“All art is unstable. Its meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authoritative active voice. There are only multiple readings.”
That's a good way to describe the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C. Clarke wrote in Profiles of the Future p106:It is perhaps too early to speculate about the impact of space-flight on music and the visual arts... The prospect for modern music is a little more favourable; As someone with a reputation for "prophecy", Clarke wrote that less than a decade before David Bowie released "Space Oddity"!
Incidentally, the SF writer James P. Hogan wrote a novel called Inherit the Stars, which he admitted was influenced by 2001. Hogan recalled what happened when he met Clarke at a dinner:I had told many people the story of how Inherit the Stars came to be written, and heard many interpretations of what the ending to 2001 meant. The trouble was, they all contradicted each other. I had read the book and remained none the wiser. Now, finally, I could put it to the ultimate source.
"Arthur," I said, "What did the ending to that movie mean?" I can remember his answer word for word. It was, "I haven't the faintest idea." I was stunned. It was like making a pilgrimage to Rome for an audience with the Pope, only to be told in a whisper behind the hand, "I don't really buy all this, you know. I only do it for the dressing-up and the parades."
Apparently, the movie was based on Arthur's short story "Sentinel." As he told it, Stanley Kubrick wanted to end it one way; another Hollywood person wanted to end it another. Arthur explained, "They ended up waving their arms and shouting at each other - Americans, you know. I walked away and left them to it, and that was what they came up with. I've never really understood it either." I confessed that I had stolen the gist of his storyline. He replied, "I know. I've read it. And your ending is better." Then he added with a chuckle, "But mine made more money."Makes an amusing anecdote.