2001: A Space Odyssey, Beyond Infinity

2001: A Space Odyssey, Beyond Infinity


Could a simple, black granite monolith become one of the most recognizable symbols of cinematic science fiction? Or, can this privilege be reserved for a pulsating electronic eye, the physical interface of a dangerous artificial intelligence? Luckily, these two elements are an integral part of the plot of one of the cults of science fiction, 2001: A Space Odyssey, a historic film that premiered on 12 December 1968 in Italian cinemas, nine months after its release in overseas cinemas. A year particularly dear to cinematic sci-fi, which is often identified with Stanley Kubrick's cult film, but which was also embellished by the release of The Planet of the Apes, two manifestations of a renewed passion for science fiction that were inserted within of such a renaissance, witnessed on the small screen by Star Trek (1966)

The fascination exercised by 2001: A Space Odyssey o is the daughter of the anxious space race that characterized those years. A few years earlier, the Russian Gagarin had been the first man to fly into space, and the goal of achieving supremacy in space exploration was just one of the many oppositions that animated the Cold War. The main objective was the conquest of the Moon, which would only take place the following year as the story of Neil Armstrong's sentence reminds us, but this continuous tension was palpable, which could only impact on a perfectionist like Kubrick.

Revolutionizing science fiction

The will of the British filmmaker was in fact to make a science fiction film that was estranged from the previous tradition, made up of violent Martian invaders or mutant monsters. An intent that Kubrick himself confessed to the scientist Jeremy Bernstein in 1966:

"Cinema science fiction for everyone is made up only of monsters and sexuality, we want to show something else"

Arising from an imaginary son of the danger of the atomic bomb and an allegory of the 'red danger' , these films had dominated the previous two decades, but the new singers of science fiction, such as Roddenberry, Bradbury or Dick, were initiating a revolution in the grammar of the genre, in which Kubrick entered by leaning on another famous name in the sector: Arthur C. Clarke.

The director was inspired by the belief that a simple script was not enough for his plot, a more complete work was needed. There could not have been a better interpreter than Arthur C. Clarke, a name dear to science fiction readers for his dozens of short stories and for the Rama saga. Clarke's narrative was characterized by a particularly realistic approach or, the result of a scientific preparation that allowed the writer to theorize in a scientific way, in the mid-1940s, an orbital communication system which later became the basis on which the satellite communications model. This essential trait of Clarke's narrative was particularly appreciated by Kubrick, a voracious reader of science fiction, especially of hard sci-fi, a genre in which an attempt was made to bring the science fiction story into a dimension as realistic and as possible as possible, like the recent saga of The Expanse.

Contacted by Kubrick, Clarke gladly accepted, remembering an old story of his, The Sentinel (which you can find in the Drago Mondadori Racconti by Arthur C. Clarke), which becomes the base from which it is The story of 2001: A Space Odyssey was developed. , co-written with the director, who promised Clarke that it would be published as a novel before the film's release. The drafting of this 'narrative' script took some time, thanks to the initial enthusiasm of Kubrick, who soon began to criticize Clarke's work, taking advantage of the possibility that he had previously guaranteed to be able to make any changes at any time. . What did not convince the director, in fact, were the too artificial dialogues and the endings theorized by Clarke.

A continuous revision, that of Kubrick, which led to a betrayal of the promise made to the writer, so much so that the director made in way to delay as long as possible the publication of the novel, released in July 1968, months after the film preview of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A delay wanted by Kubrick, who wanted to preserve the originality of 'his of him' 2001: A Space Odyssey, at the expense of Clarke's book. Volume that on the cover had only the name of the British writer as a recognized author, who in any case chose to dedicate the novel to the director, despite the fact that a certain tension had been created between the two, given that Clarke, in financial straits, saw continually slip the payment of the his work as a writer of the novel.

Already at this stage, it was noted that for Kubrick it was essential to protect his own creature. The director's main fear was that reality, in the form of fierce competition between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. for the conquest of space, could make his story obsolete. A real obsession, so much so that Kubrick even thought of taking out insurance on 2001: A Space Odyssey, fearful that space missions, such as the Martian mission of Mariner 4 in 1965, could find alien life forms. Arthur C. Clarke himself said that Kubrick turned to Lloyd's for a policy that would protect him from the discovery of aliens:

"I have no idea how the insurers were able to calculate the premium, but the figure they quoted it was nothing short of astronomical and the idea was shelved. Stanley decided to play his cards with the universe "

A universe that seemed to favor the director, considering that the NASA AS-204 mission (later renamed Apollo 1), which should have been the first step towards the moon landing struck by a tragedy that killed members in a fire that destroyed the cabin during the launch.

Creating the Myth

Announced to the world press in February 1965 as Journey Beyond Stars, Kubrick's masterpiece from the beginning highlighted the director's particularities. Starting with the title, which after a few months changed to 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Kubrick finally decided to let himself be seduced by his fascination with the concept of travel typical of Homer's epic.

To make this immortal film, it was not only the incredible story of astronaut David Bowman and the strong metaphysical connotation impressed on the film, but the presence of some scenes that have become cult.

It is difficult not to be fascinated by the Dawn of Man, the moment in which prehistoric hominids encounter the mysterious black monolith, to the notes of Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Strauss. A proof of the director's lucidity of vision, who studies camera positions that emphasize the emotional charge of the moment, such as the choice of privileging shots from below, in which the surrounding environment is the imperious protagonist of the scenes, showing the Earth as a hostile environment , in which primates fight, following the evolution of man's ancestors up to two essential moments: the discovery of the technique, immediately used as an instrument of violence, and the appearance of the monolith.

Symbol of the film itself. , the monolith was initially a simple parallelepiped of transparent plexiglass, which during the first shots did not give the desired result. So much so that production designer Toby Master proposed to paint it black, finding Kubrick's approval. Not an easy thing, considering the director's lack of affability, who is still able to dominate his character in the presence of good ideas, as happened with the choice to make HAL-9000, the artificial intelligence of Discovery, a killer, intuition had by the legendary supervisor to special effects Doug Trumbull. After an initial opposition from Kubrick, HAL's struggle for survival took this definition when Trumbull explained that these crimes could cover some shortcomings in the script.

Making 2001: A Space Odyssey was for Kubrick almost an obsession. Frightened by air travel, he reached the English sets by ship, cleared protected forests in South Africa in order to have specific trees for his scenes and forced the stuntmen to act in precarious conditions of safety in order to preserve the authenticity and realism of his film. . For viewers, this creative process has given rise to one of the historic films of science fiction, made famous by the pulsating eye of the HAL-9000 or the romantic dance between the space station and the space shuttle to the tune of Strauss's On the Beautiful Blue Danube.

A real human journey, almost lysergic in some of its intuitions. At the time of its first screening for the press in April 1968, the film was not particularly well received, accused of being a sort of delirium of the director. Curiously, the definition of 'mystical trip' given to the sequence of the Journey beyond infinity given by the Christian Science Monitor became a sort of mantra for the promotional campaign of the film, pushed by MGM, to the point that several viewers decided to see the film below. the effect of hallucinogenic substances and, to have an even broader understanding of the issues dealt with.

Sensation not shared, as mentioned, by the critics who took part in the preview of April 1, 1968. It must be said that the The presented version of the film had been reworked by Kubrick, who made nearly twenty minutes of cuts through a montage made during his voyage by ship to New York, having an editing room installed on board. To end up under the director's ax were mainly scenes of family life and obvious references to the Earth, which combined with the renunciation of a narrative voice led critics to consider the film confused and uninspired. Although Kubrick was offended by the judgments received, he never hid that he was aware of his responsibility for this judgment:

“I made all the cuts in 2001, without being asked. I had seen the film complete with soundtrack and soundtrack a week after its release, while several visions are required to understand what the right length of some moments is, especially those in which the unfolding of the action is less essential. Almost all of the cut scenes were 'sensations of things' "

The legacy of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Despite the various vicissitudes that occurred during the making and a not exactly exciting debut, 2001 : A Space Odyssey has now become a science fiction cult. Like another famous box office flop, Blade Runner, the years have shown the value of the directorial intuitions and of Kubrick's story, who, wanting to rely on Clarke's concrete and scientific narrative, was able to anticipate some of the current technological characteristics. From the use of devices that anticipate tablets to video calls now customary, 2001: A Space Odyssey incredibly anticipates the technological evolution of the following decades, just think that the first orbiting station, theorized by Kubrick, in reality was the Russian Saljut 1 , launched in the spring of 1971.

Indeed, 2001: A Space Odyssey, due to its technological intentions, was used by Samsung in 2011 as a defense in a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the accusation made by the Cupertino company of plagiarism for the design of a tablet was unfounded because:

"the tablet object of the dispute was not born from the minds of Cupertino but from the genius of Kubrick, and for this reason the tablet was copied 'of Samsung is not to be withdrawn from the US market. "

Also from a cultural point of view, 2001: A Space Odyssey left an important legacy. From a literary point of view, Clarke decided to continue the story by giving life to a cycle (2010: Odyssey two, 2061: Odyssey three: 3001: Final Odyssey), while the cinema tried to continue the story with 2010: The year of contact , which attempts to combine the plot of Kubrick's film with Clarke's second novel, missing the point and presenting a story full of inconsistencies and not very compelling.

2001: A Space Odyssey had a strong influence in the pop culture. David Bowie made no secret that the vision of Kubrick's film had inspired him Space Oddity, but it is the descent of the Dawn of Man that has left the most evident mark in the collective imagination, to the point of being parodied in several films, from Zoolander in The crazy history of the world.

Not even the world of comics has remained insensitive to 2001: A Space Odyssey or. In 1976, Marvel decided to insert a comic book transposition of the film in the Marvel Treasury Edition, entrusting it to the King himself, Jack Kirby. Obviously it was a success, so much so that it was decided to give life to a series, in which the story was continued, inspired by some ideas rejected during the making of the film. Duration ten numbers, 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered an important series for the Marvel Universe, as in its eighth issue Kirby created the character of X-51, namely Aaron 'Machine Man' Stack.

The Italian comic has paid homage to Kubrick's film, as the readers of the Bonellian Nathan Never know, whose second issue, The Black Monolith, imagines the birth of a cult based on the plot of Kubrick's film. Also mentioned in Dylan Dog (Alpha and Omega), 2001: A Space Odyssey can boast of having been parodied by Leo Ortolani with La Sentinella, a story that also takes up the title of Clarke's story that inspired the birth of this immortal cult.

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