• javi2541997
    2.2k
    I have recently read an interesting article on this Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece. If you are interested I share the link here: Stanley Kubrick explains the meaning of the monolith in '2001: A Space Odyssey'
    There has always been a deep debate on the significance of the monolith which appears in the beginning of the movie. I am honest and I admit that I didn't understand the reference the first time I saw it. But complexity is one of the skills of Kubrick.

    In 1969 Kubrick had an interview and he was asked by the image of the monolith and then he answered:

    “From the very outset of work on the film we all discussed means of photographically depicting an extraterrestrial creature in a manner that would be as mind-boggling as the being itself”.

    In the same sentiment as fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, Kubrick wished to obscure the sight of the alien being with the knowledge that anything he conjured could not match the power of the imagination, noting: It soon became apparent that you cannot imagine the unimaginable.
    As a result, Kubrick created the black monolith, the antithesis to wild creativity that is paradoxically an innovative masterstroke.

    As Stanley Kubrick explained:“All you can do is try to represent it in an artistic manner that will convey something of its quality,” making reference to the monolith’s intimidating size and terrifying unknown impetus. Continuing, the filmmaker added: “That’s why we settled on the black monolith — which is, of course, in itself something of a Jungian archetype, and also a pretty fair example of ‘minimal art’”.

    Revealing that the monolith is inspired by the theory of Jungian archetypes devised by Carl Jung, this concept is defined by images and themes that derive from the collective unconscious. Jung believed that certain symbols from different cultures are often very similar as they have been developed from archetypes shared by a collective human unconscious.

    I start this thread with the aim of debate with you on what are your thoughts about the monolith and what is the meaning because I think Kubrick had in mind more information than he replied in the interview.

    2001_monolith.jpg
  • universeness
    2.9k
    To me, it always signified the Christian stone tablets (commandments) but this had nothing written on it.
    So, all the hominids stared at its smooth, designed, cuboid shape and knew none of their kind could have created it so ........ gods?

    I think Kubrick was also trying to say, 'yeah you lot wish you could get some useful supernatural advice written on stone tablets but the best you are ever going to get is sci fi stories like this one. The rest is on you, it's your burden to figure it all out, including all the mysteries. There are no gods to help you!'
  • javi2541997
    2.2k


    To me, it always signified the Christian stone tablets (commandments) but this had nothing written on it.
    So, all the hominids stared at its smooth, designed, cuboid shape and knew none of their kind could have created it so ........ gods?

    Interesting view! I never gave it a religious significance. It even takes a while until I have a clear idea of what the monolith means. It is true that we should see the movements and expressions of the hominids. I remember that whenever they approach to the monolith they feel hesitated...
    Probably they feel that way because of the unknown?

    I respect Kubrick's answers in the interview. But I guess he just replied in an artistic experience not philosophical one.
  • universeness
    2.9k

    Did you see the sequel, 2010?
    In that, the monolith had a lot of duplicates, and the suggestion eventually was an alien source.
    In the film, many monoliths turn up and 'terraform' Mars and Venus (I think) and very quickly make them Earth like, to give two new liveable planets for us humans to expand into. With various warnings and complaints from the 'alien' source that we better improve our behaviour with these two added planets OR ELSE!

  • javi2541997
    2.2k


    I didn't sequel of 2010! Wow, thanks for sharing the video. Now, I see the alien theory gains more rigidity.
    I see (as you explained) the monolith had duplicates. To be honest, I don't like that representation. An only, unique, solitary monolith is what makes a lot of debate.
    When you see a lot of them you feel outrageous :lol:
  • universeness
    2.9k
    I don't like that representation. An only, unique, solitary monolith is what makes a lot of debate.
    When you see a lot of them you feel outrageous
    javi2541997

    Yeah, I love sci-fi, especially Babylon 5, Star Trek, Star Wars etc but some storylines have been visited tooooooooooo many times!
    2001 was rubbish when I first saw it at around 15 years of age but I began to appreciate it as I got older.
    2010 was an okay sequel but the 'alien first contact' storyline and the 'terraforming' monoliths was a bit disappointing.
    I remembered the storyline incorrectly however. (see the clip below) The monoliths get together and 'ignite' Jupiter creating a small second sun in our solar system and I think they also terraform some of jupiters moons for use by humans so not Mars and Venus as I suggested. BUT they also warn humans not to land on Jupiters moon Europa. It's like a throwback to the garden of eden where the humans can do as they like but they must stay away from one of the big trees! :lol:

  • Moliere
    2.3k
    I took it as a symbol for the dawn of whatever it is that allows us to create and invent tools -- hence the shot shortly thereafter where the ape throws a bone in the sky, a clear indication of a tool separate from the ape, which cuts to a spaceship in the same position -- nothing has changed for the species since that moment of realization, the only difference between using the bone as a tool to accomplish things we want and a spaceship in the same manner is having enough generations to figure out the details of that same way of grasping the world (totally unlike prior to their cognizance of themselves and tools and desires -- sort of like a dawn of consciousness thing, but with a symbol that symbolizes the advent of technology)
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    Well, Yaheweh manifested in the world, presented himself to us, as a man, Jesus, son of a humble carpenter's wife's son. Stone age folks had better imagination than Stanley Kubrick - the more relatable a form aliens assume, the easier it is to deliver the message (supposing there is one). Remember Klaatu -human(oid) - from The Day the Earth Stood Still? Is a rectangular, black, 10 feet tall monilith in any way something that would be familiar to pre-sapiens? Very unllikely, and to that extent it's a bad idea.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    Thank you so much for your reply. You provided a lot of good arguments. I like how you explain it as a "dawn" for human's knowledge and development.
    Nonetheless, it is interesting to point out that many people interpreted the scene as "scary" due to the randomness and the way of hominids acted on the monolith. But as you noticed, we also have to keep our eyes on the hominid who throws a bone in the sky. To be honest with you, the first time I saw the scene I interpreted as a "violent" specie surviving in the chaos.
    But the way you explained it changed my view a little bit. It is true that we consider it as symbol of creation and not destruction.

    I am remembering now that the monolith appears in other scenes during the film. But my memories are vague, I think I should watch it again.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    Stone age folks had better imagination than Stanley Kubrick - the more relatable a form aliens assume, the easier it is to deliver the message (supposing there is one).Agent Smith

    What!? :scream:

    Is a rectangular, black, 10 feet tall monilith in any way something that would be familiar to pre-sapiens? Very unllikely, and to that extent it's a bad idea.Agent Smith

    I don't think it is a bad idea at all. Monolithic symbolism is pretty interesting. We can have a large debate on the significance. What I intended to start in this thread was the search for answers of what Kubrick was thinking when he decided to put a monolith in a sci-fi film.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    2001 was rubbish when I first saw it at around 15 years of age but I began to appreciate it as I got older.universeness

    This experience is common. 2001 is a very complex film. The first time I saw it I didn't understand anything... it took some years and a lot of readings in internet to get a basic sense on the film!
  • Paine
    694
    I think the way the monolith is so clearly an artifact where there should not be one is part of the relationship it has in each encounter.

    It is a communication device in both the scene with the hominids and the uncovering it of it on the moon. It is not clear what was imparted to the hominids, but it sends a traceable signal to the outer solar system after the moon discovery. Whatever its purpose, it is acting as a lure some kind to both groups.

    In case of the moon discovery, it is also a 'motion sensing' device. Informing its maker that the project was showing results.

    To the extent that encounters with the monolith has 'made' us into something, the crisis with the AI named HAL show us another collision of the natural with the artificial.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    I read the Clark's book derived from the film before I saw it, so it made ore sense to me than it otherwise would have. I had also listened to the soundtrack about 100 times before seeing the film back in 1970.

    It seems to me that Brandan Morris, one of my favorite sci fi writers, observed a batch of monoliths on Enceladus some years in our future, They weren't doing much, but they had rescued Frank Poole? the astronaut who HAL9000 had tossed into space--his mental being, anyway.

    I thought the monoliths were perfect as aliens: strange, mysterious, other-worldly, potent, awesome (in the original meaning of the word), etc.
  • Tzeentch
    1.9k
    I love 2001, and am a great fan of Kubrick's works.

    The monolith is a fascinating theme. I've watched so many interpretations of it, but none seemed truly satisfactory.

    My personal take on it is that the monolith symbolizes something like humanity's capacity for abstract thought (including things like geometry and mathematics). Its flat shape and straight corners are some of its defining features, yet these things are very rare in nature. They are completely prevalent throughout our society today. You could almost say our society is based on them. (If you want to entertain a particularly spooky thought - our society is completely filled with monoliths - computer/telephone/tv screens.)

    It makes its first appearance during prehistoric times, when it seems to give the apes the idea to use bones as weapons.

    However, when it appears for a second time in a more modern era, it is no longer just associated with weapons. Though the way the bone weapon and the missile satellite overlap during the transition between scenes implies Kubrick still draws the parallel.
    In modern times, abstract thought is very strongly manifested in the use of technology, as we see in 2001. I think it is implied this signifies the second stage of human abstract thought. This time, the monolith is found during a lunar excavation, and points the way to Venus, so its role during this stage seems to have changed, away from violence, towards advanced technology.

    The third monolith that's encountered I believe is in Venus' orbit, and it is on Venus where David Bowman experiences a sort of transformation / rebirth / spiritual awakening / enlightenment. To me this strongly implies Kubrick sees this as the next stage of human abstract thought, and thus human evolution.


    Do you know Rob Ager and his YouTube channel Collative Learning? He has a lot of material on Kubrick movies, including 2001 and the meaning of the monolith.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    To the extent that encounters with the monolith has 'made' us into something, the crisis with the AI named HAL show us another collision of the natural with the artificial.Paine

    :up: :100:
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    It seems to me that Brandan Morris, one of my favorite sci fi writers, observed a batch of monoliths on Enceladus some years in our future, They weren't doing much, but they had rescued Frank Poole? the astronaut who HAL9000 had tossed into space--his mental being, anyway.

    I thought the monoliths were perfect as aliens: strange, mysterious, other-worldly, potent, awesome (in the original meaning of the word), etc.
    Bitter Crank

    Exactly, this is the same feeling I have when I saw the monolith. It is there not doing much but at the same time it makes a rare atmosphere because you can feel the abstract object "should not be there" because it is not the "correct" place for a monolith.
    Thanks for sharing your view on the book. I never read it but I think I should give it a try the next year. It seems to be a good book.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    (If you want to entertain a particularly spooky thought - our society is completely filled with monoliths - computer/telephone/tv screens.)Tzeentch

    :fire: :100: :clap:

    Interesting point of view and very argumentative answer. I have perceived that most of you interpret the monolith as a characteristic of technology.
    Nevertheless, sometimes I tried to think as a "proof" of this advanced and specific technology. I mean, probably the monolith was put there as a sign of a older but wiser civilisation who habited the earth previously to hominids, thus us as humans.
    The most mind blowing scene is when the monolith appears again in the moon... it is a very substantive scene. We can also interpret that we are behind of something else. Whenever we progress into something new a rare civilisation already did it or was there and I think the monolith is a "proof" that "we do not discover anything" because a different civilisation already did it.




    Do you know Rob Ager and his YouTube channel Collative Learning? He has a lot of material on Kubrick movies, including 2001 and the meaning of the monolith.Tzeentch

    No, I never heard of him. I going to check him out.
  • Tom Storm
    5k
    The monolith to me always represented either the human unconscious (our full capacity unrealized) or a silent harbinger from an alien source which seeks to guide humans at key moments. I think it adds to the movie's enigmatical status to not quite grasp the monolith's purpose - it becomes a portent of the numinous.
  • Paine
    694

    Regarding violence, it is present in the prehistory, moon discovery, and the space voyage scenes. There was much establishment of a tense cold war problem in the moon scenes. HAL kills the whole crew except for one. Kubrick seems to be linking an element to each progression rather than transcending it.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    give it a tryjavi2541997

    Sure. Just bear in mind that it was written concurrently with the script for the movie, so there is very little in one that is not in the other.
  • Banno
    18.6k
    Kubric decided to work with Clark after reading The Sentinel.
  • Tate
    1.4k

    It's some sort of alien technology meant to promote intelligence.
  • Paine
    694

    Interesting. Clarke's expectation.
  • Banno
    18.6k
    The monoliths - there are three in the original movie - Are gateways through which the aliens communicate and act.

    The first, on the plains of Africa, is used to improve Moonwatcher's intelligence. The second, in orbit around Jupiter (Saturn in the book) is used to transport Bowman via a worm hole. The third, in the Hotel room, transforms him into a "star child"...

    It's trite now, it wasn't in 1968.
  • Paine
    694

    You did not include the moon stuff in your description.
  • Banno
    18.6k
    Oh, yeah. Four monoliths.

    I recall in one of the later books a description of each as an emanation of one monolith, like multiple Tardises, or electrons.
  • Paine
    694

    Important in the context of the story because it is what gives the impetus to having an Odyssey.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    or a silent harbinger from an alien source which seeks to guide humans at key moments.Tom Storm

    I like your theory because it could mean that aliens would help us and be our partners. Aliens tend to be represented as "enemies" or "intruders" of the humans or earth.
    But what could be a key moment for humans? The fine line between us and the other species who didn't evolved like the humankind?
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    The first, on the plains of Africa, is used to improve Moonwatcher's intelligence. The second, in orbit around Jupiter (Saturn in the book) is used to transport Bowman via a worm hole. The third, in the Hotel room, transforms him into a "star child"...Banno

    the moon stuff in your descriptionPaine


    Interesting. We can interpret monoliths were put by aliens to "test" the habitants of earth and since the first one on the Plains of Africa, there were three different monoliths making an important impact to our actions.
    Nonetheless, despite the monolith has a weird atmosphere of the unknown we cannot say if it was put on the earth with negative purposes. If they tried to communicate with us through the monoliths we can think the aliens intended to be "diplomatic"... or the simple fact that there always been a clever civilisation watching our lives.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    Watching 2001: A Space Odyssey on New Year's Eve is a four decades plus tradition of mine ...180 Proof
    Link to post with a fairly thoughtful youtube. :nerd:
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k


    Why did God, He would be the most advanced alien we could hope to encounter, take a human form, as Jesus? My compass tells me we're in alien gods territory.
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