Friday, December 28, 2012

2001 and Kubrick's Indifferent Universe

by Salman Hameed


One of our goals this break is to watch most of major Kubrick films again on Blu Ray. We started with 2001: A Space Odyssey - and I watched the film in entirety after almost 20 years. And I had forgotten how spectacular and breathtaking the film is. Every shot of film is perfect!


Every set - and there many many futuristic sets - is done meticulously. And the choice of music, of course, is amazing. But one thing that really stuck out for me was the use of sound. If the perspective is from space, there is no sound. I think Kubrick is very consistent about that. But he would sometimes have the perspective of an astronaut from inside the helmet, and then you hear breathing as well as the hissing sound of oxygen. Well - many times he uses the variation in breathing to create suspense, tension, and even sometimes a sense wonder and/or bewilderment. This is just brilliant! I had also forgotten about the details of the chilling scene of Dave - in his pod holding a dead astronaut - staring down HAL in the ship bound for Jupiter. Here is a picture - but the picture doesn't do justice to the way the scene unfolds in the film.

In any case, the question of God is part of the film. Kubrick did believe that some notion of God is at the heart of the film. But then his (and Arthur C Clarke's) version God veered more in the direction of super-intelligent extraterrestrials, i.e. intelligent civilizations will be indistinguishable to us from gods. There are a lot of Extras in the Blu Ray edition of 2001, and I was struck by a fantastic quote from Kubrick about the universe. Here it is:
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent. 
But if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning.  
However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
Very cool. Now if you have a chance, see 2001 again - and please see it in its entirety and on the biggest screen available to you (not on a computer or an iPad).

We are scheduled for one of Kubrick's most beautiful, but very underrated film, Barry Lyndon on Sunday.

In the mean time, here is the original trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey:


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