Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" - Management of Psychic Space with the The Elevator, the Two Girls and Danny's Room

Go to Table of Contents of the analysis (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).

The most important thing which must be kept in mind with Kubrick's films is there is the surface or principle story and then the internal or sub-story. In many of his films, if we're really paying attention, set elements pretty much immediately destroy the surface naturalism. One may not notice this destruction the first, second or third time one watches the film. Through constructive disorientation and disconnectedness, and sleight of hand as to where our eye focuses, Kubrick, the magician, intentionally obfuscates these elements that destroy the overt and naturalistic story line. The surface story lines are the principle ones, and this is maintained and supported by the intentional obfuscation of the deconstructive elements which keep them sub rosa. At the same time, these deconstructive elements are plainly there, alongside his tremendous effort to make things look real and believable, and once we bypass the disorientation and his purposeful refocusing they become a puzzle, annihilating the sense of reality. This destruction of the film's naturalistic story line is difficult enough to conceive of and accept that most people stop at this point and decide these puzzling aspects of Kubrick's films are errors when they are not. They are part of the art of a director cleverly designing the overt story line to be unimpeded by an internal story that tears it apart. Indeed, the sub rosa elements of the internal story may be discreet but they are enough in evidence to complicate the surface story with an aura of attractive, indefinable mystery, which is one of the reasons viewers return to Kubrick again and again. To work with the "reason" and "why of the internal story line is to try to settle into Kubrick's sensibility, examining how these internal stories form a dialogue in his oeuvre with repeating themes and ideas, elaborated upon from film to film. The internal stories haven't a "plot"; they aren't that kind of story. Instead, you have to be willing to deal with comprehending the themes and ideas represented in them as instead ultimately forming a different terrain for the setting of the surface story, guiding and interacting with the overt story and giving it a new form.

Some of the things I discuss about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining in my analysis are perhaps lost due the sheer volume of data in those lengthy posts. So, I thought I'd make a brief post giving an example on the way framing of the sets is managed in their both near symmetry as well as their asymmetry in tying them together psychically, and largely unconsciously.

In the Interview portion of the analysis I discuss a little what happens with this framing during Danny's vision in the bathroom and immediately after.

We are all well familiar with the elevators.

The elevators

Intercut we have the two girls in shot 57.

We return to the elevators in shot 58, then go to a shot of Danny in the cabinet in which he later hides, then in shot 60 return to the elevator hall, blood covering the camera. After a period of darkness shot 61 opens on Danny's room.

As I've noted, these are clean cuts, no fades. Things are slightly off, not perfectly symmetrical, and that very slight asymmetry caused me to wonder what would happen if we overlaid the elevator hall with the hall of the two girls.

The far left pillar in the elevator hall fits neatly with the left pillar behind the girls.

An overlay of the two girls with the bloody elevator hallway.

Next we have the bedroom.

Overlaying the elevator hall with the next scene of Danny's bedroom, the bathroom door fits neatly into the left wall of the elevator hall up to the far right line of the first extrusion. Note, too, how the lower line of brown, decorative tiling in the bathroom fits perfectly in with the lower edge of the dado rail at the height of the wainscotting.

The far right of the section of elevators aligns with the bedroom's right corner.

Overlaying the bloody elevator hallway over Danny's bedroom

The way these details align with each other doesn't seem to me to be happenstance, but carefully planned. Transitions are less disruptive and the sets mesh together in a manner where the unconscious eye must make note of the conformities. Thus may be imported into Danny's bedroom the hall which we've just left through these alignments.

Just phenomenal composition.

Return to Table of Contents for "The Shining" analysis
If you'd like to leave a comment, it can be left on the blog