A video has surfaced which appears to feature Stanley Kubrick himself explaining the end of 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Allow us to explain.
Much like the Star Child of the film, the origins of this video are a little complicated and weird. Kubrick doesn’t appear in person in the video, just his voice, so we can’t confirm it’s really him—but it does sound like the famous filmmaker.
According to the YouTube channel that posted the video, the footage is from filmmaker Jun’ichi Yaoi. In 1980, he was making a documentary about paranormal experiences and chose to explore Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining through a set visit and interviews. The feature was never released but, reportedly, a VHS of the raw footage sold on eBay in 2016 and has now made its way online.
It’s a full one-hour, 24-minute video which, at one point, features Yaoi speaking to Kubrick on the phone. That’s when he asks him about 2001, which is the clip below. This is one of those videos that feels too good to be true so we suggest you take it with a tiny grain of salt. But listen in.
And here’s the transcript of what he said:
I’ve tried to avoid doing this ever since the picture came out. When you just say the ideas they sound foolish, whereas if they’re dramatized one feels it, but I’ll try.
The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.
They choose this room, which is a very inaccurate replica of French architecture (deliberately so, inaccurate) because one was suggesting that they had some idea of something that he might think was pretty, but wasn’t quite sure. Just as we’re not quite sure what do in zoos with animals to try to give them what we think is their natural environment.
Anyway, when they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman. We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.
What I love about this, besides everything, is that Kubrick’s interpretation is different from my own and probably many of yours too. I always saw it as a metaphoric rebirth of humanity through another leap in technology, never a literal rebirth as a creature who returns to Earth. Also, Kubrick’s explanation is closer to what happens in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, which was developed concurrently with the film. So it seems logical the two talked about this a lot and just chose to interpret the events in their own way. And now, 50 years and counting, we still debate them.