2001: A Space Odyssey


At the dawn of man, a tribe of primates is subjected to the repeated assaults of a rival tribe, fighting over a watering place. After the discovery of a huge black monolith, perhaps having come from another planet, one of them learns to use a bone as a weapon.

Four million years later, a same monolith emits strange signals from the moon towards Jupiter. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea), Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) and three other astronauts in hibernation are being sent to Jupiter aboard the Discovery. The HAL 9000 computer, which regulates life on board the spaceship, provokes Poole's death. Bowman disconnects it and continues his flight. He encounters the monolith near Jupiter and enters a new time-space. He sees himself age, finds the monolith again and is reborn as an astral foetus.

Kubrick, very much interested in the question of extra-terrestrial intelligent life, worked in close collaboration with the English science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke whose short story The Sentinel (1948) was one of the points of departure for the script.

The project's conception was slow, heavy and costly (the budget went over 10 million dollars). Shot in 70 mm, the film necessitated the collaboration of NASA and several cutting-edge technology companies.

2001 was released on 6 April 1968 in the United States in its definitive 142-minute version (as opposed to the 161 minutes (1) of the New York and Los Angeles premieres) and in France on 27 September. Across the Atlantic, the reviews were mixed: whereas Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker found the work "an unforgettable endeavour", Renata Adler, in the New York Times, considered 2001 both "hypnotic and immensely boring". It would take a few years for Kubrick's masterwork to achieve its status as the science-fiction film of reference.

(1) The images - but without the sound - of the 19 minutes cut by Stanley Kubrick were found in a Warner archives vault in the summer of 2010.