By Anna

“If our life is ever really as beautiful as a fairy-tale, we shall have to remember that all the beauty of a fairy-tale lies in this: that the prince has a wonder which just stops short of being fear. If he is afraid of the giant, there is an end of him; but also if he is not astonished at the giant, there is an end of the fairy-tale. The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder, and haughty enough to defy.”

–G.K. Chesterton

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is a fairytale where the audience is the prince and the flickering motion set to classical music is the giant—space, technology—ideas to be conquered, but held in reverence lest they conquer us.

2001 was released in 1968, a year before the moon landing, but a few years after the first man went to space, and Kubrick’s film spans thousands, if not millions of years beginning with our ancestor’s discovery of intelligent life and realization it is made to conquer. The transition from an exigent, flailing ape to a redoubtable space station flight is propensity, and I feel fairly confident saying no other director has choreographed something as remarkable since.

The film expresses the nature of humanity as one needing to conquer, but failing to express emotions at the beauty and vastness of the task at hand. The film’s protagonist, if you will, is HAL 9000—an artificial and intelligent computer who never underestimates human intelligence, but whose intelligence is underestimated by humans, particularly the crew of Discovery.

The film’s pace is steady but slow in order for the audience to remain in wonder at such a masterpiece of light, sound, and image. Roger Ebert saw the film at its release and witnessed walkouts and restlessness, as well as reading reviews and reviews saying Kubrick had failed. But Ebert saw the film as more than entertainment—it is “a philosophical statement about man’s place in the universe, using images as those before him (Kubrick) had used words, music, or prayer. And he had made it in a way that invited us to contemplate it.” And on my second viewing, five years after my first, it become clearer to me that this film was great because it didn’t express a clear plot, but cared deeply about the story of humanity more than fast-paced stimulation of pursuit.

The film requires a lot of patience, but the outcome is complete balance between humility to respect and pride to create.

Quick Reviews from movies I saw this week:

The Last Station:

How remarkable a film and how remarkable a marriage. The tension and controversy surrounding Tolstoy’s final days is not necessarily made clearer by this film, but it is made beautifully: Tolstoy struggling to live up to his writing by leaving his work to the public, while also not letting his family down with nothing after he dies. His love and affection for his wife (Helen Mirren) is clear as is hers for Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), and though the film is romantic it is also a real story conveying real romance: one for the people and one for a spouse. James McAvoy and Paul Giamatti of course entertain, and the score is true to its characters.

A Single Man

This movie is stream of consciousness with every detail shot and acknowledged just as a grieving soul would look at the world. The changes in saturation from shot to shot unfold like flipping through Esquire or GQ, no shot the same, yet all tailored and manufactured to perfection. “Sometimes, awful things have their own kind of beauty.” And Tom Ford honestly expresses the beautiful in death and loss. It is a slow film, but worth your time.