Friday, December 17, 2010

2001 : A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)

I first experienced 2001 over a wintry evening a week ago. There was a lot that I wanted to write about that very moment, but I couldn't get myself to come up with anything coherent. I'd been dragged down the terrifying slopes of Stanley Kubrick's imagination, and I wasn't quite sure how to navigate myself out of that particular abyss.

It haunted me, this movie. I'd found the premise hugely intriguing, the numerous gambits over its hefty 150 minute running time rather thrilling, and the end - hugely frustrating. This is not a tidy movie, it doesn't even try to mimic the three act structure of traditional cinema - though it does split itself into roughly 4 frames of reference. I finally did myself a huge favour, and gave up on thinking what the hell Kubrick was thinking when he made the questionable cinematic choices he did. Instead, I just let my mind fashion an answer for itself : or atleast, raise its own questions. And that, then, made 2001 the hugely rewarding experience it ultimately turned out to be.

If I had to break down the plot - well, we start with the very dawn of man, and are plunged into an audacious 20 minutes of increasingly high pitched, guttural communication between humanoid apes. One day, a black monolith appears before them, obviously crafted by hands of a superior intelligence. The presence of the structure triggers the next stage in evolution for the group, and we are whisked 4 million years into the future.

In beautifully balletic sequences in space, with the Blue Danube Waltz led choreography of docking spaceships, we lead up to the next appearance of the monolith.

Another 18 month jump, and we are introduced to the man's first mission to Jupiter, tracing a mysterious signal emitted by the monolith to the planet. On board is the supercomputer HAL, the most iconic character of this piece. Before long, things began to fall apart.

And then comes the monolith again .....

This is such an audacious movie.

More than an hour goes without a single line of dialogue : at one point its just the aforementioned nerve-jangling moans of the apes, at another, its simply a marriage of extraordinary visuals and musical cues. Then there is the gamble of plunging the audience into darkeness for atleast 5 minutes, with just the thunderous classical music score to keep you company. Languorous tracking shots follow starfields and spaceships; chilling sequences in outer space are leached of sound. And of course, there is that famous ending.

These days, we're slowly getting used to increasingly undemanding cinema. Give me a choice even now, and I'd likely pick a fluffy rom-com : its so much easier to just sit back and let the banality of another familiar story wash over. Hollywood realizes this, and just pumps back more stupidity into the cinemas. Which is why we need to remember that there are the likes of 2001 out there. A movie that demands patience, and dedication, and refuses to give easy rewards.

This is the kind of cinema that reminds me just what made me fall in love with movies in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. Thus Spake Zarathustra was the background score for one of my nightmares. No, Seriously.