This part continues the analysis of the second part of “The Dawn of Man” in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. It covers all scenes and sequences that take place on the space station Dr. Floyd was flying to during the space waltz sequence (and which was discussed in the last part). Besides a visual analysis this part will also mark the first one that will take a look at the dialogue spoken by the characters.

(Note: All images are copyright Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) and used solely for the purpose of analyzing 2001.)

After the space waltz sequence finishes with a close-up/fly-by of the exterior of the rotating station, Kubrick cuts right to the arrival of Dr. Floyd at the “reception” of the station.

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It is interesting to note that Stanley Kubrick “rotates” Dr. Floyd into this shot and therefore connects the beginning of this sequence with the end of the last one, the Space Waltz. Moreover this moment is also the first one in the movie in which the characters talk. Compared to the images and “wonders” we have seen up to this point the first sentences are more than normal, perhaps even boring: “Here you are, sir. Main level, please. -Right. See you on the way back. -Bye. -Bye.” This and the following dialogues seemingly emphasize that space flight and space stations in the movie are a normal thing. There is no reason for them to talk about the beauty of space. On the other hand, they exchange many lines in which they mostly talk unemotionally in banalities and platitudes (and therefore about nothing) as in this example: “Did you have a pleasant flight, sir? -Yes, very nice, thanks.” It is interesting to note that this question is asked two times. As a result we can say that the dialogue on the one hand increases the contrast between the outer world and the reactions toward it and on the other show us that humans in a way don’t have to tell each other something of importance.

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This moment is rather important for two reasons. Firstly, Kubrick manages to introduce us formally with Dr. Floyd; his name, nationality and his goal, the moon. Secondly we get a short glimpse of how the humans react to machines: they treat them like humans, at least when they seem human. After the identification process is finished, Dr. Floyd thanks a machine, or to be more precise, a machine that shows a video recording of a woman. In a way we could say that this is a glimpse of things to come with HAL, a machine that doesn’t look human at all, yet being closer to it than this recording. Even more; it is possible to assume that humans treat other humans like machines or vice versa. Therefore we can say that there are no true connections between humans (as emotional for example).

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This scene before the call gives us further information like, for example, that his flight to the moon is due in ten minutes. (This also explains why Miller checked time during the voice identification scene). But there is more to this short moment than it appears at first. When you listen closely you can hear a female voice announcement that “a blue, ladies cashmere sweater has been found in the restroom. It can be claimed at the manager’s desk.” This announcement can be interpreted as a way to increase the feeling of banality. Normally one would expect that something of more importance is being announced on this space station, yet we are greeted with a sweater which can be picked up from the manager. It almost seems that Kubrick wanted to drive the banality into the realms of absurdity.

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On the surface, the following scene we see is showing a conversation between a dad and his daughter, yet these minutes contain a high array of symbols and possible interpretations.

For one, it is the visuals which again show us the rotation motif which was so important during the last sequence. By looking closely we can note, that Dr. Floyd completely ignores the wonderful vista he would be able to see. Even more, he doesn’t tell his daughter about this fantastic view.

For the other, this moment can be taken as the first true occurrence of a possible new motif, the family. If we take the first sequence of 2001 showing the apes into account we can take this conversation as a complete contrast to the simians. Although the apes didn’t have a true self-awareness Kubrick showed us that they were a close group, a kind of horde. They basically stayed together all the time; they were eating together and sleeping together. In the space age of 2001, Kubrick again shows us a family, the family of Dr. Floyd. In contrast to the simians, this family on the other hand, doesn’t stay together. They don’t eat together, they don’t sleep together. We can even say that this family doesn’t life together. This feeling is later enhanced by the daughter, as she basically says that nobody is currently with her: her mom is shopping, the babysitter in the toilet. It is striking that the mother of this child is farther away than a stranger. We could even say that the daughter is being looked after by someone from a different family/horde. At least on the positive side we could state that the primitive thinking of the apes has been buried completely and replaced by logic. Yet the family (in a classic sense of the word) seemed to have lost any meaning during that evolution. In other words it is possible to state the following: while the ancient apes formed a close group of individuals the family we see in the future only seems to exist by conventions and laws, not by emotional bonds. This leads to the next element of this scene.

As all other elements (or symbols) in this scene in a way or another circle around this family motif that Kubrick establishes here, it is also the way both talk to each other. By listening closely to the voice intonation you can detect that the way he talks to his daughter is not filled with very much emotion. And as the intonation indicates, Dr. Floyd does believe that his absence can be compensated by a simple present.

Now, what is striking about the present theme in the dialogue is the following exchange of lines shortly afterwards: “Anything special that you want? – A telephone.” Why should a young girl want a telephone? A puppet might be normal or a pet. Yet she asks for a telephone although they “got lots of telephones, already.” Now, if we use this scene as a hint, it is possible to say that this form of communication is the single most one his daughter knows. Dr. Floyd seems important and therefore is always away from home and she mostly only sees him on one of those screens. Therefore she wants more of them in the hope to see her father more often, even if only in electronic form. This element therefore enhances the feeling of a family that in fact is none; it gives us the feeling of humans that live for themselves. This is even more enhanced by Kubrick as he lets Dr. Floyd tell his wife that he will call again. He doesn’t want his daughter tell her that he misses both of them, but he simple wants to call his wife. A small detail even makes this bit of dialogue almost absurdist: Dr. Floyd is namely saying that “I’ll try to telephone again tomorrow.” Hence, he also could talk with his daughter again since she has birthday on that very day. Yet he doesn’t seem to intend that and wishes her a happy birthday during this call. It’s almost as if he makes check mark on his internal To-Do-List. The modern ape cannot be further away from his ancient ancestors in terms of his family/horde than that.

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What directly follows afterwards is another talk, yet this time it is no family member but a group of Russian scientists Dr. Floyd is talking with. Besides reoccurrence of unimportant and trivial talking Kubrick now introduces us with the general (political) situation going on at that moment. So while we had a form of “unconnected” and unemotional communication between family members in the scene before, we now see communication to hide things. One can say that the grunts and screams of the apes might have sounded primitive but they were true and on the point. The communication we see now is full of platitudes and lies. The apes of the future don’t fight anymore yet they also don’t work together. The tribal instincts are still there and also the wish to keep something for oneself. In the ancient times it was water, now it is the monolith.

One side note: another form of communication is body language, which we already witnessed in the first segment, when the apes started to walk upright. When you watch close you will see that in the moment, when the Russian demands information and Dr. Floyd refuses any answer the hands of one of the scientist form a gun that points at Dr. Floyd. One could interpret it that way that the human race has indeed developed to some degree. In the past they would have shot each other, now they don’t which is already something.

With this shot ends the analysis of the Space Station Sequence, a sequence which not only shows the lack of important and emotional communications and bonds but also has some moments of black comedy.

The next part of this series will deal with the connection between this part and the final sequence of “The Dawn of Man”: the voyage of Dr. Floyd to the moon.

Overview:

Comments

  • Madmind,

    Thank you for posting your analysis of 2001. I am eagerly waiting for the continuation, is this still a work in progress? Thank you for opening up my mind and feeding my interests. Have a great night and God bless.

    - Ivan

    • Gunther Heinrich

      Oh…yeah you’re right. There was something…*lol*

      I almost completely forgot about it and now that you mention it, it’s been a very long time since I worked on the analysis of 2001. Perhaps I will find some time in the next two months to continue it.

      • iB

        Um. So…no?

        It is interesting to contrast the ways movies are shot today. I picked this to illustrate the point to a few folks. Now we cut from one moment of action or dialogue to another. The ‘quiet’ or ‘small’ moments are cut rather than used to emphasize a point.

        “There is 5 minutes of a guy breathing in space?”
        Yes. The point is the breathing in space – and the fact that he can’t do it alone.

  • Hello there.

    I came across your analysis just recently, and I was hoping that you would finish this analysis off.

    2001 is one of my own favorite movies, up there with the Matrix Trilogy.

  • Dean

    It ironic how a smart guy like you did not succeed in completing this analysis. Perhaps it is a mind game that you are pulling off, or else you are following Kubrick style.

  • Gary Jaron

    I am very glad you are continuing your project. I found your comments insightful and looking forward to the rest of your work on this truly epic film.

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