One of the most strange, beautiful, and fascinating scenes in 2001: A Space Odyssey is the one in which David Bowman is working out aboard Discovery One. The scene’s aesthetics are beautiful, the camera rotates to depict the gravity of the spaceship and the same score that appears outside the ship, continues inside indicating a crossing of barriers. I think however what I find most interesting is Kubrick’s decision to insert this scene into the film. Just as the film itself encounters a sort of anxiety about its limits as a film, i believe this scene captures the anxieties of the astronauts aboard Discovery One.
Critical to this is the use of the music. As mentioned, the same score is carried over from the scene previous to the workout scene. The eerie melodic quality that we hear in relation to deep space and the ships location floating in it, locates Bowman’s workout sequence in a very strange way. There are no boundaries or form in this film. The men exist without a true structure. The music reminds us that is is in fact a film. The music is not playing in space, or in the ship itself, but rather units the sequences despite stark visual contrats. Space and ‘space’ within the ship are really not all that different. As we see later on the ship that keeps them alive, is really not that protective or separate from what persists outside of it.
The running in this workout sequence and the camera’s insistence on following Bowman throughout it reminds the viewers of the anxiety of the close quarters, the small spacial existence, and the theme of the circularity of life which persists throughout the film. For much of this sequence the camera remains sideways, reminding the viewers of location of this scene. The long distance shot of Bowman as he runs follow him as if we are in the perspective of HAL watching him. Yet soon we transition to a moving shot from behind as if we too were running. Then we switch to a low angel front shot as Bowman punches at the air and runs. There is a quick change to a tracking shot from behind as he passes by the men in hibernation and the scene changes to the read eye of Hal. This reminds us that we are both watching and being watched just as Bowman is. This is another preminition to future events.
space of pure cinematogrphy yet also cinema encounters anxiety about its limits