As some of you know, I host the Classic Series at Rave Buckland Hills, Manchester CT. Those movies are almost always shown in Auditorium 1. Well, on 10/27/13, I went there to host Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. When I arrived, I headed to Auditorium 1, but our General Manager, Mr. Thompson, told me, ‘Auditorium 1 has been shut down since yesterday.’. So I asked him, “‘What’s going on with Auditorium 1?’, he said, ‘Nothin’! There ain’t nothin’ in Auditorium 1! But you ain’t got no business goin’ in there anyway. So stay out! You understand? STAY OUT!” “But I, of course, could not. I am The Caretaker there. I’ve always been The Caretaker.”
Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece, The Shining, stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a former teacher who’s reinventing himself as a writer. He’s taken a Winter assignment as Caretaker of The Overlook Hotel, a beautiful, summer-only facility high in the Colorado Rockies built on an ancient Indian burial ground. The hotel is shut down for 6 months a year because keeping it accessible & fully functional during the harsh winters there isn’t economically feasible. Jack plans to get a lot of writing done in the isolation at The Overlook. His wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall), and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), are not excited about the venture. Danny has ESP, as does the Hotel’s Head Chef Dick Hallorann, played wonderfully by Scatman Crothers. Dick calls it The Shine.
The film is somewhat loosely based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name. King hates the movie. Kubrick bought the exclusive rights to adapt the book to film, and when King wanted the rights to produce his,…,er, um,…wonderful…1997 TV miniseries of it, Stanley agreed if King promised to stop his constant dissing of Kubrick’s piece, apparently while the director was alive. I say apparently because King is back to trashing this great motion picture as one of the themes of his current speaking tour. This film was not critically acclaimed when released. It broke string of 6 Kubrick movies to receive at least one Oscar nomination. The Shining has passed the ultimate test – the test of time – and is now considered by many Kubrick scholars to be his finest piece.
Stanley Kubrick was a terrific director, but not a prolific director. He made just 13 motion pictures between 1953 & ’99. Every word uttered & object seen in every single shot was carefully considered. There’s an fascinating documentary released last year & streamable on Netflix called Room 237 that I recommend to anyone interested in Kubrick. It’s an examination of the subtext of The Shining by 5 off-camera Kubrick scholars. Subtext is the implicit/unspoken meaning or primary theme of a literary work. It’s subsidiary to & found under the text. Great directors like Kubrick use props & others items to hint at the subtexts of their films. Two such important symbols in The Shining are the Hedge Maze and the Native American motif. Both are discussed in Room 237. The maze here is a symbol of the confusion of mental illness. The entire film is a twisted labyrinth: The Maze itself; the interior design of The Overlook; Jack’s perception; the mirror images; the constantly changing items on the set; everything! And Jack Torrance is The Minotaur guarding his Labyrinth. He’s half man & half bull, becoming increasingly less human as the film progresses. As I mentioned earlier, the Overlook was built on an ancient Native American burial site. Much of its motif is of Native American images & symbols. One of the most memorable images in The Shining is of the flood of blood pouring out of the elevators, where we clearly see them framed with Indian symbols. That imagery is the most compelling evidence to justify the theory held by Bill Blakemore in 237 that Stanley is alluding to the annihilation of Native Americans in The Shining.
If you have yet to see Kubrick’s The Shining, it is available on DVD through Netflix. It’s required reading for anyone & everyone who loves gothic horror, psychological drama, Stanley Kubrick, film, art…any intellectual endeavor. And for those of you who find Stephen King compelling and are secretly as embarrassed over that obsession as we are for you, this is your ticket out. Just watch the trailer below to begin your release from spoon-fed mental servitude to the King, and enter the a-MAZE-ing world of freedom of thought & interpretation that Stanley Kubrick will bring you! 4-Stars!!!