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Narrative Structure (Repetitions) in 2001

Page history last edited by Air Dupaix 14 years, 7 months ago


The narrative structure of this film is one of collapsing time. As we learned in class, it also functions as a puzzle. After watching this film we must think about the questions it poses: what does it mean to be human? How do we define a physical body? Did we actually progress, or did we return to the beginning again?

In the textbook, The Film Experience, they write, "In 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the narration covers thousands [perhaps millions] of years of human evolution , from apes to computer intelligence in outer space. It selects, as part of its narrative perspective, incidents that mark transitions in human knowledge, apes that learn to kill to conquer land, and computers that kill to survive" (1). How we choose to interpret the narrative necessarily determines what we think about the message of the film. Do we think it is human development at it's finest? Or perhaps the narrative could be interpreted as a mocking look at weakness found in human desire? (1)


What did Stanley Kubrick want us to take from this film?

Because the narrative leaves so must to personal interpretation, almost any idea no matter how far fetched, could be used to explain what the meaning of this film is.



The Monolith

Throughout this film a reoccurring sequence is the appearance of the monolith. What it is, no one really knows for sure. Each time it appears, however, it measures an event that changes the trajectory of human development. Whether it is nothing more than a symbol marking an evolutionary leap or a message from an alien race seems to be entirely up to interpretation. One theory goes as far as stating that the monolith represented a film screen (2).



Conscious  Thought

The most consistent theme is that of the development of the human intellect. From the first thought the ape man had concerning the use of the bone to HAL's decision to murder his ship mates in his desire to remain functional, the film marks important moments of consciousness, and associates them with the innate ability to reason. No matter how flawed.



Infancy, Adulthood, and Development

Another theme that is explored in numerous ways is what it means to be helpless; or at the beginning of development. The simian man (man's human infancy) is at the mercy of other tribes because he has not learned to defend himself., but what emotions he feels are raw, exposed, and fully felt in the moment.

And yet when man has progressed far enough to feel confident in outer space, he is eating what looks like baby food, and learning again how to use the toilet. At the same time he seems more detached from his emotions cold impersonal almost bored with it all.. Maybe we do come full circle, in an ever changing universe we become the "star-child" and start all over again.



Dual Meaning

In one of the greatest graphic match cuts ever, we are led to connect the bone which has been thrown into the air after the first kill, to an armed space craft; traversing the millennia of history in one cut.(1).



In an article about this film Sofia interprets much in the context of reproduction. What is superficially merely a spaceship, she repositions as "the spermatic communication apparatus, the logos spermaticos".(3). The bone and weapon are the first signifier of high technology throughout the film. To find out more in relation to this theory see. Exterminating Fetuses: Abortion, Disarmament, and the Sexo-Semiotics of Extraterrestrialism.

Works Cited

(1). Corrigan, Timothy. White, Patricia. The Film Experience. (2009). Bedford & St Martin. Boston MA.


(3). Sofia, Zoe citation

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