Sunday, April 5, 2009
Accomplishment #005: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Edition: Warner Home Video Director's Series DVD
I've decided to give this little experiment of mine another go. It is not like I haven't been watching any films lately. I've seen a number of good pictures since I last updated this:
The Wrestler (3 times)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Last King of Scotland
and many others...
But the problem is none of those films fall under the stipulations I've set for this blog: classics that have been over looked on my part. So it's got me thinking that in the future I might relax those restrictions when I think I've come across an "instant classic". However, for the reboot I'm doing a doosey that definitely fits the intended structure of this blog. Yes, until this afternoon I had never seen "2001: A Space Odyssey".
I was perusing metafilter as I'm ought to do some days and came across this analysis of Kubrick's "The Shining" which is one of my top two true horror films (the other being "Silence of the Lambs"). Frankly I think that paper is a bit nuts, but it got me thinking about Kubrick and that thinking led me to youtube and this clip of Steven Spielberg remembering and talking about his old friend. During the interview Spielberg mentions that during his later years, Kubrick would often express his wish to reinvent the "form" of cinema. Spielberg responded by saying he believed Kubrick had achieved that with 2001. This opinion, coming from Steven Speilberg, it stood out to me. I thought as I often have before, "I can't believe I have still never seen '2001: A Space Odyssey.'" Then I looked over and saw it sitting on my shelf, having purchased it a few months back as part of a Kubrick box set. I then realized that I had nothing to do all day; so I put the disc in and sat back to partake in what has for over 40 years now been considered the best science fiction picture of all time.
Spielberg was partially right. I don't think you can say that Kubrick reinvented the form of cinema, but he certainly invented a new form. I only say he didn't reinvent it because it did not become the standard. And this fact is not due to any shortcomings on his part.
2001 is an amazing exercise in the craft of film making. The picture transcends story and traditional plot to allow us to truly immerse ourselves in what it may in fact be like to witness these usually unfathomable experiences and moments: when our ancestors first became overwhelmed by the pursuit of power and survival, traveling and inhabiting space (keep in mind this film was crafted before the moon landing) and traveling to other dimensions.
To say that the pacing is slow and deliberate would be an understatement. In 2001 Kubrick is realistic in his portrayal of events. When a space craft docks we witness the entire process. There is no cutting to collapse time. Story arches and exposition do not guide the tempo of this film. We are brought in, neck deep, into the mundane tempo of space. Movements are precise and calculated. Monstrous equipment takes time to maneuver in the vacuum of space.
The closest thing to a traditional film occurs in the middle of the movie. I consider it sort of a film within a film. This, of course, is the story of Dave and HAL. It's a now classic story of a man developed artificial intelligence entity becoming self aware and bent of self preservation at the cost of human lives. This portion of the film has gone on to inspire countless other films, books and other pieces of fiction. However, it is the other pieces of the film that bookend this section that exemplify Kubrick's complete dissasociation with traditional film structure.
Narrative structure is completely thrown out the window with this film. As opposed to following the story of a set of characters the film seems to be working on a grander level of addressing the experiences of humanity as a whole. Jung would be proud.