In The Shining (1980), Stanley Kubrick enlivens Stephen King’s horror popular fiction novel with his renowned film techniques, crafting the story into a film to be a thrilling, unsettling experience in itself.
The musical mediums of György Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki add to the sinister energy of Kubrick’s reputable slow, prolonged scenes.
In the opening scene we are introduced to Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic and writer, who interviewed for a caretaker position for the Overlook Hotel during the cold winter months in Colorado in hopes to relieve his writer’s block. Forewarned with the story of the previous caretaker, whose demonic premonitions from an ethereal presence caused him to murder his wife and twin daughters in the Overlook Hotel, Jack still pursued the caretaker position and makes the move with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd).
Troubling happenings already occurred before the Torrance family moved to the Overlook Hotel, such as sporadic moments of callous, demonic voices dictating Danny’s speech. Unaware of the series of horrendous events to follow, Wendy assumed it as an ‘imaginary friend’ phase in Danny’s life being a young boy.
With a past of paranormal omens from his ‘imaginary friend’, young Danny’s conscious deteriorates in the Overlook Hotel with each day that goes by. The unwelcoming voices and appearances of the previous caretaker’s murdered family worsen; Danny certainly could run, but couldn’t hide.
The satanic ghostly beings in the Overlook Hotel slowly started to dictate the psyche of each member of the Torrance family, particularly Jack, as his initial premonitions of demonic commands transitioned from thoughts, to out-of-body experiences, to his reality.
Kubrick’s geometrically shot angles focused upon inanimate tricycles, toys and hallway corridors, ties in a pseudo-character to the objects objects, such as ￼￼themselves, adding an airiness of terror without actual violence.
The clenching, terrifying happenings in The Shining leave us on the edge of our seats as it is, yet Kubrick’s extreme camera angles have us feeling mentally distorted, making the act of watching the film an experience in itself.
The way Kubrick depicted each character in the film allows us to crossover between our natural plot assumptions based upon the external reality of the situation yet also incorporates the inner workings of our imagination as we aren’t sure which characters to trust.
director STANLEY KUBRICK
director of photography JOHN ALCOTT
story STEPHEN KING
cast JACK NICHOLSON, SHELLEY DUVALL, DANNY LLOYD and SCATMAN CROTHERS
Text by Ellen Grace