Sunday, 29 November 2015

"The Shining" (1980) - A review.

Fig 1.
The Shining” (1980) by Stanley Kubrick recounts the preternaturally charged tale of the Torrence family and their encounter with the Overlook Hotel as a storm begins to take hold, trapping them. Featuring Kubrick’s trademark pacing and an almost microscopic attention to detail “The Shining” beckons viewers into the isolation of the Overlook, but within they will find that once inside and safe from the storm, they are instead trapped again, within the often times confusing and labyrinthine, Overlook. Of the plot, Roger Ebert muses... “Who is the reliable observer? Whose idea of events can we trust?” (Ebert, 2006)

The drab art direction within the hotel exploits a different kind of horror, the kind that you don’t encounter when running from a crazed axe-murdering interdimensional hyper lizard named Chuck. Instead, it is the kind that features in our everyday lives. Kubrick states - when discussing the conception of the art direction for the hotel -  “We wanted the hotel to look authentic rather than like a traditionally spooky movie hotel. The hotel's labyrinthine layout and huge rooms, I believed, would alone provide an eerie enough atmosphere.” (Kubrick, 1980) The Overlook Hotel is pristine, in a hospital-like manner, in which the appearance of cleanliness is upheld, but there is a sense of history - a build up of it - accumulated over a span of time, lending an eerie and in fact, unsettling quality to proceedings.

Kubrick’s camera work is exemplified in The Shining, the long steadicam shots adding a fervent dread to the claustrophobic halls. Tracking shots follow Danny through hallways, holding him at an uncomfortable distance to instill in us a sense that something is slyly pursuing him. This sense of unease is further driven home by the disparity featured in the spacial design of the Overlook. There are instances in the film where spatial continuity is marvelously broken, for instance the window in Ullman's office that features an open sky where a hotel wall should be blocking; hallways that have no logical endpoint as the hotel doesn’t continue with the, indeed the interior of room 237 encroaches upon the area where another room should exist, giving rise to ideas of a fractured reality where nothing makes sense; executive producer Jan Harlan says of the design…”It's clear instantly there's something foul going on. At the little hotel, everything is like Disney, all kitsch wood on the outside – but the interiors don't make sense. Those huge corridors and ballrooms couldn't fit inside. In fact, nothing makes sense.” (Harlan, 2012)

Fig 2.
In broad terms, it is the culmination of these things that creates the presence of the Overlook, it is seemingly imperceptible; even Wendy doesn’t seem to notice the oddities that Jack and Danny encounter, but as with Repulsion (1965) and Black Narcissus (1947) these techniques go to build the atmosphere until it is almost made flesh. The Overlook is perhaps the most evocative of the trio, becoming iconic and almost archetypal in its mundane depiction of supernatural horror in a largely normal setting.

Fig 3. 


Abbott, Kate. 'How We Made Stanley Kubrick's The Shining'. the Guardian. [online] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/oct/29/how-we-made-the-shining [Accessed 29 Nov. 2015]

Ebert, Roger. 'The Shining Movie Review & Film Summary (1980) | Roger Ebert'. Rogerebert.com. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-shining-1980 [Accessed 29 Nov. 2015]

Visual-memory.co.uk,. 'The Kubrick Site: Kubrick Speaks In Regard To 'The Shining''. [online] Available at: http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/interview.ts.html [Accessed 29 Nov. 2015]


Fig 1. The Shining Poster. [image] Available at: https://girlmeetsfreak.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/the-shining-1980-poster.png [Accessed 29 Nov. 2015].

Fig 2. Danny on trike - still. [image] Available at: http://idyllopuspress.com/idyllopus/film/images/shining/sh_tu5.jpg [Accessed 29 Nov. 2015].

Fig 3. Jack at the bar still [image] Available at: http://www.beatontheblue.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/JN-shining.jpg [Accessed 29 Nov. 2015]

Additional reading

Additional viewing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sUIxXCCFWw - Spatial awareness and set design in "The Shining".

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