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Karabet, 1

Theodore Karabet
Professor Malcolm Campbell
UWRT 1103
November 11th, 2015

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format

Into the Star Gate: A Psychological Analysis of Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey
I close all the blinds in the room. I turn up the volume. A bit of static reverberates around
the room. No one else is here. Silence. I didnt prepare any refreshments; who would distract

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continuity with sentence 3

themselves while gazing at Van Goghs Starry Night or Monets Rowen Cathedrals? I settle
down into the chair and press play.
161 minutes later, Im sweating in rehabilitation from the collection of sounds, images,
and ideas my eyes gulped down to the brain. Was the monolith really put on earth by an alien
intelligence? Why did David Bowman appear in a sterile bedroom at the end of his space warp?
Why did HAL malfunction?
Interpretations of Kubricks masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey run wild especially in

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included the movie title in the beginning of the essay

this information age. However, no two explanations are alike. Kubrick himself stated that the
movie was essentially a non-verbal experience (Ager). Thus, to find any meaningful answers

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quote #1. See works cited below for full source

to the films questions, would it not be wise to study 2001s cinematography as a way to
understand the film? In other words, if Kubrick highlighted the importance of visuals in the film,
studying how he engineered those visuals should provide answers to the type of effects he
wanted the audience to feel.
Before diving into Kubricks arguably greatest work, a general introduction on the
director, most notably his style, must be given. The director enjoyed chess and photography, the
former of which contributed to his enthusiasm for abstract speculation, and the latter gave

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clarifying why cinematography should be used to
understand 2001; removed haziness

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him a feel for composition and an interest in visual effects, qualities evident in all his films
(Ciment 33). The directors characters encounter a kaleidoscope of circumstances which present
a confusing, ever-changing series of opportunities and problems, writes Rasmussen. In the
course of seven meticulously wrought films, Stanley Kubrick passionately dramatized the
complexity and mutability of human struggle in widely diverse settings and situations.
Kubrick was also very much a perfectionist; he frequently demanded to be part of the pre-

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characters and their relationship with their environment a
transition from Kubricks feel for composition to his
perfectionism

production, filming, and post-production stages of moviemaking. Preparing scripts for Kubrick
lasted from approximately six months to one year. He turned his garage into an editing room to
allow for more time; he would film an extraordinary amount of takes with actors to allow them
flexibility in performance; he personally oversaw the lighting and special effects processes on
2001.
Kubricks Space Odyssey began, along with writer Arthur C. Clarke, when he wished to
make the proverbial good science fiction film (Jones). Kubricks execution of this idea proved

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quote #2. See works cited below for full source

improvisatory; he filmed the outer-space shots without the aid of a storyboard and [rather than
storyboard any outer-space shots, Kubrick] constructed those scenes in the editing room,
testament to his competence vision as a director and perfectionist attitude. Moreover, the
beginning and end of the film were mapped out only after live-action photography was
completed. The scenes with actors in costumes of prehistoric apes were engineered with
functioning breasts capable of exuding real milk so as to attract the baby chimpanzees in their
respective scenes (Handy). And yet, with a bit of an unstable production, 2001 is also rigorously
articulated as to have inspired the only outstanding work of structural analysis devoted to film
(Ciment 130). One of the joys of viewing a Kubrick film is to experience the intense lyricism of

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sentence to clarify Kubrick filming the outer-space shots
without the storyboard; the previous version, seen in
brackets, left that detail vague
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to better highlight his improvisatory abilities as a director

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precisely sculpted impressions that build on one another (Rasmussen 2). In other words, the
films vagueness yet meticulous attention to detail landed it a wide variety of interpretations.

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different source about Kubrick to bring better credence to
the topic

Pulitzer-prize winning film critic Roger Ebert commented that people accustomed to
expectations of John Wayne-type movies will be undermined by 2001s storytelling. Eberts
explanations of the film are chained to understanding its visual texture. Ebert commented on
astronaut David Bowmans appearance in a bedroom at the end of the movie as the most alien,
inexplicable, disturbing scene with which Kubrick could have possibly ended his film. And in
the beginning of the movie, relating the lives of man-apes, Ebert opined that the visual
storytelling could overpower any textbook. Thus, the film critic noticed the visuals power to
convey effect.
Carolyn Geduld offers a far less literal and more thoughtful interpretation of 2001.
Geduld noticed the reoccurring importance of the number four in the film: four episodes, a four
million years [sic] time-span, four heroes (ape, scientist, computer, astronaut), four evolutions
(man, machine, extra-terrestrial, universe) a four-sided rectangle. For Geduld, each of any
four sections reveal the same leitmotifs, or themes. The apes eat, Dr. Floyd eats, the astronauts

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complement the preceding adjective

eat, and the aging Bowman eats. The apes fight for water, Russian scientists press Dr. Floyd for
information, the astronauts fight for their lives with HAL, and Bowmans final conflict with
himself before his transformation is the last in this pattern (ibid). Kubricks films are juggling

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acts which in which he tries to bring manu ingredients vividly to life without losing track of their
interaction (Rasmussen 3). Geduld, more complexly than Ebert, focuses on the images of 2001

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scholarly generalization for this paragraph

to extrapolate meaning. But is there not a layer beyond interpretation that seeks to know how
Kubrick achieved such meanings in such a vague picture film?

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proved ineffective

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A word must be said on 2001s storytelling techniques. As mentioned by Ebert, the film
lacks a traditional narrative structure and its associated elements. Thus, the story does not strictly
follow Freytags triangle with a clear exposition, rising action, climax, and so forth. Instead,
Kubrick seemed to focus on delivering a succession of choreographed images with
accompanying music and sound that, when blended in editing, produce any number of effects. In
other words, Kubrick freed himself from the traditional bounds of cinema by reducing that
medium to its essence. By demoting the story element, Kubrick restores tremendous power and
importance to the image and it is through images that the viewers have to make connections,
writes Walker. Dialogue hardly exists in the picture; the words that are spoken are low in
narrative illumination. Kubrick focused on the effects his style, his cinematography his
audience would experience. Therefore, to understand Kubrick, one must understand the
psychology of cinema.
To understand any movie, one must understand the psychology of cinema. When talking
about movies the concept of mise-en-scne comes up. Mise-en-scne refers to the design of
cinematography that develops mood, atmosphere, etc. to help construct a narrative (Logas). Thus,
a simple scene with dialogue can become more immersive as a result to lighting, costume, camera
angle, and set decorations. Moreover, mise-en-scne helps develop meaning. Heather Logas and
Daniel Muller, in their essay suggesting adapting mise-en-scne into video games, note Stanley
Kubricks uses of mise-en-scne in The Shining: the brightly colored floral wallpaper juxtaposes
the murdered, bloody girls on the floor which contributes to a greater sense of terror and threat. It
is important to note that finding the meaning [of a film] is a matter not of verbalizing but of feeling
it in the images, in the involvement with the experience of space, and in apprehending what is
happening rather than being fed cut-and-dried information (Walker 172); carefully-crafted mise-

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explaining Kubricks stylistic choice in reducing his narrative
to its basics: sound, imagery, music; this paragraph also
proved effective in transitioning between Kubricks style
into why it works, i.e. the psychology of film
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with the new, previous one to provide a better transition
from Kubricks methods and into their mechanics, i.e. how
they work

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en-scne, thus, while providing dimension to the film, also allows the audience to use their own
imaginations and experiences to fill its abstract gaps. Kubricks manipulation of detailed imagery
in 2001, like David Bowmans final bedroom sequence, or the imposing monolith contrasted with
an imposing black-and-orange sky, therefore, opens up many layers of meaning and interpretation
in the hands of the audience.
Jean Mitry explains that in the cinema represented objects had a dimension, a solidity,

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mise-en-scne and A Space Odyssey; previously, this
paragraph felt bare without referencing it alongside 2001;
now, examples give this paragraph context within the essay

that they were involved as they are in reality (43). By applying this idea to 2001, anyone can

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easily see why the film has accumulated so many interpretations. If objects in film are truly as

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involved as they are in reality, then will not a cinematic object be merely a subjective

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representation of an experience? In other words, if such objects represent reality, and our

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perception of reality is subjective, will that object not become somethings personal, something

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meaningful? In 2001, a film reliant on images, or objects, to convey a narrative, frequent closeups of the mysterious Monolith, images of spacecraft, and HALs red eye, therefore, become
images with personal meanings to any one viewer. Thus, the Monolith can either be an alien
structure or, say, a metaphor for God. The clock over the mantelpiececannot make an active
contribution. However, it tells us the time and thereby informs us, writes Mitry. Thus, objects

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clarity and sentence flow ( la Writers Moves)

help reflect the action and reinforce meaning (Mitry 44).

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Kubricks flirtation with cinematic objects extended beyond their presence on screen.
For the director, how they were shown was just as crucial. Throughout the film, numerous images
of future, interior architecture on the space station and the Discovery One convey a sense of
dimension. Kubrick projects the viewer almost intangibly into space by his use of depth and
camera movement (Walker 173). This technique is especially notable in Bowmans Star Gate
sequence; as the stars around him fade, the astronaut plunges into a seemingly-endless corridor of

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lights swooshing past the camera at high speeds. This majesty of colors, extending for
approximately five minutes, give credence to the title of this section of the film: Jupiter and
Beyond the Infinite.
2001 is notable for its slow pace; some scenes are fused with astronauts breathing or an

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discussion of cinematic objects in the previous paragraph
by connecting that material to applied examples in 2001;
Kubricks manipulation of objects gives further credence to
his vision as a director

airlock depressurizing. This cinematic rhythmproduces in the mindan impression of


proportion between the durations of the events or groups of events which comprise the sequence
(Mitry 104). Here, the mechanism of 2001s epic nature is revealed; rather than focus on space
battles and character development, the film burns away all impurities and is left with a product
that still manages to feel epic. Therefore, Kubricks uses of subjective images to convey meaning

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through a slow pace makes those images all the more personal. The camera dwells on the Monolith,

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ubiquity of the visual style throughout the film

the jumping apes, the spinning space station, the flying Discovery and, apart from creating feelings
of a space journey, solidifies the images as essential to its tale.
Lack of major dialogue persists in the film. In the first days of movies, characters emitted
no sounds, but the audiences could read their expressions and extrapolate said sounds. On the
other hand, silence was meaningless, powerless (Mitry 230). Kubrick understood this concept
and used sound to increase the films personal touch. Kubricks use of soundis equally
dynamic, sometimes reinforcing and sometimes contradicting visual impressions (Rasmussen 2).

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of a conversation about Kubrick and sound

For example, a slow spacewalk scene was infused with an astronaut breathing. This technique
helped reinforce the emptiness of space, since the sound came from inside the space suit, and the
proximity of the film to the viewer; people dont normally experience heavy breathing in reality,
but in film, this may signify a kind of drum roll highlighting the action of the moment. A film
with speaking is not necessarily a talking film. It may be nothing more than a photographed
play, a technique for popularizing theater, writes Mitry. (ibid). And yet the rare words in 2001

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clarity, sentence flow, and removed the now-defunct in-text
citation

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help portray Kubricks view of humans in that monumental year: lacking humanity. Almost all
dialogue lacks any motivation, and the only human words come from the dying HAL unit. But
when no words are one screen, 2001 becomes very much a photographed play, a play spanning

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word

four million years that travels from the African desert to outside our own dimension. The chords
of Thus Spake Zarathustra reverberate more profoundly at the Dawn of Man sequence than any
verbal commentary. Instead of being given a sophisticated lantern lecture, the viewers are forced
to interpret their own view of the Pleistocene age, writes Walker. And that is the beauty of
Kubricks Odyssey; anyone, no matter where or when, may watch the film and, tapping from his
own knowledge of philosophy or composition and experience will interpret its sounds, images,
and messages personally. Kubrick was able to construct a film that touches the most basic mind
and the most learned scholar.
Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist who controlled almost all aspects of his films; from

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that successfully transitions into the conclusion by issuing a
final verdict of the movie: Kubricks creation of a story
entirely reliant on the audience for its meaning

directing, to editing, to casting, Kubricks unstoppable attention to detail landed him the ability to
create a multi-layered story utterly dependent on those details to construct meaning. His early
work in photography helped him become accustomed to composition and clever ways of

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conclusion so as to paint a more expansive image of the
director in the last paragraph of the essay

portraying ideas. His fascination with chess gave him the ability for complex thought; the creation
of a multi-layered story in the film was a testament to those abilities. In 2001: A Space Odyssey,
Kubricks manipulations of images, pace, and sound all helped produce a personal effect. The
films heavy reliance on imagery makes it more personal; any object in cinema ties into the

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Kubricks life that allowed him to become the acclaimed
director that he was
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since the film was mentioned in the previous sentence; the
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audiences subjective experiences surrounding it. Kubrick manipulated those objects and gave
them a dimension, evident in interior architecture and the Star Gate sequence; these helped the
audience experience the perspectives of space travel. The rhythm, flow of the film elongated the
duration of every image and, thus, made it more personal. Finally, the sound and music was also

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research inserted previously into the essay into the
conclusion for continuity and depth
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research previously seen in the essay into the conclusion for
continuity and depth

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used explicitly to create a subjective picture; the inclusion of Strauss Thus Spake Zarathustra in
the beginning of the film, while setting the tone for the picture, suggested a possible subject the
film was going to tackle.
So what did Kubrick make? Some would argue that 2001: A Space Odyssey has no
meaning; hoping for a John-Wayne type movie, as Roger Ebert explained, the audience would

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separate summary of contents of the essay into a final
verdict; the paragraph, in a way, interprets and concludes
the evidence listed in the paragraph before it

be underwhelmed by the seemingly pointless shots and sounds of monkeys and space and heavy
breathing. And they would be correct. Kubrick deliberately kept the straightforward narrative
vague in this production to make it more subjective, more personal. If the poetry of images and

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would be correct came too soon after the seeming
accusation of no meaning

sounds did not produce an effect on any one viewer, the film still managed to become personal;
perhaps the viewer sees beauty in explosions and car chases and WrestleMania. What is the true
meaning of 2001? The answer is in you.

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memorable ending

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Works Cited
Ager, Rob. Kubrick: and beyond the cinema frame. Collative Learning. 2015. Web. 09
December 2015.
Ciment, Michel. Kubrick: The Definitive Edition. Trans. Gilbert Adair, Robert Bononno.
New York: Faber and Faber, Inc., 2001. Print.
Ebert, Roger. 2001 The Monolith and the Message. Rogerebert.com. Ebert Digital
LLC, 21 Apr 1968. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

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quote #1

Handy, Bruce. Weird, Unseen Images from the Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Vanity Fair. Cond Nast, 9 Jul 2014. Web. 25 Oct 2015.
Jones, Josh. The Letter Between Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke That Sparked the
Greatest SciFi Film Ever Made (1964). Openculture. 14 May 2015. Web. 09
December 2015.
Kolker, Robert, ed. Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey: New Essays. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Logas, Heather and Daniel Muller. Mise-en-scne Applied to Level Design: Adapting a
Holistic Approach to Level Design. Digital Games Research Association
3.1(2005): 1-9. Web. 25 Oct 2015.
Mitry, Jean. The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema. Trans. Christopher King.

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quote #2

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Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. Print.
Rasmussen, Randy. Stanley Kubrick: Seven Films Analyzed. Jefferson: McFardland &
Company, Inc., 2001. Web. 09 December 2015.
Smith, Tim. What We Really See When We Go See a Movie. All Things Considered.
NPR. 28 Aug 2015. Web. 25 Oct 2015.
Walker, Alexander, Sybil Taylor, and Ulrich Ruchti. Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual
Analysis. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999. Web. 09 December 2015.