2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)

It is the 50th Anniversary of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and like any great film, every time I watch it I glean something new from it. I’ve watched it countless times at home, but thanks to the American Cinematheque here in Los Angeles, I’ve been able to see the film several times in 70mm on the big screen. The last time I saw the film on the big screen was at a packed Aero Theater. What stood out for me were the silences that permeated the film, reinforcing the fact that silence is in fact sound design. In more recent filmmaking, there is a tendency to fill every moment with sound. Absolute quiet, devoid of any sound, can be a rather unsettling technique. When I saw the film more recently on TCM, the thing that jumped out at me was the psychopathic nature of HAL. I know, it seems obvious, but as I watched this time I concentrated only on HAL and the uncanny precision with which Douglas Rain portrayed him. HALs dialogue is at times sweet, caring, cordial, and intelligent. But it devolves into madness and ultimately into panic and survival as he pleads for his artificial intelligence life. In a psychopathic dance, the tone and rhythm rarely varies. We know that if Bowman lets him off the hook, HAL will destroy everything.

Finally, at the time, many critics and viewers felt the film was “vague” and “thin”. Kubrick’s genius was in giving us enough, but not too much, allowing for a personal interpretation of the work. If you haven’t seen it in a while, check it out.

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