The Shining 1980.
Release date: 7 November 1980 (United Kingdom)
There is something very beautiful about the opening scene of The Shining. Once you watch it, it’s carved into your imagination forever as you watch Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) drive his car up to the Overlook Hotel. Automatically you are taken out of your comfort zone as the title music purposely plays with your emotions right away. It makes you feel like you’re in an unwanted place; also that beauty you viewed only seconds earlier becomes cold and isolating. Today I know just how difficult these opening shots must have been to create, but when I first watched this sequence it looked so effortless that I didn’t even think about it and part of me wonders if that’s what Stanley Kubrick wanted to achieve? I have read that some say nothing happens in this film until halfway through but I disagree; this opening scene made me nervous from the start. I feel that whatever horrors are waiting for this character at the hotel are also slowly following him to his destination.
What is The Shining about? Jack Torrance is hired as the caretaker to look after the isolated Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Mountains. Jack is responsible to care for the historic hotel in the off-season, protecting it from the winter storms until it’s safe for civilization to return again. Jack is a recovering alcoholic that hopes to become a writer and thinks this time away from the distractions of everyday life is just what he and his family need. Wife Wendy Torrance (Shelly Duvall) seems to think this is the also the perfect opportunity to help unite her family from a troubling past.
And then we have their child Danny (Danny Lloyd) gentle, charismatic and noticeably unsettled. Danny also carries with him a unique talent. A gift with a terrifying cost. Would you call something a gift that brings with it psychic premonitions of ghostly and often gruesome visions of the past, present and future? Danny learns that the gift he has is called the shining; in the hotel, those visions are intensified as Danny is shown the horror and evil that is about to haunt him and his family. Jack’s reaction to the hotel is just as disturbing, his actions go from that of a family man to someone increasingly unhappy with his situation in life. The family start to untangle as Jack’s actions go from someone who is suffering from writer’s block to a psychotic maniac. The hotel slowly starts to give him the pleasure in his life that he craves, but that pleasure can only come at a very horrific price.
Why do I love this film?
I really love the Overlook Hotel and the attention to detail in this film is amazing. It’s only recently that I realised the entire interior and some exterior shots were actually filmed in London in Elstree Studios. That is really some achievement by Stanley Kubrick. The hotel invites you in from the start and its hard to understand why? I do understand light was a huge factor when Kubrick was filming and I think it’s that use of light that takes you from one emotion to another very well. Also, it’s just really beautiful and when you see blood flooding out of an elevator door or twin sisters chopped up and murdered in a hallway, It seems almost unimaginable that it could happen at this hotel. A hotel I would love to stay at I might add, okay, maybe I wouldn’t be taking a bath in room 237! The Gold Room is just a thing of beauty and such a wonderful creation. If they ever recreated this hotel, I would save up every penny I had to just spent a night there, would you?
This brings me perfectly to Jack Nicholson. I have recently heard that there was some criticism aimed at Jack when he first took the role for this film. One of the main concerns is that he would resemble his character from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I’m pretty lucky, or unlucky whichever way you want to look at it, that I have never watched the latter film. Actually, his role in The Shining was my first introduction to him as an actor. He somehow reminds me of the hotel himself as I’m never sure what I am meant to feel for the character and that is great acting. It’s easy to just say he was a terrible person but alcoholism can make a terrible person out of anybody. Was he a victim or a villain? Again, I just can’t make my mind up and I do want to read the book now as I have read that the character is a little more fleshed out there. I just think he played the part perfectly and I can see why Kubrick chose him.
Finally, the story Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson created for the film. Stephen King was famously not very happy with the way the film turned out, apparently, it is nothing like the book but rather a snippet of some of the ideas Stephen King had created. I guess everyone has heard the saying, less is more? Well, I am so glad we got less of the backstory than we needed because for me this is what creates the mystery of the film. I have watched the documentary Room 237 and I’m not saying if I agree with those theories or not, but I love the way Stanley Kubrick has somehow managed to create this almost entirely new world out of one film.
The way I believe they help create that environment is by giving the viewer as little as possible to feed on, as it is part of the human condition to need to know the answer to everything. This film uses that hunger so amazingly well and it won’t be giving away its answers anytime soon. Its timeless and no one has the answers, all we can do is create more theories to help fill that void that is left behind. This is quite simply when I realised Stanley Kubrick was a genius and I need to examine his work in more detail. Maybe you agree with my thoughts on why this film works or maybe you don’t? I think that’s why it is getting the appreciation and love it deserves because there is no right answer to why it works; there are only people’s opinions. These are just a couple of reasons why I love this film but I believe everyone involved in making this film should be proud of what they achieved. It really is a wonderful masterpiece. I will admit it is a film I do like to watch, but not all the time. Writing this review began to get very heavy before the end and I think that is a true testament to the film itself though as the psychological storyline still leaves me deep in thought to this day.
I really don’t know if it was my greatest idea by starting with my favourite Stanley Kubrick film, but it’s one I have been looking very closely at lately and I have to show some love and give a mention to a very special podcast for that. The Shining 2:37 is a podcast that examines the film 2:37 minutes at a time and it is quite simply one of the best produced, funny and informative podcasts I have ever listened too. It’s actually really funny and I found myself laughing way more than I expected to. I love the guests and it has made the film even more terrifying for me as they discuss some of the supernatural elements of the story. My words couldn’t do this show enough justice, simply click on the link below and find out for yourself, its wonderful and I hope Suzen Tekla Kruglnska decides to cover more Stanley Kubrick films in the future.
Thanks for reading my first review of Stanley Kubrick’s films and I hope you come back for more. So what did you think of The Shining or any of the work associated with it? Also if you have any feedback about my review, then please let me know in the comments below. Thank You.