Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
Rogers, Ivor A.
Notes and discussion: [extrapolative cinema], pp. -291 PDF (6.1 MB)
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 - M ; 0