In 1968, director Stanley Kubrick released what is now known as one of the greatest movies of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a science-fiction flick that focuses on different elements involving human evolution, extraterrestrial life and technology. Originally, it received mixed reviews from critics and viewers, but over time grew to develop a massive fan base.
Today, it is commended for stepping outside the norm of typical Hollywood films that try to grab audience’s attention with action-packed moments. Instead, scenes are longer in order to convey real time, capturing the true reality. For instance, the spacecraft docking on the moon is a long, drawn out point. It could have been sped up and intensified with thrilling music, but Kubrick lets it proceed in actual time. It’s accompanied by the song, The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss; a slow, classical piece that compliments the docking clip rather than take away from it.
One of the memorable elements is the music. Kubrick first had a score created by Alex North. While waiting on him to finish, Kubrick filled the space with classical tunes, including Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss. In the end, he believed this worked so well that he scratched North’s pieces entirely. The classical songs weren’t tailored to fit perfectly or to divulge emotional cues, rather, to enhance moments instead of depicting them through sound.
While the soundtrack was extremely beneficial, the rest, for the most part, is done in silence. In a famous scene, HAL, the spacecraft’s intelligent computer system, voiced by Douglas Rain, watches two astronauts have a conversation about disconnecting him. Done entirely through silence and cuts between lip movements from both actors (Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood), it shows exactly what is going on without needing the use of sound, actual conversation or dialogue. During the few moments where conversation is present, the words spoken between the actors are less important than watching them interact.
Something important to note about 2001: A Space Odyssey is that even though it was created around a future that is presently our past, it is still a remarkable work of art. In 2013, technology and special effects have advanced much further than what they were over 40 years ago. Yet to watch it today, it doesn’t feel like one is watching something outdated, but encountering a documentary. A significant part of the movie is the extraterrestrial. However, these beings are never shown. Instead, they’re non-existence reinforces their presence. They aren’t a substantial piece that viewers can comprehend, but a concept that one must interpret, which even more so adds to their complexity.
This isn’t a film that follows a specific plot line or tells a direct story. It starts at the beginning of mankind and develops over time. It doesn’t ask anything of viewers other than to engage in the existence of the universe and all it entails. The characters aren’t meant to be relatable, nor do they serve much of a purpose other than to show human beings and their interactions with their surroundings. It’s meant to provoke thought, to showcase human evolution and what has become of it. Kubrick didn’t intend for his audience to relate on an entertainment level, but rather a philosophical. He wanted people to think about their place in this world through the images he created with this masterpiece.
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