This time around, Shannon read Roger Ebert's original 1968 review out loud to both sections. And this time, these two sentences resonated with how I thought about the film:
One of the reasons I love this movie is that my dad loved this movie. It came out four years before I was born, but when it was reissued in 2001, we tried to see it together at the Uptown (that night, we arrived only to find the screening had been canceled in lieu of a private screening of the latest Harry Potter movie; we retreated to another theater up Wisconsin Avenue to watch the latest of the Coen Brothers movies The Man Who Wasn't There). My dad died about three weeks before our class discussion about 2001, so I've been thinking about him constantly, both consciously and subconsciously. I thought about how he, as a teacher, would have presented this film to his students. As excited as he was when presenting algebra to 8th graders-- as a friend and former student of his put it "covered in chalk, arms flailing." We did see the sequel together, 2010 (which Kubrick did not direct, but was written by Arthur C. Clarke), which follows the story after Dave somehow becomes one with the stars, how other astronauts go to find him when he is reborn on Jupiter.
What Kubrick is saying, in the final sequence, apparently, is that man will eventually outgrow his machines, or be drawn beyond them by some cosmic awareness. He will then become a child again, but a child of an infinitely more advanced, more ancient race, just as apes once became, to their own dismay, the infant stage of man. And the monoliths? Just road markers, I suppose, each one pointing to a destination so awesome that the traveler cannot imagine it without being transfigured. Or as cummings wrote on another occasion, "Listen -- there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go."
Those two sentences, this time, made me think about the theme of rebirth. How the last section of the film "Jupiter and Beyond" is about the rebirth of humanity as Ebert talks about it here. If we are now infants, the ancients in this advanced intelligent race, then perhaps the monolith this time represents a road marker where I'll return time and again to visit my dad. Where I can go and tell him about when I'm teaching students about 2001, or search strategies, arms flailing, covered in white board marker.