The Shining (1980)
Frequently Asked Questions
Ex-alcoholic Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), along with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd), takes a job as winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado. As the winter progresses, cabin fever seems to set in. Danny begins seeing ghosts and Jack slips back into alcoholism thanks to the assistance of the previous caretaker, Delbert Grady (Philip Stone), who axed to death his wife and two daughters and thinks that Jack should do the same thing to Wendy and Danny.
The Shining (1977) is a novel by American author Stephen King. It was adapted for the screen by director/producer Stanley Kubrick and novelist/academic Diane Johnson. The title of the novel was inspired by the John Lennon song "Instant Karma!", which contains the line "We all shine on." An alternate adaptation written by King himself, The Shining (1997), was released as a three-part TV miniseries in 1997.
Chef Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) explains to Danny that "shining" is a psychic ability that allows people to communicate telepathically, as well as have clairvoyant experiences. As Hallorann explains, he and his grandmother used to engage in "entire conversations without ever opening [their] mouths." Hallorann also tells Danny that the ability allows people to see events that occurred in the past and even events which may occur in the future. He also explains that some people have the gift to shine but don't understand it.
Yes. Hallorann tells Danny that some places, including the Overlook Hotel does something similar to shining. He says that many years ago, events occurred in the hotel which have left a trace of themselves behind, comparing it to the lingering smell of burnt toast. He points out to Danny that these traces are not real; they're more like pictures in a book, and hence there is no need to fear them. However, as Danny finds out, some of these traces were very dangerous indeed.
No, the Overlook was constructed at Elstree studios in England; however, the design of the Overlook Hotel was based on a number of different hotels. For example, the lobby and the Colorado Lounge (where Jack sets up his typewriter) were based on the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. The Gold Room (where the July 4th ball takes place) and red bathroom were inspired by the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, which was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. For the establishing shots of the hotel at the end of the title sequence, the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon was used.
According to Kubrick, the sequence was an attempt "to establish an ominous mood during Jack's first drive up to the hotel -- the vast isolation and eerie splendor of high mountains, and the narrow, winding roads which would become impassable after heavy snow." (Quoted here.) Kubrick's biographer, John Baxter, argues on his DVD commentary, that the sequence tells the viewer exactly what type of story this is going to be; "a story of a single weak human being moving into a world where he simply is not going to be able to handle what faces him. A single man going into something he can't handle." Essentially, the sequence sets up the story and the mood of that story; it establishes the senses of isolation and remoteness, and it explains to the viewer, wholly through images, that into this isolation and remoteness is headed a single man who is going to prove insignificant in the face of what he finds there, and incapable of resisting it.
This is because for the establishing shots of the hotel at the end of the title sequence, the real-life Timberline Lodge was used. No such maze exists at the Timberline, hence it can't be seen in these shots. For the scenes at ground level where the maze and the hotel can be seen in the same shot (such as when Ullman is showing Jack and Wendy around the grounds), the exterior of the hotel was a façade built next to the maze on location near Elstree Studios, where the interiors were shot; hence the continuity error of the maze being in some exterior shots and not in others.
In the book, Tony is the man Danny would eventually grow up to be, sending messages back from the future to help guide his younger self. In the film, Tony is simply an imaginary friend; as Danny himself describes him, "the little boy who lives inside my mouth." According to Kubrick, Danny has had a frightening and disturbing childhood. Brutalized by his father and haunted by his paranormal visions, he has had to find some psychological mechanism within himself to manage these powerful and dangerous forces. To do this, he creates his imaginary friend, Tony, through whom Danny can rationalize his visions and survive. here[/link]]
During the Torrances' drive to the Overlook Hotel, Wendy asks Jack if they are anywhere near where the Donner Party were stranded, to which he replies they aren't. When Danny enquires as to who the Donner Party were, Jack tells him that they were travelers who were stranded in the mountains one winter, and who had to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. This is a reference to a real life incident which occurred in the Sierra-Nevada mountain range in the winter of 1846-1847. The Donner Party was composed of George Donner, his brother Jacob Donner, and James F. Reed, along with their families and hired hands, totaling 87 people in all. Heading for California, they had left Springfield Illinois in April, but upon reaching the Sierra Nevada at the end of October, a snowstorm blocked their way. Demoralized and low on supplies, about 60 travelers camped at a lake (now called Donner Lake), whilst the rest camped at Alder Creek, about six miles away. They soon found themselves having to slaughter their oxen for food, and by mid-December they discovered that they were running dangerously low on edible material. As such, fifteen of them set out on foot for Sutter's Fort, about 100 miles away, although one man turned back early on. The remaining fourteen quickly became lost, and ran out of food. Caught without shelter in a blizzard, four of them died, and the survivors resorted to cannibalism to stay alive, then continued on their journey. En route, three more died and they too were cannibalized. The seven survivors reached safety on January 18th, 1847. At Sutter's Fort, four rescue parties were organized for those who remained behind in the mountains. When the first rescue party arrived on February 18th, they found that fourteen of the party had died and the rest were extremely weak. They had been eating boiled ox hide, and up to that point, there had been no cannibalism. The rescue party set out with twenty-one refugees on February 22nd. When the second rescue party arrived a week later, on February 29th, there had been no more deaths, but 31 of those left behind had begun to eat the dead. The rescuers took 17 with them, leaving 14 alive at the camps. When the third rescue party arrived on March 13th, they found nine people still alive. They rescued four children, but had to leave the other five people behind. By the time the fourth party reached the camps on April 17th, only one man was left alive, and he was safely returned to the Fort. He too had resorted to cannibalism. In all, of the original 87 pioneers, 39 died and 48 survived. See here for a detailed timeline of the events; here for additional factual information; and here for a professional historian's analysis of the importance and lasting legacy of the incident.
They are Grady's daughters, who were murdered during their father's tenure as the hotel caretaker.
References to Native Americans and their culture are dotted throughout the film. For example, Stuart Ullman points out that the hotel is built on the site of an ancient Indian burial ground; Indian motifs and designs decorate the walls of the interior of the hotel; Calumet baking powder cans feature prominently in two pivotal scenes (as Hallorann first shines, asking Danny if he wants some ice-cream, and as Jack asks Grady to let him out of the locked pantry); July 4th is given great significance at the end of the film. These references to Native American culture and history are unique to the film, they are not found in the book, and this has prompted many fans over the years to query their importance. On July 29th, 1987, published a short article in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled "The Family of Man," in which he attempted to attribute specific meaning to the Native American references found in the film. Blakemore argued that The Shining is not so much about one man's murderous rampage in an effort to destroy his family, as it is about the murderous rampage of the white man in an effort to destroy the Native American race. In his introductory paragraph, Blakemore very clearly states, The Shining is not really about the murders at the Overlook Hotel. It is about the murder of a race -- the race of Native Americans -- and the consequences of that murder [...] it is also explicitly about America's general inability to admit to the gravity of the genocide of the Indians -- or, more exactly, its ability to "overlook" that genocide. Blakemore takes a predominantly metaphorical approach to the film, arguing that hidden meaning is to be found beneath the surface, and that that hidden meaning, when discovered in an individual scene or character, can then be applied to the film as a whole. For example, he finds the scene immediately after Jack kills Hallorann as particularly significant in a metaphorical sense. Blakemore argues that the long shot showing the grinning Jack standing over Hallorann's bleeding body, which is lying across a rug decorated with an Indian motif, is a metaphor for the violence perpetrated by white people over black people and Indians in America.
Blakemore works to connect different aspects of the film which may not initially seem connected at all. For example, he argues that the reference to Indian burial ground and the river of blood flowing from the elevator are intimately tied together; the first and most frequently seen of the film's very real American "ghosts" is the flooding river of blood that wells out of the elevator shaft, which presumably sinks into the Indian burial ground itself. The blood squeezes out in spite of the fact that the red doors are kept firmly shut within their surrounding Indian artwork embellished frames. We never hear the rushing blood. It is a mute nightmare. It is the blood upon which this nation, like most nations, was built, as was the Overlook Hotel. Like most viewers, Blakemore also finds the final shot to be greatly significant, and it too contains hidden meaning which informs the film's protest against the violence perpetrated against Native Americans; the master key to unlocking the whole movie, is that most Americans overlook the fact that July Fourth was no ball, nor any kind of Independence day, for Native Americans; that the weak American villain of the film is the re-embodiment of the American men who massacred the Indians in earlier years; that Kubrick is examining and reflecting on a problem that cuts through the decades and centuries. Blakemore concludes his article by extending his argument even further, saying, although Kubrick is protesting against the specific violence experienced by Native Americans, he is also protesting against the general violence experienced by all mankind; though [Kubrick] has made here a movie about the arrival of Old World evils in America, he is exploring most specifically an old question: Why do humans constantly perpetuate such "inhumanity" against humans? That family is the family of man. Reaction to Blakemore's article has been mixed over the years, although some critics have latched onto his hypothesis and ran with it. For example, Ari Kahan of the Alt.Movies.Kubrick FAQ is in total agreement with Blakemore. Kahan argues that The Overlook Hotel is America. America, like the Overlook, is built on an Indian graveyard. The blood of the buried Indians seeping up through the elevator shafts is silent. So are the Indian tapestries that Danny rides over on his bigwheel. The Shining is Kubrick's observation that America is built on hypocrisy, on a failure -- a refusal -- to acknowledge the violence from which it is born. That violence remains silent today because we refuse to look in the mirror - where all the ugly truths appear: Redrum spelled correctly; Jack's old crone, etc. [...] July 4th marks the commemoration of the ugliness on which this country is built: it is the demarcation of the annihilation of the aboriginal people, and the formal establishment of the new society. Americans "overlook" the bloodshed upon which our society is founded: the British (Grady) heritage of violent colonialism, carried forward by American (Jack) colonizers. here] Blakemore's article can be read in its entirety here.
The hotel room in the novel which Danny enters and which contains the dead woman was 217, but the movie changed the number to 237. The filmmakers stated that the hotel used for the exterior shots, the Timberline, did not want the number 217 used, as they actually had a room 217 and did not want guests to be averse to booking it after the film was released. They did not, however, have a room 237. The documentary film Room 237, which advances numerous theories involving hidden meanings within the film, makes the claim that the official explanation is untrue, stating that the Timberline did not have a room 217, either, and that therefore the change must be for some other reason. However, the Timberline itself disputes this, stating that they do indeed have a room 217, and that guests often request to book room 237, suggesting that the change of number might actually have been a detriment to business rather than serving its originally intended purpose.
Like several other aspects in the story, this is explained in the book but is left far more ambiguous in the film.
In the book, the woman's name is Mrs. Massey. She came to the Overlook Hotel to conduct an affair with a much younger man; every night, she would get very drunk at the bar, and the two would go back to the room (room 217 in the novel) to have sex. After several days, the young man came down while Mrs. Massey was passed out and took off with the Porsche in which they'd arrived. He didn't return. The following evening, Mrs. Massey got into the bathtub in her room and killed herself by taking thirty sleeping pills washed down with liquor. After her body was discovered, Mr. Massey flew in from New York and threatened to sue Stuart Ullman. However, after realizing what a scandal it would cause both of them, Ullman and Massey covered up the incident by bribing the coroner to change the cause of death from suicide by overdose to heart attack. Afterwards, anyone with the shining ability was able to see Mrs. Massey in the bathtub of the room.
In the movie, this entire subplot is excluded, yet the old woman (Billie Gibson) in the bathtub is present, albeit with little or no explanation for who she is or why she is there. The most obvious explanation in the context of the film is that room 237 is merely a haunted room where an old lady died and, when Danny entered the room, the old lady tried to strangle him. However, when Jack goes into the room, instead of seeing an old lady, he sees a beautiful young woman (Lia Beldam) in the tub. Only after he begins kissing her does he look into the mirror and realize that she has turned into the old woman, who subsequently chases him from the room. This discrepancy (between Danny's experience and Jack's experience) is sometimes interpreted as Jack's complete embracing of the evil in the hotel, choosing it over his family; metaphorically represented by the fact that he has no qualms about committing adultery with this woman. Once he has embraced the evil, it shows its true form, as it no longer needs to seduce him; i.e. it no longer needs to appear attractive to him, hence it shows itself for what it truly is (in this case, a hideous old woman). Another theory is that the woman is Grady's wife, whom he murdered along with his two daughters. Grady's murder of his family is the only instance of murder which occurred in the hotel (at least as far as we know), and prior to Jack's entry to room 237, the only ghosts seen up to that point are the Grady daughters. Stuart Ullman mentions that Grady stacked the bodies in an unspecified room, and then shot himself; this room could theoretically be room 237, hence the reason why both Danny and Hallorann sense something troubling emanating from that room. A third theory is provided by film critic Jonathan Romney, who argues that perhaps the scene doesn't take place at all; Whether or not Danny's telepathy brings the Overlook's specters to life, what's certain is that the boy is actually able to transmit them. The film's big horror routine - Jack's encounter in Room 237 with an etiolated vamp turned suppurating hag - might not really be happening at all (Jack subsequently tells Wendy he's seen nothing in the room), but may in its entirety be a hyperimaginative boy's visual metaphor for the urgency of events. There's a stark difference between the shots of Danny wide-eyed in shock elsewhere in the film and the images of him here, in a dribbling trance, not so much transfixed as in a state of extreme concentration, as if he's at once composing the images and sending them. Filmmaker Paul Mayersberg provides still another view: It would be wrong to insist on a single interpretation of this scene, but in looking at it, it exposes the heart of Kubrick's method in the film. First, it is a rewrite of the shower scene in Psycho (1960). In Psycho it is the lady in the shower who is threatened by the monster outside. In The Shining this is reversed. Jack is the "monster", scared by what might emerge from the shower behind the curtain. This reversal of well-known horror conventions is one of many in the film. Underlying many sequences in The Shining is a critique of the whole genre of horror movies. The character of Jack Torrance himself is presented as the innocent, not knowing what he is getting himself into, whereas he is in fact the threatening element. Secondly, the woman turning from slim youth to grotesque age is perhaps symbolic of everyone's most feared destiny, growing old. To watch your own body over a period of years disintegrate before the mirror is an essential horror story for all of us. Fear of old age grips Jack Torrance by the throat as does fear of losing his mind. Growing old and losing your senses, time passing, is a frightening notion that is inescapable. Thirdly, it is the only overtly sexual scene in the movie. The Shining is a strangely chaste horror story. Part of this comes from Jack's sexual indifference; he is always glancing at women, including his wife, but he never actually does anything to them. Lack of sexual drive is characteristic of a paranoid personality. The young naked woman also seems asexual. She looks like one of those models who pose in seedy lunchtime photographic clubs. Fourthly, the marks on the old woman's body, which so repel Jack, are difficult to identify. When she rises out of the bath in a shot that seems to refer to Henri-Georges Clouzot's , she seems diseased. Then the marks look as if they had been applied like paint. There is also a hint that this woman has come from another world or an earlier civilization. All these interpretations have a certain validity without getting near totally to describing the scene. here]
It isn't explained in the film but, in the book, it's mentioned that Danny's psychic abilities give the malevolent spirits of the Overlook a stronger power and that they feed on the strength of his psychic energy. Thus, the woman in room 237 becomes more powerful and is able to physically attack Danny. Also, Hallorann may have said the ghosts weren't dangerous because, for the most part, they're not, or possibly because they had never been dangerous in his personal experience. However, when Danny asks about room 237 and whether Hallorann was scared of that room, Hallorann's cheerful demeanor quickly changes to serious and direct. Hallorann says to Danny, "No I'm not [afraid of room 237]....there ain't nothin' in there. But you don't got no business going in there anyhow, so stay out of room 237 you understand? Stay out!" So it's possible that this particular room is the root of the evil in the hotel and, if disturbed, can release more powerful entities that are able to physically harm the guests.
During his first conversation with Lloyd (Joe Turkel), Jack asks for a drink and then says, You set 'em up and I'll knock 'em back Lloyd, one b'one. White man's burden, Lloyd my man. White man's burden. There are several viable interpretations of Jack's use of the phrase. Firstly, In the context of the scene, Jack could be referring simply to alcoholism and, as a former school teacher, he is making an ironic reference to Rudyard Kipling's 1899 poem "The White Man's Burden". It's possible that he is, quite simply, referring to the alcohol itself, calling it a burden in an ironic sense because he enjoys it so much, and referring to it as "white man's" insofar as Caucasian men introduced alcohol into the Americas, hence they now have the "burden" of drinking it. As such, he is, in effect, saying, "Give me a drink, such is my burden." There is another, more politically derived interpretation however, which may suggest an allusion to the European colonization of North America and the effect that colonization had on Native Americans. Merriam-Webster Online defines the phrase "white man's burden" as the alleged duty of the white peoples to manage the affairs of the less developed nonwhite peoples. The white man's burden was to raise non-white people out of poverty and ignorance through imperialism, whilst at the same time alcohol was turning white men into savages. Some lines from the poem:
"Take up the White Man's burden-- / Send forth the best ye breed-- / Go, bind your sons to exile / To serve your captives' need; / On fluttered folk and wild-- / Your new-caught sullen peoples, / Half devil and half child."
"Take up the White Man's burden-- / The savage wars of peace-- / Fill full the mouth of Famine, / And bid the sickness cease; / And when your goal is nearest / (The end for others sought) / Watch sloth and heathen folly / Bring all your hope to nought."
"Take up the White Man's burden! / Have done with childish days-- / The lightly-proffered laurel, / The easy ungrudged praise: / Comes now, to search your manhood / Through all the thankless years, / Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, / The judgment of your peers."
Danny uses his shining ability to send a telepathic message to Hallorann in Florida telling him that all is not well in the hotel. The scene where Hallorann lies on his bed, realizing that something is wrong in the hotel (i.e. him receiving the message), is intercut with a scene of Danny sitting on his own bed, shivering and staring into space (i.e. him sending the message).
In Jack's interview at the start of the film, Stuart Ullman tells him the story of a former caretaker who got cabin fever, butchered his family with an axe and then shot himself. The man's name was Charles Grady. Later on in the film, Jack meets a butler also called Grady and Jack explains to him that he knows all about the man's murder of his family, as he saw the pictures in the paper and he recognizes him. The problem is that the butler's name is Delbert Grady, not Charles Grady. Some viewers see this as a continuity error while others conclude that it could not possibly exist by accident and, therefore, must have meaning. On one hand, The Kubrick FAQ argues that the name change carries great significance; The duality of Delbert/Charles Grady deliberately mirrors Jack Torrance being both the husband of Wendy/father of Danny and the mysterious man in the July 4th photo. It is to say he is two people: the man with choice in a perilous situation and the man who has 'always' been at the Overlook. It's a mistake to see the final photo as evidence that the events of the film are predetermined: Jack has any number of moments where he can act other than the way he does, and that his (poor) choices are fueled by weakness and fear perhaps merely speaks all the more to the questions about the personal and the political that The Shining brings up. In the same way Charles had a chance - once more, perhaps - to not take on Delbert's legacy, so Jack may have had a chance to escape his role as 'caretaker' to the interests of the powerful. It's the tragic course of this story that he chooses not to. here[/link]] The argument is that Delbert Grady was the butler in the 1920s (as he says himself, he has "always" been at the Overlook) and Charles Grady was the caretaker in the 1970s (a man presented with a "perilous situation," just as Jack would be years later), and rather than being two completely different people (or indeed the same person with two names), they are two "manifestations" of a similar entity; the part permanently at the hotel (Delbert) and the part which is given the choice of whether to join the legacy of the hotel's murderous past (Charles), just as the man in the photo is not the same man who Stuart Ullman hires to be the hotel's caretaker, but nor is he someone entirely different. Jack in the photo has "always" been at the Overlook, Jack the caretaker chooses to become part of the hotel (if one follows the logic of this argument, the implication is that the person in the July 4th photo would not in fact be called Jack).
The problem with this argument is that the film itself provides no solid evidence for such a claim - any arguments that the change in name has any significance whatsoever remain wholly speculative. It also fails to address the fact that while Jack appears to learn of the story for the first time from Mr. Ullman, he later tells Grady that he learned of the incident via the newspaper (this may reference a scene from the book, wherein Jack spends an afternoon in the hotel basement reading a collection of clippings detailing the Overlook's history; that theory is supported by the fact that a scrapbook of clippings is indeed visible on Jack's writing desk in one scene, but despite its presence he's never shown reading or otherwise acknowledging it in any cut of the film). The viewer must additionally rationalize why Jack reacts to the name Delbert Grady and assumes this man to be the man initially named to him as Charles (an assumption Grady himself eventually confirms). It's perhaps significant to note that in the novel, the character is always known as Delbert. On the other hand, the film's assistant editor has commented on this issue, attempting to steer a course between the continuity error explanation on one side and the hidden meaning explanation on the other; I don't think we'll ever quite unravel this. Was his full name Charles Delbert Grady? Perhaps Charles was a sort of nickname? Perhaps Ullman got the name wrong? But I also think that Stanley did NOT want the whole story to fit together too neatly, so [it is] absolutely correct, I think, to say that 'the sum of what we learn refuses to add up neatly'. here] So, is the name change a continuity error or a hint at a deeper meaning? Stainforth is probably nearest the truth when he says "I don't think we'll ever quite unravel this." There will always be those who will argue there is no way it could be as simple as a continuity error, and there will always be those who will argue that to explain such an obvious continuity error as intrinsically meaningful is absurd. As such, it is ultimately left up to each individual viewer to make up their own mind and reach their own conclusions as regards the ambiguity. The two names for both characters is a transformation/submission into evil. Delbert, as he is first introduced, is a nice polite butler but as the scene and movie go on we can get a sense of his transformation into Charles. The same may be suggested for Jack. While many can argue that Johnny is another name for Jack, as Bill to William for example. It has been said that the line was improved by Nicholson. But as Jack is "hacking" into the bathroom with the axe and yells the famous line "Here's Johnny!" Jack has completed his transformation into evil and will remain forever in the hotel as Delbert/Charles.
One of the most chilling and surprising shots in the movie is the man in the horrible, fat bear suit fellating a gentleman in a tuxedo. The movie doesn't expressly explain the identity of the man, but in the book, Stephen King provides the answer. In brief, it references a scene from the book in which the Overlook Hotel's former owner, Horace Derwent, is receiving fellatio from a pining lover Roger, who is dressed in a dog costume. However, Kubrick made some key changes for specific reasons.
According to Stanley Kubrick: For the purposes of telling the story, my view is that the paranormal is genuine. Jack's mental state serves only to prepare him for the murder, and to temporarily mislead the audience... As the supernatural events occurred you searched for an explanation, and the most likely one seemed to be that the strange things that were happening would finally be explained as the products of Jack's imagination. It's not until Grady, the ghost of the former caretaker who axed to death his family, slides open the bolt of the larder door, allowing Jack to escape, that you are left with no other explanation but the supernatural. here[/link]]
The spirit of Delbert Grady unlocked the door.
Jack chases Danny out of the hotel into the hedge maze. Danny backtracks in the snow, carefully placing his feet into his own footprints, then hides in the hedges until Jack goes by. Following his own footprints into the maze, Danny makes his way out of the maze and into Wendy's arms. Wendy loads him into Hallorann's Snow Cat, and they drive away, leaving Jack ranting wildly in the maze. The final scene shows Jack frozen in the snow. The camera then pushes in on a display of photos hanging in the Gold Room. One of them, a photo of the July 4th Ball of 1921, features a group of partygoers with Jack at the head.
Probably the single most frequently asked question in relation to this film is what does the final shot mean; how and why is Jack in a photograph from 1921? In a film with so much irreconcilable ambiguity, this one shot has generated more puzzlement than the entire rest of the movie, yet it is one part of the film on which Stanley Kubrick has been extremely clear about his intentions. As he told Michel Ciment, "The ballroom photograph at the end suggests the reincarnation of Jack." (Quoted here.) So, Jack is reincarnated. But what exactly does that mean? Perhaps the simplest explanation for this is that Jack is the reincarnation of a prior hotel guest; the person in the photo is not Jack, but a guest who was present in 1921. Jack is the reincarnation of this guest. This would seem to support Gordon Dahlquist's argument that Delbert Grady and Charles Grady are different people (mentioned above); if we follow the argument through, it would suggest that Charles Grady (the caretaker who killed his family) was the reincarnation of Delbert Grady (the butler in the 1920s). Similarly, Jack (the caretaker who attempts to kill his family) is the reincarnation of the unnamed man in the photograph (the caretaker in the 1920s). This argument would also seem to support Grady's claim to Jack that he has "always" been the caretaker; if Jack is the reincarnation of the caretaker from the 1920s, it would suggest that the hotel continuously "reanimates" its 1921 guests, bringing them back in different guises; hence, just as Delbert was brought back as Charles, so too is the man in the photo brought back as Jack, in a process which, it would seem, is ongoing. As such, when Grady comments that both he and Jack have always been at the hotel, he is correct; they will forever be brought back to the hotel as reincarnations, hence they are "always" there.
However, despite the fact that this argument does seem to take into consideration many of the variables in the film, and does seem to provide a reasonably logical rational for the photograph, it is not the most popular theory about the final shot. Instead, most fans subscribe to the notion that after he dies, Jack is "absorbed" back through time into the past of the hotel, becoming, for all intents and purposes, a "part" of the hotel. This explains why he is present in a photograph from 1921; when he dies, the hotel takes hold of his spirit or soul, and traps him within its own history (this argument would seem to suggest that Jack was not in the photo prior to his death). As with the above argument regarding reincarnation, the "absorption theory" would also account for Grady's "always" comment. Presumably, the same thing happened to Grady as we see happening to Jack, he too dies in the Overlook Hotel, and he too is absorbed back into its past. As such, Grady has always been the butler, just as Jack has always been the caretaker insofar as they were both imprisoned in the future by the hotel, and their spirits became anachronistically part of history. A reasonably detailed analysis of the mysterious photo was published in the September 1999 edition of Sight and Sound magazine; an article by Jonathan Romney entitled "Stanley Kubrick, 1928-1999: Resident Phantoms", in which he looks at, amongst other things, the meaning of the film's final shot. Initially, Romney supports the absorption theory, writing The closing inscription appears to explain what has happened to Jack [...] after his ordeal in the haunted palace, Jack had been absorbed into the hotel, another sacrificial victim earning his place at the Overlook's eternal thé dansant of the damned. At the Overlook, it's always 4 July 1921. However, Romney is quick to point out that it may not in fact be this simple; Or you can look at it another way. Perhaps Jack hasn't been absorbed - perhaps he has really been in the Overlook all along. As the ghostly butler Grady tells him during their chilling confrontation in the men's toilet, "You're the caretaker, sir. You've always been the caretaker." Perhaps in some earlier incarnation Jack really was around in 1921, and it's his present-day self that is the shadow, the phantom photographic copy. In this sense then, Romney is acknowledging that the reincarnation theory is just as plausible as the absorption theory. Whatever the case however, whether Jack is a reincarnation of a previous guest or whether he has been absorbed into the history of the hotel, Romney reaches one inescapable conclusion about the final shot; Jack's reward, after his defeat [is] a central place among who knows how many other doomed variety acts on the Overlook's wall of fame. He's added to the bill on the Overlook's everlasting big night back in 1921. So, irrespective of whether it is reincarnation or whether it is absorption, it would seem that the one thing about the final shot that is certain is that Jack has somehow, in some sense, become part of the hotel, and will remain a part of it forever.
In the opening sequence of the film, just prior to the beginning of the credit roll, the shadow of the camera helicopter is clearly visible in the lower right hand corner of the frame. Over the years, this shot has become quite infamous, and has generated a huge amount of debate amongst fans. Generally speaking, there are two prevailing opinions about the shot: (1) It's a goof, plain and simple, and (2) The Shining was shot "flat" (as opposed to using anamorphic lenses) in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (known as Academy aperture, or "full frame") to be projected at the widescreen ratio of 1.85:1. This is a process known as "soft matte" or "open matte" which refers to the fact that, for theatrical exhibition, the 1.33:1 image is matted to 1.85:1—in other words, as described below, the top and bottom of the frame are masked to create a widescreen frame. Unimportant picture information underneath the mattes is never meant to be seen. If The Shining was projected theatrically incorrectly with the mattes not properly applied, the top or bottom of the frame would become visible when it or they shouldn't, and the helicopter shadow would be revealed. In this case, the shadow is not a goof, it's a projection error; when the film is viewed in its correct 1.85:1 ratio, the shadow is not visible. Proponents of the aspect ratio theory dismiss proponents of the goof theory by saying there is no way such a massive goof could get into a Kubrick film. Proponents of the goof theory dismiss proponents of the aspect ratio theory by saying they are wrong, and the shadow is visible in all formats. Assistant editor Gordon Stainforth has spoken at length about this issue: While I did the first cut, it is just possible that made some alterations to the picture when he was finalizing the front titles and credits - I have a distinct recollection of him asking me for the trims - but I think not. But I do have a recollection that at one stage in the movie some of those cuts were going to be dissolves. It is just possible that when we changed that mix to a straight cut we went back slightly beyond the centre point of the dissolve to get the absolute maximum length out of the shot. Musically and emotionally I remember we needed absolutely every usable frame of that first long shot with the titles.
OK, some key facts:
Although The Shining was shot with the full academy aperture, it was designed and composed entirely for the 1.85:1 ratio, and that is the only way it should be projected in the theatre.
All the Steenbecks in the cutting rooms accordingly had their screens marked, or even masked off, with the 1.85:1 ratio. The 6-plate Steenbeck in Stanley and Ray's main cutting room was masked off with black masking tape, because you cannot cut a movie properly unless you can see the frame exactly as it will appear in the cinema.
However the helicopter shadow IS almost certainly visible for about 4 or 5 frames at the edge of the 1.85:1 masking. But it was NOT visible on any of the correctly marked-up Steenbecks, or in the main viewing theatre at Elstree, at least, not as the first version of the film left Elstree in 1980. I think now that this mistake may have crept in very late during the editing of the movie when the first caption-title 'The Interview' was shortened by 8 frames on 23 April 1980 and the Main Title/credit sequence was lengthened accordingly by 8 frames, since the music could not be shortened (this information is based on my original cutting room notes).
Every one of the show prints of the first 6 interpositives for the American release of The Shining was personally checked in the viewing theatre at Elstree by Stanley himself. IF the helicopter shadow was fleetingly visible, either Stanley did not notice it, or it was so trivial that it did not bother him.
Unfortunately the masking and racking in many theatres is incredibly inaccurate. I therefore suspect that people who have seen this "awful" shadow for any length of time on the cinema screen must have seen it projected at completely the wrong ratio (probably 1.66:1!), or incredibly badly racked, or both. Or of course they've seen it on the video, where it's visible for just over a second!
here] So, the fact is that the shadow is not a goof; it's a quirk of the 1.33:1 aspect ratio in which the film was shot. When viewed at the correct ratio of 1.85:1, the shadow is not visible. You can see the famous "goof" here; the shadow appears at approximately 01:06 in the lower right corner of the screen and is visible for about one and a half seconds.
Whenever Jack sees a ghost, a mirror is always present, e.g., when he meets Lloyd there is a mirror behind the bartender, when he speaks with Grady there is a long mirror beside them, and when he encounters the woman in room 237 there is a full length mirror in front of him. The only ghost scene that doesn't have a mirror is the one where he can't actually see the ghost (when Grady speaks to him from outside the pantry). Some viewers have argued that this indicates that the ghosts are not real at all and that Jack is essentially talking to himself by projecting another figure into the mirror. However, there are no mirrors present when Danny sees the Grady sisters or when Wendy begins to encounter ghosts towards the end of the film. As director Kubrick intended that the ghosts in the film be seen as real, the presence of mirrors in the scenes of Jack's encounters, while it may offer food for viewer discussion, does not provide a strong argument for the stance of the ghosts being not real.
Of all the issues which have provoked debate over the years regarding this film, the issue of continuity errors is perhaps the most hotly debated topic of them all. This argument has come about because the film does contain what appear to be, on the surface at least, some glaring continuity errors. However, some fans have argued that there is no way such continuity errors could have occurred by mistake in a Kubrick film, and therefore, such errors are not errors at all, but subtle pointers to the audience consciously inserted by Kubrick into the film to hint at a deeper meaning below the surface (for example, Grady's name changing from Charles to Delbert midway through the film has been argued to signify that there were in fact two separate manifestations of the character). Others, however, dismiss this as completely preposterous, arguing that such errors are simply that, errors, and any attempt to rationalize them as having meaning and being deliberate on Kubrick's part is absurd. Here is a list of some of the major continuity errors in the film, including theories which "explain" them
The position of the freezer doors changes: As he shows them around the kitchen, Hallorann tells Wendy and Danny that they have arrived at the walk-in freezer. He turns his head away from the camera and opens the freezer door on the left side of the frame. However, when we cut to a shot inside the freezer as the door opens, Hallorann is holding the door with his other hand and the door itself is opening in the opposite direction. Additionally, when they leave the freezer, the door is on the opposite wall from where they entered.
Rationale: This is part of the film's attempt to disorientate and confuse the viewer so as to make the hotel seem more threatening and mysterious, as if suggesting that the hotel itself is quite literally protean, and capable of shifting in physical space (apparently without any of the characters in the hotel noticing).
Danny's hands in relation to the ice cream bowl: During Hallorann's conversation with Danny about shining, Danny's hands appear in front of the ice cream bowl in some shots, and behind in it other shots, jumping back and forth throughout the scene.
Rationale: This has also been suggested to be a disorientating technique, making the viewer uneasy and putting them on edge as even banal things are made to seem unstable.
The Maze: The maze itself, the diagram of the maze on the sign at the entrance, and the 3D model of the maze in the Colorado Lounge all look completely different.
Rationale: The maze is not fixed; it is a metaphor for all mazes, both literal and psychological. It is not so much an actual maze as a symbol for the confusion and disorientation one feels within the maze of ones mind.
Tapestries and Pictures: On the walls around the corridors are many rugs, tapestries and pictures. Throughout the course of the film, they often switch places or are hung upside-down.
Rationale: More disorientation of the viewer; possibly also the hotel manipulating physical space to disorientate the characters.
Jack's typewriter changes color: In the early parts of the film, Jack has a white typewriter, but during the "Get the fuck out of here" conversation with Wendy, the typewriter is blue, and it remains blue for the rest of the film.
Rationale: Bill Blakemore argues that the change in color is part of the film's metaphorical examination of the genocide of Native Americans. He argues that the shift from white to blue is a reference to the American flag, with the red of the flag being provided by the bleeding elevator (which is the blood of the Indians buried under the hotel).
Paper appears in Jack's typewriter without him inserting it: At the start of the "Get the fuck out of here" conversation with Wendy, Jack removes the sheet of paper in his typewriter, so as Wendy cannot see what he is working on. After she walks away, a fresh sheet of paper mysteriously appears in the typewriter, without Jack having had the time to put it in himself .
Rationale: The hotel itself is quite literally supplying Jack with paper so as to hasten the onset of his madness. However, that this is a simple continuity error has been suggested by assistant editor Gordon Stainforth; In the process of editing a long scene, when the action gets greatly compressed, so-called "continuity errors" are almost bound to occur. A good examples of this is the piece of paper in Jack's typewriter in the early "why don't you get the fuck out of here" scene. In the full version of the scene, I am certain that Jack reloaded the typewriter just before continuing his typing. here[/link]] In this sense then, the shot of him replacing the paper himself was simply removed so as to compress time, hence creating a simple continuity error.
Wendy holding Jack: After Jack has fallen from his chair after his nightmare, Wendy's hands are on different places on Jack's body in different shots (sometimes his arms, sometimes his knees, sometimes his shoulder) and sometimes not on him at all.
Rationale: The scene was structured this way to show Jack's irrationality, and Wendy's inability to comfort him; as represented by the fact that she keeps changing where her hands are, she cannot find the "right" spot, indicating that whatever love they may once have shared is long since gone. It is also worth noting that Wendy's hand makes a "retreat" between shots as the scene progresses (from his far knee to his near knee to herself, etc.), perhaps indicating her increasing nervousness and repulsion as he tells her about his nightmare.
The time since Danny's injury: Early in the film, Wendy tells the doctor Jack hurt Danny six months earlier. Later, when Jack is talking to Lloyd the bartender, he refers to "six miserable months on the wagon" (although by that time it should have been seven). However, only moments later, he states that the incident took place three years previously.
Rationale: A character error to show Jack is losing all conception of time.
The old woman in 237: The woman that we see rising from the tub has short white hair, whilst the one Jack is kissing has long brown hair.
Rationale: More disorientation for the viewer; the woman is not supposed to be taken literally as "a woman" but as a symbol of evil, hence continuity issues don't apply.
Wendy pulling Jack into the pantry: In the angle from the floor as Wendy drags Jack into the pantry, Jack's arms and hands can clearly be seen going through the door, but then we cut to a shot of Jack trying to grip onto the sides of the door as his arms and hands are dragged through the doorway for the second time.
Rationale: This is part of the hotel's ability to play physical tricks with its occupants. We have already seen the pantry "move" in physical space; this is just another manifestation of that. Stainforth however, points out that this explanation is wrong, and there is an altogether more practical reason for the error: This is simply a typical "overlapped" cut, done an enormous amount in movies. Often time has to be stretched to make a cut work, which is exactly why live video cutting between extremely different camera angles often does NOT work at all well. here[/link]] As such, this physical manipulation of space by the hotel is quite simply a continuity error created by the editing process.
The picture on the right side of the lobby: When Jack stands at the end of the lobby, and sees the balloons on the floor, there is a picture on each side of him. When Wendy finds Hallorann's body in the same place however, the picture on the right is gone.
Rationale: Another example of the hotel physically manipulating itself to create disorientation in the characters, and by extension, in the viewers.
The axed door panels: Jack knocks out the right door panel with the axe, then we cut to Hallorann approaching the hotel. We cut back to the door, and now the left panel is also gone, without him having had the time to destroy it.
Rationale: The hotel is attempting to aid Jack in getting to his wife by partially removing part of the door itself. Stainforth however points out that in this case, it is a simple continuity error: This was simply because of the vast length of the original scene, as shot, and the amount of material that was shot (about 15-20 doors were axed over a period of about three days!) and it was quite impossible to cut a brisk version of it that did not have "continuity errors". here[/link]]
By way of conclusion to this section, Gordon Stainforth has commented, I don't doubt that some of Stanley's "continuity errors" may [...] have been deliberate. Almost as jests to get the pedants excited e.g. the typewriter changing color [...] Also to create the dream/nightmare ambience of the film (despite its deliberately "realistic" and well-lit, superficial appearance). Another key point, similar to the continuity one: people have tried to work out the geography/layout of the Overlook Hotel, without success, and without realizing that they have missed the point completely. This is not a real 3D place, but a place which exists in the viewer's imagination. Each person who sees The Shining builds up their own personal image of the hotel from the disparate fragments they are provided with. The real geography of the hotel does not work, nor was it intended to. It was merely suggested from a composite of images shot on about 10 different stages. here[/link]] So are they continuity errors or are they indications of a deeper meaning? Stainforth seems to think both are likely - several scenes which have been interpreted as being inherently meaningful he has explained as simple continuity slips, but he also points out that he wouldn't be surprised if Kubrick did indeed insert apparent errors as a hint to his audience that there is a deeper meaning at work (incidentally, James Joyce also employed this technique, particularly in his final novel, Finnegans Wake, where even the title is grammatically incorrect).
Just over 500 days. As Steadicam operator Garrett Brown explains on his DVD commentary track, when he was hired to work on the film, he was told it was going to be a five month shoot, maybe six months. He told the producers that it couldn't go over six months as he had to return to America to work on Rocky II (1979) at that time. However, six months into the shoot, less than half the film had been shot. Brown arranged a deal with the producers of The Shining and the producers of Rocky II whereby he would work a week on Rocky and then a week on The Shining travelling by Concorde each Sunday. Brown was able to return to working on The Shining full time several months later, as although Rocky II began shooting six months after The Shining, it wrapped two months before Kubrick's movie.
This is another hotly debated topic. According to the Guinness Books of Records, the scene of Wendy backing up the stairs as she swings the baseball bat at Jack was shot 127 times, which is a record for the number of retakes of a single scene. However, both assistant editor Gordon Stainforth and Steadicam operator Garrett Brown dispute this. According to Stainforth, "I'm sure Shelley never had to repeat a scene 127 times [...] If my memory is correct it was something in the order of 45 takes." (Quoted here.) Similarly, on his DVD commentary, Brown says as far as he remembers, the scene was shot 35 times. However, Brown also claims that the Guinness Book of Records is correct about the film holding the record for the most retakes, it just has the scene and the number wrong. He claims that Kubrick did 148 takes of the scene where Hallorann explains to Danny what shining is; specifically, the over-the-shoulder shot looking at Hallorann himself, meaning actor Danny Lloyd wasn't forced to do 148 takes, only Scatman Crothers (it is probably no coincidence that Crothers allegedly broke down emotionally after the umpteenth take of one of his scenes, crying "What do you want, Mr Kubrick?"). As such, if we accept that Brown's memory is accurate, then the film does hold the record for the most number of takes of a single scene, but it is for neither the scene nor the number which is usually claimed.
No, there is a considerable amount of difference between the film and the novel, especially in terms of the psychological presentation of the main characters and the "motivation" of the evil in the hotel. The multiple changes made to the story by screenwriters Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson were not without controversy at the time of the film's release, with many fans of the novel accusing Kubrick and Johnson of destroying that which made King's story so compelling in the first place: ignoring, removing or otherwise compromising character traits and plot points which they felt were intrinsic to the whole. However, as Kubrick points out in his interview with Michel Ciment, adapting a 500 page novel into a two hour film is not a straightforward process, and certain aspects of the novel must be left behind or altered for the new medium; With The Shining, the problem was to extract the essential plot and to re-invent the sections of the story that were weak. The characters needed to be developed a bit differently than they were in the novel. It is in the pruning down phase that the undoing of great novels usually occurs because so much of what is good about them has to do with the fineness of the writing, the insight of the author and often the density of the story [...] Diane and I talked a lot about the book and then we made an outline of the scenes we thought should be included in the film. This list of scenes was shuffled and reshuffled until we thought it was right, and then we began to write. We did several drafts of the screenplay, which was subsequently revised at different stages before and during shooting.
Perhaps the most obvious, and possibly most important, difference is in the depiction of the protagonist/antagonist, Jack Torrance. In the book, Jack is initially presented as an inherently good man, well-intentioned and protective of his family, but struggling with alcoholism, and battling to overcome his passionate hatred for authority (something which stems from his overly disciplinarian father, who, although he is dead, is still a major factor in Jack's life). Jack is presented as well-meaning, but weak-willed; not an evil man by any means, but a man who can be easily manipulated into doing evil things. Over the course of the novel, he becomes overwhelmed by the forces he encounters in the hotel, and eventually, he becomes totally subservient to them, unable to control his own actions, and carrying out the wishes of the hotel without question as he tries to murder his own wife and son (interestingly, there is a scene towards the end of the novel which many fans argued should have been in the movie as it was a pivotal point of the story in terms of the psychology of Jack: after trapping Wendy and Danny in the hotel, Jack's inherent "goodness" resurfaces and he helps them escape the building, only to once again succumb to the evil forces surrounding him, and recommence his pursuit). Contrary to the good-natured, genial and well-meaning family man of the novel however, the film's Jack (Jack Nicholson) is established as being irritated by his family from the very start (seen in his exasperation and sense of boredom in the car as they journey to the hotel, and in Wendy's story of how he accidentally dislocated Danny's shoulder). Additionally, his alcoholism is relatively unimportant in his psychological makeup, and his hatred of authority and issues with his father are not mentioned at all.
Because of the changes made to Jack's character, the character and purpose of Stuart Ullman is also dramatically altered. In the novel, Ullman is extremely despotic, supercilious and condescending. Indeed, he even tells Jack that he personally didn't want him for the job as caretaker, but was overruled by his superiors. This attitude of condescension in turn brings out Jack's issues with authority, and the psychological duel between Jack and Ullman is the primary subject matter of the first few chapters (in fact the opening sentence of the novel is Jack musing about how Ullman is "an officious little prick"). In the film however, Ullman (Barry Nelson) is a much more genial character, seemingly genuine in his pleasantness and quite amiable to Jack. As such, he serves little psychological purpose in the filmic narrative, whereas in the novel, his character's raison d'etre is so as the audience can be directly presented with Jack's authority issues. In the film, the character exists primarily to drive forward the plot and fill in some important exposition.
Wendy is also considerably different in the novel and the film. In one of the more controversial changes made by Kubrick and Johnson, the Wendy of the film (Shelley Duvall) is a woman of great timidity and passivity, subservient to her husband even when he isn't present, such as in the scene where she nervously defends his breaking of Danny's arm to the aghast doctor (Anne Jackson). In the book, however, Wendy is far more self-reliant and possessed of a much more forceful personality. Her reaction to Jack's madness is also different: in the film, she nearly goes to pieces, becoming hysterical and frightened, acting only out of an instinct to survive and protect her son. While she retains her sanity and overcomes her hysteria long enough to save her son and herself more than once, she is very fragile. In the novel, however, she finds an inner strength and determination in the face of the danger posed by her husband, emerging as an indomitable character with a great resiliency.
Aside from playing down Jack's battle with alcoholism and turning Wendy from a strong character into a weak one, the most controversial change from the novel to the film was in relation to the "purpose" of the forces in the Overlook Hotel; exactly why does the evil send Jack mad, what does it want? In the novel, there is a very straightforward explanation for the hotel's nefarious activities: it wants Danny. If Jack kills Danny within the confines of the hotel, Danny's spirit will be absorbed into the hotel itself, and the evil will take possession of Danny's shining ability, thus making it infinitely more powerful and able to extend itself beyond the actual Overlook itself. In the film, however, the motives of the evil are much more ambiguous, and are never fully clarified with any degree of certainty. There is no intimation whatsoever in the film that the hotel specifically wants Danny (Danny Lloyd). Instead, it seems much more concerned with Jack himself, and ensuring that Jack carry out the task of killing Danny and Wendy (although exactly why the hotel wants them dead is never explained). The implication in the film is that Jack is in some way tied to the hotel, as indicated in the final shot, the photograph from the 1921 July 4th ball (this photo is unique to the film; in the novel, there are no hints of any kind that Jack is connected to the hotel or has ever been there before). Danny's shining ability is only important insofar as he is able to sense the evil in the hotel which is closing in on his father; the hotel itself appears to have no real interest in him per se.
The character of Danny himself is also slightly different. Whilst he is in possession of a supernatural power in both book and film, and whilst the nature of his shining ability is relatively similar in text and on screen, the real difference is in the "character" of Tony. In the book, Tony is Danny's future self, sending messages back through time to aid his younger persona. Indeed, at the end of the novel, it is revealed that Danny's middle name is Anthony. In the film, however, the status of Tony is far less important; he is presented simply as an imaginary friend. In this sense, Danny's description of him as "the little boy who lives inside my mouth," is unique to the film.
The dénouement is also very different in the novel and the film. In the novel, Hallorann is not killed. Jack bludgeons him with a mallet, but does not kill him, and ultimately, Hallorann escapes with Wendy and Danny. In the film, Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) is killed only moments after arriving at the hotel. Additionally, although Jack pursues Danny out into the grounds of the hotel in both novel and film, in the novel, the topiary animals come to life and begin to pursue the characters, whereas in the film there is a chase through a snow-covered hedge-maze (as is reasonably well known amongst fans, Kubrick did want to feature the living topiary animals, but after doing some special effects tests, he concluded that the scene could not be made to look realistic enough, hence the creation of the maze scenes as a replacement). Also, at the end of the novel, the Overlook Hotel is completely destroyed by a fire caused by an malfunctioning boiler. No such explosion takes place in the film, and the hotel is still very much standing at the end of the narrative. Indeed, in the film, the responsibilities of the Torrances regarding the boiler are never mentioned, but in the novel, Jack is supposed to dump the boiler every night. The film shows the boiler only once, as Wendy is in the basement prior to Jack's dream.
There are numerous other differences between the film and the novel. For example, the film's omission of the character of Horace Derwent (see above); indeed, in the novel, it is the ghost of Derwent who tells Jack to destroy the snowmobile. The film omits an explanation as to who the woman in room 237 is (see above). Jack's discovery of a scrapbook detailing the violent and sordid history of the hotel (it is seen on his desk in the film, but it is never mentioned) is deleted. In the film, Jack disables the CB radio by removing the battery and disables the snow cat by removing a piece of the engine, but in the novel, he destroys both with the use of a croquet mallet.
Director Stanley Kubrick was unimpressed with King's writing in general, saying, I had seen Carrie (1976) (1976), the film, but I have never read any of his novels. I should say that King's greatest ingenuity lies in the construction of the story. He does not seem to be very interested in writing itself. They say he wrote, read over, rewrote maybe once and sent everything to the editor. What seems to interest him is invention and I think that is his forte. In the early part of the production, Kubrick rejected a script written by King himself that was supposedly a much more literal adaptation of the novel, a more traditional horror film than Kubrick was interested in making. After turning down King, Kubrick was considering hiring novelist Diane Johnson as a writing partner, as he was a great admirer of her novel The Shadow Knows (which he had strongly considered adapting into a film before ultimately deciding on The Shining). Upon finding out that Johnson taught a course on Gothic literature at the University of Texas at Austin, he became convinced that she was the right person for the job, as he felt her knowledge of gothic themes and tropes could bring an interesting new perspective to the film. Johnson herself thought Kubrick chose her "because he liked me better than Stephen King or thought I was more tractable." (Quoted here.)
He was unimpressed; in the June 1986 edition of American Film, King was quoted as saying, It's like a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside, you can sit in it and you can enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery - the only thing you can't do is drive it anywhere. So I would do everything different. The real problem is that Kubrick set out to make a horror picture with no apparent understanding of the genre. Everything about it screams that from beginning to end, from plot decisions to the final scene.
In particular, King disliked the casting of Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance. He felt that in the novel, it was pivotal that Jack is initially a good man who is slowly overcome by the forces of evil and who is fighting a losing battle against alcoholism. King was of the opinion that due to the casting of Nicholson, who was well known for playing unstable characters, Jack in the film is very much on the edge when the story begins, and the character does not possess the inner goodness so vital to Jack of the novel. King wanted to cast someone who could play the character as more genial in the early stages; apparently he was very keen on Jon Voight. He was also hugely disappointed that the themes of the evils of alcoholism and the disintegration of the family unit were relatively unimportant in the film.
As is explained here, there are three different versions of The Shining; the original 146 minute version which included the coda, the subsequent 144 minute version without the coda, and the 113 minute "European version". All three versions were approved by Kubrick himself, making it difficult to conclusively call any of them the definitive version. Today, the 144 minute version is the one most readily available on home video, and as such, is generally considered to be the "Director's Cut". However, evidence suggests that this version may not be Kubrick's preferred version. The last version of the film on which Kubrick himself worked was the 113 minute version, which he approved for theatrical release outside the United States. Additionally, when the film was first released on VHS in the United States, in 1981, Kubrick endorsed the 113 minute version as the "official version" of the film, not the 144 minute version. So strictly speaking, whilst it is common practice to assume that the longest cut of a film must be the director's preferred version, in this case, the opposite is true; Kubrick seems to have actually preferred the shorter cut.
As examined above, Bill Blakemore reads The Shining as a protest against the genocide of Native Americans. As will be examined below, Frederic Jameson reads it as a lament for the clear political demarcation of the Cold War, whilst Geoffrey Wright argues it is a metaphorical study of the Holocaust. Over the years, the film has run the gamut of critical interpretation, producing all sorts of disparate and wide-ranging readings; from a self-reflexive examination of the filmic medium to a deconstruction of the horror genre, from an analysis of the breakdown of the family unit to a deeply pessimistic portrait of contemporary American society, from the Cold War to the Holocaust to the genocide of Native Americans. As Jonathan Romney points out, the copious critical literature on The Shining reads it variously as a commentary on the breakdown of the family, the crisis of masculinity, the state of modern America and its ideologies, sexism, racism and the dominance of big business. ("Stanley Kubrick, 1928-1999: Resident Phantoms", Sight and Sound (September, 1999); available here)
So, with that said, what exactly is the film about? Are some of these critics correct, are none of them correct, or are all of them correct? As with so many of Kubrick's films, these are questions which will almost certainly never be definitely answered; the safest interpretation of them all seems to be that the ultimate meaning of the film is protean, different for each viewer, different for each critic, and no one interpretation takes precedence over any other. To say the film is about Native Americans is not to say it can't be about the Holocaust, to say it is about the horror genre is not to say it can't be about the dysfunctionality of contemporary American society. In the end, some see the film as a simple horror story with no wider implications whatsoever, whilst others see it as a deeply meaningful film in which the horror story serves only to act as a vehicle to transport a more profound meaning. Neither interpretation is entirely correct, but neither is entirely wrong. The film invites disparate critical readings, it is reluctant to fully reveal itself, and for that reason, it will surely remain a veritable carte blanche, inviting critics to inscribe onto it whatever meaning they may choose.
The following represents an extremely small cross section of critical writing on the film, but it does serve to illustrate the vast scope of critical interpretations which have been generated:
Jack Kroll (film/theatre critic), in his review at the time of the film's release, argued that it was essentially about domesticity, a study of a family unit gone terribly awry: For all its brilliant effects, the strongest and scariest element in The Shining is the face of Jack Nicholson undergoing a metamorphosis from affectionate father to murderous demon [...] The real horror of the film is expressed in Torrance's frustration. No blood vision or demon lover or putrefying corpse is as frightening as the moment when Wendy looks at the writing that Jack has supposedly been working on and finds that it consists of reams of paper with the single sentence, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," repeated in endless typographical variations. This scene is more frightening than, for example, the brilliant special effect in which one of the hotel's beautiful art-deco hallways literally begins to bleed through its wall in what becomes a torrent of blood. The sight of Torrance's endlessly repeated sentence chills you with its revelation of a man so clogged and aching with frustrated creativity that his desire to kill doesn't need to be explained by his seizure by sinister and suppurating creatures from a time warp of pure evil. When Torrance turns on his son in a mad rage, The Shining becomes a kind of perverse reversal of Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), where father and son found mutual flowering in each other. ("Stanley Kubrick's Horror Show", Newsweek Magazine (June 2nd, 1980); available here)
Pauline Kael (film historian/critic), in her scathing review of the film, argued that it was about violence, and Mankind's predilection for violence through the ages: The Shining seems to be about the quest for immortality -- the immortality of evil. Men are psychic murderers: they want to be free and creative, and can only take out their frustrations on their terrified wives and children [...] It's what Kubrick said in 2001: Mankind began with the weapon and just went on from there. Redrum ("murder" backward). Kubrick is the man who thought it necessary to introduce a godlike force (the black slab) to account for evolution. It was the slab that told the apelike man to pick up the bone and use it as a weapon. This was a new version of Original Sin: man the killer acts on God's command. Somehow, Kubrick ducked out on the implications of his own foolishness when he gave 2001 its utopian, technological ending -- man, reborn out of science, as angelic, interplanetary fetus. Now he seems to have gone back to his view at the beginning of 2001: man is a murderer, throughout eternity. The bone that was high in the air has turned into Jack's axe, held aloft, and Jack, crouched over, making wild, inarticulate sounds as he staggers in the maze, has become the ape. ("The Shining Review", New York Review, (October 9th, 1980); available here)
Paul Mayersberg (writer, director, film critic), in an article for Sight and Sound, argued that the film was primarily about two issues: the breakdown of the family unit on the one hand and a commentary on the filmic medium on the other: The central horror of The Shining is family life. For a child there can be few characters more frightening than his angry father. Danny, despite his stoicism, is terrorized by his father. Wendy is terrorized by her violent husband. Jack is frustrated to the point of rejection and violent aggression towards his family. It is a nice picture of American home life. The Shining is an accidental but none the less effective reworking of Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Both treat the collapsing single child family [...] Shining denotes the ability to communicate telepathically, to see backwards into the past and forwards into the future. The Shining is nothing more nor less than a metaphor for the cinema itself. Film has the shining. Danny is probably the director of the movie. He is certainly identified with the camera. The Steadicam tracking shots through the hotel corridors and then in the maze evoke the exhilaration of a small boy racing about on his tricycle. He imagines himself to be a machine. Kubrick plays with the Steadicam like a toy. It is essentially childlike. He wants to find out all the things he can do with his latest acquisition. Danny's visions are represented in cuts, in montage, so the boy is not only the camera he is also the moviola. ("The Overlook Hotel", Sight and Sound (Winter, 1980); available here)
P.L. Titterington (film critic), in a Sight and Sound article written a few months after the film's release, argued that it was a metaphorical study of contemporary American society, in particular the break down of the so-called American Dream, and a pessimistic contrast between the promise America offered when it was first discovered and what it has today become, a place of isolated individuals where human communication is no longer possible: One of the major themes of The Shining is America. As Altman used a single city as a microcosm in Nashville (1975), and Coppola the behavior of America in Vietnam in Apocalypse Now (1979), so Kubrick presents his view of America through the image of the haunted luxury hotel [...] The Shining works primarily through elements that evoke America's past history and the present state of its society. The huge opening helicopter shots suggest an openness of space before the claustrophobia of the story sets in. But they also evoke the vast spaces the pioneers had to cross in the founding of America. The helicopter shots suggest the exhilaration of a new found continent and a new life, the energy and hope and promise of the pioneering experience; but as we focus on Torrance's car far below in the forests and by the side of lakes, there is also the sense of the dwarfing of the pioneer, the danger of isolation and of being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the landscape. The dark side of the American experience is paramount in the film. The early exhilaration is soon lost and the contrast starkly made between the open spaces and the hotel surrounded by the freezing cold, the two faces of America, the early hopeful past marred by inhumanity and the luxurious present that has inherited that legacy.
In intimate relationship with these evocations and deeply buried associations with the American past, Kubrick presents a whole series of images drawn from the American present, and in particular those images most associated with it in the popular imagination: the family car outing, the game of ball, the nude pin-ups, the TV news, the job interview, the Independence Day celebrations. Insignia of different kinds are used on jerseys and T shirts: the American Eagle, "Apollo USA", Mickey Mouse. The Shining incorporates all these images and references, but perhaps the most important are those connected with marriage and the family: the loss of contact between individuals, the suppressed frustration, hostility and violence, in the early stages glimpsed in Torrance's irritability, sometimes flaring up into anger and abuse, in the latter stages turning to murderous aggression. By attempting to write a novel, Torrance seems to be desperately trying to give meaning to his life, after a past of routine jobs and heavy drinking. The whole relationship becomes a gruesome parody of a marriage, including its details of black humor (Torrance's "Honey, I'm home" as the axe smashes through the door), the burlesque of the language of romantic love - "light of my life" - and the parody of the bedtime story as Torrance tries to force the door behind which his wife and son are hiding, with Torrance himself as the "big bad wolf". ("Kubrick and The Shining", Sight and Sound (Spring, 1981); available here)
Frederic Jameson (literary scholar/political theorist) argues that the film is about a drive for community, a lament for a notion of Cold War-esque politics when political demarcations and social hierarchies were clearer than they are in the 1980s, and finding a "knowable community" was easier: The drive towards community, the longing for collectivity, the envy of other, achieved collectivities, emerges with all force of a return of the repressed: and this is finally, I think, what The Shining is all about. Where to search for this "knowable community," to which, even excluded, the fantasy of collective relations might attach itself? It is surely not to be found in the managerial bureaucracy of the hotel itself, as multinational and standardized as a bedroom community or a motel chain; nor can it any longer take seriously the departing vacationers of the current holiday season, on their way home to their own privatized dwelling places. It only has one direction to go, into the past [...] Kubrick's film foregrounds and isolates a single period, multiplying increasingly unified signals: tuxedoes, roadsters, hipflasks, slicked-down hair parted in the middle [...]
That generation, finally, is the twenties, and it is by the twenties that the hero is haunted and possessed. The twenties were the last moment in which a genuine American leisure class led an aggressive and ostentatious public existence, in which an American ruling class projected a class-conscious and unapologetic image of itself and enjoyed its privileges without guilt, openly and armed with its emblems of top-hat and champagne glass, on the social stage in full view of the other classes. The nostalgia of The Shining, the longing for collectivity, takes the peculiar form of an obsession with the last period in which class consciousness is out in the open [...]
Arguably, the golden age of the fifties Science Fiction film, with its pod people and brain-eating monsters, testified to a genuine collective paranoia, that of the fantasies of the Cold War period, fantasies of influence and subversion which reinforce the very ideological climate they reproduce. Such films projected the figure of the "enemy" in the individually monstrous, the collective organization of the latter being at best conceivable as a biological or instinctive sub-human network like the dynamics of an anthill.
But today, where information about the planet has become far more widely diffused through the media, and where with the great movement of decolonization of the 1960s, the most repressed collectivities have begun to speak in their own voice and to project the demands of properly revolutionary subjects, it is no longer possible to represent Otherness in this way. It is not clear, for instance, that the political unconscious of America today can still conceive of the Russians as evil, in the sense of the alien otherness and facelessness of these earlier fantasies: at best, clumsy and brutal, heavy-handed, as in current evaluations of the invasion of Afghanistan. As for the formerly faceless horde of the Chinese, they are now our loyal ally and have reintegrated the earlier wartime fantasy of the "friendship" between China and America, while our former Vietnamese enemy - no longer, in any case, a global ideological threat - enjoys the grudging prestige of the victor. The Third World, generally, immobilized in a post-revolutionary situation by military dictatorship, corruption, and sheer economic distress, no longer offers adequate materials for the fantasies of a beleaguered Fortress America, submerged by the rising tide of militant underclasses.
This is the situation in which the new wave of occult films (they can be dated from 1973, the year of The Exorcist as well as of the global economic crisis which marked the end of the sixties as such) may rather be seen as expressing the nostalgia for a system in which Good and Evil are absolute black-and-white categories: they do not express a new Cold War psychology as much as they express the longing and the regret for a Cold War period in which things were still simple, not so much belief in Manichaean forces as the nagging suspicion that everything would be so much easier if we could believe in them. The Shining, then, though not an occult film, nonetheless envelops the new ideological genre of the occult of its larger critical perspective, allowing us to reinterpret this still "metaphysical" nostalgia for an absolute Evil in the far more materialistic terms of a yearning for the certainties and satisfactions of a traditional class system. ("Historicism in The Shining" (1981), from Signatures of the Visible (1992); available here)
Jonathan Romney (film critic), in an article written shortly after Kubrick's death in 1999, argues that the film is anything but "a failed genre piece," and instead it is a film of multiple meanings and hidden depth: At first sight this is an extremely simple, even static film [...] At the time of the film's release many critics were unimpressed by this schema - Kubrick had put so much effort into his film, building vast sets at Elstree, making a 17-week shoot stretch to 46, and what was the result? A silly scare story - something that, it was remarked at the time, Roger Corman could have turned around in a fortnight. But look beyond the simplicity and the Overlook reveals itself as a palace of paradox [...]
The film's subtexts resonate in the vastness as in a sound box. It's the space itself that allows so many thematic strands to emerge from an ostensibly simple narrative, whether or not they are explicitly delineated. The copious critical literature on The Shining reads it variously as a commentary on the breakdown of the family, the crisis of masculinity, the state of modern America and its ideologies, sexism, racism and the dominance of big business. But what gives the film its curiously resistant, opaque feel - which makes it possible for critics to conclude that The Shining is really about nothing at all, simply a botched genre job - is the fact that this is a film about the experience of watching The Shining. The subject is not only possession but film as possession; seeing the Torrances in their different ways bewitched by the Overlook, we can't help wondering what's happening to us as we watch them. Are we as skeptical of the hotel's legends as Jack seems to be when first told of the Grady killings? Or are we transfixed, eyes gaping like Danny? A recurring question in horror cinema is how our reactions are affected by seeing other people in the grip of terror: are we terrified out of empathy, or do we distance ourselves with cool skepticism? ("Stanley Kubrick, 1928-1999: Resident Phantoms", Sight and Sound (September, 1999); available here)
Geoffrey Wright of the Alt.Movies.Kubrick FAQ argues that the film is a metaphor for a dysfunctional American society where the white male hegemony is buckling under its own weight: What the American society does to its population is represented metaphorically through the characters. Hallorann represents minorities: When they get uppity, it kills them. Wendy represents women: Outwardly weak and superficial, watches soap operas, clings to a violent husband who despises her because of hopeless feelings of need and fear of independence. Characterized by submissiveness, martyrdom and fear. Danny represents children: Brutalized; personality and independence squashed, channeled into fantasy; split personality -- Tony represents the redirection of Danny's ability to gather information which is taboo; now Tony is the one responsible. Jack represents the inheritor, provider, and caretaker of society: The squashed child grown up; no creativity, no real feeling of self worth, extreme anger at recognition of these and redirection of this anger toward the family he sees as his possession over which he rightfully commands complete control; inability to love, desire to control to the point of killing anyone who would dare defy him. Menial work is beneath him. In fact the "caretaker" does no work, which is the job of his slavish wife. Anyone who thinks this society is kind to the white male dominators didn't understand what Kubrick was trying to say through Jack. He has had it the worst in many respects. (Quoted here.)
Kian Bergstrom (film critic), argues that the film is an interrogation of an audience who come to horror movies to see suffering and death: Kubrick again and again asks us to look at why we came to The Shining and to feel ashamed. How small, how petty we are, to expect to be entertained by watching an abusive alcoholic terrorize his enabling and confused wife and disturbed son (whom we know he has a history of beating). How pathetic of us that we would imagine spooks and spirits to be scarier than a man who attacks his wife with an axe. There's very little gore, but there's enough to make very certain we're thinking about how little blood there is in the film [...] Kubrick knows that we have come expecting to be scared in part through the making visible of guts and organs, and he laughs at us. "Oh, really?" we might imagine his disembodied voice cackling; "this place is so scary, they eat the gore." After the film is over, with its final images being those of repetitions and broken closures, the cycle of the film feels more like its gearing up for another round than ending. As far as catharsis goes, as far even as explanation goes, we're left after the film without a sense that either took place for us, but should have, that somehow, we missed "it," or didn't get "it." (""I am sorry to differ with you, sir": Thoughts On Reading Kubrick's The Shining" (2000); available here)
Geoffrey Cocks (film scholar), in his 2004 biographical study of Kubrick films, argues that it is an analysis of the fears produced by the Holocaust and the threat of Nuclear War during the 1940s: "In The Shining there slouches a deeply laid subtext that positions the Holocaust as the modern benchmark of evil. An analysis of many otherwise inexplicable visual and aural aspects of film demonstrates that this film was an artistic and a philosophical response to the horrors of the Second World War [...] The "Big Bad Wolf" in The Shining, is the product of many years of cultural evolution and reflects in particular the transformation wrought in the symbolic meaning of the wolf during the 1930s and 1940s. It is also an indication that European and world events surrounding the threat and reality of war against the West and against the Jews were of greater moment to the solidly and securely bourgeois precocious Kubrick than poverty, unemployment, and economic catastrophe [...] Any mention of the wolf in The Shining is a(n) (in)direct expression of a growing preoccupation in the 1970s on Kubrick's (and the culture's) part with the subject of Nazis, the Second World War, and the Holocaust. In this respect, it is significant that Jack, like the Big Bad Wolf, does not make it through the door to get at his wife, but remains on the other side. This is in line with Kubrick's use of camera, film, and narrative and symbolic indirection as a means of distance from and control over the subject of the Holocaust in particular. Instead of his wife and son, Jack Torrance's only victim (besides himself) will be Hallorann, the black cook whose arrival at the Overlook Hotel just as Jack has broken through the bathroom door saves the lives of Wendy and Danny Torrance. By having an African-American as the victim of Jack's and the hotel's murderous rage, Kubrick underlines a twinned theme in The Shining of an American and, underneath, a German past of racial persecution. (excerpts from The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust (2004); available here)
No. Both the film and the miniseries are inspired by the Stephen King novel, but the mini-series version does not draw any inspiration from Kubrick's film. The creation of the miniseries is attributed to King's dissatisfaction with the film's adaptation of the novel.
Opening titles: "The Shining" by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind.
Torrance family drive to the Overlook: "Rocky Mountains" by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. This piece is based on "Dies Irae" (Day of Wrath), the 5th movement of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique
Danny sees Grady twins for the first time; Hallorann showing Wendy the kitchen; Hallorann shines for the first time: "Lontano" written by György Ligeti, conducted by Ernest Bour, performed by the Sinfonieorchester des Südwestfunks.
Wendy and Danny play in hedgemaze; Danny tries to open the door to room 237; Danny goes for toy firetruck: "Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta" (Movement III) written by Bela Bartók, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Jack's nightmare; Jack enters room 237: "The Awakening of Jacob" written and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra.
Jack hits Hallorann with axe; Wendy sees Redrum in the mirror; Wendy sees Hallorann's body; Wendy encounters the ghosts: "Utrenja" (Ewangelia), written and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra.
Wendy hits Jack with bat; Jack axes door; "Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!"; Wendy sees blood coming from the elevator; Jack chases Danny through the maze: "Utrenja" (Kanon Paschy), written and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra.
Danny turns corner on his bike and sees Grady twins; Wendy discovers Jack has destroyed snow-cat; Jack's frozen body: "De Natura Sonoris No.1", written and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra.
Jack storms into Gold Room; Danny writes Redrum; Hallorann drives to hotel; Wendy and Danny reunited outside maze: "De Natura Sonoris No.2", written and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra.
Wendy finds Jack's "novel"; Wendy drags Jack into pantry; Jack tells Wendy to check out the snow-cat: "Polymorphia" , written and conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra.
Jack see balloons in the Gold Room: "Masquerade", written and performed by Jack Hylton and his Orchestra.
Jack attends ball; Closing credits: "Midnight, the Stars and You", written by James Campbell, Reginald Connelly and Harry Woods, performed by Ray Noble & his Mayfair Dance Orchestra, with Al Bowlly on vocals.
1st Half of Toilet conversation with Grady: "It's All Forgotten Now", written by Ray Noble, performed by Ray Noble & his Mayfair Dance Orchestra, with Al Bowlly on vocals.
2nd Half of Toilet conversation with Grady: "Home", written by Ray Noble, performed by Ray Noble & his Mayfair Dance Orchestra, with Al Bowlly on vocals.
Both the R1 US 2-Disc Special Edition DVD and the R2 UK 2-Disc Special Edition contain the following special features: (1) The film itself has been digitally remastered, (2) US theatrical trailer, (3) A feature length commentary with Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown and film historian/Kubrick biographer John Baxter (recorded separately), (4) Making 'The Shining' (1980); a 35-minute making-of documentary made in 1980, with an optional commentary track by director Vivian Kubrick, recorded in 2006, (5) View from the Overlook: Crafting 'The Shining' (2007); a 30-minute documentary looking at the making of the film, made specifically for the 2007 DVD, (6) The Visions of Stanley Kubrick (2007); a 17-minute featurette looking at the visual design of the film, made specifically for the 2007 DVD, and (7) a 14-minute interview with composer Wendy Carlos, conducted specifically for the DVD.
Yes, it is. Both the US edition and the UK edition contain identical special features as their DVD counterparts.