Thursday, 11 December 2014

Space Oddities Film Review - The Shining

The Shining...

The Shining is a 1980 film directed by Stanley Kubrick staring Jack Nicholson, it is based on Stephen King's 1977 novel.

We are immediately introduced to Jack Torrence a seemingly ordinary man intent on taking temporary stewardship of a large hotel in a remote setting in exchange for the freedom to stay in the hotel alone with his family and write his new book. Although he initially seems normal and a family man the isolation bought upon him inside such a huge expanse takes it's toll.

It is difficult to tell what is real and what is not, prehaps that is where the genius lies; Stanley Kubrick's use of different plot points regarding the makes it impossible to pin a cohesive picture of who the characters really are and if they even exist. Rogert Erbert states in his review "Stanley Kubrick's cold and frightening "The Shining" challenges us to decide: Who is the reliable observer? Whose idea of events can we trust"(Erbert, 2006). In agreement with this is the idea that it becomes difficult during the course of the film to discern which characters exist and in which exact timeline or story. And it becomes difficult for the viewer to decide which characters are really actually there and those who aren't. 

Figure - 1  Danny sits at the table with his "friend" Tony narrating.

Even in figure 1 we can see Danny, the son of Jack Torrance, seemingly conversing with his friend Tony. Throughout the film Tony exhibits a seemingly supernatural sense, warning Danny of danger and even seemingly overtaking Danny's personality at one point. In the later stages of the film he wakes up screaming: "Redrum!" which is backwards for "murder".

Figure - 2  Danny rides his trike down the hallway, occasionally spooked by unseen forces.

The scale of the hotel that they are staying is immense, probably one of the things that makes the film scary is the fact that it is set inside a modern hotel. More contemporary horrors rely on shock value generated by the tropes of darkness, monsters hiding in the shadows and playing on the mind of what might be out there. In the Shining the hotel is not some dark, forboding place; it is modern, brightly lit and completely relatable by almost everyone. Just as the fear generated from being hunted by someone or something is palpable by many so is the fear generated from being alone in a massive empty hotel where the silence plays havoc with the mind and where even slight bumps and noises are interpreted as malevolent.

The strange happenings of this film sway between the frequently blurred lines of the supernatural and the psychotic. Although many things in this film are protrayed as being supernatural there are scenes that could be interpreted as providing a more psychological explanation to the occurences. Richard Schickel of Time magazine writes "His (Stanley Kubricks) adaptation of The Shining, Stephen King's pulpy haunted-house novel, keeps forcing reasonable — or non-occult — interpretations on the behavior" (Schickel, 1980) this point could be supportive of the idea mentioned above in that the occurences throughout the film are in fact psychological in nature, given the erratic and vicious nature of Jack Torrance it would not be hard to imagine him as the prime candidate for this nightmare. At the end of the film we see a photograph of guests sitting in the ballroom with Jack Torrance at the front dated 1922 despite the fact that the film is set in presumably the 1970s. This begs the question of whether the hallucinations at the bar are in fact real and that the rest of the story is a dream.

Figure - 3  - Jack Torrance sits at a bar talking to Lloyd the barman, whether this is an incredibly realistic hallucination or daydream is not known.

Ashley Clark of Littlewhitelies states "Kubrick presents a despairing view of American married life, where the lack of love and intimacy is accentuated by the claustrophobic surroundings." (Clark, 2012) this quote could be central to the plot by demonstrating how Jack Torrance's frustrations are causing his family to become fractured. In a hotel where they are the sole occupants their anxieties could manifest as Jack Torrance's does. Conversley however his wife does not waiver in the face of the horrors, she remains committed to protecting her son and probably maintaining her sanity.


 Clark, A, (2012) the-shining-22374 [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed on 11th December 2014]

  Erbert, R (2006) great-movie-the-shining-1980 [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed on 11th December 2014)

 Schickel, R, (1980) 0,9171,924179,00.html [ONLINE] Available at:,9171,924179,00.html [Accessed on 11th December 2014]

Illustration List
 Figure - 1
Stanley Kubrick, 1980, The_Shining_1.jpg [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed on 11th December 2014]

Figure - 2
Stanley Kubrick, 1980, The Shining Wallpaper 5.jpg [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed on 11th December 2014] 

Figure - 3
Stanley Kubrick, 1980, shining-bar.png [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed on 11th December 2014]

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Max!

    One point - don't centre your writing...either use the left align or justify option. Also, don't forget to italicise the film names too!