Called the “ultimate trip” on its 1968 release, and displaying what one critic called the most audacious cut in film history, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey still merits these superlatives. Using then state-of-the-art special effects, this non-CGI spectacle inspires awe—nowhere more so than in the large screen format only possible at the Byrd Theater.
Released in the psychedelic era (hence its trippy reputation and, in some cases, “enhanced” viewings), Kubrick’s film raises dark questions about human nature, technology, and the development of the species. The story spans all of human history and projects into an uncertain future, the shape of which follows Kubrick’s grave concerns about geopolitics at the height of the Cold War. These themes are all aided by a soundtrack that includes effects like absolute silence to depict space and one of the first cinematic uses of classical compositions, in this case the famous, oracular Richard Strauss composition Thus Spake Zarathustra, based on Nietzsche’s philosophical novel of the same name.
The movie’s notorious “Dawn of Man” sequence leads stunningly to the reaches of outer space and the explorations of a group of astronauts whose travels ultimately take them, in another titled sequence, “To Jupiter—and Beyond.” Throughout the film occur unexplained but ponderous appearances of a mysterious monolith, heralding advances of humankind or planetary menace—or both. In addition to the human astronauts is the HAL 9000 computer, one of the film’s main “characters” and its likely antagonist.
See and hear for yourself the visual, sonic, and philosophical ambitions of Kubrick’s classic film in a format for which the film was designed and which, in the multiplex and streaming age, is only available at a theater like the Byrd.
For those who have been plagued by unanswered questions or who want to take a deeper dive on the underlying themes of the film, there will be a live Q&A after the screening.
(2001: A Space Odyssey shows Sunday, 6/18 at 2pm)