Stanley Kubrick's The Shining

Published: 2019-08-29 07:30:00
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This research deals with the way horror movies of different epochs embrace elements of Gothic narrative in the structure. The paramount element of any Gothic narrative that is normally listed first is the action setting. The story is normally set in the castle, often deserted and distanced from highly populated areas (Harris 2015). The three movie under analysis - Stanley Kubricks Shining, Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and A.J. Bayona's The Orphanage express the filmmakers' respect and reverance to magnificent houses that possess something more than the energy of people who once lived in them.

Stanley Kubricks Shining demonstrates many of Gothic elements in its inner structure but the most startling of them is its setting the vast and incomprehensible Overlook Hotel, secluded from the outer world by the Rocky Mountains and heavy snow. Ghastly weather is another significant chrarcteristics of a Gothic narrative, so the place where Overlook Hotel is located is cut from the civilization due to severe thunderstorm and large amount of snow on the roads. The Torrances family are left face-to-face with their family problems and with inexplicable powerful supernatural forces of the Hotel.

Throughout the film Kubrick widely shows shots that demonstrate visual incompatibility of tiny human figures on the background of something spacious and menacing. In the opening scene when the titles are still being shown a little car is seen moving amongst the exuberant nature and magnificent landscape of the Rocky Mountains, as if reminding the viewer how small and weak a human being is in comparison to decuman mysterious forces. Even a short stay amidst such disproportionate and overwhelming scenery may permanently affect a persons mind in most unfavorable way. For instance, driving to the Hotel with his wife and son, Jack already sounds slightly mad talking about a snowbound party and cannibalism the party had to resort to. Jacks words sound like an ominous prediction of what is going to happen to the family itself later on.

The Shining features gigantic Overlook Hotel not simply as a building but as something alive and independent. The Hotel creates an impression of being able not just to suggest its own ideas upon the unstable psyche of its inhabitants but even interact with them in many ways. The Hotel amazes even with its seeming self-maintenance. Although Jack is hired to take care of the building, the viewer actually never has a chance of seeing him doing any kind of housework. However, the huge eerie place is always perfectly clean and tidy; its long and creepy corridors are brightly lit. There is no dust, no signs that the place is deserted for the winter it is as if the Hotel is a self-cleansing flawlessly-functioning live organism. The people who work in and with the Hotel know about that and try to warn the Torrances about the Hotels inconceivable powers: Some places are like people- some shine, some dont - says Mr. Halloran, the chef cook, to Danny, 5-year-old son of Jack and Wendy. This qualifies the Overlook Hotel as one of the main characters in the horror story.

Throughout the film the audience can observe how masterfully the filmmaker makes use of the setting and color scheme to set the tone and mood of different passages. For instance, one of the opening scenes, the one in Ullmans office is set in a classic 70s office with its walls painted dirty apricot and pictures in frames on it. The office being cozily small and full of business paraphernalia, designed in muted pink non-threatening hue, creates the atmosphere of safeness and reassuring human presence that contrasts so much with the emptiness and sparkling aggressive coloring of the other rooms and corridors in the Overlook Hotel. The color of the rooms always set the mood and atmosphere to the scene that are filmed in them. The lizard-green color of the bathroom in room 237 suggests the association with a swamp and its ugly slithering creatures. That is why a woman with her long sleek wet body (like that of a snake or a lizard) emerging from behind the shower curtain is perceived as a natural continuation of the aggressively green room. Another example of a color enhancing the meaning of the scene is the episode in the red-and-white bathroom where the ghost of Mr. Grady, the former caretaker of the Hotel, is convincing Jack to correct his family as they are obviously preventing Jack from performing his duties as a caretaker of the place. The walls being neon-red seem to reflect Jacks murderous thoughts.

The room with enormously high ceiling and a fireplace where Jack is trying to write is so huge that a human being cannot possibly feel comfortable in it. Its colossal metal chandeliers overhang menacingly and symbolize some outer threat and danger that the Torrances cannot control. The walls are decorated with Navajo and Apache Indian design making the audience remember that the Hotel was built on an ancient Native American burial spot. During the Torrances tour about the Hotel, their guide tells them that the Overlook hotel had to withstand several Indian attacks while it was being built. The viewer recollects these facts while looking at the room's design and, as a result, the spacious magnificent room is perceived as a solemn monument to thousands of dead Indians assumedly offended by the fact that their burial spot was desecrated and ruined. The gigantic Indian design piece of art over the mantelpiece deserves a separate analysis.

It depicts 6 geometric humanlike figures, two of which visibly refer to the ghost twin girls that Danny sees in one of the corridors swept by blood. The figures are exactly of the same color that the girls dresses and are also very alike like the girls. This idea of doubling or mirroring can be observed in many scenes in the movie. The twin girls are not likely to be the ghosts of Mr. Gradys daughters as his children were 10 and 8 years old so they could not possibly be that much alike. Therefore, the girls are part of the Hotel too; along with its sparkling glass and glossy surfaces they are an integral element of the complex Hotel structure. Another example where the setting interacts with the Hotel human inhabitants is the scene in the Ball Gold Room where looking in the mirror Jacks sees his own reflection as the bartender Lloyd. The same happens in the red bathroom where Grady tries to wipe Jacks jacket. The bathroom walls are covered with mirrors and it is as if the room was telling Jack that he is actually the one who killed his family. There is no doubt that Mr. Grady is nothing more than Jacks own projection, materialized by the shining powers of the Hotel.

The Hotel, undeniably representing a classic haunted house in Gothic narrative, has a lot in common with a typical horror story mansion despite its modern gloss and immaculate order. The whole vast building is drowned in suspense music and scary sounds. These sounds seem like the continuation of the visual part of the building. Ghostly apparitions are not uncommon and it appears that the Torrances are kind of used to seeing them and perceive them as the natural Hotel interior whatever absurd that may sound. These interior design ghosts also mirror and mimic what is going on in the Hotel. For instance, when Wendy sees a ghost in a black tuxedo with a glass of wine and a bloody wound on the head, the trickle of blood on his forehead looks very much the same as Jacks wound from being hit with a bat by Wendy.

One more fascinating symbol echoing throughout the Hotels setting is that of the maze. Being a vivid representation of the dead-end family dysfunctional relationship, the maze is at the same time the symbol of their wandering around the Hotel in search of each other and the Rescue from the abusive husband and father. The assumption that the Hotel itself is also a maze is reinforced with the pattern on the carpet along which Danny is riding on his toy-car. If observed closely, the pattern looks exactly like a maze, so the scene of Danny fleeing from the bloody flood all across the maze-patterned carpet is reverberant with and prophesying of the scene where Jack, having gone completely insane, is chasing Danny through the real maze in the darkness and snow. In this climatic scene Danny is literally trying to escape the flood of his own blood. Another parallel with the maze is the Hotels unfathomable long corridors where each member of the Torrance family is usually seen alone. The Torrances are almost never spotted together in the vast space of the monstrous Hotel and seem to be lost and devoured with the Hotels aggressive halls and lounge rooms. Each of them either minds their own business or is looking for one of them. Being secluded from the rest of the world the family relationship grows even more distant and dysfunctional. Wendy is often shown in the super-clean kitchen or in the basement switching on the heater to warm up different parts of the Hotel which was supposed to be Jacks job. It looks like she is following Native American rules of conduct for wives doing hard chores without complaining. Speaking about warming up, it looks rather interesting that except for the fact that the Hotels inhabitants wear thick sweaters, there is no other indication that it is cold in the Hotel which it should be, given the temperature outside and the fact that the Hotel was only partly heated. The fireplace in the Colorado Lounge where Jack is pretending to write is almost never seen working, though wooden logs are accurately piled nearby. The Hotel again creates an impression of a living organism that heats itself with the accumulated energy of its former residents and its own mysterious powers.

The action being set in a modern luxuriantly designed hotel adds some new revolutionary twist and flavor to the classic Gothic horror movie. Unlike many movies that are set in old and shabby castles where the wooden floorboards creak, rusty doors screech and huge ancient trees scratch the windows, Overlook Hotel looks reassuringly touched and inhabited by people. Kubrick deliberately breaks the stereotypes to raise the bar for future horror movies. If one closely looks at the famous scene where Danny, submerged in a zombie trance, writes REDRUM on the white door pronouncing the word in the creepiest way, the room generally looks nice and cozy. Wendy is comfortably sleeping on the bed next to the nightstand with a lamp emitting a soft pleasant glow. All the doors are snow-white and the blanket that Wendy is covering herself with looks snug and safe. Nonetheless, these details only add horror to the scene rather than neutralize it. The evil used to be perceived as something lurking in the dark. However, Kubrick breaks the stereotype by filming probably the most disturbing scene in the cinema history in the homey cozy atmosphere of Wendys bedroom. Another everyday object that Kubrick uses a lot to unsettle the viewer is the mirror. In the described sequence with Danny shouting REDRUM, Wendy sees the reflection of what Danny wrote in the mirror opposite the bed and understands what the word really means. The mirror is also used in one of the first scary sequences when Danny, still at his home bathroom, sees the twin sisters in the mirror together with Tony, the other personality in Danny. This apparition serves as a premonition for Danny that something horrible is going to happen. As Rob Ager claims the assorted mirror concepts in The Shining arent just about disorientating us. They are essential to unraveling the hidden narratives of the film, through the concept of duality. This duality takes many forms character duality, location duality, scene repetition, and of course, parallels b...

sheldon

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