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An exploration of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece — THE SHINING
Analysed in the context of Sigmund Freud’s seminal paper — THE UNCANNY
L Y B U T
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0 1 2 2 4
— das unheimliche / the uncanny
— numbers and pattern
— doubles and duality
— mirrors and reflections continuity and the subliminal — supernatural and paranormal — foreshadowing — colour symbology — citations —
P r e face In preparation for the writing of his 1980 horror screenplay, The Shining, adapted from Stephen King’s original novel, Stanley Kubrick and novelist Diane Johnson read Sigmund Freud’s seminal paper ‘The Uncanny’. Kubrick’s intention was to create a film in which the entire aesthetic and architectural construction was guided by Freud’s text. Much to King’s very public disgust, and with little to no collaboration between the two, Kubrick personally adapted the original text to an extreme degree, essentially infusing the bare framework of the novel with his own ideas. The details of the distinct differences between the original text and Kubrick’s adaption will not be detailed in this book but to suffice to say that many of the changes made by Kubrick appear to have been to his own agenda. Kubrick’s meticulous and detail driven natured has been extensively documented by the media and in biographies of his work, he would often torture his actors on set, particularly Shelley Duvall, forcing them to repeat numerous takes in quick succession driving some to tears before settling with the first and original shot.
The corroboration of this behaviour in addition to a multitude of subliminal messages suggests that Kubrick may have been working to his own deeply veiled plan and acting in a way such as to shroud his actions from others, keeping his entire cast and crew second guessing what his real motives were. Coupled with the intense secrecy, dual narratives and symbolism that Kubrick would lace throughout his films, this makes an exploration of The Shining all the more interesting. As a very obsessive individual it is important also, when analysing Kubrick’s work, to consider that as an artefact of visual culture every process of communication including; framing, sound, angle, lighting, set construction and use of props, has been tailored to a specific purpose. Many aspects of the aforementioned coupled with the disturbing tone of the movie can be attributed to Kubrick’s utilisation of Freud’s seminal text, ‘The Uncanny’.
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— It’s just the story of one man’s family quietly going insane together
With this is mind and in the knowledge that many scenes were shot numerous times for Kubrick’s satisfaction certain continuity errors could be considered as emphasising the hidden coding of Kubrick’s story rather than being circumstantial or consequential. The meaning of many aspects of The Shining have been subject to lively debate and even outlandish conspiracy theories since its release over 30 years ago, intentionally avoiding the subjective this publication will instead focus on more concrete evidence as to how Kubrick has adapted Freud’s symbols of ‘The Uncanny’ to his own means, in the context of tropes in a work of visual fiction. Finally it is worth noting that since its original release in 1980 The Shining has been cut and released on two subsequent occasions. The first just weeks after the initial release, subject to poor reviews, Kubrick cut 4 minutes of footage, later cutting a further 23 minutes of footage from the feature length for an international release outside of the usa (a version which Kubrick stated publicly that he preferred). The original 142 minute edit had only been shown once in the uk, inadvertently by itv, in the 30 plus years since its release until Halloween 2012. The extended cut is now set for a domestic release, by the bfi, on a currently unconfirmed date. This publication, paying homage to Kubrick’s genius and ability to exert the forces of ‘The Uncanny’, aims to become part of the lively topical debate surrounding The Shining and coincide with the future re-release of the movie.
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H E I M L I C H E
â€” The uncanny is the only feeling which is more powerfully experienced in art than in life
THE UNCANNY Homely But Not At Home Written in 1919 Sigmund Freud’s extraordinary paper on ‘The Uncanny’, directly translated from the German ‘Das Unheimliche’, literally meaning ‘unhomely’, attempts to ascribe meaning to a complex human experience occurring from infantile repression and primitive belief. The German word ‘unheimlich’ is defined as being in opposition to the word ‘heimlich’ (‘heimisch’), meaning ‘familiar’, ‘a feeling of being at home’, but the term itself is strange, in its native language it can eerily be read as ‘homely but not at home’ a phrase of disquieting ambiguity.
Once recognised ‘The Uncanny’ becomes discernible everywhere in fiction, literature, film and art, a feeling of unease and disquiet when the familiar out of context suddenly becomes strange and deeply unsettling. Furthermore Freud attempts to explore the meaning ascribed to the term via an analysis of those properties of persons, things, sensations, experiences and situations which arouse a feeling of uncanniness, and then infer the unknown nature of ‘The Uncanny’ from that which they all have in common, a class of terrifying which leads back to something long known, once very familiar. In this manner ‘heimliche’ is a word the meaning of which develops towards an ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, revealing everything that ought to have remained hidden and secret but has come to light. Interestingly the word ‘heimlich’, in its many different shades of meaning, exhibits a definition identical with its opposite, ‘unheimlich’. What is ‘heimlich’ thus comes to be ‘unheimlich’.
We are tempted to conclude that; that which is ‘uncanny’ is frighteningly so because it is not known, it is ‘the opposite of what is familiar’. However Freud asserts that naturally not everything which is new and unfamiliar is frightening, what is novel can easily become ‘uncanny’ but something must be added for it to become unfamiliar. Freud hastens to distinguish the term from the boundaries of what is ‘fearful’.
E H T E T I S O P P O F O S I TA H W R A I L I M AF Testing Reality This intense human experience harks back to a particular phase in the evolution of the self-regarding feeling, a regression to a time when the ego is not sharply differentiated from the external world and from other persons. Though it becomes difficult to isolate and determine exactly their share in the formation of this feeling. The manifestation of these repressed infantile complexes, revived by some impression, or the primitive belief seemingly surmounted but once more confirmed, are intimately connected, due in part to the primitive beliefs stemming from the infantile complex. In this case, the ‘heimlich’ is what was once ‘heimisch’, homelike, familiar, and the prefix ‘un’ becomes the token of repression.
— Everything is uncanny that ought to have remained hidden and secret, and yet comes to light
For instance the most remarkable coincidences of desire and fulfilment, the mysterious recurrence of similar experiences in a particular place or on a particular date are all a matter of ‘testing reality’, a question of the material over the phenomena. In proceeding to review those things, persons, impressions, events and situations which are able to arouse in us a feeling of ‘The Uncanny’ in a very forcible form numerous examples may be considered. One such example is that of the doubt as to whether an apparently animate being is really alive, or conversely whether an inanimate object is not in fact animated. This impression can be connected with the uncertainty felt around wax-works, artificial dolls and automatons, those objects that are modelled in the likeness of man.
However again Freud hastens to assert that these factors still do not ‘solve’ ‘The Uncanny’ for not all that is connected with repressed desires and archaic forms of thought belonging to the past of the individual and humanity is ‘uncanny’. It seems that context plays a part in the concept, that which is familiar can be assigned new meaning when taken out of context or rediscovered in some new pattern.
B E L I E F P R I M I T I V E
We can also add to this class of definition the uncanny effect of seizures and manifestations of insanity because they excite in the spectator a feeling that automatic, mechanical processes are at work. Jenstch
In telling a story, one of the most successful devices for easily creating ‘uncanny’ effects is to leave the reader in uncertainty as to whether a particular figure in the story is a human being or an automaton; and to do it in a way that his attention is not directly focused upon his uncertainty. This must be done so that he may not be urged to go into the matter and clear it up immediately, since that, would quickly dissipate the peculiar emotional effect of the thing.
This particularly favourable condition for awakening ‘The Uncanny’ is created by intellectual uncertainty or doubt as to the animate status of an object. The ‘intellectual uncertainty’ further compounds the spectators ‘uncanny’ emotion, we know that with the superiority of the rational mind we are able to detect the sober truth and yet this knowledge does not lessen the ‘uncanny’ impression in any degree.
— This intellectual uncertainty is innately derived from the repression of Our unconscious animistic or primitive human beliefs. has as little use The uncertainty harks back to annow animisticas conception the FReud everoffor universe, which was characterized by the idea that the world was the idea of its peopled with the spirits of human beings, and by the narcissistic own mortality overestimation of subjective mental processes (such as the belief in the omnipotence of thoughts and the magical practices based upon this belief). As well as by all those other figments of the imagination with which man, in the unrestricted narcissism of that stage of development, strove to withstand the inexorable laws of reality. Morbid Anxiety
Whilst intellectually we may feel that we have surmounted or traversed or animistic ideas, traces of doubt are left present in every individual, hence our primitive fear will be resurrected to the surface stirring anxiety as a response to ‘uncanny’ emotion, this forces us, as individuals, to question our new found beliefs. One other anxiety that Freud briefly touches on is the notion of castration, the idea of doubling, mentioned in a later chapter of this publication, exists as a preservation against death, or castration when produced as a doubling of the genital symbol. This castration-complex may also be found in the ‘uncanny’ peculiarity of dismembered limbs, especially those animated of their own accord.
Being human we are, for the most part, unable to grasp the idea of our own mortality and hence our primitive fear of death fuels our belief in mysticism and the paranormal, as a denial of death. For this reason most people experience ‘The Uncanny’ in the highest degree in relation to death, dead, spirits, ghosts and reanimation.
A nimism — All factors which turn something fearful into an ‘uncanny’ thing
witchc r a f t
L A I N E D F O H TA E D nimation
The recurrence of these repressed beliefs represents a morbid anxiety within the individual, this is none other than a manifestation of ‘uncanny’ feeling. In this manner we can confirm that ‘The Uncanny’ exists as something familiar, estranged by the process of repression, which ought to have been kept concealed but has come to light. D
The return of a feeling of primordial fear, once surmounted.
R E A L I T Y
In the context of film, or some form of narrative, an ‘uncanny’ effect is easily instigated by; FReud
Effacing the distinction between imagination and reality, such as when something we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality.
Furthermore if the writer moves in the world of common reality he or she accepts all those conditions operating to produce ‘uncanny’ feelings in reality, everything that has an ‘uncanny’ effect in reality therefore has it in his/hers fictional narrative.
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In this case the writer then has free-reign to multiply the effects of ‘The Uncanny’ feeling far beyond that which is likely in common reality, by bringing about the happenings of events rarely likely to occur. In this manner fiction presents more opportunities for creating ‘uncanny’ sensations than are possible in ‘real life’, as long as the nature of the author’s world is cunningly hidden from the spectator. This notion arguably supports Kubrick’s own personal sentiment that ‘The Uncanny’ is the only human emotion felt more powerfully in art than in reality, a perspective that he puts into practice in the production of his own creative works.
This quality of ‘The Uncanny’ is most commonly retained in a setting of physical reality or possibility, rather than that of an arbitrary or unrealistic fiction. An uncertainty can be instigated in the spectator if we are unaware from the beginning of a narrative as to whether the story unfolds in the a world of reality or one purely of the author’s own creation, this requires a certain degree of ambiguity in the author’s work.
The author takes advantage, as it were, of our supposedly surmounted superstitiousness; he deceives us into thinking that he giving us the sober truth, and then after all oversteps the bounds of possibility. We react to his inventions as we should have reacted to real experiences; by the time we have seen through his trick it is already too late and author has achieved his object.
Kubrick’s Realm This publication looks to further explore aspects of ‘The Uncanny’ present in the visuals and metaphorical narrative of Stanley Kubrick’s film; The Shining. Numerous tropes are utilised to full ‘uncanny’ effect in the fabrication of Kubrick’s story including; mirrors and reflected narratives, doubles and duality, numbers and repeating patterns, symmetry, continuity and the subliminal, foreshadowing and déjà vu, colour, the supernatural, death, reanimation and the human animation of inert objects. Arguably even the fear of Jack’s murderous rampage with an axe could be construed not only as a fear of death but also an innate and ‘uncanny’ anxiety of castration. Kubrick’s realm of story-telling appears, on the surface, to be based in reality, though the inclusion of the seemingly spectral is very much of a supernatural and fictional nature. This forces the spectator to confront their repressed ‘primitive beliefs’ in the realm of their own reality, reacting to these apparitions as they would in ‘real life’, and instigating a feeling of ‘The Uncanny’. However as will be further explored in this book, the inclusion of the paranormal may be a thinly guised veil for more tangible sub-narratives, in the face of which we as an audience ascribe a supernatural meaning. This serves to cast doubt in the viewers’ observation of what may in fact be very natural horrors.
— My films speak for themselves
In the story a reader is told the facts, hitherto concealed from him, from which the action springs; with the result, not that he is at last enlightened, but that he falls into a state of bewilderment. The author has piled up too much of a kind; one’s comprehension suffers, though not the impression it makes.
Just when we, the audience, think that we have grasped the story and its final solution we are thrown into doubt and further confounded by the parting image of Jack Torrance trapped in a photograph taken at The Overlook Hotel in 1921. As an artefact of visual culture The Shining is intentionally bathed in the tropes and gestures of ‘The Uncanny’ providing an eerie and unsettling experience to the audience. The manner in which this is delivered is particularly divisive; as an audience we are exposed to nothing, on the surface of the narrative, which could be considered out of realistic possibility, other than those apparitions that may be explained by other means, and instances of gore or overt horror are instead replaced by much more subtle events. These factors make the horror of The Shining much more innately disturbing to human nature.
Kubrick implements this tool of ‘The Uncanny’ neatly into his own narrative structure, the ending of The Shining forces the audience to question those surmounted beliefs previously acquired throughout the course of the film’s narrative.
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Numbers and Pattern
inescapable fate Involuntary Repetition Freud specifically addresses the notion of coincidental repetition in his essay on ‘The Uncanny’, asserting that recurrence of the same situations, things and events will appeal to many as an instigation of ‘The Uncanny’. This in turn may recall a “sense of helplessness sometimes experienced in dreams” much like an involuntary return to an unwanted situation. Freud further states that this involuntary repetition, surrounded by an ‘uncanny’ atmosphere, without which it may appear otherwise innocent, forces upon the receptor a feeling of ‘inescapable fate’.
Unless the subject is totally hardened against the lure of superstition he will be tempted to ascribe further meaning to this obstinate recurrence of a number, taking it, perhaps as a mystical sign. Freud attributed this behaviour to a principle of repeating compulsion in the unconscious mind, based in instinctual activity and more likely than not inherent in the very nature of instincts, stating that whatever reminds us of this repetition-compulsion is perceived as ‘uncanny’. Having studied Freud’s paper in great depth Kubrick swathes his films in repeated numerical patterns. In The Shining the extent to which the same four numbers are repeated is such that it absolutely cannot be attributed a coincidental or accidental nature.
For instance, an individual may attach no importance to the event when giving up a coat and getting a cloakroom ticket with the number 62. However, this impression is altered if two such events, each in itself indifferent, should happen close together. If the same individual were to come across this same number several times in a single day, or if they began to notice that everything has a number containing these digits they may begin to assign an ‘uncanny’ feeling to this occurrence.
— room 237 Originally intended to be ‘Room 217’ in King’s novel
The intentional use of the numbers 12, 21, 24 and 42 in a film already filled with doubling, symmetry and mirrors creates an uneasy tone and ‘uncanny’ experience, undoubtedly intended by Kubrick. Many individuals have attempted to ascribe meaning to these patterns of repeated numbers though it is highly possible that perhaps they succumb to what Freud calls “the childish superstitious mentality”, ascribing further ‘mystical meaning’ to ‘The Uncanny’ in the hopes of reasserting order or meaning and resolving the mysteries of the film. Drawing a line between stable analysis and this compulsive obsession becomes extremely difficult. Resulting conspiracy theories emerging from these patterns of figures range from dream sequences and repressed child molestation to the Second World War,The Holocaust and governmental cover-ups for the Apollo 11 mission, amongst many others. Perhaps there is no specific answer but that Kubrick has merely utilised the power of Freud’s ‘uncanny’ to create a presence of doubt and uncertainty in the viewer. As Freud stated, it is the “compulsion to repress and repeat” coupled with an “inability to be rational and reject the superstitious” which is horrific. Not, in this case, Kubrick’s semiotic fabric, which instead aims to symbolically reinforce Freud’s seminal paper.
Numbers and Pattern
Instances occurring throughout the course of the film that may be related to the number 12 are frequent and often give a clear insight into quite the extent to which Kubrick adapted the original model to his own means. One prime example of this is Room 237 (the sum of these digits equals the number 12), hugely influential in the narrative of the movie but originally in King’s version of the story ‘Room 217’. Further examples include;
– 00:12 Danny has his first ‘shining’ vision of the bloody elevator – Dick Hallorann lists a store inventory including “12 turkeys, 24 pork roasts, 30 12lb bags of sugar and 12 jugs of black molasses” – Jack throws his ball against the wall of The Colorado Lounge 12 times Danny and Wendy round 12 corners as they walk through the maze – The Overlook Hotel is referred to as ‘kdk12’ by radio communication – The names of 12 existing places are named throughout the film – The two numbered act titles 8am and 4pm add to equal 12 (all others indicate a day of the week or event)
The Number 12
— KDK1 calling KDK12, are you receiving?
– The lights on the sno-cat driven by Hallorann flash 12 times – Jack strikes the bathroom door with his axe 12 times – 2:12 Wendy has a vision of a bloodied man saying “Great party isn’t it” – Jack calls ‘Danny’ 12 times whilst chasing him through the maze – The music played at end of the movie is ‘Midnight,The Stars and You’
The Number 21 Equally as important to Kubrick’s subliminal ‘uncanny’ number sequences is the figure 21, a mirrored double of the number 12. Much like the aforementioned the number 21 is repeated numerous times throughout the film in time codes, scene durations and protagonist actions. Examples of this include; – Construction began on the ‘Going-to-the-Sun Road’, seen in the opening credits of the film, in 1921 – A total of 21 of Danny’s toy cars are seen throughout the film – In interview with Hallorann Jack states that he “made the trip in three and a half hours”, a total of 210 minutes – 00:21 Danny has his first vision of the Grady girls inside the hotel – Danny sees 21 photos on his first trike lap round The Colorado Lounge – Wendy stops the carriage of Jack’s typewriter at line 21 when reading his deranged typing – We hear Danny take 21 steps as he searches for a hiding place from Jack – Hallorann takes 21 steps from his sno-cat to the door of The Overlook – There are 21 footsteps in the snow as Danny fools Jack in the maze – The final shot of the film shows a wall of 21 photographs – The photograph which Jack is trapped in is dated 1921 – 02:21 the very last scene of the film takes place
Numbers and Pattern
â€” the number 24 Actions and instances incorporating the number 24
â€” the number 24 Time codes and scene lengths based on the number 24
Numbers and Pattern
The Number 24
Further from 12 and 21, the number 24, twelve’s double, is repeated frequently in character actions during the course of the film. A collection of some of these instances has been collected on the previous page, reading across the first page in rows from top left to right;
Number 24 features frequently in time codes throughout the film particularly in scene timings and lengths. Reading across the second previous page, from left to right; – Danny’s first vision of the bloody elevator lasts exactly 24 seconds – Danny’s first vision of the Grady girls lasts exactly 24 seconds – 00:24, the first scene showing The Gold Room, lasting 1:24 minutes – Danny plays with his toy trucks outside Room 237 for 1:24 minutes – Jack’s encounter with the woman in Room 237 lasts 3:24 minutes – Jack’s vision of The Gold Room party balloons lasts 24 seconds – 1:24 hours, the party scene where Jack meets Delbert Grady
– Wendy tugs on the latch of the storeroom door 24 times – Danny writes ‘Redrum’ twice, combining a total of 24 lipstick strokes – The newscaster on the kitchen tv describes a 24 year-old Aspen woman – There are 24 panes of glass in the window of Ullman’s office – The games room where Danny plays darts has 24 photographs displayed – The sum of the numbers in the date 04–07–1921 equal 24 – Wendy and Danny watch the ‘Summer of 42’ 24 minutes into its length – The original film was cut by 24 minutes for international release – The American cut is 146 minutes long, 1×4×6 equals 24 – The staircase that Jack falls down when Wendy strikes him has 24 steps – Wendy thumbs through 24 pages of Jack’s deranged typing – Before Dick Hallorann yells “Hello” Jack limps 24 steps
–Wendy finds Jack’s novel, 24 seconds from when we first see ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ to when she looks at the entire novel –Danny writes ‘Redrum’ on the bathroom door taking 24 seconds –The length from the very start of the axe scene until we first see Hallorann approaching the hotel is 3:24 minutes long –The final shot fading to black lasts 24 second before the closing credits –Kubrick’s very first edit of the film lasted 2:24 hours
The Number 42 Finally the number 42, the mirror double of 24, is integral to some of the most iconic scenes and elements of the film. This has led many conspiracy theorists to the conclusion that The Shining is in fact a subtle reference to The Holocaust. The number 42 being important in the Second World War, representing the year 1942 when the Nazi regime constructed a ‘final solution’ to exterminate the Jews. – There are 42 cars in the upper parking lot before Jack’s interview – Danny wears a t-shirt with the number 42 on the right sleeve – 00:42 Danny looks up at the door to Room 237 – Room 237, 2×3×7 equals 42 – When Jack first sees Lloyd, the barstools are in groups of 4 and 2 – Wendy and Danny watch the film ‘Summer of 42’ – Hallorann’s second phone call to The Forest Rangers lasts 42 seconds – Jack sabotages the hotel radio, spending 42 seconds in Ullman’s office – 1:42 Wendy finds Jack’s deranged novel –‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ is 42 glyphs with spaces – Wendy swings the baseball bat at Jack 42 times, including striking him – Danny (‘Tony’) says ‘Redrum’ 42 times
DD O O UU BB LL EE SS 0 3
DD UU AA LL II TT YY
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The double is a particular instigator of ‘uncanny’ feelings with emphasis on “persons, who are considered identical by reasons of looking alike” and those with the relation of “transferring mental processes from one person to the other, what we should call telepathy”.
Insurance Against Destruction
— grady girls A terrifying manifestation of ‘the double’
Unsurprisingly these are both key concepts that Kubrick has put to good use in his adaption of The Shining, the manifestation of the identical Grady twin sisters is notably one of the scariest scenes through the duration of the film and Danny’s atmospheric ‘shining’ visions are later shared with Dick Hallorann the head-chef towards the end of the film. This sharing of knowledge, feelings and experiences via mystical abilities serves to confound the self, the originator begins to identify with another substituting the extraneous self for the native and causing a doubling, dividing and interchanging of identity. An ‘uncanny’ doubling can also be associated with the doubling of the actions of characters, for example; Jack’s attempts to murder Wendy and Danny being a double to the story of Charles Grady a previous caretaker who murdered his wife and two daughters and stacked there body parts neatly in The Overlook Hotel. Apparitions of Lloyd the bartender, Delbert Grady the butler and the woman in Room 237 all occur when Jack is in the presence of a mirror, this gives us reason to believe that they are in fact a division of Jack’s own identity, a projection of his own feelings and experiences. Furthermore Jack identifies with these spectral images stating that he feels as though he has always been at The Overlook. The reasoning for the splitting of Jack’s personality seems peculiar until we further analyse it in the context of Freud’s work. The very concept of an immortal soul is probably the earliest example of man’s quest to double the body.
Doubles and Duality
The Harbinger of Death So it becomes apparent that man’s invention of doubling is a preservation against extinction, an “insurance against the destruction of the ego, an energetic denial of the power of death”, and such ideas have become a form of unbounded self-love, from the primary narcissism that holds sway in the mind of the child and primitive-man. 2 3
The concept of doubles has held onto the collective imagination of mankind for millenia, there has always been something innately disturbing and fascinating about the idea of duplicates (such as mannequins, waxworks, puppets, corpses, artificial intelligence, in fact anything made in the human form), or one thing that can be two conflicting entities at once. Once primitive-man has departed from such proneness to narcissism the familiar double takes on an ‘uncanny’ aspect, as a ghastly harbinger of death. Kubrick has carefully fabricated the aesthetic of his story around the theme of doubles, ‘doppelgängers’ and dual composition. This archetype resonates throughout the film, replete with doubles we see protagonists existing as multiple incarnations, in two time frames, and conflicting personas which battle for supremacy. For example we know from observation that there are; two boilers, two sno-cats, two Volkswagen cars, two women in the bathroom of Room 237, two butlers (Delbert and Charles Grady), two bears (Danny’s toy and the man dressed in a bear costume performing fellatio on a party guest), the Grady girls and finally ‘Tony’ (Danny creates the persona ‘Tony’ as a way of dealing with his confusing and supposedly psychic gift).
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TRADEMARK KUBRICK Power in Symmetry Of all the themes common to Stanley Kubrick’s impressive catalogue of film works he is particularly notorious for his use of symmetry and single point perspective camera framing. Symmetry in film composition is a powerful emotive device and any director implementing these elements into their films must always be aware of the intense psychological impact the framing of these shots can have over a spectator, Kubrick was a master of this technique.
S Y M M E T R Y The visual power is such that even if the content of an image is seemingly harmless or innocuous the symmetry serves to make the spectator feel immediately ill at ease. This is more likely than not because the manifestation of perfect symmetry in nature and everyday life is an unlikely event. When exposed to numerous instances of perfectly symmetrical imagery it invokes in the spectator that dream-like quality similar to the “sense of helplessness” described by Freud, in relation to the involuntary return to an unwanted situation and ‘uncanny’ repetition. If used thoughtlessly it can often have the impact of creating visual disturbances in the narrative of a film. Undoubtedly this was Stanley Kubrick’s intention when directing The Shining. The frequent use of symmetrical or imperfectly symmetrical shots further compounds the themes of ‘uncanny’ doubling and intensifies the viewer’s emotional response. In this manner every camera shot presented as symmetrical represents a doubling or duality of itself.
The single-point perspective positions the focus of attention, whether that be a character or specific event, directly opposite the audiences view. This serves to draw the spectator immediately and inescapably into the composition. It is therefore no coincidence that Kubrick utilises symmetry when presenting the audience with visions such as the bloody elevators or the Grady girls, we feel trapped and unable to escape from the images forced to the centre of our attention.
R T E M M Y S Furthermore the stilted and artificial nature of Kubrick’s perfectly symmetrical compositions hint that the supernatural visions of the Torrance’s are in fact, as described, manifestations of the artificial conjured by the psychologically damaged minds of the family. Kubrick’s use of symmetry draws the audience’s view directly towards the vanishing point of the camera’s frame, making the hallways and corridors of the hotel appear as vast never-ending passageways extending far off into the distance, intentionally warping the audience’s perception of scale and depth, and creating an overwhelming sense of isolation. Despite being a trademark of Kubrick’s work, it is in The Shining, when combined with the themes of ‘uncanny’ duality and mirror reflections, that the visual power of symmetrical composition becomes elevated to a whole new level of intensity. The subtlety of Kubrick’s set designs in collaboration with these tropes serves to enhance the deep sense of fear and foreboding experienced by the audience.
Forever … and ever …
Come and play with us, Danny
… and ever …
Oh my god. What happened to your neck?
You did this to him … didn’t you?! You son of a bitch!
Danny! What happened to your neck?
You did this to him! Didnâ€™t you?! How could you?! How could you?!
M I RR O R S
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A N D R E F L E C T I O N S R E F L E C T I O N S A N D M I RR O R S
Mirrors and Reflections
M I RR O R S
S h I N I N G M I RR O R S Uncanny Reflections Mirrors and reflections play an integral role to the narrative and composition of The Shining. Even from the very first shot of the opening credits the first significant and recognisable film trope is that of vast mountains reflected in an expansive black lake. Minutes later we see Danny’s first ‘shining’ vision as he speaks to his reflection, ‘Tony’, in the Torrance’s bathroom mirror. Kubrick subjects us to an orgy of visual and aural duality, flawed mirror images, doubles and alter-egos, even dialogue and scenes are persistently mirrored or repeated. These ‘shining’ surfaces play brilliantly on the film title and serve to enlighten us further as the narrative unravels. Frequently throughout the duration of the film Jack’s reflection appears ‘uncanny’ to him, he refuses to face his own double instead projecting ghastly apparitions, slashing at mirrors, turning his back on them and blocking them with alcohol, he cannot face his double, his true self. Jack’s personas become his insurance against destruction, an invention of living in The Overlook “forever and ever”. No I am not an abusive father Jack asserts and promptly creates a double in the form of Lloyd the bartender, psychologically these doubles serve to mend Jack’s fragile view of himself and affirm his existence. Some scenes and shots in the film can be considered to mirror or reflect each other, weather reports will jump from sunny to snowy, characters will enter rooms on the right and exit on the left, other scenes feature 180 degree panning, essentially flipping the camera image entirely. Wendy and Jack’s initial tour of the hotel takes them on a route that perfectly reflects the sequence of rooms in the film’s closing scenes.
— As long as I live she’ll never let me forget what happened … I did hurt him once
S H I N I N G M I RR O R S Disorientating Reflections Kubrick carefully employs an architectural structure to his camera work that is disorientating, by use of mirrors, and at times uncomfortable for his audience. Early in the film we see Jack lying in bed speaking with Wendy, the camera then pans back to reveal that confusingly we are in fact looking at Jack’s reflection in a mirror. Jack then expresses that he feels as though the first time he came to The Overlook Hotel he knew what was going to be around every corner, these moments of psychic ability, much like Danny’s ‘shining’ vision in the bathroom mirror, could instead represent the suppression of actions and events from the conscious. Thus these ‘shining’ surfaces reflect the traits of Jack’s ego that he refuses to acknowledge, indicative of the age old balance between opposing forces or ideas. Furthermore mirrors are often positioned to foreshadow coming events in the later seconds of a scene. As Wendy opens the locked bedroom door to let Jack through we see his reflection in a mirror before he enters the room, equally when Wendy flees from Jack into the bathroom we see the door, which Jack subsequently smashes through with his axe, reflected in the perfectly positioned bathroom cabinet door. In addition to this the moment that Wendy spots ‘Redrum’, written in lipstick on the bathroom door, Jack attempts to mirror the actions of Charles Grady, the previous caretaker, by murdering his own family. Many conspiracy theorists have attributed deeply veiled sub-plots and parallel narratives to Kubrick’s use of mirrors, it is certainly possible that there are many more hidden meanings associated with the mirrored numbers (12,21 and 24, 42), these will be explored later in this book.
— We’ve all had déjà vu but this was ridiculous it was almost as though I knew what was going to be around every corner
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Overlooking the Obvious The very nature of the name attributed to The Shining’s fictional setting, The Overlook Hotel, invites the audience, to look beyond the obvious and discernible, instead delving into Kubrick’s subliminal sub-narratives. It has been well documented in biographies of his life and work that Stanley Kubrick was a famously meticulous and detail concerned artist, at times going as far as to chose even the most incidental of stage props himself only after making informed choices from extensive research. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that it would not be in his nature to use these objects in a haphazard or clumsy manner. The volume of continuity errors present in The Shining are well beyond the level expected for any large-budget film, disregarding Kubrick’s own perfectionist faculties. Taking into account these attributes common to Kubrick’s work, it seems more than likely that the vast majority were in fact considered errors. By no means can it be asserted that Kubrick was incapable of transgression, however it is within the realm of possibility that intentional ‘mistakes’ may have been composed in an attempt to subliminally compound those ‘uncanny’ sensations experienced by the audience. Furthermore, regarding spacial anomalies in The Overlook Hotel, the original blueprints have been made available to the public, via the ‘Kubrick Archives’, and it would appear to an accurate degree of certainty that these were intentionally planned into the set design at Elstree Studios. This chapter is concerned less with an analysis of The Shining, via identified visual themes of ‘The Uncanny’, and more with subtle physical and technical skills applied by Kubrick in order to intensify the ‘uncanny’ sensation. This will include; spacial orientation within The Overlook Hotel, continuity errors, the subtle animation of inert objects and further clues to a theme of American imperialism.
— The Shining doesn’t make sense. It’s not supposed to.
S PAC I A L I M P O S S I B I L I T I E S It’s Not Supposed to Make Sense
Wanted more ambiguity. If he was going to make a film about ghosts, he wanted it to be ghostly from the very first to the very last. The set was deliberately built to be offbeat, so that the huge ballroom would never actually fit inside. The audience is deliberately made to not know where they’re going. People say The Shining doesn’t make sense. It’s a ghost movie. It’s not supposed to.
The Overlook’s Gold Room is the first and probably largest spacial anomaly, its precise location is never clearly indicated to the audience. The Gold Room’s sign shifts from the hotel lobby to a mysterious golden hallway, which spatially does not link correctly with The Overlook’s lobby. Initially we see Wendy moving through this hallway and into the hotel lobby having prepared breakfast for Jack, suggesting its location to be near the kitchen quarters, but later as Jack limps through the hotel carrying his axe we see him pass through the kitchen and into the lobby on the opposite side.
The winding corridors of The Overlook Hotel are fraught with numerous subliminal spacial impossibilities. Mostly unnoticeable on a conscious level and to a casual observer, these spacial ambiguities serve to unnerve the viewer’s subconscious awareness. Watching the cast move about The Overlook Hotel we feel tense and unsure led by the impossible physics of the building, in turn we, as a spectator, are disorientated and mislead by the spacial inaccuracies which make the hotel appear all the more threatening. These physical impossibilities were not a fallacy of set design or planning. Jan Harlan, brother-in-law to Kubrick, and executive producer to The Shining, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper confirmed that Kubrick;
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Ullman’s Office The large and bright window of Ullman’s office, which we are shown on numerous occasions throughout the length of the film, exists as probably one of the more obvious impossibilities. Through these panes of glass we see the changes in weather as the cast become trapped and isolated in a freak snow-storm. However, it is not until near the very end of the film as Wendy rounds a corner into the hotel lobby, only to discover the horrifying site of Hallorann’s murdered corpse, that it becomes clear that the back wall of Ullman’s office is in fact wrapped by a surrounding hallway, subliminally this further intensifies this moment of horror. On an initial tour of The Overlook we are subject to a number of initial spacial inaccuracies that our minds must contend with. As Ullman shows the Torrance’s through The Colorado Lounge, a key feature of which are the five gigantic floor to ceiling stained glass windows, the party rounds a corner into a surrounding hallway. To the very back of the camera shot we see two guests stepping out from an impossible hallway that wraps around the back of the wall, the very same wall which houses the vast sunlight windows giving us a view of the hotel exterior.
Finally, the hallways situated around Room 237 offer a variety of spatial defects. The door to Room 237 is neighboured along the same wall by two others to separate apartments, despite the interior being far too large to accommodate other apartments on the same length of corridor. As we see Danny riding his trike around the hallways of this floor it becomes apparent from the slight glimpses that we get of The Colorado Lounge running parallel below, not only the extent to which Kubrick will go to build vast and multi-dimensional sets, but also that a number of apartment doors running the length of the corridor are spatially impossible because the wall is only a couple of meters wide. In the same tricycle scene Danny first passes Room 237 on his right, riding around a squared section of walls before turning back on himself so that Room 237 is now on his left, this section of wall is only approximately two meters thick. However, the side facing The Colorado Lounge features an elevator and the opposite side two more doorways, no apartment or elevators could realistically fit into this space. Later as we see Danny playing on the carpet in the same corridor a ball is rolled towards him by some unknown force, as the camera angle switches behind Danny looking down the length of the hallway it becomes seemingly apparent that the direction of the carpet pattern has changed.
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The Torrance’s Apartment Inside the Torrance’s apartment we find windows in the living room, bedroom and bathroom, due to the bath room window being at a right angle to the other windows, the apartment should be placed on a corner of the building structure.
However, when we eventually see an exterior view of the bathroom window, as Wendy and Danny are trapped within the room, it is apparent that the other windows could not possibly exist because the exterior wall extends in both directions. This isn’t the only spacial anomaly in the Torrance apartment, a section of hallway runs around the outside of the apartment, an exit sign is posted on the corridor wall. Any fire escape in this position would most likely overlap the Torrance’s apartment. Here there is also a door to a room which could not physically exist because it would be situated on the exterior of the hotel walls. The Torrance’s living quarters are situated several feet higher than the hallway up a short flight of steps, however a second door to their apartment, shown from the inside, becomes impossible because there are no steps leading from it back down to the hallway. Moreover this hallway contains two apartment doors placed unrealistically close together and situated on a corner of wall near a stairwell, each of these doors would in fact lead to the exact same room. As Hallorann gives Wendy and Danny a tour of the kitchen quarters he disorientates the viewer by walking a winding path. Showing the party the walk-in freezer they step inside briefly only to emerge from a door on the opposite side of the corridor. This impossibility is made apparent by the situation of the tour group in relation to the glass windowpanes of the chef’s office, though this error is made more subtle by the flipping of the camera angle from one side of the door to the other, giving the impression that the group emerge on the same side of the hall.
â€” This whole place is such an enormous maze
The Overlook is a Labyrinth
Furthermore even the physical location of the hotel can be called into question. We know from the opening scenes of the film that The Overlook Hotel is located high in the mountains however as we see Hallorann arriving in a sno-cat, he is driving downhill. All of the surmounted subliminal trickery alludes to The Overlook Hotel being represented as a symbolic maze. To the cast and audience the hotel is presented as a vast labyrinth of winding corridors, mysterious open doorways, physical impossibilities, perfectly right angled corners and disorientating perspectives. Even the filmâ€™s soundtrack incorporates distant echoes and resounding noises, implying a large and isolated space.
The Overlook Hotel also features a number of disconnected rooms and areas; the locations of which we as an audience are never privy to understanding. Including; the games room, river of blood elevator hall, boiler room and the hallway where Danny encounters the Grady girls. The sum of all of these spacial defects is to emphasise the illusionary and disorientating nature of The Overlook Hotel. Kubrick is able to do this in an extremely discrete manner and one that becomes innately disturbing on a subconscious level.
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Another point which strengthens this argument is that the map outside of the hotel’s hedge maze and the table top scale model that we see Jack looking into are identical, that is until the camera cuts to a horizontally and vertically symmetrical top down view. The shot gives the impression of Danny and Wendy being trapped in a symbolic maze. In contrast the life sized hotel maze does not match the map signposted. Furthermore Ullman confirms that the hedge maze is in fact as old as the hotel, or that they may metaphorically be one and the same, during the tour of the grounds “This is our famous hedge maze. The walls are thirteen feet high and the hedge is about as old as the hotel itself ”. Despite the fact that the previous scene showed the Torrance’s being given a tour of the hotel interior the camera dissolve into the maze dialogue shows the tour party walking back towards the hotel rather than away from it as would be expected.
— This is our famous hedge maze Through the use of metaphor and symbolism Kubrick manages to … the subconsciously hedge isconvince us, as an audience, that The Overlook Hotel bears very close resemblance to the architecture of a vast disorientating about as oldAddasto this the interesting notion that the original Minoan labyrinth. source ofitself the word ‘labyrinth’ arguably means ‘palace of the double edged the hotel
axe’, and that more than coincidentally Kubrick altered King’s story so that Jack’s weapon would be an axe rather than a mallet. Scale also becomes incredibly important. The imposing size of the hotel, its oversized carpet patterns, the mountain ranges and especially the huge Gold Room and Colorado Lounge, make the characters look small and defenceless, like helpless children. The solitude of the Torrance’s circumstances, trapped in an a snowstorm, and physical scale of their remote location give life to a potent psychological thriller. The film manages to attain a deeply unsettling and uneasy air, without the clichéd cobwebs and dark shadows of conventional horror fiction.
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The White Man’s Burden Many key acts of The Shining carry subliminal themes of racial hatred and American imperialism explored in a more in-depth analysis in the chapter of this publication named ‘Colour Symbology’. When Jack wanders into The Overlook Hotel’s Gold Room and is greeted by the spectral image of Lloyd the bartender he makes a subliminal reference to a poem by Rudyard Kipling called ‘White Man’s Burden’. Written in 1899 this poem mixes exhortation to empire with somber warnings of the costs involved. However, imperialists within the us understood the phrase ‘white man’s burden’ to be a justification of imperialist policy, celebrating it as a noble cause.
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— White man’s burden, Lloyd my man. White man’s burden.
At face value to appears to be a rhetorical command to western society to colonise and rule other nations for the benefit of these people, however varying interpretations have been made as to the what could be perceived as an ironic tone of condemnation of such acts. Because of its theme the poem has become emblematic both of Eurocentric racism and of Western aspirations of dominance. Even to this day the poem remains a controversial and condemned artefact of British historical literature.
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Screen Dissolves Stanley Kubrick utitlised a number of experimental camera techniques and post-production skills, in order to create tension and atmosphere throughout The Shining. One such ingenuity, for which The Shining is particular notorious, is the use of screen dissolves. A post-production transition procedure of fading different individual scenes or camera shots into one another, in a manner visible to the naked eye, traditionally used to represent a passing of time or the combining of two separate parts of a narrative. Kubrick pioneered a more atmospheric tone to this camera transition, using a slow fade to create a tension rarely seen in conventional horror cinema. The morphing of one image slowly into another creates a hybrid of sorts, as the spectral images linger in the spectators’ focus. The subtlety and composure of these shots plays in brilliant contrast with some of the films more direct and fleeting camera movements. Kubrick employs this technique to great effect, with particular emphasis on the faces and silhouettes of the protagonists, creating ‘uncanny’ doubles of his actors. At times the images of the disembodied cast converging with a landscape view or corridor of The Overlook can be deeply unsettling. These ghostly spectacles serve only to further intensify the isolation and claustrophobia exerted by the hotel as the spectator begins to feel as trapped within the walls as the actor appears. Furthermore the lingering camera fades are often used to suggest an insight into Jack’s psychological state as he becomes integrated with The Overlook’s physicality. Equally we, as an audience, begin to question the structural validity of The Overlook Hotel’s winding corridors as we see the cast moving from one certain place to another destination not once witnessing the path of transit. This only further intensifies the inescapable feeling of the hotel manifested as a veritable labyrinth.
In many ways The Shining is about the act of watching or ‘overlooking’. Kubrick invites his audience to ‘shine’, navigating his labyrinth, picking, discarding and drawing conclusions as they see fit. Voyeurism The entrance to the maze of cryptic analysis is written into the film itself, how far we go into attempting to deconstruct his metaphorical material is a matter of personal concern.
0 3 Camera function plays an important role in this act of spectating, or voyeurism, experienced by the audience. Kubrick utilises camera movement and angle to express isolation, spatial distance, psychological state and the emptiness of the The Overlook Hotel. The camera feels like a separate entity, disassociated from events and moving on its own axis. For the most part the film is shot using very few point of view or first person perspectives, instead we witness action unfolding across the vast spacial chasm of the hotel’s interior. The distinct separation between the protagonists and the audience makes us feel privy to the events unfolding.
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Such distinction between the viewer and characters also serves to make the audience feel as though they themselves are trapped within the confines of the hotel, unable to navigate its winding hallways. Of the very few times the camera does come into close interaction with a character it is usually for the means of portraying fear, putting particular emphasis on the facial expressions of both Danny and Wendy.
A prime example of this is the moment of terror expressed when Danny encounters the Grady girls. Other notable instances of point of view shots usually involve characters witnessing events that arguably do not occur, such as Jack’s dialogue with Lloyd. The infrequent use of such angles serve to make them even more powerful in communicating tone. The general use of cinematography is to the effect of creating as much space as possible, the camera sitting stationary from a single perspective down long hallways, panning to observe the movement of a character, reeling quickly away from Wendy as she desperately flees Jack, or tracking slowly into a room where a character, more often than not Jack, is alone. By placing Jack in an isolated environment, showing him in spaces that are both claustrophobic and empty, using the camera in a voyeuristic manner, we see his mental disintegration unfold before us in the vast hollowness of The Overlook. A sense of voyeurism is further intensified by the perturbing shots of Danny riding his trike around the hotel corridor, a pioneering use of steadicam technology for which The Shining is renowned, the spectator almost appears to be chasing Danny. With every turn of the corridor the suspense is heightened as we follow Danny’s exact path of movement we place ourselves in the moment with him, identifying with his fear as he is confronted by the Grady girls. This particular shot parallels with the opening credits of the film as we view Jack driving his car up the mountainous roads to interview at The Overlook Hotel, Danny’s trike becoming a symbolic double of the Torrance’s yellow vw bug.
— He ran amuck and killed his family with an axe. Stacked them neatly in one of the rooms of the West-wing.
Moving Objects Continuity errors involving the movements of inanimate objects from shot to shot within a single, or multiple, scene are common throughout the duration of The Shining. King’s original version of the story contains numerous references to the telekinesis of inert objects within The Overlook Hotel, a common theme in traditional horror stories. The severity of many of Kubrick’s continuity errors calls into question whether or not these events have been in fact manipulated with intent rather than occurred as common mistakes. Considering Kubrick’s meticulous nature and the fact that many of the errors could easily have been avoided by standard procedure reference photography, used on the set of most films, it can indeed be asserted that some of these continuity mistakes may have been intentional and key to Kubrick playing down the paranormal aspects of King’s original novel.
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Instead it is possible to assert that Kubrick may have chosen to replace these themes of King’s novel with more subtle and psychologically disturbing narratives or imagery.
It is not outside the realm of possibility that Kubrick, known for making his actors and crew endure numerous takes of a single scene, could have manipulated objects, unbeknown to others, for his own agenda. These subtle adjustments of continuity would serve to disorientate and unsettle the spectator on a subliminal level. It has been asserted by some conspiracy theorists that the number of items of furniture moving corresponds to the number of characters present, certainly there are examples of this which appear to be true. Possible references to the movements of furniture include a statement made by Ullman, describing the acts of Charles Grady; “killed his family with an axe, stacked them neatly in one of the rooms”, an odd description of dealing with corpses. Some of the examples of continuity regarding missing furniture could be due to a fire that broke out on The Colorado Lounge set during production (an interesting parallel of which is that Delbert Grady mentions one of his daughter attempting to burn down the hotel) though certainly not all errors can be explained by this. One idea that strongly suggests that this moving furniture may be part of specific theme is that during the hotel’s closing day, when Jack and Wendy are shown around The Overlook Hotel, workmen are seen moving articles of furniture back and forth in almost every major set. The objects moved by the workmen are consistent with many of the objects moved in the continuity errors throughout the duration of the film. This movement of inanimate objects around the hotel is echoed in Ullman’s statement to the Torrance’s as he shows them around their living quarters, “you have the rest of the hotel to move around in”.
— My girls didn’t care for The Overlook at first. One of them actually stole a pack of matches and tried to burn it down.
Examples of this subliminal telekinesis of inert object within The Overlook Hotel include, a decorational drift wood motif, rug and couch all in The Colorado Lounge, which whilst present in the initial tour of the hotel, and in subsequent scenes, disappear later into the film. A bear rug near the fireplace also disappears and reappears on a couple of occasions. In a scene involving a heated conversation between Jack and Wendy, as he sits at his type-writer in The Colorado Lounge, a chair behind Jack vanishes from sight and promptly reappears in a matter of seconds, between camera cuts.
Passing the maze, with his tour party in pursuit, Ullman steps directly in front of a moving car before the camera promptly cuts to the party walking several meters further along the path, an extremely obscure warning of the dangers faced ahead. To the far left of the camera shot a three story tree can just about be made out near, what turns out to be the bathroom window of the Torrance’s Overlook living quarters. This tree disappears from subsequent scenes of Wendy and Danny having a snowball fight in the grounds, before reappearing several meters distant from its original position as Hallorann arrives to save the family. Later at the very end of the film as Danny flees Jack into the same maze the entrance-way has moved so that it now faces The Overlook.
Numerous anomalies also occur centralised around the hotel’s hedge maze, notably absent from the audience’s initial overhead view of the hotel as Jack arrives for interview. A sign mapping the maze and situated directly outside the entrance, when Wendy and Danny enter it, is not present in earlier wider-angled shots as Ullman gives the Torrance’s a tour of the grounds.
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— You have the rest of the hotel to move around in
The red couches situated outside the entrance to the Gold Room disappear in the final shot of the film and the mirrors hung surrounding them have been switched with tapestries. In addition to this the Gold Room sign moves on frequent occasions from side to side of a doorway in the hotel lobby and also at times into the ‘golden hallway’, the location of which remains a mystery throughout the film. Finally as Wendy escapes from the Torrance’s bathroom and attempts to flee the hotel the knife that she is holding in her hand changes from left to right at least three times in a matter of minutes. When she rounds the corner of the red corridor to be greeted by the terrifying spectacle of the bloody elevator the shape of some large but obscure object can be seen falling from the door as the blood pours out. The effect is subtle but Kubrick was known to have shot this take a multitude of times and so must have planned for this subliminal ‘error’. Vast numbers of other objects move in varying degrees of subtlety throughout the course of the film, including lights being switched on and off mysteriously, however some changes are so slight that it becomes incredibly difficult to observe them without comparing camera shots to a great amount of detail and intensity.
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Superstition / Supernatural Significantly Kubrick chose to alter many of the more overtly supernatural instances in King’s novel replacing them with much more subtle and ambiguous imagery. King’s original story is fraught with animated hedges moving in the form of beastly animals, living and moving furniture in The Overlook Hotel, specifically the elevators and a fire hose, and ‘Tony’, Danny’s imaginary friend, is manifested as Danny’s future self, a spirit that guides him to safety from his father. In contrast Kubrick has stripped these themes of the paranormal making a larger metaphorical point; that the spectral images he shows us throughout the film are not supernatural or mysterious in origin.
— Remember what Mr. Hallorann said. It’s just like pictures in a book, Danny. It isn’t real .
The hedge animals become The Overlook Hotel’s hedge maze, not featured in the novel, a metaphor for the hotel’s labyrinth like qualities, subliminally disappearing throughout the movie. The animate furniture and features of the hotel become the subtle and frequent movements of set props, often mistaken for continuity errors, these movements serving to unsettle the audiences’ subconscious. ‘Tony’ becomes a manifestation of Danny’s subconscious and repression of memories where the elevators only ever move in his ‘shining’ visions. These subjects become a matter of Freudian analysis when we put the film into the context of ‘The Uncanny’. The horrors of The Shining aren’t to be explained away with mysticism and the spectral, rather fought of with logic and intelligence, we interpret them as horrific simply because we and the protagonists deny or refuse to confront them. Freud states that an ‘uncanny’ effect is caused in a moment when our ‘infantile and neurotic elements’ begin to believe it magical practices. As such we focus on a supernatural reality and ignore the material reality of Kubrick’s hidden sub-narratives.
That which now strikes us as ‘uncanny’ fulfills the condition of touching those residues of animistic mental activity within us and brining them to expression.
All individuals have passed through development corresponding to the animistic stage of primitive man, after this process certain traces are still capable of manifesting themselves. Resultingly, our ancestors irrational fondness for superstition, religion and fables is largely what causes our belief in ghosts, apparitions and mysticism. Similarly Danny’s ‘shining’ ability represents a primitive belief in the narcissistic overestimation of subjective mental processes. Though we feel that we now have the rationality to surmount these modes of thought the old ones still exist within us ready to seize upon confirmation. As soon as an impression is made in our lives which seems to confirm the old discarded and repressed beliefs, effacing our reality, a feeling of ‘uncanny’ is manifested in the revival of the surmounted thoughts. The whole concept purely “exists as an affair of reality-testing, a question of the material reality of the phenomena”. When the ‘uncanny’ comes from infantile complex the existence of material reality does not arise in us but becomes repressed and is replaced by the primitive belief. Natural Horrors Kubrick recognises Freud’s understanding of ‘The Uncanny’ and uses it as a narrative metaphor for man wrongly ascribing feelings to what are natural horrors. The limited spectral figures and happenings that we do witness are in fact all traumas, secretly familiar, which have been rendered as ‘uncanny’ figures returning from repression. Kubrick hints at much more tangible sub-stories, Jack’s repressed violence and alcohol abuse become the spectral bartender and the woman in Room 237, figures which he creates to affirm his own innocence. Danny creates ‘Tony’ and his ‘shining’ gift as a way of repressing his sexually abusive father.
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— It was as though I’d been here before. We all have moments of déjà vu … but this was ridiculous. It was almost as though …
Frequently throughout the course of the film Kubrick provides us with subtle hints to forthcoming events. These hints manifest in varying forms from character dialogue or actions to visual aids, props and metaphors, or even at times via use of a specific soundtrack or audio trigger. This narrative trope is called foreshadowing. Kubrick utilises this skill to full effect on numerous occasions, as a result foreshadowing serves to endow the viewer with a subconscious prophetic ability. At times the use of this trope is so ambiguous and astute as to render the viewer completely consciously unaware of the occurrence. Primarily this is where the ‘uncanny’ notion is born, when a previously forewarned scene occurs it triggers subliminal feelings of knowing, déjà vu and involuntary repetition, much like repeated number patterns. The concept of ‘shining’ in the viewer is of course a primitive supernatural belief and so, surrounded by the ‘uncanny’ atmosphere of the film, the viewers’ infantile complex is awakened instilling a seemingly inexplicable sense of helplessness. Furthermore the audience makes associations by experience, the same soundtrack is often repeated in key scenes of aiding in the germination of uneasy and ‘uncanny’ experiences.
— Kids can scare you to death Two Little Girls Our very first experience of foreshadowing in brought on soon after Danny’s initial ‘shining’ vision. Leaving Danny recovering in his bedroom Wendy and a female doctor move into the living room discussing Danny’s traumatic event. Here the female physician speaks the words “Kids can scare you to death”. A sentiment later echoed in arguably The Shining’s
most notoriously frightening scene as Danny rounds a corner of the hotel corridor on his trike only to be confronted by the Grady girls. A further foreshadowing of this moment occurs when Ullman is giving Jack and Wendy a tour of the hotel, stepping towards the door of their living quarters Ullman casually waves to a couple of young female guests on their way out of the hotel saying, “Goodbye girls”, this could be construed as innocent enough if it were not for the fact that the wallpaper in the background is identical to that of the hallway where Danny sees the dead sisters. This is in fact one of the very few times that this particular wallpaper is featured in the hotels décor.
— Goodbye girls
Hallorann’s Demise Another esoteric hint to forthcoming events is the placement of a small ‘Golliwogg’ doll in the Reception of The Overlook. A seemingly insignificant prop for the majority of the film up until the moment that Jack goes on his murderous spree wielding an axe. Despite threats and intentions Dick Hallorann the African-American head-chef at The Overlook Hotel is the only individual throughout the course of the whole film to be successfully killed, other than Jack’s demise at the very end.
in the hall to where Hallorann meets his untimely fate, it could be argued that the doll is a symbolic prophecy of his death.
In addition to this the manner in which Jack strikes a tennis ball hard firstly against the floor and then at a wall at the end of the walkway could be a signifier to his act of murder, marking the position of the action and then the striking of the axe hard into Hallorann’s chest. Whilst this could be considered quite a stretch of the imagination and perhaps a mere coincidence it is important to remember that all aspects of the films staging and design would always have been carefully deliberated on for maximum effect, and that Kubrick often … I knewplanned whatandwas loadedaround his films with subliminal messages. going to be every corner
Significantly the doll is placed in an almost identical pose and positioning
— Hello, Danny. Come and play with us, Danny. Forever … and ever … and ever
Footprints in the Snow Several sequences of dialogue and action in early parts of the film allude to the narrative of the closing scenes. Very early on we see Wendy chasing Danny into the Overlook Hotel’s hedge maze calling after him: “I’m going to get you.You’d better run fast!”, followed by: “Look out! I’m coming in close”. This dialogue very closely mirrors sentiments of the words spoken by Jack as he chases Danny through the hedge maze carrying an axe, not long after murdering Dick Hallorann. Now Jack calls to his son: “Danny!
— I’m going to get you. You’d better run fast!
Whilst the two situations are vastly different, the seeming insignificance of the initial scene leaves little of an imprint on the audiences conscious mind. However subconsciously the similarities are enough to render an ‘uncanny’ feeling of fateful repetition. This feeling is then further compounded by Wendy’s words as she tours The Overlook Hotel for the very first time: “This whole place is such an enormous maze. I feel like I’ll have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs every time I come in”. Again this appears an innocuous pun, playing on the story of Hansel and Gretel, but it becomes significant in the final act of the film when Danny escapes Jack, leaving him trapped in the maze, by retracing his own footprints in the snow.
I’m coming. I’m coming, Dan! You can’t get away I’m right behind ya”.
— I wish we could stay here forever … and ever … and ever
After Danny’s very first ‘shining’ vision he is visited by a female doctor who tends to him as he lies upon his bed. Next to him we see a teddy bear again a seemingly inoffensive and safe symbol of childhood. That is until it becomes apparent that the appearance of this bear carries more than a passing resemblance to that of the bloody elevator in Danny’s horrifying visions. The eyes looking more like the elevator’s floor dials than the black
beads accepted as standard on most cuddly toys and the red mouth gaping open becomes a metaphor for the blood pouring forth from the lift doors.
Furthermore and more horrifying still, this bear appears as one of only two bears in the entire film, excluding a small framed photograph or painting of a bear above Danny’s bed in the Torrance’s apartment.
The second being a man dressed in a bear costume performing fellatio on a party guest. As previously explored in ‘Supernatural and Paranormal’ it is highly possible that Danny’s ‘shining’ visions manifest as a suppression of the sexual abuse and violence inflicted upon him by Jack. So this bear becomes a marker of foreshadowing ‘The Uncanny’ and unhinging moment that Wendy realises her own repression of witnessing Jack’s abuse towards Danny, acting as an analogy of child-like innocence.
Forever and Ever and Ever The phrase “forever … and ever … and ever” is repeated on two occasions as the story unfolds. Once by the Grady girls as they invite Danny to stay in The Overlook Hotel for all eternity to ‘play’ with them and the second time by Jack himself as he expresses his love for the hotel to Danny in an inexplicably awkward father and son scene.
These words take on a slightly unnerving tone particularly when spoken by the spectral images of the Grady girls and for all intensive purposes it begins to appear as though the hotel is starting to exert an increasingly strong influence over Jack.
This is further compounded by Delbert Grady’s words “I’m sorry to differ with you sir, but you are the caretaker.You’ve always been the caretaker. I should know sir. I’ve always been here”. The sum of this discourse occurs when we eventually see Jack trapped in the photograph dated July 4th 1921 as the very last shot of the film, a confusing and mysteriously ‘uncanny’ twist to the film’s narrative. An ending that on the surface appears more relevant to the stories’ supernatural external narrative than any of the sub-narrative and subliminal plots, but exerts an ‘uncanny’ force because of its ambiguity and the many questions that it throws into public contention.
— Danny! I’m coming. I’m coming, Dan! You can’t get away! I’m right behind ya!
— This whole place is such an enormous maze. I feel like I will have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs every time I come in.
Foreseeing Events Numerous other events serve to foreshadow future incidents in the film’s narrative. Jack expresses that he feels as though he knows “what was going to be around every corner” and the viewer identifies with him, sharing his ‘shining’ ability influenced by Kubrick’s use of foreshadowing. Similarly Dick Hallorann’s ‘shining’ becomes familiar when he refers to Danny as ‘Doc’, minutes earlier the audience will have been subject to a camera shot exposing the fact that Danny is wearing a t-shirt with ‘Bugs Bunny’ on the front, and so the association feels, inexplicably familiar.
Equally moments before Wendy stumbles upon the bloody elevator we see her run along a previously unseen hallway of the hotel, the walls a shining blood red, a warning of the terror invoked in the following scene. Particularly important in the portrayal of emotion and foreboding is the tense soundtrack. The sound of the wheels on Danny’s trike rumbling across wooden floorboards only to be interrupted by a carpet or rug before continuing in a monotonous drone echoes frequently and subtly in significant scenes of horror throughout the film. Furthermore an early scene showing Danny and Hallorann discussing ‘shining’ experiences shows a set of knives pointing directly down on Danny’s head a prophecy of Jack’s future intentions.
T R AP
S Y M B O LO GY
C O LO U R
C O LO U R C O D I N G Colour Architecture Colour becomes an essential thematic device to Kubrick’s narrative in The Shining. The frequent repetition of the colours red and blue throughout the film, in instances from character costumes and set props to lighting and staging, creates a dream-like sensation of helpless recognition in the audience. Part of the problem associated with recognising this use of colour is that once one begins to search for examples the individual has already fallen victim to the ‘uncanny’ trap and begins to ascribe mysterious meaning to all instances. Despite this it simply cannot be disputed that these colours do constantly recur, particularly in garments worn by the key characters. Ullman, Hallorann, Jack, Wendy and Danny are all portrayed wearing a combination of red and blue in numerous different outfits. The image above depicts the extent to which Kubrick would go to subliminally plant these colours, most obviously Wendy is wearing red and blue, however, less notably, the set has been designed specifically so that only the spines of those books with a red or blue cover are visible.
Colour by Association Whilst it becomes simple, by process of association, to ascribe a foreshadowing of the Torrance family’s murderous fate to the colour red this explanation seems a little too extrovert in the context of Kubrick’s subtle visual codes, especially bearing in mind the extent to which they are not only subliminally witnessed but also quite openly flaunted. Equally the stark blue tones of some of the late-night camera shots, towards the close of the film, could quite easily be metaphorically inferring the imposed isolation, claustrophobia and induced fear of the Torrance family, trapped in The Overlook Hotel by a particularly intense snow-storm. However, when presented with over two hours of subtle visual and aural codings these analogies seem a little contrived and probably do a disservice to Kubrick’s genius.
— The weather forecast said it’s going to snow tonight As unsettling as these images undoubtedly are in the context of an ‘uncanny’ atmosphere, already inferred by numerous other tropes, their importance to the surface-narrative seems almost negligible in comparison to other more astute gestures of subtlety. This applies to the skeleton scene particularly, Kubrick may have seen it as being of little importance to the overall presence of the film, cutting it from the third release, an international edit. Kubrick’s use of colour becomes difficult to analyse in the context of Freud’s ‘uncanny’, aside from the theories of repetition, foreshadowing and inescapable fate already explored thus far.
— Instead we must contend with the possibility that this visualWhat trope has ado you want meaning more applicable to a sub-narrative, working on a much more to do about it? elusive and delicate level, a notion that now does not seemsme so ludicrous in the light of previous analogies in this publication.
The suspicions of many individuals have arisen that there may well be further codes hidden in this notion of colour symbology, there are a number of accepted conspiracy theories on this subject. Whilst there is a danger of succumbing to what Freud calls ‘childish superstitious mentality’, in attempting to assert a meaning and order to these events, we will on this occasion further indulge in this reflection.
— colour symbology Reds and blues are common in the cast’s clothing
T H E S TA R - S PA N G L E D B A N N E R Imperialism and Massacre
It is a widely publicised fact that Kubrick, originally an American citizen, chose to relocate to the uk in 1968. Furthermore, all of The Shining was filmed on set in Elstree Studios, England, apart from external shots of The Overlook Hotel and title credits. These were shot at The Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon, for which Kubrick was not present, but assigned tasks to crew in his absence. Whether this was due in part to a dissatisfaction with life in America is a point of contention. Regardless, many believe that Kubrick intentionally coded The Shining with anti-American statements, a profile of the historical injustices of a nation and its people. The use of colour, whilst an indicator of this premise, does not hold to support it fully, however, there is further evidence on which to base a sound theory.
— They actually had to repel Indian attacks as they were building it
— Construction started in 1907. It was finished in 1909. The sites supposed to be on an Indian burial ground.
Whilst being given an initial tour of the hotel Wendy asks Ullman, “Are all these Indian designs authentic” to which he replies: “I believe most are based mainly on Navajo and Apache motifs”. Ullman then explains that the hotel construction began in 1907 and that the site is “supposed to be on an Indian burial ground” adding that the construction crew “had to repel a few Indian attacks as they were building it”.
Given the previous dates this seems wildly historically inaccurate unless we take the hotel’s construction as a metaphor for the founding of America. In Ulmann’s office, the games room and The Colorado Lounge American flags are proudly on display, not unusual in the us, until we consider that for the majority of the film the protagonists all proudly declare their patriotism in wearing their countries’ colours.
The Overlook Hotel’s interior décor is based on a real hotel called the ‘Ahwahnee’, which much like The Overlook includes numerous Native American designs from tapestries and carpets to framed images. The significant difference being that The Overlook Hotel has a piece of Navajo art called a sand-painting the contents of which hold great symbolic meaning in American Indian culture. In a very early scene Jack pounds a ball against this painting making a noise much like the sound of his axe thudding against the bathroom door in the closing scenes, having already identified this motion with a ball as a metaphor for striking Hallorann in the hallway, the parallel here does not seem quite as alien in this new context.
Jack offers a hint of this genocidal theme, when speaking to Lloyd the bartender in The Gold Room, he makes reference to the previously mentioned Rudyard Kipling poem ‘White Man’s Burden’. A poem that was historically used in the us as a justification for white rule.
— A further conversation with Grady in the lavatory clearly has aloser racial has to keep The hatred element as Grady says, “Your son is attempting to bring an outside America clean party into this situation … A nigger”, in an attempt to push his extreme traditional British values onto Jack. Hallorann’s character is significant because as the only character to die he is also the only protagonist of a racial minority. His crosssymbolism with natives is demonstrated as Danny hears the line: “How’d you like some ice cream Doc?”, in the storeroom. A tin of ‘Calumet’ baking powder with the face of a Native American chief is placed behind Hallorann’s head and the camera zooms to fill the frame with the two faces, both notably turned at the same angle.
At times Wendy appears in Native American dress, this becomes significant as she becomes more subservient to Jack, ironically carrying out all of the menial chores and labour despite Jack’s application to the job. In addition a racial theme is inferred by Wendy as she chases Danny into the hedge maze, “The loser has to keep America clean” (or ‘white’). Furthermore as the film reaches its climax the soundtrack becomes more tribal and ritualistic featuring a Penderecki piece with native instrument sounds and chanting vocals. This music at one point accompanies the bloody elevator scene which can, for the purposes of this analysis, be considered filled with the blood of the massacred Native Americans. Finally and a little tenuously it is significant to note that Kubrick changed Jack’s murder tool from a crochet mallet, featured in King’s novel, to an axe, admittedly a much more intimidating weapon, but one that has associations with the ‘tomahawk’ of the natives.
— White man’s burden, Lloyd my man. White man’s burden.
Conclusion All of these factors serve to build a strong argument for the case that Kubrick weaved a subliminal narrative into The Shining. Arguably The Overlook represents a metaphor for the founding of America by Eurosettlers, built upon the graves of the natives, and the protagonists’ actions are driven by fear, guilt and denial of their past genocidal acts. The very final shot of the film gives us some indication that this theory may in fact hold some truth as we see Jack Torrance in a black and white photograph dated 4th July, famously the date of the ‘Declaration of Independence’, marking the establishment of a new civilisation.
The irony is that as we are impelled to search for answers we are only further compounding its ‘uncanny’ effects in an attempt to ascribe meaning and order to these patterns and concepts. A cyclical relationship is formed whereby we create the presence of our own doubt and uncertainty. The more questions we ask, the fewer answers we are able to produce, but it is in our nature, and it is in this nature that the very real horror of The Shining can be found. In what it is to be human.
— Regretfully Kubrick’s cryptic secrets followed him to the grave, the meaning of his works and true intentions may never be known. All that The power of this we are left with in his wake is speculation and conspiracy, but perhaps incredible film this is his parting legacy.When alive he was notoriously difficult to get lives on, instilling a a definitive answer from regarding the conceptuality of his films and it is this contribution to the visual arts coupled with his reticence that subtly disquieting maintains the mystery and ambiguity of The Shining. tone in its audience three decades after its release people are still questioning and like nothing Over debating the details that make this film a unique masterpiece of modern since created in cinema. Further still it is more than possible that Kubrick’s final taunt horror fiction. was to mislead us into believing that there is an absolute explanation.
C I TAT I O N S Concepts, Content and Imagery Freud, S. (1955) ‘The Uncanny’ – 1919. the standard edition of the complete psychological works of sigmund freud volume xvii (1917 – 1919). Published by The Hogarth Press. Kelley, M. (2004) ‘The Uncanny’. Published by Verlag der Buchhandlung.
T R AP
Room 237 (2012) dvd. Directed by Rodney Ascher usa, ifc Films. jonnys53.blogspot.co.uk (time codes and number patterns) kubrickfilms.tripod.com/index.html (imperfect symmetries) collativelearning.com/index.html (analysis and conspiracies) drummerman.net/shining/index.html (hidden meanings) www.kipling.org.uk/poems_burden.htm (white man’s burden) visual-memory.co.uk (exploration of the shining) tailslate.net/overlooking-the-self (imperialism conspiracy) visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0114.html (filming the overlook) kdk12.tumblr.com (stills of screen dissolves) The Shining (1980) dvd. Directed by S. Kubrick usa, Warner Home Video. All imagery.
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L Y B U T
A publication about The Shining and Sigmund Freud's seminal paper 'The Uncanny'. Awarded 'Merit' in the ISTD student assessment, 2014.
Published on Apr 16, 2014
A publication about The Shining and Sigmund Freud's seminal paper 'The Uncanny'. Awarded 'Merit' in the ISTD student assessment, 2014.