The search for an answer makes a monkey of us all.
"… and Beyond”
I think that summarizes pretty well. I think Kubrick himself said “no matter how dark is the universe, we must impose our own light”. I truly believe nihilism is a important theme in 2001, and matches many conclusions similar with “Lost In Translation”, though Coppola’s film (I refuse to use the grand name “Coppola” to that old washed out nowadays) is more about a nihilism imposed by the environment that cannnot bring us anything but a distrust against symbols and meanings.
the comparison of “2001” to modern/post-modern art is interesting. Perhaps the film itself is comparable to the monilith we see throughout the film. In both cases it is in stark contrast to it’s environment, confusing and inspiring it’s witnesses to summon what tools they have in hope of understanding it. A form with definite dimensions and a sort of mathmatical integrity, yet historically, culturaly, and in terms of purpose: dimensionless. The monilith itself, like the movie is the post-modern/ nihilistic art which eludes either meaning or purpose, and presents itself on its own terms.
This reviewer, while literate, has no real understanding of science. Science is a given - whatever it means. It is as intrinsic to us as hair. I will produce a competing essay from the point of view of a someone who can talk about science from the inside.
"This reviewer, while literate, has no real understanding of science”
...I feel I must defend myself against this accusation! I am a Medical Physicist by profession!!!!!!!!!!
“Science is a given - whatever it means. It is as intrinsic to us as hair”
...I’m not entering a tirade against science, I am simply reading the film in terms of the Sublime and the post-modern. I am certainly not alone adopting this approach; Heidegger, Sartre, Slavoj Zizek, Volosinov, all spring to mind - all being, in one way or another, concerned with the opposition between phenomena and noumena, perception and reality, knowing and the unknowable.
The limit of the meta-narrative is one of postmodernism’s great obsessions. “Science” is grand narrative like any other, though I concede that I have used the term here to encompass the idea of ‘understanding’ also. I donít think Iíve made too much a jump, however. Would you say that religion, or philosophy, were as intrinsic to us as hair? Quite possibly, itís human nature to explain our surroundings, to explain the meaning of it all. One thing I cannot agree with is the primacy Ėthe absolutismĖ of science; Iím too much of a relativist for that - and a Romantic, in the literary sense of the word.
I look forward to your essay - though I must say I wonder how science can be said to win through in this film; it seems, to me, to be utterly overwhelmed! Indeed, I think that most films - when dealing with the victory of science (lets say, rationality, civilisation) over a frontierland (nature, or the physical world) - are full of compunction and regret; think King Kong. Man reduced to reason alone is a cold, utilitarian robot (think Terminator, and the world of The Matrix); Man governed by passion is instinctive and anarchic (you could argue that these elements are projected onto animals in films such as Jaws, and disowned). Itís certainly an interesting spectrum.
I think that the Monolith symbolized the movie screen and vice versa. Kubrick likes to interact with his audience and usually sends them some message that they never get. The screen goes black three times during 2001: a space oddessy. a large black rectangular movie screen is almost identical to the large black monolith. the same way the characters in the movie look to the monolith for enlightenment, the audience looks to the screen for enlightenment. after the credits the screen goes black once again. by this point most of the audience is confused as to what the movie means and are trying to make sense out of it while looking at this black screen hoping for an answer. Ironically, the people that would sit through to the end of the credits and the black screen segment are wasting thier time in the movie theater when they should be out living life. This is a clever way for Kubrick to demonstrate the underlying message in this movie. Our quest for knowledge gives new birth to our conciousness but diverts attention away from life itself.
Relating the dimensions of the monolith to the screen is inspired! I have not been so fortunate as to see 2001 in the cinema but the idea of being confronted, three times, by the monolith itself is beyond words. And of course, that these moments are - like the monolith - accompanied by that eerie chorus can only consoldate the effect and its implication. Perhaps now’s the time to invest in a bigger TV…
Just a fantastic dialogue. Simply brilliant, nearly all of you! THANK You for this.
Lol. To the person who wrote this:
Don’t you find it ironic that you say that trying to understand something incomprehensible is the central theme of the film, and yet that’s what you are doing?
As a film, this film stands out above all else in every way, and for that, I consider it the greatest film of all time. I actually enjoyed your analysis, but as retaliation, I’d like to say this:
Kubrick and Clarke both designed this film to be interpretive, basically to be shots in the dark. No matter what you think, you’ll never know the true road map of this journey, you’ll only ever know your own. For this reason, your analysis is great because it accidentally acknowledges this. You never openly stated “Bowman represents us, and this lack of knowledge represents the movie itself”.
This analysis helps out Rob Ager’s, because his involves themes that both conflicts with this and supports this idea. I think the movie is very self aware, and these themes you present help to see the Monolith as a symbolic doorway to discovering the outer part of the movie. I also have interpreted HAL as a representation of Kubrick as the director. Just as Bowman learned to free himself from the control of HAL, he learned to free himself from the confines of the movie, and it dawned on him (pun intended) that he was being manipulated. For this reason, he is reborn as he enters the doorway that wasn’t put there by aliens, or God, but by Kubrick, who basically acts as the all seeing, all knowing God of the movie, just as HAL is the all seeing, all knowing eye of the discovery. He could even read lips, which showed his dominance even beyond their knowledge. Great film, and will never be fully understood or fully appreciated. I hate that people call this overrated.
Bassbait, Nicely done. Helps me as well. I suppose like most really GOOD stuff, this can be appreciated top to bottom on several layers: Cool movie with effects. Cool science fiction story. Metaphor on present life. Metaphor on movie making. Metaphor on finding meaning and God. Metaphor on controlling influence. Few things actually DO that. Most who try end up looking self-indulgent and overblown. But these guys figured it out and did it well. I’d add that it never could have happened without the music.
Man is born -> man, enslaved by his curiosity, flies through space and adversity to an erie hotel-room -> man gets old; and finally (my favorite) -> WTF.
This movie has been on my watch-list for years, and now, having watched it, I’m kicking myself for not being able to muster up a satisfying interpretation. Perhaps that’s the point? Either way, I enjoyed Adam & Will’s 4 cents a great deal.
I agree with Matt that this never could have happened without the music - a glowing beacon, always there - shining, in spite of an otherwise pointless existence.
I found this essay really interesting and it accompanies the film well. It actually makes it richer, because the film is so slow and ‘space-ious’, albeit intentionally, that description aids and enhances it. It is a profound film, and I am interested to watch the Tree of Life.
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