2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey - Station 5
2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey, Bladerunner and the books of William Gibson seen / read in the past, showed us the future and prepared us for the present.
2001: A Space Odyssey is an influential 1968 science fiction film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay, written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, deals with themes of human evolution and technology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life. The film is notable for its scientific realism, pioneering use of special effects, and reliance upon ambiguous yet provocative imagery and sound in place of traditional techniques of narrative cinema.
The film received a wide spectrum of positive and negative reviews upon release. Today it is widely recognized among critics as one of the greatest films ever made. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one (for visual effects).
2001 opens with Gy?gy Ligeti's opening cluster (which spans five octaves) from "Atmosph?es", unaccompanied by any on-screen image (in a theater presentation the theater remains lit while the screen curtains remain drawn) -- alternate version used Ligeti's "Requiem". The main title sequence depicts the Earth rising above the moon with the sun rising above the Earth accompanied by the first movement of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra". The rest of the film can be divided into four acts — an unusual number, rarely seen in any form of narrative — each but the second preceded by on-screen title cards.
The first act of 2001, titled "The Dawn of Man", shows a tribe of prehistoric man-apes in their regular life activities: digging among sparse vegetation for sustenance, being preyed upon by a leopard and competing with another tribe over a waterhole. The primary tribe is clearly struggling to survive with minimal resources available in the dry desert. One morning, a mysterious black rectangular monolith appears near their habitation and is nervously examined by the apes.
Following this encounter, a lone man-ape is shown discovering the first tool while scavenging through a pile of bones. The man-ape picks up a bone and plays with it, finally crushing the other bones, as with a club. The man-apes are next shown eating meat — presumably that of a freshly killed tapir. The man-ape who created the tool, now leading the tribe and standing partially upright, recaptures the waterhole, clubbing an enemy ape to death with the new-found weapon. As some of his tribe mimic his actions, he howls in triumph — man has learned to kill.
In the famous match cut that follows, the victorious man-ape throws his bone weapon high into the air, at which point the film jumps forward to the future, matching the image of the tumbling bone to that of a man-made orbital satellite to begin the second act. Johann Strauss II's "The Blue Danube" waltz accompanies the following scenes of man-made objects orbiting the Earth. As the sequence develops, it depicts a Pan Am shuttle docking to an Earth-orbital space station.
Several shots of the shuttle interior show that it carries only one passenger, Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester), a leading American scientist bound for the Moon. Floyd arrives at the station (and the waltz has its final cadence). Then, after disembarking, a monotone stewardess announces the first spoken lines of the film: "Here you are, sir. Main Level, please." Floyd meets Mr. Miller of Station Security, and the two walk through the sterile station to a restaurant, but Floyd stops to make a videophone call to his daughter on Earth as Miller goes on ahead.
In the first narrative exposition, Floyd meets a group of Soviet scientists including a "good friend", Elena, and sits down for a brief chat. After Floyd reveals that he is going to the Moon base in the crater Clavius, Dr. Andrei Smyslov (Leonard Rossiter) inquires as to why nobody had been able to establish contact there and Elena mentions that the base recently denied emergency landing to one of their shuttles (a direct violation of space travel rules). Floyd feigns na?e surprise, but when Smyslov inquires about a rumor that an epidemic has broken out at the base, Floyd ominously refuses to comment on the situation, citing security restrictions.
The next scene depicts a lunar landing craft heading towards Moon Base Clavius. It lands and is lowered on an elevated platform into the base. In a meeting room here, Floyd is introduced to the base's scientists and administrators and speaks on the importance of hiding the true reason for the base's suspicious quarantine. He applauds their momentous discovery and then blithely informs the assembled staff that renewed "security oaths" are required. During a Q&A session, he states that the "cover story" of an epidemic and a base-wide communications black-out will remain in effect until decided otherwise by their superiors on Earth. He reminds them of "the potential for cultural shock and social disorientation" that their discovery presents.
The scene cuts to a subsequent moonbus ride to the excavation (accompanied by Ligeti's Lux Aeterna). Discussion between Floyd and a base administrator reveals the mystery; they have discovered an object buried on the Moon (dubbed Tycho Magnetic Anomaly 1 or TMA-1 for short). Investigation of the object has revealed conclusively that it was "deliberately buried" four million years earlier. The shuttle lands at the dig site, and the scientists warily approach a monolith exactly as seen during the "Dawn of Man" sequence (to the accompaniment by the returning Kyrie from the Ligeti Requiem). Floyd reaches out and strokes the smooth surface of the object, mirroring the awe and curiosity that the man-ape exhibited millions of years earlier. They gather around it for a group photo but are interrupted when an earsplitting, continuous high-pitched tone is picked up by their radio receivers, emitted by the monolith as the sun shines down on it.
The film cuts to its third act with the title card "Jupiter Mission: Eighteen Months Later", introduced with a montage accompanied by Gayane's Adagio from Aram Khatchaturian's Gayane ballet. Aboard the spaceship Discovery One are the mission pilots, astronauts Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and three scientists "sleeping" in cryogenic hibernation. Various scenes are shown depicting mundane daily life on board the spacecraft: ship maintenance and operations, physical exercise, eating, sleeping, receiving birthday greetings from home, playing chess and even sketching. The crew is shown watching a BBC television program about themselves, in which the "sixth member" of the crew, the HAL 9000 supercomputer (Douglas Rain), is introduced and interviewed. The interview reveals that though the supercomputer is the pinnacle in artificial machine intelligence, with a remarkable, error-free performance record, it is designed to communicate and interact like a human, and even mimics (or reproduces) human emotions, and in fact the astronauts have quickly learned to treat it like another crewman, addressing it as "Hal".
During an informal conversation with Bowman, HAL detects an impending failure of the ship's communications system. Bowman exits the Discovery in an EVA pod to retrieve and replace the faulty "AE-35 unit", but upon detailed examination no fault can be found. Mission controllers back on Earth assert that HAL is "in error in predicting the fault", something unheard of for the 9000 series. HAL suggests another EVA mission to restore the part and wait for it to fail, to determine the problem. Hiding their concern, Bowman and Poole retreat to an EVA pod, ostensibly to troubleshoot a radio, but, in fact, to discuss HAL's questionable reliability in secret, finally agreeing to "disconnect" him should the AE-35 not fail, as predicted. Unbeknownst to them, HAL is spying on them, reading their lips. An intermission follows; appropriate, given the "cliffhanger" nature of this point in the movie, but nonetheless coming in the middle of the third act of the narrative proper.
After the intermission, Poole exits the Discovery in an EVA pod to put back the original AE-35 unit while Bowman watches from inside the ship. After Poole exits the pod, HAL takes control of the empty pod and accelerates it towards Poole, murdering him. Bowman sees both Poole and the pod careening away from the ship. He hurriedly exits the ship in another pod to rescue Poole (forgetting to bring his space helmet). While Bowman is outside, HAL kills the three hibernating scientists by deactivating their life support systems.
Bowman's rescue attempt turns out to be only a body retrieval mission. Upon returning, he commands HAL to "open the pod bay doors". HAL refuses, and reveals that he knows of Poole and Bowman's plan to disconnect him. HAL asserts that the mission is "too important" to allow Bowman to jeopardize it. Bowman answers that he will simply reenter the ship via an emergency air lock (a risky maneuver without a helmet; even when he has entered the ship, he will be exposed to the vacuum of space until he closes the door through a manual pull switch). HAL terminates the conversation. After jettisoning the lifeless body of Poole, Bowman opens the air lock, and jettisons the pod's hatch. The explosive decompression propels him into the airlock. Exposed to vacuum, he manages to close the airlock in the few seconds of time a human can survive.
Safely inside the ship, Bowman dons the helmet from the air lock's remaining space suit and enters HAL's "Logic Memory Center". As HAL futilely attempts to negotiate with him, Bowman proceeds to disconnect his higher brain functions, leaving the ship's systems automatic and regulatory systems running. HAL pleads for him to stop, admitting to errors but pledging he is feeling much better now. As Bowman proceeds to slowly disconnect him, HAL protests: "I'm afraid, Dave." and, "My mind is going....I can feel it". As his mind gradually fades, HAL regresses to old memories. He recites random topics such as the date he became operational (January 12, 1992), sings the song "Daisy Bell" his instructor taught him, and finally falls silent. Suddenly, a pre-recorded video briefing by Heywood Floyd plays, explaining the true nature of the mission (this is the only direct plot-related dialogue in the entire film):
“ Good day, gentlemen. This is a pre-recorded briefing made prior to your departure. In which for security reasons, of the highest importance, has been known onboard during the mission, only by your HAL 9000 computer.
Now that you are in Jupiter's space and the entire crew is revived, it can be told to you. 18 months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered. It was buried 40 feet below the lunar surface, near the crater Tycho. Except for a single very powerful radio emission, aimed at Jupiter, the 4 million year old black monolith has remained completely inert. Its origin and purpose....still a total mystery.”
The final act, titled "Jupiter, and Beyond the Infinite" begins with the revelation of a third monolith in orbit around Jupiter (again accompanied by the Ligeti's "Requiem"), and of the Discovery One entering the Jupiter system and later rendezvousing with the artifact. As the planet and its moons and the monolith appear to align, Bowman again exits the Discovery One in an EVA pod. Bowman, in the EVA pod, now appears to travel across vast distances of space and time through a tunnel of colorful light and sound, in what is labeled the "Star Gate sequence". Ligeti's Requiem segues to Ligeti’s colossal orchestral essay "Atmosph?es".
After passing over the landscape of an alien world, Bowman arrives in a Louis XVI-style room (the alien-sounding music of Ligeti's "Adventures" is heard through an echo chamber). As he walks about the room, he is depicted suddenly ageing, first in his spacesuit, then in an ornate dressing robe, sitting down to a well appointed meal. He accidentally knocks his glass on the floor, smashing it and breaking the silence. Looking up from the broken glass, he sees himself lying on what appears to be his deathbed, at the foot of which appears a fourth and final monolith. Bowman slowly reaches out to it and is seemingly transformed into a fetus-like being enclosed in a transparent orb of light. Bowman, now in the form of a "Star Child", approaches the Earth. In the film's final, ambiguous shot, he gazes at the world through new eyes, as "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" climaxes once more.