2001: A Space Oddity.
Devised and Created by Tom Buckland. A Destructamatic Films Production. Belconnen Arts Centre. Producers Chenoeh Miller and Sammy Moynihan. Cast and creatives: Thomas Antioch, Nick Doran Adams, Rory Gillen, Jordan Gotts, Ellis Hutch, Micah Kim, Kon Kudo, Marlēné Claudine Radice, Penny Walker-Keefe, Sian Watson and Tuggeranong Arts Centre. February 12 2022.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Tom Buckland’s 2001 A Space Oddity pays homage to the power of inspiration and the gift of imagination. Buckland would not have been born when Stanley Kubrik released his sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, inspired by co-screen writer Arthur C Clarke’s seminal novel The Sentinel.
As a boy, Buckland became fascinated by Kubrik’s film about the spaceship Discovery’s mission to observe an alien monolith on the planet Jupiter. Astronaut Dave Bowman becomes embroiled in a showdown with HAL 9000 the craft’s controlling computer. In a desperate struggle for survival, Dave is forced to dismantle the computer and thus hurl himself into a psychedelic destiny that sees him hurtling through the universe, growing older and eventually being reincarnated as an andromorphous foetus.
Harking back to his childhood fantasy, Buckland has created his props and sets from childish materials, such as cardboard boxes, roughly made space suits, cartoon scrawlings and homemade DYI models. He has built his own version of the centrifuge hamster and superimposed himself running through the spacecraft. It is a simple, expression of a child’s view of the world, but both intriguing and enchanting. There is no attempt to strive for sophistication or transport the analog world into the digital age. The parody is impressed by the title of his film, Destructamatic Film Production. The irony is that every aspect of the film is carefully and lovingly constructed as a young boy’s sci-fi playground.
At first I am distracted by the amateur nature of the scene with the Hominids and the arrival of the monolith. The film appears more akin to a film student’s early experimentation. Gradually, as though opening the pages of a comic book for the first time, I become engrossed in the cleverly edited version of Kubrick’s pioneer film. I am also amazed at how much Buckland is able to include in his 35 minute screening. As I watch each scene faithfully unfold, I am transported back to marvelling at the 1969 moon landing and most recently Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos’s voyages with civilian passengers to the edge of space. Buckland’s models are relatively crude but I view them with hindsight aware of the complexity of 21st century technology and the amazement at human ingenuity and resourcefulness. Buckland has condensed Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke’s vision of the future and the themes of scientific advancement, artificial intelligence, humanity and alienation into pivotal film sequences that elucidate Kubrick’s warning to the world.
Unlike Kubrick’s film, Buckland’s homage is unlikely to face the polarized reactions of the 1968 audiences. What it does do in its brief encapsulation of the original story is remind us with forceful brevity that humanity lies at the very heart of existence and that HAL 9000 exists to serve humanity.
Throughout the film, Buckland and composer Marlēné Claudine Radice, dressed in aluminium silver spacesuits operate the instruments and electroacoustic score. Buckland as Dave delivers the sparse moments of dialogue, taken directly from the film script. More attention to sound levels at times would have made the dialogue more audible. Radice’s score is complemented by Richard Strauss’s stirring Thus Spake Zarathustra, and David Bowie’s Space Oddity echoes the familiar call of Major Tom to Ground Control. Kubrick’s masterpiece and Buckland’s nostalgic homage fit together like hand and glove. There is a technical naivety to 2001 A Space Oddity that reminds us of a bygone era, but that is ironically its charm.
I never managed to get to Buckland’s exhibition of his works in the Belconnen Arts Centre’s gallery, but I applaud Belconnen Arts Centre for providing the opportunities for artists to experiment and present work that may not always be sophisticated but in Buckland’s case evoke a young boy’s passion and an artist’s imagination.