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A Space Odyssey – Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite – set
The film segment chosen was the final scene from Stanley Kubrik’s 2001 – A Space Odyssey made in 1968. As the name would suggest, the film is set almost entirely in the future. Already having projected itself over 30 years into the future, it would be safe to assume that this motion picture offers a wealth of imagery and futuristic vision. It does. It is towards the end of the film, however, that Kubrik offers this to us on a much greater scale. In these few minutes, we are presented with the dawn of a new era: a near incomprehensible evolution of humanity. Through many complex design devices, the set design successfully achieves a vision for the future that is neither dystopian, nor entirely utopian, yet extraordinarily positive on a revolutionary scale.
Kubrik himself has never publicly discussed the ending to 2001 and admits that this was a very subjective film, while many people claim not to have understood it at all. Many interpretations have been made as to the real meaning of this scene, many incredibly different and most equally plausible. Despite their differences, however, all have one thing in common: an overwhelmingly optimistic vision for the future.
A few example interpretations include alien intervention: an idea that alien technology has helped man progress to the ‘next level’ of consciousness; to an understanding beyond the physical realm. Others adopt the idea of the emergence of man as pure thought completely of his own accord.
It is for this reason that the futuristic vision expressed in this scene cannot be labeled simply utopian. What viewers are offered during this scene spans far beyond an idealistic version of the world we live in today: various connotations found in the scene stretch the bounds and horizons of humanity itself.
The problem faced by Kubrik, and indeed the set designer was how to portray a near incomprehensible, purely conceptual journey on film. One theory sits with the idea of a metaphorical shift of entities: the room we see is a metaphor for the human body and respectively, Dave Bowman, the main character, becomes a metaphor for the human mind.
One of the elements that makes this scene appear to be ambiguous is the absence of dialogue and meaningful audio accompaniment. This absence draws additional attention to the visual elements of the scene. Furthermore, very little screen movement encourages us to study Dave’s surroundings, in this case an elaborately decorated room.
Though the set is not intended to be a physical rendition of the future itself, it does play a large role in channeling our thoughts and emotions while we are offered these fantastic, conceptual, futuristic ideas.
The set quickly becomes an overwhelming feature of the scene for one main reason: the uncomfortable feeling of incomprehension encourages us to look to physical features for familiarity; something solid to grasp onto. Kubrik does not offer us this. Instead, we are greeted with what appears to be an elaborately decorated hotel room void of doors and windows, complete with renaissance-like artwork and glowing floor tiles. This ambiguity heightens our sense of curiosity.
What we are first presented with is a somewhat illogical mix of objects: a space pod sitting in the middle of a bright white room with geometric space-aged glowing floor tiling and furniture, artwork and wall decorations that appear to be centuries old. This immediately communicates a mix of ideas including artistic creativity, high technology, cleanliness and calculated precision spanning centuries and continents. In all, these are elements which can be attributed to major triumphs and accomplishments of mankind over the physical domain; factors which distinguish the human race from the rest of the animal kingdom. Already the viewer has received a universally positive statement, whether or not they are aware of it on a conscious level.
The fact that this room is void of doors and windows reinforces the idea that it could exist merely as a container, as we have no idea what exists beyond it; where or when this object exists in time. The room appears to exist independent of these factors: it transcends time and space, and for this reason, one can begin to question its authenticity. Could this be a metaphor for the container of the human mind? Is this a tangible representation of our ability, as a human race, to manipulate the world around us? Once again, this is an personally subjective issue which was intended to be dealt with on an individual scale. In this way, the set design encourages the viewer to open their minds, to consider abstract concepts and relative impossibilities.
The glowing tiles which line the floor of the room are symbolic of technology, the future and humanity’s yearn for innovation. The combination of geometric lines, the definition of the x, y and z planes and bright white light give an impression of calculation, purity and precision: elements that are synonymous with high technology. It is known that bright cross lighting, used throughout this scene, can be incredibly revealing and in most cases can expose blemishes and imperfections in the set. In combination with the white walls, ceiling and floor, it can be seen that this set achieves nothing sho.............
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