I finally saw 2001: A Space Odyssey on a big screen at the Landmark last night and it was pretty much everything that I’d hoped for. I’m not exactly sure how many times I’ve seen on small screens, but it’s a movie that’s been a seminal part of my life since I was young. I remember being mystified, yet completely intrigued by it and like many of the artistic works that I’ve loved for a long time, it brings me something new each time I take it in.
The first time I saw it was with my dad at his house. Mostly completely over my head and I recall some tedium, but the seeming menace of HAL and the overall “what did I just watch?” feeling made it memorable. I’ve always been drawn to space themes; the unknown and the unknowable – this was FULL of that. And it was one of those things my dad and I shared and bonded over.
As I grew older, I began to appreciate the design aesthetic, the movie-making techniques, the film’s place in history. I had also read the books at this point, something that, as I discussed with friends last night, I am torn about. I like the books, but they are almost a bit too matter-of-fact about the process happening in the story. The movie leaves you guessing and thinking. As much as I love to read, there is that quality about the visual and sonic arts (and 2001 is a stellar example of masterful sound design) that creates a mystery and puzzle for the human brain, hinting at things in nature and science that we aren’t able to comprehend just yet. When we try to write it out or explain it, something is lost. The wonder is in that sense of things being outside our known realm.
2001 has also provided me with one of my personal mottos, thanks to HAL 9000: “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.” The 1968 infallible computer version of #YOLO, I suppose.
Back to earth again, the movie also features one of my favorite actors, Keir Dullea. This was the role that I knew him from first (as, I suspect, is the case with many, if they even know him as anyone but “Dave Bowman”), but I highly suggest checking out two of his earlier films, David and Lisa and Bunny Lake is Missing. Both are great showcases for his particular innocent-yet-off-kilter presence.
I have talked with a number of people who, for a variety of valid reasons, can’t get into the movie. They’ve tried to watch it a few times and can’t make it through. I get that. But it’s also a completely foreign notion to me. The story and world that Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke created with 2001: A Space Odyssey is something that I got into heavily and in many ways can’t leave. It acted as one of the monoliths on me, in a way, as a young person, heavily shaping the ways that I would perceive the world.