Wednesday, March 22, 2017
An ancient experiment
The other day I discovered the secret meaning (or maybe a secret meaning) of "2001 A Space Odyssey", probably the most perplexing and strangest of all modern (?) films, not sure about modern, it's nearly fifty years old. But now I have the knowledge, now I am initiated, I am one of the chosen, a Star Child grown up and able to understand the vast mystery of it all, I can see what it was (is) all about. As ever it's all about the meaning of the Sentinel (the symbol of evolution), the large black object that appears at key moments in the film (and at other moments largely unseen but suggested, there in the distance). The great Internet gods sent some of their wayward sons to me via YouTube and they shared their holy wisdom. It may have been infected by a passing virus, you can never tell. Should I share it with you? Probably not, well not it all, it's not that I'm awkward, it's just that somethings are best left to your own interpretation or even imagination if you're lucky enough to have practiced the art.
As you might imagine the key to the movie (and it was a movie first, never really a book, the book was written in parallel with the movie's making but Arthur C Clarke was handed a different brief by Kubrick than that to which he scripted the film, so they don't actually match) is the monolith or as it's come to be known, the Sentinel. For years I thought that the Sentinel was no more that a metaphorical punctuation mark, a reference point in man's evolution and development. A bold, black marker showing the way etc. Well I suppose it still is but really it's not all that Kubrick intended to say. So there's a lot going on in this film and there area loads of deliberate mistakes in continuity and lighting and there are numerous references to his various films and (strangely) footage from his previous films appears here and there. So what is the Sentinel and what does it really mean apart from punctuation? It's a cinema screen, it's a 1970s CinemaScope screen to be precise, the same size as the screen the movie was shot to fit. It hides and appears and turns through 180 degrees on and off throughout the film. But what movie is it really showing? So 2001 is all about...no, not some cinematic propaganda for NASA or the partial explanation of an ancient experiment that is still running, surely not.
P.S. Just as I was calming down on the whole 2001 thing, supping coffee, walking away whistling and watching the weather etc. I opened up today's Dangerous Minds and found a whole piece on a Marvel Jack Kirby strip from 1971 that I'd never seen before (by '71 I had sadly passed by mainstream comic art) and apart from possibly missing the point it takes everything out into a completely new direction (there are not enough pages here to make it at all comprehensible but just the amount of apparent dialogue set in each page and the very fact that it's converted to comic strip's peculiar visual language tells you that it's a long way away from Kubrick's concept and vision where you're really supposed to either make your own mind up or just remain stunned as you walk away from the theatre and resume your shattered life) . It's a whole separate strand but there's no doubt that Jack Kirby could knock it out of the park any time he liked, fabulous artwork, of course the exact same could be said for Stanley Kubrick.