March 5, 2021
By the time we got to the HAL chapter I was completely enthralled, watching the images on the big screen added one more quality I’d never found in previous viewings, as Stanley Kubrick directs a literal ballet of machines. The way every piece of equipment moves and the way every note of the score accompanies these moves, is akin to watching Fantasia; the images and the sounds in perfect unison reminding us why we go to the movies. Needless to say so, the grandeur and majesty of the special effects – which despite their age are more impressive than CGI – had a surreal quality as I half expected the spaceships and pods to burst out of the screen.
In the HAL sequences I also noticed the way in which Kubrick humorously suggests we are being brainwashed by the system. There are several moments where his camera is fixated on the red light that represents HAL and it’s as if it could see into the souls of the audience. We know it can’t, but at the same time it instills a very primal kind of fear in us. These sequences also added a new dimension brought on by silence. Kubrick accurately depicts outer space as a place of complete soundlessness, so the image of an astronaut cut loose from his ship and floating/sinking away into darkness was more terrifying because we couldn’t listen to his screams of despair.
There was also another moment that struck me as inventively wicked: the scene where HAL stops life support on the dormant astronauts and we see their life stats go from natural peaks and valleys to the fatal straight lines. Because we can’t look away from it, we’re confronted right and there with the idea that there might come a time when we’ll need to be saved from our very creations. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should be scared of machines, but that we need to be conscious of even the art around us. In his whole movie as machine dichotomy, Kubrick is reminding us that we are being shown truth by a device that might turn its back against us. This is repeated once again during the last chapter where we see Keir Dullea’s character age in a matter of seconds. The fact that Kubrick represented this time advance within a room is an obvious nod to how we as an audience are also aging within the four walls of the theater we’re sitting in –
By the time the movie ended, I was completely blown away. The famous light-tunnel sequence almost gave me a seizure, the flight over the canyons of Jupiter was more exciting than anything in Avatar and the eventual birth of the star-child, once again accompanied by Strauss’s ode to Zarathustra, was truly rapturous. Within seconds it felt like a movie and a symphony. The lights went on and I was sent out into the world with a myriad of questions: are all movies meant to be seen on the big screen? If so, does that mean that I haven’t seen many movies because I’ve only seen them at home? Kubrick proved to me that cinema is the ultimate hybrid of spiritual/human connection, but now I also fear that I’ve been spoiled, because I’ve been once again reassured that truly great movies aren’t about story but about sensorial experience.