[Yes, many. Here are three. This first is from Frederic Lyman]: * * * * Few films ask us to think. Since 2001 did, I felt obliged to let you know that I tried to. I am told that C.G. Jung found dreams to develop in four acts: - Introduction - The plot thickens - Crisis - Resolution 2001 is a story structured like a dream. The four acts are announced not by raising and lowering of a curtain but by the appearance four times of knowledge, embodied as a Duranodic slab, like the apple tree of Genesis a phallic symbol, the phallus being the instrument of primary creation, as is knowledge that of intellectual creation: INTRODUCTION - the first appearance of knowledge and the first result; the first tool, a weapon, followed by the entire history of man most beautifully pictured as that weapon (tool) rising to the grandeur of a spaceship. THE PLOT THICKENS - an overeducated doctor is congratulated on a completely innocuous speech, and he, in turn, congratulates his colleagues on a discovery which took no more initiative than a dog discovering a bone. Knowledge is turned against them. It deafens them. It overwhelms them. So, to discover its origins, they send a ship, captained by a man of humility, calm under pressure, an artist; in short, a hero. Knowledge on board in the form of a computer tries to thwart him. We are not told until the computer is expurgated that it alone knew the purpose of the mission. CRISIS - the hero (der Held) arrives at the point of discovery. As we see from the expression on his face, it is a more terrifying experience than his bout with the computer, for, as we discover in the final... RESOLUTION - the discovery is not of some strange new world but of himself; the wisdom of age is his rebirth. But whose dream is it? Yours, of course, but I think you asked yourself if you were so much different from the rest of us and you decided that you were not and so you made a film. Frederic P. Lyman Malibu, California Mr. Kubrick responded: Thank you for your fascinating note. You are very perceptive, indeed. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- [Next, a comment from Truman Brewster]: Stanley Kubrick is telling us that man's intelligence is a toolmaking intelligence, and that tools take precedence over man. (Even language, which has been considered our highest achievement, is a tool. It is not accidental that there are only forty-three minutes of non-dialogue in this three-hour movie. As we become more and more involved with electronic technology and gadgetry, there will be less and less involvement with language, at least language as we know it.) As to the question of what we are doing with this tool-making intelligence, it would seem Kubrick is telling us we are getting nowhere fast. (I happened to see this movie in Manhattan Island, which is an old, dirty, broken-down tool where the poor people, who allow it, go in circles and dehumanize themselves.) Kubrick has given us a big, expensive, spectacular joke, and also something of a tragedy, in which man's intelligence, potentially great, is up to nothing. Kubrick's dissolve from the tool-bone thrown in the sky to a space station in 2001 is not beside the point. Thousands of years of human history were skipped, as if man has not been up to anything except finally making these giant space tools. (IBM will also do away with human history, and humanity may be dismissed in favor of junk.) Not only history, but what happened to language? There is none in the movie. Are we being told language is not important? Perhaps it is not. Most people I know use it only for rudimentary forms of communication, such as "Where is the bathroom?" "I love you," but my cat is just as effective in communicating in spite of his speechlessness. It is said we use language to educate and carry on traditions, but much education is only information, and our traditions are invariably on collision courses. We get propaganda and polemics rather than reasoning. A verbal man such as Stanley Kauffmann has programmed himself to be a reviewer, and, though he has a good movie to verbalize about, he only cranks out a non-review in which he is hung upon words such as amusing and dull. Except for a few poets who have thrilled us, a few novelists and essayists who may have told us something about our conditions, and a handful of philosophers who have looked into the errors of our forms of knowledge, and versifiers who write the likes of "Daisy, Daisy" to please us, we really have not put language to much use. Kubrick's fine 2001 seems to be telling us all this. At the end of it, after the mission (our mission) has failed utterly, we see a large, white fetus returning to view the Earth, its oversized eyes almost angelic. How glad we are to be back -- and as a little child. Could it be the best thing we have going for us is our infant intelligence, which wonders at the sights, sounds, and touch of the world? We are as children. For us, there may be nothing else. Truman Brewster Los Angeles ----------------------------------------------------------------------- [Finally, a letter from Stephen Grosscup]: Ten years ago -- when I was sixteen and just beginning to discover the rather splendid world of "serious" music -- a friend of mine came dashing into my house with a record album and demanded that I " . . . listen to this!" Patiently, but firmly, I explained to my friend that I was going out soon and could not possibly listen to the entire album. Too late. My friend had placed his record on my turntable and was adjusting the volume on my amplifier. I heard the low, ominous rumbling -- the sudden, intensely dramatic pronouncement of a horn -- the utter exaltation that is the opening of Richard Strauss' THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA. Ten days ago I was with that same friend and we were listening to that same opening -- but this time it was music with sight added -- a vision as brilliant as the music -- and twice as elative. I must confess to a feeling of something akin to intimidation -- to think that these words might be read by the man responsible for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. I have been an avid and intelligent devotee of motion pictures for almost twenty years -- I started early -- and I must admit that after leaving the theater showing 2001 I had the definite impression that for the first time in my life I had truly seen a "motion picture." I think that perhaps a hundred years from now people will look back upon those of us who were able to see 2001 with the same awe and envy that I experience when I think of the people who were able to see the first performance of Wagner's RING or Mahler's THIRD SYMPHONY. In short -- I thought 2001 was magnificent. I thought that the implications of 2001 were monumental. I found 2001 to be your most optimistic film to date. With the exception of LOLITA, I have enjoyed all of your previous films immensely. It would be difficult to pick my favorite among THE KILLING, PATHS OF GLORY, and SPARTACUS. DR. STRANGELOVE was very depressing -- almost as depressing as 2001 was elative. In pondering your films, I find that SPARTACUS was the least stylistic. In fact, in light of 2001, SPARTACUS becomes somewhat of an enigma, SPARTACUS seems an almost average picture from a man who makes above-average films. However, its "averageness" did not prevent me from seeing it six times. I am speaking of style, because 2001 was so completely stylistic -- that is to say, it is the only motion picture ever made that so utterly bears the mark of a single man -- of a single mind. Every other motion picture can lead to the speculations -- "I wonder what it would have been like if . . . David Lean . . . or William Wyler . . . or . . . Robert Wise had directed it?" That sort of speculation is impossible -- and unthinkable -- with 2001. It is a film of incredible and irrevocable splendor. Now, on to the implications. For one thing, 2001 has -- as no other film ever has -- elevated the artistic potentiality of motion pictures to a hitherto undreamed-of level. In a sense, you have not only said "It can be done!" . . . you have "done it!" 2001 does not mark the growth of the art of the cinema; it is the birth of the cinema. People can honestly say that they have never seen anything like it -- simply because there never has been anything like 2001. Ah, but you must know that much better than I! The major implication inherent in 2001 takes place within the first ninety (?) seconds. Had I not already thought of this implication, I would quite probably now be confined in a rest home suffering from an "elation-caused insanity." About 18 months ago I had an idea. I was thinking about the potentiality of home videotape recorders. It seemed to me that when the day came when HVTRs were available to the general public that there would be a lucrative market for prerecorded videotapes, in much the same way that records and prerecorded stereophonic tapes constitute a lucrative market today. I then thought of the possibilities for the content of these prerecorded VTs. Starting with rock-and-roll, I worked my way up to absolute music. "What if," I thought, "someone wanted to 'see' Beethoven's Ninth Symphony?" Would you show them an orchestra and chorus? Or what? Then I thought: "What if someone 'filmed music'?" Then I thought: "What if I filmed music?" To make a long story shorter, I then proceeded to read a number of books on photography, buy a small, almost ludicrous super-8mm camera, and put my abstract idea into concrete form. I went out and "filmed" the third movement of Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony. It worked! It worked beautifully. I was fully aware that I was a rank amateur using a primitive camera that did not even have reflex viewing, and yet upon viewing the final results -- about five hours' cutting time was required on my little Sears, Roebuck & Co. editor -- I knew beyond any doubt that it worked. Until seeing 2001 I had always thought of filming music in terms of objects existing "naturally" in reality. But it is doubtful that ever in my own lifetime will I be able to "shoot" a natural scene involving three planets. I knew instantly that you had too much reverence for Richard Strauss to tamper with the score which meant that you had to put the film to the music -- and you did -- three times! I have since done a great deal of thinking -- and preparing -- about "filmed" music. I have gone so far as to envision a day when there will exist a new kind of artist who is both composer and photographer and who will bring about a new form of art. But that day, I think, is a long way off, but maybe by the year 2001 . . . I am currently directing my thinking and my mental and financial resources toward the production of several complete symphonies. If I succeed, you will no doubt hear of -- or from -- me. I would like to succeed if for no other reason than to pay you back for 2001 -- to cause you as much elation with my creativeness as you have caused me with yours. Finally, I would like to comment on some of the aspects of 2001. My favorite scene is the discovering of the "tool" by the simian. It is the most heroic sequence I have ever encountered. Just the scene alone would have been brilliant -- but to show the scene with the music of Strauss was the proverbial "frosting" on the cinematic cake. Also, the changing of the "tool" into a spaceship was brilliant. I was particularly taken with the entire opening sequence -- from the glowing eyes of the tiger (?) to that haunting night sequence when the ape-men crowd together for warmth and for the atavistic sense of security such bodily contact must have represented. However, the most devastating part of that scene was the close-up of the eyes -- those human, frightened eyes realizing even then that their security was a collective illusion and that the night was fraught with individual danger. I found the obelisk -- slab, or whatever -- to be a masterstroke of a leitmotif -- especially with Ligeti's voices. And the shots of the obelisk and the sun were hauntingly powerful. The space sequences were, of course, exquisite. After the show, some friends and I debated the "why" of your use of the Strauss waltz. I advanced the theory that several centuries ago three-quarter time was referred to as "perfect time," and that you thought this best described the motion of the universe and man-made objects attempting to imitate and/or conquer that universe. Your incredible sense of humor was particularly noticeable a number of times, but especially in two scenes. In the opening, when one of the simians looks full-face at the camera and growls, and in HAL's rather laconic comment, "I know I've made a number of poor decisions recently . . ." Too much! At the end of the motion picture, when your name appeared on the screen, I broke into wild applause. The rest of the audience finally caught on, but I must say I was rather disappointed in them. Did they think the film just came into existence? I hope by my applause I made them aware that for the last three hours they had been watching the work of a brilliant man possessing a brilliant mind. I am led to believe that perhaps a number of people don't deserve to see 2001. But that is a moral issue I shan't go into at this time. In conclusion, Mr. Kubrick, I thank you for reading my letter and -- for ever and ever -- I thank you for making 2001. I believe that art is a psychological necessity for man -- a provider of emotional fuel and mental food. And 2001 has appeared at a time when most artists are poisoning their audiences with anti-art and anti-heroes. I would not be at all afraid to state that with 2001 you may have quite possibly saved any number of spiritual and physical lives. For it is within the power of a film such as yours to give people a reason to go on living -- to give them the courage to go on living. For 2001 implies much more than just an artistic revelation. On a philosophical level, it implies that if man is capable of this, he is capable of anything -- anything rational and heroic and glorious and good. Think of how many men and women might very possibly thrust off the shackles of the monotonous stagnation of their day-to-day existence -- how many might strive to reach goals they thought impossible before -- how many might find elation and pleasure hitherto denied them by their own lack of courage. How can man now be content to consider the trivial and mundane, when you have shown them a world full of stars, a world beyond the infinite? Stephen Grosscup Santa Monica, California Mr. Kubrick responded: Your letter of 4th May was overwhelming. What can I say in reply?
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