Someone on imgur has uploaded a whole lot of fantastic images depicting the filming of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are 100 of them, and boy, do they provide a lot of fascinating detail about one of the most ambitious movie sets ever constructed—especially in terms of the available technology. It’s great to see how much of this is analog—I mean we know it had to be analog, but the contrast with today’s CGI way is stark. I especially love the stills where you can see the grandeur of the massive stage sets, how they solved the problem of filming, for example, a set in which the inside of a massive wheel is a continuous flat surface in a zero-gravity space vessel.
I feel like I run into the opinion fairly often that 2001 is boring, dated. I couldn’t disagree more. My dad first took me to see 2001 in Vienna in 1982; I was 12. It really did blow my mind; I didn’t understand a thing. I watch 2001 every five years or so and I have never watched it and not been tremendously impressed and enthralled.
(Even so, I can admire the wit behind Mad Magazine’s snippet of dialogue in their satire 201 (Min. of) A Space Idiocy, poking fun at the movie’s ending: “What did you expect…!? You just crashed through the brand-new 105-story Jupiter Museum of Op Art!”)
These pictures appear to be a heterogenous collection from a variety of sources; it’s more a feat of collection and curation than anything else. The pictures are cleverly arranged in the approximate order of the movie’s unfolding, so it feels a little bit like watching the movie itself. Really, hats off.
Remember, there’s a lot more where this came from, so be sure and look at the rest.
Here’s the official trailer, which is quite a piece of work in its own right:
In 1964, Stanley Kubrick wrote to science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. He explained he was a “a great admirer” of his books, and that he “had always wanted to discuss with [him] the possibility of doing the proverbial really good science-fiction movie.”
Kubrick outlined his ideas:
My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:
The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.
The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.
A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.
The pair met, and a treatment was written, based around Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel” (later published as “The Sentinel of Eternity” in 1953), in which a strange, tetrahedral artifact is discovered on the Moon. The story’s narrator speculates that the object has been left as a “warning beacon” for some ancient alien intelligence to signal humanity’s evolutionary advance towards space travel.
At the same time Kubrick was making 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke was writing his own version as a novel.
Having viewed Kubrick’s film rushes, Clarke wrote an explicit interpretation of the film, explaining many of the themes left open-ended in the movie. In particular, how the central character, David Bowman ends his days in what is described as a kind of living museum or zoo, where he is observed by alien life forms.
Kubrick was never as explicit, and refused to be fully drawn over the film’s meaning, or its many differences from Clarke’s novel, usually stating that his intention had been to make a “really good science-fiction movie.”
In an interview with Playboy in 1968, Kubrick gave an answer on the meaning and purpose of human existence, which could almost be a description of 2001:
“The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
The documentary 2001: The Making of a Myth is introduced by James Cameron, who looks at the stories behind 2001: A Space Odyssey, examining why the film has endured and why it still generates such interest. With contributions form Arthur C. Clarke, Keir Dullea, Elvis Mitchell, and Douglas Trumbull.
These fabulous Lego models of spacecraft and scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact, were painstakingly made by Jason Allemann. The models include a 3,873-piece, 1:60 scale model of the Discovery One (above), and a 3,670-piece model of the Leonov vessel from 2010 (below).
Details of how to build the Leonov can found here, and a selection of photographs of Jason’s models can be found here.
Rob Ager is a Liverpool-based film theorist whose videos have been popping up on YouTube for the last few years. He tends to get lumped in with the usual conspiracy brigade, and while Ager’s work does approach material in the same analytical fashion his conclusions can be very different.
This close examination of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Oddessy theorises that Kubrick was working on this film with a “double narrative” structure. Thus, the imagery, set design and camera shots created a complex story all of their own that was separate, and sometimes in direct opposition to, the commonly accepted themes of the Arthur C. Clarke screenplay.
Ager’s work falls on just the right side of conspiracy-culture to be of interest to skeptics and conspiracist’s alike, and with this particular film analysis he is careful to avoid any “tin foil hat” readings of the text, which can be a major downfall of “critical” videos of this kind.
What Ager does posit is that Kubrick was working with a language of imagery that spoke directly to the subconscious and could be in contrast to the spoken words. This is more than a little believable when you take into account that Kubrick’s incredible talent and the huge amounts of time and effort that he spent on the various different aspects of his craft.
Kubrick’s Cover Story is in four parts, and comes in at just over an hour long. Not for everyone, perhaps, but definitely of interest to film students and the hardcore Stanley Kubrick fan (not to mention those who have a soft spot for a lilting Scouse accent):
Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes” synchronized with the final 23 minutes of 2001:A Space Odyssey is good for the mind and soul.
Over the years rumors had it that Pink Floyd created “Echoes” as an unofficial soundtrack for the last segment of 2001 ( “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite”). It’s a nice thought, but not true. That the song and film work so nicely together is just a happy accident.
While videos of the Floyd/Kubrick mashup have been around for awhile, this version is the best I’ve seen. Enjoy it in all of its widescreen glory.
An already lovely printed visual score by Rainer Wehinger for György Ligeti‘s early musique concret gem “Artikulation” made even lovelier via synchronization by kind Youtube user “d21d34c55”. Bonus clip below is Ligeti’s mighty choral piece Lux Aeterna used of course by Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey.