Wednesday, 13 July 2016

STYLE DISSECTION - THE SHINING


There isn't much I can say about The Shining which hasn't already been said.  It has been dissected so many times, and from so many different angles, that it's almost surprising the film hasn't been reduced to chunks of orange carpet and splinters of wood from hacked up doors.  And what's most intriguing, and equally frustrating, is that most of these discussions about Kubrick's masterpiece are open-ended and unverified.  How long did shooting take?  How many times did Shelley Duvall do the scene on the stairs with the baseball bat?  Did the author of the book it's based on, Stephen King, hate it and then change his mind?  Or did he just have to say he changed his mind because of a legal clause and then when Kubrick died he ignored that and went back to bad-mouthing it?  Why is Danny in two different positions in the same scene on *that* carpet?  Surely someone as notoriously meticulous as Kubrick wouldn't do that as a mistake?  So what does it mean?  Why does Jack's typewriter change from white to blue?  Or is it blue to white?

And that's not even scratching the surface.

There are a few things we do know for certain.  Shooting was arduous, with endless script changes.  Shelley Duvall was pushed to her emotional limits by Kubrick.  Jack Nicholson shouted and jumped around with his axe to get into character before filming the "here's Johnny!" scene.  And the set of the hotel is purposefully designed to not make any sense - ballrooms too big for that building, corridors that lead nowhere, fridge doors that open both ways.

If you feel like there's more you want to explore about Kubrick's masterpiece then I recommend the documentary Room 237.  Well, I say recommend - personally I found it completely bonkers and disagreed with most of the content.  But I think I'm in the minority.  However there is one theory presented in that film which I kept thinking about when I saw The Shining again recently - the Native American connection.  There are references in the film that the hotel is built on an Indian burial ground, and the hotel itself is decorated with lots of Native American motifs.  For example in this room.