2001: A Space Odyssey feels less like a landmark movie and more like a monument to cinema itself. To watch it projected as close as possible to how audiences saw the roadshow version in 1968, unrestored, with no tinkering, including a 15 minutes long intermission, and following the same chemical processes the maestro director used back then, is less like watching a film and more like wandering inside a place of worship made out of pure cinematic wonderment. Inside Stanley Kubrick’s holy venue, there are mysterious frescoes depicting our origins, our space-pioneer present and a faraway future where a man shall be reborn as the star-child.
The paleocontact theme should feel ridiculous, but does not, for Kubrick turned the ridiculous into the sublime. That’s the filmmaker’s great trick, see. He and Arthur C. Clarke transformed 1950s pulp fiction into philosophical musings, in a motion picture hypothesising that alien beings guided humankind from the dawn of our existence to somewhere our current mental faculties wouldn’t possibly be able to conceive. With its non-traditional structure, characters who come and go and epic timespan, 2001 is very much an arty extravaganza with mainstream appeal.
The special effects work might have aged in the last 50 years, in terms of how they appear on screen, but design concepts and the sense of awe provoked is undiminished. In 70mm, the film glows so radiantly. Shots of primordial plains and ancient mountains bathed in rich golden sunlight are eerie. During astronaut Dave Bowman’s journey beyond the infinite, the colours burst alive like the camera is experiencing an LSD freak-out. The 6-channel mix – which has been left unaltered – will have the hairs on your arms and neck standing to attention. When combined with the iconic opener – Earth, the moon and sun aligned set to Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ – image and sound combine to undeniably electrifying results. Experiencing 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen in 70mm is a trip every cinephile should take.