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2001 Book Or Movie Essay

"Robert Kolker, one of the best writers on Kubrick, has assembled nine impressive new essays from talented contributors on the director's most spectacular and enigmatic film. The collection is valuable not only for its post-millenial commentary on 2001, but also for its fresh insights into Kubrick's work as a whole."--James Naremore, author of More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts

"Stanley Kubrick's films have a reputation for stimulating the mind. This brilliant collection of essays confirms it gloriously and proves that 2001: A Space Odyssey is an inexhaustible source for analysis."--Michel Ciment, author of Kubrick
"Kubrick's 2001 redefined the science fiction genre, transforming its limits, broadening the scope of what it can do. It is one of the rare examples of a film which aims to make us think not ABOUT images, but IN images and sounds. The volume on the film edited by Robert Kolker does the same for film studies. While it analyzes in detail different aspects of the film, it respects, strengthens even, its unfathomable beauty. Much more than a volume of excellent theory, the book is an invitation to think with sensuous pleasure."--Slavoj Zizek

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2001: A Space Odyssey By Arthur C. Clarke

ee the movie, read the book. That's not the usual order of things, and not usually recommended. But in the case of "2001: A Space Odyssey," not much is usual.

Stanley Kubrick's awesome and flawed film about an interplanetary voyage through the solar system to the far side of space, time and consciousness, opened in New York three months ago. The novel, by the great science fact and fiction writer (and father of the communications satellite) Arthur C. Clarke, whose vast conception "2001" is, came out only this week.

Now the film, for those who have seen it�for myself, at any rate�is unforgettable; its visual impact made a permanent impression on my mind. Yet this does not, as one might expect, overwhelm the book. Quite the contrary; while reading "2001," the frames as they unreel in vivid memory serve as cues and illustrations for something even more breathtaking. For the immense and moving fantasy-idea of "2001"�that it is the destiny of man, as a creature of the ordering intelligence of the evolving universe, to unite when ready with that ordering intelligence and to be reborn as part of it, as God�is simply beyond the focus of tightly programmed visual and auditory imagery. It is an idea that can be dramatically envisioned only in the free oscillations of the delicately cued and stretched imagination.

Enigmatic to the End

The film of "2001" is too direct for this, its wonders too unsubtle and, for all their majesty, too confining. The movie can only orbit the central idea, not pierce it; it relays some true pictures but also many false and distorted ones; and in concentrating on mechanical aspects of the story, and injecting hints of satire that are misleading in crucial ways, the film makes "2001" enigmatic to the end.

Only in the novel does all become crystal clear�the function of the mysterious monolith excavated on the moon, the reason for the mutiny (psychosis) of "Hal," the mimic-brain computer on board the space ship Discovery, even the true purpose of the mission of the billion-mile voyage, which in the novel presses on past Jupiter to one of the moons of Saturn.

And what happens at the end, as the one surviving astronaut crashes through the "star gate" on the face of that moon into a gigantic universe-in-reverse and then into an imaginary room that resembles a television stage set, and then retreats back down his own memory to become a crying baby and through that to a cosmic rebirth as pure intelligence�all of this, and what it portends, and has portended since the beginning of the story three million years ago with another monolith implanted on Earth to teach Pleistocene ape-men the use of stones and bones as weapons and tools�all of it becomes clear and convincing in the novel. It is indeed an odyssey, this story, this exhilarating and rather chilling science fiction fantasy.

And, of course, it is a fantasy�you need not believe it�but a fantasy by a master who is as deft at generating accelerating, almost painful suspense as he is knowledgeable and accurate (and fascinating) about the technical and human details of space flight and exploration. But it is finally the stretching of the imagination that is most enthralling as Mr. Clarke entices the reader into strange and magnificent conceptions of other forms of time, dimension and existence.

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