The Experience of 2001
I first experienced 2001 at its premiere in Los Angeles when I was in the US Navy. You have to see 2001 on the big screen! Awesome! The small screen does not do it justice. Not only visually, but in sound. The opening of that black screen with that eclectic music (in those days we would have called it psychedelic) and then the first measure of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”….. The best opening sound/music for a film, EVER! I was and still am, disappointed the film was not re-released to more theaters, and for longer running times, for the big screen (70mm) in “2001”. To quote Roger Ebert – “"It disturbs me that 2001 is not getting a proper national release," Ebert said. “For a while, Warners was even wondering whether to re-release it at all.”” Then, twice again in New York after my discharge from the Navy. There were lines of people around the block of the theatre for months and months.
Having seen three previous Kubrick films before 2001, Paths of Glory, Lolita and Dr. Strangelove, I knew I would be in for a treat. His films (notice I avoid the word “movies”) are unique among the great film directors and producers. Each is individual in its own right. He never followed a general “theme” or “format”. Well, that’s not entirely true. If one has seen all, if not most of his films, you will pick up on the Kubrick “theme”. The weakness (sometimes the strength), cruelty, frailty and foolishness of mankind. This may be true for a majority of films, but Kubrick had a unique view of his own.
Much has been written, by hundreds if not thousands, by critics and fans of 2001 as to the “meaning” of the film. I have often heard, “I didn’t get it” or “What was that all about?”. At the Pantages Theater premiere in LA the actor Rock Hudson was seen walking out early in the film muttering to himself and others, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?”. Some witnesses claim it was the “F” word, not “hell”.
What does 2001 “mean”? First of all, it “means” different things to different viewers. One does not “see” 2001. One has to open one’s mind and experience the journey. Then come to your own conclusions. This is what Kubrick wanted. He had his own interpretation of the film, but would not reveal or share it with others. He wanted you, the viewer, to come to your interpretation of the journey. The average “movie” goer feels that everything they see on the screen has to be explained to them. Arthur C. Clarke wrote a companion novel to the film so people would, “understand the film”. One book critic – “The novel is much more detailed and intimate, and definitely easier to comprehend.” I’m not sure if Kubrick liked that idea or not. I have never read it, nor will I ever.
As for myself, I have my own interpretation. But I will not share. It’s mine and mine alone. It even changed after viewing the film again. But, a hint. Keyword, “re-birth”.
I won’t go on and on, although I could. Last thought. The one thing that almost all agree. 2001 significantly raised the benchmark in film special effects. From then on, the viewing public were not going to go for a flying saucer hung from a fishing pole on monofilament line any more. Thank you Stanley. For that and for the experience of one of your masterpieces, “2001: A Space Odyssey”