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The 2001 File: Harry Lange and the Design of…
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The 2001 File: Harry Lange and the Design of the Landmark Science Fiction…

by Christopher Frayling

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This handsome book is a collection of the drawings from the Harry Lange archive. Harry Lange worked for NASA as a conceptual artist, and together with Frederick Ordway was headhunted (albeit with NASA's blessing) by Stanley Kubrick to work on '2001'. Much of the look and feel of the film's future technology is down to Lange and Ordway.

Christopher Frayling contributes a fascinating essay which takes up perhaps the first third of the book. He has found out all sorts of interesting things that throw new light on not just the film, but also on NASA and the whole US space programme. For example, many of NASA's "German engineers" were not ex-Peenemunde, 'Operation Paperclip' refugees of opportunity. A number of expatriate Germans of the first post-war generation, especially those escaping from East Germany, gravitated towards Wernher von Braun; Lange was amongst them.

Lange and Ordway were close to a lot of NASA planning during the 1960s, and Frayling puts together a picture of NASA planning the next thirty years after Apollo; Lange and Ordway were central to this, producing many of the concepts that Kubrick later mined for the film. In short, '2001' is perhaps as good a picture as we can possibly have of how the future might have looked had the Apollo programme run its course and been hailed as the precursor to more sustained American involvement in space.

We also get a picture of Arthur C. Clarke's involvement with Kubrick; and for those who know some of Clarke's history and origins, it is illustrative to see his elevation from British science fiction fan in the pre-war years (I nearly said 'humble science fiction fan', but Clarke was never that!), via his successful professional sales in the 1950s, to one of the Great and the Good in the astronomical and spaceflight communities in the 1960s, attending major conferences here, or hobnobbing with senior NASA officials there. Of course, Clarke's own personality helped a lot - even before the war, he was known to the British fan community as "'Ego' Clarke" - but mere self-belief does not on its own a major luminary make.

Kubrick's meticulous - some might say obsessive - approach to film-making saw its full expression in the making of '2001', and Frayling's essay shows this. In order to try to make the best science fiction film ever, Kubrick engaged with major figures in science, technology and engineering, making the central section of '2001' a serious exercise in futurology. The EVA pods on board the 'Discovery' were built by British aerospace firm Hawker Siddeley; the centrifuge was built by Vickers Armstrong - no mere props these, they were serious pieces of engineering. The bottom line of that was that there was nothing in the film that could not have been built by 2001 had the political will to do so existed.

This is not the book to read if you want to know the story of the making of '2001' in detail, though Frayling's essay is a valuable contribution to the literature on the subject. But the drawings from Harry Lange show the level of detail and thought that Kubrick was prepared to go into, and they throw intense light on the creative process, the development and evolution of the look and feel of the film, and the thinking that was the everyday long-term goal of NASA in the 1960s. This book is therefore as important for understanding the thinking in the spaceflight community as it is a document in the story of what probably is, after all, the best science fiction film ever made. ( )
1 vote RobertDay | Jan 25, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0957261020, Hardcover)


This stunning tome is a previously unseen look behind-the-scenes at the making of this most legendary of science fiction classics. It is an in-depth examination of the complete, largely unpublished archive of art director Harry Lange’s designs, concepts, roughs and photographs.


Lange’s strikingly realistic designs created an extraordinary vision of the future. By releasing this unpublished archive and explaining its significance, the book takes the reader/viewer on a journey deep into the visual thinking behind 2001, for the first time ever – visual thought that might actually work.
The book is about the process, as well as the finished product. It examines how Harry Lange’s experience with NASA fed into the innovations of the film.

It includes rejected designs, concepts and roughs, as well as the finished works. It reveals how the design team was obsessed with things that actually might work. The book illustrates several innovations that were science fiction in the 1960s but have since become science fact, including a ‘newspad’ designed by IBM, which bears an uncanny resemblance to today’s iPad. The remarkable designs for 2001 created a credible vision of the future.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 16 Jul 2015 22:32:36 -0400)

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