Written by Abbie Bernstein
Tuesday, 12 June 2001
|2001: A Space Odyssey
|Warner Home Video/MGM
||Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood
It’s no accident that the only time I felt I understood director
Stanley Kubrick’s ground-breaking, monumental ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’
was the fourth time I saw it, seated dead center in the front row of
the enormous Cinerama Dome theatre. While ‘2001’ is open to any number
of interpretations, one of Kubrick’s primary goals appears to be
overwhelming the audience with the sheer size and depth of his images.
There’s nothing quite like seeing that black monolith towering at
skyscraper height directly in front of you. Unless your personal
viewing facilities happens to include a screen big enough for use in a
1,500-seat venue, this aspect of the movie doesn’t really translate. If
there was ever a film designed exclusively for viewing in theatres,
‘2001’ is it.
Bearing this in mind, the DVD release of ‘2001’ is fairly effective.
The original overture has been preserved here, something wise to keep
in mind (as opposed to wondering why the screen is black for nearly
three minutes before the film proper starts). The sound is excellent,
with the Chapter 2 blast of "Thus Sprach Zarathustra" throughout the
Dawn of Man sequence capable of blowing even well-prepared viewers
across the room. Color contrasts are rich and vibrant, though the
transfer contains the occasional annoying white splotch. The DVD also
features a 1968 press conference with writer Arthur C. Clarke, who
penned the original novel and collaborated on the screenplay with
director Kubrick. The session is a bit dry but should intrigue anyone
interested in hearing (and seeing) Clarke speak for himself on the
Kubrick and Clarke broke a great deal of new ground with ‘2001.’
However, 31 years later, not all of their achievement holds up. Many
filmmakers have borrowed Kubrick’s ironic contrast of beautiful
classical music with antiseptic, impersonal visuals of metal and
fiberglass environments, but most of them don’t dwell on the
juxtaposition at quite this length, with good reason. Although the
homicidal computer HAL 9000 stands the test of time as a wonderfully
sympathetic, neurotic villain, the human characters don’t fare so well.
The astronauts in HAL’s care, venturing into deep space to ascertain
the origins of mysterious artifacts, are so bland for so long that we
may start to wonder if we’re meant to think it doesn’t matter whether
they find any answers or not. What’s the point of determining the
origins or meaning of life if it’s all interchangeable? The lengthy,
frequent discussions of the mission’s purpose -- originally powerful
because of the novelty of their physical appearance -- now play like
extended versions of briefing scenes from ‘The X-Files,’ minus even the
thrill of paranoia.
Still, the escalating conflict between HAL and Keir Dullea’s astronaut
Dave remains truly tense and HAL’s demise in Chapter 26 is startlingly
sad. The film’s enigmatic climax still has the power to excite the
imagination and provoke vivid debate.
Ultimately, ‘2001’ resembles the monolith at its core. In some
respects, it is frustratingly flat, yet it looms inarguably over the
science-fiction films that have followed it as surely as the great
black slab shadows the prehistoric plain in the film. Whether one ends
up loving it, hating it or feeling indifferent, ‘2001’ remains
compulsory viewing for anyone who wants to understand the contemporary
genres of space exploration and human origins/destiny. However, for
better comprehension, see ‘2001’ on as large a screen as possible.
|English Dolby Surround 5.1; French Mono
|Original Widescreen Aspect Ratio (exact ratio not given)
Conference With Arthur C. Clarke; Two Theatrical Trailers; English
Closed-Captioning; French Subtitles; Spanish Subtitles; Chapter Search
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