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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Going to HAL

It's been a bad few days for those who love British cinema. Arthur C. Clarke has died. Among other things, he co-wrote the screenplay (and the book) with Stanley Kubrick, of the most significant science fiction film of the 20th century (including Star Wars): 2001: A Space Odyssey, still considered by most critics to be one of the ten best films ever made (see the 2002 Sight & Sound poll). It is surely one of the slowest moving, and hardest to easily comprehend. It was first shown almost forty years ago (in April 1968), having been filmed in England (Kubrick loathed flying).

Often considered visionary for its concerns, the film's key scenes are those in which the intelligent, speaking computer HAL disintegrates vocally and intellectually during a tense cat-and-mouse game between man and machine; Canadian actor Douglas Rain provided the computer's unforgettably unsettling voice. Clarke himself was a professional visionary, as well as being somewhat controversial, for a number of reasons. It will be intriguing to see what becomes of his work, and reputation, now that he has died. Or is he simply in a strange white room somewhere, about to be born?
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