Kubrik himself has never publicly discussed the ending to 2001 and admits that this was a very subjective film, while many people claim not to have understood it at all. Many interpretations have been made as to the real meaning of this scene, many incredibly different and most equally plausible. Despite their differences, however, all have one thing in common: an overwhelmingly optimistic vision for the future.
A few example interpretations include alien intervention: an idea that alien technology has helped man progress to the next level' of consciousness; to an understanding beyond the physical realm. Others adopt the idea of the emergence of man as pure thought completely of his own accord.
It is for this reason that the futuristic vision expressed in this scene cannot be labeled simply utopian. What viewers are offered during this scene spans far beyond an idealistic version of the world we live in today: various connotations found in the scene stretch the bounds and horizons of humanity itself.
The problem faced by Kubrik, and indeed the set designer was how to portray a near incomprehensible, purely conceptual journey on film. One theory sits with the idea of a metaphorical shift of entities: the room we see is a metaphor for the human body and respectively, Dave Bowman, the main character, becomes a metaphor for the human mind.
One of the elements that makes this scene appear to be ambiguous is the absence of dialogue and meaningful audio accompaniment. This absence draws additional attention to the visual elements of the scene. Furthermore, very little screen movement encourages us to study Dave's surroundings, in this case an elaborately decorated room.
Though the set is not intended to be a physical rendition of the future itself, it does play a large role in channeling our thoughts and emotions while we are offered these fantastic, conceptual, futuristic ideas.
The set quickly becomes an overwhelming feature of the scene for one main reason: the uncomfortable feeling of incomprehension encourages us to look to physical features for familiarity; something solid to grasp onto. Kubrik does not offer us this. Instead, we are greeted with what appears to be an elaborately decorated hotel room void of doors and windows, complete with renaissance-like artwork and glowing floor tiles. This ambiguity heightens our sense of curiosity.
What we are first presented with is a somewhat illogical mix of objects: a space pod sitting in the middle of a bright white room with geometric space-aged glowing floor tiling and furniture, artwork and wall decorations that appear to be centuries old. This immediately communicates a mix of ideas including artistic creativity, high technology, cleanliness and calculated precision spanning centuries and continents. In all, these are elements which can be attributed to major triumphs and accomplishments of mankind over the physical domain; factors which distinguish the human race from the rest of the animal kingdom. Already the viewer has received a universally positive statement, whether or not they are aware of it on a conscious level.
The fact that this room is void of doors and windows reinforces...