The Shining Analysis

Topics: The Shining, Stanley Kubrick, Overlook Hotel Pages: 10 (3504 words) Published: February 19, 2008
The Shining (1980) is creative director Stanley Kubrick's intense, epic, gothic horror film and haunted house masterpiece - a beautiful, stylish work that distanced itself from the blood-letting and gore of most modern films in the horror genre. (The film waits until its climax to provide the typical catharctic bloody violence of most traditional horror films.)

The film's source material from science-fiction/horror author Stephen King's 1977 best-selling novel (his third novel under his own name) by the same name, bears little resemblance to Kubrick's creation. A four and one-half hour long, made-for-TV mini-series titled Stephen King's The Shining (1997), (with Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay), due to King's dissatisfaction, was a more literal rendering of the original source material, and included a famous topiary-animal attack scene.

With American co-screenwriter Diane Johnson, Kubrick moved from the conventions of traditional horror film thrillers, displacing them with his own, much more subtle, rich, symbolic motifs. [The title of the film was inspired by the refrain in the Plastic Ono Band's song by John Lennon, "Instant Karma," from the chorus: "We all shine on."]

As in many of his films, director Kubrick explores the dimensions of the genre to create the ultimate horror film of a man going mad, aspiring writer Jack Torrance (Nicholson), while serving as an off-season caretaker of an isolated, snowbound resort (the Overlook) with his family: wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd). They soon become affected by a "psychic photograph" of a bloody series of historic murders committed there. The film's title refers to the extra-sensory, paranormal psychic abilities possessed by the Overlook Hotel's head cook Halloran (Scatman Crothers) and the young boy.

Kubrick deliberately reduced the pace of the narrative and expanded the rather simple plot of a domestic tragedy to over two hours in length, created lush images within the ornate interior of the main set, added a disturbing synthesized soundtrack (selecting musical works from Bela Bartok, Gyorgy Ligeti, and Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki), used a Steadicam in groundbreaking fashion, filmed most of the gothic horror in broad daylight or brightly-lit scenes, and built an unforgettable, mounting sensation of terror, ghosts, and the paranormal. The principal, ghostly character in the film is the classic haunted house - a huge, isolated Colorado mountain resort hotel, the Overlook. [Trivia: The texture of the carpet fabric decorating the house of the evil Sid in Toy Story (1995) was the same as that in the Overlook Hotel.]

The film opens without narration or commentary featuring only Wendy Carlos' funereal-sounding synthesized adaptation of the "Dies Irae" (Day of Wrath) theme from the fifth movement (Dream of a Witches' Sabbath) of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. [Note: The music is similar to Ernest Gold's adaptation of the classic work for the similar B-horror flick The Screaming Skull (1958) - two years later, Gold won the Best Score Academy Award for Exodus (1960).] Stunning scenic views of the Colorado Rockies are presented with magnificent aerial photography - the camera flies in close to the surface of an immense lake in the lap of snow-covered mountains. After flying by a small sliver of an island (with a few trees) in the lake's center, the shot dissolves from the lake to a God's-eye, aerial view of a two-lane mountainous road far below, winding through sun-drenched tall pines in the early morning. The shifting camera views pick up a tiny yellow Volkswagen far below, the sole car on the unpopulated strip of road penetrating into the paradisical wilderness in early winter. In more views, it moves across the face of the mountainside from lower right to upper left of the frame as the credits begin to roll, and the camera catches up with the car. As the terrain gets steeper, the valley drops off to the left where the car...
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