Writers: Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke
I once read Kubrick’s famous quote “How much would we appreciate La Giaconda today if Leonardo Da Vinci had written at the bottom of the canvas: ‘This lady is smiling slightly because she has rotten teeth, or ‘because she is hiding a secret from her lover’? It would shut off the viewer’s appreciation and shackle him off to a reality other than his own. I don’t want that to happen to 2001”. These few phrases resulted in me watching the movie nine times, reading a couple of books and writing dozens of drafts over the period of five years, to finally come to fulfilling my dream of writing about this movie.Through this statement, Kubrick wants to emphasize on his purpose of reaching the sub-consciousness of the viewer, rather than providing direct explanation of events. He wanted his approach to be similar to the effect music has on the perception of the listener, a form of art making a huge impact without giving an evident or physical result. I don’t personally think he was far off at all, I have long considered his work here closer to a symphony. I see the four unravelling points in the film closer to a musical play, rather than being mere chapters in an animated storyline. My fascinations lead me to write a numerous number of notes and outlines about him. Over my nine viewings of his film, I read a lot about his life, the origin of literature in his writing, the novel he launched, books and articles that were written about him, Nietzsche and Homer or any other source that might have influenced him. I even watched all videos that mentioned his name in one way or another. Perhaps, I am writing this article now, to put an end to this obsessive infatuation over one of the greatest intellectual and visual achievements, ever offered to us by a cinema screen.This work came at an end of four years of progressive success to Kubrick’s masterpiece Dr. Strangelove. He got his inspiration from a short story The Sentinel written by the notorious science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. It was chosen by Kubrick amongst a number of other literary works, because he felt that the right time has arrived for a work in a science fiction form, during the heights of conflict between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, regarding the conquest of space. Kubrick was anxious about collaboration and teaming-up with Arthur C. Clarke in writing the screenplay. They finished the storyline in 58 days, which resulted in serious discussions between the two, debating about the plot of the story and the chain of events. Clark did not want the script to be enigmatic, or baffling to understand. While Kubrick saw (as explained in the beginning of this article), that an obvious end is going to take the essence away from any genius work, a similar effect to why Leonardo never revealed the secret to the Mona Lisa smile. Kubrick completed the writing on his terms, whilst Clark was adamant on his ideas. After they finished with writing 130 pages of storyline, Clack ended up with writing a novel under the same title, published soon after the movie. The novel (as in the short story) was one of the important resources that I thoroughly analyzed, to help me fathom the story behind this great film. But I soon discovered how different Kubrick’s approach was; I didn’t want to waste any more time. My search for more resources didn’t end here. The film (and rightfully so) received the uppermost number of articles and reviews written in the whole history of cinematic work. Reading was fun sometimes, sterile on occasion, conjointly naive in many cases. Talking from the same perspective as Kubrick’s, literal interpretation and overanalyzing any work, depreciates its charm. I came to the conclusion that the work intended the viewer to go along the general trend in understanding the events, instead of decoding them into a comprehensible and lucid concept. After years and multiple viewings of Kubrick’s piece of art, I was out shown by the loyalty this man holds to the theories of the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, which is apparent in almost all of his works, this film above all. This made me want to investigate any work in relation to Nietzsche and the film. After that, I read Homer’s epic, which the title of the film stemmed from. I was never captured to a similar level regarding any other film in the past. I was closer to my dream than ever; writing about this precise film, and here I am, documenting my long-lasting fantasy!
Looking at the movie from this instance, I realize the fact that things did not go as smooth as I would have liked them to at the time. It is true that Kubrick dedicated his whole obsession, to perfect the greatest visual miracle. He consulted and collaborated with more than 50 different organizations, to try to portray the closest possible production of the future, the first year of the next millennium (which was 33 years away from the production date). This obvious optical and intellectual superiority over any science fiction movie ever to be made only came with great pressure on Kubrick. To be launched during the peak of competition in space concurring, between the United States and the Soviet Union, lead it to be highly anticipated. The budget was over a skyrocketing $10 million USD (a substantial figure at the time considering inflation rates). But soon enough, the film became highly disappointing. It was first released in New York City, with duration of 158 minutes. Kubrick promptly edited and removed about 19 minutes to overcome the fierce criticism it received. That didn’t help a big deal, as the way he promoted the film didn’t do him any favors. His way of introducing the movie was boring, monotonous with minimal dialogue. The first spoken sentence came after long 25 minutes of the start, while the last sentence is told 23 minutes to the end. He was also critiqued over an overly difficult, obscure, and unexplained story, a sense that stayed with the viewer even after the end. The film did not achieve the expected boom and was almost withdrawn from showcases. Despite all the criticism received, by the end of the year Kubrick’s film was nominated for four Oscars, only won a prize for Best Special Visual Effects, even though Kubrick was nominated for Best Director, beside another two personal Academy Award nominations. It didn’t take long until the value of the film improved gradually over the next four years, until it was the highest-grossing film in 1968 in the region of North America. After a full decade, it turned into a true classic, when George Lucas’s Film Star Wars contributed immensely in reigniting the passion of youngsters for science fiction movies to do with space. It drove them out in a fury in search for similar types of work. That contribution is a great example, of how a cinematic value can be underestimated at the time, preserved and later evolve into a great cinematography classic over the years.
The film is presented with four unravelling points. At the finale of the first one The Dawn of Man, we find an ingenious scene where Kubrick presents us with a bone of a dead animal transitioning into a spaceship relevant to the twenty first century. In the second point, the US space scientist Dr. Heywood Floyd travels to the moon to find out about the discovery of a big, black column present on the surface of the Moon. In the third point, After the passing of 18 months, astronauts David Bowman and Frank Paul head off on an expedition to Jupiter on board the spaceship Discovery, accompanied by another three astronauts (in a state of artificially induced hibernation), along a product of an advanced artificial intelligence, the computer HAL 9000, who was responsible for maintaining the trip throughout the journey. Hal is later believed to malfunction, and this propels him to attend to kill Bowman for an attempt in covering up his errors. Bowman, manages to defend himself in the only possible way, and later discovers the true sole purpose to this mission. In the fourth point, Kubrick sends bowman through a star gate, which convey us to the genius ending to this film.
Arthur C. Clarke says about the film 2001, “our idea would have failed; we wanted to raise way more questions than providing answers”. Although I disfavor Clark’s try to overthrow this idea through writing an explanatory novel, launched months after the shooting of the film, which Kubrick himself ridiculed in more than one occasion. In the essence of the work, one can’t help but notice the correlation displayed to Nietzsche style. It was apparently coexisting through the storyline in two parallel courses: firstly, the trilateral evolution process from a beast to a superior human being (inspired by Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra). Secondly, the Dionysian/Apollonian balance of the human throughout the journey, inspired by one of Nietzsche’s first books The Birth of Tragedy, where he explains the existential conflict between the two powers; Dionysian (in relation to the god Dionysus) and Apollonian (in relation to the god Apollo). The permanent existence of antagonistic conflict between these metaphysical powers is used by Nietzsche in interpreting the artistic creativity. Dionysian: inconspicuous / sensory / spiritual (he found music a good example), and Apollonian: visual / physical / mental (like sculpture moulding). Both elements are reinterpretation of reality, one in a hazy unclear image, the other comes in a more refined and honest form. He considered these two elements to be in a constant conflict to overcome one another, to dominate a permanent presence. This conflict was demonstrated in varying degrees in Stanley Kubrick films like Lolita, Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut. It was noted the most in A Clockwork Orange, where Alex’s persona is highly affected and disturbed. From the other hand, the film draws its spirit and is saturated with ideas from Nietzsche’s famous book Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It does not seem like a blunt concurrence, that the man decides here and for the first time the use of great classical music pieces in his films. He specifically chooses Richard Strauss’s music (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) to be associated with the most important segments of his film (The astronomical alignment). This music is now associated with symbolizing almost everything to do with space or celestial bodies. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche approaches the evolution theory of mankind from a different point of view, connecting the three stages of metamorphoses with his conception of man as a temporary link between ape and superman; the notion behind Kubrick’s work that exudes in the four unravelling points from start to finish.
In the Opening Scene to Kubrick’s Film, the screen remains black for nearly three minutes. Then you first hear the background soundtrack playing, an excerpt from the Hungarian Gyorgy Ligeti’s “Atmospheres”, setting a perfect tone for what’s to come, the 3-way astronomical alignment of the Moon, Earth, and Sun, followed by the music of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, all setting up what is going to be an enigmatic storyline. It ends with the appearance of the title of the first unravelling point The Dawn of Man which is closely correlated with the book of Nietzsche. This presentation is not irrational, it is hitting at the heart of the alleged plot which is free from perplexing characters or even a full customary chain of events. During the first point The Dawn of Man, Kubrick captures an overlooking scene foregoing four million years back in time, an overview to the Darwinian origination of man. We see the man-apes during one of the evolutionary periods, after a long existence on the planet. A tribe of herbivorous apes appearing to embody the Dionysian side of the being (spiritual/ instinctive/ emotional). They feed on grass, compete against other herbivores and fall prey to carnivores. They fail to move a finger, when a group of other apes control a nearby water spring. The survival instinct is absent to make any minute difference in their way of existing. They leave abiding with a howl in defeat against a group that has no points to outweigh them. In a moment of truth, along a crucial phase to their life, they wake up one day to find a large, black column in front of them. They fizzle to find a source, an explanation or an intention to this puzzling object. Kubrick does not attempt to disclose any connotation to the enigma surrounding the object, apart from Gyorgy Ligeti’s playing soundtrack “Requiem”, which sounds closer to the sound of hissing souls coming from a different dimension. The discovery of the column takes effect during a harsh life changing moment (the dawn of change when man stands in the middle between beast and superman) as Nietzsche said. At this moment of time, the physical spark to the beast is already igniting (lower being as mentioned in other occasions) and the cognitive emotional side is flickering for the first time during his developmental evolution. The viewer is left bewildered with a mysterious message from a higher perspective (Kubrick exhilarates the possibility to the viewer to interpret the situation from a scientific, philosophical or religious perspective). Then the ravishing astronomical alignment is seen from the top of the mysterious column, the celestial message brought about its impact, the beast has developed (his tools) to advance. The apes master the use of dead animal bones as a weapon in defence against enemies. The evolutionary shift manifests itself through the image of the leader of the tribe, using a bone in breaking other bones to the sound of music Thus Spoke Zarathustra for Richard Strauss. Soon, the apes transform from simple herbivores to ravenous carnivores, devouring the same animals they once competed against over food. Then we see the bones being used again as a weapon, expulsing the other ape tribe which earlier controlled the water spring. Here, the Dionysian side is weakened and the Apollonian side (mental / physical / logical) is gaining more power and influence. Zarathustra or Zara as some writers referred to him said “the ape side of man is his ridicule and reproach, and every being that presuppose anything to be beyond his means”. The transition period towards the next stage (the stage of being a superior) occur (as we shall see in upcoming parts) on the sidelines of survival and gaining control. Nietzsche sees the essence to his evolutionary hypothesis as narrated by Zarathustra, the stages of metamorphoses of the spirit are three: how spirit becomes a camel (to endure and bear the heavy loads in order to survive), how the camel becomes a lion (through gaining freedom and establishing sovereignty), then how the lion becomes a child (by reaching the stage of purity, regeneration and sacred doctrine. At last it’s possible to acquire absolute power). By the end of this unravelling point, we see the construing of the first stage of metamorphoses in Zarathustra’s travels. The spirit becomes a patient camel able to endure the hardship and struggle of survival, canny of translating that level of fortitude into the next step of transformation from a beast level into a superior human level (Superman), passing through the most fateful phase in evolution, to be a man.
Kubrick bring us at the end of this unravelling point (and through a genius shot of a spiraling bone in the air turning into a satellite orbiting planet Earth 4 million years later) to the future 2001, a leap on the technical side (the tools) that accompanied this being in achieving sovereignty over others. For almost five minutes, Kubrick invites us to witness a breathtaking prancing formulation on the sound of music Blue Danube by Johann Strauss. In these five minutes, we observe a group of satellites, roaming Earth’s atmosphere, almost like in a dance. There is an obvious contrast in the look of these satellites, donating to different countries of origin, as an expression of conflict in space, which Kubrick expected to prevail with the beginning of the third millennium. The scene of dancing satellites with other space orbs is of a hefty meaning in comparison with the visual piece of art in the introduction of the previous unravelling point The Dawn of Man. To draw a rim around the environment that ruled the first evolutionary shift. However, this time Kubrick presents us with a musical carousel of different Moons, countries of origin, orientations and credential terms, illustrating the diversity of wildlife that ruled the introduction to the first part: a different painting for the animal tribes we saw (in The Dawn of Man). The distress became different, the survival struggle, even the human tendency towards the superior human was changed. Charming and tranquil five minutes just before a complexity is about to haunt this man again (matching the water spring incident in the first part). The bones became satellites, once man’s (tools) change man changes likewise. We see the space scientist Dr. Heywood Floyd sitting along other Soviet scientists in a lobby with red sofas. A cheerful and so easy on the eye sight, but not far in essence from the meeting of the two ape tribes around the pool of water, still governed by the struggle for survival and power. The instruments have changed, the strength amplified, so the tone was reduced. We no longer hear the hailing of angry apes in the face of each other, but rather a new, very fond, almost intimate and personal, but hiding a lot of struggle over power between the lines amongst the two spacecraft bases of the two superpowers, on the surface of the Moon. The expression of power and violence takes a different turn from the sheer meaning of violence, a partial idea critiqued by Kubrick as much as he excoriates violence itself. He criticized directing violence outside the typical instinctive context (which is manifested through his work A Clockwork Orange). Affectionate attitudes are witnessed between the two powerful nations that battle over sovereignty and power. This change represents a stage of transition towards a robotic lap, which will be reflected in the third unravelling point. This presentation is very crucial in providing a conflict in the storyline: the same plot arises again in the reality of what is really happening on the surface of the moon, and the mystery behind the rumors of the epidemic that hit the US base. Floyd refuses to disclose neither anything to (his friends) the Soviets or to his own people, after he meets them at the lunar base when Kubrick is done with the frolic display. Both Tribes (the ape tribe in the first unravelling point and the human in the second) meet on the threshold of the unknown, at a moment of immense inclination for excellence and dire need for further (discovery): a passion that never ends and a hunger by no means diminished. With the same tribal tendency, we see them clapping for Dr. Floyd with no inclination of any source to the objective to their mission. The change affecting the two tribes is present due to the imbalance between the Dionysian and Apollonian side in the being with displayed dominance of the latter. We are noting impairment in his spirituality and instincts (including the instinct for power and violence) and being more rational and prudent (even with his first-class opponents). The water spring conflict is completely different now, thanks to this new balance that constructs this stage, making it perceptively and philosophically more reassuring to the viewer. Man achieves the required equity, and continues in the path of evolution. The tribe meets again, to discuss the mysterious black column which was found on the moon and was buried four million years ago (presumably the same timescale of the first column being allocated amid the first unraveling point). The broad picture here implies that the columns were scattered across the universe to lead the human into his journey of evolution. Kubrick restores the scene of the gathering tribe around the mysterious and gallant aura surrounding the column on the sound of music Requiem, unsettling and eerie, where the spark is ignited once more. And then the shift follows when a strong audio signal is heard from the column, during its astronomical alignment with the Sun and Earth, we get to know the significance subsequently. Zarathustra’s trip continues with upcoming signs from a greater force, guiding the human in his journey from being a beast to a superior human. The tools have solely changed and simultaneously altered the Dionysian Apollonian balance to the human existence.
The third unravelling point The Discovery Mission to Jupiter (takes place 18 months after the second unravelling point) is introduced by Kubrick on the sound of the contemplative music by Aram Khachaturian Gayane Ballet Suite. We take a lengthy look at the spacecraft outlines resembling a sperm cell (reasoned subsequently), and then we get inside to observe the monotony, emptiness and robotic perception created by watching the astronaut Frank Paul on a morning jogging routine around the perimeter of the spherical side of the spaceship. Soon after, Kubrick brings to bear Zarathustra’s words “We are born with an instinct, to create a being superior to us”. This being is met immediately after the introduction, the computer of the space shuttle Discovery HAL 9000, one of NASA’s giant computer generations designated with null error occurrence. One of many of the artificial intelligence images in the science fiction movies starting from Metropolis to A.I Artificial Intelligence, with the later being one of Kubrick’s projects finished by Spielberg two years after his death. HAL’s existence for us holds the implication of control, a sense illustrated through the cadres and montage teams, that HAL controlled everything. His tone of voice was gauged in a brilliant manner, presented to us by Douglas Rennes who managed to blend the equanimity of the robot with the intimacy in the human voice. Kubrick brings a succession of parallel attributes between the human side of the robot and the robotic prospect in the human. HAL seems friendly with Bowman and Paul, whilst the communication between the two astronauts is almost nonexistent. We see them (in consequent shots from the right and left side) sitting close (without exchanging a word) listening to the news and eating sponge-like food that had lost any original properties. We don’t need more than the scene of Frank Paul, receiving a phone call through space from his parents on his birthday, to realize how robotic and emotionless their actions prevailed after the two men lived alone for a year and a half onboard the spaceship. Little by little, HAL’s camera with the red focus lens grows into more of a human element to us: watching, thinking, planning and running everything (effectively preparing us to the fact of him becoming a real adversary afterwards). We note his pride, diplomacy and intelligence through the press meeting conducted with the BBC, which seems an effective way by Kubrick to provide an insight to the characters (which are mainly silent). The events take a strong turn with the questions raised by HAL about the purpose of the mission. It is very interesting to note that HAL was the first to doubt the objective of the mission, not the astronauts. His superior artificial intelligence brought him to a new dimension of competency giving him an unforeseen human attribute. HAL’s questions were focused around the fundamentals of his existence. In fact, they were the same questions raised by human aforetime. Perhaps, he was questioning the purpose of his presence, and the intention he was built for. These inquests didn’t entice David Bowman before, and raised amazement when asked by HAL. This node in the story structure, exhibit an advanced stage of the Dionysian/Apollonian philosophical balance which steered the story from the very beginning. The balance in favor of the Dionysian side is eminently distorted, resulting in his spiritual value obtaining much more meaning than what is supposed to. The balance regarding the astronauts is evidently distorted in favor of the Apollonian side acquiring more physical/ logical sense, resulting in them displaying robotic features. This imbalance explains the philosophy behind one of the story nodes, when the liable computer that is built not to enact error, starts to present some unusual tricks, which seem to philosophically stem from the core of the humanity attribute in the human being, committed remarkably by HAL procreating him to seem more human than presumed. He obtains a desire to defend the mission that gave him a supposed purpose, while humans drift away from their quest towards superior humanity when the required balance is no longer present. We start sympathizing with the astronauts when we start to sense the vibes to their thoughts (a conclave lip reading huddle scene within the capsule), the error committed by HAL (or lie, as some construe) seems to have two outlooks: from one prospect, an illustration of strength and appearance to be in control of all matters, and a weak point from another, the view of having faults is undermining the excellence suggested for NASA’s 9000 computer generations. The high level of artificial intelligence brought him into this unprecedented imbalance in his Dionysian side, making him more likely of committing errors (which is supposed to be a human trait), with no inclination to realize that he made one, that fact acclimates a more serious problem. We’re seeing him attributing his error (as described by NASA’s station on Earth) to a human error, in comparison to an assessment done on two HAL 9000 computers in the headquarters. The pursuit of human towards the next stage of evolution (a quest towards superman) erred his way when human tried (through artificial intelligence) granting his own human immaturities to the object created by him, those same qualities led to the demise of the superior object and acquirement of unfamiliar oddities, which eventually led him to his own extermination and impaired his balance whenever he developed more of the human aspects. After the intermission Kubrick takes following the secret meeting scene (which seems to be intended to increase the level of suspense rather than passing the duration of the movie which does not exceed two hours and a half). We later turn to the tangible conflict between man and the superior object he designed. The disturbed balance between the Dionysian/Apollonian sides in HAL increased the human prospects in him, and thereby turning him into a murderer in an effort to maintain his existence and survival, annihilating Frank Paul in space and killing the other three hibernating astronauts in their capsules. When he refuses to open the gate to the spaceship for David Bowman, his words don’t sound (“I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do”) those of a robot, here man is trying to rearrange the matters in facing the object he once created in an innovative encounter trying to bring harmony to the Dionysian/Apollonian sides which deviated towards the ascendance in becoming superior. In spite of the severe influence Nietzsche had upon Kubrick, it does not seem to be concurrent in all matters, his take on the Dionysian/Apollonian balance remain pivotal but within his own philosophical prism, while man killed his creator/god in (Thus Spoke Zarathustra). Kubrick does not allow HAL’s try in killing Bowman succeed, this detail in my own opinion is an in-depth glimpse to Kubrick’s religious orientation, who didn’t believe in any religion in compatibility with Nietzsche views, but on the contrary believed that there is a god to this universe, based on the fact that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, with another 100 billion galaxies in the universe, traveling amidst operating systems of extreme precision and superiorly designed orbiting paths. He sees here through the greatness of the picture provided of space, that the concept of divinity is the soul to this film, but not in the traditional perspective of religion, but rather from a measurable scientific prospect. So he tries by the epic journey of evolution form a beast to a superman or superior man, to approach the concept of divinity in his own way, by freeing oneself and establishing sovereignty as a basis to this approach. The indicated colossal journey intersects inevitably with Homer’s epic of survival struggle that bears the same title. The viewer’s belief that the giant Cyclops, the one-eyed creature is important as a reference to NASA’s 9000 computer generation, might not be far off at all. man in his epic struggle faces one of those Cyclops (Polyphemus son of Poseidon), which holds Odysseus captive in his island (spaceship) and annihilates his men one by one (as HAL did), before Odysseus strikes him in the eye, eliminating his superiority point, which leaves him defeated. Here, the man regains his dysfunctional balance, becomes within a stone’s throw in achieving the next stage of evolution. The camel becomes a lion through establishing his freedom and sovereignty, certainly increased his passion for (discovery) and for (much more) again after the diminishing of one of them. The timing of HAL’s downfall directs to the emergence of Dr. Floyd recording, which explains to David Bowman the mission’s objective: to explore the source of the signal obtained at the surface of the Moon and the probability to the existence of intelligent life on Jupiter. HAL was entrusted with the task to keep it protected from the Soviets due to his robotic stoicism, which was later lost to the fact of him becoming more human with his paranoia in defending his survival, and that is about to fizzle on the arrival of the spaceship to Jupiter, we are about to hear the last words in the film before we get sent to the final journey in silence.
Zara says (“I like those who do not have a purpose in life except diminishing, as they pass beyond life”), (“I like those who do not require knowledge beyond the planet, what calls upon their diaphaneity and leads them to a sacrifice, because they pass themselves as an offering to Earth, for this Earth to become one day, a legacy for the superman”). Kubrick outsets the fourth unravelling point Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite again by employing the music of “Requiem” with all the spirituality and anxiety created around the image of the third black column, with the highest magnitude than the previous predecessors, floating out there around Jupiter. Kubrick raises in this point the most profound questions about the human fate and his position within the system that surrounds him. The column holds the selfsame meaning to the other counterparts in the previous points, a desire for (discovery), a thirst for (much more), an icon for advancement and a signal coming from a greater dimension, with all the different meanings those concepts can hold, a content not directed by Kubrick in its explicit image, but is rather left to the interpretation of the viewer. He confirms through this, the meaning of the last spoken sentence in the dialogue by Dr. Floyd (at the end of the third unravelling point) about the signal of the second column (“its origin and purpose still a total mystery”). Here Kubrick’s outlook on the meaning to the journey of life as a whole, the significance of the upper signals and divine providence that guided the journey across the most important elements, in these mysterious meanings left by Kubrick to his viewers, ambiguity is not a goal in itself, they are indeed inscrutable as much as the human journey, destiny and purpose for advancing in life. The meaning is for each person to decrypt and speculate on his own way, just as Kubrick allows him to do.
Five minutes of music and space harmony ends with the astronomical alignment of Jupiter, Jupiter’s moons and the column. Bowman leaves the spaceship in his travelling capsule, rushing towards the column in reach to enter a star gate in completion of man’s last leap in evolution. Kubrick achieves through this trip (10 lasting minutes of the screenplay) the concept of time travel, applying his well-known theories. Bowman penetrates a wormhole at a flashing speed (higher than the speed of light as some theories propose) without fading (again, as theories propose), passing the time barrier in his space pod (in a shape of a sperm cell) to find himself floating in hollow space (cavities of a uterus) which signifies a trigger to a growing new world, (sexual love to reach the highest level) as Nietzsche said. It is not the first time Kubrick implies a sexual definition to the machine and certainly not the last. We see the stage constituting the new world, the embryonic in utero scenes developing in void cavities, and the image of a white capsule (sperm cell) traveling in the vast cosmos. The capsule moves towards a barren land (the moment of conception in a clear symbolic formation). Bowman being gated through this trek to a point beyond life (Thus spoke Zarathustra) is the eternal conventional hunger of man for discovery, yearning to find the notch where his (tools) are no longer essential to complete his journey of transformation. The universe in the trip resembles an intergalactic tube, triggering a need in us to enter all the collateral doorways contained within, a trip to haunt (what is hidden), the upmost metaphysical elements in the human odyssey, and in search for a higher power/ Creator/ God who steered this journey. Bowman regained his Dionysian/Apollonian balance through his struggle with HAL, and continued to ascend towards his excellence. He finds himself at the end of the journey, in a suite with accouterments of home surroundings belonging to the seventeenth century (or eighteenth, I assume), he finds himself aging quickly by emerging into a new world with different time considerations. We see him reflecting on the next stages of his life, overlapping and unexplained: the young astronaut in the traveling capsule, an older version of the astronaut with white hair standing in the suite, a senior man wearing a black dressing gown eating in the room, and then a disabled elderly man in a white robe lying in bed. Kubrick embodies in this latter sequence the last traditional image of man before his final advancement: four stages of aging, he still uses the toilet, eats, sleeps, but Kubrick doesn’t explain the meaning to the physical overlapping to these four phases, which is beyond a superior time advancement that we may regard. We observe the first Bowman contemplating on his second image while inside the capsule and then disappears from the scene, we see the second Bowman hearing the noises associated to the third Bowman’s food, while hearing the second Bowman’s breathing sounds whilst wearing his spacesuit, then the second Bowman vanishes directly, after that we watch the fourth Bowman from Kubrick’s angle that deliberately shows the shoulder belonging to the third Bowman, and ends a with an image of the last edition of Bowman (fourth), who wakes up to the view of the fourth appearance of the mysterious column inside his room. The illustration of a guard or patron, an eternal effort to embody a supreme power and divine care, a confirmed idea by Kubrick in Bowman uplifting his finger towards the column (the contact that occurred during the previous three times in guiding man in his evolution process), a remark that clearly resembles Michelangelo’s painting The Creation of Adam which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, and coincides in Adam’s effort of reaching the finger of God in reference to the creation. Genesis is renewed during the complex of the fourth unravelling point in Kubrick’s film. Bowman’s death here is the death of one of the stages of progression, the end to the less advanced species (Thus spoke Zarathustra) as a prelude to the emergence of the superior race, superior man or superman, which seems according to Nietzsche (the endeavor) itself and not (the end result). The human quest for perfection and excellence is achieved through his eternal journey guaranteed by a higher well (Kubrick left it to be interpreted by the viewer’s own judgment). The last stage to the shift occurs, as it happened to the ape 4 million years ago. We witness the fetus of the new species resting on Bowman’s bed who fades away from the picture, another ending in favor of the journey of evolution (reforming death to become a way in winning and achieving glory) as believed by Nietzsche. Zara says (“there will be no incandescent planet emerging from within the human to the world until the rest of the nebula is removed from within, and this nebula is still amidst you”), the nebula is perished, and man has arrived to (the stage of purity, rejuvenation and sacred doctrine). He finally obtained (will) respectively (the lion becomes a child) as Zara said. Superman was born, as a conclusion to the progressive journey through Nietzsche’s ideology, a stellar being or Star Child as called in the novel, a culmination to many signals of birth and creation in the film, the birth of a new deviant being (deliberately shown by Kubrick with eyes wide open to distinguish it from a human embryo), a heavenly creature, possibly his environment or space is the entire universe, a higher strength, or even the one (astral) God that Zarathustra pleaded in his prayers.
Despite the value of these philosophical dimensions imbedded in a genius fashion throughout Kubrick’s storyline, the film yet remains very deserving, even without realizing the different philosophical amplitudes present, and regarding the clear philosophical intensity which I tried to expound some of it in my writing, it remains more or less a film better to be sensed rather than decomposed, this fact is what Kubrick meant in his quote, which I pointed towards when I started writing out my review, the aura full of ambiguity radiates high technical greatness which saves the storyline from many vicissitudes throughout time, and opens in each new viewing wider horizons for contemplation, interpretation, and a deeper understanding of events. It is difficult to find a similar exertion in a cinematic work that doesn’t surpass two hours and a half. This detail, granted the work an everlasting grandeur and originality in my opinion, due to Kubrick’s ability to grant the subliminal, paramount, controversial and mystic storyline a deserved image through one of the greatest directorial achievements one can witness in a lifetime. I can’t summon the number of people I met, who returned to me infatuated after their first viewing of the film. Kubrick (as per usual) chose the final directed scenes from a cinematic video tape of a longer version with a multiple of 200; he sought perfection in every shot, even if he had to start over a hundred times. I am not taken back from the words of Arthur Clark, when he questioned the academy awarding a special honorary Oscar for best makeup in 1968 (the prize didn’t exist at the time) for the film Planet of the apes because they perhaps thought that the apes in 2001 were real! The directive excretory here was breaking all standards of workmanship, looking back at the science fiction movies of the same era: the subjects, stories, visual themes, and how they last afterwards. I am well aware to the extent of uniqueness which this movie acquired in comparison to what preceded or came after, particularly in the real degree of accuracy provided by the film about space. For example, judging the slow movement of spacecrafts, which is totally incompatible with the traditional images (perhaps commercial), that are allegedly zooming in a rocketing speed in the other space film productions. This truth in my opinion is an important element in the generation of a contemplative state that leads to the questions: Where is human marching to? What is the reason to his existence? Taking advantage of the absence of a typical plot, characters effect, and a traditional suspense of a science fiction movie, in contrary to what is assumed, that exact absence endorses a strong motivation for the viewer to ponder, think and wonder. Moreover, the persistence on the embodiment of intense realism of space, made the symbolic details (such as the black column) of a high importance and very radical to the viewer due to its difference, and because of the high value of visual/musical marriage Kubrick provided. With his ingenuity and knack utilization of the musical tracks, he offered immortalization to the classical pieces used in his film, and were almost correlated to be of his own. Listening to Thus Spoke Zarathustra in any other work, is taken a strong symbolic introduction to a theme about outer space, this is great and undeniable. Kubrick’s amplitude is reflected as per usual in providing a right setting, directing and producing his films, which always had a stamp to be of an ultra-luxurious design, even compared to the standards of the preceding years. Not only he procreates it to be extravagant, impressive, and unforgettable, it also agrees prudently with the movement of the camera, the actors, and the visual composition elements of the picture, which is a partial trait that always left me mesmerized about Kubrick’s work, making him in my opinion the best director ever in blending the two contrasting schools (mise-en-scène and montage) in the most possible plush picture. On one hand, nobody is ever skilled enough in achieving that more than Kubrick. On the other hand, Kubrick’s eternal affinity of symmetry is reflected here, the way he always engages in splitting most of his cadres into two halves: Left/right, up /down in an optical balance no one else can excel, working in a professional manner in this film on the One Point Perspective technique to create a perception of monotony, repetition, ever-lasting, and a sense to the epic journey par usual excellence, befitting appropriately with the name he created to himself.
The greatest thing in this legendary work is the attempt in achieving perfection in directing the movie. Such extreme precision and extraordinary work put by Kubrick in the making of the film over a period of three years, led to the final result to fall far off its specific era of time, on the technical level alike. And if you got told that this film was made during the new millennium, or in the late nineties (the CGI’s boom in the Millennium, as an example), you will not find it difficult at all to accept this idea, as the effects remain to our day a virtuous studiousness in design and a visual marvel in execution, especially coming from a 1968 production, decades before the employment of the CGI technology in the sci-fi movies. In spite of the great mark left by the film at this level, it only used 205 special effects in the footage, a very modest number compared to the galore result. Kubrick worked with Douglas Trumbull to perfect this aspect. Trumbull managed with the help of Kubrick to translate those genius ideas into something extraordinary for that time period. They used factual, precisely cut molds as a replica for the image of the planets, their associated orbits and the encircling spaceships. They designated a rotating three-dimensional segment, imitating a part of the spacecraft to provide a true picture of Frank Paul’s running routine every morning wearing space shoes, in the vicinity of the spacecraft. They managed to present an unusual image in dealing with the sound in space in an accurate scientific way. In the scenes of the astronauts outside the spacecraft, the only sounds we can hear are the inhaling and exhaling noises contained within the astronauts spacesuits. They implemented the Slit-Scan Cinematography technique, in the best possible way to capture the time-traveling across the wormhole in a very convincing manner. And more importantly, their talent in the employment of Front-Screen Projection to portray the life of apes on top of a pristine planet, or through the humans walking on the surface of the Moon, an art prior that time, all lead to one of the major motives for the apprehensive questioning and controversy surrounding the truth behind man’s lone trip to the surface of the Moon, carried out a year later. Those techniques were the reason for granting Stanley Kubrick his one and only Oscar.
I don’t know how I can outwardly finish my idiom in addressing this film, but I can say I now achieved one of my dreams in writing. I go back forthwith to the same phrase I used in the introduction to my dialogue, I find my writing here distant and far remote from any interpretative meaning to the film, I am not looking for the secret to the Mona Lisa smile, but I rather be more satisfied to find my own answer to a further simpler question: Why does the Mona Lisa Smile seem that much beautiful? Now, I finally achieved my dream by writing about 2001, and only now I can possibly die in peace.