The Future of the Past

Everyone ponders the future. Whether it’s five minutes from now or five million years from now, it is bound to creep up in some form or another. Stanley Kubrick reinvented what it means to be a filmmaker in 1968 with the design of a fictional world in the year 2001 that questions the mysteries of science, technology, and evolution.

It is a fact (a sad one) that I had never before seen this epic
adventure, sci-fi thriller, and I think it’s safe to say I was spoiled
in witnessing it for my first time as a digitally re-mastered 70-mm
film, a project of Kubrick’s before his death in 1999.

Although the scenic design and clothing are simply a futuristic version of the ’70s, including lava-lamp chairs and fishnet stockings, the influence of computers and their impact on human existence was a fairly spot-on prediction on Kubrick’s part. In our technologically dependent generation, anxiety arises if a cell phone isn’t in arms reach or if the most inconceivable of situations happens: no internet. Humans, the only beings on the earth with the ability to think logically, place most of their trust in machines.

Believe me, I’m just as guilty as the next Jane Doe, but there’s something to be said for Kubrick’s undeniable projection.

Kubrick showed a great deal of audacity in creating this film. Without
the aid of special effects, he relied heavily on the construction of
sets and superimposition. (No computers, you say?)

Perhaps the most interesting character in the film is a computer called HAL 9000 (coincidentally one letter off of IBM). An eerie blend of human and machine, HAL takes control of the conditions aboard the spacecraft, hence controlling the scientists on board. (And we’re worried about human terrorists?) HAL, although ghostly sinister, provides a smart-ass, manipulative comic-relief, probably even creepier because the humor comes from a man-made machine.

As someone who has grown up in a technological age, I was particularly struck by the amount of patience needed to understand the film’s meaning. The 30-minute scenes, where no dialog is exchanged, is enough to make a person crazy. This was a brave move on Kubrick’s part because he used the film as a way to express a psychedelic and philosophical art form, a fairly new idea in the late ’60s. Kubrick didn’t set out to offer straight-forward answers, but to leave the audience with their own thoughts. "You are free to speculate, as you wish," he once said, "the philosophical and allegorical meanings of 2001." It’s no wonder the "flower-child" generation ingested so many mind-altering drugs.

Whether or not you’ve ever seen the film, you’ll appreciate seeing this digitally re-mastered version on the big screen. Just don’t turn to hallucinogens to elucidate the film’s meaning.

May 9-15, Heights Theatre, 3951 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights; $8.






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