Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2001 analysis - part 21: Mann: Bowman moves through the circles of Hell


Top left: From the analysis of Michael Mann's Thief (on this blog), the third level down from the top of the Bank of California building (shown), represents the fourth circle of Dante's Inferno (Hell), in which the greedy are punished, if we consider the first circle (Limbo) to be represented by the world outside the building, i.e., the world occupied by Frank, Leo, and the other characters. The point as far as our analysis of 2001, is that Mann is drawing a connection between tall buildings and the levels of Dante's Hell.[a] Top right: Vacuum tubes in an electronic device, in serial killer Francis Dollarhyde's house in Manhunter. In the audio commentary for the "Director's Cut" version of the movie DVD, Mann says that the real-life serial killer on whom he based the Dollarhyde character, Dennis Wayne Wallace, believed that the spark in a vacuum tube held a clue to his identity, and he also believed that within each tube was his "own little Empire State Building." Note that the small black wafers inside each tube look similar to miniature monoliths. The point is that Mann is drawing a correspondence between the monolith and tall buildings, and by inference, between the monolith and the circles of Hell. Above left: From Mann's Collateral: Vincent (at right-hand side of screencap) momentarily pauses in a subway station while pursuing Annie and Max. In the audio commentary for Collateral, Mann says he intentionally shot this scene so as to show a lot of metal, as if the characters are "in a tube." Above right: Vincent has now boarded the same subway train that Annie and Max are on. In the audio commentary, Mann says he purposely intended for the lights as seen through the subway car windows here, to consist of rectangular arrays. The rectangles represent small monoliths, and Mann is using the movement of the subway car through a tunnel to represent Discovery One's movement through the stargate, i.e., 'through' the monolith while it floats near Jupiter; we are then supposed to derive the idea from the connections made above (monoliths/tubes/tall buildings/circles of Hell) that when Bowman moves through the stargate, this represents his movement through the circles of Hell.

Above left and right: As Bowman moves through the stargate, he sees various patterns of colored light. As will be explained later in the analysis, the stargate is a wormhole that connects Jupiter space with Earth space. A wormhole can be thought of as a kind of tunnel.

In this view of the stargate, the red area 'flowing' under the diamond-shaped objects represents the Styx, a river in the fifth circle of Dante's Hell.

a. In Inferno, the circles of Hell lie on successive below-ground levels.


Friday, February 24, 2012

2001 analysis - part 20: Tarantino and Lynch: 2001 has a circular narrative


Top left: Bowman is reborn as the alien life force finishes taking over his body and mind, after he dies from his brain injury. Top right: This scene represents the same alien life force approaching Earth, where, using Bowman's physical body (which it is inhabiting), it plants the monolith we see in the Dawn of Man segment of the movie. Bowman, and the alien within him, have gone across space from Jupiter to Earth, and have gone backward in time as well, to a point in time that is several million years before the Jupiter mission takes place; how this is accomplished is explained later in the analysis. Above left and right: The famous match cut between bone and orbiting nuclear weapons satellite,[a] signifies the transition from the chronological ending of the movie back to its beginning: The Dawn of Man segment, though shown first, is, chronologically speaking, the final segment of the film. Viewed in another sense, the movie actually goes on forever, as if on an endless 'replay' loop. Thus, it is a circular narrative, as is Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and it can also be viewed as being like a Möbius strip, similar to Lynch's Mulholland Drive. This circularity is, in part, due to the fact that when considered within the context of the order in which they are shown to the audience, all three films effectively begin and end with alchemical nigredos: At 2001's beginning, there is chaos among the ape-men upon the appearance of the monolith, and at its end, the nigredo is signified by the beginning of the elderly Bowman's physical decomposition; at the beginning of Pulp Fiction, there is chaos in Brett's apartment, and at the end, chaos in the diner being robbed; and finally, in Mulholland Drive, there is the chaos at the beginning of the film in that this is when the auto accident occurs, and at the end, when Diane Selwyn 'sees' (i.e., hallucinates) the man and woman who raised her haranguing her, and subsequently shoots herself.

a. The orbiting object is a nuclear weapons satellite: The Making of Kubrick's 2001. Ed. Jerome Agel. Signet, 1970. p. 196 and caption in photographs section.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

2001 analysis - part 19: More on the hidden plot: Bowman's relationship to Floyd


Top left: Dr. Heywood Floyd 'celebrates' his daughter's birthday by means of a video telephone conversation with her on his way to the moon. Top right: Frank Poole relaxes on the way to Jupiter, while he views a pre-recorded message from his parents celebrating today, his birthday. Note that in one sense this scene is the 'opposite' of the one with Floyd and his daughter - in Floyd's case, the person whose birthday it is appears on the communication screen (from our perspective), while in Poole's case, the person whose birthday it is is viewing the screen (again, from our own perspective). It is as if our point-of-view has 'switched' between the two scenes. Above left: As described in part 2 of the analysis of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, one of the underlying themes of that movie is point-of-view 'switching'. Winston Wolf (on left) pays Jimmie Dimmick (right, played by Quentin Tarantino) for the use of his bedspreads and blankets, to help solve the problem presented by the 'Bonnie situation'. Above right: Butch Coolidge pays taxicab driver Esmarelda VillaLobos a little extra after his ride, so that she will keep her mouth shut about giving him the ride. 'Lobos' is Spanish for 'wolves'. We are here cued to the switching by use of the 'wolf' nomenclature in both scenes: In the Bonnie situation, 'wolf' pays for help, while in the cab scene, 'wolf' gets paid to help.

Top left: On his way to Clavius Base on the moon, Dr. Heywood Floyd (seated at far right) talks with his friend, Elena, and her colleagues in a space station sitting area. We note the 'artificial' futuristic look of the furnishings, and the artificial manner of voice used by Floyd during the conversation (though it sounds as if he's speaking from gut level at the point at which he declines to provide any information on the supposed epidemic at Clavius). Top right: The inside of club and restaurant Jack Rabbit Slim's, from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Though it's hard to tell just from looking at these screencaps, when actually viewing Pulp Fiction it becomes apparent that there is a definite artificial, even pretentious, feel about the club. Note that the ostentatious pinkish color theme in the club, is not unlike that of the space station furnishings shown at top left. Above left: Floyd speaking at Clavius, again using an artificial or 'stiff' manner of speaking. Above right: The dance contest announcer at Jack Rabbit Slim's (the man standing behind the microphone) uses an artificial manner of speaking similar to that of Floyd. Note the blue back-lighting, somewhat reminiscent of the blue in the Clavius lecture room. Also note that Mia and Vincent are on the stage (to the right of the announcer from our perspective). We know from part 18 of this analysis that Vincent represents David Bowman (within a certain context), so what's being suggested by all of the foregoing is that Bowman and Floyd represent the same 'presence', in some respect (i.e., Vincent, representing Bowman, is in an area with blue back-lighting (above right screencap), and Floyd is speaking in the blue Clavius lecture room (above left); and, there is an air of artificiality in the club Vincent (again, representing Bowman) is in, and similarly, there is an artificial feeling about the Clavius lecture room (due to the manner in which Floyd is speaking); taking all of this together, a correspondence is being drawn between Bowman and Floyd).

Above left: From Michael Mann's Heat: Vincent's fellow police officers spy on bank robber Neil McCauley and his gang at a scrapyard. Above right: Later, at the same scrapyard, Neil snaps some pictures of Vincent and his men using a high-powered telephoto lens. Neil has tricked Vincent's crew into chasing down a phony lead so he can photograph them. The point is that Neil is viewed in the first instance, then later, the situation is reversed and he views: 'That which was viewed, is viewing'. Left: The hint that Neil McCauley represents some sort of 'alien' presence, is contained in this video monitor image of him obtained via night camera. In this scene, Vincent and his men are viewing the monitor.



From Lynch's Mulholland Drive: Top left: Near the beginning of the movie, in the Winkie's diner, Dan (facing us) and Herb (sitting across from him) discuss Dan's dream about the man behind the diner. This scene actually depicts a dream of Diane Selwyn, in which Dan represents Diane, and Herb is Dan's therapist. In reality, however, Dan is Diane's psychotherapist. Top right: At a much later point in the movie than the scene shown at left, but earlier chronologically speaking, Diane makes an arrangement with a hit man to do away with Camilla. Above left: While Diane is arranging things with the hit man, she happens to look over and see her psychotherapist standing at the register. The therapist, who just happens to be in Winkie's at the same time the hit's being arranged, overhears the conversation, and he realizes that his patient (or former patient), Diane, plans to have an actress (Camilla) killed. This is why two detectives start looking for Diane later - the therapist notifies the police of the planned hit. Note the chronology of events here: Diane saw the therapist in Winkie's, then later, she had the dream about him. Above right: From A Space Odyssey: Bowman watches Floyd on a video monitor after he has disconnected HAL. Tarantino's hints from above tell us that Bowman and Floyd can, in a sense, be taken to have 'switched places', and also that they represent the same presence. The point is that not only is Floyd an alien, as previously discussed, but also, by the point in the movie depicted here, Bowman's body and mind are beginning to be taken over by the same alien life force that earlier occupied Floyd's body and mind, i.e., Bowman is 'inhabited' by the same alien individual as was Floyd earlier. The hints from Mann and Lynch lead us to the same conclusion: From Mann, an alien, i.e. Floyd, is being viewed by Bowman; then a few moments later, Bowman, an alien, is viewing - effectively, the POV (point of view) of the alien shifts. Finally, from Lynch, Diane Selwyn, who represents Bowman,[a] first (chronologically speaking) sees the therapist, whom we note has somewhat of an 'alien' facial appearance; then later (again chronologically), Diane 'becomes' the therapist in her dream, i.e., she 'becomes' the 'alien' - similar to how Bowman becomes an alien while he's in a trance.

a. This representation is hinted at by various things in Lynch's movie, such as the idea that Diane represents yang (with Camilla representing yin), and the fact that Diane commits suicide, which is what Bowman effectively does when he enters the emergency airlock without a helmet.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2001 analysis - part 18: Tarantino: Bowman fails to save the feminine



Above left: The classic Taoist Taijitsu, the symbol for the Chinese yin yang. Many natural dualities — e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot — are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang (respectively). Yin is also associated with night-time, and yang with daytime. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Yin and yang' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.] Above right: In Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega are shown doing the twist at the Jack Rabbit Slim's restaurant and club. Note the black and white theme of their clothing - Mia and Vincent represent the complementarity of yin and yang, as explained in part 7 of the Pulp Fiction analysis.

Top left: HAL's view of Frank Poole through the EVA pod window, while Poole and Bowman are discussing HAL's recent behavior. Top right: The audience of Pulp Fiction is shown this view of Mia in profile, while she's using her home intercom system. The similarity of this profile view to that of Poole at left, is a hint from Tarantino that Mia represents Poole, in turn indicating that Poole represents yin in A Space Odyssey. Above left: Bowman at the beginning of the stargate sequence. Above right: Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vega has just injected himself with some heroin, and now has a serene facial expression resembling that of Bowman at left, as he drives to Mia's house. Vincent here represents Bowman, indicating that Bowman represents yang.

Top left: Later in Pulp Fiction, Vincent is shown injecting Mia with adrenaline, in order to revive her after she has become unconscious due to accidentally inhaling heroin. Top right: A short while later Mia seems to be revived, but her 'ghostly' complexion indicates that she has not been completely saved. As explained in the analysis of Pulp Fiction, this ultimately represents Vincent's failure to 'save' the feminine within himself. Above left: Bowman waits in the EVA pod at the entrance to the pod bay of Discovery One, after retrieving Poole's body from space. Above right: After HAL refuses to open the pod bay doors, Bowman is forced to let Poole's body go, to drift in space forever. In accordance with the Pulp Fiction hints, and since Poole represents yin, this represents Bowman's failure to 'save' the feminine.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2001 analysis - part 17: More from Mann: Bowman goes into a trance


Continuing from the previous post with hints from Michael Mann - from Thief: Above left: Frank enters Leo's abode through the kitchen, with gun in hand and with the intention of shooting and killing Leo. Above right: A woman watching TV in an adjacent room clearly looks right at Frank, but his presence doesn't really register on her conscious. The point is that Mann is depicting the woman as being in some sort of trance state.


Top left and center: Late in A Space Odyssey, after Bowman has disconnected HAL, he watches Heywood Floyd giving what is a pre-recorded message, with Floyd visible on this video screen. We note that the screen is flashing. Top right: Bowman goes into a trance-like state while he is watching Floyd, due to the flashing of the screen; the effects of Bowman's brain injury make him more susceptible to this.

Shortly after this, we see the pod bay doors of Discovery One open (below left), then a few moments later, we see an EVA pod moving in space (below right). Bowman must have heard Floyd say something, that made him want to approach Jupiter or the monolith in the pod.

The blurring of Bowman's face (above left) at the beginning of the stargate sequence (above right), is caused by the pod shaking as it accelerates. This confirms that Bowman has, in fact, physically exited Discovery One, and is aboard the pod.


Friday, February 10, 2012

2001 analysis - part 16: Hints from the films of Michael Mann


From Mann's Thief: Top left: Barry, on left, explains to Frank the operation of one of the alarms in the bank vault the two men plan to rob. When the alarm is triggered by someone entering the vault area, a code word must be transmitted over the alarm company's radio within ten seconds, to override the alarm and keep the police from being notified. Top right: The bank manager, here shown inside the vault area as the bank is first opening in the morning, speaks the code word over the radio to override the alarm: "Mexico." Above left: Barry, who has bugged the radio, intercepts the code word while hiding in the stairwell just outside the vault area. Above right: Later, when the robbery has begun and the alarm has been triggered, Frank speaks the code word: "Mexico." The word being spoken is a hint from Mann, about what we said earlier in this analysis: Kubrick set the 'Dawn of Man' in Mexico, not Africa.

The film Thief involves a diamond heist; as we will see later in this analysis, so does A Space Odyssey.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

2001 analysis - part 15: Tarantino: Depiction of the alchemical nigredo


The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosophers' Stone by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1771. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Alchemy' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

Alchemy is an ancient tradition, the primary objective of which was the creation of the mythical "philosopher's stone," which was said to be capable of turning base metals into gold or silver, and also act as an elixir of life that would confer youth and immortality upon its user. The philosopher's stone is created by the alchemical method known as The Magnum Opus or The Great Work. Often expressed as a series of color changes or chemical processes, the instructions for creating the philosopher's stone are varied.[a] The Great Work originally had four stages:

1) nigredo, a blackening or melanosis
2) albedo, a whitening or leucosis
3) citrinitas, a yellowing or xanthosis
4) rubedo, a reddening, purpling, or iosis

After the 15th century, many writers tended to compress citrinitas into rubedo and consider only three stages. However, it is in citrinitas that the chemical wedding takes place, generating the Philosophical Mercury without which the philosopher's stone, triumph of the Work, could never be accomplished.

In the framework of psychological development (especially for followers of Jungian psychology) these four alchemical steps are taken as analogous to the process of attaining individuation.[b] Let us examine the first stage, the nigredo, in greater detail. Nigredo, or blackness, in alchemy means putrefaction or decomposition. The alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the philosopher's stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter. In psychology, Carl Jung (a student of alchemy) interpreted nigredo as a moment of maximum despair, that is a prerequisite to personal development. The nigredo is associated with chaos, melancholia, and the encounter with the psychological shadow.[c] There are, theoretically, four nigredos in 2001; as described below, the occurrence of each of these nigredos is accompanied by the presence of the black monolith.

Top left: The first showing of the monolith, in the Dawn of Man segment of the movie, is accompanied by chaos among man's ape-like ancestors. Top right: The second time we see the monolith, at TMA-1 on the moon, it starts making a high-pitched noise, which, as will be gone into more detail later in the analysis, causes chaos among Heywood Floyd and the other five astronauts there. Recall that the bodies of Floyd and two other men, are occupied by alien life forces. Above left: The third showing of the monolith, floating near Jupiter, is immediately followed by chaos as David Bowman moves through the stargate. Above right: Bowman's movement through the stargate is depicted as a chaotic event, as is suggested, for example, by this particular view of the stargate as seen through Bowman's eyes.

Above left and right: The fourth and final time we see the monolith, Bowman is an elderly man near death. As with the other three showings of the monolith, its blackness signifies the nigredo.

As described below, Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film, Pulp Fiction, provides us with hints that each showing of the monolith in 2001 is accompanied by a nigredo.

Top left: As discussed in the analysis of Pulp Fiction on this blog, the briefcase in Tarantino's film represents the Space Odyssey monolith (note that the case's physical appearance - black, flat, and rectangular - is similar to that of a small monolith). The first presence of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, in the scene in Brett's apartment, is accompanied by chaos in the apartment (e.g., when hit men Jules and Vincent kill Brett). Note that the man handling the briefcase in this screencap, Vincent, is smoking (click image to enlarge). Tarantino is here associating smoke with the nigredo. Top right: The second time we see the briefcase, it is being held by Jules, while he sits in his boss Marsellus's restaurant. Above left: A short while later during this restaurant scene, boxer Butch Coolidge (standing on left) goes to the bar to buy some cigarettes. Butch just happens to be in the restaurant at the same time as Vincent and Jules. The red 'glow' in the restaurant is one thing indicating that this scene is linked to a nigredo in 2001, as described below. Above right: The third and final time the audience sees the briefcase, it is again in Jules' possession, near the end of the movie during the chaotic diner robbery. We note that Tarantino's movie not only ends in the diner, but opens in it as well. Even though we only actually see the briefcase in the ending diner scene, we can assume it is present in both diner scenes, since they are both set in the same place and time. Therefore, there are four 'presences' of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, corresponding to the four showings of the monolith in 2001.

Above left: Pulp Fiction begins with the first diner scene, from the point of view of Yolanda and Ringo's table. Above right: The second diner scene, which takes place at the film's ending, begins from the point of view of Vincent and Jules' table.

Note that David Bowman's 'ejection' into the emergency airlock is accompanied by smoke (from the EVA pod door bolts exploding); also note the red glow.[d] The smoke and red glow link this scene with the bar scene in Pulp Fiction (with the cigarette purchase in the bar scene suggesting smoke); therefore, Tarantino is telling us that this scene in 2001 represents a nigredo. Also, Bowman's entry into the airlock is a chaotic event, and is thus self-evidently linked to the nigredo. The two later 2001 nigredos described above, the monolith floating near Jupiter (followed by the stargate sequence), and then the presence of the monolith at the foot of Bowman's bed (in the 'hotel' scene), are really just 'apparent' nigredos: There are only three actual nigredos being depicted in A Space Odyssey. (The hotel scene is actually part of a dream Bowman experiences just before dying.) The three actual nigredos in 2001 are: Dawn of Man, TMA-1, and Bowman hitting his head.

a. Wikipedia, 'Philosopher's stone'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosopher%27s_stone.
b. Wikipedia, 'Magnum opus (alchemy)'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnum_opus_(alchemy).
c. Wikipedia, 'Nigredo'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigredo.
d. A question that is frequently asked, about Bowman's movement from the pod into the airlock, is, "What happened to the EVA pod door?" The answer to this is that the pod doors are built to move 'transversely' (from side to side, not in and out). Once the explosive bolts freed the door, it slammed back into its normally open position.


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Marcus Aurelius's Meditations - from Wikisource (except where otherwise noted); portions from Wikisource used on this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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