The proper tool for the job

It’s not the large things that send a man to the madhouse. Death he’s ready for, or murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood… no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies that send a man to the madhouse…not the death of his love but a shoelace that snaps with no time left… 

 Charles BukowskiThere is a lot of analysis out there of this film. Every Kubrick film is scrutinized endlessly. If you look for essays about his work, its meanings and implications, you’ll have a fruitful outcome. This one in particular has been more dissected than an alien in Area 51 (before all the “respect the alien rights” activists started fussing around). Jonathan Romney believes it to be “an Oedipal struggle not just between generations but between Jack’s culture of the written word and Danny’s culture of images”; Bill Blakemore thinks it is all about the Indians: “The Shining ends with an extremely long camera shot moving down a hallway in the Overlook, reaching eventually the central photo among 21 photos on the wall. The caption reads: ‘Overlook Hotel-July 4th Ball-1921.’ The answer to this puzzle, is that most Americans overlook the fact that July Fourth was no ball, nor any kind of Independence day, for native Americans; that the weak American villain of the film is the re-embodiment of the American men who massacred the Indians in earlier years; that Kubrick is examining and reflecting on a problem that cuts through the decades and centuries”.What I really think it is about? A man whose wife drives him crazy.When Wendy enters the room where Jack is typing, I start to empathize with him. She asks if everything is okay. She is sweet, affectionate, loving and caring. Don’t you just hate that? Don’t you just feel like bludgeoning her to death with a rusty lump hammer or maybe cut her in little pieces with a fireman’s axe?Her pale sickly skin, horse teeth, oily hair, her puke-provoking sweetness, aren’t those reasons enough to not only wanting to hurt her; but just bash her brains in, right the fuck in? I’m not saying those motives would suffice in a court of law, but they might give the judge some pause.After I established that the movie premise has nothing to do with Indian massacres or oedipal struggles I’ll start the movie analysis per se:One thing that stays with you is the music and sounds. Both are eerie and disconcerting. More importantly, they are of pace. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way; Kubrick has done the same in 2001 – A Space Odyssey, using constant classical music that didn’t relate to what was happening on screen, and making it work, phenomenally. This technique is also used here. People are on job interviews, talking about groceries or about a trip, and an eerie music is playing in the background. What I think this does is, unlike other suspense movies, it numbs our senses. When we see a “by the book” horror movie, we are told: This is character X. This is character Y. This is character Z.  This is where they live and this is the creepy place where two of them will die in a horrible fashion and one will nearly escape to tell the story. The sounds and music are no different than other movie genres, until the point they want to tell you to be scared. If an eerie music starts playing in one of those movies, fear-junkies start rubbing their hands for the action is about to begin. In The Shining you get no such clues. Kubrick wants you to be on your toes the whole time.As any good filmmaker, Kubrick is a master manipulator. He gets you to feel what he wants you to feel, and in most of his movies, there is a sense there is more to it – hence, the perpetual analysis. His manipulation comes from his attention to detail. I feel that no shot is unintended, no frame is unplanned. I came to this conclusion in the scene where Wendy finds out what Jack has been writing for weeks: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. An inferior director would use an inferior, but more obvious phrase. I’m Jack and I’m going to kill or I’m crazy and I’m going to slaughter my wife and kids. Kubrick’s refinement makes the message have that much more impact.The attention for detail is what makes me, maybe not love, but have strong feelings for this movie. If Stanley Kubrick wanted me to see an Indian massacre instead of a simple “man gets sick of his wife” type thing, maybe it’s my fault. A non-American doesn’t get 4th of July references that easily. I still saw a great movie. That should suffice.


10 thoughts on “Are Te Shining Interpretations Pure Bullshit?

  1. Stephen King hated Kubrick’s film version of his book because Kubrick ignored several key elements of the story and twisted the focus of the plot. There is another version of The Shining that King oversaw the making of in 1997 that he feels is a better interpretation of his novel. Also, the 1997 version is filmed at the Stanley Hotel, where King lived while he wrote the book, after being inspired by the hotel’s ghost stories, and where Kubrick refused to film. I dont know if your a Stephen King fan or if youve ever read The Shining, but I would definately recommend it if you havent. Its an excellent book.

    1. I have yet to read any Stephen King novels. I’m not really I fan of the suspense/horror genre, mainly because I never gave it a fair shot at gaining my preference. I had about a 4 or 5 year hiatus, in which I almost didn’t read at all, so I’m still catching up on the classics before I go for something else. When I do, King will be a must-read!
      I didn’t now about this other version but I looked it up. It really shows that writers don’t know a thing about movies! Who cares if it disrespected the original. He made a timeless classic. I can’t access if the book is good or not so much, but as far as entering to history it came up short in comparison.

      1. Actually, the repetitive typing of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” isn’t a Kubrick invention, it’s in the novel. So much for “Kubrick’s refinement” …

      2. Since it was such a liberal adaptation, and Kubrick changed so much of the book, maybe another director would have changed that too. Or at least he wouldn’t give it so much emphasis as he did.
        “Kubrick’s refinement” is almost unquestionable.

      3. I would also add that Kubrick’s film is a good stand-alone piece “inspired” by King’s novel which, more than anything else, is about an insecure, self-loathing alcoholic writer confronting delirium tremens. If I recall correctly, King himself is a recovered alcoholic so there may be heavy moments of self-reflection in the book. As for the made-for-TV movie, yes, it was much more faithful to the book but, let’s face it, Jack Nicholson totally owns Jack Torrance.

  2. How misogynist. Some good analyses online are on the Collative Learning site and the Kubrick Corner site. The Shining is one of his most fascinating films.


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