Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Shining (1980)

Fig 1. Cover

     Daniel Kubrick, known for his precision in film-making and perfectionism, took the making of The Shining to a whole new level. He put his actors through rigorous, numerous scene takes and forced them to do otherwise unpleasent things so that they could act in such a way that would convince the audience. Shelley Duvall, the actress who played Jack's weary and squirrely wife, was forced, by Kubrick, to do over one hundred takes of the same scene. He also made Nicholson eat cheese to give him a feeling of repulsion. This result of this quality of merticulousness has resulted in a brilliantly polished and frightening movie, especially through the use of music and audio, the use of significant images; one such where we see a lift full of blood open and spill into the following corridoor, the image of a beautiful women turning into a rotting, elderly women in the arms of Jack, and finally the all famous depiction of Jack's manical face poking through a splintered hole in a door.

                               Fig 2. (Corridors) 

     This film is teeming with various references and each noment of the movie is filled by Kubrick's technique of vague implication of madness through the use of set design and lighting such as the lights in the hotel, the hotel's bathrooms, while clean, give a cold, unatural feeling, and the tall, leering hedges of the hedgemaze. It enhances the idea that, combined with Jack's insanity, being trapped inside of spaces for a while can drive us to cabin fever, which is what Roger Ebert says to us in his review online. “The movie is not about ghosts but about madness and the energies it sets loose in an isolated situation primed to magnify them.” (Ebert, 2006) The constant visuals of distorted perspective add to the theory that the protagonist turned antagonist, Torrance, is going insane. Throughout the film we see Jack talking with spirits (Fig3), but this could also be the film's way of telling us that he is going mad with hallucinations. Again, Ebert explains this in more depth. “Yes, it is possible to understand some of the scenes of hallucination. When Jack thinks he is seeing other people, there is always a mirror present; he may be talking with himself. “ (Ebert, 2006) 

                                                                                                        Fig 3. (Talking with apparitions

     The hotel itself is built upon a Native American burial ground, which is perhaps where this age-old trope comes from. The hotel is subsiquently haunted by the spirits of the angered dead. This is shown when we see Jack talking to apperitions. As Jack walks into the theatre, it's almost as if he's wandering into the hotel's epicentre of darkness: its heart or maybe even Hell its very self.
     Throughout the movie, it isn't fully clarified if its either his own insanity that builds up or whether its the hotel seizing him by the soul. The hotel's former caretaker, Grady, who was driven to insanity and murdered his entire family with an axe, often visits Torrence to try and convince him to do the same thing. The evil of the hotel is suggested to have always had a presence there as suggested by the caretaker's jeer: "You have always been the caretaker."

     The question that The Shining seems to be portraying is this: Are all men capable of such evil? Death is not the end for us all, as suggested by the film's final scene of the camera panning into a black and white photograph of the outlook's staff with Torrence in the centre as the caretaker, almost as if he has become a part of the hotel itself. Kubrick has a knack and a fondness for always keeping questions unanswered; to let the audience figure out what comes next. It's something which frustrates us, but Kubrick does it brilliantly.



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