The Timeless Aesthetic of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only dance. I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where. And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets, Burnt Norton




File this one under “just because.” It was not required for our class, but the theme seemed to demand a blog post…

During our class discussion, Pete pointed out the significance of time in the scene change between the ape throwing the bone and the space station. Reflecting on this sequencing, I am compelled to look at the narrative meaning behind this and other depictions of time throughout the film.

In the space of two frames we jump from what could be interpreted as the dawn of man to the beginning of the end of man. It could also be interpreted that this process is followed by the rebirth. Which begs the question, what is it that Kubrick is trying to say about all of the time in between? Is it to fast-forward the viewer past tales that have been told and re-told in order to underscore the story at either end that has not? Or, is it a commentary on the insignificance of human evolution in the grand scheme? Although it was not part of this assignment, there is a very fitting time-related quote from the film No Country for Old Men, in which the main character’s father chides, “You can’t stop what’s coming. It ain’t all waitin’ on you. That’s vanity.” 

The jump through time, conceivably backwards through the dawn of the universe into a realm in which time has jumped forward, overlaps, with Dave observing himself aging. We can presume Dave returns to the monolith and becomes the star child, representing the cycle in which human time ends and starts again. 


Among our other films…

This disruption of time, then, could be a narrative statement on the illusion of time itself. It challenges the viewer to conceive and re-conceive time in the context of the human search for meaning. Revisiting the film 2001 through the lens of the quote from No Country for Old Men about our vanity in the conception of time, and the T.S. Eliot quote, I find a very interesting narrative thread about time. Time as it relates to man and the universe, time as it relates to man and his father, time as it relates to man and himself and time as an illusion.


Treatments and Presentation

In 2001 Kubrick uses the visual narrative to juxtapose time and sequence, in No Country for Old Men, McCarthy and the Coen Brothers use dialogue framed within the futility facing the protagonist and the main character, and Eliot uses poetry to illustrate the passage of time as an illusion. In all three, the message in the end seems the same:Time is a democratizing circumstance that stops for no one, but is, in itself only a construction of our own sense of reality.


Literally, a Timeless Aesthetic: 2001 In Popular Culture

As a film with a very distinct aesthetic, 2001: A Space Odyssey endures as that aesthetic continues to permeate all mediums.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *