Opinion: The Cinematic Acid Trip of 2001: A Space Odyssey

I thought I would write about my experience seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey this past week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. This was my second time seeing the film, with my previous viewing happening way back in January 2011, also at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. This particular release of the film was in celebration of 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s 50th anniversary, with the film being projected on a newly struck 70mm print of the film. With me only having seen the film at 70mm screenings, I truly can’t thing of any other way to view the film. In other words, I probably won’t be getting 2001: A Space Odyssey on blu-ray anytime soon.

Anyways, I would probably get to the main topic of this piece and that would be the infamous Stargate Sequence that happens in the final act of the film. For those who have never seen the film, this sequence is made up of about ten minutes of flying colours and psychedelic landscapes. Indeed, this sequence is probably the closest one can feel to being on acid, without actually being on acid. Here is a YouTube clip of the Stargate Sequence, so you have get an idea what it was like to watch:

It was this sequence and the many practical space effect that helped 2001: A Space Odyssey win its only Academy Award for Special Visual Effects back in 1969. The award went solely to Stanley Kubrick, much to the annoyance of the other Special Effects technicians who worked on the film. Probably the most well know of these technicians is “special photographic effects supervisor” Douglas Trumbull, who would go on to work on the special effects for Close Encounters of the Third KindStar Trek the Motion Picture, and Blade Runner. TIFF actually has a full length master class online, which has Douglas Trumbull talking about his effects work in 2001: A Space Odyssey. You can watch it below:

I previously mentioned that the Stargate Sequence was like having an acid trip, without actually taking acid. Well, it turns out that many of those who originally saw 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 1968 was thinking the exact same thing. According to the IMDB trivia on the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey was initially not a financial success. However, theatre owners would then start noticing a number of young adults attending the film, specially to watch the Stargate Sequence while under the influence of psychotropic drugs, which is ironically what eventually made the film a success. On a related note, the entire final act of the film can reportedly be synced up with the Pink Floyd song “Echoes.”

Well, that concludes my freehand about 2001: A Space Odyssey and the the Stargate Sequence.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).