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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Revisiting 2001-A Space Odyssey





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I am very intrigued by artists who convey a message concealed in a plot, film or painting. One work that has caught my attention is Kubrick’s "2001" and I think it is very relevant to the "Secret Rulers of the World" debate.

Kubrick was very interested in secret societies, as his last film, "Eyes Wide Shut", illustrated.

Kubrick has never given an explanation for 2001 and neither has Arthur C. Clarke, who cooperated with Kubrick on the script. Is it possible that Kubrick designed the film so that it could be understood at some point in the future, possibly 2001?
 
This is my interpretation of the film, garnered from reading various interpretations, mixed with some of my own:
 


Chapter 1 
The film opens with a dramatic lunar eclipse; the sound track is Strauss’s "Also Sprach Zarathustra". At once Kubrick is making a reference to Nietzsche’s anti-hero - Zarathustra and his philosophical struggle with the nature of existence, his struggle for consciousness.

After this stunning introduction, a sunrise and the dawn of man! We see ape men and their main preoccupation is the struggle for survival. They have limited knowledge of the world around them; it is a dark and forbidding world.

Soon, the ape men are confronted by a strange black monolith. The sounds of Ligeti’s "Requiem" and "Lux Aeterna" ("Light Eternal") stream during this encounter with this strange piece of masonry.
(Notice the subtle imagery, in the above picture, of a kind of truncated pyramid, topped by the "eye" of the sun.)
The ape men are afraid and jump around but the leader approaches the object and reaches out to touch it but at the last moment withdraws.

The music becomes more ethereal and the ape man leader reaches out to make contact with it again and this time he successfully touches its jet black, perfectly smooth surfaces. This is the last moment of sensuality in the whole of the rest of the film. Simultaneous to this portentous event, the sun is eclipsed by the moon and the monolith withdraws far away to a distant location. What a tease!

The ape man’s childlike curiosity was aroused and then frustrated - like a child that is given a toy and then it’s suddenly taken away! Kubrick is telling us that something very profound has happened here - that the masonry and the position of the planets have had an influence on the destiny of mankind.

As a perfectionist, Kubrick planned and agonized over every scene and so they are all important and should not be discarded by the viewer.
In the next scene, we see the ape man with a pile of bones.

He has one in his hand and he realizes that it can be used as a tool. Kubrick was definitely making a specific statement here because it comes immediately after the contact with the black masonry. The strains of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" are heard again and during this musical episode the ape man wields the bone above his head and realizes that the bone can be used as a weapon, a weapon with which he can kill! It is the dawning of a new age for mankind.

Now, the ape men are no longer foraging for vegetation to eat, instead they are eating raw meat. This is an awful scene, which we leave with our ape men confronting another group of ape men. The leader takes his bone and kills the leader of the other clan. The other ape men come forward and triumphantly pound their bone clubs on the body of the defeated victim.

The leader of the ape men victoriously throws his club up into the air. Instantly, the bone is transformed into the spaceship and in so doing Kubrick implies that the whole of human history is meaningless - a story not worth telling. All the wars, births, deaths, celebrities, declarations, civilizations are all completely irrelevant.

By jumping millions of years, we are left in no doubt that Kubrick estimates the monolith and the effect it had on the ape men, and what is about to happen in the rest of the film, to be more important.
 


Chapter 2
The second chapter of the film is quite different to the first. We are now in the space-age future. Strauss’s "Blue Danube Waltz" is playing and we see an American spaceship spinning in space on its way to the moon. Kubrick seems to be celebrating advanced technology but this is only a whim of fancy. Inside the spaceship is a lonely character called Heywood Floyd.

He and his colleagues are completely without emotion, they seem so lifeless and pitiful. The green pastures and blue skies of home are left behind and the inhabitants of the space station have become like the computers and machines that they operate.

For the next two hours of the film there will only be sterile environments and a tightly trapped mind in an infinitely large universe.

The spaceship lands on the moon. Floyd gives a strange speech telling his audience that they must keep what they have discovered on the moon a secret. The implications of their find could cause great problems for the citizens of earth. He tells the scientists and military in his audience that people on earth will have to be "conditioned" to accept what it is they have found.

Floyd drones on about why it is so important that they should "spin" a cover story. Basically, they should say that an epidemic has broken out at the American moon base.

What is revealed in this scene is the utter contempt the military commanders hold for us. This ploy is done so deftly that it is not even considered much by the audience. Everyone in the room nods their head in approval without considering the implications of what they are really doing.

In the next scene we discover what they have found. We are taken on a tour of the moon in a moon bus. It is dark but the sun is beginning to appear over the horizon.

Again, the men involved here are humourless, lifeless and soulless and the men eat revolting food as they discuss the importance of the most important discovery in all the history of humanity.
A magnetic survey of the moon has revealed that something was giving off an anomalous reading just below the surface of the moon.

It has been dug up.

They discover that the object giving off the anomalous reading is in fact a black monolith. When we actually see it, we find that it is the same one that appeared to the ape men at the beginning of the film. Kubrick does not tell us who buried it there or why.

As the men robotically stand in front of the monolith to have their photographs taken the sun rises over the horizon. The light shines on the black monolith possibly for the first time since it has been buried, possibly 4 million years ago. As the rays of the sun strike the monument it gives off a piercing signal. As you look into the distance you see that the earth is being eclipsed in darkness. A lunar eclipse is taking place at the exact moment that the monolith begins to give off its signal.

Although we are not told why this crafted masonry is buried here, we can be sure that the government knew about it, hence the mission to the moon to uncover and inspect it by the military and whoever placed it here obviously had hopes that humanity would one day have the technology to go out and discover it.

We can also assume that it was placed on the moon by the same intelligence that created the encounter between the monolith and the ape men.



Chapter 3
The third chapter of the film now begins unfolding - it’s title, "The Discovery Mission to Jupiter - 17 months later". Each chapter ends with the monolith changing the direction not only of the story line but of the human race too.
 
Without explanation, we are on this ship, on its way to Jupiter, with two astronauts, David Bowman and Frank Poole. The other crew are hibernating in sealed capsules. The two astronauts, Bowman and Poole, are even more lifeless than the men on the moon.

There is, though, a third "living" entity onboard the ship and this character actually does seem to have a soul, or at least the beginnings of one!

He is HAL, the onboard computer that runs the ship. It is strange but the two astronauts never even wonder or question the purpose of the trip.

Dave and Frank go about their chores serving the ship, collecting data and playing chess. Kubrick was a keen chess player. The movie takes up a game just before Frank loses to HAL, the computer. It appears that Frank has played into a trap set by HAL. HAL has baited Frank into moving his queen over into HAL’s queen rook area. The only other piece that Frank has developed is a knight, which appears to have been baited by HAL’s pawns from the king side of the board to the queen side.

All of Frank’s other pieces are undeveloped, which in chess is equivalent to "hibernation".

HAL has focused on the development of his own pieces towards Frank’s king. With Frank’s queen and knight conveniently out of the way, busy capturing pawns, HAL is able to checkmate Frank. The activity in the chess game appears remarkably similar to what is going on in the mission.

Most of the humans are hibernating. HAL baits both Frank and Dave out of the ship pursuing relatively minor problems with the AE35, while he (HAL) continues on with his plan of taking over the mission by killing all the crew members and locking Dave out.

In the first scenes of the movie, the "Dawn of Man", Kubrick made a point of showing us a tiger sitting over the carcass of a zebra. In this scene the eyes of the tiger were glowing, probably because the tiger was looking into the setting sun. The ape-men were hiding in their cave and could hear the roar of the tiger not to far away and they were fearful.

Why did Kubrick show us these scenes, were they just poetry?.

As a perfectionist, Kubrick planned and agonized over every scene and so they are all important and should not be discarded by the viewer.

Later in the movie, HAL is portrayed by a glowing camera lens. I have noticed that in real life camera lenses don’t glow, so why did Kubrick choose to portray HAL with glowing eyes?

Kubrick is making a link here between the predatory tiger and HAL. HAL is a predator. If HAL had succeeded he would have been just like the tiger, glowing eyes sitting over the carcasses of the dead crew members in Discovery.

All the shots show HAL as a glowing eye inside a monolith shape in the brain room (see picture left). The implications are astonishing and profound. 2001 is about evolution, and HAL appears to be the next stage in evolution after man.

But where does evolution lead from HAL?

To the monolith itself! HAL is still a predator, the destroyer of life, but as we saw with the ape men and later at the end of the film with the birth of the star child, the monolith without the glowing eye is the creator of new life, the bringer of the next step in evolution! It appears that the evolutionary path from organic life, to computer, to monolith is one possible evolutionary path.

The HAL 9000 did not in fact fail but was only acting under programming to ensure that above all else the mission was to carry on to Jupiter at all costs. HAL was given details of the true purpose of the mission, which was withheld from the crew.

This part of the saga ends with Dave "murdering" HAL.

As its circuits are shut down, one by one, it garbles out the song: "A Bicycle Built for Two". It is only after HAL dies that Dave discovers the real reason for the Jupiter mission. A video of Heywood Floyd comes onto a TV screen as HAL dies. The tape was made for the astronauts for when they were to come out of hibernation.

 Now that all the hibernating astronauts are dead, it is only Dave who gets the message. According to Floyd, the reason for the mission was to find out why the monolith was emitting the strange signal towards Jupiter.

On one hand, Kubrick wants us to know that the forces behind the monolith are not good because it was responsible for all those killings and on the other hand, he wants us to know something quite different. He is also telling us that the monolith is a great spiritual gift and beneficial to our evolution.

There is a strange juxtaposition going on here. We have an outside force broadening our limited view of reality that we previously had.

What he seems to be saying here is that it is not the monolith itself that is bad but the forces that are in control of it. The monolith is 99% truth and 1% poison and that poison is powerful enough to destroy millions of times over. It is only because humanity has been negligent and in some cases willfully so, that it has had to go to hell and realize the power of the Divine in order to find redemption.

The spinning, circular space station in the sequence immediately after the first chapter is a celebration of the gift of the monolith; however, as we replace nature with technology, we also replace our souls and individuality with a hive-like mentality.

We are also failing to ask the relevant questions. There is also little doubt that Kubrick knew this all the time; it isn’t accidental in anyway. Kubrick is actually telling us that the monolith is the film, and conversely, the film is the monolith. His message was for mankind to wake up.

Now at the very end of the age, at the very end of the millennium, mankind has accomplished much.

But at what cost?

Kubrick is content to show that the cost of this gift is our souls generally speaking. When the ape man threw the bone up into the sky, that was the last time that we saw any part of nature again in the film. From then on Kubrick shows us the antiseptic hospital like future, implying that this is the end of the trail that the bone weapon began four million years ago.

Kubrick was not predicting that initiations would come by a literal mission to the moon or Jupiter. The mission to the moon and Jupiter is purely psychology portrayed as symbols, in this case science fiction. This is why the last 25 minutes of the film seems so weird.

The last stretch of the film takes place wholly inside the human mind. In a way, we all have the potential to be Dave Bowman.
 


Chapter 4
Chapter four, the final chapter, begins with the ominous, psychedelic music of Gyorgy Ligeti’s ’Atmospheres’. We are deep in space now.

Bowman is now Odysseus like the title assumes and like Odysseus, Bowman must go as far away from home as is possible. He must face monsters and experience things that he does not understand. All of this must be done before he can return home. Earth, or home, is a long way off now.

Bowman is just following orders and he must now investigate the strange monolith that is circling Jupiter. Like Odysseus, Bowman will be transformed by this voyage beyond all recognition. When, and if, he does return, Bowman will be the wisest of all - for he was the one brave enough to enter the waters of eternity and come back home to tell us about it.

As Bowman leaves the Discovery for the final time Kubrick cuts straight to a montage of shots of the monolith. We are out on the edge of the Jupiter system, the Discovery is a small and tiny aspect of what we can see on the screen. The moons of Jupiter, like the moon and sun before, are aligned in a mystical and awe-inspiring way. The monolith appears ominous as it floats among Jupiter and her moons. The dance that is now taking place is a majestic, incredible ballet between the monolith and the celestial bodies of the Jupiter system.

Without one word being spoken for the rest of the film, Bowman leaves the Discovery. He begins to travel towards the floating monolith in one of the space pods. Bowman is the man who has traveled further away than any human that has ever lived. He is all alone - having been seemingly chosen by the monolith for the final initiation of the human race.

The dance of the celestial bodies and the monolith continues. Kubrick consciously has chosen Ligeti’s music because it evokes a religious or spiritual feeling within the listener. He brilliantly juxtapositions this music with the sacred geometrical alignments of the monolith and the moons of Jupiter.

The very last shot in this sequence is the monolith crossing at a ninety degree angle with the moons of Jupiter. At that moment the famous ’light show’ sequence starts.

The monolith is a gate that allows Bowman to witness the infinite. He is the first man who has ever experienced the truth of the monolith and what it has to offer.

Bowman first falls through a web of geometries and colors.

The universe is passing by at light speed and it has become porous and blended together. Seven octahedrons - all changing color and form - appear over the sliding universe. The core of a distant galaxy explodes. A sperm cell-like creature searches for something. An ovary? A cloud-like embryo is forming into a child. Now alien worlds fly by, all of their colors and hues gone wild.

Bowman is experiencing overload and looks like he might not be able to handle the amount of information that is being given.
This is humanity’s initiation.

Bowman is our representative in this process. He is the first man through. In this experience of passing through the monolith, Bowman is transformed by a completely psychedelic experience. Real information is being passed to Bowman by the monolith.

Finally, the scene ends in the strange hotel room. This is the mysterious ending that Stanley struggled to shoot. The set is that of both a modern and baroque French-style room with startlingly modern lighting coming up through the floor. This is no normal hotel room.

The light just seems to glow out of the bottom of the scene causing everything to carry this numinous, incandescent quality to it. There are weird voices on the soundtrack that are laughing at Bowman. The uncomfortable feeling of incomprehension encourages us to look to physical features for familiarity; something solid to grasp onto. Kubrick does not offer us this.

This ambiguity heightens our sense of curiosity.
Bowman goes through three series of transformations during this scene.

He gets older with each transformation. Dave’s environment, the decorated white room, becomes a metaphor for the human body. The body, Dave Bowman, becomes a metaphor for the human mind. At the beginning of the scene, as Dave taps into a new level of consciousness, he is initially shocked. This can be seen by the alarming contrast between the red space suit Dave initially wears and the near pure white background. As Dave begins to accept his surroundings, we can see his body ’age’ rapidly: the mind is maturing.

The room, which remains completely static and has no windows or doors can be seen as a container, and in this way likens itself to the human body, the container of the human mind throughout life. The room itself appears highly constructed and artificial, an indicator of physicality. In some cases this can be seen to represent pretentiousness and vanity.

On the other hand, the elements, namely the artwork, tiles and furniture, that make up the contents of the room appear to indicate a myriad of human achievements spanning centuries and continents.

High technology, a yearning for innovation, human creativity, classical architecture, cleanliness, calculated precision and high art are just a few elements that spring to mind; factors which distinguish the human race from the rest of the animal kingdom. Already the viewer has received a universally positive statement, whether or not they are aware of it on a conscious level..

The glowing tiles which line the floor of the room are symbolic of technology, the future and humanity’s yearning for innovation.

The combination of geometric lines, the definition of the x, y and z planes and bright white light give an impression of calculation, purity and precision: elements that are synonymous with high technology. It is known that bright cross lighting, used throughout this scene, can be incredibly revealing and in most cases can expose blemishes and imperfections in the set. In combination with the white walls, ceiling and floor, it can be seen that this set achieves nothing short of perfection, another reason to suspect a shift of reality.

The glowing tiles also serve as a source of high contrast to the artworks and old furniture situated throughout the room. Here the viewer is introduced to the featured color: green. Green universally represents harmony with nature and the environment. The choice of green as a featured color softens the intensity of the geometry of the floor tiles.

If, for example, were blue used as a substitute, the room could risk appearing overly clinical, perhaps too futuristic, which would emphasize a reliance on technology.

The furniture itself appears to be sophisticated and stylized, as though it came direct from an upper class nineteenth century western European home. This furniture implicitly suggests the idea of human sentimentality and an appreciation for the old and the aesthetic. The artworks which appear to be in the renaissance style put forth this idea also.

Once Bowman accepts the mental transition, he begins to indulge himself. On one level we can see Dave begin to eat, on another he begins to consider his place in evolution, thinking, examining, progressing, evolving, and spiritually maturing.

When Dave’s wine glass smashes we see that it is time to move on.

This action has been likened to the Jewish tradition of breaking glass at a wedding ceremony: a symbol of great change occurring. Stanley Kubrick himself was Jewish, which makes this parallel plausible. Aware of the Jewish tradition or not, the sight and sound of broken glass alone in the controlled environment holds enough contrast to shock us into thinking that change is about to occur.

Dave is thereby about to enter the new level of conscious existence.
Finally, right after the scene where Bowman breaks the wine glass, the monolith appears again for the last time. Bowman is in the bed now and he is extremely old.

He stares at the monolith, the single stone that stands like a huge stone book at the foot of his bed.

He raises his hand and points at the stone monolith as if he finally understands. Slowly, his aged body begins turning into a bright glorious light. The light is so intense that, for a brief moment, the viewer can’t see what is happening on the bed. But, momentarily, something does appear. It is an embryo with a nearly-born fetus in it.

This is the famous Starchild.
The Starchild comes more in focus. In the next shot, Kubrick tracks his camera into the very body of the monolith - coming from the direction of the bed.

He is showing us that the Starchild has entered into and passing through the monolith. In the very next scene - which is the last scene in the movie - the Starchild is passing the moon and is heading towards the Earth.

The Starchild looks down at the earth as the ’World Riddle’ theme from "Also Sprach Zarathustra" sounds out. This is the third time that we have heard this theme. And this will be the last time. In the book, that the screenplay by Kubrick and Clarke was based on, the Starchild looks at the earth and thinks "there was a lot of work that needed to be done."

It is important to note that the Starchild model was made to look like Keir Dullea, the actor who portrayed Bowman. Kubrick is saying that this child is a reincarnated Bowman.

So what is this all about anyway? Bowman’s realization that he is trapped is made symbolically by Kubrick with the breaking of the wine glass. Even after all that he has been through Bowman still makes mistakes.

The wine glass is like a Zen koan that illuminates the mind in a flash. His own fallibility thrusts the scene towards its climax as the old man dies on the bed and sees the monolith for the last time. The Great Work of the stone is complete. There is now a man, a human, who understands the greater universe. This man also understands that he is trapped in a jail that his own consciousness has designed.

With the realization of his own fallibility, and his own trapped spirit, he is finally liberated from the realm of the hotel prison, or the world of illusion. In that instant he understands what the book of stone is trying to tell him. He lifts his hand in a gesture of understanding. And in that moment he is transformed - without dying - into the Starchild.

In the end, Kubrick is saying that life would be completely meaningless if it were not for the intervention of the monolith, or the stone. He realizes that he himself could not be transformed without the assistance of an outside intelligence, a God if you will.

This film director has made the ultimate religious movie.
The film is the monolith.

In a secret that seems to never have been seen by anyone - the monolith in the film has the same exact dimensions as the Cinerama movie screen on which 2001 was projected in 1968. This can only be seen if one sees, or rents, the film in its wide-screen format. Completely hidden from critic and fan alike is the fact that Kubrick consciously designed his film to be the monolith, the stone that transforms.

Like the monolith, the film projects images into our heads that make us consider wider possibilities and ideas.

Like the monolith, the film ultimately presents an initiation, not just of the actor on the screen, but also of the audience viewing the film. That is Kubrick’s ultimate trick. He slyly shows here that he knows what he is doing at every step in the process. The monolith and the movie are the same thing.

Kubrick is revealing that he understands the Great Work.

He is also, like Christ, warning us that there are dark powers more powerful than human beings, and that these powers are, at the present time, in control of this Great Work here on earth. The monolith represents the, the White Pebble of Revelation, the Holy Grail, the Philosopher Stone, the Book of Nature and the Film that initiates.

Stanley Kubrick has truly made the Book of Nature into film. Using powdered silver nitrates, glued onto a strip of plastic that is then projected onto the movie screens of our mind, Kubrick has proven himself to be one of the ultimate esoteric artists of the late 20th century.

Are you ready to switch Hal off?
Click to switch on: 
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Video 2001 - A Space Odyssey by totallyfreeenergy August 05, 2009 from YouTube Website

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