Thursday, 11 April 2013

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Lauded as one of the most classic and influential films of cinema history, 2001 has a lot to live up to even 45 years after its release.

"Epic" is a world that's recently been co-opted by idiots on the internet to mean anything that's slightly better than good, but 2001 is epic in all of the word's true meaning. In scope, the films span's the entirety of human existence from a primate's first use of a tool (or rather, a weapon) through 4 million years of evolution (to the eponymous year, 2001) and depending on how you interpret it, another unspecified amount of time into the future.

2001 provides an interesting take on human evolution and implies some great influence from extraterrestrial life in our development. From the opening scenes right up until the end, alien life is presented in a much different way to a bunch of little green men running around with blasters. An imposing black monolith is all you're shown, but deft film making and fantastic use of music gives it a sense that the great dark object is something truly alien. It's not just operating on a different level of consciousness but on a different level of reality altogether.

Music is a powerful force throughout the film. At the time, taking such a dialogue-light and music heavy approach to sound was pretty unorthodox, and still would be now I suppose. The entire film is very artsy, due in no small part to the many extended musical sequences. Seriously, there's a number of occasions where the only sound will have been music or silence for the past 10 or 15 minutes. The first bit of, honestly very vacant, dialogue comes 25 minutes after the title card.

Very philosophical and open-ended, the film is pretty esoteric and will either be something you love, hate or just don't get at all. Even now it's impossible to not be appreciative of the quality of the special effects, but how they're used can certainly take us down some trippy avenues in the later parts of the film. During the last act, there's a clear point where you'd be forgiven for thinking you've been spiked with a hallucinogen. The most accurate way I can describe the closing 20 minutes is what I imagine a bad acid trip is like.

Polarising but interesting, 2001 is undoubtedly a landmark film. It's importance to the current shape of the cinema landscape might actually eclipse the enjoyment that a contemporary audience gets out of it, but that's because we've moved on so much since the sixties. 2001: A Space Odyssey is something that anyone who calls themself a film enthusiast needs to see, but if you're not really involved in the medium, you're probably best off giving it a miss.

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