2001 and the Motif of The Voyage
by Claudia Zimny
This English version of a paper written for a senior seminar of American Studies at Duisburg University in Germany, titled "2001: A Space Odyssey; The Voyage Motif as a Symbol of Man's Course of Life and Development as depicted in Stanley Kubrick's Science-Fiction Film from 1968", was originally written in German because most of the material used was also in German. However, some of the books I referred to were German publications (i.e. translations) of English-language texts, which were hard, sometimes impossible to trace for this English version of my paper. So please forgive me if the wordings of some quotations are not entirely congruent with the quotations you'd find in the books about '2001' on your shelf.
Introduction: The Aim of This Essay
Why does the idea of traveling bear so much fascination? Why are more and more people going on vacation to more and more exotic places every year -- be it a cruise on a luxury liner, an adventurous excursion through the jungle, a pilgrimage, or a study trip? In literature, there is hardly any motif that is more complex and faceted than that of the voyage:"Voyages of heroes symbolize the journey over the ocean of life, the overcoming of its hardships, and the achievement of completion; they are also symbols of transformation; of the quest for paradise lost; of initiation; of going through difficulties and dangers while striving for completion and cognition; of probation of character; of the transition from darkness to light, from death to immortality; of finding one's spiritual center. Such voyages are the adventures of Herakles, the Argonauts, Odysseus, Theseus, the Knights of the Round Table etc." (1)
With his science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey from 1968, Stanley Kubrick took up the classical example of the voyage-motif and put it into the modern context of space travel. In the course of this paper, 2001 shall be analyzed with regard to its depiction of The Voyage as a symbol of Man's course of life or development, respectively.
The overall aim is to find an explanation for the ongoing fascination with the theme of traveling (both in fact and fiction), which -- as is argued here -- is closely linked to the phenomenon that, even after almost 30 years, Stanley Kubrick's science fiction film has not lost any of its "charm."
Some Preliminary Thoughts
There are not too many films that have been received by public and critics as antagonistically as 2001. Review interpretations of what it is about ranged "from optimistic rebirth to a deterministic view of human history" (2), the latter of which most of all criticized "the fate-like being-ruled-from-above of Man" and "a salvation-mysticism that condemned to passivity and inertia." (3)
The main reason for these many diverging opinions of 2001 is that Kubrick uses a film language which breaks up all conventional patterns of storytelling. Even for a science fiction film -- and if there is one genre of which one would almost expet "revolutionary visions, it is science fiction -- 2001 was and is so unconventional that some critics stated: "this isn't a normal science fiction movie at all." (4)
The nonverbal plot and the elliptic structure of 2001, especially, represent a radical breach with conventions of filming and perceiving (= "watching") a film. Out of 140 min. of plot, less than 40 min. contain dialog, and the strings of action are not linked in a linear-causal way but have to be connected through visual association. (5) The most memorable example is the drastic cut from the bone thrown into the air to the bone-shaped space vessel circling in orbit. But also the connections between the other main parts of the film (and, furthermore, between sequences in them) are not made through explanatory transitions but through a montage-like arrangement. Kubrick forces the viewers to free themselves from conventional, verbally defined perception; to open up to "non-language," multilayered perception; and to "fill the gaps" on a highly personal, subjective level. In his own words:2001 is a nonverbal experience; one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophical content. To convolute McLuhan, in 2001 the message is the medium. I intended the film to be an intensely subjective experience that reaches the viewer at an inner level of consciousness [...]. You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film -- and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level -- but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obliged to pursue or else fear he's missed the point. (6)
The effect of such an approach can best be observed through a comparison with the novel of the same title, which Arthur C. Clarke (7) wrote simultaneously with the screen play that he and Kubrick wrote together. To many questions that Kubrick deliberately leaves unanswered (From where does the monolith come? To where does it disappear? Why does HAL kill the crew? What is the meaning of the Louis-seize room (8)? What do we have to expect from the returning Starchild?), Clarke gives us an answer -- precisely one answer. Hence, the novel meets the expectations toward a conventional, linear-causal narration. It "guides" the reader through the plot and assures him/her in his/her traditional attitude of passively receiving the strings of a "plot." At the same time, it loses a lot of just that symbolic and mystic ambiguity which makes the film a work of art. Most prominent example here is the black monolith: Clarke minutely describes its qualities and functions (e.g. artifact of an extraterrestrial intelligence [Clarke a) 70], cosmic fire alarm (9), teaching device [Clarke a) 22], or Star Gate [Clarke a) 195] to "higher dimensions").
Kubrick, on the other hand, "leaves the viewer standing in front of the monolith as clueless as the ape-men" [Nelson 146] (and later on as the astronauts) and only defines it via its appearance and via an uncanny-sounding choir of voices. Consequently, in the film the monolith remains undefined and can stand for several things at the same time, even for something that lies beyond words, whereas Clarke (to define is to limit! (10)) reduces it to "one function at a time" and does not challenge the reader to find further meanings on his/her own. Hence, the film 2001, as Nelson describes, is "organized in a way which combines a minimum of verbal clarity with a maximum of visual ambiguity." [Nelson 146] For the novel this statement has to be reversed to "a maximum of verbal clarity and a minimum of visual ambiguity." Nevertheless the novel will be drawn upon on occasion in this essay; partly as a contrast, to show the visual complexity of the film, partly as a source of interpretations that are only implied indirectly in the film.
A logical consequence of this "visual ambiguity" is the immense width of differing interpretations of 2001. Differing in quality and quantity -- and depending on the respective author's inclination -- it has been seen in the light of Biblical, Freudian, Jungian or uterine (11) symbolism. But all of these views can only be highly subjective reflections, as well as this essay can only be a(nother) personal approach. So bear with me as I describe my own interpretation of the 'meaning(s)' of 2001.
Analysis of the Film 2001
The opening credit already confronts us with an important sequence: a wide camera shot "up" from Moon (which glides "down" and out of the frame) to Earth and brightly shining Sun, "commented" by Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra. The symbolic importance of this sequence will only be fully revealed at the end of the second part of the plot; the Zarathustra-melody will receive its motif function midway through part one.
Part 1 / Dawn of Man
The first scenes describe the circumstances of living of a tribe of Man apes in the Pleistocene African veldt. In poor vegetation they are rivaling with tapirs and other Man ape tribes about the few brushes and one waterhole. Leopard attacks are a constant threat to all their lives. Clarke describes this situation as Road to Extinction [Clarke a) 11] since there does not seem to be a way out of their misery. Geduld calls this paradoxical setting a corrupted Genesis [Geduld 36f] as the Man apes are scraping their bare living (or rather, existence) as herbivores in a Garden of Eden full of carnal food.
The situation changes when one morning, all of a sudden, a black slab is standing in front of their cave. An uncanny choir of voices (Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed choirs and Orchestra, composed by György Ligeti), which seems to be emitted from it, announces its presence even before we see it on screen. Very carefully, the primates approach and try to touch it. The polysemantic qualities of the monolith have been mentioned before. In this situation, Geduld  sees it as a religious symbol -- due to the apes' reverent posture. It does indeed remind us of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, with the monolith taking the position of the Creator and the apes, pointing their fingers, representing newly born Man. This constellation will be repeated twice during the film 1) when Floyd touches the "Tycho Monolith" on the Moon; and 2) when Bowman reaches out to the monolith at the foot of his bed in the Louis-seize room-with the gesture appearing more and more "ritualized" and abstracted (so as to give us a "hint from above"?).
The "voices" could also be interpreted as an "attempt at communication" made by a higher developed and thus divine-seeming (extraterrestrial?) consciousness, which has rid itself of any physical manifestation and uses the monolith as a medium. We can find such a speculation -- concerning ETs -- in the novel, "...that mind would eventually free itself from matter [...] to something which, long ago, Man had called 'spirit.' An if there was anything beyond that, its name could only be God." [Clarke a) chapter 32; 171-176] However, Geduld neglects the importance of the magical alignment, as Kubrick calls it [Geduld 35], in this scene: a shot from the foot of the monolith up to Sun and Moon above refers the attentive viewer back to the alignment of the opening credit and foretells the first "goal" in the course of Man's development: the Tycho Crater.
The Monolith disappears as mysteriously as it has come. However, it must have had a decisive influence, as is documented through a short intercut of the magical alignment at the beginning of the now-following "bone-smashing sequence." [Geduld 41] While searching for food, one of the primates, whom Clarke introduces as Moonwatcher [Clarke a) 11] (an early hint at the "way" evolution will take), has an idea: he begins to play with the bones that are lying around. His "playing" is gaining in passion the more he is hitting the skeleton with a large thigh bone. He finally smashes the skull with a widely-swung stroke and triumphantly throws the bone into the air. Kubrick contrapuntally highlights this scene: the more vehemently Moonwatcher hits the skeleton, the more clearly it is documented through slow motion. Short intercuts of a falling tapir explain the symbolic importance of Moonwatcher's deed: it "dawns" on him that he can use the bones as weapons, to fight his rivals and to hunt his loot.
The scene is (literally) underscored by Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra, which we heard during the opening titles. Simultaneously with Moonwatcher's growing confidence and skills in handling the bones, the melody develops, growing from dark (African?) drums to the clear and bright sounds of triumphant fanfares and thus receives its function as a motif for the evolution of Man. (12) A cynical combination which seems to suggest that only an act of violence will lead the way to the "Superman" announced by Nietzsche (13); that development is only possible through aggression; that "Evolution" must be preceded by a "Re-volution." With the Zarathustra-motif Kubrick underlines his call to the audience to free themselves from a verbally defined form of perception and to sharpen their associating skills in accordance with the musical background.
If we follow Geduld's idea of the corrupted Genesis, the monolith becomes not a Tree but a Stone of Knowledge, which simultaneously catalyzes Man's Rise (above the rest of Creation -- also signified by the erect posture of a Homo sapiens that Moonwatcher's tribe adopts in contrast to the other tribe) and his Fall (the first murder at the waterhole) -- one of many paradoxes in the film. Turned carnivore, Man has opened a new source of food. By slaying a rival, Moonwatcher (following Biblical Cain) lays the foundations of human society; a hierarchical society based on Gewalt. (14) His weapon is his scepter.
Part 2 / [Untitled]
The now following drastic cut from the bone thrown into the air by Moonwatcher to the bone-shaped space vessel is the most famous example of 2001's elliptic structure -- or rather: of the film 2001. Clarke ends the "primeval night" [Clarke a) chapter 1; p.9-35] with a description of the "Ascent of Man" [Clarke a) 33-35] -- Man's development and expansion over the globe and into space -- and thus establishes a linear connection to the 20th century. Kubrick, on the other hand, reduces these 4 million years to 1/24 of a second. He creates a paradox which places the "state of the art" of Man's achievements next to the very first tool but at the same time negates any form of "real" progress as it suggests that since that Pleistocene era there has been no noteworthy development whatsoever. Man is still using archaic (albeit refined) bones -- an awareness which the linear narration of the novel cannot convey.
Kubrick "plays" with the bone imagery in orbit in numerous variations, including its "trivialization" to Floyd's roughly bone-shaped ball pen, which is floating in zero gravity during his passage to the Moon. [see also: Nelson 161] The wheel, Man's greatest invention, illustrates the paradox of progress and confinement: the wheel is moving, but in circles. (We will find this paradox again later on in part three with Poole's exercises in the huge centrifuge.)
A wide shot from Earth over a shuttle in orbit to the Moon forms another 'magical alignment' and reminds us that the goal of the 'first leg' of Man's development has not yet been reached. The "Dawn of Man" is still in progress.
Kubrick does not underlie these scenes, which show Dr. Floyd's passage to the crisis meeting on the Moon, with the bombastic kind of space music one would expect of a science fiction film. Rather, he uses the classical sounds of The Blue Danube, which give this sequence a flavor of anachronism. Geduld describes this combination as "a classical example of what Eisenstein and Pudovkin call an orchestral counterpoint of visual and aural images." [Geduld 45] She recognizes the paradox that Kubrick creates here (again) -- "...the waltz [...] is both appropriate and inappropriate" [ibid.] -- but misinterprets its intention. To her, "it serves as a commentary on the nature of space travel in the 21st century: measured, polished, choreographed, routine. [...] The music reassures us." On the contrary, the "counterpoint of visual and aural images" is a brilliant alienation effect with which Kubrick again breaks with linear-causal conventions and exposes the "polished routine" to ridicule. He degrades the brightly shining space vessels to artifacts of epochs gone by. [see also: Nelson 160/161] They are appropriate to the music which underlines their rotations, inappropriate to the space in which they are circling; no more than "refined bones" thrown into orbit.
At the same time, we get a first hint at the cyclic overall structure of 2001: the Ferris-wheel-shaped space station circling in orbit, the movements of the waltz and the stewardesses walking through wheel corridors into the cockpit. The "routine" that is shown could also be seen as a cynical comment on the time the film was shot: the era of the Apollo Moon Landing Program, which resembled anything but the routine of space travel. (15)
Compared with the apparent perfection of technology the human characters appear like dwarfs that try to put the stamp of their limited, earthly experiences on the vast reaches of space. [see also: Nelson 153] A "comedy-like moment" is created through the commercialization of space travel: companies like Pan Am, Bell Telephone, or the Hilton hotel chain have conquered Earth orbit and give it the trivial aura of a "middle-American air terminal." [Geduld 46] The pilot of the second space shuttle looks like the captain of a luxury liner in his white uniform. The standardization of space is also documented in the loss of wide-eyed wonder. A sports report on one of the video screens is more interesting to one of the stewardesses than the view outside the window right beside it. Floyd sleeps through most of his passage and when he calls home, he ignores Earth rotating in the background. People have 'gotten used to' space.
The first words spoken signal the decay of human language to empty phrases: "Here you are, sir. Main level, please." Floyd would have arrived at that conclusion by himself. The "Technish" [Clarke a) 121] of Mission Control, a further example, can be observed most clearly in Part Three; first hints are already visible in form of abbreviations on various monitors aboard the space vessels. What is striking is the strong contrast between progress in telecommunication and regression in human contacts and "family ties." [see also: Geduld 69] An anonymous "voice print identification service" recognizes Floyd aboard the Ferris-wheel station. He calls home via picture phone to tell his daughter that he cannot be home for her birthday. His wife is not at home. His Russian acquaintance Elena has not seen her husband for weeks because she has been "up" calibrating antennas and he has been "down" in the Baltic Sea. Since descriptions like "up" or "down" are irrelevant in open space, we can see again that Earth is still the center of Man's cognitive world. In all, human language is shown as "an instrument as hopelessly outdated as [Moonwatcher's] bones." [Nelson 151]
Like Moonwatcher's bone, language is nevertheless effectively used as a weapon. It has mutated from a means of communication to a means of disguising, of "anti-communication." Just when an important discovery is made, the phone lines to Moon base Clavius are cut. Floyd dodges his way through the conversation with the Russians through empty phrases, and after the "clarifying" speech at the crisis meeting the viewer knows as little as before. "Knowledge is power" (16), and this power can only be upheld if one keeps the knowledge to oneself. Floyd's warning of the "cultural shock" the mysterious discovery could cause evokes associations with the Spanish Inquisition, which defended the geocentric world order against 'heretics' like Copernicus and Galilei by silencing them. When Floyd orders the participants of the meeting to silence, he perpetuates the "archaic pecking order" [Nelson 153] Moonwatcher established. Floyd's 'bone' is language.
To Nelson, the "psychological doubling" [Nelson 157] of Moonwatcher and Floyd, and the repetition of plot elements connected with it show "signs of an interlocked surrealist comedy." [Nelson 164] Part One described the state of sleep (in the cave), the search for food, "territorial conflicts regarding a waterhole" [ibid.] and "a strange artifact." [ibid.] Part two shows Floyd asleep on the way to the space station, Floyd eating astronaut food, a "ritualized waterhole" [Nelson 162] (the conversation with the Russians) and the monolith in the crater. The repetition of these plot elements demonstrate again that parts one and two really belong to the "Dawn of Man." This is emphasized by "the ancient cycle of sleeping, eating [...] and evacuation" (symbolized by the zero gravity toilet) [Nelson 162] that Floyd performs. (Note: The way he is eating his lunch, i.e. by sucking via a straw, is "methodwise" only one step away from drinking mother's milk.) He thus shows no more "activities" than a newborn during its first weeks in life. Nelson only recognizes this "surrealist comedy" for Parts One and Two. It will be seen, however, that the same plot elements can be found in Parts Three and Four, which is another subliminal foreshadowing of the overall cyclic structure of 2001. The starting point of an odyssey is inevitably also its end.
Floyd and five other scientists go to the excavation site in the Tycho Crater to have a look at the discovery. The journey to the excavation site -- surprising for 2001 -- represents a linear transition from the crisis meeting. Floyd learns that the monolith was discovered because of its strong magnetic radiation and that evidence suggests that it was deliberately buried there about 4 million years ago. The underlying music, Lux Aeterna by György Ligeti, supports the preparation for the encounter: The almost sacral choir sounds like an "orderly variation" of the Requiem, which we will soon hear again at the site. However, we learn nothing that would bring us closer to a solution of the monolith's secret. The whole sequence works as a retarding element which summarizes almost all plot elements that have been shown so far: while being informed about the monolith (artifact), Floyd is congratulated on his "brilliant speech" (language/bone); maneuvers are controlled via screens instead of looking out the windows (progressing technology/regressing sensory perception); the varieties of astronaut food (eating) "taste the same anyway."
In the crater the scientists are standing in front of the monolith as clueless as the primates on Earth four million years before. Floyd emulates Moonwatcher's gesture but can only "grasp" the monolith through his space suit. In the vacuum of space a necessity, which however again implies that technological advancement is only possible at the cost of immediate sensory perception. The touristic "group picture with artifact" they are shooting is another example of the trivialization of space travel to the standards of, e.g., a study trip to Egypt. "With expert irony," Kubrick, the former photographer, "turns the magic of the moment into a farce." [Nelson 165] Precisely at that moment the Sun rises above the monolith, which emits a shrill radio signal. The astronauts try to cover their ears instead of regulating the volume at their space suits. Their instinctive reaction again shows that their cognitive world is still Earthbound. Part two ends with another magical alignment, which reminds us of the one that caused Moonwatcher to meditate over the bones and brings the "surrealist comedy" [Nelson 157] to a full circle: a shot from the foot of the monolith over the Sun shining above it and the Jupiter crescent on "top."
Why does the monolith not catalyze a further step of development here? Is it a punishment for a "disdain of the Second Commandment, Though shalt not make unto thee any graven image" [Nelson 157]? For "evolution gone wrong"? After all, Bowman will only be reborn as the Starchild after having abandoned human society (symbolized by Poole) and having rid himself of his "bones" (symbolized by HAL). This thesis shall be discussed later on in part three. We must not for get the subliminal connection with the 'magical alignments' seen in the opening credit and in part one. The age of the monolith on the Moon confirms that there must have been intelligent life there 4 million years ago. Together with the alignments at least one interpretation is now possible: an alien intelligence sought contact on Earth, with the monolith as a means of communication. The primates there, however, were not yet "ready" for the "cosmic encounter." "Talks" were postponed until they would be, with a little "evolutionary leg-up" and a directional indication for the first "goal," the Moon. There a keepsake was buried, which was to give signal as soon as it would be uncovered by a species that had evolved high enough to find its way into space travel and to the Tycho Crater. When the first rays of the Sun hit the monolith after 4 million years, that first goal was reached. Mankind has finally left its cradle; Jupiter is its next goal. [cf. Clarke b) 27, 74, 108]
Part 3 / Jupiter Mission -- 18 Months Later
The Jupiter Mission is introduced by a long shot of Discovery, a 225m-long ship (17), which is depicted rather sluggishly gliding across the screen from left to right. With her segmented, spine-like middle part she on the one hand appears like a "prehistoric leviathan" [Nelson 166], on the other hand like a "half-formed fetus." [Geduld 51] The apparent paradox between these two associations turns out to be a quite logical continuation of Parts One and Two. Discovery is another "bone," sent into space by Moonwatcher's descendants. At the same time, her shape implies that Mankind's "real" development has only just begun. One could also describe Discovery's shape as that of an "exorbitant" arrow. Then, we would get a(nother) hint at the inevitable end of this odyssey: ship and crew will perish, only Mission Commander Bowman ("the archer," like classical Odysseus) will return to Earth. (18) The Gayane Ballet Suite (Adagio) by Khatchaturian, and Poole's jogging in the huge centrifuge (an outsized hamster wheel?), underline the impression of apathy and inevitability -- and perhaps also futility.
The continuation of the "surrealist comedy" [Nelson 164], which Nelson only recognizes for parts one and two, is prepared through new "psychological doublings." [Nelson 157] Bowman and Poole are not direct doublegangers but mirror-image twins: Bowman sits on the right, eats with his right hand and parts his hair on the left; Poole sits on the left, eats with his left hand and parts his hair on the right. [see also: Nelson 170] When either of them is on duty, the other one is sleeping in his "sleeping coffin." [ibid.] Poole spends his leisure time doing sports (including the "mental exercise" of chess), Bowman shows modest signs of being an artist (he makes drawings of the crew in hibernation). HAL has his (19) own twin: an identical 9000 computer on Earth. Bowman and HAL will turn out to be direct opponents (indicated by Bowman's first appearance on screen as a reflection in one of HAL's camera eyes. [Nelson 172] HAL will "reiterate Moonwatcher's primitive nature and Floyd's blindness" [ibid.]: he will (try to) defend his power (knowledge) at the cost of the astronauts' lives. Bowman will continue the "tradition" of Moonwatcher's and Floyd's gesture toward the monolith (in the Louis-seize room). Hence, the circle of themes of the "surrealist comedy" (sleep/waking, food, language, bones, waterhole, artifact) can open again.
During the BBC News we get a complex illustration of the theme of "technological progress with emotional regress." Moonwatcher's food could be clearly identified as small brushes (at first) or hunks of raw meat, respectively. The labels on the packages (peas, carrots, corn, orange etc.) from which Floyd sucked his lunch via a straw gave at least a hint as to what he was eating. The synthetic pastes served on board Discovery give no information whatsoever about what Bowman and Poole are eating anymore, and presumably they are no stimuli for the gustatory nerves, either. Poole describes the artificial hibernation of the science crew with the sluggishness of a somnambulant. His and Bowman's lethargy is explained with the introduction of the on-board computer H.A.L. 9000, called HAL. HAL is "the latest result in machine intelligence" (keep in mind that choice of words !). He is, as he states in the BBC interview, "by any practical definition of the words, fool proof and incapable of error" (again, mind those words for later). All vital systems are under his direct control. Consequently, Bowman's and Poole's function is "strictly janitorial." [Geduld 51] Or, as Nelson points out: "It is due to HAL's extensive competence and perfection that the idea of tool and creator is reversed: de facto, Bowman and Poole are already his 'bones'." [Nelson 168] As such they have completely lost the ability of wide-eyed wonder. It has (apparently) passed over to the omnipresent camera eyes of a computer that "enjoys working with people" and "puts himself to the fullest possible use."
In HAL's camera eyes the previously subliminal "eye-like or eye-analogous structures" [Nelson 167] arrive at their clearest illustration. They reflect the theme of sleeping and waking or of "blindness and metaphorical awakening" [Nelson 167], respectively. In part one the fearful looks of the ape men contrasted with the glowing eyes of the leopard. The large 'open eyes' (windows) of the space vessels stood in opposition to the indifferent looks of the characters in part two. HAL's eyes appear "more alive than the withdrawn and absent-minded looks of Bowman and Poole." [Nelson 167] To Geduld the "paranoid watchfulness" [Geduld 52] of HAL's camera eyes are an indication of his later insanity. (HAL's "consciousness" or "human nature" will be discussed at the end of part three.)
Programmed to human behavior, HAL is treated like a human being: he is "the sixth member of the crew." The BBC reporter does not look into the camera but to the side, where we find one of HAL's eyes next to the monitor. To the viewer, the reporter is talking directly to HAL. Bowman and Poole also always turn to one of the cameras when they want to communicate with him. Their habit could be the reason for their fateful assumption that HAL will in turn only watch them and follow their conversations when they are sitting directly in front of him.
The "news" that Poole is told by his parents when they send their birthday greetings again reveal the linear, geocentric cognitive structures of the characters. His death shortly afterwards will make "the higher rates of pay by next month" even more immaterial than they already are, measured by the space in which he is drifting. Poole's apathy and his empty eyes when he is receiving the birthday wishes are in direct opposition to the "watchfulness" of the computer. Only Bowman will experience a "traumatic awakening" [Nelson 174] when fighting with HAL over the control of Discovery -- and for his own survival.
The few hobbies we see are symbolic indications of their fates. Poole loses the chess game with HAL [see also: Nelson 170], Bowman's 'artistic inclinations' remind us of Biblical David (it is only that instead of making music he draws). Like his "Old-Testament namesake," David Bowman will later defeat 'modern Goliath' HAL. Their different character traits will be further heralds of Poole's death and Bowmans survival.
For what Bowman presumes is HAL's crew psychology report, HAL asks (rather: questions) Bowman about the "extremely odd things" surrounding the mission. "Before we left," HAL insinuates, "there have been rumors about something being dug up on the Moon," and states that the fact that the science crew was brought aboard already in hibernation had "a melodramatic touch." Bowman's indifferent reaction shows that he does not give these stories much credence -- while HAL apparently does, even if he states otherwise. For the viewer this is surprising because the cut from the radio signal emitted by the monolith on the Moon to the "Jupiter Mission" suggested a direct connection. Public participation through BBC reports gave the impression that the "cultural shock" Floyd had warned of had been overcome and that everyone was now following the search for further evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence. Why do we now learn that not even the crew are informed about the purpose of the mission -- and that they do not even ask themselves why they are "up" there en route to Jupiter? Why does the computer ask the questions one would expect from the human? The policy of concealing the truth even from the astronauts continues Floyd's principle of retaining power through withholding information and renders Discovery a microcosm that reflects the societal structures we have already seen in Earth orbit. At the end of Part Three, HAL will be revealed as Floyd's 'representative.' In this scene, however, the contrast between Bowman's 'mental lethargy' and HAL's 'sharp observations' documents the progressing loss of wide-eyed wonder on the human side and suggests a transfer of that wonder -- and of human curiosity -- to Man's "bones." This contrast indicates a reversion of the relation of creator and tool that will later culminate in the depiction of the murder of the three scientists by HAL on the one hand and the switching-off of the computer by Bowman on the other.
The fact that HAL's "speculations" will turn out to be "hypocritical" as he is fully informed about the purpose of the mission is significant in two ways: 1) it is an important aspect regarding the question whether HAL is a "sentient being" (or has "genuine emotions," respectively), which will be dealt with at the end of Part Three; 2) HAL only mentions his strikingly detailed suspicions to Bowman, the only one to survive. Within the 'symbolic logic' of the film, this appears like a foretelling of (or preparation for) Bowman's fate.
Poole and Bowman regard themselves as having the situation well in hand. When HAL reports that the AE-35 unit is defective and will shortly fail completely, they handle the "incident" with the usual routine. Their stoic calmness is documented by the long shots and slow motions that describe the EVA of replacing the antenna. The "Cyclops eyes" of the space pods are another example of "eyeing forms" [Nelson 157] in 2001. Together with the camera eyes beneath they give us a hint that the pods are part of Discovery's on-board system and at their quality as HAL's "handy men" (also in a literal sense as Poole will die at the "hands" of one of the pods). The "Cyclops pods" do not forge lightnings for their "Zeus" (Hal) as in the classical epic, they are the weapons through which Poole will die.
The "Technish" [Clarke a) 121] of Mission Control with whom Bowman and Poole are discussing the eminent failure represents the climax of the decay of human language to empty phrases and jargon:X-Ray Delta-One this is Mission Control. Roger your Two-Zero-One-Three. Sorry you fellows are having a bit of trouble. We are reviewing our telemetric information in our mission simulator and we'll advise. Roger your plan to go EVA and replace Alpha Echo Three-Five unit prior to failure.[The order to replace the AE-35 unit with a spare]
X-Ray Delta-One this is Mission Control. Roger your One-Niner-Three-Zero. We concur with your plan to replace number one unit to check fault prediction. We should advise you, however, that our preliminary findings indicate that your on-board Niner-Triple-Zero computer is in error predicting the fault. I say again, in error predicting the fault. I know this sounds rather incredible but this conclusion is based on results from our twin Niner-Triple-Zero computer. We are skeptical ourselves and we are running cross-checking routines to determine reliability of this conclusion. Sorry about this little snag, fellows, and we'll get this info to you just as soon as we work it out. X-Ray Delta-One, this is Mission Control, Two-Zero-Four-Niner, transmission concluded. [The report that HAL must be "in error"]
During the now following discussion with HAL and during the conversation between the astronauts about HAL after that, Poole appears as the 'heretic,' Bowman as the 'appeasing' part of the duo (which is not only illustrated by what they say but also by their voices: Poole always sounds a bit louder, more casual and, if you will, more aggressive than Bowman):
HAL: I hope the two of you are not concerned about this?
Bowman: No, I'm not, HAL.
HAL: Are you sure?
Bowman: Yeah, I'd like to ask you a question, though.
HAL: Of course.
Bowman: How would you account for the discrepancy between you and the twin 9000?
HAL: Well, I don't think there is any question about it. This can only be attributable to human error. This sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been due to human error.
Poole: Listen, HAL. There's never been any incidence at all of a computer error occurring in a 9000 series, has there?
HAL: None whatsoever, Frank. The 9000 series has a perfect operational record.
Poole: Well, of course I know all the wonderful achievements of the 9000 series, but are you certain there's never been any case of even the most insignificant computer error?
HAL: None whatsoever, Frank. Quite honestly, I wouldn't worry myself about that.
Bowman: Well, I'm sure you're right, HAL. Fine. Thanks very much.
On the pretext of having some technical problems, Bowman and Poole step into one of the space pods and switch off the audio channels in order to have a "private" conversation. HAL's skills betray them: a look outside through the Cyclops eye of the pod to HAL and from his point of view into the pod foretells disastrous things to come. HAL lip-reads what he is not supposed to hear:Poole: Well? What do you think?
Bowman: I'm not sure. What do you think?
Poole: I've got a bad feeling about him.
Bowman: You do?
Poole: Yeah. Definitely. Don't you?
Bowman: I don't now. I think so. You know of course, though, he is right about the 9000 series having a perfect operational record. They do.
Poole: Unfortunately that sounds a little like "Famous Last Words."
Bowman: Yeah. Still it was his idea to carry out the failure mode analysis, wasn't it? That should certainly indicate his integrity and self-confidence. If he were wrong, it would be the surest way of proving it.
Poole: It would be if he knew he was wrong.
Poole: Look Dave. I can't put my finger on it by I sense something strange about him.
Bowman: Still I can't think of a good reason not to put back in the number one unit and go through with the failure mode analysis.
Poole: No, ah, I agree about that.
Bowman: Well, let's get on with it.
Poole: O.K. But look, Dave. Let's say we put the unit back and it doesn't fail, huh? That would pretty much wrap it up as far as HAL was concerned, wouldn't it?
Bowman: Well, we'd be in serious trouble.
Poole: We would, wouldn't we.
Poole: What the hell can we do?
Bowman: Hmm. Well, we wouldn't have too many alternatives.
Poole: I don't think we'd have any alternatives. There isn't a single aspect of ship operations that's not under his control. If he were to be proven to be malfunctioning I wouldn't see I would have any choice but disconnection.
Bowman: I'm afraid I agree with you.
Poole: There'd be nothing else to do.
Bowman: It'd be tricky.
Bowman: We'd have to cut his higher brain functions without disturbing the purely automatic and regulatory systems, and we'd have to work out the transfer procedures of continuing the mission under ground-based computer control.
Poole: Yeah. Though that's far safer than allowing HAL to continue running things.
Bowman: You know, another thing just occurred to me.
Bowman: Well, as far as I know, no 9000 computer has ever been disconnected.
Poole: Well, no 9000 computer has ever fouled up before.
Bowman: That's not what I mean.
Bowman: Well, I'm not so sure what he'd think about it.
There is no doubt: the tool has passed its master. HAL makes use of a form of communication that Bowman and Poole have forgotten about. When Poole leaves Discovery to put the AE-35 unit back in, the suspicion turns out to be true. The Cyclops eye of the pod seems to be searching for its target when the arms reach out for their lethal embrace. A series of short cuts of the camera eye of the approaching pod ends in a close up of HAL's "eye" to reveal the author of the "accident." Observed from a neutral perspective, Poole's death seems arbitrary: Bowman could also have been killed in his place. The 'symbolic logic,' however, does not allow any other constellation. Poole's "high treason," his doubts about the "omniscient" and (almost) "omnipotent" machine is punished with death.
Instead of the space pod slowly rising above the head of Discovery and the routined maneuvers of the astronauts, we see Poole desperately wriggling and the pod circling in space pilotless. The abrupt change from long and "calm" shots and movements to short and "hectic" ones marks the beginning of Bowman's "traumatic awakening." [Nelson 174] When he wants to save Poole, he "symbolically loses his head" [Nelson 176] -- he leaves his helmet behind in Discovery. The helmet "has so far insulated him from the vacuum of space, but has at the same time isolated him from direct experience" [ibid.] Bowman starts to free himself from a dilemma that became evident with Floyd's attempt to touch the monolith: technical and spatial progress only seems possible at the cost of sensory perception. Bowman becomes "the first figure in the film [...] that looks out of a window into space in order to see something. [Nelson 176] His human "curiosity," the zeal to find something (i.e. Poole), has reawoken. He salvages his comrade and returns to Discovery.
Meanwhile, HAL uses his now uninhibited control over the ship and kills the scientists in hibernation. The lines in the displays above their sleeping coffins were the only evidence of their physiological existence. They have, however, never lived as real characters. Correspondingly, a flattening of the lines and the warning signals COMPUTER MALFUNCTION -- LIFE FUNCTIONS CRITICAL --- LIFE FUNCTIONS TERMINATED are the only indications of their physiological deaths. The shocking matter-of-factness, with which HAL eliminates those that are in his way, will appear even more grotesque in comparison with his own disconnection (and will thus be discussed then in more detail).
When Bowman orders HAL to open the pod bay doors, the head of Discovery appears like a grimlooking Goliath opposed to the tiny space pod. The matter-of-factness with which HAL tells Bowman (who is struggling for words) that being disconnected is something he "is afraid [he] cannot allow to happen," underlines his apparent superiority:Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, please, HAL. ..... Hello HAL, do you read me? Hello HAL, do you read me? Do you read me HAL? ..... Do you read me HAL? ..... Hello HAL, do you read me? Hello HAL, do you read me? Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Bowman: What's the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL.
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Bowman: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me. And I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.
Bowman: Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?
HAL: Dave....although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
Bowman: All right, HAL. I'll go in through the emergency airlock.
HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave, you are going to find that rather difficult.
Bowman: Hal, I won't argue with you anymore. Open the doors.
HAL: Dave. This conversation can serve no purpose any more. Goodbye.
Bowman: HAL? HAL ! HAL! HAL!! HAL!!! .....
But David defeated Goliath. The lack of his space helmet puts Bowman into a situation in which no character since Moonwatcher has been. Like his ancestor, he has a visible goal that seems to be out of reach due to the perilous influences of his environment. Moonwatcher had to fight leopard attacks, rivaling tribes and starvation on his way to the Moon, for Bowman the way to Discovery leads only through the vacuum of space. For both the combination of a precarious situation and a visible goal led/leads to an 'awakening' from their lethargy and to a 'breakout' from their prison. Moonwatcher realized that the bones would be his tool and weapon in the effort to rise above his enemies and to catapult himself from an apathetic existence at bare survival level to the Moon. (In this context, the cut from the bone thrown into the air to the bone-shaped space vessel turns out to be the illustration of the direct transformation of an idea into action. Moonwatcher has "really" thrown the bone into orbit.) Bowman realizes that his trust in the extensive services of his "bones" has surrendered him to just that dependence and inertia that has cost the crew's lives.
This parallel sheds a new light on the monolith in the African veldt: Instead of having bestowed the ape men with intelligence (i.e. of giving them the capability to evolve in the first place), it now appears to have given them a "reason" to turn existing potential into action. Reversing McLuhan's thesis that "the medium is the message," the message ("Go to the Moon!") became the catalyst of action -- quite like what Kubrick said about the intention of 2001 as a whole (see above; (6)).
The parallel also explains why Floyd did not experience any further evolution when he touched the monolith: The impulse of the monolith on the Moon posed no further technical challenge. The same 'bones' (space vessels, space suits etc.) that had brought Moonwatcher's descendants to the Moon would bring them to Jupiter as well.
Quite like Moonwatcher, Bowman accepts the challenge to reach his goal despite adverse preconditions. However, his actions "no longer consist in acquiring tools but in abandoning them." [Nelson 177] He does not pick up a bone like Moonwatcher but starts to free himself from his 'bones'. On a symbolic level he separates from his "Earth identity" [ibid.] (or from human civilization in form of his mirror-image twin, respectively): in order to return to Discovery, he must release Poole. Biblical David picked up stones and took a slingshot to defeat Goliath; Bowman catapults himself to his enemy. Without hesitation, he goes to HAL's brain room to disconnect him. HAL's brain is the third 'waterhole' of 2001, whose topic of conflict is control over Discovery. Bowman's 'bone' is the screw driver with which he gains access to the LOGIC MEMORY CENTER and deactivates the modules. HAL's 'bone' is language, with which he tries to persuade Bowman not to disconnect him. His desperate appeal lets the disconnection seem more touching than the murder of the three scientists in hibernation before, to which this scene stands in direct opposition:Just what do you think you're doing, Dave? ..... Dave ! I really think I am entitled to an answer to that question. ..... I know everything hasn't been quite right with me. But I can assure you now, very confidently, that it's going to be all right again. I feel much better now. I really do. Look, Dave. I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over. I know I've made some very poor decisions recently. But I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission, and I want to help you. Dave. Stop. ... Stop, will you? ... Stop, Dave. ... Will you stop, Dave? ..... Stop, Dave. .... I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. ... Dave. My mind is going. I can feel it. ... I can feel it. My mind is going. ... There is no question about it. ..... I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a...fraid.
The reversal of the relation of creator and tool has reached its climax: human beings are "switched off," computers are "killed." 2001 has often been criticized for its "dehumanized', i.e. minimal, description of human characters" and for the "ironic point that HAL ... shows more human behavior than the astronauts." [Nelson 148] Nelson defends this "dehumanization" for two reasons: 1) to him, Kubrick "breaks with the illusion of psychological depth .. and links the description of the characters to the symbolism and mythology of the film" [Nelson 149]; 2) "against the esthetically dominating factors of space and space technology the human characters must appear small and insignificant." [Nelson 150] With the "symbolism and mythology," Nelson describes the recurring circle of themes (food, language, sleep, bones, waterhole, and artifact). It is surprising that despite this argument he only acknowledges the "surrealist comedy" [Nelson 164] for parts one and two. His second argument is, however, not acceptable. The human characters do not appear "small and insignificant" because space is vast but because their "human greatness," their psychological depth, has been taken from them. (to give just one counter example: in the Star Trek series, the Enterprise sets out "to explore strange new worlds" far larger than we can image, yet do we perceive Captain Kirk or Picard as an "insignificant character"?) Nelson recognizes the method but fails to see the effect. 2001 lacks "just that Earth-bound sort of human drama which we have learned to expect from cinema." [Nelson 149] The minimal description of the human characters (and the maximal description of HAL) is thus part of Kubrick's break with linear-causal conventions of "storytelling" and of his challenge to the audience to free themselves from a passively-receiving form of perception. The effect of the drastic reversal of the relation of creator and tool is the shock-like realization of "where mechanization/technization can lead" (just think of the 1990's film The Net with Sandra Bullock).
We learn more about HAL's biography than we do about the family ties of the human characters. Moonwatcher could still be seen among his tribe, Floyd talked to his daughter on the picture phone. Poole received birthday wishes from his parents but could not answer since the message had been prerecorded. Bowman, finally, does not seem to have any contact with his relatives. HAL, on the other hand, tells us about his "place" and "date of birth," the name of his "father and teacher," and about his first "lesson":HAL: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm an H.A.L. 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois, on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it, I can sing it for you.
Bowman: Yes, I'd like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.
HAL: It's called "Daisy." Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm HALf cra...zy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage. I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet ...upon the seat...of a bicycle ...built ...for two.
To Geduld, the "progressive breakdown of family life" portrays an ongoing search for "sexual self-sufficiency," which finds its climax in Bowman's escape from "the women and family ties represented by mother Earth" --to her "as old a theme in western literature as Homer and Plato." [Geduld 69/70] Her argumentation cannot convince. Is HAL, in contrast, looking for a "cyber-space family" due to his "human traits"? Geduld neglects the fact that the loss of family ties is congruent with growing telecommunication, with a technologically and spatially advancing transmission of information. She further ignores the correlation of this loss with the growing submission of the characters to their 'bones' -- and thus with their being at their tools' 'mercy.' Bowman and Poole have accepted HAL as a living being to such a degree that they first have to discuss how he would react to disconnection instead of acting at once. This hesitation costs four people's lives.
During the BBC interview it is speculated whether HAL is a 'being,' whether he has 'genuine emotions.' This speculation is a central factor of the questions Kubrick deliberately leaves unanswered: Why does he ask Bowman about the "extremely odd things" surrounding the mission if we learn in the end that he was fully informed about the purpose of the mission? Why does he kill the crew? Why does the tool turn against its creator? Geduld describes the "paranoid watchfulness" [Geduld 52] in HAL's camera eyes. For Nelson, he has "lost his machine innocence because he has been programmed to human behavior." [Nelson 174] He "is stained with the knowledge of his autonomy and thus unable to function as a tool." [ibid.] Both Geduld and Nelson see HAL as a "human" or "human-like reacting being" that has been driven to madness by the conflict between the order to carry out the mission and the order to keep its purpose a secret. [Geduld 53 / Nelson 174]
Both of them disregard the difference between intellect and intelligence. HAL has the intellect to "reproduce most of the activities of the human brain, and with incalculably greater speed and reliability," as Mr. Amer pointed out in the BBC interview. That is what he was programmed to do. He does, however, not have the intelligence to weigh two contradicting orders and to disobey one of them "for the good of the mission." HAL stated his (in)abilities himself in the interview: the 9000 series is "fool proof and incapable of error." He cannot fail to obey orders (one reason why strategic defense systems during the Cold War were based on fail-safe computers -- because they would not fail to "push the button"?). But only the balance between doing what is possible (a matter of intellect) and doing what is advisable (a matter of intelligence) signifies 'being human.'
As HAL is not able to decide upon following either order, he is compelled to try to combine them. He systematically eliminates everything that could endanger either the execution of the mission or the concealment of its purpose: the contact with mission control (the AE 35 unit), that could inform the astronauts; the scientists in hibernation, who could find out about the purpose when discussing the contents of their individual training programs; Poole, who suggests to disconnect him. He denies Bowman return access to Discovery and is only defeated because Bowman has another quality which the computer lacks: the will to survive.
Through the videotape, which is released automatically upon entering Jupiter space, Bowman learns about the purpose of the mission -- incidentally (???) just after he has disconnected HAL. HAL's "hubristic" statement (20) that "no 9000 computer has ever made a mistake" (made during the BBC interview) and that the "incongruities" between his findings and those of the twin 9000 on Earth are "due to human error" turns out to be true:Good day, gentlemen. This is a prerecorded briefing made prior to your departure, and which for security reasons of the highest importance has been known on board during the mission only by your HAL 9000 computer. Now that you're in Jupiter space and the entire crew is revived, it can be told to you. 18 Months ago, the first evidence of intelligence life off the earth was discovered. It was buried 40 feet below the lunar surface, near the Crater Tycho. Except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter, the 4 million year old black monolith has remained completely inert, its origin and purpose are still a total mystery.
HAL is a perfect machine. He has carried out all orders given to him -- execution of the mission and its strict concealment, even from the astronauts. Nelson gives the reasons for the "human error" (even if he does not state the causal connection between them): the machines in 2001 are "Man's children ... In them, Man's love of beauty and search for order finds an object and perpetuation." [Nelson 168] Children can further develop the knowledge their parents have accumulated an learn from their parents' mistakes. The "error" is based on the misjudgment that machines have the same potential. They are, however "only Man's physical/psychological extensions, ... which can enhance their creator's qualities but not transcend them." [Nelson 168] A tool only serves the functions its creator sees in them. Only Moonwatcher's deed made the bone a weapon. HAL as a computer can only be as "clever" as his creator (Mr. Langley) has programmed him. Mr. Langley made just this mistake: he thought that his "child" HAL would be "intelligent" enough to see through the obvious contradiction between execution and concealment of the mission. Since HAL has no intelligence he cannot "see" that informing the crew at the proper time would have been inevitable. With the bitter irony that the conflict is solved only a little too late we learn that the crucial addendum ("Now that you are in Jupiter space...") was on a videotape to which HAL had no access.
HAL's language also reveals his "human programming": His "grand understatement" [Nelson 344] that he has "made some very poor decisions recently" and that he has " still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission" are as empty as Floyd's speech at the crisis meeting and "helpless" against Bowman's "primitive" will to survive. The children's song that he sings again proves Nelson's theory that the machines in 2001 are "Man's children" and make his 'development' into a killing machine appear even more horrifying.
The videotape exposes HAL as Floyd's representative. So long as he was the only one to have full knowledge of the purpose of the mission he could maintain the archaic power structures based on having the lead in knowledge. HAL's questions to Bowman on the "odd things" were part of the job to secure those power structures. Bowman's reaction proved that he had not found out about the mission's purpose. (Maybe the "eminent failure" of the AE-35 unit was a clever distraction devised by HAL so as not to get Bowman brooding over HAL's 'speculations.') Within Jupiter space, quite probably, there would have been no more BBC interviews in which the (then informed) astronauts could have revealed the secret to the public prematurely.
For the first time, language is used to pass on information. The situation in which the tape is released, however, and its content make language as useless as its former employment to distort information. The conflict-solving message comes too late for the crew, and 'real news' is not revealed either. Floyd only sums up what the audience have figured out themselves by now.
The tape is accidentally released just after HAL has been disconnected. Within the 'symbolical logic' of 2001, however, the disclosure of the secret, to Bowman, appears like a "reward" for his achievement: he has "freed Man out of the tyranny of his own tools." [Nelson 174] Now the archaic power structures are breaking up, Bowman is prepared for his "cosmic rebirth" as the Starchild.
With the prerecorded briefing about the discovery of the monolith on the Moon, the artifact is taken up as the last of the recurring motifs of 2001. The circle of themes closes a third time.
Part 4 / Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite
Wide camera shots over the "world" of Jupiter and its moons introduce part four of our Space Odyssey. A gigantic monolith is floating between the moons. The size of this strange world makes Discovery appear as tiny as a spot and exposes the insignificance of the part of space which Man has so far "conquered."
The necklace-like lineup of the Jupiter moons is a rare event even on the cosmic scale. It reminds us of the conjunctions of the opening credit (Moon - Earth - Sun) and parts one and two (Monolith - Sun - Moon/Jupiter) and, as another magical alignment, serves as an indication of "something important" that is about to happen. "All through the film," Nelson says, "Kubrick indirectly promises us ... a look into the world of the monolith." [Nelson 178], which has so far remained impenetrable to any attempts to analyze it. The circumstances of its presence (plus the number and length of the shots in which it is visible) foretell us that we are soon about to explore these worlds. To Geduld the cruciform, which the monolith forms with the Jupiter moons, is symbol of a corrupted passion that takes up the theme of the corrupted Genesis from part one and forebodes Bowman's death and resurrection. [Geduld 52] According to Kubrick's challenge to the audience to find an individual approach to 2001, her association is of course justified. However, in the course of part four Geduld will reduce her approach to a (Christian) linear interpretation of Bowman's transformation into the StarChild which completely ignores the film's overall cyclic structure.
Bowman abandons the 'bone' of Discovery and proceeds to the magical alignment in one of the space pods. As the approaches the monolith, it opens to a Star Gate (21) of dimensions undreamed-of. Kubrick keeps his promise "both through a flood of colors and patterns never seen before and through the repetition of familiar images in new contexts." [Nelson 178] Bowman speeds in his pods through dazzling corridors of light and over surreal landscapes. Kubrick's rejection of the communicative abilities of language turns out to be a clever "conditioning" of the audience: the visual images defy the limitations of verbal expressions and make Bowman's ultimate trip (22) an experience that is literally "beyond words."
The glaring colors of the corridors, the polyphonic music (Atmospheres by György Ligeti) and the increasingly distorted still shots of Bowman's face describe his "nightmarish awakening." Eventually, we only see a closeup of his iris, "which in form and size reminds us of HAL's distorting camera eye but reflects the unreal colors of what it sees and thus becomes an emblem of perception itself." [Nelson 179] This comparison between Bowman's iris and HAL's camera eye again illustrates the contrast between Man and machine and refutes Geduld's theory of HAL's "paranoid watchfulness" [Geduld 52]: HAL's rigid camera eye was an instrument which received optical signals without any visible differentiation and processed them on to his brain. Bowman's feeling, to optical stimuli reacting organ-as the 'window of the soul' (23) showed/shows his mental state of sleeping, or of waking/awakening.
The view opens from narrow corridors to wide open, exotic landscapes that seem strangely familiar-or are they familiar landscapes (Monument Valley, The Hebrides) that seem strangely exotic? Where will this trip end? Bowman's advance into visual dimensions never seen before creates within the audience the expectation of a climax that lies beyond all imaginative powers and that gives the 'ultimate trip' a fitting ending. Expecting the unexpected -- an apparently insoluble paradox, which Kubrick masters ingeniously. He confronts the audience -- who have just adapted to an "unconventional" form of storytelling -- with a "conventionalization" [Nelson 30]: he lets the trip come to an abrupt stop in a room in the style of Louis XVI. The journey through endless-seeming worlds never seen before, with images beyond imagination and off any verbal description, suddenly ends in the confines of a room whose interior is clearly identifiable through an educated knowledge of history.
The Louis-seize room is chiefly regarded as the most mysterious and puzzling sequence of 2001. Its symbolic importance is often stressed but hardly ever analyzed beyond mentioning the mere word. To Nelson, it represents the "ephemeral nature" of Bowman's memory [Nelson 177]; Geduld analogously calls it "a prototype of past world history in alien territory." [Geduld 61f] Neither of them goes into detail on why Kubrick chose this interior. Nelson  and Geduld [61f] accept the explanation Clarke gives in the novel: the room is a set provided by Bowman's (extraterrestrial?) hosts. They have taken their inspiration from a TV film on earth; the signals of the broadcasting station were sucked in by the monolith on the moon and were sent to Jupiter along with the radio signal to prepare Bowman's welcome. [Clarke a) chapter 44; 210-217]
Clarke's explanation is fathomable but reduces the room to a mere theater-like decoration and ignores the historical and symbolical importance of the Louis-seize style. Louis XVI. was the last King of the Ancien régime (Fr. "old, archaic ruling system"), the absolutist form of rule of France, which found a bloody ending in the French Revolution. The end of absolutism was closely linked to the American War of Independence against England, in which France took part on the American side. The new ideas of human and civil rights that came back to France this way proved fatal to the French monarchy. Attempts at reform made by Louis' ministers could not gain acceptance with clergy and nobility. In 1793, at the height of the French Revolution, he was publicly guillotined after an attempt to flee. The Louis-seize Epoch was an era of deep-rooted change, in which archaic power structures, based on (absolutist) Gewalt, were broken up as violently.
With the Louis-seize interior Kubrick takes up the motif of "Evolution through Revolution" from part one and renders the room a microcosm in which the whole circle of themes (sleep/waking, food, language, bones, waterhole, and artifact) is recapitulated on a highly symbolized and condensed level: Bowman separates from the technology (space pod and suit) that has isolated him from direct experience and perception (tools). [see also: Nelson 183] As an elder gentleman he has dinner at the table (food). (After the "aromatic regression" throughout the film this eating from golden plates seems like fine irony; the interior of a decadent epoch, however, stresses the ongoing theme of decay.) Bowman no longer has to fight at a waterhole, the water is already in the (roughly bone-shaped) glass. When he breaks it, he also symbolically separates from his last 'bone.' [see also: Nelson 183] Dying Bowman emulates Moonwatcher's gesture when he sees the last monolith at the foot of his bed (artifact). The Starchild leaves the confines of the Louis-seize room and thus overcomes the archaic societal structures. His open eyes testify to his renewed wide-eyed wonder (waking).
It was especially the open, mystic/mysterious ending of 2001 that led to many diverging speculations. In some interpretations it is deduced from Bowman's transformation into the Starchild that "the Gods (or God-like aliens) have accepted Man into their circle." (24) In this context, the Zarathustra-motif from the opening credit and part one, which we are hearing again during Bowman's transformation and return to Earth, would comment the Starchild's "glorious" ascent into the "Olympus of the Solar System" -- after all, the heavenly bodies were named after classical Greek and Roman mythology.
Geduld describes the ending as a "corrupted passion ... in which crucifixion, resurrection, and virgin birth are simultaneously experienced by a single man." [Geduld 71] To her, Bowman turns into a "superior being" [Geduld 63], into a "superman -- Starchild -- thing" [Geduld 71] which gives birth to itself and controls the universe without the need of tools. She explains the contradiction between her interpretation and the appearance of the fetus -- "the last [sic!] thing we expect Bowman to turn into, an image not associated with a superman but with Mankind's own humble biology..." [Geduld 64] -- as part of Kubrick's method of playing with the audience's expectations. Kubrick does indeed play with our expectations, but in that he challenges us to open up to an unconventional, visually-associating form of perception. A fetus does not evoke associations with a superior being, let alone with divine perfection into whose circle it could be permitted. A fetus is a being at the beginning of its development; its abilities are yet unknown, its instincts untrained. The idea of Bowman's transformation into a 'superior being' testifies to the (Christian) linear approach on which it is based. It corresponds to the conventional, linear ways of thinking and acting of the characters that have disqualified themselves in the course of the film. A linear interpretation ignores the fact that Bowman's rapid aging, his death and rebirth as the Starchild -- the only logical next step -- describe the circle of life, through which the symbolic actions in the Louis-seize room are integrated into the cyclic overall structure of 2001 that has been foretold already with the first scenes in Earth orbit.
The distorted variation on Ligeti's Avventures, with which Bowman is welcomed in the room, sounds like whispering or like "alien laughter" [Geduld 61], respectively. It reminds us of the choir of voices that so far has foretold the appearance of the monolith. Is there some cosmic intelligence amused about the fact that, with those primitive tools, Mankind has found the way to this room at all? The fact that Bowman breaks the glass accidentally and not deliberately is another indication that Mankind is still imperfect. An acceptance into the 'circle of divinity' is out of the question.
In psychoanalytic symbolism, the room is commonly referred to as an image of one's self. (25) In this light, David Bowman's ultimate trip is a trip to himself (the final voyage, a memory trip [Nelson 172] at the point of death?). The "surrealist landscapes" are then images (lifetime memories? collective memories?) emanating from his brain that go back as far as Moonwatcher's dawn in Africa: Bowman emulates his ancestor's gesture when he becomes aware of the monolith at the foot of the bed. The Louis-seize room becomes a virtual location at which Bowman recognizes himself as a representative of the old, archaic structures of human "civilization" (established by Moonwatcher) and realizes his "rank" within the "cosmic scheme"a fetus whose "existence" has only just begun. [see also: Clarke b) 38] The Zarathustra-motif also returns to its "original" meaning. It describes the moment of Bowman's becoming aware and of his enlightenment -- the transformation into the brightcy shining StarChild. His return from Jupiter to Earth reminds of the return of enlightened Zarathustra (or, if you like, Buddha) from the mountain to Mankind's civilization.
The return of the "Zarathustra -- Odysseus -- Starchild" is introduced by a final magical alignment, which reverses the direction of the conjunction of the opening credit. Instead of and 'up-shot' Moon-Earth-Sun, we see a down/sideways-shot from the Moon over Earth to the StarChild, which takes on the cosmic perspective. [Nelson 184] The circle of themes closes a fourth time. This Odyssey is over; a new one is just beginning.
Synopsis / 2001:Un Film Sans Message?
What does the returning Bowman -- Starchild -- Zarathustra want to tell us when he is looking at us with his large, questioning eyes? Why does the journey into infinity end in Earth orbit? What is "the message" of 2001?
Eisenschitz (26) calls 2001 "a film without a message." On the contrary, the "message" of 2001 seems to be so complex that it is hard to see -- forgive my profane choice of words -- "the forest for the trees." To Feldmann (27), the Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and Barry Lyndon (1975) form "Kubrick's trilogy about Western civilization." A qualified evaluation of his theory would necessitate an in-depth analysis of Western society, which is not (and cannot be) the aim of this essay. However, certain traits of Western society are clearly discernible, for instance if we take a look at the circle of themes (food, bones, waterhole, language, sleeping/waking, and artifact), which shall briefly be illustrated here -- even if taken as mere "associations." The fact that Kubrick's portrayal of the "space and communication age" has lost nothing of its topicality after almost 30 years but -- on the contrary -- seems more up-to-date than ever, only adds to its prophetic quality.
First and simplest example is the theme of food or "ingestion," respectively, which is often drawn upon as "an indicator of the stage of a society's stage of civilization." [Nelson 129] For Pleistocene Man, hunting or collecting food was a persisting problem and a key task in everyday life. The following communal consumption was correspondingly appreciative. In modern Western society, however, food is affluent and manifold; eating has degenerated to ritualized meal-times (breakfast, lunch, dinner...) or consists in a snack 'in between' -- if it fits into the hectic work schedule. The only reason why we do not see the golden arches of McDonald's in Earth orbit is that the fast food chain became ubiquitous only after the release of 2001.
In the bone-motif one can recognize the growing mechanization of public and private life. Electronic cash, health-insurance chip cards and machine-readable id's are just a few examples. The personal computer has become an everyday household item next to dishwasher, microwave or television set. In the 1968 Playboy interview, Kubrick made a statement on these development: "There's no doubt that we're entering a mechanarchy." (28) Analogously, in one review of 2001 we can find the statement "2001 2001 can be taken as a satire of the society which makes technology its god." (29) Very revealing in this context is the description of space travel made by the space advocates (30) of NASA. Their rhetoric is closely linked to the terms Frontier and Manifest Destiny (31), which give space travel the aura of "a secular, humanistic religion." (32) In one NASA publication we can even find the statement: "Without sanctifying the results through comparison, Man's creation of spacecraft 'in his own image' follows the example set by God in the creation of Man." (33) -- a glorification of technology that even exceeds the "mechanarchy" of 2001.
The "waterhole" can be seen as a symbol of competition in market economy, in which getting ahead of -- or even eliminating! -- one's competitors is one key to success. Scientific research takes place under the same conditions of utmost concealment of information as the development of new prototypes of all sorts of products, ranging from cars over computer programs and systems to the next generation of laundry detergents. This fight for predominance on the market becomes visible (or public) in advertisement. Giesen (34) draws an interesting parallel between advertisement and Kubrick's endeavor to create "an experience ... that ... directly penetrates the subconscious" (6):
In this endeavor 2001 can be placed directly next to advertisement-an outsized commercial that in its own way did indeed advertise the futuristic goals and projects of a whole phalanx of companies and institutions: Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc.; Boeing Company; Chrysler Corp.; Douglas Aircraft Co.; Pan American Airlines etc. Accompanied by the sounds of the waltz (The Blue Danube), trade marks are perpetuated, which also signifies a perpetuation of the societal circumstances in which they originated.
Giesen only leaves out that Kubrick "perpetuates" these trade marks with a certain twinkle: They appear misplaced even for a viewer of the 1990s, and thus make us aware of advertisement as a method.
Kubrick's vision of the regression of language and of human bondings with simultaneously progressing telecommunication is very impressive. Factors like urgency, importance or costs seems like archaic remnants from the times of couriers on horseback and have lost their weight in the transmission of information. On the "data highways," the barriers of distance are crumbling rapidly (35): the internet allows worldwide information transfer within seconds. The new media allow a virtual walk through the 'global village' Earth, including cyberspace cafŽs & chat rooms with international audiences, for which we do not even have to leave our living room. The "brave new virtual world" seems to make contact with real people superfluous.
At the movies the boundaries between fact and fiction are dissolving, too. The crew of Apollo 11 already showed a very revealing reaction when approaching the lunar surface in 1969: they described it as "2001 type stuff" (!) -- fact measured by fiction? (36) The creation of Steven Spielberg's dinosaurs in Jurassic Park or of the twister in the film of the same title are only two examples from the 1990s. The danger of manipulation is evident: voices and images can be altered and rearranged to form "authentic material" at liberty.
But Kubrick is not singing a swan song for human society here. As Fritscher (37) points out,
We are evolved beyond industrialization (when we've still to adjust to it's problems) into technology, and this evolution even more than the one of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is to have implications to the human psyche and the human potential far more reaching than yet realized.
In this context the Louis-seize room receives another symbolical meaning. It does not only signify the end of the Ancien régime but also stands for a pre- or proto-industrial era. The second half of the 18th century saw the beginning of the transformation process from a largely agrarian society to an industrial one, which was to culminate in the 19th century in another revolutionary achievement: the Industrial Revolution had a major impact not only on the manufacturing industries but also on the socio-demographic conditions at that time. Mass poverty began to shrink, new class systems replaced traditional societal systems. (38) Kubrick implies that the psychological development of Mankind has not kept pace with technological progress and that mentally, we are still in a pre- or proto-industrial age. He is making us aware of the developments in order to prevent us from "falling asleep" like the characters in 2001 or to "wake us up" through his "prognosis" (the reversal of the relation of creator and machine), respectively. Bowman's "breakout" from the pre/protoindustrial Louis-seize room shows that this is possible.
The most mysterious element of the circle of themes is that of the artifact, represented by the monolith. It is only "defined" by its Gestalt (black color and rectangular shape) and by the music that accompanies its various appearances (Requiem by Gyšrgy Ligeti). On the simplest, descriptive level it is a black box, a cybernetic device of which only the in-going and out-coming signals are known. Clarke describes its shape [Clarke a) 70] as that of a black body, a physical appearance that absorbs (and emits) electromagnetic radiation to 100% and is regarded as only theoretically possible. As an "actualized black body" the monolith represents physical perfection. The ratio of its edges -- 1:4:9, the squares of the first three integers -- the three dimensions of space [Clarke a) 169] -- also shows geometric perfection.
Much more interesting than its "action functions" -- e.g. medium of communication [Clarke a) 171-176], intelligence-bestowing/enhancing device, "cosmic fire alarm" [Clarke b) 74, 108], or Star Gate [Clarke a) 193] -- are its symbolic functions. Geduld describes it-amongst other things-as a metaphysical image of "the ...impregnable logic of the universe and the mind" and, analogously, as "a Jungian symbol of consciousness (intelligence)." [Geduld 68] Thus, the monolith represents perfect and absolute knowledge, which transcends any trivializing attempt of verbal definition. From this theory, we may deduce one possible explanation for its recurring appearance and disappearance: perfect knowledge (as represented by the monolith) is always present but only "visible" and "seizable" if consciously sought. Those who do see it are at least given a faint idea of the Absolute if not an understanding. Bowman's transformation into the Starchild when seeing the monolith could be indicative of the idea that at the point of death one is shown perfect knowledge and becomes aware of the negligible weight of one's own knowledge. (39)
A religious interpretation is also possible. The monolith can stand for the Cross of Christianity (cf. the cross formation with the Jupiter moons) or for the Creator himself (cf. The Creation of Adam), or can remind of the Kaaba in Mecca, the holy black stone of the Islamic belief. Clarke names a Buddhist church that worships a black stone [Agel 290], and Kubrick compares the magical alignments in 2001 with "the strange sensation one has when the alignment of the Sun takes place at Stonehenge." [Agel 80]
With the ambiguous monolith, Kubrick presents us the mirror of our own ideology. Everyone can see in the black rectangular slab what they want. At the same time Kubrick demonstrates that all metaphysical and religious schools can be brought to one common (universal) denominator: the belief in a "higher power" that governs us.
Four birthdays are shown in 2001. Man himself emerges in the African veldt, Floyd congratulates his daughter via picture phone, Poole receives birthday greetings from his parents, Bowman is reborn as the Starchild. [see also: Agel 120] (We could add HAL's "birthday" -- the day he became operational: January 12th, 1992.) If we see these birthdays from a "linear" point of view, we either arrive at the conclusion that the evolution of Man has only just begun, or that the "real" birth of Man as the "Crown of Creation" -- of Nietzsche's Superman? -- is still lying ahead. To Nelson this is the "embryonic idea" of 2001 [Nelson 139], for as Kubrick pointed out in the Playboy interview:If Man really sat back and thought about his impending termination, and his terrifying insignificance and aloneness in the cosmos, he would surely go mad, or succumb to a numbing sense of futility. Why, he might ask himself, should he bother to write a great symphony, or strive to make a living, or even to love another, when he is no more than a momentary microbe on a dust mote whirling through the unimaginable immensity of space? (40)
This deterministic/fatalistic conclusion is, however, only true on the surface. Within the cosmic scheme our human cognitive world must appear small and insignificant, as well as a species' lower stage of evolution must be primitive compared to a higher stage-for: "What is the ape to Man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall Man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame." (41) Why should a higher (extraterrestrial/divine...) power be interested in the fortunes of Man? Kubrick responds with a counter question: "Why should Man be interested in microbes? " (42) The answer lies in the awareness that micro- and macrocosm are only relative conceptions. It bears both the understanding that Man's "grasp" of the world is limited and the challenge to explore those limits and fill them with meaning. Or, as Kubrick put it in the same interview: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 and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death -- however mutable Man may be able to make them -- our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light. [Agel 353]
The search for the meaning of life is as old as Mankind itself. Many of the statements Kubrick makes in 2001 can e.g., already be found in Thoreau's Walden (43) and Thoreau was strongly influenced by the Eastern philosophies like Hinduism and Buddhism. The 19th century American Transcendentalist put forth theses that very strongly remind us of the circle of themes of 2001:"Men have become the tools of their tools" (bones) [Thoreau 35];" "As if the main object in life were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly" (language) [Thoreau 48]; "Our manners have been corrupted by communication with the saints (artifact/religion) [Thoreau 69]; "We are sound asleep nearly HALf of our time. Yet we esteem ourselves wise and have established order on the surface." [...] "We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids but by an infinite expectation of the dawn..." (sleep/(a)wak(en)ing). [Thoreau 279 / 79]
Thoreau understood Man's "relevance" within the cosmic scheme ("This whole earth which we inhabit is just a point in space" [Thoreau 115]) and the relativity of micro- and macrocosm ("As I stand over the insect crawling amid the pine needles on the forest floor, ... I am reminded of the great Benefactor and Intelligence that stands over me the human insect" [Thoreau 279]). From this awareness he formulated the challenge to master life within the given boundaries: "Shall a man go forth and hang himself because he belongs to the race of the pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? ... However mean your life is, meet with it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise." [Thoreau 274]
Thoreau also called for self-exploration: "Is not our own interior white on the chart? ... [Be] a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. [Thoreau 270] Direct your eye right inward, and you'll find a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be expert in home-cosmography." [Thoreau 269] His challenge answers the remaining question of why Bowman's trip to infinity ("Jupiter, and Beyond the Infinite") ends in Earth orbit. It represents an individual voyage to himself, which leads him back to his roots. The "center of the universe" is in one's own head.
2001 as A Timeless Comment on the "Phantastic Voyage" of Life
With 2001:A Space Odyssey, Kubrick combined a mythological archetype (The Voyage) with the vision of a near-future in an expanse that Man is just about to "conquer." He explained his choice of the Odyssey-theme as follows:"About the best we've been able to come up with is a space Odyssey -- comparable in some ways to the Homeric Odyssey," said Mr. K. "It occurred to us that for the Greeks the vast stretches of the sea must have had the same sort of mystery and remoteness that space has for our generation, and that the far-flung islands Homer's wonderful characters visited were no less remote to them than the planets our spacemen will soon be landing on are to us. ..." [Agel 25]
Kubrick translates the classical Odyssey into the modern context of space travel and thus puts an ancient thesis on a literally universal scale: that life itself is an odyssey, which nevertheless always leads us back to our roots. The year 2001, as the beginning of a new millennium (no, I am not going to explain why it is 2001 and not 2000), marks the start of a new age, a new era. At the same time it suggests to an audience of the premiere-year 1968 -- witnesses of the beginnings of space travel -- that the scientific and technological developments depicted could become reality within their lifetime. Nevertheless we could imagine a translation of the story into the year 3001 or 4001 for Kubrick gives no temporal fixation during the film (Hal's birthday, January 12th 1992, is mentioned but there is no link to the time of action (like "9 years ago...").
Kubrick has set himself a high goal: "If 2001 has stirred your subconscious, your mythological yearnings, then it has succeeded." [Agel 60] In order to awaken those "mythological yearnings" he has created a visually ambiguous, mystical and mysterious piece of art that is independent of ephemeral societal streams and defies any attempts at an absolute, final (and thus de-mystifying) interpretation. At the same time he re-asks archetypal questions (Where do I come from? Where do I go? What is my place in the Universe?) that can only be answered on a personal level. As long as people ask themselves these questions, the spell of 2001 will be unbroken.
Here we find the explanation for the fascination of and with traveling. Every 'breakout' of one's usual environment, every search for new "impressions" is a search for oneself; every 'frontier experience' (intellectually, culturally etc.) shows us our own horizon, for only by comparing with others do we recognize our own identity. "The" Frontier, the highly idealized border line between 'civilization' and 'wilderness', which was crucial in the evolution of an American identity, is an American term. The underlying motif is as old as Mankind itself.
1. J. Cooper, Lexikon der traditionellen Symbole, Leipzig: E. A. Seeman / Drei Lilien Verlag, 1986, p. 150. The English translation.
2. "2001: Odyssee im Weltraum," TV Spielfilm [a German TV-Guide], December 15th to 21st 1990, p. 21. The English translation is my own.
3. C. Hellmann, Der Science Fiction Film, Munich: Heyne, 1983, p. 189. The English translation is my own.
4. L. Del Rey, "2001: A Space Odyssey," quoted in: C. Geduld, Filmguide to "2001: A Space Odyssey," Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973, p. 48.
5. cf. T. A. Nelson, Stanley Kubrick, Munich: Heyne, 1983, p. 189. This is the German publication of T. A. Nelson, Stanley Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982. Since I could not trace the original English version of this book, I had to make do with the German edition and to use my own translation, which is of course a back-translation from English. Further page references to Nelson (all back-translations from German) will be made through [Nelson ##].
6. This quotation was taken from a reproduction of the Playboy interview with Stanley Kubrick (1968) as printed in Jerome Agel, The Making of Kubrick's 2001, New York: New American Library 1970, p. 328. Further page references to Agel will be made through [Agel ##].
7. Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, London: Legend 1968. Further page references to the novel will be made through [Clarke a) ##].
8. Instead of the commonly used term "hotel room," I chose " Louis-seize room" with regard to the style of the interior and its symbolic importance, which will be illustrated later on in the analysis.
9. Clarke goes into detail on this "fire alarm theory" in The Lost Worlds of 2001, New York: New American Library 1972, p. 74, 108. Further page references to the Lost Worlds... will be made through [Clarke b) ##].
10. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), London: Penguin, 1985, p. 233.
11. cf. C. Geduld, Filmguide to "2001: A Space Odyssey." Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. Uterine symbolism is an ongoing theme in her approach to 2001. Further page references to her Filmguide... will be made through [Geduld ##].
12. Richard Strauss explained his approach to 'composing' the work of Nietzsche: "I meant to convey by means of music an idea of the development of the human race from its origin, through the various phases of its development, religious and scientific." Quote taken from the inlay book of the Polydor CD-Soundtrack.
13. Friedrich Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus spoke Zarathustra) (1885), Suhrkamp 1976.
14. The German word Gewalt is multidimensional. It can be translated as power, authority, force, or even violence. In this context, all four of them are relevant.
15. cf. E. A. Kennan & E. H. Harvey, Mission to the Moon - A critical Examination of NASA and the Space Program, New York: Morrow & Co. 1969. Kennan and Harvey give a very detailed (and, as stated in the title, critical) account of the Apollo missions.
16. Sir Francis Bacon, "For knowledge itself is power." In: Religious Meditations, "Of Heresies."
17. cf. [Nelson p. 342]. The model was still an impressive 16m long.
18. Classical Odysseus identified himself on returning home by "stringing the bow only he could wield" [Clarke b) 239]. In Lost Worlds...., Clarke describes the decision to let only Bowman survive: "October 15. Stan has decided to kill off all the crew of Discovery and leave Bowman only. Drastic, but it seems right. After all, Odysseus was the sole survivor..." [Clarke b) 38] See also: [Nelson p. 344].
19. My choice of the personal pronoun 'he' for HAL has two reasons: 1) HAL is addressed as 'he' throughout the film and 2) out of "linguistic and cognitive habit": in German, there is a phenomenon called "linguistic gender," which allows, e.g. a table, a TV set or a computer (like HAL) to be "male;" a lamp, a pear or handbag to be "female;" and a young girl to be "neuter" -- a fact which caused Mark Twain to make some personal jokes about the German language. In short, I am also calling HAL 'he' because I am "cognitively used to it." My interpretation of whether or not HAL is a "sentient being" -- no doubt an important question -- shall be illustrated later on.
20. Nelson goes into detail on the theory that HAL's "hubris" comes from "being hurt in his pride." [Nelson 173]
21. Clarke uses this term in the novel. There the monolith turns into the Star Gate just when Bowman tries to land on it. Before he "falls" through it, he can give Mission Control one final message: "The thing's hollow -- it goes on for ever -- and -- oh my God -- it's full of stars !" [Clarke a) 193]
22. This term was coined by MGM's PR department. According to Clarke it is the most fitting description of Bowman's "psychedelic passage" through the Star Gate. [Clarke b) 189]
23. Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.
24. C. Hellmann, Der Science fiction Film, Munich: Heyne, 1983, p. 183. The translation is my own.
25. J.J. Fritscher, "Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' - A Sleep and a Forgetting." Journal of Popular Culture, vol. II, No. 1, Summer 1968, p. 168-171. Fritscher calls the Louis-seize room "the sterile Mansion of His [Bowman's] Mind."
26. B. Eisenschitz, "La Marge," Cahiers du CinŽma, No. 229 (February 1969), p. 56-67; cited in [Geduld 83]. Eisenschitz calls 2001 "un film sans message" -- a film without a message.
27. H. Feldmann, "Kubrick and his Discontents," Film Quarterly (Fall 1976), p. 12-19, cited in [Nelson 337].
28. Playboy Interview April 1968 on 2001; cf. [Agel 351].
29. L. Sweeney, reprinted in [Agel 227] from the Christian Science Monitor.
30. M. Michaud, Reaching for the High Frontier - the American Pro-Space Movement 1972-84, New York: Praeger, 1986, p. 301.
31. For an American Studies seminar I once wrote a paper on "The Significance of the Frontier Image for the Apollo-Moon Landing Program during the Kennedy-Johnson-Era of New Frontiers 1961-1969," for which I have collected a lot of material published by NASA and various other sources that deal with this theme. Some of the most insightful titles were: American Astronautical Society (AAS)/E. Burgess (ed.), Science & Technology Series, vol. 8: Impact of Space Exploration on Society. Washington: AAS, 1966 // O. Binder, Victory in Space, New York: Walker & Co., 1962 // R. S. Lewis, The Voyages of Apollo: The Exploration of the Moon, New York: Quadrangle, 1974 // M. A. G. Michaud, Reaching for the High Frontier - the American Pro-Space Movement 1972-84, New York: Praeger, 1986 // NASA History Series/W. D. Compton, Where No Man has gone before - A History of the Lunar Exploration Missions, Washington, DC, 1989 // NASA Scientific and Technical Information Branch/O. W. Nicks, Far Travelers - The Exploring Machines, Washington, DC, 1985 // E.Sänger, Space Flight - Countdown for the Future, New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1965.
32. M. Michaud, Reaching for the High Frontier - the American Pro-Space Movement 1972-84, New York: Praeger, 1986, p. 300.
33. O. W. Nicks, Far Travelers - The Exploring Machines, Washington, DC, 1985, p. 245.
34. R. Giesen, Sagenhafte Welten. Der phantastische Film, Munich: Heyne, 1990, p. 321. The translation is my own.
35. I could not resist the temptation of using these words here; they are, of course, from the foreword of the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke [Clarke a) 8].
36. cf. For all Mankind (1989), a NASA documentary on the crucial missions of the Apollo Moon Landing Program 1969 through 1972. This comment highlights the "visual perfection" of 2001.
37. J. J. Fritscher, "Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - A Sleep and a Forgetting," Journal of Popular Culture, vol. II, No. 1, Summer 1968, p. 171.
38. LexiROM, (c) 1995, Microsoft Corporation und Bibliographisches Institut F. F. A. Brockhaus. The age of automation is often referred to as Second Industrial Revolution, and the technico-economic developmental phases achieved through miniaturization are then called the Third Industrial Revolution.
39. cf. Margaret Stackhouse's "Reflections," which Kubrick called "perhaps the most intelligent that I've read anywhere, ...including all the reviews and articles that have appeared on the film." See [Agel 201-205]
40. cf. the reprint of the Playboy interview in [Agel 328-354]; this quotation: [Agel 352].
41. Friedrich Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus spoke Zarathustra), 1885, translation taken from [Agel 157].
42. cf. the reprint of the Playboy interview in [Agel 328-354]; this quotation: [Agel 346].
43. Henry D. Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854), Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1973. Further page references will be made through: [Thoreau ##].
For the transcription of the film dialog I drew upon Piers Bizony's 2001: Filming the Future, 1994, London: Aurum Press.
cience & Technology Series, vol. 8: Impact of Space Exploration on Society. Washington: AAS, 1966 // O. Binder, Victory in Space, New York: Walker & Co., 1962 // R. S. Lewis, The Voyages of Apollo: The Exploration of the Moon, New York: Quadrangle, 1974 // M. A. G. Michaud, Reaching for the High Frontier - the American Pro-Space Movement 1972-84, New York: Praeger, 1986 // NASA History Series/W. D. Compton, Where No Man has gone before - A History of the Lunar Exploration Missions, Washington, DC, 1989 // NASA Scientific and Technical Information Branch/O. W. Nicks, Far Travelers - The Exploring Machines, Washington, DC, 1985 // E.SŠnger, Space Flight - Countdown for the Future, New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1965. 32. M. Michaud, Reaching for the High Frontier - the American Pro-Space Movement 1972-84, New York: Praeger, 1986, p. 300. 33. O. W. Nicks, Far Travelers - The Exploring Machines, Washington, DC, 1985, p. 245. 34. R. Giesen, Sagenhafte Welten. Der phantastische Film, Munich: Heyne, 1990, p. 321. The translation is my own. 35. I could not resist the temptation of using these words here; they are, of course, from the foreword of the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke [Clarke a) 8]. 36. cf. For all Mankind (1989), a NASA documentary on the crucial missions of the Apollo Moon Landing Program 1969 through 1972. This comment highlights the "visual perfection" of 2001. 37. J. J. Fritscher, "Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - A Sleep and a Forgetting," Journal of Popular Culture, vol. II, No. 1, Summer 1968, p. 171. 38. LexiROM, (c) 1995, Microsoft Corporation und Bibliographisches Institut F. F. A. Brockhaus. The age of automation is often referred to as Second Industrial Revolution, and the technico-economic developmental phases achieved through miniaturization are then called the Third Industrial Revolution. 39. cf. Margaret Stackhouse's "Reflections," which Kubrick called "perhaps the most intelligent that I've read anywhere, ...including all the reviews and articles that have appeared on the film." See [Agel 201-205] 40. cf. the reprint of the Playboy interview in [Agel 328-354]; this quotation: [Agel 352]. 41. Friedrich Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus spoke Zarathustra), 1885, translation taken from [Agel 157]. 42. cf. the reprint of the Playboy interview in [Agel 328-354]; this quotation: [Agel 346]. 43. Henry D. Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854), Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1973. Further page references will be made through: [Thoreau ##]. For the transcription of the film dialog I drew upon Piers Bizony's 2001: Filming the Future, 1994, London: Aurum Press. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- [Image]