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DanBuck

The Shining (Kubrick)- a question

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A friend of mine asked me this morning a question about this film and I don't remember the film well enough to tell her the answer.

At the VERY end of the film after all the bad stuff has gone down, l there is a long camera shot of the wall of photos in the inn. The camera zooms to one picture in particular that shows the entire staff of the inn in its hayday, and sitting in the front row is Jack Nicholson. But the picture is dated 1921.

So...

What does it mean that the picture shows HIS face?

Is he a ghost? Is he reincarnated? Was he predestined to find this hotel to reunite with his earlier soul? What's the deal?

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You've opened a can of worms here, Dan. This topic has been much discussed over the years. Kubrick was, of course, silent on the matter. King's book is no help.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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A friend of mine asked me this morning a question about this film and I don't remember the film well enough to tell her the answer.

At the VERY end of the film after all the bad stuff has gone down, l there is a long camera shot of the wall of photos in the inn. The camera zooms to one picture in particular that shows the entire staff of the inn in its hayday, and sitting in the front row is Jack Nicholson. But the picture is dated 1921.

So...

What does it mean that the picture shows HIS face?

Is he a ghost? Is he reincarnated? Was he predestined to find this hotel to reunite with his earlier soul? What's the deal?

I'm going with predistination. There's the earlier scene of Jack dreaming/ halucinating that it's 1921 and he's drinking at the bar. Then he goes in the bathroom and starts talking to a man who helps him clean up. Jack realizes it's the former caretaker who killed his family in 1921. He asks the man something like "Didn't you kill your family? Aren't you the caretaker?", etc. and the man tells Jack "It's you sir. You were always the caretaker.".

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I'd go more with the idea that the Overlook Hotel exists in some sort of not-of-this-world eternal outside-of-time sort of place, where (like heaven, but different) it's all jumbled up together. Sort of like Tillich's "eternal now," which Tony Campolo picked up in one of the talks he often gives on the Bible and the post-Newtonian view of time, both of which are preceeded by those mid-century British Christian poets and writers who were fascinated with parallel time and converging time and eternity and all that - Charles Williams, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden ("For The Time Being"). Only not the heavenly side of eternity, but the darker side.


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Don't know if I can contribute much towards answering your question, DanBuck, but I posted some first reactions to the film here when I went through all of Kubrick's films four years ago. There's a sentence or two that might touch on your question in this paragraph, in particular:

Finally, I am struck by the film's many references to television; a few shots begin tight on a TV and then pull back, and Danny says he heard about cannibalism on TV (prompting Nicholson to say, sarcastically, "See? It's okay. He saw it on the television"), and there are frequent references to Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons (Danny's parents call him "Doc", as in Bugs Bunny's line "What's up, doc?"), and of course there's the famous shot of Nicholson hacking through the bathroom door with an axe, sticking his head in the hole, and saying, "Here's Johnny!" It occurred to me that I couldn't think of any other Kubrick film that was so concerned with popular culture; most of his films take place in the past or the future, and his cultural references tend to consist of classical musicians and paintings or, at the most recent, standards like 'We'll Meet Again'. Was this all part of Kubrick's effort to be more "commercial", or did he mean something deeper by it? For example, when Danny says he heard about cannibalism on TV, is Kubrick making the same point he made when Barry Lyndon told his son bedtime stories about decapitation, namely that violence is ingrained in us from an early age, or that children have an innocent fascination with violence, or that early exposure to violence anesthetizes us to the horror of violence, or something similar? Or is something else going on? Is Kubrick, perhaps, saying television is a force similar to "the shining", whereby thoughts and images, some of which are linked to people now long dead, are transmitted over great distances without physical form?
Is the confusion between past and present in the hotel (and in Nicholson's mind) supposed to resemble the confusion between past and present in a post-modern, TV-obsessed world, where old and new programs share the same airwaves?
And how does all of this square with Nicholson's claim that Kubrick believed
The Shining
was an "optimistic" film, because *any* story which says that life goes on after we die is inherently "optimistic"? Is pop culture being held up as a materialistic substitution for immortality?

FWIW, I posted this message to another list, too, and it prompted an interesting discussion about the themes of nihilism and the self, beginning with this comment:

Why would a horror film need a "point." Isn't the essence of horror a non-point, that is, something we cannot wrap our minds around? In other words, isn't horror about death? The desire for coherence, or a film that "works," or a place "to go" is to desire for that which is comforting, and sensible.

The Shining is Borgesian through and through. It strikes me that the repetitions, the mazes, the silences throughout the film do nothing but make us face the void.

And, perhaps this movement toward caricature on JN's part (that Peter describes) is also part of this: as a cartoon, he loses that authentic, individualistic identity that we all suppose we possess. . . .

This temporal confusion you describe is similar to what I am sketching above: the more lost we are , the less sense of self we have, the less certainty we have. Again, the void creeps in....

Followed shortly by:

The reams of duplicate pages next to the typewriter points to his absolute recognition that he can't create something original. That he is himself simply a reproduction of another (someone on the wall? In a photo?). That, in other words, he is Nothing.

For whatever that's worth.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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This was the first film that I showed my film class last Spring. We had an excellent discussion on it afterwards and this last shot was one of the more confusing aspects of that conversation. I think I finally came to the conclusion that the whole film was about the evil that exists within man. The Overlook Hotel being built on top of a Native American burial ground was an important point insinuating that American culture is largely built upon the evil of eviscerating a culture and building ours on top of it. Then when Grady, the butler type guy from the bathroom, tells Jack that "you've always been the caretaker" we realize that Jack is in a timeless place, so to speak.

This is how we arrived at the explanation of the picture on the wall. Jack existed as the embodiment of the evil that is timeless, that lives within the hotel/culture/man.


"Did you mention, perhaps, what line of industrial lubricants Jesus would have endorsed?"

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Kubrick was, of course, silent on the matter.

Not quite. In an interview, he did state that the picture at the end suggests reincarnation. Now, as usual, he's not mandating that interpretation, but apparently that what was what Kubrick was thinking when he ended the film on that note.

I think I finally came to the conclusion that the whole film was about the evil that exists within man. The Overlook Hotel being built on top of a Native American burial ground was an important point insinuating that American culture is largely built upon the evil of eviscerating a culture and building ours on top of it. Then when Grady, the butler type guy from the bathroom, tells Jack that "you've always been the caretaker" we realize that Jack is in a timeless place, so to speak.

This is how we arrived at the explanation of the picture on the wall. Jack existed as the embodiment of the evil that is timeless, that lives within the hotel/culture/man.

It's interesting to note that THE SHINING was originally going to delve into the history of the hotel more than it does. They developed a prop, per Kubrick's orders, that was a scrapbook full of clippings about the hotel's nightmarish history of murders and brutality. The prop can be seen in the film on Jack's desk. But Kubrick decided not to use the scrapbook in the finished film.

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Room 237 is part of the Vanugard series at TIFF 2012:

Obsessive cineastes detail their byzantine conspiracy theories about the secret themes and messages hidden within Stanley Kubrick's

The Shining

, in director Rodney Ascher's fascinating, kaleidoscopic deconstruction of a horror classic.

Apparently it played at Sundance and Cannes and it got good reviews from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

Waffling between "I might see it if there's a convenient time that doesn't conflict with anything else" to "might try to make an effort to see so long as it doesn't conflict with something I'm really jazzed about. Unless, of course, I hear they added Slavoj Zizek, in which case I might as well get in line now.

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Link to our thread on Room 237 (2012).

Pixar braintruster Lee Unkrich has dug up the screenplay for the original deleted ending of the film, which was removed from all versions of the film about a week after it opened in theatres:

Screenplay for the deleted original ending of
The Shining.
This hospital
was located between the shot of Jack frozen in the snow and the long dolly shot through the lobby that ends on the July 4, 1921 framed photo.

Kubrick decided to
the scene very shortly after the U.S. opening, sending out assistants to excise the scene from the dozens of prints showing in Los Angeles and New York City. All known copies of the scene were reportedly destroyed, although it is rumored that one surviving copy may exist.

Very little remains of the hospital epilogue beyond some
, costumes, and 35mm film trims housed in the
. Evidence of just how late in the process the scene was removed lives on in the form of two actors listed in the end credits, despite the fact that they don’t appear in the finished film:
in the role of “Policeman” and
in the role of “Nurse”. . . .


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Glenn Kenny:

"Even the many people who saw the epilogue when
The Shining
was first released have varying recollections of the exact details," the post observes. Indeed. I was one of those people. . . .

The Overlook post quotes Diane Johnson as saying that "Kubrick felt felt that we should see them in the hospital so we would know that they were all right. He had a soft spot for Wendy and Danny and thought that, at the end of a horror film, the audience should be reassured that everything was back to normal." The epilogue as I remember it did nothing, or at least very little, of the sort. As the Overlook says, people's recollections vary. I don't recollect any interaction between Ullman and a reception nurse, or Ullman with Danny. (The above picture is a continuity Polaroid from the set, so obviously such an exchange was shot.) I can almost swear that the exchange in which Ullman tosses a ball to Danny was not in the sequence. I mainly remember the exchange between Ullman and a still-shaken Wendy in which he recounts to her, in terms more officious than comforting, that there was no physical evidence that any of the phenomena she claims to have witnessed at the Overlook, e.g., gallons of blood gushing from the elevators, ever actually occured. Barry Nelson's portrayal struck me more as manager trying to steer an ex-employee away from a lawsuit than a caring former boss. Of course that could just have been my anti-authoritarian streak, a common trait in twenty-year-olds.

This was not really a "return to normal" kind of scene, in other words. It left more of a "what the hell happened" feeling in this viewer. We knew that Danny and Wendy had survived; Danny getting pulled into the Sno-Cat and that vehicle driving away had a very satisfying modern fairy-tale feel to it. The hospital scene threw us into a state of doubt again. . . .

The reason I had/have such a strong impression of the missing ending is because I ended up seeing
The Shining
again, with at least one of the same party, pretty shortly after seeing it the first time, and being flummoxed by the absence of the hospital scene. . . .

David Ehrenstein adds in a comment:

I saw that hospital scene at the press preview and was slightly surprised to hear that Kubrick had cut it shortly afterwards. As I recall Barry Nelson's rolling the ball to Danny was rather scary -- almost as if HE were one of the ghosts. . . .


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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7818115700_2a2ef5b5d1.jpg

An interesting curiosity: Dallas Stars backup goalie Richard Bachman went looking for a new mask, so the artist riffed on Stephen King's pen name and came up with the above creepy image.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Room 237 is part of the Vanugard series at TIFF 2012:

It opens in L.A. April 5. NY March 29

Edited by Darrel Manson

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I'm reading through BRIAN DE PALMA: INTERVIEWS (ed. by Laurence Knapp) and came across this interesting comment in a 1980 interview with Ralph Appelbaum:

"In
The Shining
you're dealing with a director who is working for the first time in this genre and who seems to have a bit of contempt for it. He is obviously not interested in the conventions of the genre he's chosen; in fact he seems to feel there would be something cheapening or demeaning in drawing from the wellspring of the normal genre conventions. Instead you sense that he wants to revolutionize it and make it something profound or significant. But the result is inevitably heavy-handed because what he has actually done is failed to realize the intrinsic beauty of the basic form per se.

The real trick is not to ignore the conventions but to take them and then personalize them."

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Noah Millman:

What is Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece, “
” about? That is to say, where does the horror come from?

Is it about writer’s block? (“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”) Alcoholism? (We know Jack had a drinking problem before they get to the hotel, and he shows all the brittle signs of a dry drunk.) Autism? (Danny is certainly a special child, and that can take a toll.) The claustrophobia of the Oedipal triangle? (What finally sets Jack permanently on a demonic path is when Wendy believes he caused the bruises on Danny’s neck, and runs from him carrying her boy, screaming, “you son-of-a-bitch – how could you?”) The anomie of modern existence? (All Danny seems to do up there in that hotel is ride in circles and watch television.)

Or does the horror come from the hotel, from echoes of the things that happened there before that were “not all good” – like the grisly murder of two twin girls by their father, Delbert Grady? (Grady is the one who ultimately seduces Jack to murder.) Or from horrors that date before the hotel’s construction – such as the Indian burial ground that, we are told, lies beneath the hotel’s foundations? (Native American motifs abound in the hotel, from the stained-glass windows to the pictures on the walls to the cans of Calumet baking powder in the storage room.) Or from the infernal regions themselves? (The bartender, Lloyd, first appears when Jack offers to sell his soul for a drink; when he tries to pay for it, he says Jack’s money isn’t good, that the drink is courtesy of “management” and that Jack, who wants to know who’s buying the drinks, needn’t concern himself with that question – at this point.)

Or is it just cabin fever?

The answer would appear to be, “yes,” which is to say, “no.” Coleridge referred to Iago’s “motiveless malignity” but this is deduced from the fact that Iago supplies us with too many motives for his actions – his injured pride at being passed over for promotion in favor of Cassio; his contempt for Othello’s own undeserved reputation; his conviction that Othello – and Cassio as well – have been carrying on with his wife, Emilia. Precisely because so many motives are readily supplied, we see that we are to distrust them all, and stop looking for a proper motive.

The same is true of the source of the horror in “The Shining.” If we look for it, we find it with alarming ease – indeed, we find a plethora of plausible sources. Which makes us doubt that any of them can be it. After all, if Jack’s alcoholism is to blame, then why tell us about the Indian burial ground? And, as with Iago in
Othello
, this should lead us to conclude that this movie isn’t playing by horror rules; that the search for a cause of the horror is to miss the point.
It
is the cause. . . .

[ snip snip snippity snip ]

The resort to esoteric, secret meanings behind reality is a psychological comfort when the capriciousness of that reality is too threatening. When we badly need reality to make sense – to be sending us a message – secret codes and vast conspiracy theories provide that sense.

So in a way, the existence of “Room 237″ is a testament to the success of “The Shining” in capturing the unassimilable horror of reality. If it weren’t so terrifying, nobody would see the need to tame it by explaining what it’s
really
about.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I've been reading through--well, skimming through--Mark Fisher's Ghosts of My Life. Today I came across his essay on The Shining--also available on his blog. It's good stuff; I'm growing less and less Theory-centric by the day, but it's always bracing to read:

 

Kubrick's editing of the film does not allow any of the polyvalencies of that phrase, 'It's All Forgotten Now', to go un(re)marked. The uncanniness of the song, today and twenty-five years ago when the film was released, arises from the (false but unavoidable) impression that it is commenting on itself and its period, as if were an example of the way in which that era of beautiful and damned decadence and Gatsby glamour were painfully, delightfully aware of its own butterfly's wing evanescence and fragility. Simultaneously, the song's place in the film – it plays in the background as a bewildered Jack speaks to Grady in the bathroom about the fact that Grady has killed himself after brutally murdering his children – indicates that what is forgotten may also be preserved: through the mechanism of repression.
 
I don't have any recollection of that at all.
 
Why does this Gold Room Pop, all those moonlight serenades and summer romances, have such power? The Caretaker's spectralized versions of those lost tunes only intensifies something that Kubrick, like Dennis Potter, had identified in the pop of the Twenties and Thirties. I've tried to write before about the peculiar aching quality of these songs that are melancholy even at their most ostensibly joyful, forever condemned to stand in for states that they can evoke but never instantiate.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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