The Shining (1980)

After the (Y) machine took a festive break, the wheels are again starting to turn. To ring in the New Year, I’m going to be telling you about each of my ten favourite movies. it’s been harder than expected to elucidate my feelings on these films, usually “just watch the damn thing” is more effective than a series of ridiculous superlatives, but here goes. I hope you enjoy!

Stanley Kubrick is the fucking man. It’s undisputed. Shrouded in rumour and urban myth, tales of his unmatched mind are ten a penny. A master tactician, reportedly unbeatable at chess, one of his many obsessions, his command of lighting, miss-en-scene and the psyche of the poor actors who signed up to be in any of masterpieces, he was the perfect director.

The Shining acts as the perfect distillation of his vision. Set in a labyrinthine hotel (complete with actual labyrinth) it charts the slowly decaying mind of winter caretaker and author Jack Torrance. The book it’s based on, written by Stephen King as a way of charting his own descent into alcoholism following a similar writers block scenario, was optioned by Kubrick essentially for parts.

He took the overarching narrative and rather than gutting it, buried within it a series of enigmatic subplots. He took to researching the role of subliminal messaging within advertisement and set about using that knowledge to explore the horrors of the Holocaust, the genocide of the Native Americans at the hands of settlers and further than that, the very nature of the past and what is signified by the concept of the ghost. 

Beyond even those topics it is thought that Kubrick was cheekily hinting at the fact that he had been hired to stage the moon landings by NASA. The conflict between Jack Nicholson’s Torrance and his wife, played by Shelley Duvall, is almost entirely predicated on the fact that he is trying to conceal from her what he is truly up to. The film deals with the ramifications of what happens when a spouse discovers your ulterior motives – much in the way Kubrick’s wife may have upon discovering her husband was lensing fabricated space explorations. Add to that that Kubrick may also have been taking shots at King himself for complaining about the treatment of his material and you a have a film so deep, engaging and multifaceted that it can be watched over and over again.

And that I have. All of these theories are relatively new to me, I think I must have seen this film the first time at around seven years old. It scared the bejesus out of me. In the ensuing fourteen years I must have seen this film two dozen more times. It’s this generosity of subject and morphing appeal that leads this to be one of my favourite ever films. I’m likely to watch it a further ten dozen times within my lifetime and never understand to the fullest extent it’s genius.

– Oliver Drew

Ollie sketch91

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5 thoughts

  1. Good review. I don’t actually really like this movie, but Room 237 exposed me to these theories you mention, and thereby increased my appreciation for The Shining’s brilliance. There is no doubt this is a brilliant man making a brilliant film; it’s not one I paticularly ENJOY.

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