Dr.Stanlove: How I learned to stop appreciating movies and just love Kubrick….2001 A Space Odyssey



“If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered”. That was Kubrick during a rare 1966 interview to Jeremy Bernstein talking about his time in Look magazine in the mid 1940s. It was during my undergrad days while I was watching 5 movies a week,most of them not worth a mention I must admit, that I came across 2001:A Space Odyssey. And an illusion was exactly what it was. Before 1968, the entire ken of sci-fi movies was all blobby monsters and promiscuous women. To end the littany would require enormous tact and genuine imagination. NASA was desperate to give the world a sneak preview of what it would be like to see a man on the moon and Kubrick was itching to change the genre. During one of his usual marathon reading sessions, he came across Arthur C Clarke’s “The Sentinel” which proposed extraterrestrial life in a way he imagined it. So, here was the quintessential atheist,science apologist director sensing the opportunity to envisage a monumental thematic of evolution to future space weapons. Clarke went back to complete a series of stories that Kubrick wanted to tie together and got back to start filming with NASA’s technological support. At the end of 4 years of crafting the epic together, we end up with what still remains the only absolute visual experience of space. No documentary or any IMAX film has been able to replicate what 2001 did nearly 45 years ago and that in itself must reinforce the magnitude of Kubrick’s oeuvre. From hominins, revolving space stations, the mythical interstellar monolith to the stargate sequence, I was able to grasp the entirity of the experience only on my first viewing on blu-ray widescreen even be it without anamorphic transfer of the format which fanatics still wail about.The whole visual aura of 2001 is emphasized in the first 20 minutes where all you see is hominins and their social evolution which in movie terms strangely means silence which we seldom hear.  The absolute mastery of physics on the revolving space station occurred to me only when Clarke politely inquired in 2006 as to why NASA still has not put it into use. His attention to detail is evident when we see a lack of intimacy and personality among human characters while it is starkly evident in HAL. And put this all in place with The Blue Danube and Also Sprach in the background thereby pioneering the first punk rock flick and getting back classical music in the movies. The profoundness of the craft is corroborated when Jan Harlan describes his visit to a school where they play Richard Strauss and a child refers to the short piece as ‘space music’.When the Academy ignores 2001 for best costumes on hominins and passes over Clarke for the screenplay you do begin to wonder whether populism is reserved only for Michael Bay fans.The tectonic shift in the genre came about not just because of his use of technology but by his complete abhorrence of storytelling along military lines and his gall to predict future events. The movie is a visual experience of space and not linear patterns of people in space.