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Monday, September 3, 2007

Clavius (Film Synopsis Part 5)

The Story

With the Blue Danube playing once again, we find ourselves on the Aries spacecraft on its way to the Moon. We follow a flight attendant as she walks (with her special "grip shoes") around the ship. She first comes upon a sleeping Heywood Floyd, then she visits the other attendant, who is watching television. The first flight attendant gives the second one a food tray. Here we see that food must be sucked through a straw in this zero-g environment. The first attendant goes to retrieve more food trays for the pilots. To get to the cockpit, she must perform the amusing task of walking "up" a carousel-like walkway to invert herself, at least from the perspective of the prior part of the ship, not to mention, the audience. She serves meals to the cockpit crew.

Later on, we find Floyd awake and "eating" a meal. A pilot appears and he and Floyd have a short conversation. Floyd needs to use the restroom and we see him carefully reading the long list of instructions on how to use a zero gravity toilet.

The next sequence involves the Aries' approach and landing at the Clavius base. The Blue Danube comes to an end as the craft is transported into the underground realm that is Clavius base.

We are now in a conference room. After a brief introduction by a Dr. Halvorsen, Floyd gets in front to address a group of scientists. It is here where we find out that the epidemic brought up by the Russian scientists back at the space station was a ruse. It was a cover story as the American scientists discovered something. Something that has Floyd, and obviously, the American government placing a very high priority upon to keep secret.

Meanings

Critics (and outright haters) of the film often call the whole coverage of the journey to the Moon "boring" or "pointless". They don't see the reason for all the excruciatingly slow coverage of a flight attendant feeding the crew and passenger. Nor do they see the point in the long coverage of the landing itself. Compare this footage or the footage where the Orion docks with the space station to the sequence in Star Wars where the Millennium Falcon enters the space station that is the Death Star. The Star Wars sequences manages to last mere seconds. Of course, this isn't Star Wars. The food sequence shows us the difficulty of adapting to zero-g environments. People have to drink, eat, and sleep, and use the bathroom differently. Ship design can be more efficient as not everything needs to be oriented the same way since there is no up or down.

There is a shot of the Aries going through space with the Earth and Sun behind it. Note how the three are not in alignment. As mentioned in Transition (Film Synopsis Part 3), man-made objects do not align with heavenly bodies in the manner of the superior intelligence.




The Aries ship looks like a human head. As it is landing on the Moon with the landing struts facing downward, two lit windows are visible that give it the appearance of having eyes. This is another example of man's tools imitating human body parts.

Earlier, the Orion docking with the space station conveyed a sexual act. It occurs again here where the "head" of the Aries goes inside the flower-like opening of the Clavius base. Of course, this suggests a different, more perverse type of sexual act.

Author Leonard Wheat suggests that the Aries actually represents a sperm cell that was ejaculated by the Orion through the space station. The entrance to Clavius represents an egg. Therefore, we have another sexual act of a sperm entering an egg.

Aries, like Orion, is a name from Greek mythology. Aries is a Ram, a male sheep.

The Zero Gravity Toilet is the second reference to a bathroom in the film.

In the space station, we now know that Floyd deliberately misled the Russian scientists into believing that the rumors of an epidemic at Clavius base were true. Floyd never admitted anything, it was via subtle suggestion and body language performed with a great deal of skill and finesse. We can determine from the briefing that Floyd is essentially, a bureaucrat. Some incredible scientific discovery has been made and he is occupied with dealing with the security of handling it. The only question asked during the briefing concerns the security issues as well. Perhaps the scientists also lack enthusiasm for the discovery.

This all suggests that the technology the human race has used to achieve space travel has sapped most of their curiosity and awe. Humans once dreamed of going to the Moon. It was a far-fetched goal. Now it is treated as routine and somewhat boring. The humans carry on dull conversations and routines of eating and sleeping. Meanwhile, it is the tools that are shown as sexual. Is the essence that makes humans unique on planet Earth being transferred to his tools?

Other Notes

Stanley Kubrick paid careful attention to details and the scientific accuracy of a futuristic flight to the Moon. Indeed, he consulted with NASA scientists and even now, decades after the film was released, it can be said that 2001 has no equal in the scientific and engineering aspects of spaceflight. Ships lack gravity. Space stations must rotate to simulate gravity. There is no sound in space. Lighting is harsh as there is no atmosphere to diffuse light or create any kind of ambience. Therefore, shadows have sharp borders.

One area where Kubrick was not able to simulate scientific accuracy was on the surface of the Moon. This is the film's most obvious scientific flaw. The way Floyd and the other people walk indicates they are walking on Earth, not the 1/6 gravity of the Moon.