2001: A Space Odyssey
is either loved or hated by most people, and yet, after my recent viewing of this film, I find myself oddly somewhere in the middle. I certainly don't hate it by any means (and I admit I have much more patience with the slower moments of the film than the average viewer these days), but I neither outright love the film. However, I do love certain aspects of the film.
Everything involving HAL is especially very good. HAL has the right amount of creepiness, from his cold voice to his simple, calculating decisions. Although I knew it was about to happen, I still nearly jumped out of my skin when the space pod suddenly begin to turn in preparation to attack Frank Poole. For an added level of creepiness, I found myself deliberately looking for HAL in every interior shot of Discovery 1
as an odd twist to Where's Waldo?
Even when HAL is begging for his life as Dave slowly removes his memory cards has a subtle, yet wonderful edge of creepiness, right down to his "performance" of "Daisy Bell." While Kubrick deserves credit for his brilliant presentation of the cold computing machine, Douglas Rain also deserves a lot of credit for his perfect performance as HAL.
Throughout the film, I had a particular Kubrick quote running through my head: "The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent." Kubrick presents this notion in the film in spades. Not just with HAL, but also by the sheer vastness of space, both the empty landscape of Earth at the Dawn of Mankind and in the space between worlds. The slow travel speeds, the deep heavy breathing of Dave and Frank, and the pure and unforgiving silence of objects moving in a vacuum all gave me a great sense of reality. A sense of realism in outer space and real space travel that I rarely feel in films or television. Honestly, only Apollo 13
to a lesser degree)really repeat this feeling and not Star Wars
, Star Trek
, or even my beloved Doctor Who
With this film, Kubrick makes the leap away from a traditional film score (famously tossing out Alex North's music) and instead uses a number of classically composed pieces, most notably Johann Strauss' "The Blue Danube" and Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Kubrick makes great use of these pieces and even uses Gyorgy Ligeti's "Requiem" as a leitmotif for the monoliths, which gives them a sublime level of creepiness.
Dave Bowman's space walk is perhaps one of the most surrealist cinematic sequences presented over the years, ranging from its sheer intense light show (with Bowman's black & white photographic response), dramatically colored landscapes, and images depicting the beginning of the universe and life itself (complete with giant floating sperm) to the bizarre and controversial conclusion of Bowman arriving in the neoclassic bedroom leading to his rebirth as the Star Child. It's an incredible viewing experience, heightened by Kubrick's imagination and music selection, and it's one that I don't intend to look beyond what I felt.
Usually I'm one to jump deep into interpreting ambiguous and abstract films (most notably in Blade Runner
), I strangely find myself not interested in looking too far with 2001
beyond "the monoliths are present at certain jumping points in mankind's life" and "Dave Bowman witnessed the birth of the universe and life and then experienced a rebirth." I can't explain why I feel this way, just that I was thrilled by what I saw and don't feel the need to look behind the curtain.
Next up: My favorite Kubrick film, A Clockwork Orange.