The films of Stanley Kubrick continue to play a significant role in shaping the landscape of modern cinema, with contemporary pioneers like Christopher Nolan constantly citing Kubrick as a major influence. Kubrick’s masterpieces haven’t been forgotten by anyone, even if they are disliked by some. His art has inspired multiple generations of filmmakers, ranging from New Hollywood auteurs to future directors who are watching his mastery at this very moment.
Since it is very difficult to single out one particular Kubrick film as his magnum opus, many experts have recommended watching the entirety of his filmography in order to properly understand the philosophical and aesthetic frameworks of his artistic vision. Unlike the films of many other directors, Kubrick’s works might escape comprehension on the first viewing but they remain embedded in your mind.
Steven Spielberg explained that the images Kubrick weaved are unforgettable, drawing the audience into alternate worlds: “Kubrick films tend to grow on you, you have to see them more than once. but the wild thing is I defy you to name one Kubrick film that you can turn off once you started. It’s impossible, he’s got the fail-safe button or something, it is impossible to turn off a Kubrick film.”
One filmmaker who agrees with Spielberg’s statements is Woody Allen, the director of cult comedies like Annie Hall. According to Allen, he wasn’t particularly fond of the masterpiece that many critics label as Kubrick’s best when he saw it for the first time. However, upon subsequent viewings, Allen understood that Kubrick was operating on a different plane of consciousness altogether.
In an interview, Allen revealed: “When I first saw 2001, I didn’t like it and I was very disappointed. Three or four months later, I was with some woman in California and she was telling me what a wonderful film it was. I went to see it again and I liked it a lot more the second time I saw it. Couple of years later, I saw it again and I thought, ‘Gee, This is a really sensational movie!’ It was one of the few times in my life that I realised the artist was much ahead of me.”
2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t just Kubrick’s finest but also the pinnacle of sci-fi filmmaking, chronicling the trajectory of human evolution which emerges from the void and returns to it. The enigmatic magnum opus still polarises newer generations of audiences who cannot agree on a single reading of the film’s layered subtext, indicating that it is just as impenetrable as it was in 1968 when it first came out.
“2001,” Kubrick explained, “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.”
Adding, “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.
“I think that 2001, like music, succeeds in short-circuiting the rigid surface cultural blocks that shackle our consciousness to narrowly limited areas of experience and is able to cut directly through to areas of emotional comprehension.”