Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

The Romantic Model of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

The Romantic Model of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Article excerpt

Résumé : Cet essai examine le film de Stanley Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) à la lumière de méthodes qui sont en phase avec le romantisme européen. Dans une telle perspective, l'utilisation d'une imagerie abstraite et d'une chronologie non linéaire reconfigure le mode de réception du film pour en souligner certains phénomènes typiquement romantiques tels que le renouvellement de la perception, la transcendance temporelle et le sublime. Puisque ces qualités sont généralement associées au cinéma expérimental américain - un genre lié de façon explicite aux films de Kubrick - leur présence dans un film-spectacle de science-fiction à gros budget remet en question notre capacité à définir 2001 comme un film narratif et mimétique au sens usuel du terme. Au bout du compte, ces éléments convergent vers une façon de regarder le film comme une allégorie évolutionniste complexe qui implique le spectateur dans son canevas symbolique, lecture du film soutenue par les théorisations du cinéma faites par Cilles Deleuze, Fredric Jameson et plusieurs autres.

If the ape had never stood,

Nor the eagle ever soared,

What caves of this world

Would dreams lay dormant in?

If fountains had never weeped,

Nor winds ever blown,

What parched lands of this earth

Would seeds lay still in?

What fraile [sic] creatures;

What fragile flowers;

What forlorn valleys

Would have been lost to nothing,

If hope had not spermed [sic]

The greater depths

Of our savage hearts,

And lifted our souls to the light?

Who is to know

But that infinite power

That lies so far

Beyond our rainbows.

-excerpt from "Beyond our Rainbows," a poem by Miss Linda J. Stockham, inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and sent to director Stanley Kubrick in 19681 1. INTRODUCTION: THE FUTURE OF ROMANTICISM

In an interview conducted by Joseph Gelmis in 1970, Stanley Kubrick gave the following assessment of his seminal science fiction film: "1 think that 2001, like music, succeeds in short-circuiting the rigid surface cultural blocks that shackle our consciousness to narrowly limited areas of experience and is able to cut directly through to areas of emotional comprehension."2 This statement was made with an assurance enabled by the film's having become one of MGM Studios' most commercially successful and culturally influential productions. Upon the film's initial release in 1968, however, many critics and much of the film-going public expressed bewilderment and at times outright antipathy towards the film, initiating contentious debates in both sectors regarding the film's merits both as a work of art and as mainstream entertainment.3 Interestingly, the very qualities of the film derided by its opponents-including the extended sequences of wordless movement, the erratic and largely unexplained shifts in spatial and temporal setting, and the obscure psychedelic imagery employed near its finalewere the focus of praise on the part of its admirers. The "crisis in criticism" initiated by 2001 thus seemed to reveal a disparity rooted less in taste or opinion than in perceptual disposition.4 The film's mode of expression appealed to a different set of percepts than those typically brought to bear upon classical cinematic mimesis and narrative, and for this very reason resonated with the rapidly shifting sensibilities of younger audience members in the late 1960s.

Kubrick's identification of his film's capacity to "short-circuit" the audience's cognitive preconceptions is in fact echoed in numerous accounts of the film's spectatorial radicalism. For instance, Annette Michelson, in a highly influential analysis contemporary with the film's initial theatrical run, states that the film's most profound effects are ultimately located "somewhere between screen and spectator...generating a kind of cross-current of perception and cognitive restructuring, visibly reach [ing], as it were, for another arena, redefining the content of cinema, its 'shape of content. …

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