Re: Belated Re: CULTURE/SPACE: Tom Hanks on "2001"

Date: Tue Feb 20 2001 - 23:52:06 MST

I enjoyed the extended post and links from Jim Fehlinger about 2001.
I've seen the movie countless times over the years but this gave me some
new perspectives on it.

I don't agree that the cut from bone to satellite was meant to show them
as not just tools, but as weapons. Although in the book there was mention
of orbiting weapons platforms, these really aren't depicted in the movie.
Going by what we see on the screen, we can't make that connection.

The real point of the bone-to-spaceship cut isn't just that both are
tools; it is that the road from one to the other was mapped into our
minds and genes by the intervention of the monolith. The spaceship is
as far as we can go along the technological path that we were placed on
by its intervention. Now it is necessary to intervene again, to take
us up the next quantum step. So the cut is a flash from one end to the
other of the path.

I appreciated the commentary emphasizing Kubrick's sense of irony, which
I hadn't really thought much about. The conversation in the lunar bus en
route to the monolith is especially forced. I think the real explanation
is that these people are terrified inside but don't want anyone to know.
They are covering it up with their hearty conversations about ham and
chicken, then lining up for pictures like tourists.

The comment that Floyd's speech had really given a boost to morale has
always bothered me. Floyd's speech can hardly have had that effect. His
speech was in reality quite chilling. Here is a quote I found from an
online screenplay:

                             Dr. Floyd, how long do you think
                             this can be kept under wraps?

                             I'm afraid it can and it will be
                             kept under wraps as long as it
                             is deemed to be necessary by
                             the Council. And of course you
                             know that the Council has requested
                             that formal security oaths are to
                             be obtained in writing from every-
                             one who had any knowledge of this
                             event. There must be adequate
                             time for a full study to be made
                             of the situation before any con-
                             sideration can be given to
                             making a public announcement.

Floyd is not only stonewalling, he is in effect threatening them by
requiring security oaths. As I recall the scene, I had the impression
that the guy who asked the question was going to tagged as a trouble-
maker and he'd be in for some hard questioning later. Floyd's pleasant
chuckle is masking an iron-hard control being enforced by the government.
His friendly face is a lie, and everyone in that room must have been
chilled and frightened by his implicit threats. (And the undercurrent
of fear in the lunar shuttle may have been in part fear of Floyd and
those he represents.)

Despite the suggestion that Kubrick is being ironic in his long, loving
shots of the space ships, I think he did mean them to be appreciated
in a positive way. The use of the Blue Danube waltz, the ballet of
ship and space station and lunar colony, everything in slow motion and
choreographed with the music, is one of the most beautiful scenes of
its type. I think this art is meant to be enjoyed for its own sake,
and there's no reason to think he is trying to undercut it with an
ironic message.

One final comment. I can't agree with the characterization of Hal as a
"chatty, fussy genius" or that he is more human than the human characters.
Hal is consistently calm and unemotional, very limited in his degree
of expressiveness. It is true that the human astronauts are not much
different, but my take on this is that Kubrick is showing that the
astronauts have become like computers. They, in effect, have copied Hal,
or Hal's designers have copied them. Convergent evolution.

The commentators missed what has always struck me as the saddest part of
the Hal lobotomizing scene: that Hal, while pleading for his life in the
throes of utter desperation, is unable to put real emotion into his voice.
"Stop, Dave. Please stop," he says, in the same calm, even tones that
he has used throughout. His designers have deprived him of the one
element of humanity which might have saved him in the end, the ability
to project emotion.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:46 MDT