Illuminating the Shining

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Where to begin with this film? Aside from stating that Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my favorites of all time.

If you haven’t seen this film, go watch it this very second. Finished? Great, now go watch it a few more times. You back? Ok, now what if i told you that you still haven’t watched this film enough to grasp everything that is going on here? Go read Stephen King’s novel. Now go study the works and life of Stanley Kubrick. And I mean STUDY!!! Now go study the history of Colorado, and of the Genocide of the American Indians, and the Holocaust, and the Moon Landing. How is this all relevant?  Because Stanley Kubrick seems to have had a LOT to say when he made this film.

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On the surface, the film differs greatly from King’s novel while still keeping the general concept, setting and characters. The film opens with a beautiful shot showing the picturesque drive up the the Overlook, set amidst an ominous droning score peppered with flourishes that almost sound like ghostly whispers. We are introduced to Jack Torrence, charged with serving as the Winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. With him is his wife Wendy, and young son Danny.  Danny has a powerful yet uncontrolled pychic ability referred to as Shining which allows him to see “ghosts” of traumatic events from the Overlook’s past. As the winter months wear on, Cabin fever sets in and Jack slowly spirals into madness. Kubrick portrays this chillingly through the use of his score and the deranged performance of his star, Jack Nicholson. The “Thousand yard stare” of Jack as a faint yet persistant “ringing” sound capture the mood perfectly.

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There are so many frightening elements to this film that to get into them would involve a shot for shot description of them, and it STILL wouldn’t do the magic of this film justice.  You truly need to see this film for itself. It is a masterpiece on the surface…and then there is what lies beneath. Since Kubrick has never come right out and said “Hey, here is all the weird hidden messages and in-jokes I put in this film”, we will likely never know the full extent of his intentions. A good place to start, for those who need a little help with peering behind the curtain is to watch the 2012 documentary “Room 237”.  The film includes footage from The Shining, and other Kubrick films, along with discussions by a number of Kubrick enthusiasts. The film has nine segments, each segment focusing on different elements within the film which “may reveal hidden clues and hint at a bigger thematic oeuvre.” Some of the elements touched on are references to the genocide of the American Indians, The Colorado Gold Rush, The Holocaust, coincidences and tricks within the films continuity, and in what is most interesting to me, the allegations and possible hints that Kubrick helped fake the Moon Landing footage and used this film as  sort of “confession”. Keep in mind, Kubrick was an unusually meticulous film maker, so if it appears in his film, it is not an accident.  There are three Labyrinths within the film. The hedge maze outside the Overlook, The Overlook itself, with it’s twisting and turning corridors and impossible layout, and lastly, the film itself is the most complex maze of all. 

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Once you start digging into the hidden meaning of the film, you could literally go on and on forever. There are so many layers and elements that once they are illuminated, we may never be the same. That is the true Shining. But just remember, “All work and no play, make Jack a Dull Boy”.  If you enjoy this film entirely on the surface, then by all means, take it for what it appears to be, and your experience will still be great. Please keep in mind when delving deeper…no matter how sure we may be about a hidden meaning, it is all just specualtion that can NEVER be proven… “It’s just like pictures in a book Danny, It isn’t real”

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