If ever a creation of cinematic endeavour were made for HD technology, then ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is it!
Currently showing as part of the BFI’s gargantuan ‘Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder’ Season, it is arguably the knockout centrepiece, within a roomful of genre heavyweights!
Whilst I had heard much of the Stanley Kubrick/ Arthur C. Clarke classic, I only became acquainted with the sci-fi archetype, in all of its visual re-mastered splendour, in November, at a BFI preview screening. You may, indeed, gasp… but I rather saved mine for the believable surreality, expressed by lavish scenes of space and a glorious classical score! In fact, sat in a pod-like room (in shape, rather proportions!), with a screen, which became my ‘visor’ into every impeccable image, for me, neither the timing, nor the location could have been more perfect…
I read, well, excitedly surfed, the synopsis…Words levitated at me… I summised that a monolith visits Earth, mystifies apes, re-appears in 2001, signals Jupiter and astronauts David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) are sent on a mission to investigate…under the watchful gaze of on-ship computer, HAL!
…And so it began…
From the crescendo of discordant sound against nothingness and visceral vividness of ‘The Dawn of Man’, to the comparative implication of sophistication and elegance of modern man and machine, borne out of the divine works of Strauss, I was hooked!
An overture of sheer fine art was sustained through an uncompromisingly focused vision.
Each frame a multi-platform symmetry of the highest quality and incredible detail…with the genius woven through the process of creatively honouring them.
For example, some of the most impeccable avant-garde apparel, by Sir Hardy Amies, graced the eye, with an aesthetic of lines so clean and sharp, cut so, entirely, be-yond minimal, that I could barely breathe! Out-of-this-world ovoid millinery and super-inventive, zero-gravity gripper shoes only underlined selecting the haute-couture designer! Furthermore, the use of such household names as ‘Pan Am’, as the method to reach the Space Station and staying at the ‘Hilton Hotel’, once there, in addition to such highly innovative technology, as video immigration and phonecard screencalls, were smart , yet utterly convincing.
There really is nothing new under the sun, as over 40 years later, we’re calling them ‘fashion-forward’, ‘product placement’, ‘check-in’ and ‘Skype’! That said, I have yet to see a 360-degree, rotating elevator, but boy, am I glad that Kubrick not only had it in mind, but beautifully played it out, on-screen… There simply is nothing quite like the lasting image of an intergalactic air-stewardess, completely upside-down, en route to serving technicolour food, to passengers, whose falling arms (when dozing), weightlessly float with balletic grace!
Very much like a dancer extending a fingertip, to interpret a sonic phrase, so the musical movements supported and completed the visual motion. Sometimes dense, with legato strings and minor chord progressions, sometimes tense, with only breathing patterns, like vocal heartbeats, being heard, Kubrick was unafraid to strip back aural interplay, in order to facilitate mood. Of particular note, with the introduction of the monolith, was the motif of acapella chorale, suggesting reverence, yet increasing mystery, as to its significance. However, it is in the extended silences, that Kubrick played his most powerful hand. The everness of Eternity is succinctly captured, by allowing the vastness of Space to be embraced by the literal sound of silence. We see action. We hear no correlation to it. The quietude is deafening. The effect? Incremental hypersensitivity. Emotions are, thus, heightened. A directorial masterstroke…
…As is Kubrick’s casting!
In Keir Dullea (David Bowman), we are arrested by the palest of eyes…nigh-on transparent, save for the most delicate inflection of ice-blue. His voice sparse in modulation..His demeanour still, considered, controlled, to the point of highly-strung. Gary Lockwood (Frank Poole), is the ultimate foil to Dullea, portraying a chilled-out, space-traveller, with an air of the boy-next-door, who ‘lucked-out on landing a pretty cool gig’! Both at complementary ends of shared intensity…Both absolute, in their supreme acting ability to manifest the dynamics of emotion in between.
Then there’s ‘HAL’. ‘HAL 9000‘, to be exact! The conscious entity, which, due to its stratospherically high level of A.I, causes the indefinite, to become definite. Pre-mission interviews in which HAL expresses ‘worry’, only served to elevate ‘relatability’ and exacerbate the fine line between human and high science. Once again, the film deftly explores the narrative, with edge-of-the-seat suspense, which brings us to a most stunning dramatic climax, the like of which only first-person, big-screen viewing can do justice!
Thanks to this jaw-droppingly epic film, made in the 60’s, posing questions as to the life-cycle of Man, proposing fully-developed, intergalactic living and investigative missions to Jupiter, in a time when research is well underway for ‘treks’ to Mars in the very near future, the way in which I look at sci-fi will never be the same…no matter what the world of cinema produces!
To quote Keir Dullea, from a recent group interview at which I was priveleged to be present… ‘It blew me away… Nothing quite readies you..’
..My sci-fi sentiments, exactly!
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Heartfelt Afrow-thanks to…
The entire Creative Force behind ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.