Thursday, July 12, 2007


2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968, USA, Stanley Kubrick, screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke, from Clarke’s “The Sentinel”)
Its origin and purpose is still a total mystery.

In this trippy late-sixties science fiction landmark, encounters with a mysterious black monolith shape humanity’s evolution from caves to outer space. The film’s fans experience religious mystery and transcendence, but I can't join the team on this one. There's no denying the cinematic greatness – I mean heck, it's got classical music and symbolism and stuff – but I'm baffled by the film's appeal for people who actually believe there is Something More. Or, perhaps more to the point, Somebody More. Somebody Who Actually Gives A Damn. Because Art Clarke believes quite the opposite, and 2001 is his manifesto: there's just us, and some Great And Irresistable Drive Toward Perfection. It's closer to Nietsche or mid-century can-do sci-fi Scientism than it is to any idea of a God you or I might find worth worshipping.

But since there are so many fans, here's the estimable Jeffrey Overstreet to make the case: "The film is suggesting that there is intelligence behind humanity’s ascent. Whether that reverberating black square is a deity, an angel, a messenger, or an agent from some manipulative alien race, its influence on humanity and history is great, and it seems to take a personal interest in raising humans to higher levels of understanding."

I pick Option Four: the big black box ain’t nothing but (indeed, it's Clarke’s nothingbutness that galls!) “an agent from some manipulative alien race,” and if characters are moved to awe and worship, that just shows how gullible they really are. "Look at those stupid humans! Guess they need a little more evolving...." Read the book! Arthur thinks religious types are fools.

Gareth Higgins boils it down thusly: "This film ends with a declaration that there is something out there bigger than ourselves." Well maybe. But not much bigger. (And hey, Tarkovsky didn't like it either. Me and Andy, two against the world...)


Available at Videomatica

No comments: