2001 A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick's modernist masterpiece revisited at Queen's Film Theatre
Following the success of a special screening of Goodfellas earlier this year – in collaboration with new sponser, Jameson's – Queen's Film Theatre host a one-off showing of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 space epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Movie-goers are treated to free (and rather upmarket) cocktails in the bar before the show, as well as a prize draw, sci-fi inspired DJ set and short talk from BBC Radio Ulster’s resident cinephile, Ralph McLean.
The thrill, of course, is in watching such a huge, sprawling movie in the cinema, which, one would presume, few present tonight have had the opportunity to do before. We've all enjoyed 2001 in the comfort of our own homes, of course, but no home movie station can match the sound and visual impact of the cinema.
As the screen darkens and a low drone fills the packed auditorium, time stands still before the familiar bass sustain of Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ kicks in. This is possibly the most iconic use of soundtrack in the history of cinema, juxtaposing Kubrick's beautifully portrayed sun, moon and stars.
It is impossible to discuss 2001 without mentioning the soundtrack, not least because over half the film is non-verbal. The sparse use of dialogue, the inventive use of non-diagetic sound and, of course, the score itself are integral to 2001’s pacing and sense of scope. This is art house cinema on a huge scale.
Furthermore, Kubrick’s innovative use of sound in 2001 had a lasting impact and influence on other directors working in Hollywood and elsewhere.
The famous 'Blue Danube Waltz' scene, which depicts a slowly twirling spaceship, may be the antithesis of George Lucas' zooming TIE Fighters and screaming X-Wings in Star Wars, but it set the tone for just about every thinking man’s space opera since.
Indeed, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (released over a decade later) in many ways apes 2001’s sense of pacing: the sequence of the shuttle docking with the Enterprise is instantly comparable to the aforementioned scene.
Sound and score aren’t the only influential elements of 2001, and the film's influence is not restricted to cinema. The coldly terrifying, murderous computer, HAL-9000 of the movie’s third act, for instance, has been the basis of practically every sentient-machine-gone-bad story since, right down to malevolent videogame creations such as GLADoS in Valve Corporation’s, Portal.
Hal has also been the subject of countless spoofs, perhaps most famously voiced by Pierce Brosnan in The Simpsons. However, none of this detracts from how chilling HAL still is, as well as how haunting his dying mantra of ‘I’m afraid, Dave’ remains.
In recent times, the word ‘epic’ has been overused, but it is certainly applicable when considering 2001. Few cinema storylines span 2 million years, for example.
From its primordial beginning, through to the man-vs-machine psychological battle of the film's climax, it remains a stunning experiment in cinema, both visually and aurally. Who could forget Kubrick's seamless transition from desolute landscape inhabited by monkeys through to the ultra-modern setting of the film's main storyline? Throw us a bone, Stanley!
Kubrick was nothing if not ambitious: exploring the scope of the universe and the cyclical nature of humanity was an obvious choice. 43 years later, 2001: A Space Odyssey is still stunning and challenging in equal measure, and even more awe-inspiring on the big screen.