Christopher Nolan 2001

Acclaimed filmmaker and vest enthusiast Christopher Nolan is out making the rounds in anticipation for the (likely) Oscar nominations for his film Dunkirk. As part of his press tour, the Dark Knight director revealed why he thinks that Stanley Kubrick‘s immortal, cerebral space-epic 2001: A Space Odyssey should be shown to children. Read on for Christopher Nolan’s thoughts on 2001.

Have you ever seen Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? It’s okay to admit you haven’t, I won’t judge you. Well, maybe a little. Kubrick’s film is an all-time classic, but I also freely admit that it might seem like an impenetrable mystery to some filmgoers. I first tried to watch the film when I was probably 12 or 13, and it left me completely cold (and baffled). Years later, I revisited it, and saw it for the masterpiece that it was. This leads me to believe that it might be better to see Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece later in life, but filmmaker Christopher Nolan disagrees.

Speaking with the LA Times, the filmmaker – who is still out there on the mean streets plugging his fantastic war epic Dunkirk as it reaches for Oscar gold – revealed that he made a point to show his children 2001: A Space Odyssey when they were around 3 or 4 years old, and the he himself saw it at a young age as well.

First, some background: “I saw Star Wars when I was 7, and the movie changed everything for people my age,” Nolan says later in the interview. “They re-released 2001 on the basis of that success and I went to see it with a bunch of my friends. We [all said after watching it], “We don’t know what the hell that means, but it’s exciting.” We just wanted spaceships, we wanted space, we wanted that experience of leaving the Earth.”

The filmmaker continues:

“I think they’re able to absorb it on the most important level at a young age. That’s what happened to me. I saw it when I was 7 years old, and that’s the level I think it works the best — pure cinematic spectacle. I was extremely baffled by it, but excited by it.”

It’s interesting that Nolan is saying it’s okay to lean into how baffling the film is. It might be frustrating to sit through a movie and have no idea just what the hell is going on, but as Nolan explains it, that’s part of the excitement of 2001. During the conversation about 2001, Nolan adds:

“When people talk about the age of people watching a film, part of what they’re asking is, “How does a 7-year-old parse the content?” And if you look at “2001” and you think about it, you can’t parse it anyway as an adult. The experience is the thing…That’s why fairy tales and movies like “The Lion King,” “Mary Poppins,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “2001” are not a million miles removed in terms of people’s elemental experiences of watching them when they’re young.”

Do you agree or disagree with Nolan here? Is an experience of a film enough, or do you need to go deeper and have everything spelled out for you? There’s no wrong answer here: watch films any way you want. It’s just an interesting take on film watching as a whole from someone who clearly has done a lot of it.

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