2001 and Beyond the Infinite

Commentary and Criticism

August 1998 to December 1998

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From: "Phil Jones" [mailto:pajones@thenet.co.nz]
Date: Thu, 20 Aug 1998 01:08:00 +1200

I'd like to offer my interpretation of the last 'movement' of 2001 -  I
think I have a slant that I haven't seen elsewhere.

Very quickly;

Bowman arriving at Jupiter, activates the large monolith. This takes him
across space, bending God knows what to achieve the distance, but not
necessarily time.

After the journey, Bowman glimpses the aliens. There is a shot of glowing
geometric 'diamonds' hovering above a 'plain' - this is how Bowman (as
everyman) perceives the intelligences.

He is given a 'tour' of the life of the universe, starting with the big
bang, the creation of the galaxy and solar system (remember those 'paint

He's then shown the long ages on earth before life was even a
glimmer, -depicted as lurid landscapes. This view of pre-history earth,
completes a circle with the film's first 'movement'.

At the end of this 'revelation', Dave is basically out of his tree. He is
placed in a human environment to recover. The noises in the bathroom,
suggest an asylum.

Having experienced the universe, Dave could now open himself to reality and
leave the human world behind now. However, he can't do it, preferring
instead to live out his days in the provided environment.

His life is telescoped through film continuity devices to suggest how it

After savouring a glass of wine, he accidentally knocks it to the ground.
This symbolises his choice to remain as he is, and his regret at that

When he is at last an old man on his deathbed, he realises he has no more
time and it is now or never. He decides to open himself to reality and the
monolith, representing truth eternal and singular, reappears. Dave makes the

- If the 'paint splotches' and the landscape are actually the big bang and
pre-life earth, then Kubrick really has encompassed history!

What do you think?

Phil Jones
New Zealand

From: Madman7 [Madman7@worldnet.att.net]
Date: Sat, 22 Aug 1998 14:26:37 -0400

I really enjoyed your essay on 2001.  I have long been a lover of
Stanley Kubrick's films, especially A Clockwork Orange.  It is only
recently that i saw this movie, mostly because I thought I saw it
already.  you mention that there are other explanations to the events in
the movie, and I felt that i had a pretty good grasp on the ideas
presented, but reading your essay has made me think, and rethink some of
my ideas.  Although I think you will find that most of my ideas coincide
with yours, i have a few things to discuss.
You mention that in the beginning that the monolith had given the
man-apes some sort of knowledge for using tools, but you completely
abandon this theory later on in the movie when the monolith appears by
explaining it away as a marker in the evolution of man.  My question is,
and I'm not sure if there is an answer, but it does make for some
interesting thought, If the monolith gave man intelligence, then
couldn't the monolith give a machine emotion.  Couldn't Hal have made
the mistake because he was becoming more human, couldn't the monolith
have given him his hubris, couldn't the monolith be the reason that Hal
is so concerned about dying?
Another thing that i was thinking was the end sequence reminds me alot
of Budhist philosophy.  Many droplets of water (our souls so to speak)
rejoining into a larger ocean after death.  Are our bodies just vehicles
for this soul (I don't mean this to sound religious at all)?  Are our
bodies just an extremely advanced machine?  A device for transportation?

Another thing you elude to in your essay is the idea of cycles, which i
find very interesting, and which also goes to enhance my ideas about the
I would really enjoy further discussion on this film with you, as you
seem like a very competent critic.
I would again also like to say that I really enjoyed your essay, and am
in no way trying to poke holes in your ideas.  I found it very
informative, but I hope that we can discuss some of it, and possibly
learn more from each other.

Thank you much,

Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1998 16:16:29 -0500
From: DAVID ANTHONY RICHELIEU [drichelieu@express-news.net]

I am not going to read all of your 2001 theory for one simple reason:
Aliens.  You have assumed teh monolith is the product of advanced
intelligence when you have missed the obvious fact that it IS the
advanced intelligence.  It makes planets and stars align above it, it
emits power, knowledge, etc., without mechanical, electronic or other
means. Its presence 4 million years ago simply depicted the most
pivotal event in human history _ the direct interference by the
ultimate power of the universe in the evolution of apes. That
the Dawn of Man really represented was the creation of Adam and Eve.
The apes who touched the monolith acquired the grasping jointed thumb
that differentiates humans from apes enabling them to pick up the bone
and use it as a tool/weapon. You will notice that in the second
at the pond the monolith apes are beginning to walk erect and, of
course, the obvious cognitive processes that provided supriority
over the ape apes.   That these are men and no longer apes is
vividly demonstrated by the tossing of the bone into the future,
brilliantly establishing evolutionary connections between the men then
and the men now. 
You see, there are no aliens in 2001.  The word aliens is never
mentioned.  The word extraterrestrials is never mentioned.  All we 
know is that some intelligence 4 million years ago buried a monolith
on a moon at the same time man was being created on earth.  All Kubrick
depicted in simple symbolism was God creating man by interfering with
the natural evolutionary process of one group of apes.  What the movie
really does is ask a very simple question:  If God did this once before
and made man from apes, what if it happened again?  What would the new
men become?  At the end of the film we see the first-born of this new
generation of man.  The brilliance of the film is that it probes to the
depths of each viewer's imagination as to what new man might be.  All
the trouble with HAL and the rest Of the stuff was just Kubricks way of
asking a profOund theological and rellgious question wrapped in the
sugar of brilliantly researched space technology and perfect cinematic
artistry.  There is no sequel to 2001 since it is better that
each of us imagines it for ourselves.  Certainly 2010 missed the whole
point.  2001 was a religious movie, not a piece of science fiction.
Those who doubt it only need to watch as the monolith (which is
omnipresent, omiscient, omnipowerful) follows the spaceship to
Jupiter and the planets line up as usual, the monolith soars past
edgewise and floats into the planetary formation to create a giant
cross in the Cosmos _ indicating, perhaps, that man is about to
pass into a new post-Christian existence.  Aliens have nothing to do
this.  We are dealing with THE power that runs all the machinery
of the universe.  You are making it too difficult and complicated.


Date: Sat, 24 Oct 1998 18:20:46 -0700 (PDT)
From: a c [conde_almasy@hotmail.com]

I own 2001 on DVD and let me tell you that it is As Good As I Gets; when i
saw it for the first time ten years ago, I didn't like it very much. But a
few years ago I bought the book by Arthur C.  Clarke and was enlightened
by its meaning. I saw it again and I loved it, and when i saw it on DVD i
realized i have never actually seen the movie at all, i'm very proud of
own it.

        I agree on most of your theories, but i have to critized some of
your ideas. 

        - First of all, you don't recommend the viewers to read the books
2001 and 2010, because it tells you too much. That it's fair to the books,
because after all, YOU ARE telling us a lot of things about its meaning. I
recommend instead to see the movie 2001 lots of times and comment it with
another people, and after a long time of guessing and inventing ideas, to
actually read the books. After all, would you like to know WHO killed JFK
or forever guess the theories of Jim Garrison and company?, I believe that
there must be a time to know the truth no matter how much deception you
get; foremost, I believe that the philosophycal ending of Arthur C. Clarke
is great and makes you like the movie even more. 

        - I don't agree that the aliens are some kind of Gods, THEY ARE
super-advanced in technology, that's obvius, I believe that they are what
Mr. Clarke called them THE FIRSTBORN, THE LORDS OF THE GALAXY, who just
when the had the technology the went out there searching for another
beings such like them, and maybe, its possible to HELP THEM. 
        - I Like the idea that HAL played the message to Dave just before
he died, but its just not possibly believe that, as a matter of security,
in case the HAL computer fails, or in this case had to be disconected the
message must be played on every corner of the ship, after all, the ship is
full of monitors. 

        - I believe that your thoughts of the error in the true meaning of
the monoliths in 2010 are mistaken. Let me quote one of the last chapter
of the book 2010: 

        "The Human race would adapt, as it had done to so many changes in
the past. A generation would soon be born that had never known a world
without Lucifer (the new sun); but tha brightest of all stars would be an
eternal question to every thinking man and woman". 

        Its true that Peter Hyams' screenplay its not the best adaptation
of the book, he should have made an explanation such as this at the end of
the movie. After all, the human race evolution was the basic idea of the
aliens at the DAWN OF MAN; and when they see that "that evolution is going
to affect the fate of the human kind (the use of tools such as nuclear
weapons)", they set up other planets (the moons of ex-jupiter).

        Its also true that the new sun is going to affect our way of life,
but I tell you, That is exactly waht the aliens intended to do.

        And after all, we ARE talking about ARTHUR C. CLARKE, i read some
of his novel and he's a great writer, so (if you don't mind me saying so)
his theories about how will the world react if another sun appears, are
more believeable to him than to you. We are NOT talking about some lowlife
mediocre writer how doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. Don't
you think?!!. 

        I haven't finished 2061, but i don't like the fact that this
evolution is not mentioned as much as i expected, there has been 50 years
since the new sun arrived, and the earth has changed much at all. 

        Anyway, you did a great job on your essay. I wait for your email
at any time, i would appreciate.

        My address is: conde_almasy@hotmail.com

        By the way my name is Joan Paolo De Luca, I'm from Venezuela. So
excuse my english.

From: "Reijo Seitajoki" 
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 22:35:48 +0200
    To begin with, I want to thank you for a most pleasant reading. It 
certainly was one of the best movie interpretation I've confronted in a 
long time. However, I didn't agree with everything, thus I decided to 
write this letter.
    1. After the men-ape scene, when we travel 4 million years forward, 
the year is NOT 2001, but it's the year 2000. We all know Nostradamus 
and his predictions, he said that mankind will have a divine contact in 
the year 2000. If his predictions are right or wrong, in real life, is 
quite irrelevant, but I really think the year 2000 has an important 
meaning in the movie. 2000 is the year man finds the monolith. At least 
when Stanley Kubrick said, back when he was directing the movie, "this 
is the most expensive religious movie ever made." Yes, and the real 
space odyssey is in the year 2001, 18 months later, when man is fighting 
his own creation, namely the HAL9000, just the same way man is fighting 
his creator (God). Strauss "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is symbolising 
that! If the creator behind the monolith  is the Christian God, I don't 
know. Most likely it's not! Hence the connection with Darwin's 
ape-theory and the God being an embryo (The space-child as you call 
    2. When the scientists find the monolith, in year 2000, and we 
suddenly hear a disturbing, high,
tinnitus-like tone, it is not a symbol to show that mankind is 
conquering space, it's an exceptionally high signal that comes from 
Jupiter (it is said in the video-clip, after Hal's extinction).
    3. I agree with you in everything that comes to the Hal computer. 
Hal is becoming a human and man is turning to a machine. An important 
thing you obviously forgot, was how they asked if Hal has any feelings? 
The rebellion shows that he does, and he cares for himself (he doesn't 
want to fail with the mission, neither does he want to accept the 
mistake he made). Another funny thing - it's almost embarrassing how 
James Cameron have stolen Hal's eye and used it in Terminator.
    4. The end. I disagree with your interpretation in almost 
everything. When Dave finally reaches Jupiter, he sees the monolith and 
wants to investigate it. We see the Discovery-space ship open and the 
scene fades... My opinion is that Dave dies. Everything that happens 
after this is merely Kubrick's vision of what happens after death. The 
"light-show" is a trip to show what lies beyond life (it's somekind of a 
heaven, however I don't think it's "the" heaven). The white-room is 
again a symbol of Dave's mortal life. We see him getting old, after 
which he dies. People who've drowned, but who've been saved in the last 
minute, have told that while they were under water they could see their 
whole life in front of them passing like a picture. This is exactly what 
happens here. Dave sees his whole life in front of him.
    Anyway, these are all my opinions and can be wrong. I think a movie, 
like 2001, can never really be explained, and actually doesn't even need 
to. As long as people keep on seeing the movie and wondering about its 
mysteries - it's alive. 2001: A Space Odyssey is definitely one of the 
highlights in the history of cinema and one of the very few movies that 
reaches perfectionism. This movie certainly means a lot to me and in 
Kubrick's reputable filmography, this is probably my favourite. 
Thank you very much for reading.
- Tommi Seitajoki

Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 16:25:14 -0500
From: Alice Stanley 

This is just a comment about your interpretation that Hal's "ego" is
what kept him from admitting he was in error.  Maybe that's true, but
when Hal said that it was HUMAN error he was also pointing out a big
truth: machines do not malfunction.  Machines do exactly what they're
programmed to do.  So it's the human programmers that have done
something wrong when a computer goes haywire.  Like the apes using their
tools to kill other apes, our tools can only do what we tell them to do
-- whether advertently or not.

From: Ria Taillieu 
Date: Sun, 27 Dec 1998 23:43:11 +0100

First of all:
I really had a great time visiting your fantastic site about 2001.
I must have been 13 when I first saw this movie with my father back in 
I left the cinema theater with the impression that the movie had left an 
unerasable thumb-print in the inside of my skull, the sensation has 
softened in the years but has never gone away..

I would like to add a comment about the God - Alien discussion:

Some people are a bit irritated that the word 'aliens' is used in your 
essay, others prefer to use the term 'god'.
We should rember that both words are part of a human language, and have 
a meaning which is - excuse me for the deep-religious readers, here - 
completely defined by humans.

The word 'alien' has received a more down-to-earth bias since lots of 
stories and movies containing very humanlike aliens: Star Wars, ET, Star 
Trek, X-files, Alien(s)..etc.
Thus the term 'aliens' sounds a bit denigrating in a larger-than-life 
context like 2001.
'God' sounds more appropriate in a scenery like this.

Without trying to start a metaphysical-religious discussion here, most 
people think of God as an omnipotent and omnipresent creature: God is 
creator of everything, is everywhere, knows everything and is the 
beginning and end of everything.

This does not fit in the concept of the Others ( the word is as lousy as 
Aliens, I guess) in 2001: they may be a step closer to divinity, but 
they are no god.  One of the clearest indications is the artifact 
(MAT-1) in the Tycho crater.  When it is dug up by humans, it greets its 
first dawn since million years with a burst of radio signals towards 
Jupiter: MAT-1 is a sentinel, it's a Tool, but a very sophisticated one. 
 The Makers may be very powerful, but they use tools too, unlike a God.

Is 2001 not a religious movie, then?
Of course it is! It touches our deepest senses as humans and I guess if 
someone is up there, it surely must be one of his favorite movies..

see you in 2K+1 :-)

Bart 'LoadMaster' Lagae

sorry if there are loopholes in my expressions, but english is not my 
maternal language