2001​at 50 (Back to the Future)

Fifty years have passed since the first public exhibition of Stanley Kubrick’s bizarre experimental movie masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (April 2, 1968). Sold as a Cinerama spectacle with both dreamy glimpses of mankind’s prehistoric past and visionary forewarnings about our technological future, Kubrick’s film was first billed as “An Epic Drama of Adventure and Exploration.” But the film was much more than an adventure story. Kubrick and co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke collaborated on what would become the most highly revered icon of ‘first contact’ space travel films ― one that would inspire future generations of artists, filmmakers, engineers, astronauts and scientists to reflect upon and explore the universe.

Clarke wanted a story with Cosmic scope in the tradition of Olaf Stapledon (Starmaker, Last and First Men) and his own Childhood’s End. Kubrick wanted to realistically depict the exquisite grandeur of future spaceflight using state-of-the-art special effects rendered onto the widescreen Super Panavision, just as the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States was heating up, effectively capturing the zeitgeist of the time. Using a few of Clarke’s short stories as conceptual starting points (Encounter in the Dawn andSentinel of Eternity),Kubrick and Clarkecobbled together a plausible tale of human evolution, space travel, artificial intelligence, and first human contact with a highly advanced extraterrestrial civilization. The original scripted ending of Kubrick’s previous film, the dark comedy Dr. Strangelove, notably depicted ETs witnessing from afar the self-destruction of humanity in the last flash of full-scale nuclear war, an ending that was not actually filmed.

With 2001, Kubrick offered a more optimistic sequel-of-sorts to Strangelove. Since then 2001has gathered a cult following almost without parallel among the handful of classic films annually projected on big screens in the Los Angeles area. How do we account for both the popular and critical success of 2001so long after its initial release n April of 1968? Much has been written aboutthe film’s prophetic technological vision and scientific verisimilitude. It certainly made an impression on some of humanity’s first space explorers. Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, the first man to ‘walk in space’ (Vostok 2, 1965) remarked after seeing 2001for the first time: “Now I’ve been in space twice”.(Leonov would return a ‘third’ time in 1975 during the first international space mission, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.) The Apollo 13 command module was named “Odyssey”,not simply as a nod to Homer’s epic poem, but to honor Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. Commander James Lovell played the theme from 2001(the overture to Richard Strauss’s tone poem Thus Spoke Zarathustra) on a weightless portable tape player floating in Odyssey while Apollo 13 was en routeto the moon. The film’s musical selections, borrowed from R. Strauss, Johann Strauss Jr., Aram Khachaturian, and György Ligeti, are now inseparably associated with 2001. Less than a year later, in early 1971, Apollo 14 Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, after taking in his first expansive view of the moon from lunar orbit, mused: “It’s 2001kind of stuff…” (Here,an astronaut actually hurtling through space in lunar orbit, felt compelled to compare his visual experience to that of watching Kubrick’s movie…!) Many years later, Space Shuttle Astronaut F. Story Musgrave would reminisce: “Clearly 2001was, and remains, the definition of the genre.”

Full article in PLASMA 4 (print edition)

PLASMA magazine 4
PLASMA magazine 4

Kubrick’s 2001 Exhibition Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (GB/US 1968) is a milestone in film history. Shot before man first went to the moon, this film delivered fascinating, realistic images of space using sophisticated trick technology. Many motifs have subsequently become iconographical for the science fiction genre, such as Space Station V orbiting the Earth to the sounds of The Blue Danube Waltz. The film, which had its world premiere on 2 April 1968, has influenced generations of directors. Today, 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered an all-encompassing audio-visual experience and a film which has revolutionised the genre. To mark the 50th anniversary of the film’s debut, the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt am Main is dedicating a worldwide outstanding exhibition to Kubrick’s cult film, with numerous original exhibits from international collections and from the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts London. Kubrick’s 2001. 50 years A Space Odysseyinvites visitors to immerse themselves in the genesis of the film from 21 March to 23 September 2018. The exhibition features original designs, models, costumes, props, shooting schedules, production materials and photos from Kubrick’s archive. It answers the question of how Kubrick’s vision of the future was developed and to what extent this was achieved. In a separate section of the exhibition, visitors can view works from different art genres which have been inspired by Kubrick’s masterpiece. The exhibition places the film in its production context and looks back on its reception history: 2001 has left its mark on more than 200 films, in music videos and advertising, in design, painting, architecture and poetry. Deutsches Filminstitut Deutsches Filmmuseum Schaumainkai 41 60596 Frankfurt am Main.

An exhibition in collaboration with Christiane Kubrick, Jan Harlan—the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts London—and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Many thanks to Deutsches Filmmuseum for providing the pictures of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

article author Matthew P. Ventimiglia



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