The film is broken into 4 segments - The Dawn of Man, Mission to the moon, Mission to Jupiter and Re-birth.
All of the segments are open for interpretation so here is my take on it:
In a succession of beautiful landscape shots we see how conflict evolves. First we see an "innocent" encounter between the apes and another pig-like species. Both of them compete for the available grass-food. The next encounter is a little more violent when a panther/ tiger attacks one of the apes. Following that the conflict changes direction and we see the antagonism between two groups of apes but still without any physical contact between them.
All changes when the black monolith appears. The ape group that experiences it first quickly learn how to use bones as weapons. The next and last conflict is the most violent where the apes kill one of their own kind. Violence against your fellow man is born but only after an intelligent form was introduced to their lives; the black monolith.
2. In one of the most famous match cuts in the history of cinema we are transferred to the second segment - the mission to the Moon. The only valuable information that we learn here is that the black monolith was buried on purpose and nobody knows what it is. The first time we were introduced to it, the stone is located on Earth, then in the second part the monolith has 'traveled" away from us. My assumption is that humans are the ones that got rid of it due to a discovery of something negative. The segment ends with a high pitched sound hurting the astronauts exploring it, and the audience as well. This sequence is a progression of conflict from the first segment. but this conflict is between another intelligent form, and the human race.
3. The third and most famous segment of the film is the mission to Jupiter. In this segment we learn that the black monolith is now located on Jupiter - in the outskirts of the Solar system and thus further away from Earth. Kubrick has extremely interesting, and "tricky" cinematography and we are introduced to HAL 9000. Two astronauts, along with four astronauts in hyper sleep, are traveling in a space ship completely controlled by HAL. The mission is to Jupiter. The conflict in this section is between man and a machine that he created. HAL believes that the astronauts are jeopardizing the mission and he begins terminating them. Five astronauts die before HAL is disconnected. After he is shut down, we see the monolith flying in space freely and creating a gateway of sorts for the ship. In my opinion, the gateway is to a black hole. A Black hole is an area in space with such a high concentration of mass that even light cannot escape. Once we enter the black hole it is nothing but light. In a hallucinatory trip traveling through it we experience a concentrated and powerful kaleidoscope of color. The surviving astronaut is observing light "compressed" to such an extent that we think it is killing him. But in reality the trip through the portal has only aged him and he arrives in a new dimension.
4. In the fourth and final segment we find ourselves in an amazing and beautiful set combining vintage furniture and futuristic floor lighting. Here the astronaut sees himself age further and is at the precipice of death. Just before he dies the monolith appears again. Through him we see the death of the one and the birth of another human form - the star child. In the historical spiral of time humans are finally something more then a conflict driven species as we are transformed into a super-human and hopefully superior species.
4 / 5
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Staring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester