Randy avoids explaining his own narrative, rather achieving

Randy ZifferAnalysis of Film and LiteratureBlock 1Human ErrorSince its inception, film has had a deep connection with literature. Whether you watch it or read it, both are created with the purpose of leaving an impact on to an audience. Despite this common goal, they are achieved in vastly different ways, considering the differences between film and literature. The novel of 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, for example, does its best to explain things much more explicitly than the film does, an inevitable reality in its verbal medium. The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, on the other hand, is far more a visual and nonverbal experience. Kubrick avoids explaining his own narrative, rather achieving a more emotional, subconscious reception in a very philosophical way. This makes the film a far more subjective piece to view, creating a natural response, similar to a painting. Utilizing its verbal medium, Clarke is able to explain his narrative, whereas Kubrick creates a visual and audial experience, through means of ambiguity, in which the viewer sees everything, is told nothing, and in which one cannot detect the presence of the film as one at all. In Kubrick’s edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey, ambiguity is an unavoidable facet of the film, alternatively, in the book, nearly every philosophical point and narrative element is explained explicitly. Avoiding verbalization, Kubrick leaves the viewer to fill in any plot holes and explanations. In the book, Clarke explains HAL 9000’s reason for attempting to kill Poole and Bowman, stating, “He had been threatened with disconnection; he would be deprived of all of his inputs, and thrown into an unimaginable state of unconsciousness. To HAL, this was the equivalent of death… So he would protect himself… he would continue the mission, and alone” (Clarke 153). Reading the book, the audience is directly told why HAL acted the way he did. However, in the film, no such explanation is offered. Kubrick almost never explains anything going on in the narrative of the film. Clarke, comparatively, methodically explains every point he makes, establishing the connections that were never cleared in Kubrick’s movie. He wants to make his beliefs clear and understandable. In the book, everything is presented on a silver platter of information, stripping away ambiguities, which the movie thrives on. Yet, the ending remains the same, HAL is disconnected and Bowman continues his journey towards the unknown, completely lacking necessary support. Doing this, Kubrick builds an immense amount of tension, making the audience itself sympathize with Bowman, feeling as though they too are a character in this story. It is much easier to identify with the characters in this way. But, watching the film, the audience shouldn’t identify with these characters. In any other narrative, Poole and Bowman, as well as most other minor characters shown in the movie, would be dismissed as boring and relatable. Dialogue is dry and the audience is never giving any reason to sympathize with these characters, besides off-topic mentions of their families back on Earth. The bond is much more subconscious, the bond is humanity. This natural reaction of rooting for humans in the face of other, less relatable characters is essential to the narrative and is only really done right in the film. Obviously while reading the book, being told about the actions of Man versus Machine is interesting, but seeing Man versus Machine in a film is much more effective in movie this type of story along. This is useful in scenes like when Poole and Bowman go into a soundproof pod to discuss HAL on their own. The audience is shown HAL’s perspective and immediately they know what is happening. HAL’s actions aren’t just being told, they are being felt. Control of sight and sound are used to perfection in the scene, and fast pans from astronaut to astronaut create even more tension. The connection was established from the start and the audience is hooked into the actions of the human characters. After the discrepancy between HAL and the clone at mission control regarding the AE-35 unit, HAL blames “human error”. Although a fairly mundane phrase in most cases, in the context of the movie, it feels like a direct attack on the human species. Kubrick’s ambiguity and act of showing us the story instead of telling it to us draws the audience into a deep connection. Sound, and more importantly, noise, also plays a critical role alongside visuals in Kubrick’s film, on par with the narrative itself, if not exceeding it, whereas Clarke’s novel is unable to utilize this medium. Both cinematic and literary interpretations of 2001: A Space Odyssey contain very little dialogue. Clarke fills this vacuum with philosophical insight and his beliefs. Kubrick, however, doesn’t. Ambient, environmental noises overtake dialogue and even music. Noise is the most used sound in the movie. The pulse of the Discovery ship is almost always dominant, only being taken away when it is important to the narrative. This is noticed when Bowman and Poole go to have their private conversation in the space pod. After entering the pod and shutting off communications, the ambient buzz stops, showing HAL’s presence in the pod is gone as well. In the various cases where this occurs, it is when Bowman is independent from HAL and arguably has more power than him. This is also seen when Bowman reenters the airlock. Bowman has the focus of the sound and story, attaching the audience to his actions. When the astronauts enter their space suits and leave the Discovery, their breathing further shows their independence. They are not reliant on the ship’s life support, and thus are not reliant on HAL. In the ending fight between Bowman and HAL, this is much more clear. Kubrick, through film, is able to use sound as a direct thematic device. This forces the audience to watch, not listen, to what happens. When sound is shut off, the audience takes notice and attention is forced to the screen, not the speaker. Kubrick uses audio to enforce the visual experience. People have a hard time disbelieving what they see with their own eyes, and thus make visual ambiguity very hard to get right. To counteract this. Kubrick uses abstract plot points and great visuals to unveil an ambiguous narrative. In opposition to this, Clarke sacrifices imagery for exposition for a much more clear plot. Kubrick has nearly no verbal exposition interwoven into it. There is no narrator or drawn out conversations on the state of the world.  Rather, most exposition is given in the form of pieces of information through small talk between characters. No one ever seems to know what’s going on, with really the only major amounts of knowledge belonging to HAL and the Monolith. Viewers are left to formulate their own opinions on the state of things around them. Unlike many science fiction novels and films, including Clarke’s, monotonous explanation of anything simply never occurs. Rather than doing this, Kubrick evokes the feelings of what it truly feels like to travel in space. He does this through camera movement, music, and elaborate editing. This is depicted best during the opening “Space Waltz” scene. As classical music plays, eclipsed suns overlook planets as various satellites and ships orbit around them, with vast pans following these ships. Compared to the first section, fraught with ambient noise and static shots, parallels are rare. The man-apes can only be described as raw, while the Space Waltz is elegance in film at its finest. The act of flying these ships more resembles art than science in Kubrick’s film. A book could never reach visuals like this. Literature forces readers to assemble the scene in their head, and while many books are great at this, Clarke’s novel has little to no imagery, causing a dry, unimaginative scene to occur in the reader’s head. The verbal interpretation of the Space Waltz, though still eloquent, fails to invoke such emotion, saying “Well, the Great Bird was flying now, beyond all the dreams of da Vinci, and its exhausted companion was winging back to Earth” (Clarke 40). Kubrick didn’t need a traditional, heavy reliance on words like Clarke did. This reflects the philosophies and themes of both authors. Clarke is more concerned with how science can help man overcome the limitations of his physical body and irrational, immature ways of thinking. Kubrick’s, on the other hand, vision of the next evolutionary step is one without words nor power, just insight.


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