By Connor Frankenberger (British Columbia, Canada)
2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction films ever created. 2 years ago, during my first viewing, I was dumbstruck by the idea. Here was a movie with little to no dialogue, shrouded in ambiguity and pacing comparable to watching grass grow. Having watched the film again, I can say that all of these comments still hold true. However, I can now say that these aspects of the film, and many more, are what in fact make this such a rewarding viewing. This is not just a film, but so much more. This is Kubrick’s meticulously crafted work of art.
So many movies rely on what they have to say in order to create the most effective and fulfilling experience for the audience. 2001 is the complete opposite, it’s what isn’t said that’s the key. Kubrick’s use of visuals and music to evoke desired feelings is a rare gift very few filmmakers are capable of. In his long docking shots, he uses just the right score to demonstrate its elegance like a slow, graceful dance. During times when the astronauts are outside in space, all we can hear is the sounds of their muffled heavy breathing, emphasizing man’s vulnerability and creating a tense atmosphere where anything can go wrong at any moment. Using silence to create tension is also a very difficult task, but Kubrick’s camera techniques and sudden cuts in the score make them equally spine tingling as the best of the thriller genre.
The movie is broken down into 3 parts, each shedding light on man’s slow evolution from mastering themselves, to mastering the earth, and finally, mastering space and beyond. While there can really be no concrete explanation for the events on screen, the visual splendour, juxtapositions, and symbolism paint a picture that can leave our imaginations running wild, while not being too confusing and bizarre.
For those drawn to ambitious sci-fi films such as this, I would first recommend reading the novel in order to avoid being lost the entire time. The novel and movie couple well together since the movie provides the visual, musical and thematic experience while the book can provide very helpful explanations on plot points otherwise not mentioned.
In the current movie industry, where big, loud blockbusters, sequels and remakes are dominant, films like 2001: A Space Odyssey demonstrate exactly what most of the new releases are lacking: originality, elegance, and boundary pushing film techniques. Stanley Kubrick attempted this in almost every film he created, with 2001 being his crowning achievement.
FINAL VERDICT: While undeniably not for everyone, those that can appreciate a visually thrilling, beautifully scored and radically ambitious film will find 2001: A Space Odyssey to be one of the single greatest cinematic experiences of their lifetime.