Go to Table of Contents of the analysis of Stanley Kubrick's movie "2001" (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).

The most important thing which must be kept in mind with Kubrick's films is there is the surface or principle story and then the internal or sub-story. In many of his films, if we're really paying attention, set elements pretty much immediately destroy the surface naturalism. One may not notice this destruction the first, second or third time one watches the film. Through constructive disorientation and disconnectedness, and sleight of hand as to where our eye focuses, Kubrick, the magician, intentionally obfuscates these elements that destroy the overt and naturalistic story line. The surface story lines are the principle ones, and this is maintained and supported by the intentional obfuscation of the deconstructive elements which keep them sub rosa. At the same time, these deconstructive elements are plainly there, alongside his tremendous effort to make things look real and believable, and once we bypass the disorientation and his purposeful refocusing they become a puzzle, annihilating the sense of reality. This destruction of the film's naturalistic story line is difficult enough to conceive of and accept that most people stop at this point and decide these puzzling aspects of Kubrick's films are errors when they are not. They are part of the art of a director cleverly designing the overt story line to be unimpeded by an internal story that tears it apart. Indeed, the sub rosa elements of the internal story may be discreet but they are enough in evidence to complicate the surface story with an aura of attractive, indefinable mystery, which is one of the reasons viewers return to Kubrick again and again. To work with the "reason" and "why of the internal story line is to try to settle into Kubrick's sensibility, examining how these internal stories form a dialogue in his oeuvre with repeating themes and ideas, elaborated upon from film to film. The internal stories haven't a "plot"; they aren't that kind of story. Instead, you have to be willing to deal with comprehending the themes and ideas represented in them as instead ultimately forming a different terrain for the setting of the surface story, guiding and interacting with the overt story and giving it a new form.

Return to Table of Contents for "2001: A Space Odyssey" analysis




The Dawn of Man section is a part of the film that is very easy to be taken simply and without examination, because we think we've seen it all. The hominids lose the waterhole. The monolith appears. Hominids learn how to use tools and kill for food and defence. They retake the waterhole. But there is a lot more going on in these shots than that surface story. We need to question what we are really seeing as opposed to what we believe we are seeing or have been told we're seeing. It's also interesting to examine the seeming psychology in the presentation of the shots in easing the audience into accepting the world of the hominids as wholly as was done, despite the fact Kubrick presents this ancient world in a highly artificial manner.

0 Intro screen and music. (:09)

Black screen with intro music. Gyorgy Ligeti's "Atmospheres".

1 The MGM lion (3:00)

"Thus Spake Zarathustra" begins.

2 Return to the black screen. (3:11)

At about 3:17, as the horns enter, the upper hemisphere of a blue celestial body fades into view. The camera rising, we see a view of the earth between the distant sun and the foreground dark of the moon which continues to lower in the foreground as the distant sun rises above the earth.

It would appear, the full moon in opposition to the sun, that we are perhaps viewing a lunar eclipse.


At 3:52, the moon having lowered completed out of frame, we have the credit METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER Presents. At about 3:59 the credit leaves the screen.



4:11 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY appears on the screen as the sun begins to clear the earth then ascends above. About 4:28 begins a fade to black which is absolute by 4:30. The music continues to about 4:34.

We can't overlook the significance of the use of Richard Strauss' Also Spake Zarathustra, which was inspired by Nietzche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, the "Sunrise" section here playing. A central idea was the eternal recurrence, had by Nietzsche during a walk when he saw a pyramidal block of stone in the alps. Another is that of humans as a transitional phase between apes and superhumans--the notion of the superhuman, of course, becoming an influence on Nazism, though Nietzche (d. 1890) was himself said not to be anti-Semitic, and was a critic of German nationalism.

The cyclical, recurring nature of life that Nietzche proposed appears to have been one locked into a perpetual reconstitution of things such as there is no deviation.

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.'


"Whoever thou mayest be, beloved stranger, whom I meet here for the first time, avail thyself of this happy hour and of the stillness around us, and above us, and let me tell thee something of the thought which has suddenly risen before me like a star which would fain shed down its rays upon thee and every one, as befits the nature of light. - Fellow man! Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again, - a long minute of time will elapse until all those conditions out of which you were evolved return in the wheel of the cosmic process. And then you will find every pain and every pleasure, every friend and every enemy, every hope and every error, every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine once more, and the whole fabric of things which make up your life. This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever. And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon".

I'm less concerned with Nietzche's conception of what all this exactly meant for him than Kubrick's intentions in use and repurposing, for Kubrick's works are all about the conflict of predeterminism (the oracle) and free will, and repetition as found in ideas concerning anemnesis and ZKR (which I've written at length on elsewhere, consult the links). His recurrent usage of deja vu and characters revisiting situations is all an expression of this, the traversing of the duplicate or similar patterns of a maze or labyrinth in the journey to the center. So, though Nietzche writes of a locked-in life, and we need to have an understanding of Kubrick's references, Kubrick's use of these ideas must be considered in context of his expression of certain themes throughout his oeuvre and how he played them out.


3 Fade in from black screen to a sunrise. (4:40)

First, the screen still black, we hear birds. By 4:42 the pre-sunrise dawn has faded in. The sky is a brilliant orange-crimson and the land still in shadow.

At about 4:50 the title THE DAWN OF MAN. It fades out about 4:55-4:56.


4 A view of the pre-sunrise dawn. (4:56)


5 Sunrise. Same landscape as 4. (5:02)

It is the same shot as in 4. Rather than holding and filming the sun rising to 5, Kubrick had his on location crew shoot stills. So Kubrick cuts to the sun now already cresting the furthest left of two distant hills. Its light appearing, the rest of the landscape is now black.


6 Sunrise over another landscape. (5:07)

The savannah again. The sun is now center screen and fully above the horizon, which is a different landscape view from those former. A high hill is on the left and low hills on the right. This, too, is a still shot, as are all the on location shots. We've a nice pyramidal inversion effect of the sunlight across the savannah beside the pyramidal hill.


7 Another POV of 6. (5:11)

Another POV of shot 6, the same tall hill on the left, only now it is above the mid horizon line whereas before it was below, and though the sky is still a sunrise yellow, the sun is no longer center stage, and isn't in view at all.


8 Sunrise, a new POV. (5:17)


Now we view the distant sunrise from atop a seeming plateau looking over the dusty red landscape toward the sun. Again, a still shot. We hear the sound of wind enter.

9 The savannah. (5:23)


The savannah, a rocky hill to the left, hills protruding from the flat land in the distance. The earth is still red with the sunrise, though we don't see the sun in this view. Again, a still.

10 The savannah from another angle. (5:33)

We are viewing the savannah from atop a lower hill, looking across the plain at rocky protuberances. The sky is a pale pink-orange hue. No sun.


11 View of the dawn from a rocky pinnacle. (5:36)

The camera looks partly through a rock arch at the dawn sky which has begun turning to blue, the clouds a soft pastel yellow-rose. Again, a still.


12 View of the orange-brown savannah from the top of a rocky hill. (5:44)

No sky. We only see the savannah. Again, a seeming still shot but the camera pans from looking down the rock hill to the savannah to looking across its seeming near lunar waste barren. At the end of the pan, the far horizon and the pink sky comes into view. We hear wind. A bird.

Kubrick has chosen an area which seems mostly inhospitable to life. It has almost a lunar effect, or as it could even be life on Mars, due to certain things ommitted. For instance, he shows us lots of desert and rock in red hues. What he doesn't show us is greenery, and so it will be for the whole of the film.


13 Tusked animal skeleton. (6:06)

View of a tusked animal skull in the right foreground, round rocks on the left, a rocky hill beyond, and just left of center in the sky is a pale sun hovering in the light blue sky.


14 Hominid skeleton. (6:12)

A rocky, more mountainous landscape. In the foreground, in shade, is a hominid skeleton stretched out on the rocky soil beside a tapir skull. The shadows from the sun rise extend from left to right. We are viewing south.

This would be our first front screen projection. The tusked skull shot prior, which I think is a location still, leads into it, moving from reality to reality and stage illusion.


15 Action shot now of two hominids. (6:18)

The two hominids, in foreground shadow, beside a large rock, are eating, sitting back to back, the one on the left in profile. The one on the right appears to be perhaps digging for roots as it sits, and then also eats.


When Kubrick finally shows the hominids, he fixes them solidly in a sense of reality by having them in shadow against a front screen projection that shows not just distant background but a large foreground rock that is part of the front screen projection image, but beside which the hominids thus appear to be seated. With our not being visually introduced to the hominids straight-away, seeing them first in a very realistic shadow form, the edge is taking off the confrontation of our meeting them in full light. Jump down to shot 17. If we first had seen the hominids as in shot 17, without this intervening shot of them in shadow, we would be less accepting of them as "real". In shot 18 we are actually presented them as less "real" than here, in order to ease our acceptance of them, and I will discuss that in shot 17.

16 6 tapirs on the savannah, hills beyond. (6:25)


Having made the hominids feel very much as if they are on location rather than on set, Kubrick then goes to this very painterly combination of stage and front screen projection. The center tapir stands still for most of the shot and so we feel as if we are looking at a painting which is partly coming to life, or as if we are at a museum of natural history.

You will also notice that though Kubrick has striven for a great sense of reality, he then murks it up. The skies of many of the front screen projection images (not the introductory sunrise stills) have been played with so they have darkened edges and a kind of of cross-hatch effect that almost simulate the brush strokes in a painting.

I have read the 3M material on the great screen used for these projections, laid out in sheets, ended up showing a seam, and to eliminate this Kubrick had the material layered on in various shapes in such a way that no seam ended up being shown. This is not that same layering of the 3M material that we are seeing here for these seeming simulated brush strokes are different in every shot. These effects appear to have been applied to the images themselves. So Kubrick again goes to great lengths for a sense of reality and then imposes a filter that distances us from that reality.

17 A tapir beside three seated hominids. (6:31)

A tapir nonchalantly shares the landscape with three hominids. The hominid on the left digs in the rocky soil for roots. One on the right is reclining while another grooms it. The hominid on the left barks at the tapir to get away, protecting its food source.


A lot of time and money went into making these hominids appear as realistic as possible, but nothing was going to make them appear absolutely natural. We just instinctively know better. Our eye knows better. So Kubrick first introduces the hominids in shadow (shot 16) and then he removes the hominids from a realistic framework and presents them in a Smithsonian Natural Museum frame, on a Smithsonian Natural Museum stage. The use of stills in the opening shots, rather than film, also helps ease that process. We don't have natural movement in those stills, the vibration of air that seems to reside in motion pictures that examine a seeming unchanging setting. Which is what makes this recreation of a deep, archaic, primordial past work. We have extractions out of time in the stills so we aren't trying to cross the threshold into experiencing the past as "happening". We have distillations of life in these Smithsonian type sets, a theater in which our eye and psychology is able to accept what is less real than real.

18 4 tapirs and 5 hominids. (6:40)


19 3 hominids (6:44)

In the close foreground shade sit 3 hominids in shade, barren rock landscape beyond. The one on the left is perched on a low rock, facing the camera, profile to the left. The two others are beside, on the soil. One digs about a clump of grass. The one on the rock has been examining a small bush on the rock beside it, eye level. It tears off vegetation and eats.


As a balance to the theatricality of the beautiful, Smithsonian type staging, Kubrick returns us here to the hominids in shadow with a very lively background with rich natural sun, the kind of environment in which we'd first been introduced to the hominids. In our first introduction there had been little movement. Now, the hominids really interact with the environment, our sense of them becoming more real.

20 4 tapirs and 5 hominids beside animal skeletons (6:51)


The hominids, foraging about the earth, grunt amongst each other.

21 5 hominids and 4 tapirs beside another animal skeleton on a hill. (7:01)


The 5 hominids rest apart from each other, silently foraging near short bushes.

We are still getting into a "plot line" of the hominids, and many of these initial settings in which we see the hominids aren't later repeated, such as this one, or the sets of shots 14, 15, 17. However, we were just shown in shot 20 a set that will be repeated several times, yet we have here this cut to a set which won't be repeated. This disorients the viewer as they try to establish their bearings and the "place" of the hominids in the setting. That disorientation of including sets that won't be repeated means that when we see sets that are repeated the story line that's building is still somewhat "loose" and disconnected from them, even when we realize they're the same sets. Our focus is also forced on the building story line of the interactions of the hominids with the tapirs, the aggressive movements of the hominids and the placid response of the tapirs. That's not much of a story and Kubrick has to work it to get us involved and keep us involved until he steps up the action.

22 2 hominids foraging and 2 tapirs before a rocky hill. (7:11)


The hominid in the foreground left, vocalizing, threatens a tapir which attempts to forage from the same bush, the other hominid stopping to watch. The tapir runs a few feet off.

23 2 hominids and 2 tapirs before a rocky hill. Same area as shot 22. (7:18)


As a tapir approaches the bush upon which the right hominid is foraging, it leaps up and threatens it aggressively. The other hominid joins in this time in the vocalizations. The tapir is not much impressed but turns away.

Shots 22 and 23 are in the same area but we have not been shown a panorama shot of this yet and so don't know this, we have only perhaps an idea it is in the same area through the similarity of the rocks and vegetation. We won't see a panorama until shot 44, when it will be at night and we won't be confident it is the same area. Not until shot 86 will we see the area in panorama, in natural light.

I should add that also, here, finally we see some green, but we won't really notice it because it is so much in the background and also because other settings, without green, will sometimes have a greenish sky tint. With the exception of a couple of shots, such as this one, Kubrick's earth has no green.

24 5 hominids and 3 tapirs on a mostly barren hill, mountains beyond. (7:25)


The two foreground hominids sit together, one grooming the other. The three others sit apart, foraging.

Again, Kubrick has taken an area where we will have repetitive activity and has followed it with a shot from one we will not see again. Shot 24 looks very much like shot 21, where Kubrick did the same thing, showing an area where we will have repetitive activity and following it with a shot from an area not seen again. Though shots 21 and 24 look much alike, they don't show the same scene, at least not from any familiar vantage.

25 6 hominids forage near bones at the base of a rocky hill. It seems to be near sunset. Same area as shot 20. (7:32)


As they forage, a previously unseen panther leaps from the hill and upon the left foreground hominid, which screams and wrestles with it, the other hominids taking notice and beginning to flee to the right. The hominid briefly escapes the panther, which again leaps upon it. A quick fade to black at 7:47. We continue to hear the roar of the panther and the scream of the hominid.


This is the climax of our first story line concerning the hominids. They feed along with the competitive tapirs who are not in the least afraid of them. Rather than effective predators, they are instead hunted. Vulnerable. The panther attack completes that part of the story. A hominid is perhaps killed, though we don't see it killed on camera, while the others flee in the background. We have no clue which hominid was killed because they all pretty much look alike and it doesn't seem to matter much as we have been and are experiencing them as a collective, but here Kubrick also brings in the story of the individual. The isolated hominid, the one who is left alone while the others flee, becomes exceptional, more human even, because we automatically assign to it a back story, even if that back story is as concise as this-is-the-doomed-hominid. To recognize a creature as fat out of luck is to anthropomorphize, to give it character. Otherwise, the creature is just plain food.

26 Crossfade from black to a group of hominids sitting beside a water hole in a hill area composed of rocks, savannah and blue sky beyond. Day. (7:55)

In the left mid-foreground sit 3 hominids. Just right of center screen is the water hole with 4 hominids sitting about it. 3 other hominids sit mid-foreground to the right. Silence but for birds.


Kubrick begins the second story line in an entirely new setting.

27 4 hominids sit pressed together. (8:00)

They forage and groom, one vocalizing. This is from the same perspective as will be seen in 32.


28 A hominid foraging in the seeming barren earth, other hominids nearby. It vocalizes. (8:04)


29 MCU of a hominid at the water hole, 3 others in view. (8:07)

The central hominid vocalizes, as then do the others. It turns on a hominid to screen right, chasing it away, then returns to drinking.


30 MCU of hominid couple at the water hole, female grooming the male. (8:19)

Other hominids loiter about but the camera is concerned with this center pair. The male leaps away to the left, the female vocalizing.

31 5 hominids about the water hole. (8:22)

One hominid moves off to the left while the other four remain about the water hole.


32 View of the water hole and hominids about it from above and beyond a rocky hill over which scales another hominid. This is the same perspective as shot 27 but much further removed. (8:27)

The hominid sneaking up the hill pauses, two others following.


33 The water hole with 3 sitting about it and about 8 foraging in the barren earth beyond. (8:38)

Essentially the same view of the water hole as in 32 but without the foreground hill over which the invaders creep.

An off-screen sound attracts the attention of those about the water hole. They look up and begin screaming.

34 Opposing view of the water hole with the hominids about it facing the other group as they ascend the hill, the savannah in the background. (8:43)

2001 - Waterhole conflict

35 Medium shot of the invading hominids approaching the waterhole. (8:54)


I may as well go ahead and say now that I've never been confident that the man (or at least the mask) that plays "Moonwatcher", isn't the leader of both gangs of hominids. It's common knowledge now that Moonwatcher is the leader of the group that is being run off and that it is he who will have an epiphany. But compare this shots of the leaders and they look very much alike, such as compare this shot with 29. Very much the same build, brow, set of eyes, mouth, hairline at the forehead and then there's the scant hair on the right knee.

36 Shot of defending hominids across the waterhole. (9:09)

37 Medium shot of the defending hominids leaping and stamping their feet in rage. (9:17)

38 The invading hominids. (9:19)

They enter the waterhole and chase the others off.

39 The failed, defending hominids from behind the invaders. They leave, beaten. (9:34)

40 The invading hominids surround the water hole. (9:39)

41 Medium close-up of the invading hominids beginning to drink. (9:49)

Fade to black at 9:57.

This is the beginning of our second story line, though it seems to be also at this point to be an end. Both bands of hominids look so much alike that we could scarcely have any preference for the ones initially surrounding the water hole. Eventually, our sympathies will be with that first occupying band as we learn more about them, but without that learning, without that story, we really shouldn't care which band wins, though sympathy naturally is often accorded the resident anything that is run off. At this point, we don't even know if that resident band is the one we had previously seen in the film. We don't know if the band resident at the water hole is the one that had been attacked by the panther. We can only assume at this point that it is the same band.

Shot 36

Shot 39

Shot 37

Shot 40

Shot 38

Shot 41

The above table of photos isn't to show an internal organization of shots but to give an idea of how little info we are given as far as telling the two bands of hominids apart. The only individual hominid which stands out is the leader of the gang which takes over the waterhole.

42 Fade in on evening, the sun setting across the savannah. (10:04)

43 View of rock hill that was seen in 22 and 23. Tapirs and hominids are absent. We hear a panther's roar. (10:06)


These sunset clouds are almost exactly the same sunrise clouds viewed in images 4 and 5. We will see them repeated again. We do not here see the two hills on the 4 and 5 stills; in this front screen preojection those hills are obscured by the rocks.

Below is shot 4, and as you can see these sunset clouds are from the same shoot as the sunrise ones.


44 Medium shot of a panther with a zebra kill. (10:12)

All of this is supposed to be taking place about 4 million to 3.5 million years ago when the diet of hominids changed. The panther, as an expression of its Panthera ancestor, fits the bill. The tapirs don't. They didn't exist back then and don't belong to Africa. Perhaps the tapir is supposed to represent an ancient animal like the warthog.

We assume the panther is the same that killed the hominid. We are struck by how its eyes flash, reflecting the light of the front screen projection. Kubrick has said they didn't know this would happen, but they certainly kept it for effect. He could have chosen to cut it out. Leaving this in adds a "weird" aspect to the panther, magnifying it into something more than a panther, while also reducing it. The panther, in some ways, seems to become individually transparent and is instead a force of nature, of primal forces as a whole, through its being united with the light in the background. As the eyes of the hominids don't ever do this, they continue to relate to us more and more as individuals as they are now further distinguished as being more than just the collective.

The zebra could be just a "kill" for panther, or there is a sub-story in its markings of the duality of nature, the separation of light from dark. It would do well to remember this shot and consider it in future shots where we have a strong black and white theme, for this shot is a singular one in the Dawn of Man section due the black and white and stands out.


45 Blue night. The rock ledge within which the hominids take refuge to sleep. (10:26)

We hear the panther's roar.


46 A slightly closer view of the rocky pit in which the hominids huddle. (10:35)

Again, the threatening roar of the panther.


47 Medium shot of four of the hominids, very awake and listening to the panther. (10:43)

48 Medium close-up of a single hominid huddled alone in the rock. (10:55)

49 Medium shot of 5 hominids huddled together, eyes open, listening to the roars. (11:00)

50 Medium shot from the side of 5 hominids in a huddle, also listening. (11:05)

One of the them roars in the direction of the roar of the panther. It then forages some bit of brush to eat. The hominid next to it reaches to try to take it or a bit of it and the hominid barks back in protest. Again, the panther roars and all quiet.

51 Medium long shot of the hominid seen in shot 48, and this time we also view a family of 3, male and female and child to the right, listening, eyes open. (11:27)

52 First close-up of a face of one of the hominids. Its eyes dart back and forth, listening to the roar. (11:36)

What these shots of the members of the collective does is to individualize them, even as small groups. Their fear becomes more personal. We are finally shown their eyes up close and blood shot. They are argumentative but also restrain their aggressive behavior. They console each other. Their anxiety becomes intimate and they become more our ancestors, fearful, stressed out, haunted all night by their bills.

Shot 47

Shot 50

Shot 48

Shot 51

Shot 49

Shot 52

Reviewing the above in a table we see an internal organization that might escape the eye otherwise. The hominids in shots 47 and 50 are not the same grouping but one distinctly recalls the other, huddled to the right in the manner that they are. The hominid in shot 48 does appear in shot 51 but the color temperature of shot 51 takes after shot 50. The hominid in shot 52 could be out of groups 47, 49 or 51. What makes it stand out is the final close-up of the anxiety of the individual.

It isn't by chance that we have prior this sequence a shot highlighting the peculiar eyes of the panther and then have this sequence end with a close-up on the face of the hominid and of its eyes.

53 Orange-red sunrise. We view a thin sliver of moon high in the sky. (11:40)


Fade to black at about 11:43.


54 A huddle of hominids sleeping against the rock, the sun shining upon them. (11:51)

We hear Ligeti's Kyrie Eleison from his Requiem, a mass for the dead in which it is asked the deceased be granted eternal rest and the perpetual light of God to shine upon them.

The Kyrie Eleison is "Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy."

One wonders at the use of the Requiem's Kyrie Eleison here, but it's to be remembered that one of the hominids was killed by a panther in shot 25, that Kubrick revisited the big cat in shot 44 and that he has filled the night with the roars of the feline discomfiting the hominids and filling them with fear. An expression of mercy would certainly be had in the gaining of freedom from that anxiety in an evolutionary leap involving the realization of weaponry. Which is about to happen.

One of the hominids, waking, grunts and barks in anxiety, staring at something off-screen, which we will in a moment see is the monolith. It stamps its foot finally to rouse its fellows.


55 The monolith seen against the impending sunrise. (12:24)


These are actually the same clouds and hills in shots 4 and 43 only flipped horizontally, as shown below where I've taken shot 5 and done the horizontal flip.

I take such recyclings in the film as an expression of anemnesis, ZKR, a variation on the idea of "eternal recurrence" etc. Kubrick had sent a film unit down to Africa for still shots and you know that they came back with more than a couple of sunrises from which to choose for his front screen projections. Kubrick wasn't sitting there saying, "Darn, I've only got a couple of sunrises that I like. Maybe no one will notice if I use them again again."


The way we saw the shot 4 originally is above. Below is it flipped horizontally so it is the same orientation, the same shot as 55.

The reverse orientation is important and Kubrick makes use of it several times in 2001. This is the first example, occurring with the revelation of the monolith.


And here again is shot 43. Horizontally flip it in your imagination and these are the same clouds as in shot 55.


If we compare the night shot from 45 to this morning one in 55, we see they are exactly the same foreground scene. If you layer the two over each other, all the foreground elements are the same. But in shot 45 Kubrick used a different front screen projection for the background, so the two hills seen in shot 55 aren't observed in shot 46. You can make this out more easily in the still of 45 I've lightened below


Looking at shot 45 above and comparing it with shot 55 below (where we are currently at in the film), again the foreground elements are the same and the background are different. I stress these background differences because they mean a physical difference in terrain that shouldn't be and at least isn't accommodated by the lack of difference in perspective.

The front screen projection for shot 45 seems as though it may have been selected for its similarity to the front screen projection used in shot 55, employing its own kind of reversal in that where the sky is observed through a break in the clouds in shot 45 is approximately where the primarily viewed cloud obscures the sky in shot 55.

The source of light illumining the area at night, where the monolith will appear the following morning, is eerie, seeming to anticipate the fantastic monolith and setting a stage for it.


The hominids flow out of their hiding place and gather in a circle round the monument, screaming and barking in excitement.

56 Medium shot of the monolith and the hominids leaping about it. (12:41)

One leaps into the pit and after several approaches briefly touches the monolith. This hominid is identified as Moonwatcher in the script and other materials, otherwise we wouldn't know it as Moonwatcher.


In shot 56, the clouds are the same as those in 55 but have been flipped back to the original orientation as observed in shots 4 and 5 and 43. This may seem insignificant now, these reversals, but they continue throughout the film and are thematic for Kubrick and serve a purpose.

This shot is from the same view as shot 46 and is an interesting one as Kubrick has peering out from around an embankment so one almost has a sense of spying upon the hominids. Below is shot 46.


First, it perhaps merits notice how much the foreground rock in shot 56 is like the background cliff ledge in shot 55. It could almost seem the same in reverse, though it is not.

The obstacle on the right personalizes our view, placing us on a more intimate level with the subject. Off the top of my head, I can think of very few times Kubrick gives us this sneaky immediacy, and the one that does pop immediately to mind is in The Shining after we've had Wendy viewing Jack's page in the typewriter, a couple of those shots done so the typewriter resembles the monolith here. After this, Jack abruptly appears from the rear of the Colorado lounge, and his figure is in 3/4 silhouette from behind, so that it greatly resembles this rock. This silhouette of Jack was of such significance to Kubrick that it was presaged in the film throughout the initial phase of Dick's drive up to the overlook.

The Shining - The silhouette

It's a very threatening image in The Shining, and follows Wendy having received a shock much the same as these hominids, her world absolutely upended by Jack's novel being only one phrase typed over and over again with variations in form. That repeated phrase brings us back to the idea of the eternal recurrence which I wrote of at the beginning of this section as per it being introduced with the sunrise musical selection.

Just as the monolith initiates the ability to adeptly and reliably kill for food and defence in 2001, so will Wendy now succeed in using her bat to defend herself against Jack. These two scenes are intimately bound together.

As for the monolith itself, the wonder it inspires in the hominids, one of the points of it is that it displays perfect symmetry by design in its proportions, something one does not associate with the views of nature Kubrick is presenting us. Except that with shot 46, and then here with shot 56, we have a suggestion of symmetry between the cliff on the left and the rock face on the right. They are too similar to each other for this not to have been planned by Kubrick. In shot 46 we have these mirroring aspects hinted at, then in shot 55 when we finally view the monolith we may not see these mirroring aspects in the rocks but the background has the horizontal flip, and now when the background has resumed its original orientation we have returned to these mirroring aspects in the rocks.

57 Closer shot of the monolith, the more adventurous hominid and a second with it in the pit. (13:23)

Several other hominids now join them in the pit. Again, the more adventurous hominid touches the monolith and the others finally follow suit, all exploring.


58 The moon and sun rising over the monolith. (14:28)


The film had opened with the alignment of the audience, moon, earth and sun. Now we've an alignment of the monolith with the sun rising above it in combination with a waning moon. It's an impossible combination, isn't it? The waning moon in the northern hemisphere shows light on the left, whereas in the southern hemisphere it is on the right, so I'm assuming stills were taken for that shot about the equator or above for as seen in image 53 we have the waning moon with light on the left. Here we instead have the moon in a U shape which is more a spring time moon? That moon is really close to the sun which appears to be more a noon sun high in the sky, above the monolith, while the clouds belong to the sunrise. And the sun and moon are really close together.

What we're seeing is an unnatural phenomena and so is instead an expression of a state of enlightenment for the hominids and not to be taken literally. This closely correlates with Nietzsche's writings of the "noon" as always being the state of enlightenment of the eternal recurrence.

And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon.

Much is made of Kubrick's positioning of the sun and moon together and this having to do with Zoroastrianism, but from what I can tell with Zoroastrianism the symbol typically used was/is a guardian spirit in a winged chariot that represents the eternal nature of the soul and negative and positive forces (I also read it once was thought to be a sun chariot). In other religions when the sun and moon are shown together symbolically the crescent moon is always shown embracing the sun. With the horns pointing away from the sun, I am reminded more of symbolism concerning Taurus, the bull, and various horned deities.

59 Long shadows over the savannah. (14:35)


60 Rocks before the savannah. (14:41)

61 Rocks and hill before the savannah. (14:45)

Shot 60

Shot 61

Again we have shots that again reset us in the illusion of reality, however still, before we return to the Smithsonian museum of natural history theater.

62 Same area as shot 25 where the panther attacked the hominid. (14:50)


A hominid, Moonwatcher, enters from the left and sits before a bunch of bones. If we compare this to shot 25 (below) when the panther attacked the hominid, we see that Moonwatcher enters from the same area to which the hominid, attacked by the panther, was struggling to flee, and that part of their struggle occurred on the same ground where Moonwatcher sits.


We also see that Kubrick is using the same front screen projection here as in shot 25, the color having been changed slightly to be less green. Also, shot 25 began with several other hominids in the background who fled when the panther attacked. As Moonwatcher sits and examines the bones, the other hominids again exit making this a private revelation for Moonwatcher. The scene of Moonwatcher's revelation and that of the panther attack are also further united as speaking to one another.

63 Medium shot of Moonwatcher sitting down amidst the bones. (15:02)


Moonwatcher begins digging, as if foraging, and the other hominids quickly depart screen right. He digs a little more then stops and raises his head in a more reflective position.

64 The monolith. (15:17)


Memory. Moonwatcher, the hominid, is recalling the past in possibly a new way, with a new sense of time, perhaps only now entering "history". The reason I think this is because we will soon also have thoughts of the future intruding on the present, Moonwatcher projecting on cause and effect with his envisioning of killing a tapir.

He is about to make a leap via inspiration, a eureka moment triggered.

65 Medium shot again of Moonwatcher amongst the bones. (15:19)

The "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" sunrise music begins to play again as Moonwatcher looks at, before him, the rib bones which are the same shape as the crescent moon above the monolith. He picks up a bone and begins tapping the rib bones with it, one finally flipping in the air.


He strikes the bones harder and harder, causing them to break.

66 Shot of sky. (16:15)

Close-up shot of Moonwatcher's hand rising into the sky and forcefully bringing the bone back down again.

67 Low shot from ground level of Moonwatcher exultantly striking the bones. (16:20)

He continues pulverizing the bones, finally striking the tapir skull.

68 A tapir falls to the left. (16:34)


69 Close-up of Moonwatcher's exultant face. (16:36)

He begins to raise the bone again.

70 Shot of sky and close-up of Moonwatcher's hand raising the bone against the sky, bringing it down... (16:38)

71 Close-up of the bone breaking the tapir skull. (16:40)

72 Shot of sky and close-up of Moonwatcher's hand raising the bone against the sky, bringing it down... (16:42)

73 Close-up of the bone breaking the tapir skull. (16:43)

74 Close-up of the bone breaking bones. (16:45)

75 Close-up of the shattered skull falling to the side. (16:45)

76 Close-up of rib bones flying into the air. (16:46)

77 Close-up of the skull being shattered. (16:47)

78 Close-up of rib bones being shattered. (16:48)

79 Close-up of shattering bone. (16:49)

80 Close-up of the skull being shattered. (16:50)

81 Medium shot of a tapir falling to the right. (16:50)


Whereas shot 68, I think, represents Moonwatcher contemplating cause and effect and how the new tool can be used to kill a tapir, I believe this shot is intended to represent the actual killing, even though this is followed by another shot of Moonwatcher celebrating his epiphany.

One must also pay attention to the fact that with the appearance of the monolith we had the background flipped in reverse, and now once again we have this reverse orientation with the fall of the beast, though these are obviously different shots.

82 Low shot of Moonwatcher as he finishes shattering the bones, tosses the one he holds into the air, and reaches down to pick up the remnants of the bones. (16:54)


The music ends.

As I've noted before, I would be hard pressed to attempt to distinguish between this hominid, our Moonwatcher who has had his epiphany, and the leader of the opposing band which took over the waterhole as presented in shots 35, 38 and 41. General knowledge of the film over the years has taught us this is Moonwatcher and the other band's leader is a different hominid, but that is something we've learned through subsequent presentation and absorption of story line. If we had only to rely on our own eyes and no other information, there is little to distinguish these two, which is significant in the setting up of the doubles/twins theme which is consistent in Kubrick's films.

Shot 66

Shot 67

Shot 68

Shot 69

Shot 70

Shot 71

Shot 72

Shot 73

Shot 74

Shot 75

Shot 76

Shot 77

Shot 78

Shot 79

Shot 80

Shot 81

Internal organization of the above shots, with a few exceptions, is pretty much as expected with first the focus on the striking arm and then the object of the strike.

83 Shadows stretching out over the savannah from a hill. (16:58)

Moonwatcher enters from the left, carrying his bone-tool and also a large hunk of meat from a fresh kill. He eats.

84 Medium shot of 5 hominids eating flesh. (17:28)

None of them have bones except for "Moonwatcher."

In shots 83 and 84, in which the hominids are introduced as meat eaters, Kubrick returns to the super-realism of background had in shots 15 and 19 before placing us in the Smithsonian natural museum type staging again.

Shot 83

Shot 84

85 Long shot of the hominids eating flesh, but this time each has a bone at his/her side. (17:33)


Moonwatcher has taught the others how to use the bones to hunt. We've returned to the same area as seen in shots 22, 23 and 43. Whereas in shots 22 and 23, the tapirs had been an annoyance foraging upon the same food as the hominids, now the annoying tapir is itself food.

Whereas in shots 22 and 23 we had only seen partial and disconnected views of this site, and in shot 43 we had seen it at night, now we finally get the full panorama of this area and comprehend it as a whole.

86 The hominids in their home-pit. (17:39)

This is a return to shot 56 with the same sky and the rock in shadow to the left. There is no monolith. The hominids are eating flesh. Their home-pit now is littered with bones.


87 Medium shot of the hominids eating. (17:45)

88 Close-up of a hominid eating the flesh. (17:50)

89 Medium shot of two young hominids playing with the bones. (17:52)

Shot 87

Shot 88

Shot 89

90 Sunrise over the home-pit. (18:02)

Or are we supposed to perceive this as sunset? Regardless, if we look closely we see movement in the shadows around the pit. The hominids aren't sequestered in it. They are able to take on the dark with their new-found weaponry.


This shot uses for the front screen projection image the same still as shot 5.


It would be difficult to say whether it is shot 5, or its reuse in shot 90 with its subtle changes, that introduces us to the color organization we typically associate with HAL's eye.


We have the barely discernible white center encased in yellow-orange and then red surrounded by dark red.

91 Return to the waterhole. (18:07)

The shot is viewing the area around the pit as seen in shot 34, though a medium-shot of Moonwatcher crouching on the boulders with a bone in hand, assuming a threatening posture. The opposing hominids who had earlier taken over the waterhole leap about in the foreground, while behind Moonwatcher members of his group climb into view, all carrying bones.

92 Medium close-up of the opposing hominids. (18:29)

They have, of course, no bones.

93 Shot from behind Moonwatcher and his group, looking toward the waterhole. (18:33)

Moonwatcher advances so far as to step into the water.

94 From the same direction as shot 91, Moonwatcher aggressively facing off the other hominids. (18:39)

95 Long shot of Moonwatcher at the water's edge, his group behind him. (18:42)

He advances into the middle of the waterhole.

96 From behind Moonwatcher, as he approaches the other hominids. (18:47)

97 Same as shot 95 again, Moonwatcher facing an opposing leader in the pool. (18:52)

The opposing leader charges Moonwatcher, who steps back, out of the pool, then clubs him with his bone. The charging hominid falls to the ground. Moonwatcher strikes him a second time, then another hominid comes from the right and strikes.

98 Medium close-up of the fallen hominid. (19:02)

Another hominid, one of Moonwatcher's group, comes forward and strikes him one, two...

99 Long shot from the rear of Moonwatcher's group of the hominid striking the fallen hominid three, four, five times. (19:07)

When that hominid is done and runs off, Moonwatcher steps forward and strikes again, over and over.

100 From behind Moonwatcher, the opposing hominids withdrawing in confusion and fear, screaming. (19:12)

Others of Moonwatcher's band continue to come forward and beat the fallen, decidedly dead hominid.

101 Medium shot of the decidedly dead hominid and Moonwatcher's band beyond. (19:19)

He is beaten with such force that a bone breaks upon him.

The camera's focus then moves to Moonwatcher roaring and moving to the pool again, waving his arms aggressively.

102 Shot from behind Moonwatcher's group of the waterhole. (19:27)

103 Moonwatcher and his group have crossed the waterhole. (19:30)


Moonwatcher continues roaring. The whole group advances forward, retaking the area.

104 Medium shot of Moonwatcher alone, the opposing band gone. (19:41)

He throws his bone into the air.

If we look at the shots below, organization is typically with the waterhole then a shot that doesn't focus on the waterhole.

Again, I believe if you compare the exultant Moonwatcher, in the shots below, retaking the waterhole, you will find he is the same hominid who is playing the leader of the opposing gang in shots 35, 38 and 41. If it isn't the same individual then they were made up to look exactly the same (just as we will later see in the next section with the pilots of the crafts). It's an expression of twinship, doubling, duality. It's a set-up for the dualities later expressed and their complexity as being a part of a unity. This may not seem like a "big" idea but it presents some enigmas later. And it also demands the audience rethink their relationship to the film if they have settled into observing the two leaders as different through assumptions made or because they have heard so often of Moonwatcher (if such is the case) and simply have come to believe they can distinguish him from others, such as that other leader of the group. Also, it demands the audience re-examine the "why" of their sympathies.

Shot 91

Shot 92

Shot 93

Shot 94

Shot 95

Shot 96

Shot 97

Shot 98

Shot 99

Shot 100

Shot 101

Shot 102

Shot 103

Shot 104

105 Close-up of the bone rising in the blue sky. (19:46)

It soars up against a cloud.




105a A brief break, the bone out of sight, the clouds change, and the camera moves up to catch the bone as it then quits its ascent and begins falling back to earth. (19:48)



Why two different shots of something so simple? The bone, rising, revolves counter-clockwise. We have the brief break and then when we return to the bone still ascending it is moving clockwise, then continues in a clockwise revolution as it falls. Keep this in mind as we will need to be attuned to clockwise and counter-clockwise orientations through the reminder of the film.

Having counted all the shots, there's a reason I'm counting this shot as 105 and 105s as opposed to 105 and 106. When we reach the end of the third section we'll learn why.

tl;dr. What happened? Y'know, bare bones version. Ha-ha. Get it?

The convergance above the monolith did not happen, at least not physically. For decades everyone has accepted it as a physical event rather than seeing that Kubrick framed it as impossible. If this doesn't matter and doesn't make you rethink your relationship with the film, the one Kubrick is building with you as a participant audience member, then you probably don't need to be watching Kubrick.

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