For two hours and 20 minutes, audience members in the Whitney Humanities Center viewed the year 2001 through the prism of the 1960s.
Saturday evening, this packed auditorium celebrated the legacy of director Stanley Kubrick and his critically acclaimed film originally released in 1968, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Though the groundbreaking filmmaker died ten years ago, a multigenerational audience came to honor the film presented on 35 mm and listen to its star Keir Dullea, who introduced the movie and answered questions after the screening.
“Stanley was the most exciting director I’ve ever worked with,” said Dullea, who played the iconic role of astronaut David Bowman in ‘2001.’ “He was a genius.”
The Kubrick retrospective, which was a collaboration between the Film Study Center and the Cinema at the Whitney, included screenings of earlier Kubrick films, “The Killing” and “Paths of Glory” on Friday night. Michael Kerbel, the director of the Yale Film Study Center and a Film and American Studies lecturer, organized the event to coincide with the ten-year anniversary of Kubrick’s death.
“He was a mentor to me and he was someone who was very instrumental in getting me started in film,” he said. “It is around the tenth anniversary of his passing March 7, 1999 so I thought we should honor him.”
Though “2001” has become almost synonymous with the Kubrick name, Dullea was surprised by how many people present had never seen the film. Even for those in the crowd of over 200 people who had seen it before, the event presented a rarely seen 35 mm format as opposed to watching it on DVD, Miranda Popkey, the undergraduate chair of the Cinema at the Whitney, said.
“The screening on Saturday was so crowded that I had to sit in the balcony,” she said. “I’m glad so many people took advantage of the opportunity to see “2001” in 35 mm because the visuals are spectacular on the big screen, there’s just no comparison.”
Following the screening, Dullea shared anecdotes from the set and his personal experiences working with Kubrick. Laughs echoed throughout the theater when Dullea recounted the troublesome casting process of finding the voice of HAL, the arrogant computer aboard the spacecraft. Kubrick failed to discover the voice he was looking for while filming so he settled on the cockney British accent of his assistant director — a far cry from the monotone voice in the film’s final version, Dullea explained. After they finished shooting, Kubrick re-recorded the voice using actor Douglas Rain.
Though Kubrick put his whole life into the making of “2001,” Dullea said the “droll man with a quiet sense of humor” was a hands-off director, preferring to create a safe atmosphere in which actors would feel comfortable.
“He spent so much time in casting that he trusted us,” he said. “I was never worried about trying something new or if he was going to like it.”
Several audience members questioned the film’s philosophy, a subject of widespread speculation after the film was released. While on set, Dullea said that Kubrick was more interested in the minute aspects of directing.
“So much of the philosophy came after filming,” he said. “We had certain goals dealing on a mundane level with whatever the actions were in a scene, and we didn’t talk about the psychological implications.”
To sum up his experience on set, Dullea explained that it was unlike anything he had done before.
“When Stanley worked on a film, the film was the thing,” he said. “Sometimes you do a job and it’s just a job, but for me it was anything but that.”
Cinema at the Whitney will next present Ermannos Olmi’s “The Profession of Arms” on April 3rd in conjunction with the annual Italian Studies Conference.