The Meaning of Stanley Kubrick's
2001: A Space Odyssey

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All of my understanding of 2001: A Space Odyssey comes from a few places. Firstly, there is my brain. 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film that I ever saw. I was about four-and-a-half. Our family did not have TV. It was the year of the first moon landing. You can guess the rest. To this date I have seen the film a lot more than forty times at the movies. On VHS and DVD, even more, and even more than that, if you count watching 20 minutes here and there. Oddly enough, I find watching it piecemeal a very interesting process. While it may repulse a purist I find that it helps me see things within films that I might otherwise have missed due to fatigue or the sweep of story. All up... a lot of times. I heartily recommend it.

Secondly, there are books. Over the years I have read a very great many on the subject but there are only three that I would recommend without any hesitation whatever. They are:

2001: A Space Odyssey By Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. As you may know 2001 was originally based on Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Sentinel." The story then morphed into a continually updated and evolving screenplay and novel *at the same time* during the actual filming. It was written by Clarke and thought out by both Clarke and Kubrick. The book though is subtly and beautifully different to the film. More rational, more scientific (if that is possible) and with a different kind of poetry.

Lost Worlds of 2001 by Arthur C.Clarke. As the writing process of 2001 evolved and changed. Clarke went through a very great number of versions of the novel. This book is the print equivalent of the "Out-takes and Alternate Scenes" section of a DVD but one were you read and think as opposed to simply watching. The thing that is fascinating with this book is that some of these scenes are so completely vast in scope that even today's CGI special effects and amazingly bloated budgets would be incapable of doing them justice. The things that this book does to the inside of your head are unique, and very, very nice. Also, in a lot of cases, they enhance one's enjoyment and understanding of the film to a very great degree. If you want to take your imagination out and rev its engine to the maximum, this book is a rare vintage indeed. Read it after the novel though. You'll get more out of the process.

Finally, The Making of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey By Jerome Agel. This book is the main circuit cable. "Making of" books will never get better than this one, and indeed all books "Making of" books since this one owe it a debt of gratitude that they can never repay. If you like 2001 this book could easily become your bible. Only paperback size, it is packed solid with nothing but high quality facts about the making of the film from information on the availability of Bovril(tm) to the crew through insane amounts of info as to how the whole film was actually made. Finally in vast detail, it covers the film's actual reception by the public. Among many other things It includes reprints of congratulatory telegrams received by Kubrick (including one from Federico Fellini) to one of the most shameful letters ever written. That one was written directly to Stanley Kubrick from the husband and wife idiots of Central USA who didn't like the film, demanding a refund and actually enclosing their ticket stubs. Kubrick filed the letter and about forty years later... you can marvel at the idiocy and pomposity the human race is capable of.

Seriously, if you like this film (or just films in general,) this book is central to any adult understanding of the subject. They don't get better than this. I have had two copies of this book stolen, and read one into pieces. It is that good.

Amazon Links to these three books: