Possibly the finest film of Stanley Kubrick’s illustrious career, 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered to be one of, if not the best, science fiction film of all time. A revolutionary work that was way ahead of its time, 2001 remains a cinematic enigma that examines technology, evolution and human identity, keeping audiences guessing since the release of the film in 1968.
As his most complicated piece of cinema, purveyors of film around the world have long been eager to unlock the film’s truth, even if Kubrick himself doesn’t subscribe to one single interpretation. Speaking in an interview with Playboy magazine, the filmmaker stated: “You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film—and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level—but I don’t want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue”.
However, Stanley Kubrick contradicts this belief in 1980, when he appears in a documentary from filmmaker Jun’ichi Yao who was making a behind-the-scenes look at the paranormal experiences that occurred on the set of The Shining. Though the documentary was never actually released, a clip from the film featuring a telephone conversation with Kubrick has since surfaced online where the late director reveals his intentions behind 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In the telephone interview, Jun’ichi Yao asks: “People are wondering, what is the meaning of the last scene…could you give us answers?” referring to the final scene in 2001, where the protagonist Dave Bowman lies in bed. Responding, Stanley Kubrick states: “I tried to avoid doing this ever since the picture came out because when you just say the ideas they sound foolish, whereas if they’re dramatised one feels it”.
Continuing, he adds, “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 and 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”.
Elaborating further into this concept, Kubrick then notes: “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 weren’t quite sure, just as we’re not quite sure what to do in zoos with animals”.
Concluding, the filmmaker comments, “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 superbeing and sent back to earth… It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, that was what we were trying to suggest”.
Though whilst this is certainly a definitive answer from Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey is imbued with so much visceral, emotional content that it remains a subjective experience with musings on life, death, rebirth and existentialism.
See the clip, below.