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Saturday, November 7, 2009

To the Victor... (Film Synopsis Part 13)

The Story

A fuming David Bowman marches from the emergency airlock to the main airlock, up the ladder and to the central computer room. Dave is now clad in full EVA gear with the front control box, air tank, and helmet. The helmet, which he obviously got from the emergency airlock is green - meaning he is in a color mismatched space suit. All we hear is breathing and the hiss of air flowing - not footsteps. This would indicate that the air has been removed from Discovery and we are only hearing what Dave hears.

As Dave moves through the airlock, Hal demands "Just what do you think you're doing Dave?" Dave ignores Hal as he continues. Considering what he has just been through, his intentions are obvious, he is going to disconnect Hal. His strong breathing and silence indicates he is focused and is not going to listen to Hal try to talk him out of it. Hal continues and tries to reassure Dave that whatever the problem was, it is gone now and everything will be as it was. Dave continues into the "Logic Memory Center", a red-lit chamber where Hal's physical components reside. There is no velcro floor here so Dave floats his way to the area where there are circuit modules that can be pulled out by turning a key.

One by one, Dave systematically turns the keys in the "Memory Terminal" section of the modules. Hal's reasonings turn into pleas. He repeatedly asks "Will you stop, Dave?" and states "I'm afraid." and "My mind is going - I can feel it." Dave continues on with removing modules in the "Logic Terminal". After a few of these have been pulled, Hal becomes dumb and is no longer aware of the situation. He reverts to his early days of training and speaks of his operational date of Jan. 12, 1992 and his first instructor, Mr. Langely. When he asks if he can sing a song, Dave finally breaks his silence and tells Hal to go on. Hal starts to sing "Daisy" as Dave continues to pull out logic modules until Hal's voice becomes slow and monotone, and eventually nothing.

At that point, Dave is startled by a new voice coming from behind him. He turns around and sees Dr. Heywood Floyd on a television screen. It is a pre-recorded message and was meant to play assuming all went well and they were in Jupiter-space and the entire crew had been revived. Floyd reveals that the true purpose of the mission to Jupiter was only fully known by the HAL 9000 computer. Floyd states that 18 months earlier, the first sign of intelligent life beyond Earth was discovered in the Moon's crater Tycho. He states that the object is 4 million years old and sent out an emission of radiation towards Jupiter.

Meanings
This scene, is the culmination of all the major events prior in the film. A major theme of 2001 is Man's relationship with his tools. In the beginning, Man discovers how to use tools in order to survive. Man successfully develops tools that take him from mere survival to thriving and dominating his environment. Tools allow Man to develop communication skills, live longer and more comfortably, and to explore and begin to understand better, the world and universe in which he lives.

However, as Man's developed more and better tools, he developed a dependence on them. This dependence led Man to take for granted, the struggle for survival. Man became so dependent on tools, he lost much of the inner drive that led him to create civilization and the exploration of space. Man's tools also inevitably become dangerous to Man's survival. Man's relationship with his tools is that of a balance between survival against forces in the universe on one side and survival against the inherent danger of his tools.

The struggle for Man to retain his mastership over his tools was the third test of the Intelligence that placed the monolith on the Earth and Moon. Hal, the tool, seemed to be superior to the human beings on Discovery in every way. Hal had an impeccable brain that could reason and calculate faster and more accurately than any human. Dave Bowman, the last surviving human found a way to expose Hal's one shortcoming. Hal was unable to conceptualize Dave's desperate attempt of re-entering Discovery via the manual airlock sans space helmet. Bowman proved his worthiness by daring this nearly impossible feat. It was this leap over logic that enabled Bowman to eventually defeat Hal. In defeating Hal, David Bowman, as a representative of the human race, passed the test and proved his worthiness to reach the ultimate destination.

We now know the screeching high-pitched sound that came from the monolith was a signal sent to Jupiter. The monolith directed the humans as to where to go next.

It is important to understand that had Dave not survived the conflict with Hal, Hal the tool would have solely reached the ultimate destination. The Discovery mission was ultimately going to have only one survivor - Man or Machine.

What is the ultimate destination? That's to come in the next chapter.

Poor David Bowman! He had to destroy the one companion he had left on the mission. Dave, being millions of miles from Earth, would be alone and isolated like no man before. Did Dave have any reservations about de-activating Hal? Symbolically, the red-green spacesuit he was wearing could indicate an internal conflict since the colors mean stop/go. Dave never responds to Hal's pleadings. Perhaps Dave knew he would have more trouble going through with the disconnection had he done so. However, notice how Dave doesn't turn every key in the memory terminal. He seemed to want to prolong Hal's ability to speak until the very end.


David Bowman leaves some of the modules from Hal's Memory Terminal intact - prolonging Hal's ability to speak during the disconnection sequence.
Hal goes through anger, denial, rationalization, and finally, acceptance of his impending death - making Hal all the more seemingly human.

Hal mentions his own birthday of January 12, 1992, also giving him a more human quality. Interestingly, the novel cites Hal's birthday as January 12, 1997. Why did Kubrick change this?

In the film, humans die abruptly and silently, Hal's death is prolonged and tortuous.

Heywood Floyd puts all the pieces of the puzzle together when he says "...for security reasons of the highest importance, has been known on board during the mission only by your H-A-L 9000 computer." This statement sums up everything that went wrong with the mission. Hal was the only entity on the ship that knew everything - especially that the Discovery mission involved intelligent life off the Earth. Even the hibernating astronauts were not aware of the monolith on the Moon as Floyd discloses that information here. Hal knew, but was unable to reveal this to the humans - thus interfering with his directive of not "distorting" information.

"It's origin and purpose, still a total mystery." These are the last words spoken in the film. It has been said that not only does it describe the monolith, it describes the film as well.

Other Notes

In the novel, Hal had tried to kill Dave by opening the airlock doors while Dave was in the Discovery. Dave barely escapes being exposed to vacuum. Kubrick probably shot the disconnection sequence with the inside of the Discovery in vacuum. This explains why Dave is in full EVA gear.

4 comments:

Rocknar said...

Dr. Floyd's comments on the pre-recorded video suggest that he instructed Hal to withhold information about the monoliths. However in the movie "2010", Dr. Floyd says outright, "I never instructed anyone to tell Hal about the monolith."

Either Dr. Floyd was lying in that scene to save face with the Russians and with Dr. Chandra, or the pre-recorded video could have been a composite created by Hal as the final act of his death. Clearly Hal was instructed by people in much higher authority (identified in "2010" as the National Security Council, i.e. The White House) to withhold the information to Bowman and Poole.

If Hal questioned the person instructing him to withhold information, then that person could have lied and said, "the orders are from Dr. Floyd", someone that Hal would know and trust and Hal not understanding how humans can lie, would believe him.

The pre-recorded video could have been an elaborate computer construct compiled from video archives of Dr. Floyd that Hal would have had access to. However, the video is obviously smooth and shows no signs of editing or cut-n-paste, so it's more likely that Dr. Floyd did indeed instruct Hal to withhold the information.

Dr. Floyd's comments in "2010" of "I didn't know" later in that same scene could be taken to mean not that he didn't know about someone instructing Hal to lie and withhold information, but that Dr. Floyd didn't know and couldn't anticipate Hal's breakdown because of the programmed conflicting orders.

Robert E Wilson said...

2010 was a poor sequel in many respects. Peter Hyams made oversimplistic explanations for 2001 and basically turned Heywood Floyd into a saint.

Understand that Stanley Kubrick had nothing to do with 2010. You should not take anything from that movie and apply it to 2001.

john bailo said...

HALs birthday, 1992. This would make him around 9 years old in 2001.

Just watching 2001 again the scene with Floyd and his daughter struck me. There is a lot of adult to child or superior to inferior communication. Floyd condescends to his child asking her to please remember his call to Mommy. Floyd condescends to the Russians because he has more information than them. HAL has more information than Dave. HAL beats Frank in chess...but some how Dave outsmarts HAL. Frank conceded to HAL, but Dave always talked down to HAL...Frank mutinied against his superior HAL. But Dave scolded his child HAL.

And so on...

Anonymous said...

"[Bowman] seemed to want to prolong Hal's ability to speak until the very end."

I always had the impression that he was so upset at what he was doing that he started poking randomly at the modules to just get it over with. You can actually see that he starts to break up. HAL indeed has the emotions the actuality of which were being put into some doubt by Bowman during the BBC interview. An emotional Turing Test, as it were.

Furthermore, a possible way out for HAL would have been: let them re