More than 30 years after its premiere, analyzing Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is like trying to give the definitive interpretation of Dali’s surrealist painting Persistence of Memory, those melting clocks. Lots of people “get it” (or believe they do), and lots of others don’t (and don’t care). The general consensus agrees that it’s unlike anything that came before and most of what came after, and that it’s saying something — though exactly what it’s saying remains a matter of lively discussion. Since 1968, Kubrick’s cryptically visionary koan of alien influence, human development, and cosmic encounters has established itself in our cultural memory as an influential moment in movie-making history.

Rather like Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove a few years before, 2001 did what healthy art is supposed to do — it broke the rules, defied convenient categories, canons, and conventions, and showed us that there are still new ways of saying things, and even new things to say. Therefore you’ll find people who love it, others who hate it, and even among those who love it you’ll discover that they can have a hard time agreeing on what it’s all about.

The DVD Journal: 2001: A Space Odyssey


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