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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Rogers, Ivor A.
Notes and discussion: [extrapolative cinema],   pp. [286]-291 PDF (6.1 MB)

Page 291

The film is not an unqualified success:
at times it moves with the ponderous tread
of a brontosaurus, certain portions
of the first episode may be most
charitably described as unfortunate, and
the internal logic of the film is not always
what one would expect of either Clarke
or Kubrick. As always, there is
the cry that, "You should have seen it
before it was cut by the commercializers,"
and there may be a certain justification
in the claim this time, but all
errors and flaws included, it is still the
most successfully ambitious film since
the introdution of sound.
What Kubrick has apparently attempted
is to utilize the trappings of science
and technology as a framework
for his comment upon the nature of man.
The basic premise - that pre-man
was helped in his development
from the ape to man the tool maker by
some "alien" race or entity, and,
now that he has almost reached the peak
of his powers as homo faber, is about
to be given a further boost into
what can best be called homo superior - was
originally conceived by Kubrick's
collaborator, Arthur C. Clarke.
Film critics not familiar with the writing
of Clarke should be as wary as those
SF critics who are not familiar with
the films of Kubrick. The
indications are that this was a true
collaboration and that each man
provided an artistic stimulus for the other
- a true blending of art and
science-technology. The final version of
the film goes far beyond the bald
statement of plot that would have been very
satisfying to the reader of printed SF
and totally bewildering to the average
film goer, because the film attempts
to make a comment on the plot:
it says simply that the construction of
bigger and better tools is not
the sole purpose of human existence. The
film is not anti-scientific, it is
anti-technological; the berserk computer
is not a stab at science, but a reminder
that tools are not gods. The
film is not about man and God; it is about
man and his friends in the universe.
God and his strictures are not
mentioned in the film, but one is left with
an optimistic wish-fantasy that
there is hope and reason in the universe
and an admonition that the machine
can be a useful companion
but should not be deified.
Sir Charles Snow commented on the
division of the world of intelligence into two
cultures that are unable to
communicate or aid each other in their
struggle to comprehend the universe.
Science fiction has been conceived
as a bridge between these two cultures, and
it is deplorable that in practice the
SF film has been responsible for the erection
of more walls than bridges. Partly it is
the fault of the commercial film makers who
find it more rewarding to build
another rubber monster than to use
their imaginations; partly it is the fault
of the audiences who will pay money to see
another abomination from outer
space; partly it is the fault of
those film critics who apparently can
only see artistic quality in sin, sex,
and sadism; and partly it may
be the fault of our materialistic society
that considers imagination and the
imaginative as fit only for children.
291   -

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