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The meaning of the ending of 2001 according to Stanley Kubrick

1 comments, 275 views, posted 3:54 am 14/07/2018 in TV, Movies & Reviews by HariSeldon
HariSeldon has 6769 posts, 3569 threads, 583 points
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Few directors allowed their movies to speak for themselves more than Stanley Kubrick. Still, when it came to 2001: A Space Odyssey and its mysterious ending, he did attempt to let viewers know what his intention was. In a 1969 interview with Joseph Gelmis, he quickly summed up the entire plot in two paragraphs:


You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man’s first baby steps into the universe — a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there’s a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system.

When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he’s placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny.

But recently, an audio clip from a never-released Japanese documentary recorded in 1980 surfaced in which the director shares his view of the ending of the film in more detail.


I’ve tried to avoid doing this ever since the picture came out. When you just say the ideas they sound foolish, whereas if they’re dramatized one feels it, but I’ll try.

The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.

They choose this room, which is a very inaccurate replica of French architecture (deliberately so, inaccurate) because one was suggesting that they had some idea of something that he might think was pretty, but wasn’t quite sure. Just as we’re not quite sure what do in zoos with animals to try to give them what we think is their natural environment.

Anyway, when they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman. We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.

So that’s the plot stated plainly, but luckily it takes nothing away from any of the metaphorical meanings that people have ascribed to the film over the past 50 years.

Extra Points Given by:

aion_z (5), REALITY (10), evolution (5)


4:10 am 16/07/2018


A few things I've picked up along the way [SPOILERS FOLLOW]:

1. The final sequences of the movie are symbolic of sexual reproduction. Bowman's capsule emerges from long phallic spaceship. Then he goes down hole and finally ends up in a closed room. The source of light in the room is the floor, symbolising the opening below. He then starts seeing copies of himself like a cell dividing. And finally he turns into a baby.

2. One of the themes of the movie and book is our relationship with technology. The first monolith saw protohumans start using tools; one of the ape-creatures picks up a bone and kills with it. The bone is then thrown into the air and the scene changes into a vista of a spaceship, showing the evolution of technology. Humankind has managed to take his first steps into space with the help of technology, but in doing so, has also become utterly reliant on it. Without technology, man would die in space; and eventually it is the culmination of technology, a sentient computer, that threaten's man's very existence. In order to survive, Bowman has to turn into the starchild and shed his dependence on technology.

3. This one is from Michio Kaku: He describes future of civilisation and how super advanced civilisation would explore space. Travelling in star ships one star system at a time like in Star Trek would be incredibly inefficient. The most efficient way to explore space would be send robotic probes that go to other stars, build copies of itself that go out to further stars, and so on. Kaku calls 2001 the most authentic representation of a Type 3 (a galactic civilisation) interacting with a Type 0 (us).

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