How Stanley Kubrick Made 2001: A Space Odyssey: A Seven-Part Video Essay

Andrei Tarkovsky had a rather low opin­ion of Stan­ley Kubrick­’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Pho­ny on many points,” he once called it, built on “a life­less schema with only pre­ten­sions to truth.” His pro­fes­sion­al response was 1972’s Solaris, by most esti­mates anoth­er high point in the sci­ence-fic­tion cin­e­ma of that peri­od. Yet today it isn’t wide­ly regard­ed as Tarkovsky’s best work; cer­tain­ly it has­n’t become as much of an object of wor­ship as, say, Stalk­er. That pic­ture — arguably anoth­er work of sci-fi, though one sui gener­is in prac­ti­cal­ly its every facet — con­tin­ues to inspire such trib­utes and exege­ses as the video essay on its mak­ing we fea­tured ear­li­er this year here on Open Cul­ture.

That video essay came from the chan­nel of Youtu­ber Cin­e­maTyler, who like many auteur-ori­ent­ed cinephiles exhibits appre­ci­a­tion for Tarkovsky and Kubrick alike. He’s cre­at­ed numer­ous exam­i­na­tions on the work that went into Kubrick­’s pic­tures, includ­ing A Clock­work Orange, Bar­ry Lyn­don, and Full Met­al Jack­et.

The ambi­tion of 2001, out­sized even by Kubrick­’s stan­dard, is reflect­ed in what it spurred Cin­e­maTyler on to cre­ate: a sev­en-part series of video essays on its pro­duc­tion, with three-hour total run­time that far exceeds that of the film itself. It takes at least that long to explain the achieve­ments Kubrick pulled off, espe­cial­ly with mid-1960s film­mak­ing tech­nol­o­gy, which gave us the rare vision of the future that has held up for more than half a cen­tu­ry.

Some of the qual­i­ties that have made 2001 endure came into being almost by acci­dent. Take the use of Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” to intro­duce the space sta­tion, a stroke of scor­ing genius inspired by the records Kubrick and com­pa­ny hap­pened to be lis­ten­ing to while view­ing their footage. That and oth­er clas­si­cal pieces replaced an orig­i­nal score by the com­pos­er who’d worked on Kubrick­’s Spar­ta­cus, which would have struck a dif­fer­ent mood alto­geth­er. So would the por­ten­tous nar­ra­tion includ­ed in ear­li­er ver­sions of the script, hard­ly imag­in­able in the con­text of such pow­er­ful­ly word­less scenes as the famous four-mil­lion-year cut from tossed bone to space­craft, which turns out to have been orig­i­nal­ly con­ceived an Earth-orbit­ing nuclear-weapon plat­form. That’s one of the many lit­tle-known facts Cin­e­maTyler fits into this series, and a view­ing of which even the biggest Kubrick buffs will have rea­son to admire 2001 more intense­ly than ever.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1966 Film Explores the Mak­ing of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (and Our High-Tech Future)

James Cameron Revis­its the Mak­ing of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stan­ley Kubrick Explains the Mys­te­ri­ous End­ing of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a New­ly Unearthed Inter­view

What’s the Dif­fer­ence Between Stan­ley Kubrick’s & Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (A Side-by-Side Com­par­i­son)

The Sto­ry of Stalk­er, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Trou­bled (and Even Dead­ly) Sci-Fi Mas­ter­piece

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.