The Exegesis of 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Chapters of 2001: A Space Odyssey

In his 2001: A Space Odyssey exegesis, Roger Ebert said Kubrick’s genius was a supremely confident artist. He did not include a single shot to get the audience’s attention. However, he reduces each scene to its essence. It leaves on the screen long enough to contemplate it and inhabits it in the imagination. Much of the effect comes from the music. However, Kubrick requested the original song from Alex North. He used the classic recording as a temporary track while editing the film, which worked very well. Like all scores, the music tries to underline an action to give emotional cues. It brings transcendence and seriousness into the visuals.

In a 1968 interview with Playboy magazine, Kubrick stated that audiences could speculate as they pleased. However, he does not want to outline a verbal roadmap for the film. For the director, any audience will feel obligated to pursue or fear missing the point. 2001: A Space Odyssey uses chapters that characterize what is usually interpreted as an exegesis development in human intelligence. It was evolving from prehistory and rising beyond space and time. In determining how the individual chapters correlate, the chapters put forward the quest to find God. It is about the allegory for the cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth, or the origin of science.

The Traditional Silent Film

Ambiguity is Kubrick’s intention in compiling the pieces and removing the explanatory narrative from the opening sequence to raise doubts about other events. In essence, the film plays do not require the audience to follow a story with dramatic characters and traditional narrative structures. Instead, it is forcing cognitive and sensory experiences to inspire contemplation of meaning. He concentrates on purely aesthetic elements, integration, and existential, evolutionary, and revolutionary journeys, engaging audiences and reaching an understanding through feelings.

2001: A Space Odyssey, and the book by Clarke, complement each other in their separate ways in a partnership and conceptual exegesis. The realization of Kubrick’s screenplay reaches audiences in a way not possible with a book, sending the audience on a journey beyond words. At the same time, Arthur C. Clarke refines the intent of the elusive film. Despite Homeric references to The Odyssey underscoring how the film’s journey takes precedence, no protagonist through the audience can follow a traditional storyline. What characters inside dissolve into the background, even the dialogue has no place in the picture for the first thirty minutes. The rest of the words do not affect the film’s meaning, so Kubrick seems to be making a silent film in sensation.

The Background

In understanding the film’s background, the audience needs to know how the story’s experience is. First, there was a creative universe where a group of beings appeared known as the Firstborn. Their only goal is to become guardians of the galaxy. They have two particular jobs: encouraging new species’ development and eliminating any problems before they get out of control.

To complete the tasks, they eventually find the Monolith. This black rectangular prism is visible throughout the film and becomes the main object throughout the film. Monoliths can advance the development of advanced species. Four monoliths were placed in the universe long before the theory of evolution, namely on Earth, below the surface of the Moon, in the orbit of Jupiter, and third to fifth-dimensional buildings.

The Dawn of Man

Kubrick describes section one as an artifact left on Earth four million years ago by space explorers. Audiences look at the behavior of human apes at the time and decide to influence evolutionary development. However, the artifact is buried deep in the lunar surface, programmed to signal a human infant’s step into the universe, and flashes a cosmic alarm. The film opens on Earth, specifically in prehistoric Africa. The audience is near the animal tribe after the title sequence while watching curious apes share. However, it is also territorial within its species.

A monolith appeared near the apes the next day. The apes erupted in fright as they slowly calmed down, becoming more and more curious as all reached and finally touched the surface of the Monolith, starting with the lead ape. The lead ape was sitting near a pile of ape bones, picking up one—a flashback to the Monolith—and hitting another bone with a grab. Another ape from the enemy tribe tried to drink from the water hole after becoming more dramatic to the point where the ape became full of rage.

The Space Travel

The lead ape attacks with new bones, thus, has a new feature called tools. The lead ape throws a bone into the air as the camera follows. Cutting a large missile off the threshold in Earth’s orbit made the so-called point of community progress over conflict clear. It is a multi-interpretational transition in which human development, from bones to massive space missiles, is far more than humans have always thought.

From 1999 to 2001, humans drew closer to mastering space travel. For Kubrick, the bold point about the ruler of Earth being just a child in outer space, made by demonstrating a zero-gravity, humans must learn to walk again. Human tools take on human-like shapes at the same time, suppressed by seeing spaceships resembling human faces. Civilization is far more advanced than in section one, where humans can detect solid magnetic fields, fly to the Moon, and have the ability to dig.

Rage Against the Machines

The abilities allowed humans to find monoliths beneath the surface of the Moon, now known to audiences as both. The astronauts began to approach the Monolith without any of the characteristics of apes, fear, or curiosity. The Monolith makes a loud, high-pitched sound as the sun peeks over the top of the Monolith, a signal for a third monolith orbiting Jupiter. Humans have advanced significantly, ready to travel to other planets and move on to the next step of the evolutionary process.

Humans create machines, machines turn into humans, humans turn into machines, humans destroy devices, and machines destroy humans with devices. At least, it is how the dichotomy about how technology and humans work regardless of it is a mouthful. In the next section, the astronauts now eat solid food, a step up from the liquid diet in the original area and suppressing a maturity in human growth.

The Immortal State between Dave and HAL 9000

In addition to telling about NASA noticing the signal emitted by the second Monolith, the astronauts decided to send astronauts to Jupiter to find out what the Monolith’s piercing sound indicated. Enter HAL 9000, a “human” in the machine. HAL 9000, at the end of the section, kills everyone except Dave. A human tool has just destroyed the creator. It is so similar to the human that it turns into the human, or the creator, himself. In turn, Dave destroys the HAL 9000 with the most straightforward tool, i.e., a screwdriver.

From Kubrick’s perspective on the ending, he says that Dave’s life goes from middle age to aging to death, being reborn as a perfected being in the immortal state. He becomes a child of stars, angels, superhumans and returning to Earth to be ready for the next leap from the last answer of human evolution. Man has won the battle with his servant or tool. Now with Dave alone, he arrived in Jupiter’s orbit to see a third monolith floating in space. The third Monolith acts as a wormhole through which it can move nearby objects anywhere in the galaxy. As Dave approaches the third Monolith, he is sucked into another dimension through time and space into the Firstborn dimension.

Firstborn

Dave was being transported through time and space while receiving a large amount of information about the Firstborn. He is seen in a neoclassical white room with the ship after teleportation. He will live his life under observation while extra-terrestrial. In other words, it is a day of judgment, assessing human maturity. Memories of Dave flashed through many jumps, eating, dropping wine glasses on the floor, and died quietly in bed. He is also trying to reach the fourth Monolith right in front of him. As much fear and curiosity as the dawn of man, he turns into a Starchild, the next evolutionary leap in humanity but a non-physical entity. It is a cinematic representation of Dave’s consciousness into a third monolith, effectively reborn to watch over humanity.

For everyone, including Ebert, 2001: A Space Odyssey was a silent film exegesis in many ways. Most dialogue is just there to show people talking to each other without paying attention to the content. However, seeing how far the irony appears, HAL comes as the most dynamic character, as a tool, compared to the human characters in the film. The film, in addition, creates a primary effect from music to visuals, being meditatively more convincing than, when it comes to visual effects, more sophisticated effects in modern films.

The Interpretation of Arthur C. Clarke

The film’s transcendent works on the imagination and mind of the audience in seeing a broad view of the character with a goal in mind. It is not about the destination but the search without attributing the effects to a particular plot point. Regardless of which, it is not about how the film makes a new next step for humans. The question is who, or rather how, made a move.

Of the same name, Arthur C. Clarke wrote the novel in conjunction with the film. It explains the ending of the film more clearly. Explicitly, he identifies monoliths as tools created by extra-terrestrials that have gone through many stages of movement from organic form to pure energy. The book describes the Monolith more specifically, describing it first as a set of levels of consciousness with direct interaction with the pre-human brain—the second as an alarm signal, and the third as a gateway to other galaxy parts.

The Extra-terrestrial

In the book, extra-terrestrial travel to the cosmos helped lower species to take evolutionary steps. At the same time, Dave methodically explores hotel rooms while concluding that extra-terrestrials created a zoo. He is being studied by an unseen alien entity while examining his meal for him, nothing if the substance is not from Earth. On the other hand, the film left all unmentioned despite Kubrick wanting to portray extra-terrestrials in the first place after deciding it was challenging with special effects but practical.

Clarke prefers to recommend people to read the books and see the movies until they get a sufficient dose. He also likes to get people to interpret rather than having to focus on what people are saying. In 1969, Kubrick explained how an entirely different kind of experience between the book and the film. The book tries to explain things more explicitly than the film; it is unavoidable by verbal media, so Kubrick changed it into a screenplay during filming. The difference between the two mediums is exciting and an unprecedented situation for people to do literary works. Initially, it is based on flash until the whole segment is between the bridges.

The Religious Interpretation

Talking about the interpretation of the film, people understand more about the film based on religious understanding. The plot of 2001: A Space Odyssey represents an entity and the existence of God, postulating what is little less than the exegesis definition of God on a psychological level. It revolves around hardware and realistic metaphysics, which tries to weaken the audience’s resistance to poetry. Regardless of which, it is not overall. The concept of God in the film is not anthropomorphic and traditional other than the interpretation of God, namely Monolith. Figuratively, scientifically interesting about God, there are about billions of stars in the galaxy where each star is a life-giving sun.

Apart from being neither hot nor cold, life in one form or another would appear. It is reasonable to assume there must be countless billions of planets in biological life. Less than a second in the universe’s chronology can imagine the evolutionary development of much older life forms. Humans have evolved from a biological species into an immortal technological entity. In the future, humans can also emerge from a material into eternal purity. Nature is infinite, full of intelligence, but humans cannot understand themselves.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Übermensch

When talking about religious interpretation, Kubrick’s literacy puts forward or focuses on Nietzsche’s allegory. It is always the central theme in most of his works like Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, and Eyes Wide Shut. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick’s philosophical exegesis puts forward the potential of humankind directly by taking the Nietzsche school of thought in his book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The film explores a bridge between humans and superhumans, or Übermensch. While people always say humans are the missing link in the primitive and civilized world, Kubrick says transfiguration into life forms is unstable. In the film’s ending, the child star provides a final move before Übermensch, where Dave grabs a superhuman.

Unlike Kubrick, MacGregor analyzes the film through The Birth of Tragedy lens, which focuses more on the human conflict between the Apollonian and Dionysian modes of existence. The Apollonian side is self-controlled, conscious, scientific, and rational human. Although the Apollonian way of existence is problematic because it seeks to weaken the intuitive side of humans, it has no sense of imperfection. On the other hand, the world of apes is Dionysian, HAL and the odyssey are Apollonian entities, and Dave is transitioning from Apollonian to Dionysian.

The Greek Tragedy of HAL 9000

From Greek tragedies to religion to Nietzsche’s interpretations, all ultimately focus on the two exegesis subjects of why 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most debated film to this day. It is also true that HAL 9000 and Monolith are two of the most iconic objects in pop culture. At first, HAL is a life form, a synthetic, living thing, and artificial intelligence. The existence of HAL is an abomination, hanging on to a single eye like a Cyclops. While most people underline Frankenstein’s connection to the HAL virtuality scene, Kubrick describes HAL as an empty pod where it stretches out arms and hands to rampage at the astronauts. For the most time and at the time, it is the first time the audience can know the nature of the antagonist without being afraid of the shape or appearance of the monster.

HAL from start to finish remains ambiguous. However, Kubrick demonstrated the ambiguity early on when HAL attempted to trick the astronaut mission into the true nature of the mission to open Pandora’s box. Frank takes advantage of HAL’s small error in the descriptive notation in a psychology game between HAL. When HAL saw Frank chant his moves during a psychology game, HAL exposes if he could read lip movements. Dave stated that when HAL was working on a psychology report, it took a few seconds to say yes. In essence, despite not having a layered understanding of human motives for understanding needs with difficulty, HAL also falls quarry to a mistake.

The Cyclical Realism of Monolith

After all, computers are perfect at behaving humanly than humans. In addition to reaching the level of human intelligence, HAL develops the dark nature of humans in addition to happiness and pleasure. On the other hand, humans act like machines. It blurred the reality of emotion through how much influence the entity of a monolith can have. When understanding how the iconic Monolith works, one should pay attention to the key through the book. However, Kubrick not thoroughly explained the object. People need to know that the Monolith represents an epic transition in human evolution from ape-like creatures to civilized humans.

Enigma of a monolith successively from a cyclical evolution from apes to humans, to cosmos, and child stars to completion. In essence, the Monolith plays a structural realism. Humans also transcend different levels of cognition each time monoliths appear from ancient times, futuristic to mystical. According to Clarke’s or Kubrick’s comments, the monolithic appearance developed an intelligence sufficient to achieve space travel, a point of connection with Clarke’s short story The Sentinel, written in 1951.

The Origin and the Purpose

The origin and purpose of the Monolith are still a total mystery to most people. However, the main element of mystery in the film is the surprise of the Monolith’s straight edges and square corners between weathered rocks. Webster explains in its entirety how the film did not just add to the monolith discovery. However, it is about the audience’s understanding in raising the mystery of the universe. Monolith is a vanity cinematic in a cinemascope screen mailbox where child stars appear, like the entire Kubrick film. People prefer monoliths as an entity from the subconscious towards God, how science could advance when thinking far in ancient times. The human brain is also a unique entity other than nature.

For most people, the battle between humans, tools, and God breaks out into a series in understanding how Earth was millions of years ago and Earth in millions of years to come. Bottom line, 2001: A Space Odyssey highlights how humanity and exegesis have reached a pinnacle. Personally, it is rare for a narrative or linear film to communicate the idea so purely through the audience’s subconscious. It becomes the medium as a carrier of conceptual markers in evoking feelings rather than adhering to rational contemplation. In the last place, people found out if Kubrick achieved such a feat. No one knows whether HAL 9000 is an entity from dystopia or Monolith is an entity from utopia. It could be, in a different timeline, it is the other way around.

Bibliography

About the author

Salman Al Farisi is the owner of Calxylian and is an elitist who has enjoyed and studied various mediums. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 2020 from the Haluoleo University, Indonesia, where he studied English Literature, Film Criticism, Cultural Studies, Literary Theory, and Literary Criticism. He lives in Kendari in his mom's basement, now unemployed and ghostwriter, life with his cats, and is looking for the future.

Comments

  1. I’ve always assumed Clarke was tapping the same idea here that he did in Childhood’s End, i.e. that of advanced beings assisting humans in their evolution. It’s not such a long stretch from there to wonder if it wasn’t, after all, the ultimate advanced being, God himself, who played this role. Why stop short of that? But it seems Clarke and Kubrick were uncomfortable going that far.

    1. I haven’t read Childhood’s End by Clarke yet. But, I think that, apart from Kubrick not being able to put “aliens” in the film due to the state of the technology at the time, Kubrick and Clarke can only play it safe considering the failure of the film in its time as well. If they put even more bets on the table, the film won’t be discussed for decades to come. It could be that in a different timeline, the film will begin to be debated in the centuries to come, even though it’s too much. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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