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The Shining review
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Review of The Shining

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The Shining
// Kubrick's magnificently capacious spooker capitalises on A Clockwork Orange's luridly colourful, bizarrely beautiful and often baroque production design; visually it is astounding, but delves further into logistical marvel and psychology than any of his previous works.
Such as the true nature of subtext has puzzled viewers for more than thirty years; Kubrick ditched the novel's formulaic horror elements in favour of an incipient study in the madness and ambiguous evil of Jack Torrence, a struggling novelist. With The Shining, Kubrick, akin to his poetic treatment of the ingenuity and folly of mankind in sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, elevated horror to a different plane, removing its silly campness and bogeymen to infuriate and bedazzle with sinewy suggestion and sumptuous, awe-inspiring technique. Technically and artistically, there is no better film in the genre. Its chills are less direct (that is until Torrance finally throws off the shackles of sanity), perhaps something deeper that creeps under the skin to unsettle and disturb but never for the reasons you think. It is not a film that can be easily forgotten as with most generic or sub-generic horror films, it is quite simply a masterpiece that will never be deciphered.
In accordance with the Kubrick legend, the process of making the movie took meticulousness to staggering levels — Shelley Duvall was reputedly forced to do no less than 127 takes of one scene; Nicholson was force fed endless cheese sandwiches (which he loathes) to generate a sense of inner revulsion, and the recent invention of the Steadicam (by Garret Brown) fuelled Kubrick's obsessive quest for perfection. The result is gloriously precision-made. The use of sound especially (listen to the remarkable rhythm qf silence then clatter set up by Danny pedalling his trike intermittently over carpet then wooden floor.) And that's not forgetting the procession of captivating images: a lift opening to spill gallons of blood in slow motion; a beautiful woman transformed into a rotting old hag in Jack's arms; the coitally-connected tuxedo and savage-faced human/bear staring ominously at Wendy; and, as a million posters now attest, Jack's leering face through the gaping axe wound in the door. Alive with portent and symbolism, every frame of the film brims with Kubrick's genius for implying psychological purpose in setting: the hotel's tight, sinister labyrinth of corridors; its cold, sterile bathrooms; the lavish, illusionary ballroom. This was horror of the mind transposed to place (or, indeed, vice versa). The clarity of the photography and the weird perspectives constantly alluding to Torrance's twisted state of mind. The supernatural elements are more elusive than the depiction of his madness. The "shining" itself — the title comes from the line "We all shine on" in the John Lennon song Instant Karma — is the uncanny ability to see dark visions of the truth (young Danny manifests the power through an imaginary alter-ego Tony). A power separate from yet entwined with the evil that dwells in the building (the whole family will come to experience it). The Overlook, sacrilegiously built on an ancient Indian burial ground (a minor point for Kubrick and stolen by Poltergeist), is haunted by evil spirits. When Jack enters the sprawling ballroom, he is entering into the building's dark heart (possibly even Hell itself): "Your credit's fine Mr Torrance." It's unclear whether it is Torrance's growing insanity that invites this or The Overlook itself taking possession of his soul. Grady, the previous caretaker, a man driven to slaughter his family (the source of Danny's disturbing second sight of the blue-dressed sisters) is another of Torrance's visitation states — "You have always been the caretaker," Grady suggests menacingly. The evil may have always been there in Jack, The Overlook merely awakened it. It's a question the whole film is posing: does the potential for evil reside in all men, just waiting to come to life? The final shot of Torrance trapped inside a photograph of the ballroom in 1921 hints at his destiny: he has become one with The Overlook — as he always was (death, you see, is never the end).
Perhaps the very reason it is held in such high regard lies in the point of Kubrick never explaining its genius - meaning that its focal power cannot be reduced.
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Added by darkparadise
4 years ago on 11 February 2013 15:58



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