This article reveals the explained plot and the detailed events in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, revealing its meaning and storyline. We recommend you to read it only after watching the movie, and not before, in order to preserve the pleasure of the first vision.
2001: A Space Odyssey is probably one of the most discussed films in the history of cinema. Not only because of the revolutionary effect that the film had on science fiction, but also because of the message, the meaning that the film wants to convey. And the reason why we talked a lot about it, even today, is simple: it’s not a film conceived to be understood at first sight. It is intentionally developed in an allegorical way, with cryptic symbols that combine a puzzle that is not easy to interpret. Arthur C. Clarke himself, author of the screenplay and the novel behind the movie, stated after the film was released:
“If you understand 2001 on the first viewing, we will have failed.”
Of course this doesn’t mean that the film has no meaning: Kubrick and Clarke have always fought this hypothesis, despite the numerous supporters of the random interpretation of the film. A meaning is there for sure. Perhaps even more than one, judging by the variety of interpretations that have spread over time, from the allegory of birth to Nietsche’s Übermensch concept (a complete overview of all possible interpretations is on Wikipedia). Kubrick himself, although reluctant to give explanations at the beginning, over the years has provided elements in support of one or the other hypothesis, not denying for example the underlying religious contents.
Recently, however, a very old video interview dating back to 1980 has been spreading on the Internet, with the video recently published on Youtube. The interview is long and carried out in a rather bizarre way (Kubrick is at the phone with the interviewer, despite – according to him – he was in the office nect to him), but it seems to have the most complete and exhaustive statement ever pronounced by Kubrick about the meaning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. You find his words below:
“The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.
The god-like entities chose the famous bedroom, an inaccurate replica of French architecture, because they had some idea of something that the protagonist might think was pretty, but wasn’t quite sure. Like we do with animals live at the zoo, a space that we think is their natural environment.
When they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman. We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.”
It’s an explanation that actually puts all the elements of the film in its place, and makes perfect sense. Spectators and fans obviously remain perfectly free to integrate it with elements from other theories, which are not completely refuted by Kubrick’s statement. But if you go in search of a clear and simple explanation, it is likely that this is the right one.