Updike's Use of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey in Rabbit Redux," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), no. 3, 1993.

Vallerand, François, "L'odyssée de la musique de 2001 ," in Séquences (Haute-Ville), January 1994.

Miller, Mark Crispin, " 2001: a Cold Descent," in Sight & Sound (London), January 1994.

Henderson, K., "Alex North's 2001 and Beyond," in Soundtrack (Mechelen), March 1994.

Jacquet-Françillon, Vincent, "An Interview with Jerry Goldsmith," in Cue Sheet (Hollywood), vol. 10, no. 3–4, 1993–1994.

Saada, Nicolas, "Caro Diario," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1994.

Sinema, Andere, " 2001: A Space Odyssey ," in Andere Sinema (Antwerp), May-June 1997.

Chion, M., "(Deux) 2001: l'Odyssee de l'espace ," in Positif (Paris), September 1997.

Scheurer, Timothy E., "Kubrick vs. North. The Score for 2001: A Space Odyssey ," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), vol. 25, no. 4, Winter 1998.


* * *


In 2001: A Space Odyssey , Stanley Kubrick further explored his dark vision of man in a materialistic, mechanistic age depicted in Dr. Strangelove four years earlier. In explaining how the original idea for this landmark science-fiction film came to him, he says, "Most astronomers and other scientists interested in the whole question are strongly convinced that the universe is crawling with life; much of it, since the numbers are so staggering, (is) equal to us in intelligence, or superior, simply because human intelligence has existed for so relatively short a period." He approached Arthur C. Clarke, whose science fiction short story, "The Sentinel," would eventually become the basis for the film. They first expanded the short story into a novel, in order to completely develop the story's potential, and then turned that into a screenplay.

MGM bought their package and financed the film for six million dollars, a budget that after four years of work on the film eventually rose to ten million. Though 2001 opened to indifferent and even hostile reviews, subsequent critical opinion has completely reversed itself. As the film is often revived, it has earned back its original cost several times over.

2001 begins with the dawn of civilization in which an ape-man learns to use a bone as a weapon in order to destroy a rival, ironically taking a step further toward humanity. As the victorious ape-man throws his weapon spiralling into the air, there is a dissolve to a spaceship from the year 2001. "It's simply an observable fact," Kubrick comments, "that all of man's technology grew out of the discovery of the tool-weapon. There's no doubt that there's a deep emotional relationship between man and his machine-weapons, which are his children. The machine is beginning to assert itself in a very profound way, even attracting affection and obsession."

This concept is dramatized in the film when astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole find themselves at the mercy of the computer HAL 9000, which controls their spaceship. (There are repeated juxtapositions of man with his human failings and fallibility immersed in machines: beautiful, functional, but cold and heartless.) When HAL the computer makes a mistake, he refuses to admit the evidence of his own capacity for error, and proceeds to destroy the occupants of the space ship to cover it up. Kubrick indicates here, as in Dr. Strangelove , that human fallibility is less likely to destroy man than the abdication of his moral responsibilities to presumably infallible machines.

Kubrick believes man must also strive to gain mastery over himself and not just over his machines, "Somebody said man is the missing link between primitive apes and civilized human beings. You might say that that is inherent in the story of 2001 too. We are semi-civilized, capable of cooperation and affection, but needing some sort of transfiguration into a higher form of life. Since the means to obliterate life on earth exists, it will take more than just careful planning and reasonable cooperation to avoid some eventual catastrophic event. The problem exists as long as the potential exists; and the problem is essentially a moral one and a spiritual one."

These sentiments are very close to those which Charlie Chaplin expressed in his closing speech in The Great Dictator : "We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost."

The overall implications of the film suggest a more optimistic aspect to Kubrick's view of life than had been previously detected in his work. Here he presents man's creative encounters with the universe and his unfathomed potential for the future in more hopeful terms than he did, for example, in Dr. Strangelove .

The film ends with Bowman, the only survivor of the mission, being reborn as "an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like," Kubrick explains, "returning to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man's evolutionary destiny."

Kubrick feels that "the God concept is at the heart of the film" since, if any extraterrestrial superior being were to manifest itself to man, the latter would immediately assume it was God or an emissary of God. When an artifact of these beings does appear in the film, it is represented as a black monolithic slab. Kubrick thought it better not to try to be too specific in depicting these beings, "You have to leave something to the audience's imagination," he concludes.

In summary, 2001 by neither showing nor explaining too much, enables the viewer to experience the film as a whole. As Kubrick comments, "The feel of the experience is the important thing, not the ability to verbalize it. I tried to create a visual experience which directly penetrates the subconscious content of the material." The movie consequently becomes for the viewer an intensely subjective experience which reaches his inner consciousness in the same manner that music does, leaving him free to speculate about thematic content. As one critic put it, 2001 successfully brings the techniques and appeal of the experimental film into the studio feature-length film, "making it the world's most expensive underground movie." It is this phenomenon, in the final analysis, which has made 2001: A Space Odyssey so perennially popular with audiences. It is significant that Kubrick set the film in the year 2001, because Fritz Lang's groundbreaking silent film Metropolis takes place in the year 2000. This reference to Lang's film is a homage to the earlier master's accomplishment in science fiction—an achievement which Kubrick's film has successfully built on and surpassed.

—Gene D. Phillips



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