The Overlook Hotel is a maze and our ability to map the hotel beyond a few seemingly geographically/locationally concrete portions is pretty well impossible, but we still have sympathetic relationships that can be used to link some areas.
What’s interesting and somewhat confounding is, whereas, a few overlooked details can reveal, for instance, that the hall directly outside the Gold Room–which for all obvious appearances leaves us never questioning what it appears to be–is not the same that links to the Gold Room hall off the lobby, it’s also the overlooked details that also serve to provide linkages between areas and ideas which at first glance have nothing to do with each other. Why we use these details to reveal the Gold Room hall as not as it seems, then turn around and, again, point out minor details in the forging of connections between what seems radically different, is part of the beauty and weird gaming logic of dealing with Kubrick’s films, an inbuilt feature. And is not as weird as all that. We are instructed at an early age that candy may look identical to poison, and in fairy tales and myths we’re taught to look for the seeming inconsequential mark or tic that would distinguish the real from the illusory, the bonafide article from the evil djinn or prankster fairy. And via the same we learn also to examine the smallest details for patterns and resemblances by which one may leapfrog toward revelations on both the parts, how they puzzle fit together, and, ultimately, an unfolding understanding of the whole.
Not that I can claim a comprehension of the various and numerous trickster elements in “The Shining”, but they are fun to chase.
One example is the shocking red hall through which Wendy runs toward the very end of the film, passing through it directly before viewing the bloody elevators. Probably a variety of theories on the red hall attempt to determine its possible location (or aim for somewhere in the ball park), and they all may likely have valid points, but what I’m concerned with here are sympathetic relationships rather than specifically geophysical. But I think most individuals who comb through “The Shining” for matching and mismatched puzzle pieces know that what they’re looking for has to do with realms spiritual and psychological in the film, rather than just a physical mapping.
The green hall behind Stuart Ullman’s office appears to have no direct relationship to the red hall, the appearance of both is distinctly different, but a kind of sympathetic relationship is had.
Fig. 1 – Closing Day, on the way to the basement
Fig. 2 – 4 p.m., before the bloody elevator
As far as set goes, I would bet that the red hall is the set of the green hall reworked either before or after all shots concerning the green hall were completed. As I’ve read that Kubrick’s plan was to film according to the timeline of the script rather than out of order, this may have been shot toward the end, but I have also read of scenes filmed out of sequence.
And that single appearance of the red hall is shocking, because Kubrick has trained us to view the back service halls of the hotel in greens, but then suddenly at film’s end, the hotel immersed in the icy blues of a blizzard, we’re granted a view of this red hall that is made doubly alarming in that it is painted in glossy, highly reflective paint.
Comparing the red hall with the green hall that runs behind the complex of offices in the lobby, we can see the same two narrow recesses in the far back right, the ventilation duct on the right in the ceiling, the same square recesses in the ceiling in both, those ceiling recesses used for lighting in the green hall. We see far in the background cream colored walls with dark paneling. The green tables and stacked chairs that line the walls suggest the red hall is in proximity of the Gold Room, and there is a sympathetic relationship there with the bold red bathroom. But it should also be noted that we know from several scenes that this green hall is interrupted by the portion of the lobby where the red bathroom doors are located. The cream colored walls appear more coral in color beyond the green hall, but this would have to do with the lighting.
Fig. 3 – Closing Day, on the way to the basement
Fig. 4 – Saturday, before Danny happens upon the twins in the flowered hall
Fig. 5 – 4 p.m., before the bloody elevator vision
Continuing down the green hall, we see on the left the rear door to Stuart’s office, while on the right is a double door exit.
Our first acquaintance with the green hall is with Jack and Wendy leaving Danny in the kitchen with Dick, Stuart taking them to see the basement. The atmosphere is light-hearted, Wendy eventually comparing the hotel to a ghost ship.
Our second viewing of the green hall is with Danny on his big wheel, just before he runs into the twins in the bloody flowered hallway. The shot of Danny cycling down the green service hall begins just after the thickened sections of wall that separate the rear of Stuart’s office from the hall which its impossible window should overlook. That hall outside the impossible window is one we know exists from observation in the lobby, but Kubrick won’t show it to us until the scene in which Jack limps toward the lobby stairs, readying himself for his attack on Dick. We do, however, see access doors from that hall to the green service hall on Closing Day (figure 9).
Having mentioned where the camera begins its pursuit of Danny down the green service hall, before his encountering the twins, when Wendy is fleeing down the red hall she stops in the same location, just before the thickened walls…which aren’t there in this red version of the hall. Instead there is an unexpected door.
Fig. 6 – Closing Day
Fig. 7 – 4 p.m.
Fig. 8 – 4 p.m.
Fig. 9 – Closing Day
We can see above how the hall in which Wendy views the bloodied man who announced it’s a “great party” exits onto this green hall directly behind Ullman’s office, but in the red version of the service hall Wendy instead turns short into the hall with the bloody elevator.
Perhaps what may be overlooked, as Wendy approaches that hall, long before she can see down it to the elevator, the blood as yet unleashed, is the fact her expression is one of utter astonishment, as if she is surprised by this hall. Running down the red hall, it’s as she passes what would be, in the green hall, Stuart’s office door, that Wendy slows, well in advance of being able to see down the hall to the elevator. From her viewpoint, she can’t possibly see what is in that adjoining hall, and yet she is dumbfound by it, and as her astonishment and anxiety have nothing to do with an as yet unseen bloody elevator, it must be this hall, its very existence. I think for most audience members, as we soon see the bloody elevator, Wendy’s surprise at the hall is compressed instead into her horror at the blood flowing subsequently from the elevators, and they forget that Wendy, advancing toward the hall, had no idea what she would see. She only knew something was different.
Fig. 10 – Closing Day, detail
Fig. 11 – 4 p.m., detail
Looking at figures 10 and 11 we see that however different the two halls seem to be, another green hall remnant and identifier is the plaque on Stuart’s office door appearing to be the same as the plaque on the door in the red hall, and I’d be curious what that plaque in the red hall reads. So much has been altered, and yet there remains perhaps the same plaque? Why should that be if not to provide a linkage.
My thought is that Wendy is as surprised as she is because this adjoining hall is out of place, it’s not supposed to be there, just as in the green service hall these doors don’t exist, instead there is the thickening of wall here followed by the doors to the “Great party!” hall. Especially when viewed on the big screen, the audience is surprised, alarmed, horrified by this red hall, its walls saturated with the supernatural, the hotel–and not just its ghosts–seeming to come to life, threatening to swallow Wendy whole.
But as Kubrick maintains ambiguity through the film on the nature of what is happening at the Overlook, whether its nature is purely psychological or has a supernatural element, and because Kubrick also has painstakingly unfolded the hotel for us so slowly, meting the halls and rooms out sometimes in mere inches, it’s sensible to say that the red hall could be just another area of the hotel we’ve not yet viewed, especially considering that it’s populated with the Gold Room chairs and tables. Nor does Wendy look alarmed by this red hall proper. We take her, at this point, as fleeing from other horrors she’s witnessed, pellmell wandering like a ball in a pinball machine bounced around by frightening situations, looking for a way out as much as she is for Danny. She was obviously terrified by the transformation of the lobby with its blue party skeletons, so why not of the red hall itself if it is indeed the green hall?
What’s more important is the audience’s reaction. In fact, I think Kubrick understood if we had Wendy reacting in horror to the red hall, leaping in surprise at it, looking all about her as if, “Where did the green hall go?” the audience’s horror would be diffused by Wendy’s. Vivian Kubrick shot 28 hours of footage for her documentary on the film but only a brief 25 minutes was kept. In that 25 minutes was footage of Kubrick coaching Shelley Duvall not to leap in response to every aggressive or threatening aspect of Jack’s performance, that after a while it began to look fake. The same could be said of the hotel. If she expressed overt alarm over every sinister or changing aspect of the hotel, there would have been no room for the audience to feel their own horror and react to their own sense of astonishment, they would have been instead examining Wendy and responding to her.
In the meanwhile, Danny, out in the maze, has just prior this scene successfully concealed himself by covering his footprints, and here Wendy is very near where would be the cupboard in the green hall in which Danny had been hiding when he shined the murder of Dick and we saw his expression of horror as he shined it in his Denver bathroom on the day of Jack’s interview. Do I imagine there is a relationship between Danny screaming in the cupboard, his face showing the same horror as it had on Closing Day when he saw the bloody elevator, and that here, in not exactly what would be the same location in the green hall, but near it, Wendy is about to see the vision of the same bloody elevator? Yes, I do. Even if this is not the green hall, as I believe it to be, a sympathetic relationship exists between the two, and one of the key links is Danny’s cry of terror. It’s as if, in the same psychic location of it, his mother enters the territory of that scream and now will see the same bloody elevator which has threatened Danny from the film’s beginning, which is the only certain shared shining in the film with the exception of when Dick shines to Danny if he would like some ice cream, a query which had directly preceded the only time in the film we observe Wendy traversing the green service hall behind the office.
Fig. 12 – Closing Day
The sections of white ceiling in the red hall have always been curious to me, seeming to stand out in the kind of idiosyncratic way that demands examination of correspondences. To my eye they echo the square florescent lights in Stuart’s office. But there’s more to it than that. I’ve long questioned those high shelves in Stuart’s office which serve only as holders for plants despite the difficulty that would be had in watering those plants. If we compare those high shelves with the green and red halls, we see that they recall the dropped sections of ceiling in those halls that run parallel the walls. Further, the way the light of the impossible window plays on the ceiling, there is more than a passing resemblance with the fluorescent lights in the green service hall. It seems to me that the white boxes in the red hall’s ceiling are intended to bring to mind the office where we first saw the impossible window via a similarity to the boxed fluorescent lights.
The preposterous window in the office we know shouldn’t be there, that beyond it the hotel continues, and directly behind is the hall in which Wendy sees the “great party” man. And there is an interesting connection with that “great party” hall and the one down which she views the bloody elevator. That connection is in the form of a landscape painting or photo.
Fig. 13 – 4 p.m.
Fig. 14 – 4 p.m.
Fig. 15 – 4 p.m.
Figure 13 shows Wendy in the hall behind the office after her discovering Dick’s body, and that terror compounded by the apparition of the “great party” man. As she flees that apparition, we see behind her we see the doors that go to the green hall. On the right we there is either a landscape painting or photo of trees, similar to those around the lodge, standing against what may be either an early morning or late evening sky.
In figures 14 and 15 we see this same landscape painting or photo in the bloody elevator hall.
The first intimation we have that something is wrong with the Overlook, that all is not as it seems, is the impossible window in Stuart’s office, viewed near the beginning of the film. Here, at the end, if this is the green hall, Kubrick returns us to that same impossible window, positioning us to look directly behind it, even between it and the formerly observed “great party” hall, where slips in the shined hall that leads to the bloody elevators. Whatever is the significance of this picture of the trees, I’m not confident, but a reason it stands out is not only for its doubling, being both in the “great party” hall and the bloody elevator hall, but also for reason of its being, aside from the painting of the landscape above the bed in Suite 3, and the four seasons photos of the Overlook and its environment just outside the office door in the reception area, the only other image in the Overlook that appears to portray the surrounding landscape. My inclination has been to associate the landscape with the impossible window in Stuart’s office, reminding us of its impossible view via this pictorial landscape, rather as if the view from Ullman’s impossible window, beyond the obvious foliage, could be this picture.
My gut emotional feeling as regards the red hall is that this pictorial landscape, because it appears in the same position in both in this and the “great party” hall, intends to suggest that the red hall is–regardless whether it is in fact the green hall or not–one of the maze’s variations of the green service hall behind the offices, at the very least the skeleton of a pattern repeating but adorned variously. The tables and chairs from the Gold Room give the impression of a stage now disassembled, yet their presence is also curiously consistent with Wendy’s frantic wanderings of the service quarters where the halls were also lined with a clutter of old tables and chairs. These tables and chairs now seem to proliferate and have overtaken the Overlook, when before we were more aware of seeing shiny repetitive carts and cupboards holding dining china and coffee urns which alluded to the kitchen being possibly just beyond any one or even all of the doors in the service halls. If the kitchen was felt to be everywhere in the hotel, just back of any of those doors, by extension one could say chef Dick Hallorann was also present in this manner, referenced continually as being near globally (as regards the hotel) beyond every cup and plate, behind the scenes. The Gold Room chairs and tables replacing the dining paraphernalia, considering the majority of Jack’s shinings having occurred in the Gold Room, as if there in the Gold Room is the essence and stage of his spiritual domain and relationship to the hotel, with Dick’s death we are perhaps observing a change in the hotel reflective of a shift of dominance from Dick to Jack.