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UCHRONIC MAGAZINE OF THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OF TOMORROW
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OPINION - DIGITAL CELLULOID - 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
 
 
 
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
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“… I know I haven’t behaved very well... I’m afraid, Dave…”

HALL 9000

By Patric Laneuville Châlons*. Email: plch@tiemposfuturos.es (SUBJECT: CONTACT PATRIC)

A leopard lies over a dead zebra in an indefinite place in Africa, many millions of years ago. The feline’s eyes glitter, as if he embodied the very own Lucifer, in an image that seems to have come straight out of “National Geographic”…

Some sad eyed australopithecus afarensis join to adapt to the iciest cold that one can feel, that of the Night of the Times. They don’t know it, but they are the first specimens that come out from the conveyer belt of human intelligence, and that’s why they feel fear…


A femur, the first tool, is transformed into a space craft. Millions of years have passed: the unprotected material has substituted the biological in action… Does Man control the very tools that he has built with his own intelligence?

The shuttle where the efficient Heywood Floyd travels dances with the orbital station to the rhythm of Strauss, May I have this dance? The enormous wheel that spins to generate artificial gravity is an enormous dress, the ballroom, the cosmos…

The dome, a wonder of spacial architecture, opens its eight enormous segments and it’s done as that of a colossal flower, in order to penetrate the spherical craft, a pollinating insect. The scene could constitute in itself the leap in time of all humanity. Maybe from the static dome that Filippo Brunelleschi conceived for the Cathedral of Florence in the fifteenth century? Maybe not.

One can’t die without having read “King Lear” by William Shakespeare, having listened to “Concerto for Clarinet” by Mozart or having experimented the unsettling visual and sound psychodelia of “2001” by Stanley Kubrick. Adoration or indignation, no in-betweens. Moreover, before leaving this world, one should repeat the experience in order to decipher the mysteries that are left unsolved after the first viewing. “He would have failed,” if the viewer had assimilated the film at first try, confessed its author. “You are free to speculate about the philosophical and allegorical significance of 2001” he added widening until the infinite the interpretive limits of art, converting them into something plastic, malleable, subject to relativism. Careful, because we are before a massive work of art, without comparison, visual prodigy, sonorous and arguable, a sublime delight for the senses, cinematographical poetry that was conceived by one of those unrepeatable Clarke/Kubrick tandems, where so much brilliance surpasses us. The perfection of the seventh art that no one knows, by definition, but should appear much like this film.   

The risk approached by a critic of a universal work of art is clear: practically everything has already been said or written with regard to the object of the criticism. Nevertheless, we will try to fight this raging bull without falling into a cliché or into idolatry, a cinematographical mastodon, that by the way, in this case, encloses its own adoring effigy, the monolith of alien origin dated four million years old. Everything orbits around him, from the first hominids, waiting for their socialization. Fear of the afar? Passing by Floyd, until finishing by gravitating near Dave Bowman, the awed astronaut confronted himself with HALL 9000, beating him. The monolith is impacting, devastating from his hieratism, even proud, punishing human frivolity with a sharp sound when at the lunar base “Clavius”, he is wanted to portray mankind, as if he were an enormous Pacific tuna weighing 1.400 pounds. The black polyhedron respresents the unrepresentable, in a skillful iconoclasm of the authors, the alien intelligence. Because he is what he is, he observes humanity with certain objectivity, supervising the different states of human evolution, divided into three acts, like a drama by Sophocles.

The film is a brave jump by the director into emptiness… experimental film? That really has everything as absolutely controlled and monitored as does H(I)A(B)L(M)L the craft “Discovery” rumbo to Jupiter, each shot is a perfect snapshot, its visual language has a universal calling. We are speaking about HALL 9000, the most advanced artificial brain in existance. This is the second main idea in the story, in addition to the enigmatic monolith, that intertwines with the first more or less in the orbit of Ganimedes and that of Calixto, Jupiter’s moons. The machine self defines itself as a prodigy of exactness and perfection and has a twin on earth. The machine observes that mankind is fragile and fallible ( “…I’m sorry, check mate…”) What makes it go crazy? The mysterious monolith? Does he really go crazy or only consider unnecessary the weakest link in the chain of evolution? Clarke’s novel compliments Kubrick’s film and viceversa. See the movie. Read the book. String it together afterwards, brave ones,… if you can. The fact is that the computer, from one moment to the next, had a screw missing, just the one that was needed to be human, that is to say, a liar and an assasin. He doesn’t even blink his enormous and convex red eye when it becomes time to eliminate the hibernatus since they are already lying in their own sarcophagi. Horrifying. Most of all when this human condition is framed in his expressions-“Honestly, this is something that I can’t permit. (His disconnection)” “ I’m afraid Dave.” This human condition reaches an apotheosis in one of the most glorious moments in the history of cinema, according to our humble perspective- The moment that David Bowman is disconnecting him, the computer undergoes a infantile regression, like a sufferer of Alzheimers. And he starts singing “Daisy”. Sublime.

The way of handling time, the narrative rhythm, is revolutionary, breaking, and achieves the exasperation of a million spectators, used to a different system of coordinates. Another million fall into the chronological web, abducted by the most deafening silences in film history, those of the space outside, that develop in a singular oxymoron, where the most absolute emptiness provokes a storm of sensations inside our mind. There are moments when the action develops almost in real time and is in this way brilliantly underlined, bestowing a total realism, with the blanks in between. Still without the technology to generate computer made effects, the film is the result of the most conscientious cinematographical artwork, in good part because of the brilliant graphic designer, Douglas Trumbull, the creator who had to invent/use as became available the innovative optical technology necessary in order to be able film such specific scenes, for example, a lens shaped like a hyperbolic paraboloid, to film all angles, that is to say, at 360 º. Unbelievable. And the Lumiere brothers with that scene on the train, those 73 years were definitely worthwhile.

Before this grandiose performance in its purest state, before the position in a superb scene that constitutes Kubrick’s  “Odyssey”, the question arises as to whether or not  Nietzsche upon seeing it would think “thus spoke Zarathustra” or, he as well as the Persian philosopher would sue the British director for making a heretical allusion, so far from his thinking. One thing for sure, it seems plausible that both would be amazed as viewers with the psychedelic waterfall that the astronaut Bowman experiences, that may have reflected the psycho tropical deliriums of Europe toward the end of the 60’s in the twentieth century. Did he go overboard smoking cannabis Dave the good boy when HALL wasn’t looking? Did the viewers come out of the cinema looking high? Well, that’s what traveling through the cosmic door does to you, that constitutes the great monolith, that leads until the end of the universe. If you don’t want to trip, don’t travel. If you don’t want to “travel,” don’t trip…. with the monolith. If you finally decide to do it, you end up in a room like that of “Louie the sixteenth”( a parallel universe?) contemplating himself during different moments in his life (Is the human being prepared to assume his own death?) to finish where we started, with a rebirth (a new evolutionary leap?), perhaps meaning how cyclical life is, how the universe is. Perhaps not. Thank you Kubrick for this freedom.

To conclude, some quick reflections: One, that nobody should ever have the brilliant idea to create a remake of 2001. It would probably be the most ignorant idea in the history of humanity. Two, that the work should serve as a reference to the “artists” that are made to order, unprepared, without polishing the final product. The director’s “O/odyssey” took four years to film. A sacred respect from the viewer. Three, many subsequent camera geniuses admitted that the “Kubrickian” work was a basic angular rock in which they could build their own works. He honors their recognition, which is on the other hand, evident. “2001” constitutes an evolutionary leap of science fiction in film, in which the fins brusquely mutated into feet, allowing the genre to take a definitive jump onto solid ground. And four, that the relationship man-machine, which abound in the book and adorn the film, are lucid questions that authors predicted and that will mark the whole of the twenty-first century and the centuries to come.

 

Inclosed in blackness. Réquiem of the Austrian componer Gyorgy Ligeti, background.

* Pseudonym
of Ramón Galí

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