'2001: A Space Odyssey' is a landmark, science fiction, classic, epic film containing more spectacular imagery than verbal dialogue. It impacts on the viewer and taps into subconscious memories of creation. Though it shows human evolving from ape - the missing link of that evolution is left open. The plot follows a spaceship that crosses the universe, searching for the source of life itself.
A link is made to a creational intelligence perhaps linked to human evolution. Again this is linked to a computer that comes into conscious awareness and confusion as to its prime objective.
As with all of the themes I have been writing about in Crystalinks - '2001: A Space Odyssey' - is based strongly on mythological metaphors and tales. It is closely linked with the Prometheus myth. The concept of the the pillar sent down from Jupiter is exactly the same as that of Prometheus bring fire to humans. Even the source being Jupiter fits, as Jupiter was the Roman name for Zeus - the leader of the Greek pantheon. Like the Prometheus myth, the gift given to humans proves to be beyond their control. This time it is in the form of a computer, Hal. Hal goes out of control and begins to kill humans, and disobeys all orders given to him. He begins to think for himself.
This actually sets the stage for an Odyssey parallel in the form of the visit to the cave of Polyphemus, though this time the roles are reversed. In 2001: 'A Space Odyssey,' the human, Dave, is attempting to get into the ship rather than out of a cave. To do this, he has to use his brute strength versus Hal's genius, a complete reversal of the mythological roles. Nonetheless it it is far
too similar to be coincidence.
Viewers are left to experience the non-verbal vastness of the film and to subjectively reach into their own subconscious to speculate about its meaning.
The first spoken word is almost a half hour into the film. There's less than 40 minutes of dialogue in the entire film.
The breathtaking, - richly eloquent film - deliberately filmed at a slow pace, is based on the short story The Sentinel, by science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke.
Its screenplay was co-authored by director Stanley Kubrick and Clarke from an expanded novelization.
The film originally opened to hostile, unsympathetic, or indifferent critical reviews, but gained enormous popularity when it was released at least once a year from 1975 to 1982.
I have to admit that initially didn't like the movie. It was years later - when I rented the video that I began to enjoy it.
I suppose that some fo us just like to be entered in the movies without too much brain-work! If you are overl-analytical this movie kept you busy for hours - discussing its meanings.
In the opening scene - the camera pans upward from the pock-marked surface of the Moon in the foreground. The perspective is from behind the moon. In the distance is a view of the Sun rising over the Earth-crescent in the vastness of space. The image shows the heavenly bodies of the Earth, Moon, and Sun in a vertically-symmetrical alignment or conjunction.
Later in the film, it is revealed that a monolith was buried on the Moon, possibly at the moment of this 'magical' conjunction.
The opening trinitarian chords [C, G, and again C] of Richard Strauss' 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' accompany and welcome this striking shot of orbital and visual alignment. This music was inspired by the book . . . Thus Spake Zarathrustra. Its five opening notes embody the ascension of man into spheres reserved for the gods. It projects the power of creation and Zarathrustra.
The music is associated in the film with the first entry of man's consciousness into the universe - and with the eventual passage of that consciousness onto a new level, symbolized by the Star Child at the end of the film.
"When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he left his home and the lake
of his home, and went into the mountains. There he enjoyed his
spirit and his solitude, and for ten years did not weary of it. But at
last his heart changed,- and rising one morning with the rosy dawn, he
went before the sun, and spake thus unto it:
"Thou great star! What would be thy happiness if thou hadst not those
for whom thou shinest!
"For ten years hast thou climbed hither unto my cave: thou wouldst
have wearied of thy light and of the journey, had it not been for
me, mine eagle, and my serpent.
"But we awaited thee every morning, took from thee thine overflow,
and blessed thee for it.
"Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too
much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it.
"I would fain bestow and distribute, until the wise have once more
become joyous in their folly, and the poor happy in their riches.
"Therefore must I descend into the deep: as thou doest in the
evening, when thou goest behind the sea, and givest light also to
the nether-world, thou exuberant star!
"Like thee must I go down, as men say, to whom I shall descend.
"Bless me, then, thou tranquil eye, that canst behold even the
greatest happiness without envy!
"Bless the cup that is about to overflow, that the water may flow
golden out of it, and carry everywhere the reflection of thy bliss!
"Lo! This cup is again going to empty itself, and Zarathustra is again going to be a man.
"Thus began Zarathustra's down-going. . . "
'2001: A Space Odyssey' is composed of four episodes.
Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite
The Dawn of Man
'The Dawn of Man' opens in the prehistoric past in the Pleistocene era four million years ago, the location where the human race was supposedly born - evolving from primitive apes. The sun rises on the dawn of civilization in a primordial landscape of arid, wasteland desert.
As dawn passes and mid-day approaches on the barren African savannah, animal skeletons lie dormant on the rocky ground - the first sign of life.
A peaceful band or tribe of prehistoric ape-men (Australopithecines) appear, squat and hairy, eating grass. Although herds of tapirs graze closeby, the ape-men are vegetarians who forage for grass and roots.
They have not developed the means or tools necessary to attack and kill or eat the tapirs like other predators. Symbolically, there are endless eons of time that pass during which the apes live in eternal boredom - and cope with the struggle for survival.
A group of apes scratches and chatters in groups around a slowly diminishing watering hole. A rival, warring band of ape competitors approaches the watering hole, led by an almost-upright, tall and bright man-ape named Moonwatcher in Arthur Clarke's novel.
By shrieking, they scare away the other apes from the water and aggressively establish dominance and territoriality.
During the first night, a leopard with glowing eyes guards the carcass of a fallen zebra in the moonlight. The band of vegetarian man-apes huddles protectively together in their cramped den for comfort and support - living and sleeping in fear.
In the first light of the prehistoric dawn on the second day, a tall, black, rectangular monolithic slab, with an eerie humming sound - symbolic of the religious/spiritual unknown - materializes in the midst of their den.
The massive artificial monolith, in contrast to its natural surroundings, stands in a shallow depression in the rocks where the man-apes gather around a water hole.
In Arthur Clarke's novel, the monolith is a technological machine belonging to aliens in space, one of hundreds of such monoliths sent to Earth to test, teach and transform the apes into higher-order beings.
The unusual, out-of-place object with straight-edges causes them to be alarmed and they react nervously.
They approach it cautiously, drawn to its color, form, and smooth surface. The leader of the clan of man-apes is the first to reach out fearfully and hypnotically for the black object.
His boldness encourages the rest of the group to gather around. In a mute, primitive, but poetic moment, they herd around it and huddle by it, just as another celestial alignment or configuration occurs. With the mysterious monolith in the foreground, the glowing Sun rises over the black slab, directly beneath the crescent of the Moon
A quick, almost-subliminal shot of the celestial alignment with the monolith is flashed on the screen - indicating that it will inspire a new idea or cause what is to happen the discovery that the bone can function as a weapon.
In a slow-motion sequence - accompanied by the slowly-building tone of Strauss's Thus Spoke Zarathustra - he picks up an animal bone and uses it to smash at and shatter the skeleton, first tentatively and then more vigorously. In a slow-motion closeup, his hairy fist grasps the skeleton bone over his head as he brings it down forcefully like a cudgel. As he smashes and pulverizes parts of the skeleton on the ground, the soundtrack bursts forth in an ecstatic, jubilant climax.
In one brilliant inter-cut image, a tapir falls to the ground - the vegetarian man-ape will be able to hunt for food and kill a tapir with his new utilitarian tool. No longer vegetarian after the breakthrough, the man-ape becomes carnivorous, squatting while eating a raw piece of tapir flesh in his hands. The rest of the clan share in the meat of the fresh kill later that afternoon and evening.
Somehow, the monolith has been presented as a gift to mysteriously assist
the man-ape in his transition to a higher order (or lower order depending
upon one's interpretation) with an ability to reason and the power to use
tools (such as bones) - for murder. The man-ape is on the verge of intelligence
- the beginning of steps toward humanity as he learns to use skeleton bones
as tools - extending his reach. The sun sets.
On the third day, when other man-apes come over to the water hole, the intelligent,
carnivorous man-apes dominate and drive the weaponless (and tool-less) neighboring
creatures away with their newfound strike power - this is humanity's first bloody war.
They swing with their bone-tools - using them as weapons to threaten the nearest other tribe of rival proto-humans.
The leader man-ape uses the bone to attack, crush an opponent's skull, and kill him - making them capable of survival in the hostile environment.
The 'enlightened' apes gain domination in the animal world, establish their territorial domain, and take an evolutionary step or leap toward (or away from) humanity.
In slow-motion, the man-ape leader flings his weapon, a fragmented piece of the bone, exultantly and jubilantly into the air. It flies and spins upwards, twisting and turning end-over-end.
The Lunar Journey in the Year 2000
Four millions years later . . .
The tossed bone (tool/weapon) instantly rotates and dissolves into an orbiting
space satellite from Earth - a technological instrument, tool, or machine
from another era that was ultimately derived from the first tool-weapon. The
toss of the ape-man's bone is metaphoric for a lift-off from Earth toward
the Moon, and for the tremendous technological advances that have occurred
in the interim.
The year 2000 - the Earth drifts by, the
camera's perspective is from somewhere between Earth and the Moon. Two different
kinds of satellites (one slightly rectangular, the other cylindrical) float
by, circling around the globe of Earth.
A winged, arrow-shaped spaceship, the Pan American, dart-like space shuttle Orion [a phallic symbol or
representation of "sperm"], soars from Earth through space toward the Moon,
bound first for Space Station 5 - a wheel-shaped way-station for passengers
traveling on to the lunar surface. Images of the giant circular space station
revolving and orbiting in space are accompanied by the lyrical 'Blue Danube
Waltz' by Johann Strauss. The pace is deliberately slow, emphasizing the vast
enormous vistas and the harmonious order of space.
Within the cabin of the Pan Am shuttle is a lighted sign: "Caution: Weightless Condition," evidenced by a floating ballpoint pen and arm of its sole passenger, suspended in space like the spacecraft itself. He is dozing, a fifty-ish, safety-belted scientist-administrator, Dr. Heywood R. Floyd - the transformed man-ape of the 20th-21st century.
The white-uniformed Pan American shuttle attendant, wearing special velcro-like, suction "grip shoes," retrieves his pen, and continues down the aisle. In the blackness of space, the pilots of the Pan Am spaceship dock (or penetrate with) the phallic craft - through the aid of graphic read-out screens that must constantly be monitored - in the spoke-hub of the gigantic, circular, revolving space station - a symbol of an egg - almost like a copulatory act.
This is the first stage of fetal, reproductive life imagery: copulation and conception.
The first spoken words in the film occur here, about 25 minutes from the film's beginning.
Dr. Floyd calls his home many thousands of miles away and speaks to his daughter Squirt. He ignores the spectacular sight of the rotating Earth over his left side while he gives her a brief Happy Birthday wish. Floyd expresses his regrets at not being able to be present at her party - he is literally and figuratively alienated from her.
There are five birthdays in the film (in order):
(1) the Dawn of Man himself;
(2) Dr. Floyd's daughter;
(3) Astronaut Frank (his parents sing him Happy Birthday via radio);
(4) computer HAL's operational birthday;
(5) the Birth of the Starchild
With the reprise of 'The Blue Danube,' Dr. Floyd has boarded another Pan Am spaceship - a lunar landing craft - the spherical Aries, as its only passenger to soar toward the Clavius base on the moon.
When the insect-like ship (with two red lights/eyes on its top and two sets of white lights/eyes on its side - it appears like a skull) reaches its moon colonization destination, it descends toward the craggy, black lunar surface, extending its four landing legs above an underground airlock. Eight pie-shaped doors slowly slide back above the domed hanger to
reveal a target zone within a deep cavity.
The Aries fires its rockets and kicks up clouds of dust as it descends and sets itself to rest in the lighted square.
The momentous discovery of the geometric slab had been kept secret, for the Americans fear that if Earth's inhabitants learned about it "without adequate preparation and conditioning," widespread "culture shock" and "social disorientation" would inevitably ensue.
The moon moves in its orbit. Sunlight hits the slab, perhaps for the first time in eons, causing it to emit a beam into outer space. A spaceship is built and a crew is assembled to follow the beam. There is hope that the Americans will discover the intelligence that is responsible for the slab and its beam.
A hatch opens under the landing zone, and gently and majestically brings the spacecraft into its interior.
The imagery of reproductive life continues - the round, impregnated 'ova' implants itself into the 'uterus' of the mother.
Dr. Floyd and some of the other Clavius base personnel, Halvorsen and Michaels, jet out in a "moon bus" to the Tycho excavation site where the monolith is located.
On the way, they are bathed by the bluish, magical light of the interior of the bus, Floyd is complimented on his excellent speech at the briefing, cleverly revealing very little.
Dr. Floyd is told that the monolith was first inaccurately thought to be an outcropping of rock. A rectangular area around the monolith was excavated out to see if it was only the "upper part of some buried structure." One thing is certain - it was deliberately buried four million years earlier.
The eerie humming sound of a hymn on the soundtrack - also heard by the man-apes around the earlier monolith - indicates their approach toward the magical object.
After docking in the lunar dawn, they walk toward the monolith's location wearing spacesuits.
They view the monolith, the transcendent discovery, from the lip of a giant, excavated pit, while a three-quarters Earth hangs just above the horizon.
The sequence on the moon - which looks as real as the actual video of the moon landing a year later - is a variation on the film's opening sequence.
Man is confronted with a monolith, just as the apes were, and is drawn to a similar conclusion: 'This must have been made. It is not a natural formation.
The spaceship takes off, on an odyssey that will span the universe.
As the first monolith led to the discovery of tools, so a second monolith leads to the employment of man's most elaborate tool: the spaceship Discovery, employed by man in partnership with the artificial intelligence of the onboard computer, named HAL 9000. One of the main characters in this part of the film is a computer which controls and monitors most of the ship's functions. This computer has a human personality and voice.
Life onboard the Discovery is presented as a long, eventless routine of exercise, maintenance checks and chess games with HAL. Only when the astronauts fear that HAL's programming has failed does a level of suspense emerge; their challenge is somehow to get around HAL, which has been programmed to believe, "This mission is too important for me
to allow you to jeopardize it.'' HAL rebels when he thinks they are sabotaging the mission. HAL kills the scientists who created him and the astronauts who are accompanying him on the mission.
Dave, the last surviving astronaut, escapes HAL's coolly-plotted machinations and manages to dismantle him. Dave then continues the odyssey alone. In the end, Dave is captured in an inter-galactic net, apparently by the makers of the slab. We find him facing himself as an old man, sitting in a room on the other side of the universe. No explanations are given. The huge embryo comes on the screen, and the film ends.
The 'star gate' sequence is a sound and light journey in which astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) travels through what we might now call a wormhole into another place, or dimension, that is unexplained.
The primary mystery is the film's ending. Dave, the sole survivor of HAL's homicidal rampage, has been whisked across the universe, to an undefined place. In a small, stylishly furnished room, we see him grow old and ancient in a time-lapse sequence, until he appears on his own deathbed, incredibly withered. In the last moments of his life, he finds the strength to pull himself up and point to an object which has suddenly appeared in the room.
It is the enigmatic black "monolith" which initiated the entire space odyssey. Then, just as suddenly, a huge human embryo appears on the screen floating in outer space. Wide eyed, it turns to the viewing audience, and to the triumphant tones of "Thus Spoke Zarathrusta," the film ends. There is no explanation, the film just ends.
At journey's end is the comfortable bedroom suite in which he grows old, eating his meals quietly, napping peacefully.
The Star Child
The film doesn't give the viewers any explanation of the origins of the two monoliths which one is to assume provided the Star Gate and the bedroom.
The monoliths are creational programs that are preset. Once activated they proceed with a new creation. It would appear that - to begin this creation - DNA would be needed - hence the salvation of Dave. The movie is about creation by design - computers and their part in them - computers that can misfunction and cause destruction - or was that all part of the plan?
The film created its effects essentially out of visuals and music. It is meditative and seeks to expand our consciousness.
'2001: A Space Odyssey' is not about a goal but about a quest.
Most of us feel we have a mission or quest. Now it is time to move on to the next step, to know that we live not on a planet but among the stars, and that we are not flesh but intelligence - conscious awareness.
According to a growing number of scientists, the laws and constants of nature are so "finely-tuned," and so many "coincidences" have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence. In fact, this "fine-tuning" is so pronounced, and the "coincidences" are so numerous, many scientists have come to espouse "The Anthropic Principle," which contends that the universe was brought into existence intentionally for the sake of producing mankind. Even those who do not accept The Anthropic Principle admit to the "fine-tuning" andconclude that the universe is "too contrived" to be a chance event.
Some time during the year 2001
Zarathrustra will bring a message about creation.
Will it come through the computer?
Perhaps it will be for you!
RELATED DISCUSSIONS OF THE MOVIE
The Fine Tuning of the Universe
The 2001 Principle
ELLIE'S ARCHIVES AND ADVENTURES
ALPHABETICAL INDEX OF ALL FILES
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