2001: A Space Odyssey (Film) Imagery

2001: A Space Odyssey (Film) Imagery

Also Sprach Zarathustra

Few musical compositions not specifically written as an original part of a musical score for a film are as quite as inextricably tied to the memory of a movie as Also Sprach Zarathustra to 2001. Richard Strauss’ composition probably could not be more perfectly composed to express the concept of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical portrayal of the next step in human evolution: the Superman. 2001: A Space Odyssey is often described as one of the most purely cinematic mainstream hits of all time due to its reliance on visual imagery over dialogue, but it is also a high point for experimentation with musical imagery which only begins with famous kettle drum opening to this bit of cinematic poetry.

Star Gate

Visual imagery utilized most metaphorically and symbolically in the Star Gate sequence in which for ten minutes straight the audience is exposed to a number of abstractions in light and meaning. The very lack of contextual meaning to the strange plays of light made all the stranger by optical effects is the whole point of meaning of the futuristic imagery. Astronaut Dave Bowman is every bit as bewildered and confused and dazzled as those in the audience watching him. The visual poetry of the Star Gate aligns naturally with the musical imagery of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” in creating the subtext of the film’s themes about Nietzschean stages of evolutionary development.

A Dark Future for Women

Whether intentional or not, a persistent subtly presented through visual imagery, but consistently avoided as a topic of thematic discourse is predictive aspects of the film toward the role that women will be play in its sterile vision of the future. That role is essential that of the subservient caretaker of the daily minutiae that men ensconced in significant roles of power and authority will be too busy to attend. The only images afforded of the female population in 2001 are those in what were already traditional feminine roles verging on the stereotypical in the 1960s in which the film was produced, much less the commencement of the next millennium: stewardesses, secretaries, mothers, etc. Responsibilities equitable to the leading male characters is notably missing from the imagery of the future offered by the film.

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