This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
SilentDawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, I did watch this yesterday but you know what I mean. I was 13 years old. I had just celebrated my birthday, and one of my presents that I received was my first Criterion, Seven Samurai to be exact. At that time in my life, cinema was something more pure and childlike to me. Growing up has its downsides, and one is the realization that not every film is good. A shield is taken away, and all those childhood classics lose their sense of awe and beauty to them. Flaws appear and in that viewpoint, great films hold more meaning. It was just nice to enjoy a film and not be constantly distracted by narrative gaps and uneven pacing.
Well anyway, I remember going out and picking up a bunch of Blu-rays, all of them from a list of "essential" films that I found online. I don't remember any of the films that I picked up except one: 2001: A Space Odyssey. I read bits and pieces of information on it, and at that time, I had already been terrified by the elegant horror of The Shining, so I was ready for this film that was apparently THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE.
With the season being summer, the days connected haphazardly, some going on forever while others evaporated in a flash. I waited until 2:00 am to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey, which now that I think about it, is one of the strangest but most important decisions of my life. I had already sat through the colossal achievement of Seven Samurai, but even though it was late and my mind was already evaporated by some epic Kurosawa, I put in the Blu-ray of 2001 with the sound cranked and the lights all off.
I was confused at first by the black screen with the eerie music soundtrack, (this decision makes me want to punch younger me right in the face) so I fast-forwarded to the MGM title logo. From that point on, I might as well been shoved into some mechanical machine and frozen into a block of ice. I was staring at this imagery, this BEAUTIFUL and BREATHTAKING imagery, and I couldn't move.
I proceeded to stay frozen for the entire duration of the film.
From the immaculate opening title sequence, 2001 was the film equivalent of being knocked firmly on the ass. Basically, the film took over every fiber of my being, and just like Alex DeLarge, I was forced to keep looking. Except I didn't have that contraption on my eyes; the film itself was doing that to me. Constantly and continually throughout the film's run-time, I was taken aback by its startling confidence, beauty, horror, mystery, and its prominence of humanity. During The Dawn of Man act, the shot of the Jaguar attacking an ape brought me to a level of emotion and feeling that no film had done to me before. Little did I know that 2001 would continually bring heavier and heavier feelings to my little mind.
The film continued, and as it continued, I was drawn deeper and deeper into its marvelous vision. I had never experienced cinema so grand and epic, and I was already thinking about where this was going to be placed in my top 10, even though Dr. Floyd hadn't even gotten to the moon yet. Again, little did I know where the film was going.
The moment, the key moment where I realized that I was slightly out of my element, especially watching it on a rainy night at 2 in the morning, was when Dr. Poole was blasted into the infinity of space. I distinctly remember chills running up and down my spine, curling up into myself, and freaking out. Not hysterically mind you, but in a way that showcased my naivety as a cinephile. I was genuinely, genuinely scared, and it didn't matter if I wanted to turn off the TV, the film had me. Stanley Kubrick had me. The monolith had me.
It's funny because no matter how well-versed you are in the world of cinema, nothing hits as hard as the final act of 2001. And for a relatively sheltered 13 year old, one that hadn't seen many disturbing or bold works of celluloid, nothing could have prepared me for Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite. As soon as that title card came up and Ligeti starts his haunting rhythms, I couldn't believe my eyes. I was always fascinated with the vast mysteries of the cosmos, and it was like Stanley Kubrick visualized all of my dreams and various wonders of the worlds above. Simply put, the Star-Gate sequence terrified me. I was literally shivering, using a blanket to keep myself warm from the immense coldness of this vision unfolding before me. If I'm being quite honest, It might be the scariest non-horror film ever made, if only for the final act.
In some ways, this was my awakening. 2001 violently shook me awake to both the vastness of the universe and the breadth of cinema as a whole. Watching Dr. Bowman go through this strange environment, full of neon valleys and canyons, spherical shapes and beings, was nothing less than profoundly influential to my entire being as a human. It feels hyperbolic that I'm saying that, but it's true.
The different blinks of the eye, the panning shot of the bathroom, the broken champagne glass, the struggle to touch the monolith, the cut to the Star-Child on the bed, the build of the music, the reveal of the Star-Child, the cut to black; It was in this moment that I broke down into a continuous stream of tears. I wasn't crying, I was silently weeping to myself in my basement. I was 13. Does this sound weird to you guys? All I know is that by the end, I was feverishly and overpoweringly changed. Cinema had opened my Star-Gate, and as you can tell, there was no going back. It's why I'm here, It's why I'm a cinephile, and It's the reason why cinema is my future. I proceeded to restart the entire film after that first viewing, and by then, it was 4:30 in the morning.
I got yelled at for staying up the whole night after trying to sneak back up to my room after that second viewing, but I didn't care. As I settled into slumber, the birds were chirping outside my window, trying to wake me up. Little did they know what I just went through, and as I slept, I slept as peacefully as I ever have. Sweet dreams.