We at the Flickfeast news desk weren’t expecting to get in on the site’s month-long Stanley Kubrick season. Given that the legendary filmmaker has been dead for almost twenty years at this point, he’s not really in the business of making headlines any more. Or so we thought, until this week brought us unearthed interview footage where Kubrick himself appears to explain the abstract ending to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Released by Japanese filmmaker Jun’ichi Yaoi, the video of Kubrick discussing the sci-fi classic’s enigmatic climax was shot in the process of making a documentary about the apparently-haunted set of The Shining. In it, Kubrick gives his read of the film’s ending to Yaoi during the course of a phone call.
“I’ve tried to avoid doing this ever since the picture came out,” Kubrick tells him. “When you just say the ideas they sound foolish, whereas if they’re dramatised one feels it, but I’ll try. The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form.
“They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.”
Along with elucidating some of the more abstract aspects of the film, Kubrick also incisively and intelligently hits upon one of the reasons for not explaining 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s final scenes more clearly.
To simply state “Dr Dave Bowman was put in a human zoo by space gods and aged at an accelerated rate” has nothing of the poetry, confusion or unease as the scenes do when they play out with scant explanation.
Still, hearing this exegesis on the film’s finale straight from the horse’s mouth is a rare treat. The infamously hermetic Kubrick rarely gave interviews as his career went on, preferring instead to let his films do the talking.
I’m torn between respecting that — because his films are so carefully considered and layered with meaning that you really don’t need the filmmaker himself to explain them to you — and relishing the opportunity to hear such a staggeringly talented artiste wax lyrical on his process.