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Sunday, August 26, 2007

At the Station (Film Synopsis Part 4)

The Story

"Here we are, Sir, main level D" proclaims the pillbox hat - clad flight attendant. We hear the first words of the film. The lone passenger of the Orion spaceflight has arrived at the space station. The next sequence has him going through voice print identification. From this, we learn more about him. His name is Heywood R. Floyd and he is an American heading for the Moon. We can determine that he is a man of some importance as he was greeted by a security guard assigned especially to him. The fact that he was the only passenger on a commercial spacecraft also clues us in that he is a man of significance.

As the two men walk through the station, you can see the curved floor serving as a reminder that they are in a space station orbiting the Earth. Floyd stops to make a telephone call. His little girl answers. It is amusing how the telephone is a futuristic video phone and the Earth is seen spinning (due to the station doing the actual spinning). Yet, with this futuristic technology, the conversation in the phone call itself is very mundane. This is especially notable when Floyd nonchalantly explains to his daughter that he is "traveling" so he would not be able to attend her birthday party.

We next see Floyd come across a group of Russians conversing. He recognizes his friend Elena and has heard of Dr. Andrei Smyslov. From casual conversation, we can learn the Russians are scientists and having just finished a job, they are heading back to Earth. The conversation is warm until Floyd mentions he is going up to Clavius (Clavius is a very large crater on the Moon and the location of the American Moonbase.) Upon hearing this, Dr. Smyslov starts questioning Floyd about "extremely odd things" that have been occurring at Clavius. Floyd is evasive but Smyslov is persistent. He divulges that he has heard rumors of a serious epidemic at Clavius. He finally gets Floyd to at least acknowledge that he is not at liberty to discuss the subject. Smyslov isn't very satisfied with this answer and wants to explore the subject further. Elena breaks the tension by offering Floyd a drink. Floyd declines and after a few pleasantries, he walks away, leaving the Russian scientists to speculate what Floyd really did know.

Meanings

Births and deaths are significant in this film. Note how it is Floyd's daughter's birthday.

The conversation between Floyd and Smyslov is very significant to the story. We can gather from the orbiting nuclear bombs we saw earlier that the cold war is still going on. Scientists rarely like to get into politics but it's obvious that Floyd was being very careful in what he said to Smyslov and how he said it. The Russians are the other tribe, not dissimilar to the rival tribe in the prehistoric Man sequence.

The three-way conversation is a common Kubrick technique - especially during moments of tension. Note how the two female scientists other than Elena are nearly taken out of view during the conversation. Even though it is just primarily Smyslov and Floyd talking, Elena is part of it as well and it should be noted how she reacts to what the two men say to each other. There will be several other three-way conversations later.



Other Notes

It's amazing how realistic the futuristic voice print identification process seems. It seems natural that security would be an issue in a public space station. Notice how the camera and screen appear so similar to a typical webcam and flat screen set up that are used in kiosks, not to mention home computers today.

There are more trademark names here. Note the Hilton and The Howard Johnsons Earthlight Room as Floyd and the security guard walk through the station. The phone Floyd uses is AT&T

Kubrick plays a joke on the theater audience when a woman announces that a "blue cashmere sweater has been found in the restroom." This was intentionally set up to come from a rear speaker in a theater. It was made to sound as if it was a theater announcement instead of one from the film.

Floyd's daughter is played by Vivian Kubrick. Note her British accent. Perhaps Floyd lives in England even though he is American. This happens again later in the film with another character. Bronx-born director Stanley Kubrick lived in England most of his life so maybe he was used to Americans with British accents.

Kubrick had a thing about bathrooms. I believe he had a disdain for the fact that characters in movies never had to take a break and use the restroom. Most Kubrick films reference and show bathrooms. Note how Floyd's daughter's informs her father that her babysitter is in the bathroom.