Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Kubrick's 2001 explained.
The Nietzschean journey from ape to man to Star Child that shapes the plot of 2001 is in fact an exploration of man's relationship with technology, which led to global destruction in Dr. Strangelove. However, here Kubrick seems concerned with technology's positive potential. Echoing Heidegger, the film suggests that in technology, the process that is transforming nature and humans into "standing reserve," mere resource to be used and then thrown away, there lies a "saving power." Yes, technology and the capitalism that makes it proliferate are the result of a mad quest that threatens all living things, but 2001 proposes that this quest may not be as blind as we think. It may be guided by a higher consciousness. In the film, technology leads us to the discovery that it is within ourselves, not outside of us, that the solution to the problem of technology – a solution Heidegger called poiesis, or pure creativity – is hiding.

From the film, it would seem at first that interplanetary travel is the key to that discovery. This is where 2001 becomes allegorical. In reality, technology's saving power has nothing to do with spaceships or space travel but with cinema itself. The Black Monolith that appears at the Dawn of Man, on the moon, in space and in the astronaut Bowman's psyche at the moment of death, is not simply a throwback to Masonic symbolism or the Philosopher's Stone. The Black Monolith is the movie screen.
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