(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

With 2001: A Space Odyssey, the genre of science-fiction films came of age. The film achieved a level of unity of theme and visual effect that had never before been reached. The videotape, or “flat,” version of the film is a pale derivative of the visual and aural experience created by Super Panavision projection and its accompanying stereo technology. 2001: A Space Odyssey is strikingly original for a science-fiction film of the 1960’s in that, among other things, it does not feature monstrous aliens or the effects of radiation and lacks romance or sex. Implicit in the film’s execution—minimal dialog and strong visuals—is the idea that ultimate reality would be experienced nonverbally, that is, primarily through the sense of sight. The enigmatic ending, the result of many revisions and rather too patly explained in the novel published after release of the film, is perhaps the most superb example of the film’s evocative power.