05 April 2010

Thus Sprach Everybody

On April 6, 1968, Stanley’s Kubrick’s science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey made its debut in movie theaters.  I can still remember the lines that ran for block around the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.  Try to imagine sitting in a darkened theater more than 40 years ago and seeing this opening clip with the chords of Thus Sprach Zarathustra hitting your ears.

Stanley Kubrick's Master work had arrived. In a movie of over three hours in length there is only about 40 minutes of dialogue. Almost the whole of the meaning of the movie is carried on intense visual images and included work by both Richard and Johann Strauss. In 1964 Kubrick had met with Arthur C. Clarke. Over the next year, Clarke and Kubrick worked to adapt Clarke's short story “The Sentinel” into a movie screenplay. Clarke also worked as a general scientific adviser on the film.

Kubrick anchored his movie in Clarke's scientific expertise. Today much of what was imaginative at the time now looks very dated, but the story is just as powerful with its hopeful view of the evolution of man as he moves out into space. Those who saw 2001 then hoped we would be farther along the road to space exploration (not to mention world peace) by now.

Still the visual effects, the orchestral scores, and sound effects hold up as a sterling example of how a great film maker can convey huge ideas with only images. The terror you feel from HAL and the tension between human beings and their machines. HAL may now have become something of a caricature, but then he was the warning of what can go wrong when mankind forgets its relationship to nature.

2001 A Space Odyssey has influenced many directors since its premier and is now considered on of the great films of the 20th Century. At the 41st annual Academy Awards in April 1969 Kubrick was nominated in the Best Director category; he lost to Sir Carol Reed for Oliver! Of four nominations, 2001 won one Oscar, for Best Visual Effects.

So turn out the lights, drift back 40 years and watch HAL die.


Travis said...

I've always been fascinated by the voice inflections of Douglas Rain as the voice of HAL. He manages to convey emotion in such subtle ways. The near deadpan at the end is so creepy.

Linda said...

Ya know, I've never actually watched this movie - only bits and pieces here and there. Perhaps I should amend that.