Sunday 9 January 2005

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - ickleReview (DVD)

Stanley Kubrick's masterwork. Simply some of the best cinema ever made. Filmed on 70mm (twice the normal size) the visuals are breathtaking. I still believe these are some of the best special effects I've ever seen - and this was made in 1968! Some viewers won't have the patience for Kubrick's slow developing, subtle plot, long takes and ambiguous symbolism; but I believe Kubrick is a cinematic equivalent of James Joyce: sometimes the best art is that which humbles you and confounds your complete understanding.

The film's symphonic movements trace life in time and space from the Dawn of Man to Beyond the Infinite. An obscure, black monolith and the most famous cut in cinema history connect the apeman's discovery of the weapon and future man's high technology. The bone was the first weapon, the first technology, and enabled the apes to stand on two feet, defend territory and kill animals for meat. By the time of the Jupiter Mission, the spaceship's onboard computer, HAL, has become so intelligent and self-dependent that he makes the autonomous decision to take over the mission, betraying how much our lives are in the hands of our own technological creations.

Kubrick really forces the viewer to think and feel his images. This remains one of the most physical experiences of cinema I've ever had. When Bowman (Keir Dullea) ventures out to investigate a reported fault with the transmitter, his breathing on the soundtrack coerces you to breathe in time with him, like the feeling you get when you lie next to someone who's already asleep. The images are so vast and, at times, so slow-moving that your eye is compelled to explore the whole canvas of the screen. And the famous musical soundtrack featuring "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and the "Blue Danube" waltz by the Strausses are marvellously incorporated, if a little strange, given all the postmodern treatment they have been given in countless spoofs and re-employments.

Nugget: I wish I'd seen this in the cinema when it was re-released in 2001. It would be awesome* on IMAX!

* Note how I only use the word "awesome" when I mean it as "powerful in a scary way; almost god-like".

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