2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick took science fiction cinema in a grandly intelligent new direction with this epic story of man’s quest for knowledge.
‘The final sequences of 2001 are the most disturbing, for they are at once beautiful and overwhelming, vague and ambiguous, and suggestive of human impotence in the face of a higher authority.’
Robert Kolker, A Cinema of Loneliness, 2000
A year before the first moon landing, Stanley Kubrick envisioned an outer space where vast spacecraft revolve weightlessly to the strains of Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube waltz. 2001 revolutionised the depiction of the cosmos on film, at the same time – with the HAL-9000 computer that fatally malfunctions during a mission to Jupiter – sounding a warning about unbridled technological advance.
Beginning with primordial apes discovering tools and climaxing with astronaut David Bowman (Keir Dullea) travelling beyond the limits of the known universe, Kubrick’s film was an intellectual (and psychedelic) event in the late 1960s. A ‘match cut’ which quickly replaces a bone thrown upwards by an ape with a similarly shaped spaceship floating through space, thereby compressing millennia of human evolution, is justly celebrated.
A follow-up, 2010, was directed by Peter Hyams in 1984. For a rival to 2001’s dazzling lightshow finale, see Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).