Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory


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Although the movie was not universally praised when it first premiered, it soon came to be widely regarded as a classic by film critics and historians. It was praised for its visual inventiveness, its originality and symbolism, its sound and visual special effects and its musical score. Movies that came after reflected many of its influences. For instance, Kubrick had originally hired a music composer to write a score for the film and provided him with examples of classical compositions that he thought illustrated the mood he wanted to convey. But ultimately Kubrick discarded the composer's work and used the classical music he had selected instead.

Kubrick used Strauss' " Blue Danube Waltz " as background for the docking of a space shuttle with a space station. Not only did recordings of Strauss' music suddenly become very popular, but the music was also used in other films and TV shows, often as a comic or ironic homage to It was even played on the Apollo 8 mission around the moon. Similarly, Kubrick used the theme from Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" Thus Spake Zarathustra in the opening of the movie to illustrate a dramatic appearance, and the theme was thereafter used for everything from high school graduations to beer commercials.

In a recent television commercial for a bank, the director used music similar to the experimental music that Kubrick also featured in the film and depicted automatic teller machines as monoliths. Kubrick was able to symbolize the death of one character by stopping the breathing sounds in his spacesuit. He killed off several other hibernating humans by showing only their computerized monitoring equipment change from the pulses of respiration and breathing to flat lines, "death as a statistic" as one commentator called it.

Other movies and TV shows began to use similar techniques, attempting to portray events visually or through sounds that normally would have been portrayed with dialogue. Some copied it, whereas others rebelled against Kubrick's vision of the future. The dirty, gritty spaceships of 's Star Wars and particularly 's Alien were designed in direct contrast to the gleaming white plastic future of , as was the dark, grimy world of 's Blade Runner. The sentient, murderous HAL computer has also provoked scientific debates about the development of artificial intelligence.

But perhaps 's most profound cultural impact was its effect on how people visualize space exploration. As space historian Howard McCurdy has noted, established the popular image of what a space station should look like. When Americans are asked to draw a space station, they almost inevitably draw a giant spinning wheel in orbit, undoubtedly based upon their exposure to Perhaps more subtly, created expectations in the minds of people that the United States would continue to aggressively pursue space exploration after Apollo and would soon develop giant orbiting space stations and bases on the Moon.

When the actual year rolled around, however, various newspaper and magazine articles either lamented that the world had not lived up to their false expectations, or snorted that the movie had "gotten the future wrong. These false expectations even tended to cloud official planning for space exploration. Yet, as some have noted, the real world of did have its space stations and space shuttles, but they somehow seemed less exciting than the movie versions. Many of these people tended to completely misread the movie. Unlike the positive humanistic future of Star Trek , Kubrick's depiction of a gleaming white antiseptic future was actually a dark vision and a warning that technology dehumanized people, turning them into boring drones, or bureaucrats.

Various critics noted over the years that the humans in exhibited few emotions and HAL, the homicidal machine that they built, was in many ways the most human character in the film.


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Furthermore, Kubrick and Clarke were trying to tell a story, not predict the future. Nobody laments that the world was not destroyed as predicted by various apocalyptic movies such as The Terminator and The Shape of Things to Come. But it is a testament to the power of A Space Odyssey that people were actually disappointed that the future did not turn out like the movie.

Martin Scorsese interview on Stanley Kubrick (2001)

McCurdy, Howard E. Space and the American Imagination. Washington, D. Nelson, Thomas Allen. Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze. Bloomington, In. Schwam, Stephanie and Scorsese, Martin, eds. What parts do you wish were better? Well, what if you could be better? What if you could leave born again, not a star baby ready to take on the rest of the earth with the empowering knowledge that you can change.

That life isn't about understanding the monoliths before you but about loving the people around you. Tell me if this sounds familiar. You saw a new release, and everyone is jockeying to get their opinion out. It can be hard to articulate the way you feel about a movie or TV show besides the typical "good" or "bad" gut reaction. Or maybe you want to write, direct or produce. To dissect a film and understand the context can take years of training.

But you've been training without knowing it. Every time you watch a new show or movie you're building an internal database.

You have something to base your reactions on and, over time, your tastes grow. So click the link and find out more! I realize this long of a response could be interpreted as an angry, vehement rant. It's not. That is not the spirit in which I write this. There is no spite or anger here; just offering a different perspective which I think is more legitimate than what is offered in this article. If you don't agree, that's totally fine.

When you talk about interpreting the ending of , you're really talking about interpreting the meaning or intent of whole film. If you read interviews with Kubrick from this time, he is very interested in film as a language. He felt that films up to that point hadn't even scratched the surface of what film could communicate.

He hoped that would scratch a little deeper than anything that had come before it. The way I understand it is this: He felt we could communicate much deeper ideas with film if we tried, but we hadn't been taking advantage of the power of the medium to "speak" in terms that go deeper than what can be verbalized, cannot be encapsulated in "verbal roadmaps".

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So when Kubrick is saying that the viewer is free to speculate about the film and that he won't spell things out for people in a verbal way. I don't think Kubrick was making a movie devoid of meaning, an empty box into which people can place their own meaning with no relation to what he intended.

Kubrick has a meaning, and I would imagine that he wants people to "get it", but he's not going to explain it in a verbal way. That would be to dishonor his work as an artist. I think he's saying that film should be a non-verbal experience, and the totality of meaning one can find in that experience, if it is crafted rightly, transcends verbal explanation.

Ingmar Bergman explained his films in this way, too. Sometimes we cannot quite put an experience into words, and we might only be able to put what we got out of an experience in terms of how it made us feel.

ISBN 13: 9780810837966

I think it's helpful to try to think about the film from the artist's point of view: Where was his mind at the time? What were his values? What was his world view? At the time Kubrick made , we hadn't yet landed on the moon.

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The space program was a very optimistic, aspirational effort in our society. From what I've read Kubrick admired astronauts and the space the space program, thinking of them as some of the ultimate expressions of mankind's greatness as a species. To Kubrick space travel is the perfect expression of mankind beginning to physically and perhaps metaphorically transcend our human-ness. The space program is one more step toward our becoming something evolutionarily greater than mankind.

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Kubrick starts the film with the dawn of man, when, in his worldview, we tore ourselves from animal-ness and made the first gesture toward something greater. The dawn of mankind started with the development of the first piece of technology perhaps using a bone as a weapon. That famous cut between the bone and the satellite is so great because in an instant you've told the story of mankind, from a technological standpoint.

The film ends when we have achieved something that would reach beyond our human-ness, tear us away from human-ness, and bring us closer to something greater, perhaps moving toward that ultimate greatness which he describes in that extensive quote about evolutionary possibilities of godlike beings who have transcended physical limitations, etc. From what I've understood and judging from his own works, Kubrick was totally into philosophy and thought very deeply himself. So looking at philosophy or philosophers that might have influenced his thinking is helpful, too.

However, if you read Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, I think you'll find some parallels with some of Kubrick's own thinking about mankind, progress, some of his highest values. He calls these supermen ubermensch. He praises those who would be great enough, courageous enough to reach forward, reach for the next step in evolution, for that greater version of what mankind can be.

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With Kubrick's admiration for astronauts the space program, you can imagine him thinking of these folks as ubermensches. They are symbols of humans reaching for that great-than-human. It could be a misinterpretation, but I find it interesting that the spacecraft Dave and the others travel in is basically a picture of a bridge spanning to points the engine in the back and the fuselage at the front. The spaceship itself is a physical expression of reaching forward into space, into what is beyond.

And I think it's no coincidence that "Thus Spake Zarathustra" is the piece of music that plays during the bone-as-weapon scene and other key places where we witness a significant step in evolution, or see an expression of greatness reaching the black obelisk at Jupiter, and Dave death and rebirth mankind's transition into the ubermensch. These mark places where we see mankind humankind taking one more step toward the Greater-than-human.

The star child at the end is Kubrick's umbermensch. He is floating above earth, having transcended mankind and become something greater. If you read interviews with Arthur C Clark and Kubrick, you'll see those obelisks are not meaningless. They are "mile-markers", in a way, placed there by these godlike beings the pinnacle of evolutionary potential. So they visit earth in some way, and they find these beings the ape-man creatures with potential for something greater.

They place another marker on the moon, the assumption being that if these ape-men evolve enough, they'll be able to reach the moon and find this thing. When that obelisk is found, it sends a signal to the one orbiting Jupiter. If mankind is evolved enough, they should be able to reach that "mile-marker", too.

Once Dave reaches that last mile-marker, he is pulled beyond Jupiter, and ostensibly held in this "zoo", an example of mankind, or perhaps the as an example of the first greater-than-human-being. I agree that the film is a religious film in a sense. Kubrick is worshiping. His music choices communicate a feeling of worship, praise, honor, adoration. Perhaps you could say he is worshiping mankind and its achievements.

Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory
Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory
Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory
Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory Kubricks 2001: A Triple Allegory
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