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Editing in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Page history last edited by Sam Webster 14 years, 1 month ago

The editing in 2001: A Space Odyssey is often used in conjunction with strategic camera placement in order to exemplify the strange and unknown space in which most of the film takes place. This clip tracks Dave as he heads to HAL's logic center and disables HAL's higher functions. Through this progression, the film often makes cuts that aren't entirely congruous in order to help establish the peculiarity of the outerspace setting and to fracture the only room that can be construed physically as HAL.



The sequence begins with shots following Dave through the ship and without much editing at all, the camera distances itself from Dave when he reaches a ladder and begins to climb. Without a specific cut, the camera angle changes drastically from following just behind Dave to pointing straight up as he climps a ladder and steps off into another chamber. This is a change that becomes more and more dramatic as the scene progresses, and the space that the camera frames gets twisted and more confusing with movement like this as well as careful editing. The following match-on-action cut shows this well when we switch to a very low angle shot of Dave entering the door; the two consecutive shots are filmed from very different angles, but the action of Dave stepping through the door connects them for viewers, forcing them to accept this very awkward switch of action continuing into a horizontal shot from a vertical shot. This cut enforces the bizarre and unfamiliar setting of outerspace to the viewers by being unfamiliar in and of itself. That constant rearranging of axes for the characters floating through space is reflected in the angles Kubrick uses as well as the drastic cuts between those angles.

We follow Dave as he unlocks the door to HAL's logic center from this same low angle. The aesthetic effect of this angle seems to differ from the normal sense of dominating power by the central character here. Though Dave certainly seems to be an unstoppable force against HAL in this case, the angle, and perhaps the close proximity of the camera to Dave, doesn't give that feeling as much as it just seems to be unable to position itself in any other way. The awkard angle of Dave, never capturing the total room that he is in at one time, defines the space in that small room by appearing to only be able to occupy a very small portion of it, and not very easily. Once Dave opens the door, the film makes another strange cut into a totally different angle as Dave enters HAL's logic center, completely rearranging the axes in space once again. As Dave floats through the room towards HAL's mainframe and begins to slowly dismantle it, the camera cuts between three or four completely displaced and disjointed shots of Dave, making it incredibly difficult to visualize him as facing a wall, the ceiling, or the floor. This sequence of Dave inside HAL's logic center cuts between these different angles in an attempt to show how space and setting is considered in the film. As the audience begins to get comfortable with one angle of Dave, perhaps assuming he's facing a wall, the film cuts to a strange new angle that may make him appear to be inches from the floor. All of these cuts construct the setting by making it nearly unidentifiable, and HAL's "brain room," our only glimpse of a possible physical room for HAL to exist in, is disjointed and fractured as the film cuts back and forth, presenting the room from different angles to make the floor indistinguishable from the ceiling.

Comments (2)

Sean Desilets said

at 11:49 am on Nov 5, 2009

* We will have to brainstorm a title: Editing as Spatial Disruption in 2001: An Example(?)
* Characteristic great reading on your part, with fantastic attention to detail
* Seems important to note the unstable camera movement as a significant departure from the rest of the film (even as the spatial editing is, as you say, completely consistent with the film as a whole)
* I agree that the distinctly low angle here emphasizes the cramped nature of the space. I also think the fact that we can recognize it as a low angle renders the bewildering nature of HAL's brain room even more bewildering by comparison.

Sam Webster said

at 12:37 am on Nov 4, 2009

I don't think "Editing in 2001: A Space Odyssey" should be the title of this page since I'm only analyzing one specific scene. But I couldn't think of anything else to call it... suggestions?

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