Best Movies of All Time + [William Sylvester]

DVD Challenge #10: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

2001: A Space Odyssey
1968
G
Run-time: 2 hours, 21 minutes

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood & William Sylvester

Honestly, where can I even start talking about Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey? In the forty-three years since it was released, I'm sure millions upon millions of people have discussed it and its meaning (because, let's face it, I'm not quite sure anyone but Kubrick and fellow screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke really know what it means). I'll delve into the "meaning" of 2001 in a few moments, but I'd like to touch upon a couple of things before I get into all of that.

The first thing that you're probably going to notice about 2001 is the fact that there's very little dialogue throughout the film's entirety. In fact, we don't get our first bit of spoken words until nearly twenty-six minutes into the film, and after that, there are extended sequences without any dialogue whatsoever. In addition, the film opens with nearly three minutes of the musical score projected with a blank, black screen. Is there some sort of symbolism there? Perhaps, but I don't want to try to explain anything that I needn't explain. We also receive an intermission around the eighty minute mark, and it comes at a perfectly logical twist in the storyline (kudos to Kubrick there).

In addition, you're going to notice the beauty of the visual aesthetic. Despite the fact that this film is nearly four decades old and pre-dates effects-laden films like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I'd still say that 2001 is the most visually brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen. Today's visual effects simply can't compare to the simple but detailed approach that 2001 took to creating a realistic world outside of this world. It's simply astounding to behold.

And now, for the meaning of 2001... I don't know it. I'll start by saying that 2001 is by no means a film for everyone. In today's fast-paced society, I'd be surprised if there were many non-film buffs of my own generation who could sit through the film in its entirety. It definitely takes quite a commitment to stay engaged with the film, considering the lack of dialogue and the creepingly slow pace. No, this movie is geared toward those who are willing to be encompassed by a film and are not afraid to think both during the film and after the final credits have begun to roll. And boy will it make you think. I've only seen this film once before today, and I was blown away by its sheer magnitude. Like everyone else, however, I was left scratching my head as well. Ever since that day, I have wondered what 2001 might mean.

Some people say that the film's sequel - the 1984 film, 2010: The Year We Make Contact - offers an explanation of 2001. I personally don't believe that to be the case. 2010 was released sixteen

years after the original and was not a Kubrick venture; therefore, it didn't necessarily have his seal of approval. I have seen 2010, and I received no sense of understanding. I think it works more as a theory of what 2001 might have meant, but that theory comes from the mind of one individual, not the minds of many. It's simply one person's interpretation but not the meaning everyone had been waiting to hear.

Ultimately, I don't think we're really supposed to know exactly what Kubrick and Clarke had in mind when they wrote the screenplay. Kubrick once stated the following in relation to understanding the meaning of 2001:

You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film - and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level - but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he's missed the point.
Basically Kubrick is telling us to keep wondering at what the film might mean. Everyone is going to view the film differently, and that in turn will cause millions of different interpretations of the film. And that's part of what makes it brilliant. You can find a ton of different interpretations of 2001 on the Internet - my personal favorite is located at Kubrick 2001 - but it ultimately comes down to your own opinion of the events of the film. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a movie that will continue to be debated and explained, but at the end of the day, we may never truly know exactly what Kubrick had in mind when he brought this brilliant film to the silver screen.

Ranking
Best All-Time: #20