2001: A Space Odyssey

Robert Poole contributes to our occasional Film in Context series, with a look at the way in which Stanley Kubrick redefined our views not only of the future, but of space itself.

In the Spring of 1968, the Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli sent a telegram to Stanley Kubrick: ‘You made me dream eyes wide open stop yours is much more than an extraordinary film thank you’. Zeffirelli had just seen 2001: A Space Odyssey.

By any standards, 2001 was a phenomenal film. Four years in the making and at the time by far the most expensive film ever made at $10.5 million, it set new standards in special effects. It was the masterwork of Stanley Kubrick, following films such as Spartacus, Lolita and Dr Strangelove. Its co-creator was Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer, science populariser, inventor of the communications satellite, and all-round techno-prophet.

The wave of more or less sensational science fiction films of the 1950s, such as Conquest of Space, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Forbidden Planet, had dried up in the decade of real manned space flight. But now, with the experiments over and the Apollo programme about to aim for the Moon, the prospect of a mega-film dealing with man in space made by two of the giants of the age was compelling.

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