Kubrick – 2001: A Space Odyssey, Forwards and Backwards.

The Dawn of Man superimposed over Dave's dawn as a space traveler.

Kubrick revealed? The Dawn of Man superimposed over Dave’s dawn as a space traveler.

Origins and Explanation or Why Kubrick is a Genius

This project, in which I arranged Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001 to play both backwards and forwards simultaneously, was inspired by the beautiful and enlightening documentary on Kubrick’s The Shining named Room 237 by Rodney Ascher. I was dumbstruck by the section that explained a theory of how to watch The Shining properly – Backwards and forwards. Here’s an introduction to that idea:

“Analysis and awe sit side by side in the parts of our brains that engage in pattern recognition. The Shining Forwards And Backwards feeds both of them at once.  Last year some folks at a Brooklyn theater – likely highly stoned folks – got the idea in their heads to play Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining forwards while projecting the movie backwards at the same time on the same screen. What was shocking was that it worked. That’s not to say that Kubrick intended the film to be seen this way, but it worked nonetheless.” curated by lemasney from Fantastic Fest Review: THE SHINING FORWARDS AND BACKWARDS | Birth.Movies.Death. at http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2012/10/01/fantastic-fest-review-the-shining-forwards-and-backwards

And perhaps my favorite way to introduce this idea that even if Kubrick didn’t do this purposefully, it’s still fascinating:

“(T)he film’s framing lends itself to this kind of an experiment. Kubrick is so precise about placement within the frame that you can overlay random images and find juxtapositions and reverberations in imagery. Whether or not this is purposeful is besides the point – what matters is how it’s experienced.” curated by lemasney from Fantastic Fest Review: THE SHINING FORWARDS AND BACKWARDS | Birth.Movies.Death. at http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2012/10/01/fantastic-fest-review-the-shining-forwards-and-backwards

I was so moved by the idea possibly applying to other films of Kubrick’s, that I rushed to my machine, ripped a copy, and started playing. This post is an invitation for you to do that play too. It’s easy for you to argue that it was not Stanley’s intention to do all of this extra work so that just a few might see it. Once you see it, it’s harder to argue against that idea. So, how does one do it?


Kubrick's 2001, A Space Odyssey, backwards and forwards. (lemasney)

Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey, backwards and forwards. (lemasney)

I don’t have access to projectors or film reels as The Shining theorists did. I did this right on my computer, and so can you. In fact, it’s likely the only way you’ll get to see it in all of its glory because of the copyright infringement of the product if broadcast without permission. I’ve had a few short clips taken down so far and rightfully so. I do not have copyright rights to the material. Because I am using this for the purposes of extending the content through critique and analysis, I feel I’m free to post this imagery, and have seen other examples, such as in the project that inspired this one:

“On Wednesday, March 9th, 2011, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, The Spectacle Theater screened Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining forwards and backwards simultaneously, superimposed. This experiment in projection was inspired by the analysis of The Shining by MSTRMND, and one line in particular:  The Shining is a film meant to be watched both forwards and backwards.  We took the MSTRMND gambit at face value. We put the US DVD version into Final Cut, removed all corporate logos and leaders at the beginning, and cut all credits at the end. The entire film image sequence was then copied, reversed and superimposed over the original forwards version. (For clarity’s sake we screened the forwards/backwards superimposition with the forwards audio only.)” curated by lemasney from KDK12 | The Shining: Forwards and Backwards at http://kdk12.tumblr.com/post/4879566957/the-shining-forwards-and-backwards

I believe I’d be able to argue that I did this without expectation of malice, but rather homage, to Stanley, nor personal monetary gain, while hopefully extending the film’s value through critical observation.

I still won’t post the whole rearranged film here, because it would easily be arguable that I had not done enough to change it, and I’d rather not have a showing with my voice over it, etc. You should see it in its true form, and that means you’ll probably have to do it or contact me for help, which I welcome. I am however sharing a lot of GIFs, the first of which are below. Please feel free to share at your own risk. I have a fantasy where I get the Paramount in Charlottesville, Virginia to do a screening for us on the big screen, but I doubt that I could afford the rights.

How to make your own Forwards and Backwards movies:

  1. You have to have a non-protected version of the film in an editable format like MP4, which may mean getting the DVD and backing it up to a file, as I did. (If this is a new concept to you, check out this cool HowTo). You might get it some other way too.
  2. Open the MP4 in a video editor (I use the open source video editor KDEnlive on Ubuntu Studio, you might use Adobe Premiere or something similar) on track one.
  3. Open a second copy on track two and mute and reverse it. In KDEnlive, you can just right click on your original project clip and make a reversed copy. (Here’s the HowTo for that).
  4. We mute the second copy because the audio weaves together the narrative of the two directions.
  5. In order to see the second track ‘through’ the first, you have to add a transition between tracks to act as a layer mode for the video. I used Screen mode, which worked perfectly. (Here’s the HowTo for that.)
  6. Render your edit, and begin watching. In the mean time, check out some of the short animations below to get some sense of what you will see.

I’ll explain more below and in future posts, but I can not see how the timing of the cuts and positions are anything but designed. Kubrick seems perfectly capable of going scene by scene, second by second, and arranging image A and image B to coincide. I feel certain of it, but others may not believe. I also believe in The Dark Side of Oz, where Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon replaces the soundtrack of the classic film The Wizard of Oz. If you can believe that was by design, this is easy, comparatively.

Introduction and Exit

Please click on the images to see them full size. You can navigate through them by opening any of them and clicking on the arrows left or right.

The introduction and exit of the film are fascinating to watch simultaneously. Having read Clarke’s entire series of books on this universe, the obelisk is an alien intelligence, allowing humanity to flourish by giving insight to technology unknown before through contact. This happens to the missing link men in the first scenes, to the men on the moon, and to Dave, becoming the space baby, a newly born time-traveling entity.  Some impressions and narrative for the GIFs above:

  • Click on Introduction and Title to see the perfect choreography of space baby Dave’s eye, moon, sun, and earth.
  • The Dawn of Man plays with the idea of burial (Dave passing from human form to time traveler) in the ground of the reverse scene.
  • The obelisk contains light (symbolizing intelligence) often in this version of the film. Eating becomes a recurring, overlapping theme for ideological acceptance, and in The human issue of eating, we get a glimpse of the hogs lying about Dave’s purgatory room, and Dave eating an alien meal for sustenance.
  • In Enrobed in light, and Obelisk encounters the intense landscapes of the time travel Dave screams through are set against the landscape of early man. Also, notice how the light surrounds, follows, and amplifies the brutal emotion of early man, and how the light splatters and spits around these newly murderous human ancestors, shining with new and powerful intelligence.
  • Bright light (as intelligence, but not always kind) constantly reveals itself in the backwards and forwards play, like HAL’s red-eye over faces or objects of intense importance or intimate intelligence in other scenes.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the next scenes and my impressions. I hope you liked this introduction to the project, and I’d love to help you to do this kind of thing too, discovering new tools along the way. If I can help you, please give me a call at 609 553 9498 or email me at lemasney@gmail.com. There’s even a feedback form below. If it’s something especially nice, it might go in the testimonials! I’m John. Thanks!

This content is published under the Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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