Stanley Kubrick explains the endings of 2001 and The Shining in unreleased 1980 documentary footage

Originally published at: Stanley Kubrick explains the endings of 2001 and The Shining in unreleased 1980 documentary footage | Boing Boing


Back in high school, I wrote a parody analysis of the last scenes of 2001 ( including the “light show”) to show how pointless such explanations of Kubrick’s work are. Just soak it in.


This interview was impossible to create with the technology available at the time; it was faked on a sound stage by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

Edit: I love the expressions in this photo.

Buzz Aldrin (on the right), “We’re doing this for Truth, Justice and the American Way.”

Michael Collins (in the middle), “We’re going to the Moon!”

Neil Armstrong, (in the left), “Did I turn the gas off?”


I mean those are the interpretations I’ve always had. I don’t see what’s so elusive or mysterious about the endings tbh.

It’s interesting to watch some of the theorists’ YouTube videos though. There’s one guy who goes on and on about the monolith representing a movie screen (turned on its side) and finds tiny continuity errors that he insists are deliberate and planted by Kubrick as clues to a hidden meaning.

I think they’re just errors.

And the “who let Jack out of the freezer” debate - he insists there are actually no ghosts in the Overlook and every supernatural occurrence is movie symbolism of Jack’s sexual abuse of Danny, so he has to find clues to another exit hidden in the way the interior freezer set doesn’t align with the kitchen set, and once again brilliant never wrong Kubrick planted clues for us.

Dude, it’s a Steven King story. The hotel is literally haunted for real by actual ghosts. That can still be symbolic representation of Jack abusing Danny, but in the story it’s ghosts and a ghost unlocked the door.


I love that the Weirdhouse Cinema podcast calls these “rub the fur” movies. Don’t focus on the narrative, just rub the fur; luxuriate in the fur.


That’s not to say that there haven’t been some great critical analyses of Kubrick films. This one on Eyes Wide Shut is a stand-out.

There’s also this theory about The Shining:


Unrelated to the video, but I was able to go to the exhibit at the Design Museum in London I’m pretty sure that photo is from. One of the most incredible exhibits I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. They went deep on the filing system Kubrick designed for himself, right down to commissioning custom folders and boxes for his work from a prestigious stationers. It was fascinating, and I walked through it twice.

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It did always seem like a type of evolution, where they let Dave Bowman live out his life and then was reborn as a higher being, but I didn’t really connect it all till recently to Nietzsche and his “ubermensch” despite the obvious score that was used in the film.


My initial interpretation of the 2001 movie (which I saw when it was first released) was spot on to what Kubrick outlined in this interview. I didn’t think the movie obscured it much at all. Later reading Clarke’s 2001 post-film novel and Childhood’s End (which was the basis for the movie) confirmed it. None of which diminished the emotional/spiritual impact of the ending. Still one of the greatest cinema achievements, IMO.


While I was waay too young when I saw it to get the message that Kubrick stated in the interview about the last 2001 scene, the explanation “works” for me now. I don’t know enough even now to know about intentional historical French architectural inaccuracies, but the way image AIs “try” to make things now that they can’t properly grok conveys this feel. Could be confirmation bias, but the cringey Uncanny Valley feel I get from an weirdly attempted AI image fits. Also don’t think (IMHO) that that concept could have been conveyed to the audience well at the time without being over expository/heavy handed/hokey due to budget/time/technology of the day (even if they invented new tech in that time).

But also agree to feel the fur, as explanations of art by artists or art historians often sound like so much hot air. It’s like explaining a successful joke after you said it, so they can laugh for the “right reason”.


Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” was the basis for 2001, not Childhood;s End.


I was gonna say, Clarke’s novel spells out quite clearly what’s happening at the end. If you want an explanation, read it. If you just want the visuals, watch the movie.


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