2001: A Space Odyssey:
Basically, my thoughts revolve around the musical choices of the film which I think are quite suggestive, particularly the use of the two Strausses:
- Richard Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathustra is used whenever the monolith is alone but apparently at work.
- Johan Strauss II’s Blue Danube Waltz is used whenever material human achievements are shown and, once again, alone.
I also think it’s quite revealing that the crew have no idea of their mission until Dave turns off or kills Hal – up to this point they are satisfying a desire. There is no music during this section apart from a nursery rhyme that Hal sings which progressively turns into a discordant and slightly horrifying mess. After this, the music switches to the discordance of Ligeti, who is used whenever the monolith interacts with anything, i.e. the monolith and the apes, Floyd and the scientists on the moon, and finally Dave when he travels into the monolith. That this piece of music is called Requiem could also be intended to link with Nietzsche’s Rapture or Moment (and similar to Heidegger’s “ecstatic temporality” or Derrida’s “atemporal temporality”).
The film ends with the Star Child accompanied by the start of Thus Spake Zarathustra (which is an unresolved opera in the first place).
The Holy Mountain:
Near the end of the film when The Alchemist et al. make it to the base of the Holy Mountain, they ask for guides. One of these is an old circus strongman type who states that he can’t make it to the top of the mountain, but can travel horizontally through its middle. This confused me for ages, because all the other guides are relatively obvious, e.g. the American college student who takes colossal amounts of mescaline or LSD, but also because The Alchemist only makes it halfway up the mountain before suggesting that the real mystery can be found as part of peoples' daily lives rather than from permanently withdrawing from them.
It occurs to me that this is similar to Zarathustra’s ascent of the mountain while carrying a dwarf. He stops halfway and they argue before a gateway with “Moment” inscribed on its arch, which shows two horizontal paths leading in opposite directions that, in fact, form a ring and represent eternity. At this point Zarathustra starts explaining Eternal Return, which I basically can't do, especially succinctly . In any case, although their descriptions are essentially the same, the dwarf – and later, Zarathustra’s animals, when he is convalescing in his cave – describe Eternal Return as spectators: the dwarf sits and complains on the edge of the gateway/Moment, the animals sing simplistic songs. Ultimately, the dwarf and the animals superficially understand the concept but don’t live it, whereas Zarathustra and The Alchemist do.