“Holy crap! It's a monolith!” After my recent bookworm-o-gasm over Taschen's new William Blake book, I didn't think I'd be having another dreamy out-of-box book experience anytime soon, but I was wrong. The venerable art book publishers outdo themselves again with their just released The Making of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The book was designed by the highly regarded Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag, together known as M/M (Paris). The duo has created a truly one-of-a-kind experience here, an artifact in book form that's worthy of the iconic artifactuality (Is that a word?) of the source material. (Did I mention: It's a monolith!)
The book is 6.9” wide, stands 15” tall, and is covered in a lovely light-absorbing (and dust attracting) matte black stock. The book slides out of a glossy 4-sided wrap which contains the full-color cover art and back cover copy. Sliding the thick black slab from the sleeve, you're confronted by four sigil-like icons, representing stages of a Stargate journey, deep-embossed into the black cover board. The title on the spine is in black foil. Black on black. Lovely.
The cover opens portfolio-style (i.e. the cover spine is not glued to the bound pages inside). The cover and spine fold down flat, creating a kind of stage for unfolding the rest of the book. And stage is the right word, because that's what this books feels like: A performance. Many things feel different from a traditional book. Since the pages are so narrow, there are dozens of fold outs, in 2-panel, 3-panel, and 4-panel spreads. Each spread has the initial experience of the two facing pages and then you go behind them and delve deeper with the underlying panels. It's exciting not knowing what's going to be revealed and some of those reveals are quite breathtaking. Paging through this book is a surprisingly dramatic, performative experience.
Being something of a 2001 fanatic, I've looked at (and bought) many books about Kubrick and 2001 over the years. This is, by far, the most beautiful I've seen. And the most comprehensive. There are also lots of previously unpublished concept art and production stills packed into this thing. Even hardcore admirers of the film will find lots of new eye candy here. And the numerous essays are quite informative. Like, did you know that, in the Dawn of Man sequence, there was a ceiling built directly above the actors? It had individually controllable lights. Kubrick wanted complete control over the lighting and the ability to dynamically change the lighting during the shoot. The African landscape backdrop was actually projections of slides that had been shot in Nambia. Did you also know that the monolith was originally a pyramid? But Kubrick decided to go with the monolith shape because it was more impenetrable and ambiguous. And, there's the classic factoid about how the spaceship that the tossed primate bone turns into wasn't a spaceship at all, but rather, a US atomic space weapon. The book contains numerous artist renderings of this weapons platform and ones for the Chinese and Soviet Union, which never made it into the film.
The designers were obviously keenly aware of the experience of this book and tried to design a cinematic adventure in print. Worked for me. This is an impressive “making of” documentary in book form. For all of the content here, the artistry, and the brilliant design, this book is also a steal on Amazon, at $47.
The Making of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey
by Piers Bizony (author) and M/M (Paris) (designer)
2015, 562 pages, 6.9 x 15 x 1.6 inches