Go to Table of Contents of the analysis (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).
We shall go through the final scene of The Shining very carefully, step by step, beginning with shot 658.
The Freeze Frame in Barry Lyndon The Birthday Party Photo in Full Metal Jacket The Freeing of the Slaves in Lolita The Red Sofa in Barry Lyndon Zooming in on the Monolith in 2001 The Original Photo and the Wednesday Night Ball Keep America Clean The Clenched Fist of Jack Torrance and Fear and Desire Freedom for Who? The Esoteric, Solve et Coagula, and Calumet
The Freeze Frame in Barry Lyndon
658 MCU Jack frozen. (2:19:24) Daylight. Jack is seen from the front, frozen, engulfed in snow, his eyes rolled partly back in his head, his mouth partly open showing his bottom teeth. His expression is much the same as when he took his first drink of Jack Daniels in the Gold Ballroom in shot 288. It is much the same expression as had in shot 211 in the Thursday section of the film. It’s the same expression Pyle will have in Full Metal Jacket before he kills the drill instructor then blows his brains out, soiling the clean “head” with blood. The wind howls.
Jack must be dead. He appears to be dead. We know he would have to be dead. In Barry Lyndon, following Barry’s recovery at the inn after the duel, as he was leaving, there were three shots of him exiting the hotel. The last one, shot 778, had him climbing into a carriage and as he handed off his crutches Kubrick freezes the frame. The narration over this freeze states that he travelled to the continent but there is no means of following his life there accurately, etc. The shot of the frozen Jack outside the Overlook, in the maze, is much like this freeze frame of Barry of whom nothing is known afterward. In the original ending, Wendy is told in the hospital that Jack wasn’t found. He disappears. Kubrick immediately had it recut and we are left with Jack effectively frozen in the last shot of the film in which we see him in the photo.
The Birthday Party Photo in Full Metal Jacket
Comparison may also be had to the latter scenes of Full Metal Jacket in which Eightball is “wasted” by a sniper, then Doc Jay and Cowboy as well. Cowboy and Joker, who had been in basic training together, were reunited at “Hotel Two Five”, not at all a hotel but the remnant of a destroyed building. Joker having been tasked with bringing along and protecting a photographer, at Hotel Two Five, one of the soldiers had asked the photographer if he wanted to take a “good picture”, then pulled a cover off an individual seated beside him to show a dead North Vietnamese soldier. When we see the final photograph in The Shining, it is revealed to have been taken on July 4th, America’s freedom birthday. In Full Metal Jacket it’s the dead man’s birthday. “This is his party. He’s the guest of honor. Today is his birthday…Once we rotate back to the world, we’ll miss not having anyone worth shooting.” After the freeze frame on Barry, the film turns out not to be quite over. The freeze frame on Barry could be the last shot, feels like a final shot, but is not. We are then shown Lady Lyndon, at a table with Graham, Bullingdon and Runt, signing bills. They are reunited. In the background is a sofa on which Barry and Bryan had once sat and looked over Bryan’s drawings. In their absence, Barry and Bryan are an invisible presence. Lady Lyndon, her gaze distant, hesitates over the bill for Barry’s annual 500 severance guineas, remembering. The Shining is not quite over either when we see Jack frozen. In some ways it feels like a final shot as we have already viewed Danny and Wendy riding away. In fact, Danny and Wendy riding away in the Snowcat has somehow in it the atmosphere, the resolution of a final shot. Not a great final shot. But a final shot. But then we return to the two frozen Jacks. The one frozen in the maze. The one frozen in the photo on the wall.
659 LS to CU through the lobby to the Gold Room hall. (2:19:33) The camera moves through the lobby toward the Gold Room hall. The lights are off. The Gold Room sign is on the right again, as it was in the Interview sequence. The photos for the same entertainer are still observed on the sign, which helps fix us in a time frame not too distant from the Torrance’s stay at the Overlook.
The ending recalls Humbert entering Quilty’s mansion to murder him, Quilty appearing from beneath a sheet on a chair and asking if he’s Spartacus come to free the slaves.
The Freeing of the Slaves in Lolita
The seating is all covered with sheets. We assume that after Jack’s death, after the escape of Wendy and Danny, the owners must have mothballed the hotel for the winter, decided to not get another caretaker or were unable to retain one. But we may also wonder why all the furnishings weren’t covered with sheets during cleaning day in the first place, even with winter caretakers. Because of the paranormal aspects of the film, the sheets also remind of ghosts. It is as if we are at the beginning of Lolita, Humbert entering Quilty’s mansion, out of which he is moving, some of the furnishings there also covered with sheets, and any moment one of the sheets will become animated and from beneath it, separating himself from a chair, Quilty will rise, calling out, “I am Spartacus. Have you come to free the slaves?” Their July 4th freedom day? Or perhaps we are at the end of Lolita, for Lolita begins as it ends, with Humbert entering the Quilty mansion, seeking the man who took Lolita from him.
But that lost shot in Lolita, of Humbert entering Quilty’s mansion, though it looks the same as him entering the mansion toward the beginning, it is not the same. There is a slight difference. It is a different take. And there are perhaps some differences between how the lobby and hall in The Shining are outfitted in end as opposed to what we’ve otherwise observed. One that I’ve discussed previously is how in the opening shot of Jack arriving for his interview we clearly see heating vents for forced air behind the radiant heaters. As if there are two hotels merged together, the old one which had the radiant heaters, and an updated one that has forced air heat.
The vents for the forced heat are visible behind the radiant heaters just above the baseboard. Click on the image for better view. I’ve lightened the shot so they can be a little better seen.
There are no forced air vents behind the radiant heaters in this section, or they are deeply obscured in shadow, which amounts to the same thing.
The radiant heaters in the closing section.
The Red Sofa in Barry Lyndon
The red sofa seen through that doorway into the Gold Room hall in shot 10 in The Shining refers back to Barry Lyndon.
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In the opening of The Shining, the couple beyond the closed doors in the Gold Room hall attract attention, and do so especially later when we realize how the photos behind them have been obscured in that scene. The woman is wearing an outfit that seems to be of the same plaid material in which the other female hotel employees are dressed, but her skirt is noticeably wide and full. My guess is this, too, refers us back to Barry Lyndon and the women in their long, full skirts, assisting in an eventual association being made between the bright red sofa outside the music room and the one beyond the board that advertises musical entertainment in The Shining. The camera continues closing in on the photos in the adjoining Gold Room hall. We notice there is no bright red sofa below these photos any longer. Instead we shall soon see that the mirrors left and right of the photos have been replaced with rugs and one of them will be the diamond rug of a deeper red that we’d seen in the entrance foyer to the bathroom and in a hall near the entrance to the Overlook not completely blocked by snow.
Zooming in on the Monolith 2001
A kind of curious thing happens as far as the “center” of the image.
Or, at least, it’s curious to me. True center seems to be where we think it is, zeroing right in on Jack in the middle of the photograph that is about to be revealed. And it rather lines up with the center of the wall sconce right above. But it doesn’t with the designs in the wainscotting below the photo, nor with the design of the carpet, nor with where we’ve a “center point” in the design of the lobby floor before the door. One will think I’m picking at details but I don’t believe I am. Kubrick’s symmetries are often not absolutely perfect symmetries, they’re not mirror images except in the rare instance, just as how the two “twin” girls in The Shining aren’t really twins. It has struck me that we have at least one other “center” here, which is the right light of the sconce just screen right of center, for it positions itself also as a center element, and that thus we really kind of need to pay attention to the shadow sconce. The one that isn’t there. Yet is. The phantom sconce. Also note that Kubrick has it so that the shadow of the left “candle” of the sconce falls perfectly under the “center” (right) one. We have, after all, been dealing throughout with vanishing points, things disappearing and reappearing, and the film opened, did it not, with an image that could be taken as expressing “as above, so below”, the mountain with its reflection in the lake, and the island as well.
We really do need to pay attention to this idea of the “mirrored” sconce reorienting our idea of true center somewhat, for we are, after all, about to have revealed to us the hidden Jack. I think you can see, with the very opening image set above this closing image, how the island’s alignment with the mountain has a certain relationship with the wall sconce and its shadow. And even as we zoom in on the image that shows Jack we will have yet more hidden information divulged, will we not? It’s like something keeps opening up and revealing more to us of what has been hidden. In 2001 we had perfect symmetry at the film’s end as the camera zoomed in on the monolith and those elements of the surrounding room which weren’t perfectly symmetrical fell away. We passed into the monolith, into an area between perfect symmetry, and thus was Dave reborn.
After the camera passed into the monolith, in the black dark of space appeared the moon, Dave as the star child, and the earth. What happens if we remove the monolith from that shot in 2001?
This isn’t perfect but it gives you the idea of the “between” of the monolith, what happens when it is gone. A reason I’m showing it here is because as we zoomed in on the monolith there were two 3-candle sconces in the background, separated by the monolith, partly occluded by the monolith, which become one when the monolith is removed. Kubrick is constructing much the same shot here in The Shining as we zoom in on Jack’s photo, which is why I’m suggesting we need to pay especial attention to the center two-candle sconce which is made three with the shadow candle, and which gives us two centers.
The photos. The red diamond rug now to their side and turned 90 degrees from the way we have always seen it.
There is a red and black diamond rug now, instead of a mirror, that red diamond rug the same one that was previously outside the red bathroom and the exit/entrance to the storm that was used after the storm, turned 90 degrees. The photos all seem, every one of them, to be different from any we’ve observed earlier on this wall. And we begin to have revealed to us a photo with Jack in a tux, at the head of a party of people perhaps in the old ballroom.
Closer in, we see people at a table in the lower left photo who appear to be looking up to the middle photo of the Overlook Hotel.
Jack is waving at the camera, at us, a piece of paper tucked in the palm of his hand. 660 Crossfade to CU of photo. (2:20:31 begin crossfade, ending 2:20:34.) Crossfade to a closer view of the photo.
661 Crossfade to extreme CU of photo. (2:20:41 begin crossfade, ending 2:20:45.) Crossfade to a close-up of the photo clearly showing Jack’s face, if there was any question about it. The camera pans down to show Overlook Hotel, July 4th Ball, 1921.
There is movement even in these last couple of views of the photos. In shots 660 and 661 Jack’s shoulder is dropped down to reveal the woman to his left (our right) holding something. This is covered by his raised shoulder in shot 659. So, we have difference between the further removed still and the close-up, which is curious, that we have at least two perspectives. Here is a thing concealed. Here is a thing now out in the open. It’s one thing for Kubrick to implant impossible windows in the film and move objects about, but this is different. The slip of paper displayed against Jack’s palm can only be taken as an intentionally placed mystery, as well as the the revelation of the object which the woman is holding. Were the object she’s holding evident in the furthest static photo, she would not be a mystery. But Kubrick has made her a mystery that pairs with Jack.
Fade out and begin credits at 2:21:20. “…surrender all my life to you…” can be heard on the soundtrack. We wonder how does the man in the 1921 photo have Jack’s face? People likely see the paper he is holding and wonder about that, but it’s unlikely they see the woman is revealed to be holding something in shots 660 and 661. The audience likely feels now that they must have missed earlier clues in the film that will properly orient this photo for them, constellate all the answers to their questions, and will watch the movie again. In this way, to a degree, they are led onto a path of the same deja vu experience that Jack had of the hotel, that he’d been there before, that he knew what was going to be around every corner. Instead of passive observers, the audience will become active seekers. What did I miss? Where is it? When the movie could only be seen in the theater, that also meant revenue. More tickets sold. The audience will likely wonder if this photo has always been there. It hasn’t. At least in shot 576 when Dick walks past the photos, we’re given our first opportunity to catch a glimpse of them and this photo isn’t there, and all or most of them seem to be different. The audience may wonder if Jack is a double of this person in the photo, or is he that person reborn in some way and destined to return to the Overlook to be reabsorbed into it. Or has he been instead pulled into the photo to replace someone else? Just as the 1970s Charles Grady became the ethereal 1920s Delbert Grady, has Jack assumed a new name and identity through the lodge? Hadn’t Delbert Grady said Jack had always been the caretaker? And why was Delbert Grady a butler in the 1920s version rather than a caretaker? So many questions. What is the piece of paper Jack holds which makes us feel if we could reach out and take it we might know the answer, it may have a message? Why does the man behind him stand with his hand on Jack’s upraised arm? Is he trying to pressure that arm down or is there something in the relationship between their arms that is significant? Who is the woman with half closed eyes, in the laurel leaf crown, the heart-shaped pin on her breast, a bow decorating, a feather extending from it? Kubrick is said to have become interested in Traumnovelle, the inspiration for Eyes Wide Shut, as early as at least 1971, and we perhaps see that nascent interest in the woman on Jack’s right (our left), seeming the victorious belle of the ball with her Apollonian laurel or olive wreath crown, the badge with its feather decoration on her breast-and of all people in the photo it is this belle whose eyes are shut, seeming caught mid-blink, seeming for all intents and purposes a closing reference to the future Eyes Wide Shut.
The Original Photo and the Wednesday Night Ball
I’ve read often enough that an old photo was used for the focus of the film’s final shots because Kubrick thought a vintage photo better than an attempt at a realistic duplication, and that Jack’s head was pasted in. Eventually, I ordered for myself the book in which the said to be unaltered original photo appears, and I tossed it as it only showed a portion of the photo (which you can see at this website). The portion we’re shown is only the head and upper bust of the man who Jack replaced, those around him barely glimpsed. We see the woman with the closed eyes. We see a hand on the upper arm of the man Jack replaces and that this hand belongs to the man behind him. We see the woman on screen right holds something in her hand. Just a portion of that photo doesn’t tell me much. What is the whole truth of this I wonder-because I find it difficult to believe that an old shot was found of a man holding his right hand revealing he’s got a bit of paper tucked in his palm. We can see from the small bit of the original photo we’re allowed to see that certainly Jack’s shirt and bowtie were pasted in as well. In Vivian Kubrick’s documentary of The Shining there is a brief glimpse of Nicholson appearing to dressed in the tux he’s wearing in the photo, and I’m inclined to think Nicholson supplied both head, bust and the right hand or forearm. Was more than one person pasted in? It can seem as though perspective falls apart, giants lording their stature over small faces, but that just may be a peculiarity of angle and lens. I’ve seen some old photos of group scenes in which there’s the same warping of what we would recognize as a normal perspective. Never mind that the location of the film’s version of the old photo looks nothing like the 1970s version of the Overlook. After all, we’ve been told the Gold Room was redecorated. I’m not confident we should never mind, too, that the women look very little like the fancily dolled up partiers in Jack’s shining of the Gold Room, almost all of whom had headdresses and were loaded down with beads and sequins. Here, the women’s necks and arms are largely unadorned, the norm seeming a simple string of pearls, not the elaborate necklaces and chokers in The Shining. There are a few headbands but all are slender, not outstanding, and not a single skull cap or cloche. Whereas numerous feathers were on display in headbands in The Shining, almost none of them have feathers here, one of the few being the woman to Jack’s left (our right). A white feather limply dangles down as if added in, which I believe it was, if the woman is actually vintage. Another feather on display is on the woman’s breast to Jack’s right. In other words, it’s interesting that this photo was chosen instead of creating one in an old ballroom setting using some of the partiers in the film. In other words, though the Gold Room party makes us feel that this photo should be related to that scene, it is not. Certainly, the audience feels, the answer lies in that little square of white Jack reveals to us against his right palm. If we just knew what it was, the mystery would be solved. What of the paper that Jack holds, which would answer the question as to why must Jack keep his fist clenched shut as he pursues Danny through the maze? The little slip of paper he is revealed to be holding in his right hand in the ball room photo at the end of the film is the reason. He has it. This paper. He has not released it. That is what he had his hand clenched fast about, perhaps not literally, but symbolically at least. This paper was in that fist and he now displays it for us, what he had been holding as he chased Danny through the maze. The paper hasn’t manifested out of nowhere at film’s end, Jack had the paper in hand from the moment Danny entered the maze.
Keep America Clean
If one thinks back to the one previous entering of the maze in the film, when Danny was playing with his mother, involved was a race. Wendy had encouraged Danny with the threat that whoever lost would have to keep America clean. Danny made it to the maze first. A clear foreshadowing of Danny racing his father to the maze is had in that scene. Jack’s hand clenching (at least symbolically) that paper from the moment Danny enters the maze, is Jack having to keep America clean as the caretaker, holding some bit of litter in his hand for the photo to see at film’s end? Is this about Jack keeping the Overlook clean of people like Danny and Wendy and Dick? Is that what this paper is about? It would seem a rather lame punch line for the mystery of Jack and the revelation of the palmed piece of paper. And though I do think the two events tie together, it’s not so simple If we look to other films of Kubrick we find parallels. The little slip of paper Jack holds here may link with the white handkerchief Bill takes out of his dresser when he is looking for his wallet at the beginning of Eyes Wide Shut. That handkerchief helps set up for the audience his later meeting with the two models, one of whom reminds Bill that he had come to her aid during a photo shoot in which she had gotten half of Fifth Avenue in her eye. He had loaned her his handkerchief, and as to that she makes the odd remark that she recollects the handkerchief was “clean”. For this, being a person who works too hard and misses much (just as all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy), Bill is invited to the “end of the rainbow”. That handkerchief again finds a parallel in the white napkin upon which Nick later writes the password “fidelio”.
The Clenched Fist of Jack Torrance and Fear and Desire
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If we look to a very early film of Kubrick’s we find a compelling parallel, but first we need to look at how Jack keeps his fist clenched the entire time he’s in the maze.
Danny has fled back outside after Dick’s death. In pursuit, hampered by his limp, Jack makes his way to the far entrance/exit of The Overlook, both hands always wielding his axe, as has been the case since we first saw him with it, the exception being when he reached in through the hole in the caretaker’s apartment door with his left hand and grasped for the doorknob. Here we see him in the entryway.
During Wendy’s excursion to check on the disabled Snowcat, the snow so blocked the doors she was barely able to open even one of them.
When Dick enters the lodge, we see the door is ajar in about the same position.
However, the doors stand wide open in waiting for Jack, and perhaps they had for Danny as well when he escaped to the outside a second time, but Kubrick chose not to show Danny exiting so we don’t know. Of what we can be confident is little Danny could not have opened both doors wide if neither Wendy nor Dick were able. But never mind this, I’m instead concerned with another oddity.
There follow a few shots of Jack scanning the dark outside the Overlook for Danny, and Danny hiding behind the Snowcat. Jack releases his right hand from the axe to cut on the outside lamps and we see the entrance to the maze has moved 90 degrees. I have explained this movement in the A Month Later section.
Danny abandons the Snowcat to make a run for the maze. Jack follows, and as we can see he has both hands on the axe again. By my reckoning this is shot 600. Kubrick cuts away before Jack passes the Snowcat. This is the last moment before the cut.
In shot 601 Danny is seen running up the hill to the maze and entering it.
Shot 602 picks up Jack passing the Snowcat. With Danny having entered the maze, Jack has released his right hand from the axe and instead clutches his jacket shut with it.
Now, this appears to be entirely natural. It’s damn cold out there in the snowbound mountains, right? Why give Jack clutching shut that jacket a second thought? Because Jack, from now on, never releases his right clenched fist from his jacket. His hand remains clenched shut, holding the jacket, from the moment Danny entered the maze. How many days or weeks of shooting did that entail with Jack stumbling through the maze with that fist clenched? Imagine being Jack Nicholson, filming for that many days, and always he must keep his right fist clenched upon his jacket. Kubrick cuts back to Danny running through the maze and falling (shot 603), then Jack following him. Cut to Wendy in the scene in which she finds Dick dead and encounters the “great party” man. Cut back to Danny in the maze and Jack pursuing with that right clenched fist. Then back to Wendy running down a now dark Gold Room hall toward the lobby where she will look at it from an opposite perspective, 180 degrees reversed from her previous view, Dick is gone and she sees instead skeletons in the chairs. Cut back to Danny having reached the center of the maze, retracing his steps and concealing himself, as Jack pursues still clutching his jacket. Return to Wendy in the red hall and coming upon the bloody elevators (the doors of which are reversed once the blood starts flowing). Back to Jack having reached the center of the maze
Jack passes over Danny and Danny flees back toward the maze’s entrance. We see Wendy outside the hotel running toward the Snowcat. Cut back to Danny falling in the maze (645). Suddenly he’s at the entrance (647). Wendy helps hims into the Snowcat.
As if to point out how Jack is determined not to unclench that right fist, towards the end of this scene, Danny escaping with his mother in the Snowcat, Kubrick has Jack fall on his right side (650). He takes a full out tumble on his right side and he never removes his hand from his jacket, never unclenching his fist.
When Danny fell, he used both hands and helped himself up with both hands. This is as it should be. When you fall, if you are not holding something you don’t want to throw wildly away, you are automatically going to reach out in order to try to protect yourself. The automatic, natural thing for Jack to have done, as he began to fall to his right, would have been to release his coat and reach out with his right hand and attempt to thwart the fall by grabbing the hedge, or brace himself with his right hand as he fell into the snowbank. But Jack doesn’t do that. The actor, Jack, doesn’t do that, which means he has been instructed to keep that right hand always closed and holding his jacket. He had to fight the natural impulse to use that hand to protect himself from falling. If you fall and are holding something like a coffee cup, the natural impulse is instead to likely hold onto that coffee cup even if it means falling harder. But the front of your jacket? That’s not the same kind of holding onto something, and if you’re falling you’re going to release it. Even as Jack struggles to stand after the fall, he doesn’t release his jacket. The natural thing to do would have been for him to use his right hand to help push himself back upright. But, no, the actor, Jack Nicholson, had to have been instructed to not unclench that fist, to keep a hold on the jacket. Trust me on this. The actor had to have been instructed to fight his natural impulse to put out his hand to protect himself as he fell. That Jack continues to clutch his jacket shut with that fist is absolutely intentional.
Jack finally seats himself in the snow against a hedge wall and still his hand is clenched, holding his jacket.
The next shot of Jack has him in a different position from the previous, he is clearly seated away from the hedge wall, but I’m not concerned with that detail at the moment. He is frozen as still as, well, frozen as still as his figure would forever remain in a photo. We can tell he is likely no longerholding shut his jacket. So, what of that right hand that Kubrick wanted clenched shut from the moment Danny entered the maze?
This below shot of Jack from “The Overlook Hotel Tumblr” reveals that even in the production shot Jack’s right fist is still shown clenched tight, resting atop the snow.The holding the jacket shut has been, in a way, an excuse for Jack keeping that right hand closed fast. The holding the jacket shut against the cold was not the important thing. It was not why Jack’s hand was clenched shut. Had he continued to hold his axe with that right hand as well as with his left, we would not have noted eventually that something had changed, seemingly in connection with Danny having entered the maze. Seeing Jack here in the snow, frozen, no longer holding his jacket shut, but that right hand still clenched tight, seals that Jack’s clenched fist hadn’t anything to do with having to hold shut his jacket shut. It’s just that as long as he was holding his jacket shut with that clenched fist our attention was not immediately drawn to that clenched fist as peculiar, we thought his fist clenched over the jacket, holding it shut, was in response to the cold. Not so.
Now, the question is why must Jack keep his fist clenched shut? The little slip of paper he is revealed to be holding in his right hand in the ball room photo at the end of the film is the reason, at least symbolically if not literally. He has it. This paper. He has not released it. That is what he had his hand clenched fast about. This paper was in that fist, or whatever that clenched fist represented, and he now displays it for us, what he had been holding as he chased Danny through the maze. The paper hasn’t manifested out of nowhere at film’s end, Jack had the paper in hand, at least in effect, from the moment Danny entered the maze.
I’m going to go all the way back to Fear and Desire to explore Kubrick’s use of the Shakespearean mousetrap, which is a play within a play that speaks not to the general audience but instead a select few who may see themselves in the lines, and the writer hopes to judge afterward by their behavior if what was written was true. An example of this is in Barry Lyndon when Bullingdon has Byron parade in his shoes, which sets off Barry. The screengrab I’ve included above of the red sofa is from that scene, Bullingdon entering a concert with Byron clopping loudly in Lord Bullingdon’s shoes. Lord Bullingdon makes this scene as a play revealing Barry’s plan for Bullingdon to be usurped, just as his father was usurped. Sir Charles had declared, of Barry, right before his heart attack, “He wants to step into my shoes! He wants to step into my shoes!” Charles/Delbert Grady could say the same of Jack. In fact, Barry Lyndon had entered the film while Jack was chasing Danny through the maze, when Wendy was confronted by the partier who looked like his head had been split down the middle. He was the same actor who played the individual trying to sell Barry a jacket made of a beautiful burgundy color jacket. We never see Barry in this material. But I have previously paid attention to it in Barry Lyndon for it appears to be at least similar to the fabric Byron’s suit is made of in the Mousetrap scene. My interest in it at the time was how Kubrick, in his films, often contrasts two reds, a bright fire engine type red such as the elevator doors, and a burgundy red, such as seen in Byron’s suit and Jack’s jacket. We have the two reds in A Clockwork Orange and there it has to do with Alex speaking of blood and how the red on screen, in film, always seems more real. Going back to Lolita it could be compared to the idea of what is the “real true” taste of DROME.
But let’s leave all that behind and take a look at Fear and Desire. In Fear and Desire, in response to their wrecking behind enemy lines, Corby draws a peculiar map. All he needed to do was draw a line representing a boundary and another line bisecting it representing a river, and say, “Here we are, on the wrong side, on enemy territory, there is a river over there and we’re going to ride a raft out of here.” Instead, drawing the map, he talks of how they can cleverly use this reconditioned mouse trap as a springboard to get out of there. A dog immediately appears, an enemy dog, and he throws a stone to get rid of it, like playing fetch. The dog isn’t supposed to bring it back, only give chase, and it does, though the typical thing a dog will do is play fetch and bring back to you whatever you’ve thrown so you can throw it again and so on and so forth. This dog doesn’t return. Later, in order to get weapons they kill several men who are eating. One of the dead, eyes open, has in his dead hand some potato he had clenched and released.
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Sidney, the next day, kills a captive girl. Eyes open in death, we have some shots of her combined with reverse shots (Kubrick did the same with the dead soldiers). We then have a shot of the girl’s open hand. There is something held within it, though we had seen her hands were empty before. After trying to escape and being shot, she holds something in her hand that should remind us of whatever it is that Jack holds in his right hand.
The dog for whom Corby had thrown the stone we find later was named Proteus, after a polymorph, something that changes appearance. This stone, also morphing, seems to be appearing in these hands of these dead individuals. These individuals are dead but is that what links them? Their eyes are open and Sidney, seemingly having gone mad, claiming the magician made him do it, insists the dead girl is only resting, speaks of himself being one thing then another, like Taliesin, and goes running down to swim in a river he claims is all blood, blood red, which may remind of the river of blood streaming from the elevator. One can suggest that what has happened in each case has been a lack of communication. One can’t necessarily communicate with a dog. The soldiers don’t speak with the enemy soldiers, and the enemy soldiers say nothing when attacked. The woman appears to not know the language of the soldiers who capture her and doesn’t speak. Back in shot 401, in the Wednesday section, Jack had clenched his fist around the three relays he removed from the two-way radio, completely cutting them off. In 2001 HAL had reported that the communication Alpha Echo 35 unit was going bad. Bowman replaced it and he and Frank found it was all right, that HAL had seemingly made an error. Dave and Frank, in 2001, make an excuse that transmission may be faulty in a pod, they enter the pod, turn off the ability for HAL to overhear their conversation, and talk about cutting off HAL’s higher functions, but HAL understands this by lip-reading and flips out. Frank was in the process of duplicating Bowman’s space walk, to put the unit back in, when HAL killed him, and then HAL took over the ship and disabled one function after another. In Fear and Desire, Kubrick teases us with the open eyes of the dead whose hands clutch the morphed stone. Their death is a question mark, just as in The Tempest (to which that film refers) all action in the play is a question mark reflecting the question mark of life itself.
In seeming death, these individuals can’t communicate, but then in life these were all characters who didn’t speak, including the girl. Much was made of an inability to communicate with her. The soldiers reasoned she didn’t know their language and made attempts to speak with her but she never responded. Jack, who shut down the radio, entirely cutting of the Overlook, returns from frozen death in a frozen still of a photo, purportedly from July 4th,1921, to tease us with this piece of paper that he reveals in the palm of his hand.
The July 4th Ball- Freedom for Who?
The Interview section at the film’s beginning has a couple passing, ostensibly to go out and play tennis, the woman carrying a bag of white balls but wearing high heels. Note that they pass before the doorway through which we travel at film’s end and see the picture of the July 4th ball.
So, at the end of the film, when we see the photo of the ball, we have come full circle, that ball refers to the beginning, and the beginning to the end. Kubrick leaves it open for the audience to decide whether there are any paranormal events at all in the hotel, or if it is all a matter of hallucination and actions of the individuals. But he kind of kicks the “there’s nothing paranormal” rationale to the side with Jack revealed in the 1921 photo, even if it may be only a metaphor for Jack’s belief systems, his mentality, perfectly fitting in with the old hotel. But why July 4th? A day of liberation? If the movie begins with “Dies Irae” (and it does), music for the Day of Wrath and the judgment of souls, might the feather and heart refer to the judgment of souls through the weighing of the heart of the deceased against a feather, symbol of Maat. Is the single man viewed blowing on a party horn intended to recall the horn of judgment? Why the year 1921? Has this any connection to the World, the 21st card of the Tarot, the woman in a circle of laurel leaves, immediately following the the 20th card, the Judgment card? Is Jack’s upraised right hand and lowered left hand intended to recall the fifteenth card, that of the “devil” whose arms are positioned like this as well, and who is said by some to represent self-bondage, but also the adversary by which one is strengthened through struggle. Must dualities be forever wildly opposed in their extremes, demanding entire subjugation or elimination of the “other”, or is there a balance to be had, such as seen with Maat’s feather and the heart in balance? July 4th. Summer stands at an opposite pole from winter. But with this date we’re asked to look again at issues of bondage that have been expressed throughout the film, and we wonder has Jack in some peculiar way, smiling as he is, found his own freedom, his gaze free of the inward stare that burrows into the back of the brain, is that what the July 4th date symbolizes? At the same time, what exactly does July 4th mean when freedom for some means bondage for others, such as American Indians who are mentioned in the film, pictured here and there, who lost their land, their culture, their language, their ancestors. What did the freedom of July 4th mean to Africans shipped over to be slaves. Does Jack’s smile simply mean he’s happily at home again, never to leave, himself comfortably enslaved to his colonialist, repressive idea of the white man’s burden? The end of A Clockwork Orange can be as confusing for people, Alex brought back from near death, his brain tweeked again, no longer nauseated by violence, lying mummy-like in his bed as he makes a deal with the “devil” that will give him the good life, an understanding between friends, from his perspective we look out at the photographers who rush in (whereas here we are in the position of the photographer) to chronicle the agreement, then in the second to last shot we return to Alex whose eyes roll back in his head, to a vision of his cavorting naked with a woman between two rows of clapping men and women in Edwardian dress. “I was cured all right,” he says. And perhaps he is, for the fantasy that overtakes him as he listens to the music isn’t one of violence, instead it’s of sex. Returning to The Final Judgment, this is when the dead rise from their graves. They are, in a sense, freed? At the beginning of Lolita, Humbert arriving at Quilty’s first overlooks him, for Quilty is seated in a chair covered with a sheet, just as the furniture at the end of The Shining is covered with sheets as the camera zooms in to the picture of the ball. Quilty, appearing, makes reference to one of Kubrick’s prior films. “Are you Spartacus, come to free the slaves?” Then invites Humbert to a game of pingpong. “OK, you serve.” And from under the sheet Quilty now wears draped over him, like a toga, he produces a ball with a magician-like quality. “Bet you didn’t know I had that,” he says. He refers to his serve as being tricky, then follows that with discussing how he holds his bat. “Did you ever notice how the champs, different champs, use their bats? You know, some of them hold them like this, and everything. I remember one guy didn’t have a hand. He had a bat instead of a hand. He was really sort of wacky.” Bet you didn’t know I had that. Just as Jack divulges the piece of paper, as in, “Look what I have.” We could look at it this way. Humbert enters Quilty’s house and with the sheet covering the chair, Humbert calling for Quilty, there is a kind of ghostly air to the place. The draping on the chair is carefully arranged so it gives no hint of a person’s form beneath, so when Quilty appears it is as if he materializes out of nowhere-and though Quilty is real, we are always given the impression he is an alter-ego of Humbert’s. Kubrick has Quilty forge a direct connection with a prior film, Spartacus, before he magically produces the ball from beneath the same sheet from under which he’d appeared (“Bet you didn’t know I had that”), and begins the game of ping-pong which is not in the book. He serves, discussing how he holds his bat. Then at the film’s end, we cycle back around to this beginning, Humbert again entering Quilty’s home and calling for him. But the scene has changed slightly. Deja vu. A repeat. As if this could be an infinitely repeated scene that has the capability of slightly changing. A variation on Nietzsche’s Eternal Return with which 2001 refers to at its beginning. Are the slaves freed? Is Lolita freed? Can Humbert free himself from his sickness? Are they slaves of destiny, as with Oedipus? Is Jack freed? Does he escape his deja vu? Is the final photo an expression of celebration of having been, indeed, freed from being a slave of destiny, as with Oedipus? Is this actually a good end rather than a dark one? In Lolita we also have the 4th of July. Humbert, displeased with the Haze household, not having yet seen Lolita. Charlotte gives him her phone number that has in it 1776. The Declaration of Independence. Easy to remember. Then she takes Humbert out to the garden. Humber sees Lolita and rents the room.
How Sellers holds his bat here very much resembles how Jack holds his hand up to the camera at the end of The Shining.
For comparison, rather than show again an image of Jack’s holding his hand up to the camera, I’ll instead give a close-up of the cross-fade, the camera moving even closer into the image. Funnily enough, the watch on the man who presses down Jack’s arm becomes, in a sense, Jack’s thumb. And Jack’s hand is layered with the heart medallion or shield the woman behind him wears on her breast. As long as we’re talking about the possibility of freedom, July 4th, the “strap” over the palm reminds me of the tefillin worn as a “sign” and “remembrance” that “God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Wikipedia). In other words, they were freed from bondage. Chabad.org relates “First thing in the day, you connect your head, your heart and your hand with these leather cables…and all your actions find harmony in a single coordinated purpose…” Which, if we are looking at a reference to tefillin, would be why Jack’s hand is shown superimposed under the woman’s heart shield. Chabad.org also relates, “…Tefillin signify the submission of one’s mind, heart and actions to the Almighty, as well as the rule of intellect over emotion. A fundamental principle of Chabad Chassidic philosophy is that the intellect must control the emotions…often the emotions control the mind and the intellect is utilized merely to provide justification, rationalization, and excuses for this ‘instinct-emotion-centered’ existence. The Mitzvah of Tefillin and its practice facilitates the attainment by the individual of unity of mind and heart, intellect and emotion.” Thus Jack would be freed of the maze, the Minotaur vanquished. Perhaps…the Minotaur left frozen in the maze. Depending on how one looks at it, Jack can either be still thought of as in bondage to the hotel, reabsorbed into it, or he and its denizens have instead been freed. Brought out of Egypt. If we go back to Jack speaking to Lloyd in the bar he discusses the White Man’s burden, which is all about this.
Kipling was an imperialist, one who believed in Manifest Destiny and the English and Americans delivering others out of their bondage to unenlightened intellect. Which was a tribulation for the white man as he was hated for it. A burden for him. The photo could show Jack still in bondage to the hotel as one who believes in this “White Man’s Burden”, which we have seen earlier that he does. He is freed, he believes, from bondage of the Egyptian night, and yet he is enslaved to the belief that he must free others. So he is freed and not freed. He believes himself freed but is enslaved by his prejudices, sexism, enslaved to how he has been raised and taught to think and feel. Or, again, maybe something did happen in the maze that has actually freed him, the Minotaur frozen, defeated.
The Esoteric, Solve et Coagula, and Calumet
You know things but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to look them up again. You might come up with something interesting. Such as “solve et coagula” or “solution and coagulation”. And Calumet. Yeah, I’ll get to that in a second. The figure Jack forms in the final revealed photo of The Shining can certainly remind of The Devil card in the Tarot, or Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet, one arm pointing up in a 90 degree angle with the word “solve” on it and the other pointing down with the word “coagula” on it. A white moon is above the raised arm, a black moon is below the lowered. Levi described the white moon as being of Chesed, the black one of Geburah, a balance of mercy and justice. One arm is female and the other is male. “The beast’s head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes”. Rather than the white moon on the solve side and the black moon on the coagula side, Kubrick has on the solve side the woman with the laurel leaf crown and the black feather sticking up out of a heart on her bodice, while on the coagula side there is a woman who has a white feather hanging down from her hair. She’s rolling a cigarette behind his shoulder. The one hand pointed up and the other down refers to as above, so below, which is the image the movie opens with of the reflection of the island and its tree in the lake, the shape of the island with its tree also anticipating the mountain in the background. We were then shown also the Rorschach mirroring of the cliff to the right of the lake in the lake’s waters. As above/so below actually appears throughout the film, and is a common theme in Kubrick’s work. Kubrick began his feature work with “solve et coagula” in the creature of metamorphosis, Proteus, as the dog in Fear and Desire, and Sidney, as Aerial, referring to the metamorphosis wisdom poem of Taliesin. I’d been reflecting again on Jack and the object in his raised right hand and the woman at his shoulder who appears to be rolling a cigarette or joint, which I felt was later expressed in Eyes Wide Shut and Alice getting the weed from the Band-aid box etc., which leads into the argument and revelation that so throws Bill. And though I know about “solve et coagula” I decided to look it up. What did I happen upon? Looking down the first page of the results I saw Rene Guenon’s “The Great Triad”. Below is the first page of Guenon’s chapter on Solve et Coagula.
Also interesting is the footnote to this passage that Guenon supplies.
and also to that of the rite of the ‘calumet’ among the North American Indians
The book was published in 1957. Was Kubrick familiar with it? If so, it may have provided his inspiration for the calumet observed in The Shining. Yes, we have references to American Indians, they are throughout, they are united with the very earth upon which the lodge is built and the spirits inhabiting it in places as depicted in the art. Of course, it’s not all about American Indians, The Shining contains many stories, but Kubrick chose to represent them by use of the Calumet. What is the woman doing who stands to Jack’s left side? She is rolling a cigarette on his shoulder. Tobacco. I wouldn’t pounce on this and consider this may have been his inspiration if we didn’t have the woman rolling the cigarette standing right there with the solve et coagula. Skipping ahead a few pages in Guenon’s book:
I wanted to bring in the ideas of binding and loosing because of the photo being of the July 4th ball, freedom (also it is in summer, near the summer solstice, oppositional to the winter solstice). Also because of the band-aid box from which Alice takes the weed. Medicinal allusions yes but bandage comes from a French word meaning “to bind”. And I’ve often sometimes wondered if the white square on Jack’s palm is a band-aid, band-aids having been released to the public in 1921, the year of the ball. It would seem peculiar perhaps that the band-aid would be on the solve side but there are no absolutes. Yin is in yang and vice versa. Kubrick’s use of the myth of Sphinx, of Oedipus and the question of independence versus predetermination, the time of Egyptian bondage of the children of Jacob (whose second name was Israel) and the Passover (which again brings in the question of independence versus predetermination), the story of Jacob and Esau, the Minotaur and the labyrinth, and Apollonian and Dionysian themes have all been explored in some depth earlier, so I’ll revisit them only briefly here with a few other notations. One of my reasons for writing this was to suggest cues and clues for the validity of exploring the film as one in which Kubrick deliberately employed certain myths in combination, one of the purposes of myth being to relate and unravel truths on the fundamental nature of humanity and the archetypes that work upon us and which we look for in patterns, seeking our way through the cosmic labyrinth, the perceived realities, and what belongs to that which can only be indirectly known-not necessarily supernatural but perhaps the supernal, as in the saying, “as above, so below”. Kubrick tended to revisit certain myths and their imagery in his film, such as this story of Jacob and Esau. Esau’s selling of his birthright was mentioned in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange to the prisoners, Alex having been jail for his murder of a “Cat Woman” outside of whose home stood two sculptures of the Sphinx. Bringing in further Egyptian imagery, on the prison yard’s wall can be viewed the image of a pyramid during the scene in which an inmate is being chosen for the Ludovico cure. So we have both in A Clockwork Orange and The Shining the use of the sphinx, through direct imagery in Clockwork and with the Cat Woman, while in The Shining we have the two Snowcats and not only Danny’s strangulation (the Sphinx being a strangler) but the several appearances of the CH O KING posters, two of these appearing coincidentally with Danny’s stated strangling in room 237. The scenes concerning the CH O KING posters had along with them an emphasis on pin-up pictures of nude women, just as in A Clockwork Orange the Cat Woman had several peculiar paintings in her home that were overtly sexual in ways that tie in with The Shining, one of which at least was a doubling of a crime Alex had committed the night previous his murdering the Cat Woman. In A Clockwork Orange, Alex had, being unable to enter the Cat Woman’s house through the front door, climbed through a partially open second floor window, and in The Shining we have Danny escaping the lodge through a partially open bathroom window and Dick’s second Snowcat arriving soon thereafter. These windows may not seem related, but they form, as with the pin-up pictures, a Kubrickian vocabulary that circulates around certain ideas. Examples exist through Kubrick’s film that link from film to film in this manner. Jacob and Essau struggled even in the womb, and when they were born, Essau was born first, then came Jacob grasping his heel, thus Jacob’s name. Jacob lived in the tents while Essau was a hunter. The story of Jacob is peculiar as he is given as the gentler one yet he deceitfully usurped Essau of his birthright, camouflaging himself as Essau when their father had called Essau to him to receive his blessing, for reason of which Jacob, fearful of Essau and what he would do to him, living in exile for a time in the house of Laban (Laban means “white”). Laban was also known as the deceiver, and not only did he change Jacob’s wages multiple times; though having promised Jacob his youngest daughter, Rachel, after seven years, he did a switch-out and gave Jacob his eldest daughter, Leah, which fits in with the bathroom scene, Jack embracing the young woman only to discover she is the decaying corpse of an older woman (ironically enough, the actress playing the young woman is named Lei). After seven more years, Jacob is able to wed Rachel, then he labors yet seven more years. He first makes Laban quite wealthy, then amasses himself great wealth through his manipulation of Laban’s flock, taking the better part and garnering some resentment in the process. So, Laban angry with him, Jacob finally leaves and begins his journey home, fearful of Essau and planning how to appease him. But before all this, in a story associated with a ladder upon which Jacob saw angels coming and going, at a place between Beersheba and Haran, as he traveled to Laban, Jacob’s Lord granted him the land on which he was lying, for him and all his descendants which would become as the dust of the earth, spreading west and east and north and south. In a sense this was achieved through the displacement of Essau (the “Red Man”, who is given as selling his birthright for a bowl of Jacob’s soup, Jacob being a good cook and Essau at the point of starving) which becomes in The Shining an analogy for the story of America’s colonialism, American Indians often in the past having been called Red Men, that story expressed in the lodge being built on an Indian burial ground. So, I think Kubrick’s “Shining” can be taken as having in it a story of American Colonialism and also the story of Jacob and Essau, but not specifically either one literally, though Kubrick had, no doubt, real social and human concerns he wanted to present in the movie. We’re talking archetypes here, mysterious things, that labyrinth sculpted so skillfully by Daedalus (said to be the inventor of images) that even he was almost stranded within it. Of all others who entered within it’s given that only Theseus was finally able to escape with the assistance of Ariadne and her thread. Kubrick mixes up the Greek sphinx of Oedipus with the story of the Passover and the release of Jacob’s descendants from their Egyptian bondage (this referenced not only in the titles of music chosen, the Passover Canon, but in the reference to “the white man’s burden”) and the Egyptian sphinx. Both Herodotus and Spago gave accounts of an elaborate, imposing Egyptian labyrinth. Outside the labyrinth was a pyramid. Kubrick brings into the mix that labyrinth and pyramid association here, incorporating also the sphinx, a hybrid creature like the minotaur, polymorphs, and utilizes even music titled “Polymorphia” in the scene in which he tells Wendy to check the Snowcat in the garage. It may seem peculiar that we end up with the first Snowcat having been disabled and a second Snowcat arriving which will be of great help, the sphinx after all being also a sort of protector, just as it was a protector of graves at Giza, but in The Chariot card of the Tarot we are shown the black and white twin sphinxes, opposites that when working in tandem, bring victory to the charioteer. One way of viewing the lodge is a giant mortuary temple covered with hieroglyphs, the pictures on the walls, the graphic designs throughout which recall the designs in the labyrinth, as does the, well, labyrinth nature of its halls and rooms. The symbols associated with Jacob used most prominently by Kubrick are the wrestling of Jacob and his laming, and the ladders placed in the movie that overlay triangular shapes of the house as if also linking them to pyramid imagery. In the movie, with the labyrinth, it is as if Jack, who said it was if he knew what was around every corner in the lodge, who held there a sense of welcoming deja vu. To address the title, The Shining, I think we need to consider the possibility of a Hebrew correspondence due to the nature of the doubling and mirroring in the film, those being a primary theme, and the notion that these “shinings” are likened to sleep and introduced with a vision of twins. Not only do we see doubling with symmetrical designs, furnishings and shots, we have the doubling had with mirrors and are even indicated (as we’ll see) in the prominent appearance of folded mattresses at certain points in the film, for instance there being a folded mattress at the end of the hall of Room 237 and two folded mattresses draped over the stairway outside of the Torrance’s suite. Once we reach the portion of the film where the names of days are given as designating sections, it is every other day, and finally we have the last two sections, 8 and 4, with 4 being half of 8. The Hebrew word “shanah” means to fold, duplicate, double, disguise, while “shnah” means to sleep-and I think this is what the “shining” is referring to, and that we see this linkage in visual forms, such as with the folded, doubled over mattresses (for sleep). The word for twins is ta’owm, but there is also the word “sheniy” which means crimson or scarlet thread, and is used in relationship to twins in a biblical passage to do with the birth of Pharez and Zarah. The first put his hand out and the midwife wrapped a scarlet thread (sheniy) about it, acknowledging that he was the firstborn, but then that one drew back his hand, turned back, and so his brother was born first, and this was called a break, a breach, so his name was Pharez (meaning breach), while the one wearing the scarlet thread was called Zarah meaning the “rising of light”. The word Zarah is related to zerach, again the rising of light, and is mentioned also in context of Jacob and Esau. After Jacob wrestled with the angel and received his new name, “as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank…” for to eat of the sinew which shrank was to partake of forgetfulness (as presented earlier), the less reasoned, more passionate part of Jacob which was his weakness. The sun rising is the same zerach and it’s not as if it is used that many times in the bible, this given as its only occurrence in Genesis. Jack was able to stand over the labyrinth in the lobby and view the progress of Danny and Wendy to its heart, but when he is physically in the maze he loses his memory (one could say even his thread of thought) overcome by passion. Not to mention destiny. If there can be no divergence from the rote “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, then certainly you’re subject only to fate, are impoverished through no freedom of will, of selection, election, and perish in the face of unrelenting oracle.
Recall what I’ve written as to the Hebrew word shanah (shaniy), second, doubling etc., that I think is the “shining”. Another saniy is “hated” and is used once, from what I see, in Deuteronomy. “If a man have two (shnayim) wives, one beloved, and another hated (saniy), and they have born him children (both ) the beloved and the hated; and (if) the firstborn son be hers that was hated then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit (that) which he hath, (that) he may not make the son the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, (which is indeed) the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn by giving him a double (shnayim) portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.” The above Roman quote is often given as an argument for predestination, it being god’s right to do and feel as he will, everything being of his creation. There are subtler phrasings but that’s what it comes down to in the argument of salvation being nothing to do with works but predestined election. But then we have the earlier described meaning of passover, in which one escapes the slavish chains of predestination and attains the right to self expression. For those who conceive of god as a being or power representing the penultimate self determination, this attaining self expression means a partaking, to a degree, in that quality. So, what of Danny? What is the strategic Danny’s clue? The inspiration to double back as he does then effectively erase his presence in the labyrinth, at least in such a way that the Minotaur passes him by? What about Danny who explored so fearlessly the labyrinth of the hotel, zooming around on his Big Wheel, playing while Jack worked? Who was fortunate enough as well to escape the woman in the bath who attempted to strangle him, reminding us of Oedipus’ encounter with the sphinx who strangled her victims? The sphinx is less a personality than a guardian and effect. She is the presentation of the riddle, the awareness of the riddle, and what happens when one is unable to divine the riddle. In the bathroom of the Boulder apartment, in the scene before the shower curtain, later fully realized in room 237, Danny was wearing a shirt decorated with the number 42. Then, snowbound at the lodge, Danny watched The Summer of 42 with his mother, which as already mentioned is rather Oedipal fare, the story of the young teen’s brief affair with an older woman, which Danny didn’t completely watch as he decided he must have his fire truck. 42 happens to be 21 doubled. Danny is linked here with the number 42, whereas Jack is linked with 21, the summer of 21 through the July 4th reference. 42 happens to the the number of “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh or “I am that I am”, the “I am” doubled, as revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush, “I am that I am…thus you shall say to the Sons of Israel, I am has sent me to you”. And it seems to be related here to the double axe, the labrys, which Danny must possess as he comprehends the labyrinth whereas Jack does not. In a kabbalistic view, this particular name denotes Kether, the crown, the first creative impulse in which was contained all, including all that is “future”, ehyeh being in the future tense. But the exclamation point on the film happens to be July 4th, 1921 (also absent from the book), so lets hone in on that-and because the film ended on that note, let’s take it as where Kubrick wanted emphasis placed at the last. Which has everything to do with the ideas just posed in the paragraph above. July 4th. Independence Day (often a feast of blind patriotism). Jack Torrance stands at the foreground of a party celebrating the birth of the American nation, described by Delbert Grady as the caretaker in perpetuity, again recalling the numerous flags shown in the movie, which hang on the walls of the lodge, the miniature flag in the office of Ullman who was dressed in red, white and blue, the child waving the flags in the newscast preceding Dick’s vision of the trouble at the lodge. Jack, who bemoaned yet pressed the dire responsibilities of the White Man’s Burden, who felt so at home at the lodge, so ready to sacrifice his family to the demands of the “lodge”, is revealed as an Everyman who supports the tyranny of Might to Right, of the class system, who submerges his person and life in it, is given a sense of place, and ego expanded by the remote contact high with those he serves. Or perhaps not so much even those he serves as those ideals he’s been sold and accepted of absolute sublimation of self, sacrifice of self through duty, so he may be rewarded with a feeling that the lodge and its rooms are his as well though he is relegated to the servant’s quarters-and wouldn’t he be denied even those servant’s quarters if not for his acceptance of the system? Yet, though there are many rooms and we know presidents and all the “best” have stayed there, only one time does he visit one of those rooms to find, “There was nothing there”. Quite a party! One really doesn’t need much more of a horror story than that, Jack’s deranged devotion to the lodge and his determination to live up to its complete confidence, even if it means the deaths of his wife and son. And himself. The minotaur of the labyrinth here is a zealot, a literalist fanatic, who through that single-minded literalism has lost all capacity for language, for self-expression, and one can take that to mean anything outside the rote, Jack’s tirade on the stairway exemplary, his essential inability to comprehend, throughout, anything either Wendy or Danny say to him as he can only interpret their actions through the filter of his corrupted sense of loyalty.
Or…again…we could look upon Jack as free. That this is a positive end. That the July 4th party, appearing only now, really does represent a liberation. Which has been my take on it for a while. But, I think it’s going to be a matter of perspective, just as with the poster on the door in the switchboard room which presents the optical illusion of a figure that can be seen as either facing forward or backward. One could go either way with it.
Kubrick has crafted films that communicate to the audience such an intense realism, one in which they feel firmly immersed, that the audience is going to be reluctant to accept that The Shining is a unique Kubrickian blend of expressionism and realism in which the stage and story is not as one initially supposes. Kubrick “sells” the audience-ready story in large, medium and small type, but if one digs down into the fine print then the story shifts and the audience becomes “it” rather than the characters. A good comparison would be lucid dreaming. An “Alice in Wonderland” style story sets up the viewer for an alternate (or more in-depth) reading of reality with the surpassing of the looking glass, but at the same time the audience is effectively dissociated from what takes place beyond the mirror as they stay on the other side looking in. Kubrick absolutely extinguishes that boundary and so, as in dreams, the audience doesn’t question the “reality” of what is taking place on screen. He grafts in numerous instances, however, where the audience member has the opportunity to go lucid in Kubrick’s world, to wake up and examine the artificial surroundings and to begin to sort out the reality they do represent on a deeper level.
Approx 12,700 words or 26 single-spaced pages. An 98 minute read at 130 wpm.
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