The use of a tool… violence against others… and the dawn of humankind.
I can still remember to this day seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time. The movie screened at the theater on Minot AFB in North Dakota where my family was stationed. I had just turned 15. At the end of the movie, I sat in my seat and didn’t move. The credits rolled, then darkness. I still sat there. The movie was an absolutely mind-boggling experience. I saw the movie several more times before its run ended. Each time I thought I understood it a little more — and a little less. We moved to March AFB near Riverside, California that summer of 1968. I suppose having my own little ‘head trip’ with 2001 was some sort of preparation for the experiences that awaited me in SoCal.
There are so many great scenes in the movie, but the one I want to highlight today is the opening.
It’s interesting to compare the movie to the only script that’s available (to my knowledge). The movie differs in many of the particulars, but when you read the script excerpt below, you’ll see that writer-director Stanley Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke knew early on in the writing process both the tone and the symbolism of where this sequence was headed.
It’s also interesting to note how much like a novel the script is:
From their side of the stream, in the never violated safety of
their own territory, the Others see Moonwatcher and fourteen
males of his tribe appear from behind a small hillock over-
looking the stream, silhouetted against the dawn sky.The Others begin to scream their daily challenge. But today
something is different, though the Others do not immediatly
recognize this fact.Instead of joining the verbal onslaught, as they had always done,
Moonwatcher and his small band decended from the rise, and
begin to move forward to the stream with a quiet purposefulness
never befor seen.As the Others watch the figures silently approaching in the
morning mist, they become aware of the terrible strangness
of this encounter, and their rage gradually subsides down to
an uneasy silence.At the water's edge, Moonwatcher and his band stop. They
carry their bone clubs and bone knives.Led by One-ear, the Others half-heartly resume the battle-
chant. But they are suddenly confrunted with a vision that cuts
the sound from their throats, and strikes terror into their
hearts.Moonwatcher, who had been partly concealed by two males who
walked before him, thrusts his arm high into the air. In his
hand he holds a stoud tree branch. Mounted atop the branch is
the bloody head of the lion, its mouth jammed open with a stick,
displaying its frightful fangs.The Others gape in fearful disbelief at this display of power.Moonwatchers stands motionless, thrusting the lion's head high.
Then with majestic deliberation, still carrying his mangled
standard above his head, he begins to cross the stream, followed
by his band.The Others fade back from the stream, seeming to lack even
the ability to flee.Moonwatcher steps ashore and walks to One-Ear, who stands
unsurely in front of his band.Though he is a veteran of numerous combats at the water's edge,
One-Ear has never been attacked by an enemy who had not first
displayed his fighting rage; and he had never before been attacked
with a weapon. One-Ear, merely looks up at the raised club
until the heavey thigh bone of an antelope brings the darkness
down around him.The Others stare in wonder at Moonwatcher's power.Moonwatcher surveys the scene. Now he was master of the
world, and he was not sure what to do next. But he would
think of something.
And now, the entire opening “Dawn of Man” sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey:
How about you? Did 2001 boggle your mind the first time you saw it?
For more articles in the Great Scene series, go here.