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2001: A Space Odyssey begins with a two-minute black screen, with orchestral music, Also sprach Zarathustra . After that, the image of the Earth rising above the Moon appears, as the Sun rises above the Earth, all three celestial bodies placed in a line. The story is then divided into four chapters.
Dawn of Man
The costume of the great apes
Model of the spaceship Orion III, a passenger ship whose design was based on the Concorde
The monolith in contemporary form at the hackers festival Hackers at Large
The first act, titled Dawn of Man 'dawn of man', begins in prehistoric Africa, where a group of great apes roams a desert-like landscape. They are looking for food, but one of them is killed by a leopard and a rival group chases them away from a water source. The next morning they wake up next to a large, black, rectangular monolith , which inexplicably has ended up there without the great apes noticing. This 'New Rock' is being investigated. He seems to give them the 'spark' of human intelligence. Not long after, one of the great apes, Moonwatcher, discovers how to use a bone as a tool , and especially as a weapon. They are hunters now, who kill tapirs and can eat their flesh. The next day, they again go to the water source and kill the leader of the other group. Moonwatcher, the killing ape, throws the bone into the air. A match cut follows to a shot of an orbital weapons platform in orbit millions of years later.
This is followed by the second, untitled, act. It 's 1999 . The Orion III space shuttle carries the President of the National Council for Astronautics, Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester), to Space Station 5 in orbit. During this layover, Floyd runs into his Russian girlfriend Elena and her colleague Andrei Smyslov, but they have an awkward conversation about rumors of an epidemic at the Clavius lunar base. From here he departs aboard the spherical lunar landerAries-1b to the base Clavius which is closed to outsiders. Once there, he reveals at a briefing led by the base administrator Ralph Halvorsen and the geophysicist Dr. Michaels that the epidemic is a smokescreen. In fact, excavators have discovered a black alien monolith nearby in the crater Tycho , which they call "TMA-1" (transl. MAT-1 , short for "Magnetic Anomaly Tycho"). This resembles the monolith that the great apes found in the first act. Floyd, Halvorsen and Dr. Michaels investigate the Tychomonolith and discover that it was deliberately buried millions of years ago. But while they want to take a picture of themselves with the MAT-1, rays of the sun catch them, whereupon the monolith sends an ear-piercing high signal toJupiter .
Eighteen months later, a space mission is on its way to Jupiter (in the book, this is Saturn ). Astronauts Dr. David 'Dave' Bowman ( Keir Dullea ) and Dr. Francis 'Frank' Poole ( Gary Lockwood ) find themselves in cryonic sleep with their fellow travelers, three fellow scientists , aboard the Discovery One starship . The ship is controlled by the onboard computer, HAL 9000 , endowed with artificial, human-like intelligence and ability to speak (voiced by Douglas Rain). He is regarded by the astronauts as the sixth member of the crew. Only HAL on board knows the real reason for the journey: to investigate the connection between the mysterious monolith on the moon and the planet Jupiter.
When HAL claims to have discovered a malfunction in the ship's communications system, Dave and Frank investigate. However, they cannot find faults with the part. This is remarkable, because HAL would be in such a state of perfection that he cannot make such mistakes. According to HAL, it is the crew's fault that they cannot find out what is wrong with the part, and he proposes to replace the defective component so that the problem will surface on its own. Dave and Frank move out of earshot of the computer and decide to shut down HAL when the part turns out to be all right. However, they do not know that HAL has already lip-reading their plans.
When Frank leaves the starship to refit the original part, he is killed in an accident caused intentionally by HAL. On his own initiative, HAL also kills the three frozen scientists by disabling their life support systems. Only Dave, who had left the ship to save Frank, survives. However, HAL refuses to let him in as Dave would jeopardize the mission if he takes out HAL. Using the explosive bolts that open the airlock in an emergencyDave manages to get in despite the risk of suffocation because he didn't bring a space helmet. Once inside, he heads for HAL's memory center. Despite HAL's protests and attempts to reassure Dave, he manages to take him out. Finally, with his voice getting slower and slower, HAL sings a nursery rhyme, Daisy Bell . A video message from Dr. Floyd, who reveals the true reason for the mission.
Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite
Dave leaves the Discovery on a spaceship and encounters another monolith. The power of the monolith makes it transcend . He ends up in a tunnel of colored light and alienating sounds (the Stargate ) and travels through space and time at great speed, encountering the strangest celestial bodies and other astronomical phenomena along the way. This psychedelic journey was described at the time as 'a visual LSD trip'. According to several commentators, this and earlier scenes refer to the theme of rebirth or reincarnation.
The journey ends in an 18th century looking, richly decorated bedroom. Dave repeatedly sees older versions of himself, switching perspectives to the older version, until finally he sees himself on his deathbed. A new monolith appears and transforms him into a fetus -like creature that, encased in a sphere of light, travels through space: the so-called Star Child. In the final scene, the creature returns to the solar system and overlooks Earth. Also sprach Zarathustra can be heard here again.