This film was based on the 1948 short story The Sentinel, by English science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke.
Any film that could express in a running time of little more than two hours, a cyclical evolution from ape to man to spaceman to angel-starchild-superman without sounding boring is nothing short of a marvel. Stanley Kubrick has just done that. It owes to his visual storytelling in part and to the futuristic vision of Arthur C. Clarke that is based squarely on thorough understanding of Science. The film is a textbook example of different approach that could be told to advantage over the written word. In cinematic terms Stanley Kubrick has made any comparison with the book as irrelevant.
Director Stanley Kubrick’s astounding work owes its power from his non-verbal images that add to our visual experience. The first spoken word is almost a half hour into the film, and there’s less than 40 minutes of dialogue in the entire film. All scenes in the film have either dialogue or music (or silence), but never both together. Much of the film is in dead silence, and it is what it means to travel in space. A spaceship traveling in that vast ocean of silence is a mystic experience and Kubrick didn’t need any passage from the book to make us understand that.
Plot: The film can be broken into 4 sections.
1. The Dawn of Man
The title sequence begins with an image of the Earth rising over the Moon, while the Sun rises over the Earth all in alignment to the opening chords of Strauss’ “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
A primeval ape man makes a breakthrough – becoming endowed with intelligence after experiencing a mysterious black monolith.
2. The Lunar Journey in the Year 2000
Eons later, a similar monolith is discovered on the lunar surface in the 21st century, sending its signals to Jupiter.
3. Jupiter Mission, 18 Months Later in 2001
A futuristic, 18-month journey to Jupiter.
4. Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite
A mystical experience in another time and dimension.
This happy amalgam of art and science from two creative minds shows also how trivial are Star Wars (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and many other sci-fi films in comparison. These above cited films also dealt with space exploration and extra terrestrial lives in other planets. But 2001: Space Odyssey almost sounds plausible. Leaving aside my personal reservations with regards to the premise of ubermensch or optimism as hinted in the movie, I think the film is still a landmark science fiction classic.
The film was ahead of its times. it was criticized for being boring and lacking in imagination. 19 minutes were cut from the film after premieres in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles. It was re-released in a slightly shorter version (141 minutes) in 1972.
With time hostile or indifferent critical reviews gave way to rave notices partly due to its cult status among the anti-establishment groups.
Kubrick’s masterpiece was not nominated for Best Picture, but received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, Best Art Direction, and Best Original Story and Screenplay. It won one Oscar, for Best Visual Effects. The film was snubbed by the Academy that instead voted its top accolades to the odd musical Oliver! (1968) based upon the Charles Dickens tale.
2001: A Space Odyssey is today recognized by many critics and audiences as one of the greatest films ever made; the 2002 Sight & Sound poll of critics ranked it among the top ten films of all time. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, and received one for visual effects. In 1991, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry.
The film is enriched by stunning, pioneering technical effects, and featured orchestral music, presented in movements like in a symphony, from:
* Richard Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra
The opening trinitarian chords [C, G, and again C] of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra accompany and welcome this striking shot of orbital and visual alignment. The credits then follow.
Choice of Strauss happily reinforces the superman idea of Friedrich Nietzsche.
Ligeti’s Atmospheres,opens up the film signifying perhaps a pre-creation era,and it ends with The Blue Danube Waltz
* György Ligeti, Atmospheres, Lux Aeterna, and Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs and Orchestra
* Aram Khatchaturian, Gayane Ballet Suite
A sequel was made years later: director Peter Hyams’ 2010 (1984) (from a 1982 published adaptation titled 2010: odyssey two by Clarke). Other Clarke writings are potential film installments: 2061: odyssey three and 3001: final odyssey.
* Keir Dullea as Dr. David Bowman
* Gary Lockwood as Dr. Frank Poole
* William Sylvester as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd
* Daniel Richter as Moon-Watcher
* Leonard Rossiter as Dr. Andrei Smyslov
* Margaret Tyzack as Elena
* Robert Beatty as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen
* Sean Sullivan as Dr. Bill Michaels
* Douglas Rain as HAL 9000 (voice)
* Frank A. Miller as Mission controller (voice)
* Bill Weston as Astronaut
* Ed Bishop as Lunar shuttle captain (as Edward Bishop)
* Vivian Kubrick as Floyd’s daughter
* Glenn Beck as Astronaut
* Alan Gifford as Poole’s father
* Ann Gillis as Poole’s mother
The film shows an imagined version of the year 2001. Some of what is seen in the film has come to pass:
* Flat-screen computer monitors (simulated by rear projection in the film)
* Glass cockpits in spacecraft
* The proliferation of TV stations, the BBC’s channels numbering at least 12. (They currently have 9 UK TV stations (6 in 2001), 4 of which are numbered, plus various international channels)
* Telephone numbers with more digits than in the 1960s (to permit direct national and international dialing)
* The endurance of corporations like IBM, Aeroflot, Howard Johnson’s, and Hilton Hotels
* The use of credit cards with data stripes (the card Heywood Floyd inserts into the telephone is American Express; a close-up photo of the prop shows that it has a barcode rather than a magnetic strip, as some present-day ID cards have PDF417 barcodes)
* Biometric identification (voice-print identification on arrival at the space station)
* The shape of the Pan Am Orbital Clipper was echoed in the X-34, a prototype craft that underwent towed flight tests from 1999 to 2001
* Electronic darkening of a normally transparent surface (Bowman uses a helmet control to darken his visor during an EVA)
* A computer that can defeat a human being at chess
* Personal in-flight entertainment displays on the backs of seats in commercial aircraft
* Voice recognition / voice controlled computing (although not as powerful as HAL) are seen today in things as simple as telephone systems and video games.
* Tanning beds
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