"2001: A Space Odyssey" - Insights by Ambra Mattioli
Updated: Apr 22
This is my article published on davidbowieblackstar.it . It is the story of how a 9-year-old girl sensed a certainty. Then a dream, an examination, a reflection, a thought ultimately about the eternal question.
I would like to take you under the arm to accompany you gently through the fantastic journey that is life itself, the life of each of us, which at times appears to us incomprehensible precisely because of its absolute, disarming simplicity. Later I will talk about David Bowie, but to do this we have to start from a very well defined and circumscribed point in time, when in 1968,
Stanley Kubrick, published "2001 A Space Odyssey", which like other classics of the past (Odyssey, Eneide, Divine Comedy), represents an initiatory journey into the god-man or into the infinite that became man.
Forgive me if at times I will have to enter as an active part in our journey-guided journey. I am sure that in the end, everything will be more understandable and perhaps this our talk will be able to provide you with the necessary tools to understand at least in part Mr. Jones's attempt to discover his personal path to the stars.
"Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin."
* * *
Twenty-year-old David R. Jones saw the film and his flesh changed. Yes, it has already been written, but what does it mean? How can an intellectual message - we can define it now as a spiritual message - shift the slowness, the heaviness of a body and alter the course of a life ... for all its remaining time?
This can happen, and in a strongly way, assuming however that this message reaches an active identification phase of the subject, and that his soul has fallen on a ground sufficiently unfavorable ("the man who fell to earth"). It is well known that the comforts do not trigger changes, but the difficulties must not even be so great to burn the ground under your feet, or so great that you will not be able to recognize and catalog ancient wisdom previously acquired.
Am I talking difficult? It is strange, because when the film came out (1968, but in Italy in '69), Amber was still a 9-year-old girl, shy, introverted, silent, and she understood the message that saved her life. Her problematic family grafted her predisposition to invisibility, and then later the ability to absorb and reflect her sensory structures like a mirror.
David said of himself: "I am a collector ... a lives collector". The 9-year-old girl, Amber, saw the movie and ... her flesh changed.
* * *
Now I need to talk you about the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey".
– Considerations on scenographic and cinematographic solutions.
What is the substantial difference between a novel in written form and a film? Literature is mainly based on understanding intelligence, which, using word and metaphor, transmits to the database - our memory - the meanings that evoke reactions and emotions. The cinema works in reverse. You are submerged by images that are linked to other emotions that perhaps eventually will allow you to translate ("betray") your thoughts into words and meanings. It is quite evident to understand the different genesis of the fascination that satisfies the reader rather than the spectator. The text induces you a reaction that is compared with that already possessed in the memory of the reader who can alter or expand its meaning, but also distort or completely replace it. The result of this conflict is precisely the emotion that springs from it. The fluidity of images that follow one another during a projection must not necessarily be linked to an immediate understanding, so much so that what comes immediately usually is only the semblance of meaning, given that it is only a feeling yet to be configured. It is when we try at all costs to attribute logical and literary values to these emotions that we discover Pandora's jar and everything is flattened and conforms. It is at that moment that we are ashamed to have cried in the shadows of the room due to a sudden emotion that we have not been able to keep under control.
Rationalization is precisely what we should leave out of the room for at least those two hours of projection.
Kubrick applies the consideration described above.
– The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss
A soundtrack that is surprising for its majesty comments a long sequence of images of evolutions made by spacecraft. The convolutions of the spaceships seem to reduce the real complexities of these maneuvers to simple waltz turns. It is as if the director wanted to put the accent on the boring banality of life in an environment foreign to man but that now is commonly interpreted as "home". The musical counterpoint is a harmony that has a dual aspect. Usually two musical instruments that run after each other or that are in opposition. In lyrics, they are two voices that dialogue. In cinematography, it can also be a sad scene commented on by a solar music or vice versa. This fact gives rise to an unconscious dialogue in the observer; perhaps the double analysis and the contrast becomes interesting when we try to understand why we remain calm in our place or we are upset. Some very complex ideas, difficult to express in words, can best be presented using sounds, which bypass the rational interpretation and stand out on the threshold of one's own intuition. So let's bypass the rational brain!
* * *
The film consists of three parts.
– Part one. The dawn of man. Physical phase.
The ape-man is on the brink of extinction. He has meat available, but is starving. He is predated. He survives automatically. His evolution or extinction will be determined by the degree of intensity with which the difficulties hit him. Evolution is first an individual fact and then extends to a group. The monolith can be widely interpreted as:
The root of being.
The table of the law.
The first brick of the universe.
The evolutionary medium.
The first reaction of the ape-man to his sight is fear. Fear is the fuel of the world (self-conservative reaction). The Moon is the lost gods, far away.
The second is curiosity, the salt of the world (intellectual reaction). The monolith is the teaching (teaching that must be touched with the hand, never studied at a distance).
The third is veneration, the transcendent purpose (spiritual reaction). The Light is the acting force (ability that is acquired with great difficulty, but whose effects are immediate and blazing). When this chemical sequence is triggered, the alchemical-evolutionary process starts in man.
Therefore ... the moon, the monolith, the light. This is the powerful image with which Kubrick depicts the solemn moment in which the agent will "virgo" - which from the Latin we translate "virgin" (woman) - penetrates, or, if already present, transforms the beast into "Homo". Nevertheless, beware, the priestly word "virgo" holds especially as "vir-agens" - force that acts - or working man.
The phrase: "On the day of the execution, only women kneel and smile. At the center of it all Your eyes", should be re-read in the light of this new interpretation. On the day of the passage, the working man (the human kind) will bow (for the teaching) and smile and is at the center of everything ... right under your eyes!
The reactive image of reason that operates on matter (the light that concentrates on the edge of the monolith) recurs several times during the projection of Kubrick's work and is always present at the critical moment when the character makes the choice that determines the difference.
– Part two. The Lunar base. Phase of the intellect.
The setting is the colonized moon. The bone thrown into the air by the ape-man is transformed into technology, jumping at foot - masterfully - 50,000 years of human evolution. The soundtrack music celebrates great magnificence of human kind. Nevertheless, the problem of the territory is the same of the ape-man. Instead of water, the new tribes compete for knowledge (technological power) and instead of threatening rumblings they are addressed with sharp sentences. Man is still a step away from self-destruction.
The monolith. Intellectual curiosity pushes man to follow the electronic signal emitted by the monolith that for 50 million years has been buried and inactive 12 meters below the surface of the Tycho lunar crater. It represents a puzzle that cannot be fathomed, cut, analyzed and whose dimensions are another puzzle: The squares of 1, 2 and 3. The man on duty, Dr. Floyd, like his distant ancestor, approaches fearfully, intrigued and fascinated. He is responsible for the future mission on Jupiter, recipient of the electronic signal emitted by the mysterious parallelepiped.
– Part three. Through the door of the stars. Phase of the soul, or of the spirit.
The mission starts. The territorial problem is the same: the possession of the spaceship Discovery. Instead of water or knowledge, the soul is at stake, the invisible part claimed by the computer "Hal 9000". Hal is smarter, faster, more logical than men, without ethics or guilt. The commander (the archer) Bowman, fighting for his survival and irony of fate neutralizes Hal with a simple screwdriver. A dramatic killing, certainly not second to that carried out by the ape-man with his bone clenched in his fist. The man is still on the brink of extinction. The commander is alone and aware of his next end. He is inside his space suit (does anyone notice any similarities?). His action space narrows, like his air and his breath is at the end. The monolith is next to him but he follows it: by will? By despair? Resignation? Faith?
The reward this time is not a simple thought, but is the totality of thoughts. It is the fulfillment of the "Ars Magna"; it is knowledge at 360 degrees. As a geometric progression, knowledge flows in man and transforms him into the purest crystal.
New set. Hotel room. The examining conscience of man jumps from one self to another older self, more adapted to the circumstance. As in a déjà-vu, he senses the presence of someone who observes him and who integrates within it. Like so many pieces of a puzzle, the many "oneself" that have been previously merged (intellectual phase), up to and not beyond a certain critical point. Evolution, as we conceive it, can no longer proceed.
We are at the limit, and man is always on the verge of extinction. Commander Bowman inadvertently breaks a glass ... and beautiful is the parallelism with the first conscious thought of the ape-man, which seems to consider the potential contained in his weapon that still does not know how to use. And it is also the last teaching that comes to the old astronaut from the breaking of the glass, that is that the body is what must be left definitively for evolution to take place. And still "let's get exhausted" in seeing the man again on the brink of extinction (Kubrick would never have repeated a concept many times if it was not important), but the monolith is always present at the moment of transformation ... of the new birth.
A new and different being is born; the sublimation of simplicity and knowledge in a stellar child. As early as the end of the first chapter, the one set in the Paleolithic with the monkey men, Kubrick writes again "Now he was the master of the world but he didn't know at all what he would do next. But he would have come up with something."
So far the film.
Like Paul on the road to Damascus, David also fell off his horse, struck by the message woven into the plot of the film. On the other hand, when the critics timidly tried to ask Kubrick for an interpretation of his film's ending, he himself laughed. He answered "I have already done my part by making the film!", meaning that the rest of the work, that of re-location in the own soul of the pieces of the splendid puzzle represented by the film, if anything it belongs to everyone.
What happened to that silent child ... what did Amber learn from that sequence of images unfiltered by his brain certainly not yet mature enough to understand philosophy or other complex disciplines? Only one very great truth: "the sleeper must wake up!" [Cit. from Dune by F. Herbert.]