Comments on an Analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – Opening

The Opening section is here.

Having moved the body of the post to html, am restoring for the comments on the section.

If you are inclined to leave a comment, please keep it civil and relevant. I moderate.

Published by

Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

11 thoughts on “Comments on an Analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – Opening”

  1. Having already commented on your blog on certain similarities between “The Night of the Hunter” and “The Shining”, it then also occurred to me that Shelley Winters had also been used by Kubrick in “Lolita” as the ineffective mother who falls under the spell of another style of predator. In both “The Night of the Hunter” and “Lolita”, though the roles are quite different, Winters is the sensual woman denied and used by the predator husband.

  2. Hello again, I picked this up from someone else, if you observe the angle of the shadows cast by the trees, the chopper shadow cannot have been cast by the camera ‘copter. There had to have been a second chopper.

  3. I interpret the misplaced shadow thus: A shadow should not lead, but follow. It’s another clue that this film should be viewed backwards.

  4. I believe the helicopter shadow was left in intentionally. Noticing the shadow has the effect of taking one out of being immersed in the movie. I think Kubrick was instructing the audience that to some degree “The Shining” should be viewed as, perhaps, a study of psychology rather than just a horror flic.

    I don’t have the film handy but have a look at the skeleton scenes that Wendy sees toward the end of the film. The skeleton scene that features skeletons in phone booths has been lighted from directly behind the camera. The shot is static so Kubrick could have spent as much time as he wanted composing the shot. I could be wrong but isn’t that the shadow of the camera on a tripod in the center of the shot. If it is I’m pretty sure Kubrick must have done it intentionally – again bringing the viewer right out of a scene in which the viewer would be totally engrossed.

  5. John, I can’t tell if that’s a camera and tripod shadow in that scene, but it looks like it may be. It’s certainly not Wendy’s shadow. You’re likely correct. Kubrick noticed everything, was a stickler about lighting, and if the camera and tripod made it in there I would have to assume that was his intention.

  6. 2:35-2:45 i see kubrick’s face/profile at the top right of the mountain that the VW is driving toward…also closer to 2:45 i see in the snowbank off to the right a half face of one of our forefathers (jefferson or franklin–the eyeball reminds me of something that would be on our paper currency) am i just seeing things or have other people commented on these two things?

  7. I always enjoy all the nit-picking that goes into analysis of the opening shots of “The Shining” especially regarding the helicopter shadow. Since that also happens to be a shadow of me, as the helicopter cameraman, it never ceases to amaze me how people try to attribute greater meaning to what was a simple mistake. I was using two cameras on a belly mount, operated remotely from inside the helicopter. One of the lenses was a 9.8mm which is a very wide lens and was helpful in smoothing out many of the shots. It does however add a fair amount of distortion towards the edges. We were shooting at what is called full aperture, meaning we used every bit of the film frame but we were “protecting” for what is called 1:1.85, the standard projection aperture of the time. I was monitoring from a small black and white camera that was mounted beside the two film cameras so it didn’t see exactly what they were recording and the lens on the video camera was not nearly as wide as the 9.8mm. The helicopter shadow was something I struggled with to keep out of the shots and I was mainly trying to keep it out of the 1:1.85 area, but we were dealing with a moving VW, a flying helicopter, the early morning sun angle (on one of the few really good days where we got fall colors and a glassy lake). The conditions didn’t last very long and we had to do all our filming without any traffic control in Glacier National Park. That meant for every shot we were flying around at a thousand feet waiting until traffic looked clear. That was purely for safety reasons, having nothing to do with a Kubrick request or direction. It was part of our deal with the Park Rangers. The biggest gamble we took was the main fly-by of the VW at the top of the crest because there was no way to know if a car might have been coming the other way on the turn which would have been precisely the worst possible time. The pilot and I worried we could have frightened some poor vacationer right off the road, especially since we were at car height. We got lucky on that shot, and others.

    By the way, with the talk about the vehicle parked on the far side of the tunnel, that was one of the crew member’s vehicles and I recall they got chewed out for getting into the shot, so all the theories are bogus about any other meaning. Kubrick did not give us any particular directions about any location. We just shot off and on for a month, practicing various shots I came up with, based on what we found in the park, what we thought might look interesting or involving. We’d practice certain shots when the weather wasn’t cooperating, hoping when we got some sun we were ready to grab the good shots. We sent the footage to England for developing and Kubrick decided from all that material what he wanted to use.

    One added pleasure for me was discovering when the film premiered that Kubrick changed the continuity of the film to include more helicopter shots. Jack’s character goes up to the hotel for the interview in the first sequence and later returns with his family in the VW towing a small trailer with their personal effects. Lots of material was shot by second unit of the VW and trailer for that part of the film, but it was all ground-based photography. In the final film, Kubrick choose to use more helicopter shots of the solitary VW to intercut with the family inside the car for the second trip and dropped the notion of a trailer altogether.

  8. I lost eight frieggin’ hours reading your Shining analyses and watching parts of the movie again (what the hell kind of movie can still scare me even in 10-second segments on the 70th viewing??). Loved loved loved what you painstakingly illuminated! (my favorite: the “sha” sounds. Heard cannot be unheard)

    I have one theory that I hadn’t really seen discussed (but some sleuthing did find a video on YouTube). It’s about the yellow/red VW bugs…

    Foul Play (1978), with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase, begins with an extended sequence where a helicopter follows a yellow VW bug. The bug moves gracefully over curving roads in an area of remote beauty, never passing any other cars, and sometimes with steep drops down to water. Goldie Hawn’s sun-drenched drive along the coast of Marin County is accompanied by a song sung and produced by Barry Manilow, “Ready To Take A Chance Again”. The film’s plot was a deliberate homage to Hitchcock and featured a killer albino, a “dwarf”, and a plot to murder the Pope via backstage machinations at an opera performance of The Mikado. The movie was a top-10 box office hit in 1978 and launched the US career of Dudley Moore. Manilow’s song was also a hit, and the VW bug’s picturesque journey acted practically as a music video.

    Given memetic theory of art, Kubrick must have been aware of, and familiar with, this opening sequence. What a perfect opportunity to slyly mirror/subvert it; instead of sunny Highway 1, we are in the remote mountains; instead of golden-haired Goldie Hawn (!), this car has no visible driver (=inhuman?); instead of Barry Manilow’s soothing voice and soaring melody of optimism, we have the ancient Dies Irae plainchant without even the human connection of sung words. Goldie’s drive represented her opening herself to new possibilities, “ready to take a chance again”, and those chances lead to a titillating adventure and lasting love n the arms of tall, witty, and handsome Chevy Chase. Jack, on the other hand, is also “ready to take a chance again” – but where will *his* chance lead him?

    So Kubrick sets out to make a movie, in 1980, barely a year after Foul Play, and with the audience likely to recall that opening sequence. King’s story starts with a VW driving into the mountains, and that imagery is too good to change – but how could Kubrick resist a twisted reference to another movie, one that is the anti-Shining in every way?

    As to Kub changing the color to irk Stephen King: SKing is a heart-and-soul guy, not a details guy – this is known by anyone who’s ever met him. A few years ago, he paid something like four times the value of the house next to his, because the neighbors used to keep junky cars in the back, and one time they were working on one, and something flew off and hit Tabatha. She was unhurt, but that was that – anything to protect her. His lawyer tried to get SK to let them handle the transaction and work out a better price… he refused. He wanted it done. That is not a guy who cares if the Volkswagon is green or red or purple, and with Kubrick’s insight into human character, he would have known that.

Leave a Reply to scrappy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *