2001 A Space Odyssey – Kubrick’s Take

 

Even in the novel the Monolith is the connecting thread of the three parts. There Clarke would have used the monolith on a purpose. The purpose of the ebony slab is to send signals to its unknown masters. The monolith is the standing evidence of the existence of the intelligent life in the universe beyond human beings. That is the point where the entire drama of the plot is concentrated. However Kubrick has showcased it with a masterly touch. Even the back round score whenever the monolith is shown, adds to the mystery. Kubrick handles the monolith to represent the enigma shrouded around the unknown.

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The directorial genius is revealed almost in every frame of the film. Yet there are some of the important moments in the film that are worth pointing out. The story of the moon watcher though shown only through visuals conveys flawlessly about how the invention of tools that enabled the group- he heads- to emerge into the dominant race as the important turning point in human history. The discovery of the animal bone as a tool by the moon watcher and the following shot showing the falling animals alternatively, represents the immense and immediate effect of the discovery on the lives of those man-apes, in a few frames artistically. (Here I’ve used both the terms discovery and invention, simply because arguably both are in a way contextually correct.)

The final shot of that scene showing the moon watcher throwing the bone in air, perhaps in elation of his discovery, focuses on the rolling bone in air up close, which in the next frame morphs into a spaceship, almost of the similar shape. This single shot is considered as one of the most powerful shots in the history of cinema. This single shot artistically depicts the transcendence of the entire human race over millennia. The film time, through this single shot, covers a very vast historical time.

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Though the novel was written by Arthur C.Clarke, the screenplay for the movie was together written by Clarke and Kubrick. A good screenplay would employ novel means of narrations. The development of the story, at places might consume lot of film time. It is through the screenplay one could intelligently cut through vast information of the fiction, and pass it to the audience.

When the third part of the story, the discovery voyage begins all of a sudden the first time viewer would be left in confusion, for sure. To say what and where the story progresses in mundane ways would be boring. Hence Stanley adapts an innovative method of divulging the details, and with the stroke of a genius, makes that too a part of the story. There inside the Discovery, we meet David Bowmen and Frank Poole, who are watching a BBC interview of themselves. All the details, the crew and the purpose of the mission, are informed to the audience well in place. This considerably cuts the necessity of spending time in providing the details to the audience by any other means.

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Apart from the conversation between Bowmen and Poole and both of them with HAL, most of the movie depicting the Discovery episode progresses in deep silence. Stanley fills the silence masterly, with classical music that renders an additional grandeur to the frames. Similarly, be it during the repair of the AE35 unit by Poole, or the dis-assembly of HAL’s hardware by Bowmen, the only sound we hear in the back round is the sound of human breathing. This not only creates eeriness but also a sense of tension and urgency during those moments. This in turn increases the possibility of the audience sharing the tragic experiences of the characters in those critical moments.

The final part of the movie deviates almost entirely from the novel version.

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Towards the end the movie gets a surrealistic tonality, which renders the viewers to end up with multiple speculations upon the end of the story. To me through Bowmen the entire human race transcends to the next level, perhaps something ‘beyond human’. The fetus that views the earth from the outer space marks the beginning of a new era.

After watching the movie you might feel that there has been a sense of hurry in narration of the plot compared to that of the novel, in which every miniscule detail was highlighted. This is simply because of the fundamental differences in the telling (in a novel) and showing (in a film) one and the same thing.

 

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