What did Kubrick say is the plot of 2001?

I found a book called FILM DIRECTOR AS SUPERSTAR which has interviews 
with many directors including the one, the only, Stanley Kubrick. It was 
published after 2001, when Kubrick still thought his next film would be 
NAPOLEON (it even lists it in his filmography). But there is plenty of 
good stuff on 2001 and DR. STRANGELOVE. . . . The interview in this book 
has Kubrick himself answering the question "What is the plot of 2001?". 
. . . I strongly suggest you check the book out for the rest of the 
great information (among other things, Kubrick discusses the God concept 
in 2001 and why he decided to make STRANGELOVE a comedy).

The book, BTW, is by Joseph Gelmis and was published by Doubleday and 
Company; Garden City, New York. Copyright 1970.


GELMIS: The final scenes of the film seemed more metaphorical than 
realistic. Will you discuss them -- or would that be part of the "road 
map" you're trying to avoid?

KUBRICK: No, I don't mind discussing it, on the lowest level, that is, 
straightforward explanation of the plot. You begin with an artifact left 
on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who 
observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to 
influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second 
artifact buried on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of 
man's first baby steps into the universe -- a kind of cosmic burglar 
alarm. And finally there's a third artifact placed in orbit around 
Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of 
his own solar system.

When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this 
artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a 
journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to 
another part of the galaxy, where he's placed in a human zoo 
approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn from his own 
dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle 
age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, an angel, a 
superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap 
forward of man's evolutionary destiny.

That is what happens on the film's simplest level. Since an encounter 
with an advanced interstellar intelligence would be incomprehensible 
within our present earthbound frames of reference, reactions to it will 
have elements of philosophy and metaphysics that have nothing to do with 
the bare plot outline.

GELMIS: What are those areas of meaning?

KUBRICK: They are areas I prefer not to discuss because they are highly 
subjective and will differ from viewer to viewer. In this sense, the 
film becomes anything the viewer sees in it. If the film stirs the 
emotions and penetrates the subconscious of the viewer, if it 
stimulates, however inchoately, his mythological and religious yearnings 
and impulses, then it has succeeded.

                                                     (submitted by H.N.)

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