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2001 A Space Odyssey

At the 1968 premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rock Hudson, an actor not known for superior intelligence, left the theater in mid-screening asking “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?” (Ebert 1). Others followed. One of the biggest reasons people who dislike the film react in this manner is because of the film’s unique narrative structure, use of imagery versus dialogue, and profound themes. For the film largely revolves around the theme of superior intelligence and man’s unique place in the universe because of it.

The opening is a breathtaking series of visual images backed with the opening chords of Strauss’s tribute to Nietzschean philosophy, Thus Spake Zarathustra. We view sun rising on earth from the perspective of the moon. The earth, moon and sun are in vertical alignment. The music and the scope of the opening imagery make us think, as does the rest of the film. This is what it is meant to do. Kubrick originally hired a composer for the score and used classical music in the interim. The classical music complimented the serious themes of the film so well, he ended up keeping them. We are going on a journey in this film, a journey all humans travel. As Roger Ebert (1) notes on Kubrick’s use of Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, “Inspired by the words of Nietzsche, its five bold opening noted embody the ascension of man into spheres reserved for the gods. It is cold, frightening, magnificent.”

The rest of the film is broken into four segments, three of them with subtitles. The film is not a typical story narrated to us with emotional cues and character dialogue. In fact, the first words of the film are not spoken until a half hour has passed. The film is more like a Zen meditation or a philosophical contemplation than a conventional film. The film begins with The Dawn of Man. Humankind is in the Pleistocene era, little more than an evolving ape. There is no dialogue. There...

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2001 A Space Odyssey. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:34, November 29, 2021, from