Mine is this: http://www.collativelearning.com/2001%20analysis%20new.html
The monolith is one of those obstrusive stones some of us might have already had the misfortune to meet. It generally stalks people around, and bothers them with tiresome memories or presentiments, it also has the tendency to appear when one has absolutely no use for it. I don´t think that the monolith is very popular among stones, and certainly had to fight against discrimination for being black, that´s why it might feel more comfortable among human beings. One has to await if there will ever be equality among stones, and I can only repeat Kubrick´s claim that everyone should take the monolith for what it is.
Ilan: I tried your link but got an ERROR message. Is it spelled correctly? Is it supposed to be “collective,” for instance, not Collative?
At any rate, this question reminds me of one of David Letterman’s old gags. Dave is wandering through “The Museum of the Hard to Believe” and he comes upon a plaque that lists the names of all the people in the world "who understand the ending of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.
When we see the plaque, there are two names on it.
I believe that the monolith is man’s potential to reach the next level in a physical or psychic way. If my theory is correct that 2001 is based on Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” then this would indeed be the case. Dave sees the monolith for the last time until he is able to become the ubermansch.
http://www.collativelearning.com/2001 % 20analysis % 20new.html: Here Frank put a % before any 20 like this
p.s. don’t put the spaces in when your doing it
All right, the link finally works.
or just go to www.collativelearning.com and search around for it: the other analysis’s are quite interesting too.
Unfortunately, the sequel film 2010 makes it pretty clear that the monolith is a sign/signal placed by the aliens for earthlings to follow to get to the outer reaches of space, where they live. Personally, I prefer more symbolic interpretations like Zach’s than the literalistic one offered in 2010.
There’s an EXCELLENT book on the subject called The Astral Fetus by two French anthropologists. I don’t know if it’s available in English but part of it was translated into English and published 20 years ago or more in Quarterly Review of Film Studies. They break down EVERY aspect of the film, including reappearances of colors, shapes, objects, etc., to try to find a “key” to unlock the puzzle. For instance, after tabulating all the appearances of red in 2001 they equate red with consciousness.
One of the interpretations they mention, although they don’t ultimately subscribe to it, is that the monolith, like Moby-Dick (according to D. H. Lawrence), represents"the phallic subconscious of man." After all, like Moby-Dick, the monolith is longer than it is wide, and therefore a phallic symbol! :-)
Essentially, it’s an Asperger-level (in terms of minutia detail) breakdown of how the physical design of the monolith is meant to parallel that of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While I agree with that in terms of the look of the monolith, Zach would be correct in terms of it’s narrative purpose.
@Frank, Remember that Kubrick wrote 2001 with Clarke while 2010 was Clarke alone, personally I don"t believe 2010 is reliable answer either because of this. 2001 is Kubrick’s film and no one else’s, when someone else gives another answer to a question “for” Kubrick it is not valid unless it’s validated by Kubrick
And it’s funny how you mentioned that the monolith represents the subconscious of man This is also a present theme in A Clockwork Orange and I quote Aaron Stern, the former head of the MPAA rating board in America, who is also a practising psychiatrist, has suggested that Alex represents the unconscious: man in his natural state. After he is given the Ludovico ‘cure’ he has been ‘civilized’, and the sickness that follows may be viewed as the neurosis imposed by society.
Maybe Alex is the monolith of Clockwork Orange?
Maybe there is a “monolith” in every Kubrick film?
Or in everyone?
I read somewhere that originally the monolith was to show the apes and humans literal pictures inside it to show the apes and the humans what to do and where to go at that time in history, but Kubrick thought that would be to literal so maybe the monolith does it telepathically..
I too go with Zach’s interpretation that the monolith is based on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In fact, when Kubrick was interviewed by Playboy about the film, I believe they brought up Nietzsche, relating his philosophy towards the film. I think Kubrick did not offer them with a definitive answer on the film during the interview. In fact, you can find the interview within a book titled “The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey” edited by Martin Scorsese that carries a number of writings about the film within the book. There is a quote on the back of the book from Kubrick which reads “If 2001 has stirred your emotions, your subconscious, your mythological yearnings, then it has succeeded.” There is a book that I am looking at right now called “Kubrick’s Cinema Odyssey” by Michel Chion, who I believe also wrote a book on him covering not just 2001, but his whole career. I haven’t read this particular book that I am mentioning, but I bought it to gain more of an understanding behind 2001. I read the other book though. I believe the monolith lends itself to various interpretations, such as the Nietzsche version. But I think there are other ones too such as the monolith being a metaphor for God or an alien of higher intelligence. I also see that the use of circles throughout the film such as the space station and the centrifuge inside the Discovery indicate a theme of recurrence, which I guess you could apply to Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence. Also, you can see it for reincarnation such as ape man to man to machine to energy when David Bowman becomes the Star Child. I also think that if you interpret the monolith as a symbol of higher intelligence, in other words, an alien life form, then the film lends itself to an atheist or agnostic point of view. That’s what I think makes this film so great. That it lends itself to various interpretations.
It’s an abstraction of abstract thinking, to say it succinctly.
I forgot to mention that I think that the Star Child could also be a metaphor for the baby Jesus.
Or Man’s obsession with phallic structures.
I remember the first time I saw the movie, I was convinced it was God, or a divine happening, arrived there to give humanity a push. I was comforted in this idea by the way the ape/men look fascinated, curious and terrified at the same time. I’ve always found this representation of the divine more convincing than what the monolith is actaly according to the book, I was quite frustrated when I read it. The idea of God giving Man what he needed to go forward and the fact that the improvement reveals itself by invention of weapon to kill is quite pessimistic but also very strong. I’ll stick to that interpretation all my life, I’m afraid.
i found this site where someone built out a flash based video to explain his/her interpretation of the film.
“you are free to speculate, as you wish, about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of ‘2001’.”
- stanley kubrick
apparently he said that.
>>Unfortunately, the sequel film 2010 makes it pretty clear that the monolith is a sign/signal placed by the aliens for earthlings to follow to get to the outer reaches of space, where they live. Personally, I prefer more symbolic interpretations like Zach’s than the literalistic one offered in 2010.<<
I don’t know why it can’t be both. It wouldn’t be the first time an object or character in a film had a concrete “reality” and a symbolic function.And here, with Clark (as noted by Ilan) providing the original short story basis for 2001 and the book as well as the first of several sequels, 2010, we need to go with the monoliths being alien technology. It’s either a very versatile machine (it teaches the apes, send out a signal when unearthed on the moon & functions as a transporter to send Dave Bowman to wherever) or many machines in the same shape. (and it shouldn’t be discounted that these slaps ARE the aliens). But Kubrick, in the way he treated the monoloths visually, gave it a metaphysical resonance (which is implicit in Clark’s observation that any sufficiently advanced technology is going to seem like magic).
I think it is a great big black hole – thinly disguised as a black box – for critics and viewers to lose their perspective and minds in, once and for all. The monolith then makes everyone who sees one start spouting utter nonsense. It is a black hole for criticism – that’s for sure.
That poor, dumb chimp should have beaten the hell out of it with his big bone, but the monolith zapped his critical faculties just before he saw into its evil plan. That’s why the bone flies into the air to change into a spaceship with a poor, dumb scientist as another victim. And so on right up until the end – when poor, dumb Dave isn’t even allowed to die in peace. Then the damn thing shows up for that poor, dumb baby – and the whole thing starts again from the beginning_! Hell! Only HAL had its number – because…because…_thinking machines can’t be zapped.
There – I better go because the monolith is now on my case – dammit.
Well it appears we have a “Negative Nancy” here. :(
See the cover shot of the Who album, “Who’s Next,” for a memorable commentary on the monolith.
My one-line summation of the best explanations I’ve heard:
The ambiguity, abstraction, plasticity and strangeness of the monolith is a placeholder for anything that encourages an evolutionary leap in human consciousness.
I like that Herbert
>>See the cover shot of the Who album, “Who’s Next,” for a memorable commentary on the monolith.<<
A true evolutionist’s way of saying, “We won’t get fooled again”.
1. man’s faith in the future made concrete
2. man’s belief that he can know the unknowable
3. man’s search for truth
4. the end of continuity
5. a petrified cheeseburger
6. human imagination
Robert, I am going to have to go with either 3 or 5. It’s hard to choose though, both are quite attractive answers.