Stanley Kubrick Explains Ending To 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY In Rare 1980s Interview
An interview has surfaced on YouTube in which 2001: A Space Odyssey director Stanley Kubrick seems to explain the infamously ambiguous ending of the 1968's icon science fiction masterpiece.
The YouTube channel that posted the video, says the footage is from filmmaker Jun’ichi Yaoi. And while working on a documentary about paranormal experiences in 1980 he chose to explore Kubrick’s The Shining through a set visit and interviews. Kubrick doesn’t appear in person in the video, we only hear his voice, so you can't really confirm it’s him you hear speaking. Yaoi's feature was never released but, rumor has it that a VHS of the raw footage was sold on eBay back in 2016 and has now made its way online.
The full interview runs 1hr 24min long, and you can see Yaoi speaking to Kubrick on the phone. That’s when he asks him about 2001: A Space Odyssey (below). Remember it is not 100% certain that we are hearing Kubrick on the other end of the phone, so don't take this interview as irrefutable proof.
And here’s the transcript of Kubrick's answer:
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.
Based on this answer, Kubrick’s explanation is seems to be more in line with what happens in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel. So it does seem to make sense that the Clarke and Kubrick spoke about this a lot and just interpreted the events in their own way. The real beauty in the ending is that just about everyone who sees the movie interprets it differently, and more than a half century later, we are still debating what it means.