A Race Waiting to Be Born


‘In an infinite and eternal universe, the point is, anything is possible’

– Stanley Kubrick

‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is one of those films that leaves me wondering if there’s any point.  To watching, I mean.  Well, to watching other films, really; because ‘2001’ is such a rich cinematic and theological experience you can’t imagine anything else coming close to its visual richness, aural shock, and emotional heft.

I spent this afternoon watching the Blu-Ray (the best advertisment for Hi-Def I’ve yet seen) with the sound LOUD; and found myself enveloped by a familiar experience that managed also to feel strange, as if I’d never actually seen it before.

Apes.  Monolith.  Bones.  Violence as a way of life.  Exploration.  Mutual suspicion among human beings.  Love between family members and friends.  Monolith.  Noise.  More exploration.  Bad computer.  Violence as a way of life.  Very bad computer.  Shut down.  More exploration.  Invitation.  Journey.  Shattered Glass.  Re-birth.  Everything.

When David Bowman (I think we can assume his name is supposed to evoke both primal humanity and the repentant warrior known in the Bible as ‘friend of God’)  allows himself to be transported into his race’s future, he is dying in much the same way as a caterpillar dies.  It’s inevitable.  It’s inevitable.  It’s inevitable.  He knows it.  But some Thing tells him it’s going to be ok.  Now, I’m the first to admit that applying the work ‘ok’ to the re-birth of the human race that climaxes ‘2001’ is, at the very least, an understatement (of the kind that Professor Floyd is faced with early in the movie when one of his colleagues expresses the hope that his speech – about the threatened imminent destruction of the human race – could have been a ‘morale booster’).  But I’m so overwhelmed by the experience of seeing the film again that it seems impossible to know what the right word would be.  Evolution?  Revolution?  Redemption?

These words are too small; or their meaning has been lost through over-use.  Same with the kind of superlatives that we like to use to describe movies we like a lot (‘the greatest’).  But my purpose in writing is not to encourage you to agree with me; or to be impressed with the fact that I can come up with nice words (or disappointed in my failure to do so).  I want you to watch the film  Or maybe I want to feel that my love for it is somehow connected to it; as if such a thing were possible, given that I wasn’t even born when it was made.  I’m running out of ways to say what I want to.  So I’ll stop.  Instead of wasting your time with a defense of what I feel, let me risk just reducing it to one statement:

I think that, in dealing with the most profound questions of our existence, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is the most optimistic film ever made.

You are, of course, free to make what you want of that statement.  But I’m so excited by what I’ve just seen, for the tenth or twentieth time, that I really had to tell someone.  Hope you have a great weekend.


3 responses to “A Race Waiting to Be Born

  1. Thanks man! Loved what you had to say. I did think it was interesting that you acknowledged the overuse of such superlatives as ‘the greatest’, only to tout your own as “‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ being the most optimistic film ever made.”

    Love it! 🙂


    • garethihiggins

      Aha Joel – my attempt included the words ‘I think’, to offset some of the arrogance of assumption of which critics are often guilty clearly did not achieve the desired effect. I still have a long way to go to learn how to talk passionately about movies without shutting down discussion about what is good (and why). Good to see you on here.

  2. Hey

    I totally am beginning to get what the movie is talking about here in 2010 at 25.

    I think that the excitement the superlatives express don’t really capture the movie’s essence and hinder the viewing. Also the movie is special because it leaves scenes open to imagination. Stanley Kubrick is a great communicator of the force that externally inspires this movies and he floats it along, very shapely.

    I hope that in my life I will go back to this movie and understand ruminative questions with a microeveloutioned world view!

    Anyway peace and love to everyone who enjoys this film in their life!