Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Kier Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
Last night I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the very first time. I don’t know what has put me off seeking it out for all these years. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a big sci-fi fan, however I am a Stanley Kubrick fan. I particularly adore The Shining and love the way Stanley Kubrick soaks up a hypnotic atmosphere so that the film becomes an experience. After seeing some clips on the strange documentary, Room 237, I thought that the film looked right up my alley! I’ve also heard nothing but hype for years with people calling it one of the greatest films ever made, so I was extremely excited when I sat down to watch it.
Unfortunately watching it, for me, was a little bit like sex. You want the first time to be the best, but in honesty, the more you do it, the better it gets. I had a banging headache throughout the first half and so really could not appreciate the loud music and atonal sounds because it was just so painful! Halfway through, I had to leave and get myself a Tesco headache pill and towards the end of the film it did go away. I also left to go to the loo about three times, as I had a lot of coffee to drink so that I’d have the stamina to stay up and also to sober myself up.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I don’t know. I think to get the full 2001 effect, you need to completely immerse yourself in it, but I struggled to do this. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate what I saw. In fact, I’m pretty sure that what I saw was an absolute masterpiece. I was completely sucked in, right from the beginning where sinister music played for about five minutes over a blank screen. It’s such an unusual way to open, hinting that the film you’re about to see isn’t your usual rip-roaring science fiction adventure. We then get that glorious famous music with a beautiful image of a sun rising over the Earth. It’s an amazing title sequence which made the hairs on my neck stand on end.
I think it’s a stroke of genius having the first scene, in a film which is largely set in the future, be set at the beginning of time itself. It must have been so jarring for audiences in 1968, of course everyone knows that the film starts with the monkeys now because it’s so widely talked about. Speaking of the year in which it came out, I cannot believe that this film was made in the 60’s! I saw it in blu-ray and it looked like a film which had came out last week. It’s easy to see why it so disliked when it first came out, because it’s just so ahead of its time. Although, some of the monkey suits did look a bit naff!
We’re then thrown into the year 2001, where (apparently) space travel is an everyday thing and stewardesses wear bright pink clothes complete with a strange bubble hat. To be quite honest with you, the remainder of the film is very difficult to put into words. It’s pure art in the form of film. It’s a rarity these days, however people like David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn are striving to keep it alive. There are long sequences of spaceships flying overhead to classical music and people walking slowly upside down. It all creates a certain feeling and experience which you have to see for yourself.
2001: A Space Odyssey doesn’t really have much of a plot. Astronauts find a strange giant tablet on the moon, and then some more astronauts go on a mission which I don’t entirely understand the purpose of, with a creepy robot called, HAL, which is of course now an iconic character. It’s strange because a lot of the film is incredibly slow and, dare I say it, boring. But there’s something about it which keeps you interested and locked to the screen. Scenes which would last five minutes in an ordinary Hollywood film, last up to half an hour here and it does create a unique and immersive experience which stays on your subconscious for a while.
A lot of the film is very haunting. The choral chants whenever the strange black tablet appeared created a wonderful atmosphere of mystery and impending doom. I also found the scene where HAL sings, very creepy. Of course, the most talked about scene is the Lynchian finale where we’re plunged into a psychedelic and hypnotic fantasy world. The final scene makes absolutely no sense, but it most definitely haunts you. I couldn’t help but have chills all the way up my spine when the music plays and the baby looks right towards you. It’s scary and very powerful.
I think subsequent viewings are going to make 2001 a definite favourite of mine. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. After seeing this now, I find it strange how people are comparing it to Interstellar. Interstellar is a somewhat conventional and fast-paced sci-fi adventure, albeit an absolutely astounding one! Whereas, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a slow art film. They’re impossible to compare! Both of them are masterpieces in their own right though. It’s a film which will definitely stay with me, and I look forward to plunging myself into its world again.