2001: A Space Odyssey

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

USA, 1968

Cornerhouse, 30 November 2014

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s curious epic traverses vast swathes of human history, of time and space, touching along the way on all that human beings were, are or could conceivably be.

As a great ape on the plains of Africa , as a being (of flesh and blood, still) whose astonishing technological invention has taken it to the stars.

Refusing to follow a straightforward narrative line (did he ever?), Kubrick’s approach is fragmentary, elliptical, visionary.  He has one virtuoso sequence, occurring when the surviving astronaut seemingly goes back in time to an eighteenth century French palace.  Psychedelic doesn’t really do it justice.  But, really, the whole film is extraordinary – and even such a simple action as the way people walk in a spaceship when in deep space is presented in a wholly fresh way.

In each potent episodic strand, at its very climax, we come across an enigmatic object, a tall, black monolith.  A symbol without referent, the monolith could stand for original sin, an alien or divine intelligence, evolution/progress or the violence and aggression that we as a species can never quite lose.  Any or all of the above.

According to some esteemed critics, this is the greatest sci-fi film of all time.  My only quibble with this judgement is that I’d maybe drop the limiting ‘sci-fi’ label.