American auteur Stanley Kubrick’s work has had a formative influence on the evolution of the cinematic art form in the latter half of the 20th century. His films have exposed audiences to the true potential of the visual medium, proving once and for all that cinema has the power to stir the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of people, all mesmerised at once. Stanley Kubrick is also often cited by many contemporary directors as the primary reason why they decided to pick up the camera and start filming.
Throughout his career, Kubrick made several masterful additions to his sacred filmography, including gems like A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon, among others. However, his magnum opus remains the 1968 sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey as Kubrick took on the ambitious task of chronicling the entire past of human evolution as well as the bleak future involving orbiting nuclear warheads and a giant space baby.
While describing the philosophical and spiritual elements embedded in the subtext of his work, Kubrick commented: “2001 is basically a visual, nonverbal experience. It avoids intellectual verbalisation and reaches the viewer’s subconscious in a way that is essentially poetic and philosophic. The film thus becomes a subjective experience which hits the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.”
He also spoke about 2001’s ability to go beyond its literary frameworks, claiming that the film can trigger multiple sensory organs of audiences in order to construct a compelling experience: “Actually, film operates on a level much closer to music and to painting than to the printed word, and, of course, movies present the opportunity to convey complex concepts and abstractions without the traditional reliance on words.”
Kubrick’s New Hollywood contemporaries like Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and William Friedkin have always maintained that the filmmaker’s vision had extraordinary power. When Scorsese was asked about his favourite instalment from Kubrick’s illustrious filmography, he initially hesitated and said: “It’s hard to choose one. I have very strong feelings about Barry Lyndon and about 2001.”
However, Scorsese came around later and publicly confessed that his connection to 2001 was incredibly special. While discussing the film, he claimed that Kubrick had achieved the monumental task of transforming the cinematic experience into a spiritual one: “It is a strange thing. The religious side of me found an extraordinary comfort in the end of the film, a very beautiful moment.”