“2001: A Space Odyssey” is a 1968 British-American science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was partially inspired by Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel”. Clarke concurrently wrote the novel of the same name which was published soon after the film was released. The story deals with a series of encounters between humans and mysterious black monoliths that are apparently affecting human evolution, and a space voyage to Jupiter tracing a signal emitted by one such monolith found on the moon. Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood star as the two astronauts on this voyage, with Douglas Rain as the voice of the sentient computer HAL 9000 who has full control over their spaceship.
The film’s world premiere was on April 2, 1968, at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C. It opened two days later at the Warner Cinerama Theatre in Hollywood, and Loew’s Capitol in New York. Kubrick then deleted 19 minutes of footage from the film before its general release in five other U.S. cities on April 10, 1968, and internationally in five cities the following day.
Some critics see the film as like a four-movement symphony, its story told with “deliberate realism”. As a big symphony, the film consists of four major sections, all of which, except the second, are introduced by superimposed titles:
The Dawn of Man
A tribe of herbivorous early hominids is foraging for food in the African desert. A leopard kills one member, and another tribe of man-apes drives them from their water hole. Defeated, they sleep overnight in a small exposed rock crater, and awake to find a black monolith has appeared in front of them. They approach it shrieking and jumping, and eventually touch it cautiously. Soon after, one of the man-apes realizes how to use a bone as both a tool and a weapon, which they start using to kill prey for their food.
Growing increasingly capable and assertive, they reclaim control of the water hole from the other tribe by killing its leader. Triumphant, the tribe’s leader throws his weapon-tool into the air and (in one of most famous scenes of the “match cut” use) the bone converts itself into a spaceship that literally dances in the space. Millions of years of human evolution shown on a single change of frame!
A Pan Am space plane carries Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester) to a space station orbiting Earth for a layover on his trip to Clavius Base, a US outpost on the Moon. After making a videophone call from the station to his daughter (Vivian Kubrick), he encounters his friend Elena (Margaret Tyzack), a Russian scientist, and her colleague Dr. Smyslov (Leonard Rossiter), who ask Floyd about “odd things” occurring at Clavius, and the rumor of a mysterious epidemic at the base. Floyd politely but firmly declines to answer any questions about the epidemic, claiming he is “not at liberty to discuss this”.
At Clavius, Floyd heads a meeting of base personnel, apologizing for the epidemic cover story but stressing secrecy. His mission is to investigate a recently found artifact—”Tycho Magnetic Anomaly One” (TMA-1)—”deliberately buried” four million years ago. Floyd and others ride in a Moonbus to the artifact, a black monolith identical to the one encountered by the apes. The visitors examine the monolith, and pose for a photo in front of it. While doing so, they hear a very loud high-pitched radio signal emanating from within the monolith.
Eighteen months later, the American spaceship Discovery One is bound for Jupiter. On board are mission pilots and scientists Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and three other scientists who are in cryogenic hibernation. Most of Discovery’s operations are controlled by the ship’s computer, HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), or simply “Hal”, as the crew call it.
Hal reports the imminent failure of a device which controls the ship’s main antenna. After retrieving the component with an EVA pod, the astronauts cannot find anything wrong with it. Hal suggests reinstalling the part and letting it fail so the problem can be found. Mission control concurs, but advises the astronauts that results from their twin Hal 9000 indicate the ship’s Hal is in error predicting the fault. When queried, Hal insists that the problem, like all previous issues with the HAL series, is due to “human error”.
Concerned about Hal’s behavior, Bowman and Poole enter one of the EVA pods to talk without the computer overhearing them. They both have suspicions about Hal, despite the perfect reliability of the HAL series, but they decide to follow its suggestion to replace the unit. As the astronauts agree to disconnect Hal if it is proven to be wrong, they are unaware that Hal is reading their lips through the pod’s window.
While Poole is attempting to replace the unit during a spacewalk, his EVA pod, controlled by Hal, severs his oxygen hose and sets him adrift. Bowman, not realizing the computer is responsible for this, takes another pod to attempt a rescue, leaving his helmet behind. While he is gone, Hal turns off the life-support functions of the crewmen in suspended animation. When Bowman returns to the ship with Poole’s body, Hal refuses to let him in, stating that the astronaut’s plan to deactivate him jeopardizes the mission. Bowman manually opens the ship’s emergency airlock and bodily enters the ship risking death from exposure to a vacuum but survives. After donning a helmet, Bowman proceeds to Hal’s processor core intent on disconnecting most of the functions of the computer. Hal first tries to reassure Dave, then pleads with him to stop, and finally begins to express fear—all in a steady monotone voice.
Dave ignores him and disconnects each of the computer’s processor modules. Hal eventually regresses to his earliest programmed memory, the song “Daisy Bell”, which he sings for Bowman. When the computer is finally disconnected, a prerecorded video message from Floyd plays. In it, he reveals the existence of the four million-year-old black monolith on the Moon, “its origin and purpose still a total mystery”. Floyd adds that it has remained completely inert, except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter.
Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite
At Jupiter, Bowman leaves Discovery One in an EVA pod and finds another monolith in orbit around the planet. Approaching it, the pod is suddenly pulled into a tunnel of colored light, and a disoriented and terrified Bowman finds himself racing at great speed across vast distances of space, viewing bizarre cosmological phenomena and strange alien landscapes of unusual colors.
He finds himself, middle-aged and still in his spacesuit, standing in a bedroom appointed in the Louis XVI-style. Bowman sees progressively older versions of himself, his point of view switching each time, alternately appearing formally dressed and eating dinner, and finally as a very elderly man lying in a bed.
A black monolith appears at the foot of the bed, and as Bowman reaches for it, he is transformed into a fetus-like being enclosed in a transparent orb of light. The new being floats in space beside the Earth, gazing at it.
Since its premiere, “2001: A Space Odyssey” has been analyzed and interpreted by professional movie critics, amateur writers and science fiction fans, virtually all of whom have noted its deliberate ambiguity. Questions about 2001 range from uncertainty about its deeper philosophical implications about humanity’s origins and final destiny in the universe, to interpreting elements of the film’s more enigmatic scenes such as the meaning of the monolith, or the final fate of astronaut David Bowman.
There are also simpler and more mundane questions about what drives the plot, in particular the causes of Hal’s breakdown (explained in earlier drafts but kept mysterious in the film). Stanley Kubrick encouraged people to explore their own interpretations of the film, and refused to offer an explanation of “what really happened” in the movie, preferring instead to let audiences embrace their own ideas and theories. In a 1968 interview with Playboy magazine, Kubrick stated:
“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.”
Multiple allegorical interpretations of 2001 have been proposed, including seeing it as a commentary on Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical tract “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, or as an allegory of human conception, birth and death. This latter can be seen through the final moments of the film, which are defined by the image of the “star child”.
The star child signifies a “great new beginning”, and is depicted naked and ungirded, but with its eyes wide open. The reasons for Hal’s malfunction and subsequent malignant behavior have also elicited much discussion. But what “structurally unites all four episodes of the film” is the monolith, the film’s largest and most unresolvable enigma. If you understood what is the monolith, you will understand the movie.
For some readers, Arthur C. Clarke’s more straightforward novelization of the script is key to interpreting the film. Clarke’s novel explicitly identifies the monolith as a tool created by an alien race that has been through many stages of evolution, moving from organic form to biomechanical, and finally achieving a state of pure energy. These aliens travel the cosmos assisting lesser species to take evolutionary steps. The monolith is the subject of the film’s final line of dialogue (spoken at the end of the “Jupiter Mission” segment): “Its origin and purpose still a total mystery”.
If you have doubts, click here to see this flash animation about the movie: 2001 Explained.
11 Facts About 2001:
01. The full text of the Zero Gravity Toilet Instructions: ZERO GRAVITY TOILET PASSENGERS ARE ADVISED TO READ INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE USE – 1. The toilet is of the standard zero-gravity type. Depending on requirements, System A and/or System B can be used, details of which are clearly marked in the toilet compartment. When operating System A, depress lever and a plastic dalkron eliminator will be dispensed through the slot immediately underneath. When you have fastened the adhesive lip, attach connection marked by the large “X” outlet hose. Twist the silver coloured ring one inch below the connection point until you feel it lock. – 2. The toilet is now ready for use. The Sonovac cleanser is activated by the small switch on the lip. When securing, twist the ring back to its initial-condition, so that the two orange lines meet. Disconnect. Place the dalkron eliminator in the vacuum receptacle to the rear. Activate by pressing the blue button. – 3. The controls for System B are located on the opposite wall. The red release switch places the uroliminator into position; it can be adjusted manually up or down by pressing the blue manual release button. The opening is self adjusting. To secure after use, press the green button which simultaneously activates the evaporator and returns the uroliminator to its storage position. – 4. You may leave the lavatory if the green exit light is on over the door. If the red light is illuminated, one of the lavatory facilities is not properly secured. Press the “Stewardess” call button on the right of the door. She will secure all facilities from her control panel outside. When green exit light goes on you may open the door and leave. Please close the door behind you. – 5. To use the Sonoshower, first undress and place all your clothes in the clothes rack. Put on the velcro slippers located in the cabinet immediately below. Enter the shower. On the control panel to your upper right upon entering you will see a “Shower seal” button. Press to activate. A green light will then be illuminated immediately below. On the intensity knob select the desired setting. Now depress the Sonovac activation lever. Bathe normally. – 6. The Sonovac will automatically go off after three minutes unless you activate the “Manual off” over-ride switch by flipping it up. When you are ready to leave, press the blue “Shower seal” release button. The door will open and you may leave. Please remove the velcro slippers and place them in their container. – 7. If the red light above this panel is on, the toilet is in use. When the green light is illuminated you may enter. However, you must carefully follow all instructions when using the facilities during coasting (Zero G) flight. Inside there are three facilities: (1) the Sonowasher, (2) the Sonoshower, (3) the toilet. All three are designed to be used under weightless conditions. Please observe the sequence of operations for each individual facility. – 8. Two modes for Sonowashing your face and hands are available, the “moist-towel” mode and the “Sonovac” ultrasonic cleaner mode. You may select either mode by moving the appropriate lever to the “Activate” position. If you choose the “moist-towel” mode, depress the indicated yellow button and withdraw item. When you have finished, discard the towel in the vacuum dispenser, holding the indicated lever in the “active” position until the green light goes on… showing that the rollers have passed the towel completely into the dispenser. If you desire an additional towel, press the yellow button and repeat the cycle. – 9. If you prefer the “Sonovac” ultrasonic cleaning mode, press the indicated blue button. When the twin panels open, pull forward by rings A & B. For cleaning the hands, use in this position. Set the timer to positions 10, 20, 30 or 40… indicative of the number of seconds required. The knob to the left, just below the blue light, has three settings, low, medium or high. For normal use, the medium setting is suggested. – 10. After these settings have been made, you can activate the device by switching to the “ON” position the clearly marked red switch. If during the washing operation, you wish to change the settings, place the “manual off” over-ride switch in the “OFF” position. you may now make the change and repeat the cycle.
02. Stanley Kubrick initially approached Arthur C. Clarke by saying that he wanted to make “the proverbial good science-fiction movie”. Clarke suggested that his story “The Sentinel” (1948) about finding an alien artifact on the moon, would provide a suitable premise. Clarke had written it for a BBC competition, but it didn’t even make the shortlist. The movie’s opening scene has elements in common with Clarke’s story “Encounter at Dawn,” and the ending is arguably related to his beloved novel “Childhood’s End.” The screenplay was written primarily by Kubrick and the novel primarily by Clarke, each working simultaneously and also providing feedback to the other. As the story went through many revisions, changes in the novel were taken over into the screenplay and vice versa. The official records say that the screenplay was written in 58 days (13 October 1965-9 December 1965). Shooting began with the “Monolith on the Moon” scene on 29 December 1965.
03. Originally, Stanley Kubrick had Stuart Freeborn create a primitive but more human-like makeup for the actors playing early man, but he couldn’t find a way to photograph them in full length without getting an X-rating from the MPAA, since they had to be naked. So Kubrick went with the hairy monkey model instead. With the exception of two baby chimpanzees, all were played by humans in costume. Freeborn and his wife Kathleen Freeborn used comic actor Ronnie Corbett as a makeup model, but he did not appear in the final film. Daniel Richter, who plays the ape moon watcher, choreographed most of these scenes.
04. Stanley Kubrick had several tons of sand imported, washed, and painted for the moon surface scenes. According to Douglas Trumbull, the total footage shot was some 200 times the final length of the film.
05. Stanley Kubrick worked for several months with effects technicians to come up with a convincing effect for the floating pen in the shuttle sequence. After trying many different techniques, without success, Kubrick decided to simply use a pen that was taped to a sheet of glass and suspended in front of the camera. In fact, the shuttle attendant can be seen to “pull” the pen off the glass when she takes hold of it.
06. According to Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick wanted to get an insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London to protect himself against losses in the event that extraterrestrial intelligence were discovered before the movie was released. Lloyd’s refused. Carl Sagan commented, “In the mid-1960s, there was no search being performed for extraterrestrial intelligence, and the chances of accidentally stumbling on extraterrestrial intelligence in a few years’ period was extremely small. Lloyd’s of London missed a good bet.”
07. TMA-1 stands for Tycho Magnetic Anomaly-1. The monolith was originally to have been a black tetrahedron; however, it did not reflect light properly. Stanley Kubrick then decided to use a transparent cube, but that proved to be too difficult to use because of the reflections created by the studio lights. Next came a rectangular monolith cast from Lucite that looked unconvincing, and finally the familiar black slab.
08. There is no dialogue in the first 25 minutes of the movie (ending when a stewardess speaks at 25:38), nor in the last 23 minutes (excluding end credits). With these two lengthy sections and other shorter ones, there are around 88 dialogue-free minutes in the movie.
09. Originally, HAL was to be called Athena and have a female voice. According to Keir Dullea (Dave Bowman), Nigel Davenport and Martin Balsam were hired and later replaced before Douglas Rain finally landed the role of HAL. Davenport was actually on-set in England during filming, reading HAL’s lines off-camera so that Dullea and Gary Lockwood could react to them. Apparently, Stanley Kubrick thought that Davenport’s English accent was too distracting, so after a few weeks he dismissed him and for the remainder of the shoot HAL’s lines were read by an assistant director who, according to Dullea, had a Cockney accent so thick that lines like “Better take a stress pill, Dave” came out like “Better tyke a stress pill, Dyve”. Later Balsam was hired and recorded HAL’s voice in New York, but again when Kubrick heard his lines he wasn’t satisfied, so he finally got Rain to re-record everything during post-production. Rain recorded in Canada, speaking his lines barefoot with his feet resting on a pillow to get the relaxed tone. For the sequel, Peter Hyams’ “2010”, the opposite process was used: Rain recorded all of HAL’s dialogue during pre-production prior to principal photography. That’s why, to this day, Dullea and Rain have never actually spoken directly to each other or met in person.
10. The sun and the crescent moon aligned with each other (in the opening shot) was a symbol of Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion that predated Buddhism and Christianity and was based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra). This particular alignment symbolized the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Appropriately enough, the famous “2001: A Space Odyssey Theme” is from “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (Thus Spake Zarathustra), the symphonic poem by Richard Strauss, based on a book by Friedrich Nietzsche, which contained his famous declaration “God is dead”. One can assume, given Stanley Kubrick’s working methods, that none of this was accidental.
11. Rock band Pink Floyd was at one point approached to perform music for the film. However they turned it down due to other commitments. Yet they retain a connection with the film: much like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Dark Side of the Moon”, it is said that Pink Floyd’s song “Echoes” from the album “Meddle” can be perfectly synchronized with the “Jupiter & Beyond the Infinite” segment of the film. See bellow:
Source: Wikipedia and IMDb.