I went and saw the remastered edition of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY that Christopher Nolan had supervised and which screened here in LA at the Cinerama Dome in 70mm. I had never seen the movie before, but pretty quickly, I realized I had seen most of it through other films over the years that had clearly been inspired by Kubrick’s masterpiece or just straight ripped it off.
I’m still not quite sure what the film’s about. Rather, I haven’t quite settled on a specific idea. My feeling while watching it was that it was about the journey of humanity from fear-driven tribes to fearless gods. The Monolith seems to represent the idea of infinite possibility. That there’s more than what we see right in front of us.
Of course, my fucked up movie viewing history (I have still not seen many classic films) meant that I saw 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT first, almost 25 years ago when FOX-40 in Sacramento ran it late one night, instead of 2001. They are totally different movies. The unnecessary sequel has none of the artistry or profundity of 2001, but it does make plain that The Monolith is straight up God. And God lives on Io, one of the moons orbiting Jupiter. So, knowing that while watching 2001, I kept waiting for the THIS IS GOD idea to present itself and... it never did.
Kubrick examines the human condition in all his films — the best filmmakers always start with humanity when building out story and theme — and I got a kick out of 2001’s quiet commentary that we are fearful, almost loathsome creatures who make a mockery of existence by attempting to assert dominance or control over nature.
In the movie, fear and frustration leads to the “invention” of weaponry and war, which eventually gets us into space. From there, we have seemingly conquered our fear of existence through technology and have made miracles mundane — look at this interesting thing we found on the moon; let’s take a picture in front of this cool shit because isn’t it cool how our might led us to conquer this lunar land and claim this artifact?
Human arrogance leads us to construct the perfect computer, HAL 9000, but because it’s made by man, it’s susceptible to “human error”, which means HAL’s mimicry of human emotions includes our pathetic fear drive. Of course, when humans decide to keep the computer in the dark about their secret mission to find the origin of The Monolith, it does what any scared human would do and fights for its life.
So, we have to master our tools instead of letting them master us. Once we understand why we needed them in the first place, we can begin the process of letting go of our fears, and opening our minds to the limitless possibilities of the universe. And then, we are born anew, ingrained with knowledge to share for a better future. At least, that’s my thinking on what the film’s about for now. Could change after I sleep on it.
Anyway, HAL didn’t just defend itself, it killed in anger. Fear presents as anger all the time. When you punch a door in anger, you’re punching that door because you’re afraid you might lose your job. You’re afraid people might think less of you. You’re afraid to look weak. That’s human nature.
Still, it was an incredibly stupid thing to do, and the person who did it is worse off than he realizes. Understanding that you made a mistake can’t be the end of the matter. Limiting the reasons why it happened limits the possibility of healing that inner wound we all know is there. Human beings are a frail, fearful, unfathomably stupid species that’s unworthy of the breathtaking beauty of existence, but here we are, still alive and propagating... so you might as well make the most of the self reflection.
Start by letting go of your fear.