Ideal viewing choice, Eloise, especially because of that haunting last shot, in which the English lord gets a blow job from a bear (tangentially, there’s a lot of weird homophobia in Kubrick’s films, e.g. at the orgy in Eyes Wide Shut you see a long tracking shot of homosexuals dancing, as if to say ”this is the pinnacle of decadence”).
Nevertheless, great movie… what are your thoughts?
Though an artifact of some technical glitch that has now repaired itself, these two comments, so similar yet not identical, reflect the mirror shots in The Shining. I remembered, from having watched it when it first came out, that I regarded it as OK but not great. Now I think that the creepy middle part really is great, as well as these incongruous images like the last screenshot that are scattered throughout. For example, I remembered vividly the opening credits with the camera following the car through the mountains and then just veering off onto its own trajectory. The most disappointing part is the glammed-up slasher ending. Perhaps, though, I’m discounting its parodic aesthetic, since Nicholson goes so obviously over-the-top in his end-stage madness. I had the awareness this time that the hotel is the mind and the locked rooms are repressed memories. I suspect that David Lynch learned a thing or two from this movie. There is a logical conscious story development, but oftentimes there are other unconscious contents, anomalous in place and time, that overlap or even interrupt. Like that scene where the kid is sitting on Jack’s lap: he’s speaking words of reassurance, but his affect conveys creepy menace. And then there’s the camera positioning with the toilet in that scene — each of the three middle screengrabs incorporates toilets into the image.
A more personal connection has developed since I first saw this film, which was in Virginia while I was working on my doctorate. The story takes place in Colorado; Jack and his family move from Boulder to take up the caretaker responsibilities at the hotel. There’s an early scene showing Jack’s apartment near the Flatirons foothills of Boulder, shot from nearly the exact angle I can see them where I live. And of course Jack is a novelist — it turns out that Stephen King was living in Boulder when he wrote the novel. I have become more like the Jack character than I was then — it’s as if I’ve been here before, knowing what’s around every corner…
There’s a strange food motif throughout. As the family is driving to the hotel, Wendy asks Jack if they are near where the Donner Party disaster took place. Jack says yes, and explains to Danny how the survivors resorted to cannibalism. At the hotel the head chef also has “the Shining” — one of a number of “magical negroes” in King’s stories. He explains to Danny how the Shining is like the smell of burned toast: the trace of something that happened before. We get a tour of the kitchen, including the big knives and the freezer with all the chunks of meat and the pantry. Immediately afterward we see Wendy serving Jack breakfast: it’s the scene shot half through the mirror and half directly, where we start to realize the hotel’s hold on Jack. During the climax Wendy slashes Jack with one of the big kitchen knives, she locks him in the pantry, and she freezes him to death like one of those legs of lamb hanging in the freezer. Maybe later she and Danny came back and ate Jack.
When Jack was locked in the pantry he had become the personification of one of Wendy’s and Jack’s repressed memories: simultaneously their terror of being killed and their desire to kill. The pantry door gets unlocked, just like room 237 — the repression is released, leading Jack to his doom. So it turns out that the family didn’t re-enact a prior memory of the house in which the caretaker butchered his family. Instead they re-enacted Oedipus. While Jack is all concerned about fulfilling his manly responsibilities, it’s Wendy who does all the work around the place — not just preparing and serving food, but tending the hotel boilers, doing the manly tasks. Ultimately Danny is Jack’s killer: it seems that Jack is chasing Danny, but really Danny is luring Jack to his doom. The boy then walks back out of the labyrinth in his father’s footsteps, assuming the father’s position in the family.
Have you read it? I think we all discussed this here before, but the plot is totally changed, this time for the better (unlike the ending of ‘The Hunger’.) This is not nearly always recognized as one of Kubrick’s greatest films, but it definitely is, along with ‘Strangelove’, ‘Lolita’, and a couple of others (not ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ in my book, I think that’s poor, except for succeeding in ruining Tom & Nicole’s marriage as a ‘curse before dying’ by Kubrick). I’ll tell you what’s been changed if you want, and aren’t afraid of *SPOILERS*. It’s also Jack’s best film, I’d say, except for ‘Chinatown’, which is the greatest film ever made (or one of the 3 or 4.)
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 10 April 2011 @ 3:45 pm
Wasn’t thinking, I guess I’d say ’2001: A Space Odyssey’ is his masterpiece, but ‘Clockwork’ is good (I like it less than others) and ‘Full Metal Jacket’ has good perfs., esp. that sergeant yelling “DO YOU SUCK DICKS?”
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 10 April 2011 @ 3:48 pm
I also love ‘Barry Lyndon’. It’s almost unbelievable Ryan O’Neal was ever in a position to command such a role. I’ve only seen it once, and think I want to see again.
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 10 April 2011 @ 3:50 pm
No I’ve not read it: go ahead and spoil, id of nyc. Visually The Shining reminded me of 2001 in certain regards, especially in the combination of tracking shots and deep focus for revealing the staged mises-en-scene. The color palette is rich and shifts rapidly, befitting the multiple-portality powers of the hotel.
Okay. It’s the end that leaves it the film in a state of horror. jack kills Scatman Crothers, as I recall, with an ax in that marvelously effective freezer? In the book, the whole fucking hotel is blown-up after Shelley and the little boy get away WITH the Scatman, and the last scene is this SHIT of their little happiness by a burbling brook. The film leaves the hotel intact, and mother and son have only the narrowest escape. Nobody would ever believe their tales of what they saw, but it’s doubtful they were ‘in touch’ with much of it. I think it’s meant to be literal to a great degree, that adds dimensions to the horror. The scene with Mr. Grady and Jack when he talks about intruding ‘into this situation’, the situation being a sort of paralyzed mummification of old moments of horror and obscenity (the old broad with her stud). The film is light-years beyond King’s Disneyland book, and it infuriated him. So he made a TV version, but only big fans paid attention to it; the Kubrick is the definitive one still. All those stuffed animals and obscene people in the room are marvelous, and it’s partly literal because the little boy is not drunk, and he’s picking up on the evil in the hotel. But although Crothers has ‘the shining’ too, Kubrick has him killed (don’t ask the Qlipothians, as we know Kubrick did that because he’s a racist.) Killing Crothers adds yet another dimension of complexity, unlike King’s stupid ‘saving all the good people only’. So that with the hotel still standing, you have that marvelous photo-montage with Till We Meet Again and Jack in a previous incarnation in the hotel (that’s correct, isn’t it? It’s been some 15 years since I last saw it.)
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 10 April 2011 @ 4:03 pm
In the book Shelley and boy get away with Scatman. They barely get away at all themselves in the movie, and their future is horrifyingly uncertain, DEF no burbling brooks, and probably just a social worker and welfare and skid row and mental institutions.
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 10 April 2011 @ 4:05 pm
[Inappropriate material deleted -- Ed.]
But what would you say is the difference between the film and the novel in terms of the message, and the handling of it?
Killing off the Scatman is fine, and far better than the happily-ever-after escape you describe in the book. I wanted a bit more from Scatman though, especially about why he drove up to the hotel by himself rather than bringing some armed reinforcements — although I certainly didn’t want a shootemup ending — or at least exercising more caution when entering the hotel. He was an innocent who still wanted to suppress the horrific information that the Shining revealed to him, so maybe this naivete prevented him from being more self-protective. Having Jack kill him did take the ambiguity out of his homicidal commitment; without that murder it could still have been possible that Jack wouldn’t have murdered the family. It’s sort of like having Horatio verifying Hamlet’s sighting of the father’s ghost — without that confirmation Shakespeare could have retained the ambiguity about whether or not the ghost is real. That Shakespeare: he could have been great, you know.
I did love the Till We Meet Again scene at the end. Jack looks so perfect in the photo, so exuberant and self-assured, fully in his element.
Yes, all that, and what I meant was ‘literal’ was that it really made the mother and child escape seem quite secondary to the continuation of the ‘situation’ at the hotel. The miracle Kubrick pulled out of this mediocre novel was that true horror cannot be achieved in an art-form unless the horror is given eternity, or a reasonable facsimile of. As it is, even with Jack killed off, the hotel’s guosts have been left alone, and Scatman’s murder seems to prove their weird success. It leaves it very ambiguous as a kind of reality almost, that the whole was left undamaged, and only outside evil types (Jack) and inside ‘forces for good’ are killed off. The old ghosts have substantially been left as a permanent horror performance, almost like the frozen figures in Marienbad, but more deadly. It gives you a very subtle sensation about the future of Shelley and the boy–they’re bound to become disoriented.
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 10 April 2011 @ 6:46 pm
Right: though the hotel and the caretakers merged psychically during that particular interval, the hotel has the greater power, the more enduring life/death force. And that’s the power of the end scene in part: Jack has joined the permanent staff, his story has been locked in a room waiting for someone who will hear its call and open it again. The unconscious horror isn’t just inside your head; it’s in the world, concentrated especially in select heterotopias. “…unless the horror is given eternity, or a reasonable facsimile of” — very good.
Makesi’s video shows that the little boy is sleeping on a bear pillow, and then later this pillow turns into the guy in a freaky bear suit sucking off the British lordship. This clearly indicates that the homosexual angst is related to the loss of (the stability of) the Father Figure.
Thanks for the link, Makesi — it would be odd to see the mirrored forward/backward splitscreen for the entire film. I agree about the repressed sexual abuse. Good observation about the bear pillow, pc. Sleeping with the bear: repressed homosexuality as well as repressed child sexual abuse/desire. The scene with Danny sitting on Jack’s lap is creepy in a host of ways. Then there’s Jack’s encounter in the men’s room with the former caretaker, who confronts Jack as a father might a son, pushing these same repressions back another generation. The mother is implicated too: room 237 is specifically Danny’s fear/desire. Though Wendy tries to pin the blame on Jack, Danny says it was a crazy woman who traumatized him. And we infer sexual abuse too, viz. Jack’s encounter with the bathtub woman.
None of this subsurface exploration belies the most direct understanding of motivation: Jack resents his wife and son, believes that they’re restricting his freedom and achievement, continually isolates himself from them in the hotel, would like to be rid of them. But in cutting wife and child off from himself, he must look at himself and his failures directly and without excuse — a dull boy. And then he’s lost in the labyrinth, frozen in inertia, dead.
I don’t think the homosexual desire arises from child abuse, as in Dani getting fucked, but rather from the failed Oedipal traingle: though she appears extremely pleasant, the wife is stifling, possessive and domineering; while Jack continuously doesn’t live up to his Oedipal role. If there’s a sexual abuser in this story, it’s the wimman, whose impenetrable mysteries (I think) the hotel partly represents, and who appears to Jack in the form of the green-skinned witch.
However what I find especially convincingly portrayed is the perversion of the English ruling classes, who are in equal measures seductive and threatening. Jack is offered a place in the eternal order, something like the free Masonic society, in exchange for selling out his father function. The creepy menace of the scenes with the ghosts is what makes this movie outstanding through and through.
“though she appears extremely pleasant, the wife is stifling, possessive and domineering”
Wendy couldn’t be more accommodating, more compliant, more supportive. I suppose this could be her passive-dependent ploy to hang on to Jack, who is surely stifling and domineering as well as overtly mean to her. But the failed husband/father/man is always going to blame the wife’s possessiveness: the old ball and chain, “the sperm bank upstairs” as Jack refers to her when talking with the bartender. Maybe Jack is afraid to penetrate the wife’s/mother’s mysteries, caught up as he is in the stereotypical picture of woman as sexual lure, as sperm bank, as mother, as constraint. The only ghosts that Jack talks to are men: he exchanges no words with the bathtub woman, who just laughs at the fear and loathing she instills in him.
“Jack is offered a place in the eternal order, something like the free Masonic society, in exchange for selling out his father function.”
The ghost presents himself not as ruling class but as servant. He exhorts Jack to exercise his function as father and husband in a more manly fashion:
“Well, he is a very willful boy,” Jack says to him.
“Indeed he is, Mr. Torrance. A very willful boy. A rather naughty boy, if l may be so bold, sir.
“lt’s his mother. She. . . interferes.”
“Perhaps they need a good. . . talking-to. If you don’t mind my saying so. Perhaps . . .a bit more. My girls, sir — they didn’t care for the Overlook at first. One of them actually stole a pack of matches. . . and tried to burn it down. But l. . . corrected them, sir. And when my wife tried to prevent me from doing my duty, I. . . corrected her.”
Wendy couldn’t be more accommodating, more compliant, more supportive
Wendy’s exaggerated masochistic compliance is a ”reaction formation” of her domineering wimman persona. She apparently doesn’t give pussy to Jack, and she’s generally frigid-unattractive, as played correctly by Duvall (notice the way she trails Jack whenever he wants to be left alone to write). Jack isn’t impotent just like that.
I also refuse the progressive-feminist reading because a bad Oedipal triangle always involves both the man and the woman’s disfunction, never just one side malfunctioning.
The ghost presents himself not as ruling class but as servant. He exhorts Jack to exercise his function as father and husband in a more manly fashion:
I was talking about the whole group of ghosts, Eloise. You’re such a cognitivist stickler for formalities.
Notice however that the masculine role that the group is imposing on Jack, is homosexually narcissistic in that its nurturing and protective aspects (the ”good father” – or, the father’s feminine side) are banished, and the only thing that remains is duty and power – the tenements of the ruling class system. It reminded me actually of the Nazi championing of a kind of an elitarian homosexuality whereby it was alright for cruel narcissistic powerful men to fuck each other, while the common Jewish queens were sent to the camps.
In the men’s room Grady, the ghost caretaker-servant, is cleaning up the stain on Jack’s jacket, down near the crotch area. The stain was made when the ghost and Jack bumped into each other and the ghost spilled a drink on Jack. Grady says it’s the advocaat that tends to stain; Jack points out that Grady has a bit of a stain on himself as well. Per Wikipedia, “Advocaat (or advokat) is a rich and creamy liqueur made from eggs, sugar and brandy. It has a smooth, custard-like flavor.” You can picture what that looks like I’m sure.
PS not to mention the delightful implications of ”advocate” and ”advocacy”, but in Kubrick’s semiotic maze, you can always interpret the interpretation, endlessly, until it becomes a bit of a Derridean game.
Rather, I am struck by the things that you CAN’T EXPLAIN in this movie – those mazy ancient-Indian psychedelic and schizophrenic patterns…
“the masculine role that the group is imposing on Jack, is homosexually narcissistic in that its nurturing and protective aspects (the ”good father” – or, the father’s feminine side) are banished, and the only thing that remains is duty and power – the tenements of the ruling class system.”
Right, and interesting to tie this to the ruling class. By “tenements” you mean that it’s essential for the subjugated men to respect only duty and power? So Grady presents himself in poshlike tones but he’s just a dutiful servant in the Garden of Earthly Delights where the rulers dance and smile and sip champagne.
I mean if the hotel is posited as the wife’s uterus, or in any case the female principle, then its schizonalaytic labyrinthine NETWORKED POWER is quite like the Egyptian Temptress’s tentacles, INNIT? (And appropriately WITHDRAWN to boot)
So Grady presents himself in poshlike tones but he’s just a dutiful servant in the Garden of Earthly Delights where the rulers dance and smile and sip champagne.
Well yes the Master-Servant game, the human slavery, is the essence of the Anti-Christ, isn’t it. ”The Garden of Earthly Delights” is hollow, the ”hauntological” ghostly music doesn’t convey the joys of Paradise, but its remnants, its spectral residue. This is what it makes it so creepy. It’s a place sort of pretending to be eternal bliss, but there is only total withdrawal and coldness.
Sorry, I did not know that posting that link would embed the video.
Furthermore, that youtube link just seems to be random scenes superimposed onto random scenes. When I watched a special backwards/forwards screening of the film, the film’s “mirroring” seemed so precise that every scene in the film’s first half literally seemed to sync with a corresponding scene in the second half. And guess where the two halves met? Jack embracing in Room 237.
Eloise you seem to have read my mind by the way because I started watching ENTER THE VOID by Gaspar Noe this week, which is a kind of a riff on 2001 and THE SHINING – maybe you could see it too so that we could weave the threads together into yet another fascinating palindrome?
I’m intrigued now by this palindrome idea. Of course it’s always possible to find what you’re looking for when playing Beatles records backward and so on, but there’s reason to expect a hidden structure in The Shining based on the physical and psychological mirroring that frames so much of the overt content. IDNYC mentioned “eternity or a reasonable facsimile,” and certainly time as a double-headed arrow achieves that effect. Now I’m thinking of Jacob’s ladder in the old testament, on which the angels ascend and descend. That the spectral figures occupying this hotel could go back and forth in time, aging and getting younger, dying and coming to life — sure. And I’m also thinking now about the hotel itself as central character, with the people who occupy it being the hotel’s own memories, fears, desires…
Oh yes, in case you’re new to these parts, Makesi — parody center likes to call me Eloise, presumably because I host such a pleasant well-mannered tea party here.
A palindromic DNA sequence can form a hairpin. Palindromic motifs are made by the order of the nucleotides that specify the complex chemicals (proteins) that, as a result of those genetic instructions, the cell is to produce. They have been specially researched in bacterial chromosomes and in the so-called Bacterial Interspersed Mosaic Elements (BIMEs) scattered over them. Recently[when?] a research genome sequencing project discovered that many of the bases on the Y-chromosome are arranged as palindromes. A palindrome structure allows the Y-chromosome to repair itself by bending over at the middle if one side is damaged.
And then it doesn’t seem strange that the Moebius strip always reminded me of the DNA helix.
Comment by Center of Parody — 11 April 2011 @ 2:06 pm
Jacob is a son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham; he’s renamed Israel by an angel. Here’s Genesis 28:10-19:
Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it [or "beside him"] and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.” And he was afraid, and said, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
Jacob names this place “Bethel,” which means “House of God”.
My thoughts have been going in around this direction (and I still lack the language, so forgive if it sounds incoherent);
just as in the ”Porno Gang” the Eros and the Thanatos coexist, so is there a cleansing place where it is possible to move backwards and forwards,
or to be an inward/outward figure. I have a hunch this possibility is written into the very DNA, as the Wikipedia hints at.
This much has been clear since Philip K. Dick.
But now the subject of discussion becomes: WHERE exactly is the portal, and how do you get to the opening?
Comment by Center of Parody — 11 April 2011 @ 2:24 pm
It’s the scene where Jack embraces the woman in Room 237; the two halves of the film embrace at this point, if you will.
And if you notice, there’s a silouette on the bathroom floor below the embracing couple that resembles the silouette of the mirror which Jack and Danny embrace before in the Torrances bedroom. The bathtub curtain is also composed to resemble the curtain in Danny’s bedroom.
Someone mentioned “Enter the Void”; very bleak film and a quite deliberate reversal of Kubrick’s “2001″. For director Gaspar Noe there is no transcendence, only ejaculate.
Well if that is the center of the film, then this speaks even more forcefully in favor of the idea that the repressed trauma is related to castration (the wounds on the witch’s body) that is to say Jack’s attempt to cope with castration.
This is precisely the interesting thing to discuss in a comparative analysis of 2001 and ENTER THE VOID (a great movie, by the way – absolutely recommended): the former’s transcendence, and the latter’s immanence.
Comment by Center of Parody — 11 April 2011 @ 4:55 pm
I just read that a musical composition by Krzysztof Penderecki entitled “The Awakening of Jacob” is used several times in The Shining: when Danny talks to Tony just before blacking out, when Danny flashes back to prior horrors that happened in the hotel, when Jack awakens from his dream of killing his family, and when Jack enters room 237.
And I just saw a still of the frozen Torrance where I realized his expression is COMICAL – he looks like a stiff upper-lipped uppity Conservative Brit Puritan whose broomstick was stuck up his ass when he froze.
I was going to say that if 2001 was transcendentalist, then THE SHINING is ”immanentist” because it proposes this Moebial topology where the world of the livin’ and the world of the ghosts are on the same plane, and everything will already have happened, and all. But in ENTER THE VOID I didn’t see this as pessimistic. I saw something else. I saw the possibility of a heightened consciousness, which the film presents viscerally through its very fabric, which reveals not that there is a realm above (what the film’s plot, and the filming from the bird’s eye view, all suggest), but that this realm here is multi-dimensional.
As I argued many times before, I am not so concerned as the theoreticians of the ”decline of symbolic efficacy”, that the meaninglessness of 95% commenting is a problem, because I think the blogs work through intensification, chaos, mingling, … material processes rather than content.
These discussions almost always enhance my appreciation and understanding of the films. I rarely have much to say about movies right out of the box. If a film grabs me in some way I post some evocative screenshots to see if they stimulate some intensifying chaotic mingling in the comments. As an unintended and serendipitous offshoot of this particular thread, Makesi’s introduction of the palindrome in The Shining triggered some new ideas about structuring some of my own fiction, which I’ll explore further in my own private musings today.
Maybe I’m being too much of an empirical stickler for details, but since I don’t have the opportunity to see the film backward and forward I must calculate elapsed time on the DVD. The running length of the film is 2:23:30, which means that the halfway point occurs at 1:12:45. Sure enough, this is when Jack enters room 237. The actual embrace with the bathing woman doesn’t begin until nearly 3 minutes later, at 1:14:30.
“And if you notice, there’s a silouette on the bathroom floor below the embracing couple that resembles the silouette of the mirror which Jack and Danny embrace before in the Torrances bedroom.”
You’re right, Makesi: the pattern on the green bathroom floor tiles has the same shape as the mirror on Jack’s chest of drawers.
Just before he goes to see his father in the bedroom, Danny is playing with his toys on the floor while his mother watches television. It turns out that she’s watching Summer of ’42, a movie in which a boy is seduced by an older woman. So there’s that.
Well there you have it, WIMMAN ABUSE. It is the fear of the many-headed hydra that propels the man to violence. At heart, it’s I think a very Oedipal story, no matter what progressive feminists would like to ”reinterpret” in the post-modern key.
Both mother and father are implicated in the fears and fantasies of sex and violence locked up in the old hotel, waiting for someone with the key to open the doors. And whatever physical and mental abuse Jack may have heaped on Wendy before the story even begins, she certainly does more damage to Jack at the hotel. Not just the kitchen knife but the baseball bat, the prototypical American male’s phallic weapon of choice.
The only problem in the end: what’s the point of all this? Is it a drama of splitting, a morality play about the necessity of integration? None of that sounds very…revelatory.
What stayed with me principally was Danny, my favorite scene is when the black guy explains the Shining to him, and you get a sense that Danny is cursed like Cassandra by his visionary eye. I often myself feel that way, complete with the narcissistic components of fancying yourself a Cassandra.
I’m wondering if the film reverses the story in Summer of 42. That is, instead of a boy pursing an adult, we have an adult forcing himself a boy? One website shows that Jack is reading a Playgirl Magazine in the Overlook lobby:
“Danny is cursed like Cassandra by his visionary eye. I often myself feel that way, complete with the narcissistic components of fancying yourself a Cassandra.”
Interesting. There are also illusions to the minotaur myth, a civilization blessed with riches so long as humans are perpetually sacrificed to the monster in the maze, a cycle which ends when the prince enters the labyrinth and defeats the beast.
Something I just considered….a palindrome suggests no progress. You’re always right back where you’re started, always in the maze.
“what’s the point of all this? Is it a drama of splitting, a morality play about the necessity of integration?”
I mean if all this splitting and doubling is about the tragedy of our split existential condition, what is the way to go then – integration? Reconciliation of the male & female side… ? Or are we doomed?
Comment by center of parody — 12 April 2011 @ 8:12 pm
Lastly, the Minotaur represents our basic nature: a complex mixture of animal, god, and human. Indeed, as mentioned in my prior post, the Minotaur was spawned from the liaison of a woman and a bull, and symbolizes this coincidentia oppositorum (meeting of opposites) of feminine and masculine, creature and human, rational and irrational, spiritual and instinctual, deity and demon, good and evil. The Minotaur also embodies both fate (our biological nature) and destiny (our freedom) and the integral interrelationship between the two. But why do we find it such a dreadful image? Because to confront the Minotaur in the dark labyrinth is to confront ourselves: our fears of the unknown, our ferocious, beastly nature, our rage, aggression, sexuality, mortality, the daimonic. This self-confrontation is successfully accomplished by proceeding carefully yet courageously along one’s own Ariadnean thread. The secret is that, metaphorically, we each have been given this thread to follow and lead us to our destiny– but only if we are brave enough to do so.
Comment by center of parody — 12 April 2011 @ 8:23 pm
I saw Summer of ’42 long ago. As I recall, while the boy clearly had a passion for the woman, she was the one who seduced him. She did so as a reaction to her own grief over the death of her husband, interestingly enough in light of what happens in The Shining.
Makesi or you might have a different view, but it’s clear to me that there’s no opening in The Shining. As Makesi says, “a palindrome suggests no progress. You’re always right back where you’re started, always in the maze.” Danny gets out of the labyrinth, but he’s just retracing his father’s steps. Have you ever seen the Simpsons parody? Bart cuts his way out of the labyrinth with a chainsaw.
I actually think the film is a bit more optimistic. It seems to advocate Danny’s Shining, where the verb “to shine” implies a certain objectivity, a navigation of the corridors of history, a linking of past, present and future, a understanding that “pictures in a book” (history) always have far reaching effects. Danny doesn’t repeat his father’s steps but rewinds them and takes a different course.
“I want to push beyond the psychoanalysis, which merely puts a mirror up to your face until you realize that you’re split.”
Psychoanalysis and modern cognitive scientists have now thoroughly undermined the myth of the unified Self, so how does one push beyond that? But it’s an interesting way to approach the film: Jack scrambling to reassert his authority, to reassemble his Sovereign Self, while Danny’s caught in a flux of past/present/future, riding the surf, forever split but aware of his contingency. Zizek actually speaks about this (the over identification of the Self vs ironic seperation) in regards to Full Metal Jacket:
“Let us further illustrate this gap between an explicit texture and its phantasmic support with an example from cinema. Contrary to its misleading appearance, Robert Altman’s MASH is a perfectly conformist film. For all their mockery of authority, practical jokes and sexual escapades, the members of the MASH crew perform their job exemplarily, and thus present absolutely no threat to the smooth running of the military machine. In other words, the cliche which regards MASH as an anti-militarist film, depicting the horrors of the meaningless military slaughter which can be endured only through a healthy measure of cynicism, practical jokes, laughing at pompous official rituals, and so on, misses the point – this very distance is ideology. This dimension of MASH becomes even more tangible the moment one compares it to two other well-known films about military life, An Officer and a Gentleman and Full Metal Jacket.
MASH and An Officer and a Gentleman exhibit the two versions of the perfectly functioning military subject: identification with the military machine is supported either by ironic distrust, indulgence in practical jokes and sexual escapades (MASH), or by the awareness that behind the cruel drill-sergeant there is a ‘warm human person’, a helping father-substitute who only feigns cruelty (in An Officer and a Gentleman), in strict analogy with the – profoundly anti-feminist – myth of a hooker who, deep in her heart, longs to be a good mother.
Full Metal Jacket, on the other hand, successfully resists this ideological temptation to ‘humanize’ the drill sergeant or other members of the crew, and thus lays on the table the cards of the military ideological machine: the distance from it, far from signalling the limitation of the ideological machine, functions as its positive condition of possibility. What we get in the first part of the film is the military drill, the direct bodily discipline, saturated with the unique blend of a humiliating display of power, sexualization and obscene blasphemy (at Christmas, the soldiers are ordered to sing ‘Happy birthday dear Jesus . . .’) – in short, the superego machine of Power at its purest. This part of the film ends with a soldier who, on account of his overidentification with the military ideological machine, ‘runs amok’ and shoots first the drill sergeant, then himself; the radical, unmediated identification with the phantasmic superego machine necessarily leads to a murderous passage a l’acte. The second, main part of the film ends with a scene in which a soldier (Matthew Modine) who, throughout the film, has displayed a kind of ironic ‘human distance’ towards the military machine (on his helmet, the inscription ‘Born to kill’ is accompanied by the peace sign, etc. – in short, it looks as if he has stepped right out of MASH!), shoots a wounded Vietcong sniper girl. He is the one in whom the interpellation by the military big Other has fully succeeded; he is the fully constituted military subject.
The lesson is therefore clear: an ideological identification exerts a true hold on us precisely when we maintain an awareness that we are not fully identical to it, that there is a rich human person beneath it: ‘not all is ideology, beneath the ideological mask, I am also a human person’ is the very form of ideology, of its ‘practical efficiency’. Close analysis of even the most ‘totalitarian’ ideological edifice inevitably reveals that, not everything in it is ‘ideology’ (in the popular sense of the ‘politically instrumentalized legitimization of power relations’): in every ideological edifice, there is a kind of ‘beyond-ideological’ kernel, since, if an ideology is to become operative and effectively ‘seize’ individuals, it has to batten on and manipulate some kind of beyond-ideological’ vision which cannot be reduced to a simple instrument of legitimizing pretensions to power (notions and sentiments of solidarity, justice, belonging to a community, etc.). Is not a kind of ‘authentic’ vision discernible even in Nazism (the notion of the deep solidarity which keeps the ‘community of people’ together), not to mention Stalinism? The point is thus not that there is no ideology without a trans-ideological ‘authentic’ kernel but rather, that it is only the reference to such a trans-ideological kernel which makes an ideology ‘workable’.”
So Shining: dangers of the Sovereign Self?
Full Metal Jacket: dangers of the split, decentred Self?
No wonder Kubrick was obsessed with making a Holocaust film. The workings of ideology and the mechanics of power seemed to fascinate him.
“I mean if all this splitting and doubling is about the tragedy of our split existential condition, what is the way to go then – integration? Reconciliation of the male & female side… ? Or are we doomed?”
A reconciliation of the anima and animus? A realization that “masculine” and “feminine” are imaginary constructs? Is it just me, or does this echo the plot of Eyes Wide Shut?
I was the instigator of The Shining Backwards/Forwards screening at the Spectacle referenced above. About the exact center of the film — in order to find this, we had to determine when the exact start and end of the film. Remember, corporate logos, fbi warnings, credits, copyright info all add to ultimate length of a DVD program, but might not be considered parts of the film as designed by Kubrick. In the end, we decided the start of the film is the first frame of the first image: the reflective lake; the end of the film the last frame of the last image: text ‘July 4th Ball, 1921′. (We used the US DVD version. Also note the youtube trailer embedded above is just a suggestive ad for the screening and does not contain any of the actual strict mirrored version)
This makes the exact center of the film the image of Halloran lying on his bed in Florida, about to receive Danny’s “shining” message: http://i202.photobucket.com/albums/aa260/JohnFellRyan/center-image-the-shining.jpg
The Room 237 scene with Jack and the three fates occurs just after; the Gold Ballroom scene with Jack and specter Lloyd occurs just before.
In the palindromic superimposition of the film, all sorts of striking overlays are revealed:
The interview description of the ax murders is overlaid with scenes of Jack running around with an ax.
Danny’s bedroom bear and the kinky sex bear coincide.
The pantry scenes at the beginning and end coincide.
The scene with Jack throwing the ball around coincides with Wendy walking around with the baseball bat. At points, it looks like Jack is pitching the ball directly at Wendy.
The scene with Danny watching Summer of 42 on TV is overlaid with the conversation between Jack and Grady. It looks like they are behind the windows and their lips are framed by the TV screen.
The bedroom scene between Jack and Danny is overlaid with Grady rubbing the advocaat off Jack, emphasizing the sex abuse undercurrent between Jack and son.
I’ll get up some stills from the superimposition soon. The digital file is still on the computer back at the Spectacle…
Thanks for stopping by, john. The starting/ending points make sense. Though credits are shown at both the opening and closing, the closing credits are shown on blackscreen whereas the opening credits are superimposed on the mountain drive. So that means the exact temporal center frames “the shining” as communicative medium bridging the hotel with the world. I like the short list of folded-over moments you’ve provided, though I’m not clear on your reference to “the three fates” in room 237. What prompted you to mount this palindromic screening, this juxtaposed viewing experience?
I was inspired by Kevin McLeod’s MSTRMND analysis, which begins with the premise of the film being meant to be understood backwards and forwards:http://www.mstrmnd.com/log/802
Being something of a palindrome freak, I took his metaphor literally to see where it would lead. The Spectacle had the equipment and gonzo spirit to make it happen. We even had McLeod himself introduce the screening with a brief tour of the film’s many mirrors, double meanings, and asymmetrical symmetries.
Just as Kubrick carefully arranges each symmetry in the film to be just a little off (e.g. the “twins” are not twins, etc) it makes sense the central Room 237 scene would be just right of center. The center image of Halloran becomes a mirror of the audience, each watching a screen, waiting for the “shining” message of psychic illumination. Note how Halloran’s afro muse icon above his head is facing both forward and right at the same time. The “flow” of the image is toward the parted curtain window. Even the pattern on Halloran’s pajamas is flowing toward the upper-right of the image. Scanning over the entire film, portals consistently appear in the upper-right of the screen, bathroom windows, escape paths, open skies, etc.
Great project and analysis, John! And that Mastermind article is fantastic.
I actually think the film is a bit more optimistic. It seems to advocate Danny’s Shining, where the verb “to shine” implies a certain objectivity, a navigation of the corridors of history, a linking of past, present and future, a understanding that “pictures in a book” (history) always have far reaching effects. Danny doesn’t repeat his father’s steps but rewinds them and takes a different course.
Precisely, he takes a kind of a ”retro-futuristic” route, ”re-envisioning” the past (which in his shining is also simultaneously the future, thus the future perfect tense). If Danny is the younger version of Halloran, then maybe Halloran dies in order to enable this release?
But even if we had guessed it right the first time and the center of the film was the scene with the green-skined witch, you could also argue that her open wounds are portals.
Me and Ktismatics started debating this great book by Eyal Peretz, BECOMING VISIONARY, last year, in which the author discusses the films of Brian De Palma – who is just as obsessed with splitting as Kubrick. Peretz discusses a ”blind spot” inside the frame: intense white light much like the proverbial ”shining”, which somehow opens a portal out of the inherently split image/existential condition. But the twist of Peretz’s argument is that the portal doesn’t open to a transcendental realm, rather, that it is immanent (to the image, understood in its materiality and not just as a sign): as if it occurs in a superimposition, INSIDE the void that two intervowen tracks of a Moebius strip encapsulate.
Comment by center of parody — 13 April 2011 @ 3:12 pm
re: ‘the three fates’: There are three women in Room 237. The young woman; the old woman with long hair revealed when Jack looks in the mirror; and a third old woman with short hair who rises from the tub as the other old woman chases Jack.
I assumed that the old woman in the mirror and the one rising from the tub were one and the same. Not quite twins again perhaps.
“Scanning over the entire film, portals consistently appear in the upper-right of the screen”
It’s been suggested, though I’ve not seen the empirical support, that, when people are trying to formulate a new idea or envision a solution to a problem they’ve never dealt with previously, they spontaneously tend to look upward and to the right. Movement up and right tends to convey a sense of progress; e.g., the upper-right of a graph is typically the “best” quadrant. When staring at some intractable problem or inescapable maze, decentering one’s focus and scanning the periphery can provide a new perspective. These are unconscious eye movements associated with cognition, but I can imagine the meticulous Kubrick consciously pulling the audience’s gaze up and right.
if you look carefully, different hair-length and color, different pattern of sores: http://i202.photobucket.com/albums/aa260/JohnFellRyan/the-shining-two-different-old-women.jpg
Looking at a puzzle like The Shining, it hard to tell what is “there” on purpose and what is just one’s own cognition. Not really sure, just a feeling.
After mapping out all the sets and general (though inconsistent and impossible) layout of the Hotel, one can see that Room 237 is in the northeast quadrant and has the most futuristic design, while the antiquated Gold Room is in the opposite, southwest quadrant. The older Apartment and newer Lounge are also paired rooms, occupying opposite NW and SE quadrants respectively. The Kitchen and the Maze are the wild card pair of no fixed location, vaguely west and east, but tending to disappear and move around at will. The Apartment also seems to rotate 90 degrees to allow Danny to escape through the bathroom window.
And check this: http://i202.photobucket.com/albums/aa260/JohnFellRyan/the-shining-up-into-the-clouds.jpg
Escaping from the Hotel by snowcat, Danny and Wendy seem to move *up* the mountain into the clouds…
Yes I see what you mean about the two different old women in 237.
Moving up the mountains and into the clouds — they’ll never get back to Boulder heading in that direction. Transcendence? I understand that originally there was a coda in which Wendy describes her ordeal at the Overlook, but now we’re just left to presume that she and Danny make good their return to the lowlands. Maybe not.
E.g., would someone refer to a hamburger as a vertical palindrome (bun-burger-bun)? Probably not, but by analogy someone would probably understand. In visual perception the term most closely corresponding to palindrome is “reflectional symmetry;” in biology it’s “bilateral symmetry.” Maybe there’s a corresponding technical term in topology, but I don’t know what it is.
Well I did send the link from Wikipedia saying that the DNA (or parts of it) is a palindrome.
The thing is when you visualize these paradoxical figures, you get superimposition. The two superimopsed images are nearly identical, but not quite. My theory is that something happens in the crack between the images, the area that is different: on the one hand, you have the ”Uncanny” details, but we discussed those before; on the other hand, you have the white areas, the blind spots. They signify neither absence nor presence, but they change the entire situation, somehow.
I might have to test this in some 3D program which can generate a palindrome, or a Moebius strip.
a palindrome is not quite symmetrical. By definition it is a phrase that reads the same forwards and backwards, but specifically, it is a phrase that is identical to the reversal of its letters. The letters stay the same direction. For example, ‘MOM’ and ‘RACE CAR’ are both palindromes, but only ‘MOM’ is visually symmetrical. To extend the concept of the palindrome to the visual, the object must be able to be reduced to integers. In the case of film, the frame is the obvious integer. In the case of The Shining Forwards/Backwards experiment, we reversed the order of the frames, and superimposed the reversal onto the original — but this is not quite a palindrome, because we alter the original integers through superimposition to force temporal symmetry. You could make a sound palindrome by taking a length of recording, reversing it and double-tracking the reversal over the original, but listening back to temporal-symmetrical track, you will hear the “wrong sounding” de-integers of backwards sound. To make a true audio palindrome you would have to string together phonemes that make sense as a phrase, and when reversed, produce the same phrase. A written palindrome’s uncanny qualities come from its surface imitation of language and the “off-ness” springing from its abstract construction.
A written palindrome’s uncanny qualities come from its surface imitation of language and the “off-ness” springing from its abstract construction.
I don’t quite understand this, would you care to rephrase? There is no offness coming purely from the fact that you can read backwards and forwards. ”Uncanny” (at least psychoanalytically) refers to the impression that things are familiar and recognizable, but not quite, and this ”not quite”, the excess, or the difference, is what creates the specific impression of un-homeliness.
No I’m just saying the film isn’t exactly a palindrome; if it were, when you reversed the original, you would see the same film as forwards. The Shining Forwards/Backawrds Superimposition was simply and experiment to see how much temporal symmetry Kubrick had arranged in a film with the ‘mirror’ as a central concept.
As for the uncanniness of written palindromes, it becomes more apparent the more palindromes you observe. Even if they don’t alert themselves immediately, palindromes have their own subtle “wrongness” from the forced language required in their construction. “Able was I, ere i saw Elba” — even though it makes grammatical sense, there is certainly something about it that you wouldn’t hear in everyday english. Almost all palindrome phrases I have observed have this odd poetic awkwardness. Call ‘Dr. Awkward’ … ;)
Even though a rough pyramid shape is formed by all the objects in the frame, everything is shifted a little this way and that.
Though I think this is also related to the purely technical fact that if he’d shot the film entirely symmetrically, it would be unbearably boring to watch – because symmetry removes suspense from a composition.
Comment by center of parody — 14 April 2011 @ 5:33 pm
Later last year that cohesion arrived unexpectedly when “Inception’s” opposite appeared, a neurological puzzle that doesn’t try to explain itself, clever enough to seem supernatural, melodramatic enough to be current. At its center is a haunted intelligence that is met by increasingly expressive mirrors, where all its reflections tell a story. Turn your eyes to the only innovative film of the year: “Black Swan,” the true “Inception,” a film told almost entirely through its distortions while using a seemingly basic soap opera about a fable that’s pantomimed and rehearsed, and that penetrates a reality we can never be sure is there. An inner version of “The Shining’s” outer.
Comment by center of parody — 15 April 2011 @ 3:47 am
Again with the Black Swan, c of p? Maybe 30 years from now I’ll finally be ready for the genius that is Black Swan. The author of that gushing homage you linked doesn’t really point to much substantiating his claim that the film is great. It’s not clear what’s real and what isn’t? Lots of mirrors? Begins and ends with a bed: that’s something specific, but stories that bring you back to the beginning aren’t that uncommon. Even Inception does that (not that I liked Inception very much). Still, I understand and endorse the appeal of cinema to show rather than tell, exploiting the impossibility of processing moving images fast enough for them to settle and resolve themselves in the viewer’s consciousness. That’s a significant benefit of the quick-cut style of editing — to keep the viewer off balance, to keep the film itself in control of the viewer. Doing things like duplicating the shape of a mirror in a floor tile pattern: to describe that verbally in a text wouldn’t work at all, since the sheer description throws it into conscious focus and defuses its mystery.
The article is linked to from ”Mastermind”, which globally speaking draws on ”phenomenological neuroscience” arguing that Kubrick’s and Lucas’s films use visual structures in their film language that are primordial in the brain and harken back to the Mayan civilization. I agree the article on Black Swan is somewhat confusing out of context, but basically the idea is that there, too, the visual storytelling simulates the very working of the brain.
Comment by center of parody — 15 April 2011 @ 8:44 am
It is a kind of a biological structuralism, from what I see, a cognitivist-neurolinguistic take on Levi Strauss, and this way also an interesting meeting between psychoanalysis and the cognitive science.
Comment by center of parody — 15 April 2011 @ 8:46 am
And that light fixture is just like the one in the Lobby Hotel in Alabama, where I played lounge piano during my zombified summer of 1989. Surely that accounts for much, even though that’s 9 years after the movie was made–esp. with all this re-roll-up technology we got now.
Comment by desiree disgusto — 16 April 2011 @ 7:44 pm
I couldn’t agree more. I just don’t have the Shining, which the God of Rats has (and that’s NOT you, by the way. Get a load of this to experience my TOTAL BAD TASTE IN DA MENZ:
“Nick Land finds god in the sewers, not so much that ancient leprous visage of Yahweh hiding in shadows, as it is his poseur, an imposter and fretful son, his last fragmentary hope of a broken messiah: a god of mud and slime living among the rats like a subterranean king in the cesspool of a tumorous thought. No longer the great god of the Old Testament, this forgotten Yahweh lives among his own brethren, regressed to his true form as the King of Rats: his vermin-core eating alive all those false religions that still inhabit this dark bunghole of a globe. This is the vision of poets, one such as Georg Trakl (the lycanthropic metamorphosis of god into beast, into rat, being fed by a young boy during those twilight moments between day and night):”
And yet, this paragraph had a curious effect…I now found the ‘false religions that still inhabit this dark bunghole of a globe’ much less offensive in their hypocrisy than all students make sure they do! Christ, and this isn’t even ‘matching up rat-symbols’, because the troll ‘lafayette’, who was always talking about Trakl, just as Nick does in the Bataille (and got Dominic on the case too by now), said to someone ‘Rat in Chinese years? Okay, I’ll fuck you’, and then the ‘Peter Pan’ said well, you know, and the other troll said ‘It seems so’, but this too was hypocritical, because before that, it hadn’t ‘seemed’ but rather ‘been’ in his estimation.
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 16 April 2011 @ 7:57 pm
…and yet…I find that an ‘Unlit Halo’ is, quite seriously, a striking image, and one that must be used in many poetics. They’re even better if they aren’t aligned properly and have some rust, sort of like a ‘broken messiah’ (also a howler phrase.)
Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 16 April 2011 @ 8:03 pm
I’ve not read this Dark Chemistry, from which you’ve excerpted and from which apparently Lafayette lifted the Trakl. Based on this fragment le Chimiste Noir seems to trend toward le surrealisme.
Eloise before the conversation wandered off into the minutiae of the palindrome, teetering on obsessive-compulsive collector’s neurosis, I wanted to say that one obvious POINT to this would be to say that narcissism is Hell – in that there is no possibility of opening up to another perspective, another person, and therefore no love. Danny’s blessing and curse is that he can see into the other’s mind, like a psychologist, or a clairvoyant, and he understands that the underlying palindrome of his parents’ relationship is one of narcissistic rage and retribution (also their entrapment in Oedipal dynamics speaks in favor). Danny sees eternity, and knows that their revenge games make no sense from that perspective. This is how I have always understood the Orthodox explanation that Hell isn’t something God inflicts on men, but that you enter Hell because you don’t see the omnipresent love of God (eternity) around you, and are doomed to constantly and endlessly repeat the Oedipal trauma.
Comment by Center of Parody — 17 April 2011 @ 10:29 am
Perhaps the duality of the movie refers to the existence of good/evil in us all rather than the battle of the sexes (patriarch versus matriarch). Which one is the good one and which one is the bad one? This question is usually determined by a persons sex and religious background. Men tend to see women as an evil force and women vice versa. Every person has male and female characteristics in various degrees. If we were supposedly made in God’s image is it not more logical to think that man/woman are two halves of a whole being (God?) and that we are capable of both good and evil, hence the idea that we think and think and think and just end up going around circles with no resolution for eternity. Back and forth in time sometimes with good triumphant and sometimes not. We are all hamsters on a wheel trying to figure out the meaning of life when really there is no deeper meaning, we all just live. Joke is on us.
Comment by snaggletooth — 3 October 2013 @ 3:40 pm