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Michael Rivera
Michael Rivera

Space Odyssey Symbolism



Back in 2013, astronaut Chris Hadfield performed a cover of one of Bowie's most famous songs, "Space Oddity," from aboard the International Space Station. The ISS was a fitting venue for a performance of the space-themed song, but there's a lot more behind "Space Oddity" than most people know.




space odyssey symbolism



In England, it was always presumed that it was written about the space landing, because it kind of came to prominence around the same time. But it actually wasn't. It was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing. I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing.


But some have gone on to analyze the song further. The lyrics describe the fictional Major Tom who blasts off into space, but then loses connection with ground control, and gets lost. Bowie was a known drug user at the time, so many have speculated that the song could be metaphor for a drug overdose.


Q. How many monoliths are there?A. One for every time Kubrick needs one in his film.Now it would seem that these are obvious observations. But audiences don't like simple answers, I guess; they want the monolith to "stand" for something. Well, it does. It stands for a monolith without an explanation. It's the fact that man can't explain it that makes it interesting.If Kubrick had explained it, perhaps by having some little green men from Mars lower it into place, would that have been more satisfactory? Does everything need an explanation? Some people think so. I wonder how they endure looking at the stars.What disturbed the audience even more, however, was that bedroom at the end of the film. Kubrick's space explorer runs into another monolith beyond Jupiter and it takes him into a space warp.


Q. A BEDROOM?Yes, a magnificently decorated Louis XVI bedroom. What's the bedroom doing out there beyond Jupiter? Nothing. It isn't out there beyond Jupiter. It's a bedroom.The spacecraft lands in the bedroom, and Keir Dullea, the pilot, looks through the window and sees himself in a space suit standing outside. He gets out, becomes himself in the space suit standing outside, and sees himself seated at a table, eating. He becomes himself sitting at the table, eating, and notices himself, very elderly, dying in bed. He becomes himself dying in bed, and dies in bed.Well, it's not every space adventurer who dies in bed.Now where did the bedroom come from? My intuition is that it came out of Kubrick's imagination; that he understood the familiar bedroom would be the most alien, inexplicable, disturbing scene he could possibly end the film with. He was right. The bedroom is more otherworldly and eerie than any number of exploding stars, etc. Exploding stars we can understand. But a bedroom?The bedroom also provides a suitable backdrop while Kubrick's man grows older and dies. Why can't it be just that - a backdrop? Poets put lovers under trees, and nobody asks where that tree came from. Why can't Kubrick put his aging man in a bedroom? This is what literary critics might call a non-descriptive symbol - that is, the bedroom stands for a bedroom. Nothing else.The film, in its most basic terms, is a parable about Man. It is what Kubrick wanted to say about Man as a race, an idea and an inhabitant of the universe.More specifically, it is a film about man's journey from the natural state of a tool-using state and then again into a higher order of natural state. It makes its statement almost completely in visual terms; and the little dialog in the center section of the film is hardly necessary, like verbal Muzak.Kubrick begins when man was still an ape, thoroughly at home in the natural environment of Earth. He shows us becoming a toolmaker in order to control our natural environment, and he shows us finally using our tools to venture out into space. At the end, he shows man drawn beyond his tools so that we exist in the universe itself with the same natural ease we once enjoyed on Earth. The opening sequence is brilliant. If it could be shown as an educational film, it would explain man's development as a tool-using animal more clearly than any number of textbooks. Two tribes of apes scream at each other. They are frightened of the sounds in the night. A monolith appears. One tribe of apes gingerly feels it, running its hands down its perfectly smooth edges. And as the apes caress the monolith, something like a short circuit takes place in their minds.A connection is made between their eyes, their minds, and their hands. Their attention is drawn beyond themselves and toward an object in the environment. They are given a "lesson" by the makers of the monolith - and they then discover that, they are able to pick up a club and use it as a tool (at first for killing, then, for more subtle ends).Kubrick cuts from this most simple tool, a club, to a most complex one, a space ship. The prehistoric bone is thrown up into the air and becomes a shuttle rocket on its way to a space station. Could anything be clearer? Here are both extremes of man's tool-using stage. Yet, when the men in the space station began to talk, 45 minutes into the film, the person behind me sighed: "At last, the story begins." This was a person for whom a story could not exist apart from dialog and plot, and audiences made up of those people are going to find "2001" tough sledding.So what then? Another monolith is found on the moon.


But when Kubrick's space infant looked at the audience the other night, half of the audience was already on its feet in a hurry to get out. A good third of the audience must not have seen the space infant at all.


2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is a sci-fi film, a thriller, an interpersonal drama, an origin narrative, and a horror story. The dichotomies at play in the film are varied: between human and machine, human and space, human and human, and the self and the self. For over half a century, Kubrick's film has been discussed, explored, and a frequent subject of conversation for cinephiles.


After this opening with the hominids, the film jumps forward in time to a group of astronauts who are sent to investigate a monolith that has been found in space. The computer system, HAL, guiding the spaceship, turns against the astronauts. HAL is successful at killing off most of the team, but astronaut Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) survives and disconnects HAL to take control of the ship from the A.I.


The reappearing monolith represents yet another stage in evolution, as artificial intelligence questions what is best for mankind, and realizes that the best tactic for success is simply to wipe out the human component of the mission. Once Dr. Bowman takes solitary control over the spaceship after unplugging HAL, he discovers another monolith in space. Before he can investigate it, he gets pulled into a galactic tunnel, which leads to a dizzying, lengthy scene of refracted light, and special effects that feel ahead of their time.


At the end of this journey, Dr. Bowman appears in an ornate bedroom, as he rapidly ages with each cut, turning Bowman from a young man to an old man on his deathbed. Eventually, when he seems close to dying, another monolith appears at the end of his bed. When he tries to touch it, his body turns into a fetus, and, switching back to space, we see the giant fetus floating next to Earth.


Kibin. (2023). The use of symbolism in the dawn of man, a section of the movie 2001: a space odyssey by stanley kubrick. -examples/the-use-of-symbolism-in-the-dawn-of-man-a-section-of-the-movie-2001-a-space-odyssey-by-stanley-kubrick-Z9z4WIDf


"The Use of Symbolism in The Dawn of Man, a Section of the Movie 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick." Kibin, 2023, www.kibin.com/essay-examples/the-use-of-symbolism-in-the-dawn-of-man-a-section-of-the-movie-2001-a-space-odyssey-by-stanley-kubrick-Z9z4WIDf


1. "The Use of Symbolism in The Dawn of Man, a Section of the Movie 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick." Kibin, 2023. -examples/the-use-of-symbolism-in-the-dawn-of-man-a-section-of-the-movie-2001-a-space-odyssey-by-stanley-kubrick-Z9z4WIDf.


"The Use of Symbolism in The Dawn of Man, a Section of the Movie 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick." Kibin, 2023. -examples/the-use-of-symbolism-in-the-dawn-of-man-a-section-of-the-movie-2001-a-space-odyssey-by-stanley-kubrick-Z9z4WIDf.


A second, identical monolith appears later in the film. It appears in 2001, on the moon, predicting the space journey that occupies the bulk of the film. The object appears a third time when astronaut Dave Bowman literally runs into it as it orbits Jupiter, after which it pulls him and his space explorer into a space warp.


A space shuttle starts the second section of the film, showing what humans have done with that knowledge over the four million ensuing years, and how far his toolmaking and tool-using skills have evolved over that span.


The predominant theory of why Kubrick chose to make the film move at such a ponderous pace is that it produces an almost hypnotic state in viewers that allows them to better be transported into the fathomlessness of outer and inner space that the film purports.


(I realize this long of a response could be interpreted as an angry, vehement rant. It's not. That is not the spirit in which I write this. There is no spite or anger here; just offering a different perspective which I think is more legitimate than what is offered in this article. If you don't agree, that's totally fine.)When you talk about interpreting the ending of 2001, you're really talking about interpreting the meaning or intent of whole film.If you read interviews with Kubrick from this time, he is very interested in film as a language. He felt that films up to that point hadn't even scratched the surface of what film could communicate. He hoped that 2001 would scratch a little deeper than anything that had come before it. The way I understand it is this: He felt we could communicate much deeper ideas with film if we tried, but we hadn't been taking advantage of the power of the medium to "speak" in terms that go deeper than what can be verbalized, cannot be encapsulated in "verbal roadmaps".So when Kubrick is saying that the viewer is free to speculate about the film and that he won't spell things out for people in a verbal way. I don't think Kubrick was making a movie devoid of meaning, an empty box into which people can place their own meaning with no relation to what he intended. Kubrick has a meaning, and I would imagine that he wants people to "get it", but he's not going to explain it in a verbal way. That would be to dishonor his work as an artist. I think he's saying that film should be a non-verbal experience, and the totality of meaning one can find in that experience, if it is crafted rightly, transcends verbal explanation. Ingmar Bergman explained his films in this way, too. Sometimes we cannot quite put an experience into words, and we might only be able to put what we got out of an experience in terms of how it made us feel.I think it's helpful to try to think about the film from the artist's point of view: Where was his mind at the time? What were his values? What was his world view?At the time Kubrick made 2001, we hadn't yet landed on the moon. The space program was a very optimistic, aspirational effort in our society. From what I've read Kubrick admired astronauts and the space the space program, thinking of them as some of the ultimate expressions of mankind's greatness as a species. To Kubrick space travel is the perfect expression of mankind beginning to physically and perhaps metaphorically transcend our human-ness. The space program is one more step toward our becoming something evolutionarily greater than mankind.


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