“Open the pod bay doors Hal”
“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that”
For sci-fi fans, the tense conversation between Dave Bowman and The Discovery’s malfunctioning onboard computer, HAL 9000, contains some of the most famous lines in cinema.
And yet Stanley Kubrick’s visually stunning 1968 interpretation of Arthur C Clarke’s story The Sentinel is as much about the music as anything else.
Dialogue, in fact, is kept to a minimum (we wait a whole 24 minutes for the first banal sentence) – Kubrick instead using the likes of Johan Strauss’s The Blue Danube and Sunrise from Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra to create the atmosphere – not that there is any in space.
From the latter’s first bars, as apes discover how to use tools as weapons, the music and visuals work as one.
With the fabulous Ex Cathedra choir and Philharmonia Orchestra, the score took on another dimension as it was performed live, the film projected on a mammoth screen behind them.
Timpani boomed, strings murmured, brass fanfared each new age of man.
While the likes of The Blue Danube paint a serene landscape, Ligeti’s spectral, eerie Requiem and Atmospheres are used to incredible effect for The Dawn of Man and Stargate sections, a haunting sea of voices singing noises, not recognisable words.
The overall effect was mesmerising, whether seeing the film for the first or tenth time.