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

Juli Kearns Cinema, Kubrick 51 Comments

I removed the analyses from the blog as there were too many images and I was concerned the server wouldn’t tolerate the traffic. Have converted them to static html pages and they are up here.

I’m placing this post for comments on the section. If you’d like to share something, keep it civil and relevant, please. I moderate.

Comments 51

  1. You have done such a wonderful job, i have never found something like this on the web, i´m a cinema studient and it´s my favourite film.

    Thank you very very much!!

    Best wishes from Spain.

  2. Thank you for commenting, Elena. I appreciate it. Best wishes to you as well and good luck with your studies!

  3. Simply the best analysis of this film I have ever come across! It ranks as one of my all time favorite if not favorite film! I find myself often wondering, since the incident in 1970 of Grady murdering his family and killing himself while caretaking the Overlook is so prominent in the film, and parallels in many ways the Torrance’s experience in 1980, what happened during all the winters between 1970-80? Someone had to have stayed at the Overlook during those winters too, and cared for the hotel! Were there other families that stayed and simply did not have the Shining, so were untouched by the hotel’s evil? Or did the management (due to the Grady incident) simply opt for having several staff stay in the hotel for those interim winters so as not to have a repeat of the 1970 “cabin fever” murders? Maybe only after 10 years (by 1980) did the management decide to risk having another lone family stay as caretakers in the Overlook for the winter? Just really interesting to speculate about the gaps in the narrative, which make the film so much more delicious and intriguing! Love to hear your thoughts about this too!

  4. Post
    Author

    The film is right up there with “Eyes Wide Shut” as one to return to over and over again just for pure enjoyment but also in its invitation to “analyze me!” And “2001” is like the Rosetta Stone for them. 🙂

    All the questions you raise in your different comments concerning the back story of the hotel are I do think are things that occur to the audience, the movie keeping them thinking, wondering, making up bits and pieces of their own multiple filler stories. Which is just good film making for a story like this, and I imagine was purposeful, though I also imagine there was some filler story that ended up on the cutting room floor, or was edited out of the script pre-shooting, as it wasn’t needed…the story being one that is related visually rather than by dialogue.

  5. I think a great thing would be a Kubrick “prequel” to The Shining, showing in particular Charles Grady’s story of the winter of 1970, and how he went insane and murdered his wife and daughters! That would be incredible! Although, as delicious a story as that would be, it would take some of the edge off of The Shining as it would fill too many gaps in! But just some food for thought!

  6. Post
    Author

    Actually, I’m more than satisfied with what we have of “The Shining.” I don’t think I’d be content with the gaps filled in. That’s what makes it what it is, as you’ve noted.

  7. Post
    Author
  8. I am still enjoying your essays here, and would like to offer up this tidbit: Ullman represents JFK, and in one of the stills that you have provided, he stands in front of his secretary. His tie is the blood gushing from his neck wound, and it is landing on her, she being a red headed Jackie.

  9. I believe the black object on the table next to Danny you is a Super 8 camera. I think she’s got the book & he’s got the camera. Both as precursor to his visions and the split between novel and adaptation. You’re doing great commentary, I haven’t thought this much about movies since school.

  10. Post
    Author

    Spezz, interesting thought. it’s a very boxy shape for a toy gun. To my eye it looks plastic, too plastic for a Super 8. But…hmmm. We do see this one more time. I think this is what he’s carrying on his hip in the Month Later section when he goes into the maze with Wendy. When I realized this is the same object as on his hip in that section is when I went with it being probably a toy gun, because of the way it hangs at the hip. But Wendy is carrying a Polaroid camera with her into the maze, and that in itself is interesting considering your read on this being a Super 8. You may be correct. It does not read as your ordinary kind of toy gun (not even for a toy space gun of the era, I don’t believe).

  11. About the red book, suppose it could be Jung’s Red Book, though I believe it’s been published only recently, though. Another rare book of Jung’s visions is seen in Friedkin’s Cruising (when Al pacino’s character searches the killer’s apartment) and considering the subject matter of the two films dealing with both visions and murder and Friedkin’s fascination with Kubrick’s work as well Friedkin’s film influencing aspects of the Shining, it might be a thread worth investigating.

    About the fish photo in Ulman’s office. I think there is a rather clear link to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest here. At the start of film Nicholson’s character is led into the chief psychiatrist’s office and he has on his desk a picture of himself holding a fish (“a chinooker” so a native american theme here as well as the big supposedly deaf Indian in the film whom Nicholson teases moments earlier). Then they proceed to discuss Nicholson’s inability to hold on to a job and his supposed laziness as well as charges of statutory rape, to which Nicholson replies in lieu of “she looked 30 and nobody would be able to resist anyway”, the doctor’s face expresses guilty understanding.

    Another interesting observation is the disappearing cigarette butt in the ashtray on Ullman’s desk. Though I do believe it may be a plausible continuity error, with several of the cast member’s seen smoking in the “making of” plus Kubrick being a smoker and around all the time, Nicholson’s character smokes manifestly in the rape discussion scene, so this might be a hint at “him being the right man for the job”.

    1. Post
      Author

      Whatever influence Friedkin had on Kubrick or vice versa, I won’t be the one to follow that thread, I’m just not interested in delving into Friedkin’s work. Doesn’t take being a fan of a director to examine their work, no, but it helps if one has some rapport with it.

  12. I think that Jung’s Red Book deals at least partially with his apocaliptic dreams on the eve of the 1st World war, him dreaming of “the sacrificed falling left and right” and “visions of the sea of blood covering the northern lands”, so a good link to Dies Irae and the alleged masonic connection to both World wars.

    1. Post
      Author

      Jung’s “Red Book” wasn’t published until 2009 and the family had denied access to scholars before 2001. If you haven’t seen the book, it is back-breaking massive. Which it needs to be, for sake of examination of Jung’s remarkable illustrations.

  13. And one more thing about One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I for instance had been taken aback by Kubrick’s decision to place images of naked women on the walls of Halloran’s bedroom him being the “magical negro” and so on. But check out his role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, especially the way he’s dressed.

    Now check out this video as well

    http://vimeo.com/39787567

    1. Post
      Author
  14. On the picture of Ullman shaking hands with Jack, did you notice that Ulman has an erection (well, it’s the paper stack thing, but it is right there anyway).

    1. Post
      Author
    2. Post
      Author
      1. Multiple angle close-ups of the Star Trek Super Phaser II are currently online at http://www.youbulkit.com/vintage-star-trek-super-phaser-ii-target-game. Click on individual pictures to enlarge. It says “Made in Taiwan” and “New York, NY” along with other text molded into the top. The small red button at the rear is clearly shaped differently as new than the larger feature which appears in the on-set photo, but the overall design seems extremely close. The top nib is positioned to the right on the game box photo, but that’s no disqualifier to identification as a Super Phaser II, as the nib is to the left in the photos at the earlier link, which matches its position as seen in the on-set photo from the blog.

  15. The lady in white (to jack’s left when he first enters the Overlook) at 3:06-3:08 looks directly at the camera! She’s in the “playgirl magazine chair” that Jack sits in later on… When Jack calls Wendy to tell her he’s got the job she strolls by the entrance which is now covered in a black shroud…

    1. Post
      Author
  16. In Figure 6, when the two tennis players walk behind Jack, there are two figures standing behind glass doors to the entrance of the Gold Room. I went back and watched this scene. They appear to be a man in a dark suit and bow tie, perhaps a tuxedo, and a woman in a light colored dress with a slight bustle at the waist. The man appears to be speaking and turns his head and upper body to the left as Jack reaches the reception desk. There is a red arm chair to the man’s left. The woman appears in profile facing left and never moves- she remains completely still. Their dress, behavior, and location (in front of the famous photo wall) seem odd.

    Also, I am curious regarding your opinion of the missing Dopey sticker.

    I have really enjoyed reading your analysis thus far. Thanks for the intelligent, thoughtful interpretation.

    1. Post
      Author

      I could be wrong but I think the two are dressed not unlike the other employees of the Overlook with the exception that the woman’s skirt appears to be longer. The man, from what I can tell, seems to be in a red jacket like those worn by the bellboys. And the woman seems to be in a plaid vest and skirt and rose-colored blouse. They seem to rather serve to draw attention to and yet deflect the viewer’s eye away from where we will eventually see Jack in the photo. If there’s more to it I’ve not picked up on it.

      Dopey’s a pantomime character and I could relate his disappearance to Danny’s essential silence when he later disappears from Jack but that may or may not be relevant.

  17. WENDY: Yeah, I know. It always takes a little time to make new friends. and i love how right after she says this you hear a machine gun sound coming out of the television !

    1. Post
      Author
  18. in figure 13 and 22 does anyone know what type of little bush/shrub that is in the corner? they are throughout the hotel usually in a corner. Also are there any theories about Ullman is ‘doing’ with his hands during the Interview? thank-you very much.

    1. Post
      Author

      No clue. But they rather have the effect of blending the maze with the hotel. Also, in shot 328-329 Kubrick has Jack’s arm blend in with a plant in Dick’s home, he almost seeming to transform into it. And Kubrick does the same with Dick in shot 513 so he seems to blend in with the forest as he rides up to the hotel. So, the anthropomorphism is interesting.

  19. i figured out that the page of Catcher In The Rye that Wendy is reading from in this scene with Danny at the Boulder Apartment is page 132 of the paperback version; it’s the page that starts with the words: ” Look,i said. Here’s my idea” and the page ends with the words “Don’t you want to go with me? Say so if you don’t” Interesting page because the words ‘Vermont’,’cabins’ and ‘starving to death’ are used along with ‘getting and not getting a job’ as Wendy reads from this page it looks as if her eyes are focused on the middle of the page and downward…

    1. Post
      Author
      1. Post
        Author
  20. my paperback has a white cover but i know it’s the same page 132 because of the precise paragraph indentations(that are only on that page!) that i see in Wendy’s copy/page that’s dog earred!

  21. Also forgot to mention that this page also talks of ‘chopping wood’ The fact that Kubrick chose ‘Catcher’ is brilliant because i believe the book to have a very real aura of negativity surrounding it which contributes wonderfully to the film.

  22. Considering how the light falls on it, the elephant on the kitchen shelf really looks like an alabaster bull to me. The horn, the shape of the front legs, the attitude ready to charge… One of the horns is broken, bad illuminated or bent to the camera. If it is so, the real elephants are two, not three, and the “doubling” is respected. Elephant in Ullman’s office is ok and matches (together with the Great Mother) side-to-side to the painted one besides Wendy at home. Happy new year!
    A link to an image: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/17975267/Shining/Shining_Bull.jpg

    1. Post
      Author
  23. Juli, congratulations on your Minotaur theory. Maybe because I’m a spaniard, I keep seeing bulls in this movie. This one at Ullman’s office: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/17975267/Shining/Shining_Bull_2.jpg
    Consider that not all “toreo” bulls are completely black. Kubrick carefully blurred and cut two different photos from two separate moments (they don’t combine into one because of the different position of the bull ring walls) into this two differenced (sepia) images, as a new clue.

    1. Post
      Author

      Kubrick sprinkles images here and there (not only in this film) that seem to intentionally generate pareidolia and this is one of those. I don’t think you’re off the mark in putting together the two and seeing the bull fighter and the bull. These two images belong together. The one on the left is supposed to remind us, I think, of Danny, running across the snow to the hedge maze–a confrontation alluded to with the indistinct mass on the left which is vaguely threatening in its aspect. So I think the inference of the bull/minotaur and the bull fighter/Theseus is there and I can see how these two could be interpreted as the bull fighter with the bull in the maze.

      The car Dick drives from the airport is actually an old Matador model car. I heard that in an interview.

      Kubrick’s production company for “Killer’s Kiss” was Minotaur.

      Of interest to me is Jack Nicholson was in Antonioni’s “The Passenger” in ’75. Antonioni staged the ending so that it occurred across from an old bull ring. He even built a small hotel next to an old bull ring in Vera. So, the movie begins and ends with two elements essential to the minotaur myth, a thread and the bull. At the beginning, Jack (as David) goes into a tailor’s where we see a long blue thread hanging over the head of the tailor. David is looking for a story and having a hard time getting an “in” to it. After this, he gets his “in” at a hotel with murals of men hunting bulls on the walls, as it is there he adopts the identity of a dead arms dealer, a kind of doppelganger as they look very similar. From then on he tries to move into the character of this arms dealer, goes to appointments of his, tries to imagine what it would be to think like him, while abandoning his old life, putting himself in a very dangerous position. At the film’s end, in the small hotel across from the bull fighting ring we have Jack/David killed. In a very famous shot the camera starts inside the window of Jack’s room (where he’s taking a nap) and does a full circle over a long period of time, coming back to look inside the room from outside. While still inside the room, the camera focuses on a boy wearing a red shirt outside. This boy in the red shirt stands inside a circle that’s been made in the dust between the hotel and the bull fighting ring. The camera zooms in on the scene outside the window, moving outside that window (we hear trumpets from the bull ring) and turns as we see cars and people coming and going etc. hear a possible gun shot, have the arrival of the police, and then by the end of the scene the camera returns to look in the window of David’s room from outside and we view him lying dead on the bed. Then there’s a cut and in the last scene it is evening, light falling, and the proprietress comes out and sits on the steps of the hotel and knits (the thread) as night drops.

      Kubrick does tie in material from other movies/books peripherally. For instance, in “Lolita” we have the painting of the woman at the beginning that figures so prominently. That is not a famous painting by any means. I was eventually able to identify it, but what became most interesting about it was that same painting appeared in a movie James Mason was in previous to “Lolita”. I came upon this quite by happenstance and realized several things Kubrick was embedding in the film via referring to this other film with this painting. Anyway, Kubrick does things like this from time to time and I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a peripheral tie in from “The Passenger” in which the killing of David/Jack is equated with the killing of the bull in the bull ring. Looking at these two photos here I am even vaguely reminded of the view outside David’s window across the dusty, earthen parking lot to the bull ring in “The Passenger”, in particular when we are viewing the boy in the red shirt. This picture on the wall is not the same as that scene in which we’re viewing the boy, at that point, through bars on the window, but now that you explicitly state the wall in the background as being akin to the bull fighting ring, I am very much reminded of that scene.

      1. Juli, I just re-watched Antonioni’s “The Passenger”. I think you’ve got a bingo linking this flick to The Shining; I started looking for bullfighters, instead I found a sort of Jack Torrance. There is a number of odd similarities between both movies. Both Antonioni and Kubrick got their fake hotels built from scratch, for example. Of course, the filming of “The Passenger” long ending shot, so technically sophisticated, with the camera going through the barred window and then hooked on a 90 ft crane, must have delighted Kubrick. Furthermore, the AVIS rental car company is omnipresent, almost a member of the cast, perhaps explaining that Jack+AVIS lobby shot. Nicholson’s David character seems to me linked to Jack Torrance, in their death drive, if we agree that Jack’s penchant for staying at the Overlook is a self destructive behaviour (all due respect to Stephen King, whose book I will read one of these days). And curiously enough, they also seem linked, through Maria Schneider, to “Last Tango” Marlon Brando’s pathetic character.
        I just found this exciting article about “The Passenger”, which I’m inclined to think can also describe Overlook’s “Lacan Lounge”, if we consider Wendy as the Symbolic and Danny as the Real (or something like that, I’m not a “schrink”): http://www.othervoices.org/1.3/jturner/passenger.php

  24. I saw that Antonioni a night some years ago on TV. I remember it was a dark tale, part of it happened in my own city, at Gaudi’s Casa Milà roof. I have to review it, it has sense, I am in a Minoan mood now. Yes, I suppose Kubrick was a mixer of all his influences just like everybody, only he had this capacity –and patience- to blend it all into a total work of art. Fellini is in it, you convinced me, that guy at the lobby is Marcello’s dead ringer, and all those “8:30”, “8am-4pm”… By the way, Nicholson character in Cuckoo’s Nest also had an interesting relationship with a native american indian, but perhaps I’m autosuggesting too much.
    And talking about Kubrick’s ”peripheral ties” I have just been handed this image by someone who was mocking at my fondness for Stanley. It’s a 1921 swedish movie by Victor Sjöström, called “The Phantom Carriage”: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/17975267/Shining/The_Shining_vs_The_Phantom_Carriage.jpg
    As always, thank you to understand my english.

  25. As Jack enters into Ullman’s office for the first time at 3:46, on the chair (left screen) is a painting or picture that we see again on the wall (right screen) at 11:48 during Danny’s River of Blood sequence. It looks like a nature painting with a wolf or dog in the scene…

    1. Something else too… If you use Ms. Kearns’ illustration of the room’s vanishing points, you’ll notice that they meet just to the right of the wooden eagle statue in the window. If you pay close attention, just as Jack enters the office, you can see that Kubrik has put himself directly into the center vanishing point of the scene via his reflection in the glass. Too cool! He seems to make a point of edging in, then bam, popping directly into position. Then Jack leans in and as he leans back, Kubrick leans away as well.
      Look at the closeup scenes of Ullman behind his desk. If you closely watch the edges of areas such as the black pen on the left, the flag, or even Ullman himself, you can see that they jump a tiny bit compared to the wall behind them. Now, watch the lit areas of the window, specifically the tree branches. They also jump, I think in time with Ullman and his desk of objects. Yet the wall never moves.
      My theory is that, regardless of the million other things going on in this scene, there is no window, hence it’s commonly held impossibility. I believe the scene is a composite of two layers with the lit portion of the window appearing to be behind the wall but actually, like Ullman and the desk, being superimposed over it. Seems like an awful lot of work just to put a window in, especially since the two overhead lights would provide a lot of light. Hmmm.. why are the two lights installed in such close proximity, kinda weird? Anyway, the answer to why the window exists is in Kubrik’s reflection. The entire room was literally constructed to point directly at Kubrik’s reflection, so it was all planned out ahead of time. Notice that you do not see the camera man, although you do see the reflection of the actors as they move about the scene. This also means that Kubrick had to let the camera man come down the hall, get into position, and then Kubrick had to get into and back out of his exact cameo spot without disturbing the shot. Must have been tricky and Kubrick does seem to do a lot of shuffling around before disappearing. My guess is that the brightly lit, superimposed portion of the window is used both to mask unwanted reflections while making sure that Stanley got his Hitchcock moment exactly as he planned.

      1. “Making of the Shining” is a behind the scenes, shot on set documentary of the making of the movie recorded by Kubrik’s then 17 year old daughter Vivian at Kubrik’s insistence. It begins inside Jack Nicholson’s dressing room as he prepares to shoot the axed door scene.
        At 1:27, here we go again! Vivian enters Jack’s bathroom, and turns the camera into the mirror and we see her reflected. Cue Jack who enters from the right, upstages her reflection, and she is gone for good. The 17 year old recreates her father’s hidden movie cameo shot, also at the beginning of her film, also using Jack Nicholas. What an interesting coincidence!

  26. The Charles Dickens book on the top of the stack (on top of Wish Child) is a collection of stories called Christmas Books (Nelson Doubleday)

  27. Juli,
    Amazing work! I have never read anything like this before.

    Is it just me or are there two figures behind the glass doors leading to the gold room ballroom in the shots with the two tennis players in the interview section of the film? And, are they dressed in the same style as the people in the final photo of Jack at the end of the film.

    AJ

  28. 4:10-4:16 behind the blue volkswagon bus looks like a creepy person wearing dark clothing looking at camera then ducking behind the volkswagon !

Leave a Reply

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