I have just been to see 2001: A Space Odyssey with my family: part of a Darwin season – yes, really – at our new local cinema. The film itself provoked a storm of discussion within our little group with opinion divided between those who pronounced it ‘complete and utter tosh’ and those who argued that it was ‘ glorious, original film making, working to a different timescale.’ ( The film is very slow by modern standards.) Let’s just say, I was in a minority of one in enjoying its explosion of colour and concepts, its imaginative recreation of The Dawn of Man as well as Jupiter, Infinity and beyond. Everyone else was bored rigid.
But to return to the central question of time. I about ten years old when I first saw the film and like so many, saw it as a serious attempt to predict the future in terms of space travel, computer technology, furnishings and clothing and so on. It didn’t do badly, as it happens, with the imaginative projection of a a Skype like arrangement for telephone communication and some strange free standing raspberry furniture I am sure I have seen in several modern office blocks recently.
But of course the once distant future becomes the recent past. 2001 is now nearly a decade ago, a year that created its own story, its own extraordinary history. To watch now this projection of a far flung future is to feel the forceful limitation of prediction. As we, the viewer, free wheel through space to the strains of Wagner and Strauss ( amazing music, I thought) all I could think of was the Twin Towers burning and the bodies falling and the resilience and grief of New York.
Who could have guessed all that or understood what it meant? Who also could have guessed that interest in space travel would wane as the new century unfolded? That, in fact, there would be no regular package tours to the moon, in fact few missions to the moon at all, let alone a mission to Jupiter………………