MAIN PAGE ⎔ SITE MAP ⎔ GLOSSARY
“The catchwords on set are. ‘Do it faster. Do it slower. Do it again.’ Mostly, ‘Do it again.'”
~Patrick Magee (quoting Stanley Kubrick)
“As a movie-goer, I don’t give a tin whistle what a director thinks; I want to know what he sees.”
~Stephen King, interview with Cinefantastique (1978)
I started out wanting to put this with Golden Spirals (Fill Your Eyes), since a phi grid is made up of two opposing golden spirals, as discussed in the introduction to this site, but as I developed this analysis I began to realize it’s much more than a simple offshoot of the film’s interest in the Fibonacci sequence.
So at first I was just gonna go through and look at all the major still shots, and see if they were composed according to phi grids or rule of thirds. Then, like almost every other part of this project, I couldn’t help getting sucked into a completely exhaustive analysis. I’ve restricted myself to looking just for shots (moving and still) with substantial phi composition, but there’s a couple other fascinating phenomena that I noticed along the way. First, there are shots that start in phi that end in the thirds, vice versa, and some that seem to go in and out (though it’s hard to say, honestly, about that one–it could be an incidental element of zooming). Second, there are shots that defy any such categorization, and those occur under very appropriate circumstances. I was considering singling out these trends but they’re relatively few, and I think they tell a more interesting story as part of the overall flow of these findings.
For the record, this is one of the last things I’m doing before launching the site, but I’d noticed it almost a year ago, the trend that emerged through this work. Nevertheless (and maybe this is just because I’m not a film student), I was staggered by how consistently this technique was applied. The phi grid shots tend to speak to a scene or a moment having to do with objective reality, and thirds shots tend to speak to something unreal or fantastical, or even delusional. Like, a phi shot will sometimes come in the middle of a sequence composed otherwise entirely of thirds shots, to highlight a moment of the truth breaking through the fantasy, and sometimes scenes will bounce back and forth between phis and thirds’s to show the way that two characters are not relating to each other.
Like with all things, not every phi and thirds shot is created equal (and I certainly skipped a few near-misses out of consideration to how massive this analysis could wind up being). Some are much more amazing than others. But studying the film this way can give us another awe-inspiring window into the meticulous grandeur of Kubrick’s vision.
THE PILLARS OF KUBRICK
One major realization this way of analyzing the film lead to was the discovery that the right side of the screen (especially with regard to the column with the tighter bit of the two righthand spirals) seems to correlate to the theme of play, and the left side seems to correlate to the theme of work (same story with the tighter two lefthand spirals). Like, note how Jack, who’s just tossed down a Playgirl magazine tells Ullman that Danny has “discovered the games room” while chowing down on his last bit of sandwich, stands goofily in the “play” pillar, while Ullman, whose dialogue cuts consistently to the chase throughout this sequence, stands slightly more towering in the “work” pillar.
I had earlier noticed how the photos around photo Jack at the end do a similar thing: how the right/east photo near photo Jack repeats in the games room, and the left/west photo near Jack repeats in the lounge where he does all his “work”. Similarly, up/north and down/south, have a similar relationship to good and bad, helpful and sinister.
But it’s crucial that you understand this only has to do with the framing, not with left/right/up/down or west/east/north/south as symbols of their own, in and of themselves. For instance, in the Four Directions analysis, it looks like the hotel is most correlated to north, which, if we were to conflate these two analyses, would correlate it to goodness, but in most shots of the hotel it occupies the down/south or middle bar of the framing.
Here’s a brief rundown of my terminology for this section.
LH = blue bar (lower horizontal)
UH = red bar (upper horizontal)
LV = yellow bar (left vertical)
RV = green bar (right vertical)
LL = boxed by blue and yellow (lower left)
LR = boxed by blue and green (lower right)
UL = boxed by red and yellow (upper left)
UR = boxed by red and green (upper right)
I had a mind to create shorthands for every part of the image, but I think most of my comments will be self-explanatory.
INTRO: GOING-TO-the-sun Road
Basically most of the intro is shot in the phi style, but I tend to believe the sometimes disputed account by cinematographer Jeff Blyth (hired to do all the Glacier National Park shots) that he was told he could shoot however he wanted and that Kubrick simply picked his favourite clips. So it is perhaps with incredible good luck, that Blyth and his helicopter pilot veered off Wild Goose Island just as the tip of the jackpine(?) touches the upper horizontal (UH) bar.
Also, I like the way the left mountains keep mostly within the mini-spiral bars, and how the right mountains almost slope perfectly along the first three parts of the right spirals. As discussed in the Going-to-the-Sun-Road analysis, the left mountains likely represent Wendy, the island likely represents Danny, and Goat Mountain (right) likely represents Jack, so, using the spiral bars to give Danny’s protectors a crunch and Danny’s threat a more dominant presence feels apt.
While all the other Overlook establishing shots are much more ornate in phi/thirds composition, this first frame of the first shot of the building, by Blyth, sets the tone of the building being “below”. Of course, if we were studying the mirrorform, we would have already seen the final photo wall at this point, which establishes a heaven/hell relationship between up/down, and a work/play relationship between west/east. But in the forward-moving movie this is our first clue about the “hellness” of the Overlook, so southerly that it barely peaks above the two bottommost spiral bars.
By the end of this shot (see below), it still hasn’t cracked the upper third of the grid.
I probably don’t need to point out all the gorgeous little ways the spiral lines draw our attention to the structure of this space (this being the first frame of the first shot of the film with actors in it), but fans of my Come Out, Come Out theory will note the way the lower left (LL) spiral curves a connecting line along John Carson and Jack Nicholson, while the lower right (LR) spiral almost doesn’t connect the conspirators (note how they both have a T-junction in their heads, though).
I also like the way the two swooshes that cross at the bottom centre of the image make a little cradle for John Carson’s camera.
I also love the way the ends of the two right spirals cross overtop JEH MacDonald’s The Solemn Land, dividing that art into four fairly representative parts. The entire Montreal river is in the largest part, the little white rock mountain is in the upper part, and the two most forested bits occupy the other two parts. Pretty amazing.
Jack’s entire journey crossing the lobby is phi, from start to finish, perhaps never better than in this moment (3:26), crossing the spot where he’ll axe Hallorann. Jack’s eye was noticing the model labyrinth, and then here seems to be noticing the young lady coming down the stair, both of whom are captured in the right spirals column. In fact two of the final 21 photos are right above her head here, the one right above her head only repeating in this location, and only visible to the naked eye in this shot. So it’s a bit like we’re seeing Jack fall in love with this place (and his own doom) right in this moment of crossing the threshold.
Right in the centre of this shot is the hidden Maligne Lake painting, with its depiction of Mt. Samson. I’ll let you draw your own connections there.
I really like how AY Jackon’s Red Maple is isolated in the centre channel with the spot Hallorann gets the axe. This really seems to underscore the significance of that connection.
And note how cleanly the men on the left are cordoned by the vertical bars here. Exquisite.
Most incredibly (and you really have to watch the moving picture to experience the full glory of this move), as the shot follows Jack into Susie’s office, to look in on Ullman’s, the composition morphs languidly from phi to thirds. In this shot, we get our first look at the impossible window behind Ullman, and without realizing it, we and Jack are experiencing the hotel’s first absurdity. We’re crossing from reality into fantasy. Now, you might argue that we know retroactively that the lobby Jack’s crossing is a part of Ullman’s impossible window. But there’s no way of knowing that at this point.
As we push into Ullman’s and the men shake hands, the shot returns to a loose phi composition, but with rule-of-thirds overtones, as if Jack might not be exactly sure what he just witnessed, and neither are we aware of the trick Kubrick just pulled.
The thirds lines nicely divide Copper Thunderbird’s The Great Earth Mother in (visible) half, while on the other side we see winter split from spring. Until I discover otherwise, the most recent thing in the film (to the film’s release date) is a Denver newspaper talking about the Vela Incident, which occurred on September 22nd of 1979. September 22nd or 23rd are most often the first day of autumn. So Jack is probably taking this interview just after the autumnal equinox. If the shot were wider we would see one of the thirds bars cutting the summer from autumn.
Also, and this is venturing into obscurity here, but as we discussed in the Redrum Road cover art section, the seasonal photos here are probably a reference to the Let It Be cover, which means that the thirds lines are separating Lennon and McCartney from Starr and Harrison. In the Abbey Road Tour we learn that Jack is McCartney and Ullman is Lennon, so having this division line helps to underscore the significance of the meeting of these two men.
Most of the establishing shots are phi. Which makes sense.
The smallest five boxes of any spiral tend to be my favourite places to go looking for patterns, so I especially like the way the upper two of these sections are completely Green Mountain and (almost) completely sky, while the bottom two are completely cars and (almost) completely road.
Another highlight of this one would be the end of the UL spiral, which curves along the bumpers of all the righthand cars, and then proceeds up along the Kensington apartments in a way that seems to perfectly divide the green balconies from the sky.
Maybe not the strongest example, but I like a few things.
I like how the twin shakers (Grady twins) and the bull figurine (Jack as minotaur) are separated by the rightmost vertical bar. These threats are connected, but they aren’t equal. The bull is also slashed by the spiral growing out of Wendy’s heart, which might be foreshadowing Wendy’s two defeats of a charging, invading Jack. And a suggestion of how it was her character and not her intellect that defeated Jack.
I like how the UR spiral makes a mask out of Wendy’s concentrated reader face. Compared to Danny’s undelineated visage, as he regards his lunchtime art, the divisions on her face suggest a more complex inner process as she ingests this masterpiece.
Danny is almost entirely unclouded by spirals (not counting the bars), which suggests a greater detachment from this environment. As their conversation progresses we’ll realize that Danny’s attention, while seemingly fixed (and a little bored), is possessed by thoughts of their future at the Overlook, and of his loneliness in this new, rural locale. So perhaps it’s perfect that he’s both outside the spirals and awkward within the centre cross.
As Wendy turns to put her cup down (and reveal the Tom and Jerry on it), her hair molds nicely with the UR spiral. As for the mug, the start of the LL spiral is on a thwarted Tom’s tail, and spirals up, touching the top of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (the only book clearly identifiable on the back shelf), which has been stylistically likened by some to Tom and Jerry. Was this a coincidence? Or was there a direct reference to the cartoon in the book? I haven’t read it. But perhaps Kubrick was simply among the minds who made this connection. Some have contrasted the deathlessness of Tom and Jerry‘s violence with the stark, brutal death on display in Catch-22, and perhaps that’s partly the point here. The ghosts of the Overlook will make a mockery of life’s sacred brevity, and Jack will make a horrific display of how that messaging affects him.
The UL and LR spirals both connect Catch-22 to The Catcher in the Rye, which is a novel partly about the naïveté of a young idealist demanding that reality come with built in safety nets to protect the innocence of innocents. Catch-22, which, again, I haven’t read, might be using the opposite approach to make the same point about characters like Holden Caulfield: life is ridiculously, horrifically brutal for everyone, and it’s a miracle any of us get through it with our wits intact (if any of us do).
Neither way of interpreting this shot is perfect, but I like certain elements of the phi approach. I like the effect on Ullman’s plaques. The way the spirals and swooshes effect Jack and Watson in very similar ways. The way the radio microphone is almost perfectly in the left diamond. The almost perfection of the ceiling plant bowls in their respective chunks. And of course little Ullman in his centre box.
You’ll note that I won’t analyze another INTERVIEW shot for phi, and that’s because the rest are by thirds, which were more appropriate for reasons mostly conventional in nature. But
Another fav: I love the way this shot shows the intellectual separation of mother and child, Wendy’s overcoming her nerves about not being as wise or educated as this doctor enough to allow her to take the reins with Danny’s care (it might be hard for younger folks to remember, but there was a time when doctors were quite feared and despised by large portions of society–I mean…that hasn’t changed too much).
I love the way Danny’s head and Anne Jackson’s head are segmented by the bars between them, suggesting the closeness, the melding of their symbolic qualities.
The spiral that wraps around Wendy’s head is the same one that cuts just beneath the Goofy on the other side of the room, who happens to be wearing the same rough outfit.
The spiral that touches the duck on Danny’s window sill passes the rough spot in the bathroom where the duck was in the previous shot of Danny talking to Tony (see below).
The LL spiral (with a little help from the UL spiral) does a neat job of slicing up the dog/cat/elephant art from each other and into the different colours that define them in the art, almost as if it was made to these specifications… If that’s a tiger in the art, the spiral will go around to touch the tiger mask on Danny’s wall, and to curve around Anne Jackson’s rump. Jackson was the costar of The Tiger Makes Out, with her real-life husband Eli Wallach. Also, not how that spiral catches the red and yellow of the dog and cat/tiger on the inside, and ends on the lower right side of the screen, where it touches a set of red and yellow rackets laid on top of a Candyland box. The Dopey sticker on the door near where this spiral loops by, was also red and yellow (see below). The LL spiral also connects Danny’s bedsheets to his curtains (foot of his bed); had you ever noticed before that they have the same design?
There’s more to say, but they’re minor points. Let’s move on.
This one’s pretty obvious, but we might say that all the blank whiteness in this shot reflects how little these women have in common. That said, the stitching of the twins on the wall behind and between their faces show a boy and a girl with the same colour hair as the doctor and the same colour dress as Wendy.
Wendy wears a spiral mask again, regarding Jackson. The doctor is beginning to ask about Tony, which will lead to Jack’s abuses. The upper bar of the UR spiral connects Wendy’s brain to the bull figurine in the distance. So it’s as if switching to the topic of Tony triggered a thought about Jack’s minotaur potential. It’s also interesting that Tony-talk both here and before with Danny lead into more rule-of-thirds sections, as if bringing up Tony just makes the situation a little more fantastical.
The doctor’s form is generally, like Danny at lunch, excluded from the left spirals’ smaller segmentations, and as a result, her form seems to play into the larger swooshes, almost imitating the open-eyelid shape created by the swooshes that cross at the top, bottom, left and right of the screen. On the other side of this eyelid shape, Wendy is almost completely contained, and the feeling is of Wendy being intensely watched by this casual figure.
The other connections and demarcations are probably self-evident.
Just pointing out how nicely the family is segmented on the drive up. The subtle iciness between them is underscored by these spatial quarantines.
I basically just wanted to show how the pillars are almost tailor made to these dimensions. Note how the lefthand spirals are the perfect width, such that, during this left-to-right pan, at the moment that they encompass the close pillar, the two further pillars on the right are almost perfectly within the next-smaller width. Madness!
Just as the spirals made the doctor and Wendy into a bigger-smaller dynamic, Ullman’s head and neck fill multiple areas, while Jack’s only fills the fifth one (not counting his hair poof). In any case, it’s a subtle thing that seems to make a joke out of Jack’s effort to size up to his employer’s stature.
I also like how the bottom centre swooshes cradle the Playgirl, between the three men. Not to mention the UH bar that connects Jack’s neck to the shadow monster in the front foyer. Actually, the UL spiral that starts at Ullman’s head, winds around to swoosh very near that same shadow beast. And this shot shimmies around quite a bit, so Ullman’s head spiral may have a more direct connection later.
There’s a neat thing where the Abbey Road Tour gang is never perfectly in the middle column, crossing the lobby, only to perfectly squeeze together for almost the entire walk north through this hall.
I also like how the middle eye-shape has the Walking Buffalo portrait at the one side, and the dark fireplace at the other. There’s something interesting about that.
Also, that log pile by the fireplace fits nice into the LL boxes and swirls. And the bottom right swoosh goes right along the rug pattern.
This is a shot with a lot of motion, but I liked this moment best for the way the swooshes and bars cordon the distant photos and artworks so perfectly. As of this writing, I haven’t ID’d the three landscapes beneath the ski poster to the middle-left, but if I ever get that middle one, it might correlate to the yellow on the Colorado flag in some way.
We’ve also got a perfectly boxed-in dartboard here, with a spiral perfectly wrapping around the inner ring, and perfectly excluding the remaining dart (or is the dart hitting the spiral?). And the remaining darts right in the bottom cradle.
I might be missing something here, but I don’t love this one. It’s certainly not a thirds shot. But considering how ornately dressed the room is, everything seems a little off. The art is well enough cordoned, but everything feels like it could be a little more perfect. As discussed in the art section for this room, the art in this room is all “twin art”, so this could be another extension of the twins’ ability to mess with their surroundings.
That said, there is a loose organization to the sections, and certainly there’s something to be said for how the minotaur in the SKI MONARCH poster and the Cowboy in The Cowboy are largely enshrined by their spirals (work and play respectively).
We’ve already had a few of these, but this is another great example of how Kubrick’s sense of timing, and his willingness to shoot the same minor shot a hundred times pays off. It is only momentary, but at this point, four of the five characters in this shot are in four different columns of space. Jack has the other girl Ullman bid farewell to right behind him here, and in a moment as Jack looks back to see the vanishing young vixens, the women will be overlapping each other en route to the rest of the stairwell. In this moment, the spiral that starts at Wendy’s brain cuts through the legs of the left girl, as if Wendy is aware of (but trying to ignore?) her husband’s “everybody looks” moment. A moment later, as Jack’s head passes the same spot, he’ll be doing it full on.
Also, I don’t know if I’ve pointed this out elsewhere, but I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before how much the first girl’s outfit matches Jack’s in tone, from afar (see below). As I know I have noticed before, that girl is carrying a red plaid travel bag (see further below; in which the spiral starting at Ullman’s head passes through the red bag, as if he knows it’ll torment Jack), like the one by the white trike at the beginning of the tour, which I believe is a reference to Easy Rider, and Nicholson’s glory days.
At the risk of sounding crass, the spiral starting at Wendy’s groin, goes up and around to curve beautifully along the spiral stairs. At the end, Wendy will ascend just such a flight, which I’ve suggested in the four horsemen section has a link to Wendy’s inappropriate sexual impulses.
I basically just like the way husband and wife have managed to get a full column between them as one looks toward comfort and the other looks toward the (impossible) bleak light coming in through these impossible windows in this shot, before crushing into the tiny bathroom together. There’s something so bleak about this moment, it’s like something out of Bergman or Tarkovsky.
Actually, I just want to draw attention here generally to the fact that phi shots are used all throughout the Overlook tour, which seems counterintuitive, given the number of absurdities we see in this section. But it speaks to the way that absurdities are an innate component of this place. Indeed, an acknowledgement of those absurdities, even an embracing of them, is why Wendy and Danny survive. While Jack is never quite fully sure what to make of them, and he becomes caged by them.
I selected this moment for the way it gets the Abbey Road Tour all in the middle with the labyrinth edge and map sign edge. But it lines up nicely with a lot of other stuff, like the little spires atop the hotel and maze; the Austin that will run into Ullman in about ten seconds is right at the start of the LL spiral, and nicely encircled by it; the upper spirals are both touching a trash can in the final swoosh; and my favourite thing is how the magical transporting postcards are in one of the righthand diamonds, and the entrance to the hotel is in the same diamond on the other side, which speaks to the postcard repetition in the radio room there.
Here’s the last frame of this shot (still a lot of cool demarcations to enjoy here), and I just wanted to point out how the tour never pokes above the lower horizontal (LH) bar, meaning that the team is slowly sinking as they approach the awesome edifice of the hotel. Since Ullman is about to get hit by the Austin in this moment (and since this echoes the real-life incidence of John Lennon crashing his Austin before the recording of Abbey Road), it seems fitting that we have that sinking, that hint at near-death experience. The Overlook is an underworld of sorts. A ghosthouse.
I’ve wondered more than a few times about the lead Ullman gets on the gang in this shot, and now I think it could have to do with the phi columns, and getting everybody nice and segmented. The band is about to break up. In the Gold Room.
If this is an insinuation that the Beatles broke up over money (which they at least partly did), note the way the gold bars in the ceiling are perfectly cordoned into the upper phi section, and how the upper spirals both swoosh under the feet of the four walkers.
Also note how Hallorann (Yoko) first slides past Ullman (Lennon) before walking up in his own phi column in a moment.
I like how Hallorann and Wendy/Danny are in the same widths as one another throughout this scene, since they’ll be heading off together. Jack, Watson, and Ullman, also stuck in equal-width sections will also head off together.
The UL and LR spirals also give us a similar cut along the heads of Danny and Dick, suggesting, perhaps, their coming bond.
I also like the way the UL spiral perfectly wraps around both chandeliers, the dead one seeming to belong to Hallorann, and the live one seeming to belong to Wendy/Danny, since it’s the spiral that starts near them that divides these chandeliers from each other. A nice little nod to the fact that Hallorann’s lights will go out for these two.
This is another shot like the one of Wendy and the doctor exiting Danny’s room. Except this time the smaller boxes have more to do, squeezing perfectly between the shelving brackets.
This is also another one of those cool shots that pushes from a phi to a thirds shot. As the gang enters, the reality of this room is what it is, but as it pushes in, Hallorann gives up the ghost about his shine power, addressing Danny as “Doc”, and the scene takes on a supernatural quality to Wendy. In fact, as discussed in the absurdities section (and Room 237), the room the group has entered will be on the opposite side of the hall when they exit. So it’s not just Hallorann’s shine power that transformed this scene, but also the group’s supernatural transportation.
This shot pulls the opposite trick, starting in thirds and ending in phi. As Hallorann explains himself, and Wendy seems placated by the explanation, the world rights itself. This being one of the only shots in the movie of Danny’s head being perfectly enshrined by a golden spiral, this is perhaps because Danny was finally encountering something/someone naturally at his own special level (I don’t think Kubrick regarded the hotel as being like these men, despite their shared powers).
There’s a few other neat things to point out here. Like how the Niagara Falls photos in Hallorann’s office (if that’s what they are) are divided by the spiral that later cuts near Wendy and the red fire extinguisher. If the photos are symbolic of floods and the bloodfall, then this aptly foreshadows Wendy’s encounter with the flood, arguably the shiniest of all the hotel’s shines at her. And of course, Danny has already had his first of three bloodfall visions.
I also like how the distant knife block above Danny’s head is about the width of the second smallest column. That pairs nicely with the flood threat on the opposite spiral.
Not perfect, but the start of the “How’d you like some ice cream, doc?” line starts out in a rough phi, and ends in a more thirds feel. Danny may have sensed a kindred spirit, but he hasn’t received a full blast of friendly shine before. But is it friendly? The hotel is dark, and full of terrors.
This scene generally features another cool instance of everyone being segmented, and we could talk about the neat segmentations (like Jack beaming at the man he’ll murder the next time they meet, for no good reason, while Watson’s face is slashed in the other way as he ruefully considers the vulnerability of mother and child), but there’s another thing I noticed that I’d like to focus on here.
During the tour part of the film, Jack is almost never perfectly alone in the centre column. The order of solo-centres goes Watson (lobby), everyone (lounge), Danny (games room), Wendy and Jack (Suite 3), everyone (hedge maze), Wendy and Watson (Gold Room), Hallorann and Danny and Ullman (Kitchen), and everyone (in the lobby back hall). That’s two Watsons, two Dannys, two Wendys, three everyones, and one Hallorann, Jack and Ullman. The twos seem to unite these characters in their innocence with regard to the plot by Ullman (one) to use Jack (one) to kill Hallorann (one). The fact that Ullman’s and Hallorann’s take place in the same place, which is also Hallorann’s home turf, seems extra incriminating. As for the three everyones, it’s neat that these are the three areas where Danny will learn his four lessons: the lounge (1st and 3rd), the maze (2nd) and the lobby back hall (4th; starts there and goes to the twinhall). Experts in Danny’s lessons and escapes will recall that the order in which he executes them possess a direct connection to the order of the Beatles on the cover of Sgt. Pepper (scroll past the first part of that last link, to skip extraneous information), so the fact that these sections all include the full band is pretty bang on, thematically.
And here is that final pass.
Not much to say about this one, though I like how the LR spiral cuts the 6 stacks of 7-up (6×7=42) in half.
The UL spiral wraps perfectly around Hallorann’s melon, then swooshes right between the ice cream bowl and Danny’s hands. The LR spiral that starts in the ice cream swooshes back through Hallorann’s melon. This seems like a pretty clear ice cream/eye scream connection to me.
Also, considering how the earlier spiral wrapped perfectly around Danny’s head, I wonder if this signifies Hallorann’s desire to pierce Danny’s silence. As if he’s exerting a small shine force, or as if his golden-spiralness is being scanned by the awkwardly framed (wary?) Danny for its intentions. The perfectly empty UR and LL spiral blocks also help with this feeling of separation between the men.
There’s a similar dynamic again here, between head and ice cream, although by this point Danny has opened up to Hallorann. This composition is also similar to the one of Wendy and the doctor (see below), where it was as if we were watching the doctor analyze Wendy. Here, the direction of beholding has reversed; Danny has asked Hallorann if he’s scared of this place, and Hallorann must casually assert that there’s nothing to be afraid of while knives and cleavers and hidden flood photos loom above Danny’s head. Much of this sequence is on supernatural matters, and appropriately shot in rule-of-thirds, but in this moment, Hallorann must retreat to the reality where complex thoughts can be buffered for a sensitive audience. He doesn’t want to lie to Danny, but he can’t present the boy, faced with six months nearly alone in this place, with the unvarnished truth.
I also like how a right vertical (RV) bar runs along the knife Wendy will grab out of that pillar to slash Jack’s hand with. The obvious subtext of this shot is that Danny’s really in a lot of danger and that Hallorann’s being a little too soft in his placation. But it’s exactly one of these apparent dangers (that knife) that his other protector will use to hold the (big bad) wolf at the door.
I just have to point out and appreciate the glorious geometry with which Danny’s hands, arm, and ice cream bowl are nested in that LR spiral. Magical.
Hit me with your best nerd memes, internet! I don’t give a damn!
A MONTH LATER
Just for the record, this is one of my favourite shots in the movie. I’ve obviously had to watch and rewatch this film hundreds, probably thousands, of (fragmented) times to do all this research, and this shot never ceases to give me a deep sigh of relief.
I skipped the first establishing shot of the Overlook since it’s exactly the same as this one, compositionally, which is exactly the same as the next one. But I’ll keep showing them just to prove this point, but also to show how, as the establishing shots of the building progress, they drift into rule-of-thirds land, until that’s all they are, by which point, the story will be quite fantastical.
There’s not much I could point out here that isn’t obvious (but please take a moment to enjoy the intricacies of this composition), but do note that the yellow Beetle is exactly centred, horizontally, while the visible hotel more vertically centred.
Not my favourite, but a few neat things going on. This is our first shot inside the hotel, and it’s neat that it sets us up to expect reality. In fact, it takes a while for demonstrably paranormal things to kick in. About 9 minutes if we count Danny’s thought bubble about the twins outside 237 (and the magic opening door behind him), or 15 minutes if we count the last encounter with the twins.
There’s a lot to choose from in this shot, but I went with the UL box against the stairs to show how perfectly that was built (you don’t want to know how many times I had to watch this moment to pause on this frame exactly). And as a bonus, its larger swoosh curves perfectly along the X in the carpeting. People with good memories will realize how, in the mirrorform, this is the moment Danny is passing between Wendy and Jack fighting in the lounge, a fight which will end on those stairs when Wendy cracks Jack on the hand and head, right around where the two spirals intersect by the fireplace, there.
The process of trying to get this shot illuminated me to the nature of the Garrett Brown’s steadicam work here, and the way he allowed Danny to get a lot more lead during this passage, as if he knew he had to let out slack after following tightly around the last bend. The effect is that Danny goes from being enormous in the phi grid to being almost small enough to fit in the centre of the middle cross. This is actually one of Danny’s smallest sizes, before the camera catches up again to track him around the next two corners.
This is another case of there being too many cool little demarcations to point out, but I generally like how the four spirals (the first six boxes of each) capture the four dominant characteristics of this space: the imposing staircase with fireplace and gallery, the long, smooth hardwood floors, the carpets with their wacky behaviour, and the sofas, windowboxes, bullhorn-shaped sconces and bookcases.
Wendy’s breakfast with Jack was fairly thirdsy (which is appropriate since the hotel seems to waste little time transforming him, and since everything about that scene suggests strange things afoot), then, as we shift into the next shot, the typewriter dominates the screen, lifting back to this sweet little thirds shot (a hint at how it will change colours?)…
…before ending and remaining in phi. The fantasy of Jack’s dream of being a Great American Novelist with Great American Novels to his name is just that, and the typewriter is an agent of that fantasy. The reality is that his natural state is more lazy and playful (and uninspired) than that, and perhaps there’s a light insinuation here that there’s no shame in that. Don’t forget that there’s the Tower of Babel reference at dead centre here, sinking into the floor as the shot goes on; that certainly comes with an air of “Don’t worry. Even if you do manage to do everything right, and even if you are part of the great majestic trajectory of progressive civilization, there’s no guarantee it won’t all come crashing down someday. So just enjoy the ride.” Good old Old Testament.
Oh, I should point out how Jack gets boxed into the righthand middle bar. East/Right is associated with play, remember. So that’s apt.
In fact, as we transition to the next shot, Jack occupies the same column of space as he continues his little mural-hammering game. He even seems to slender himself twice as he dives up to catch the ball in this sequence. He’s also throwing the ball at the part of the mural that’s about perfectly the middle of this shot, perhaps another nod to Jack striving for balance and almost getting it.
Perhaps the most striking spiral trick here is the one that makes near-perfect thirds out of the mural (they’re off by about a centimetre here), but which still make a kind of symmetry out of the painting’s patterns. The spiral that starts there swooshes through Jack’s feet, connecting the baller to the object balled. Which brings me to my other favourite bit of business: the spiral at Jack’s legs, which swoosh through not only the mural, but almost perfectly along the grade of the ashy bog oak (which vanishes after this shot, never to be heard from again). Bog-wood (also known as morta) is wood that has been fossilized for as many as thousands of years, preserved by the acidic and anaerobic conditions of the lands they’re found in. So it’s as if Kubrick is drawing a connection between play and ancient history/longevity. The vanishment of this ancient artefact speaks to writing Jack’s entrance into his mortal pursuits of immortality (through his “work”, then through his deal with Grady).
The other thing to note here is how the photo that will reappear in the path to the Gold Room is almost centred in the middle-left diamond, a light foreshadow of Jack’s weakness against the hotel’s dark forces.
Another neat example of a shot starting out in phi, and ending in thirds. Wendy and Danny are entering a world of imagination!
Lots of obvious, cool line-ups going on here, but I’ll just point out a more obscure one, the LR, which starts at the snowcat garage, and swooshes right past the window that Danny will escape from (see below). Wendy and Danny are doing a light escape here just by getting out of the hotel for the day, but Danny is also about to learn his second lesson, which will lead to his first escape pattern. And when their chariot does arrive, it’ll park approximately right where they’re running through here. Though the grounds will have lost some garbage cans, rocks and lampposts by then.
I just have to point out/recall the way, during Redrum Road, this shot has the line “Take’s him out to look at the queen” from Polythene Pam. And this framing really does scream, “This here’s the queen!”
The camera walk is phi, and that feels key to me. Although the maze does have a transformative nature, it is part of its nature. And Danny must treat these lefts and rights as real in order to mirror them later.
Another shot with a lot of cool moments to choose from. I went with this one because I like the way the black bear (which symbolizes Ullman’s evil association with the hotel’s desire to kill Hallorann) is separated from Bugs and Winnie. There’s also a beautiful segmentation of the three paintings visible during this shot. If you can spot AY Jackson’s Red Maple, note how it’s not just cutely squished into that tiny segment, but it’s also in the corresponding box to the black bear’s below, suggesting that not only will Wendy (Winnie) see Hallorann’s (Bugs) corpse later, so will Danny (AY Jackson), in his scream face shine.
There’s also a cute little bit of work/play business here. As Jack chucks the ball away, he shifts for a moment into the work/west column (note his overlapping with the Ullman bear), then returns to middle as he strolls over to the maze model, where he glides into the play/east column (see below).
It might be worth pointing out how the middle of the maze occupies the work/west column here, since it’s the place Jack will meet his undoing. The above painting, Stormy Weather, even hints at the means of his doom (not to mention the conditions outside whenever Jack’s “working”).
Another reality-into-fantasy shot. This might be as simple as it seems, but it’s worth noting that the maps of the hedge maze look almost nothing like this shot of its reality. Though in the closer thirds shot (see below), the effect of this discrepancy is most diminished, since the middle of the maze is the part of the real maze that most resembles the maps.
The same transformation happens within the heart of the maze. These transformations could also be nodding to the fact that the maze Danny enters at the end of the film is demonstrably not the maze Wendy showed him (it’s rotated 90 degrees clockwise, to say the least).
Oh, looks like I skipped the other establishing shot of the hotel, here, but take my word for it: it’s the same as the last.
It’s not exact in terms of timing, but I’ve often wondered if the “1968 shooting” reference in the newscaster’s speech was connected to 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in December of 1968. So the fact that the LL spiral wraps around the STAR, and all the stars, before swooshing past the TV could support that notion.
Lot of near-misses here in terms of exact demarcations, but I like how this framing apes a few of the shots from the earlier kitchen sequence, when Danny and Hallorann were regarding each other, and the spirals around heads seemed to imply intense focus and observation. Here, Wendy’s hearing about the coming storm, after the story of the “missing Aspen woman” who “disappeared while on a hunting trip with her husband”. Two issues that probably lead her to seek out Jack’s company in a bit, since she brings up the less revealing one.
The majority of Danny’s third lesson is thirdsy, but as he escapes the notorious room, things start to revert to a rough phi-ness, with Danny even reaching the point of being utterly within the centre cross box.
Also, check how nicely the rug fits with the bottom-centre cradle.
The cradle effect is reversed for this soon-following shot of Jack typing away, curving beautifully along the bear-trap-looking chandelier above Jack.
Wendy approaches from the play/east column to enter into Jack’s centre column, give him a kiss, and completely destroy his hard-earned sense of concentration.
I really love all the demarcation lines in this shot. Really ornate.
Actually, this is super obscure, but if you study the east-west ceiling beams they have the same 2341-1234 pattern of Danny’s lesson and escape keys. All the vertical phi lines are passing through the 2 and 4 escapes (left) and the 2 and 4 lessons (right). The third lesson/escape is the only one that’s not slashed by a phi line, and that’s the one Danny just did up above his parents here. Also, the first lesson/escape ceiling beams are encircled by the chandelier, and that lesson took place in this very room, so that’s cute.
This is a neat scene for jumping in and out of phi and thirds. Wendy’s reaction face is always thirds, but Jack slips deeper and deeper into thirds the closer he gets to exploding (see below). Incidentally, this shot with the lampshade cut perfectly by the phi line was the first image I ever tested for phi-compatibility. So I always think of it as the “phi shot” even though I now know there’s almost 200 more.
There’s something to be said for Wendy’s fantastical thirds faces in this sequence. They’re utterly consistent throughout the sequence, which suggests that, despite Jack’s explosion, nothing really changed for her. Is that saying that Wendy expects this treatment from time to time from her violent husband? Or that she’s living in a kind of fantasy dream world, with respect to how she regards Jack and their relationship? I’ve also wondered if the transformation of Jack from phi to thirds represents Wendy’s changing perspective on Jack, and if Wendy’s thirds represents Jack’s deluded perspective on his wife. There aren’t many scenes of Jack and Wendy alone together, and none of them feature Jack seeing Wendy in a phi composition. The closest thing is the shot after she’s batted him, of him falling down the stairs, in which he’s arguably not perceiving his wife, but vanishing into unconsciousness. If anything, the phi-ness of that shot is about Wendy breaking the spell of Jack’s threat. In any case, there’s wiggle room for interpretation, but I like the idea that Wendy’s thirds-ness is reflective of Jack’s inability to see Wendy’s reality.
This shot was a rough one, but I think this moment works for general phi-symmetry. Almost the entire shot features Wendy running in the centre column while Danny runs in the play column, which reflects the action fairly perfectly, I’d say.
I do want to note how Danny occupies the start of the LR spiral, as it curves past the window where he’ll escape at the end. That’s pretty cool.
Another cool reality-into-fantasy shot. Also, note how the Gold-Room-connection photo is wedged right into the UL phi bars. By the time we zoom completely on Jack’s face, it’ll be right in the middle-left of the thirds shot, two jumps off Jack’s shoulder. Note too how the roaring fire is opposite the Gold Room photo in the phi composition.
I also like how the typewriter is in the work-side diamond, while the wood basket is in the play-side diamond. I like how that reflects the way there’s useful forms of repetitive work (unless you’re the dad from The VVitch), and there’s useless forms of repetitive work, like the All Work papers.
And I like how the moose head is almost perfectly centred in the box behind Jack’s head, emphasizing the way the hotel is going to make a wall ornament out of this man.
This is a good place to remark upon a phenomenon I’ve largely omitted from consideration, which is the super-extreme close-ups on characters’ faces. Like Hallorann getting Danny’s supershine, Danny sending his supershine, or Wendy seeing MURDER. These shots frequently seem to defy any kind of compositional framework, but in the thirds framing here, we see how Jack’s eyes are perfectly sliced into the upper bar, as if his very personality is being chopped apart by the hotel’s forces.
So here’s the first instance of an establishing shot starting to slide out of a perfect phi/perfect thirds composition. It’s still 90% phi, but things (like Jack) are starting to change.
This shot wiggles a lot from being shot probably by a shoulder-mounted camera, but the composition is generally static, with the horseshoe nicely framed in the upper-right corner, the EYE SCREAM note on the pinboard nicely connected to the UL spiral, the postcards nicely cut apart by the UH bar, and so on.
If you’ve read other parts of this site, you might be familiar with the mass of bizarre references going on here, but it’s worth noting that the LL spiral starts at a Greater Dallas phonebook, and swooshes past a painting that is possibly Alois Arnegger’s Kaiser Mountains, the POLICE notice and the EYE SCREAM notice. I know this is a stretch, but could this be a “lone gunman” reference?
The UR spiral starts at what might be A Lone Land, and swooshes nearest the U-shaped horseshoe, then passes near the wedged-open envelope, and as it cuts across the phonebook truck, it slashes the book for Buenos Aires (top middle yellow) right through the Buenos (see below). There’s a debunked theory that Hitler escaped Germany to Argentina by U-boat, where he may’ve settled in Buenos Aires, and you have to admit, that phone book, amidst all those American volumes, sticks out quite a bit. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I’m not here to defend the debunked theory, but I know Kubrick loved a good conspiracy theory, so it seems like this was about that. Or perhaps it’s about how…Hitler shot JFK!!!
As elsewhere discussed (numerously), this shot also contains the postcards and the black and white face collage on the wall behind the phone directory, and when you mash those together, you get something like what you get when you look at parts of the mirrorform from the opening (see below). So the final photo in the movie is being referenced here. And in that photo, Jack is holding a little piece of paper in one hand, while another man is suppressing that hand. There’s a transition in that moment to Jack’s larger face, which gives that face a little Hitler moustache, thanks to the smaller Jack’s widow’s peak (see below). And as you can see here, the UL spiral starts on the wall where that final photo will sit, and curves around to swoosh between the wedged-open letter, the EYE SCREAM, and the horseshoe-U.
He’s nothing if not consistent, that Kubrick.
This is obviously a moving shot with a lot of variation, but in this incredible moment the UL spiral matches up perfectly with the distance glass panels, creating the illusion (in the sense of this image) that the upper panels are divided in the same boxy style as the panels in the doors below.
Also in this moment: Tom Thomson’s Northern River and Cornelius Krieghoff’s Log Hut on the St. Maurice (two river paintings…not that the other paintings in this room don’t contain bodies of water) are in opposite diamonds across from each other.
This one’s a little rough. Most of the good line-ups are somewhat ruined by other details. Perhaps this is meant to suggest the way the real world is even less pretty than our film’s fancy locales. But this place is no less unpredictable, like how the blue sheet on the pinboard in the UL spiral becomes a pink sheet in the next scene. Or how a piece of paper on the pinboard down the hall slips down the board a few inches. Or how the ranger’s black telephone vanishes and gets replaced by a blue binder.
I do like how the postcards (one of which we just saw in Wendy’s other radio room) are divided by the LV bar, just like the ones in her radio room were divided by a horizontal bar. And I like how the bashful ranger is neatly isolated from his colleagues.
The two ghostly counties behind Wendy on the map are nicely divided by the UL and LL spirals. I also like how the UL spiral swooshes right along the curve of Wendy’s shoe. Her shoe is in the spot where Ullman’s Red Book was earlier, and one of the glowing counties the spiral is cutting between is called Routt, named for Colorado’s first governor, a name which means “ruddy” or “reddish”.
The LL spiral starts in Wendy’s outfit, containing tipis, then touches on the glowing county of Pitkin, then passes through Ullman’s eagle statue (which has turned to the right since last we saw it). Pitkin is named for the governor who helped mastermind the “The Utes must go!” campaign that saw the unlawful expulsion of the Ute from their resource-rich lands, which were guaranteed to them in perpetuity by treaty.
Similar, obvious stuff going on here (though you might note that the eagle atop the flag here is also getting touched by a spiral). I like how his colleague gets the swoosh through his eye-line, which carries through his hand and into his files.
This shot, following Danny to his third lesson, never feels quite one or the other until this moment. The centre cross lines beautifully with different parts of the doorways, and almost perfectly with dark green colouring on the walls. And while counting these kinds of compositions as phi sometimes feels like cheating, I think they just go to show that Kubrick was too good to use phi to express total visual symmetry. That would call attention to itself (as many of the thirds shots do). Kubrick likes to messy it up, cover his tracks.
The UL spiral also perfectly lines with the Henry Callahan nameplate in this moment.
And this is almost too crazy, but check out the way the extended foot ledge and window for the accountant’s office line up with the smaller parts of the UL and LL spirals.
Almost a perfect LH bar dividing the twins, drawing our attention to their Cancer formation. The UR spiral actually swooshes perfectly along the back and leg of the turned over chair, almost perfectly cradling the axe as well. As noted elsewhere, the visible side of the chair also happens to roughly mirror the constellation of Cancer.
Generally speaking, and at the risk of sounding like a psychopath, I really like the way the lines work with the girls. It takes wits to find beauty in such grotesquery.
When Danny first sees the girls, they’re in thirds, and everything has an off-centre feel. But in the next shot of them they’re suddenly phi, as if Danny is calibrating to see if they’re really real.
Also note how the UL phi bars are both pointing at the red alarm bell and the emergency switch. In the final shot of this sequence, when the girls are gone from the movie for good, the phi bars won’t be pointing at them anymore.
The next zoom feels phi, but it’s slipping. Note the UL passing through the red alarms.
Then the final two zooms are better as thirds. So it goes 3-phi-blood-phi-blood-3-blood-3-blood. That has a neat pattern to it.
Note how in the final shot of the twins being gone, the mystery glare painting at UL has shifted up to square better with the phi lines. Also, Danny and his trike have shrunk a little to fit better in the centre column. Not only are the twins gone, but the world has righted itself a little.
It’s also neat how Danny’s head only crests the LH bar during the first shot of this sequence, as if just seeing the twins pushed him down into their netherworld.
Maybe a bit of a cheat, but as the vertical bars frame the image, the UL spiral seems to catch Hermie’s head kinda nicely. In fact, the whole “work” column does neat things with him.
Pretty cool spiral work on Jack in this one. He’s sitting in the “play” column, and behind his head is After the Bath, with its naked twins. The spiral that starts here will swoosh right under Jack’s mirror twin (while the one that starts at his torso slashes his mirror twin’s eyes–not sure what that means, but it seems interesting). Jack is wearing his most Grady twin-esque outfit here, and he’s about to paraphrase the twins at Danny (“I wish we could stay here forever…and ever…and ever!”), so it’s apt that he’s in the “play” column.
Danny, meanwhile, is shrunken in the “work” column, and that feels apt too, because he’s on a mission to retrieve his fire engine. As we saw in the doctor scene, Danny has an Emergency! lunchpail, meaning that he may dream of becoming a paramedic. His future work. As King would have it, Danny does become a doctor of sorts.
The LL spiral starts in what are probably Jack’s blue jeans, and later slashes through After the Bath. Jack only wears blue jeans twice in the film. On his one good day alone at the hotel (A MONTH LATER), and on his last two days on earth, where he’s either dreaming of murder, or dreaming of murder, if you catch my drift. So this blue jeans/twins connection could be a way to underscore just how far Jack falls in 13 short days (November 30th-December 12th).
Pretty rough, but I like how Jack summons Danny over from the work column to hold him in the play column, before sitting him on his knee and quoting the twins at him. The later shot in this sequence that copies this angle, after Danny asks if Jack would ever hurt him and Wendy, snaps the conversation out of its thirds-based unreality and into the bizarre reality not only that Jack would hurt them, but gives us the shot of the bathroom again, where he’ll very much break this promise.
As for cute swooshing, I like how the UR spiral starts in Danny’s mind and cuts perfectly along Jack’s seat, as if cradling him, as if Danny is really the one holding Jack, here. Certainly he’ll seem to read dad’s mind in a minute.
Same as last time, looks like, but I like how the lights are cordoned from each other.
The symmetry of this shot really can’t be overappreciated. The only clue that it’s phi, though, seems to be the tight centre-crossing of the toys. So it’s strange that such a supernatural shot (the carpet is way too wide for any other shot of this hallway), is paired with a sense of reality. In fact, Danny’s whole journey into 237 is phi, which is perhaps a comment on why he went in there at all. Calling out for mom.
In fact, there’s not much to say for this passage, so just enjoy the symmetry.
The UR spiral loops around the KING nicely enough. This was likely a reference to Stephen King, whose novel ended in this boiler room.
For the record, Wendy is 95% in the centre column in this scene, only drifting into the play column upon hearing Jack’s screams. I doubt this is a comment on her not truly “working” so much as a comment on how unreal things are about to seem to her.
I like how the UR spiral here starts in the bookcase, then cradles the sleeping Jack as it moves up to touch the pencil jar.
Phi gridding in darkness like a damn champion.
While things have a certain phi-ness as Wendy runs to Jack, the entirety of their chat beneath the table is neither phi nor thirds. Since these correlate to reality and fantasy in many cases, I imagine this has to do with how badly the nightmare distorted Jack’s sense of his waking life, here. Wendy’s being confronted with Jack’s dark confession probably disrupted her sense of centre as well.
As Danny enters, and Wendy tries lying him off, then ordering him off, the shot struggles to find a sense of thirds or phi. It’s here, as she tells Jack she’s just gonna go get rid of him, that the camera finally locks into place. Reality has kinda sorta returned!
Take a moment to appreciate how nice the line-ups, swooshes, and near-misses are here. I don’t think there’s much thematic stuff to cover, but it is a gorgeous moment for phi.
Not perfect, but the entire analysis of Danny’s wounds, and the genesis of Wendy’s suspicion of Jack is all thirds, so this moment of “How could you?!” having a phi-ness speaks to Wendy’s memories of Jack’s violence, and the “was it just a dream?” subtext about Jack’s murder dream.
Jack’s pre-Lloyd Gold Room business feeling real helps set up the arch unreality of Lloyd.
My favourite moment from the march to liquid suicide. I like the way the swooshes play along the gold bars in the ceiling. And also how the lights behind Jack here look almost like an airstrip the way they line along the bars.
As Jack offers up his soul for a glass of beer, the dead iron crown of chandelier up above almost perfectly fits the work column.
I also like how the two spirals near Jack cross each other on the right side right at the part of the mirror where Jack will imagine/conjure/receive Lloyd.
Also cool is the way all the table and wall lights appear in the centre row, while the bar lights appear mostly in the underworld of the work side, and the majority of the far play side.
Much of the Lloyd-Jack talk is thirds, but this shot of him setting Lloyd up is decidedly not. I think that’s a key to understanding what Lloyd is: mostly mystical, but real enough to have a real effect on Jack.
Only this shot, with compositional features quite similar to the one from three jumps back, bucks the trend. This is the shot just following Jack’s first suicide drink. So perhaps Kubrick felt it vital to give us a phi to affirm the reality of Lloyd’s helping Jack kill his old self. This little pantomime isn’t just a crazy clown man pretending to drink a ghostdrink on his lonesome. The hotel is taking part.
I like how Lloyd’s face spiral later divides the light part of Jack from his dark half, while Jack’s head spiral curves right along Lloyd’s arm. These two men aren’t just dressed in similar garb, they’re on opposite sides of the same cradle.
Not quite perfect, but pretty good. Perhaps to emphasize the way Jack’s still in his haunted reverie.
Hallorann’s a master of his domain, so his pad moves through moments of thirds and moments of phi.
As discussed in the Fibonacci section, the exact middle of the movie is a pretty great phi moment.
Danny’s shine to Hallorann of the start of the 237 experience is pretty cool for the way it asserts that the child will show the man a real thing that happened, however fantastical it may seem. Without getting sucked into the umpteenth analysis, that’s a good shorthand for the work of Alex Colville, fuzzily seen here.
The journey through 237 contains some neat bars and swooshes. But you know, there’s so many bars in the wallpaper here, it would almost be hard to miss a line-up.
When Danny’s final key appears, it’s perfectly boxed in the work half.
I’ve wondered in a few areas of analysis if the fox painting refers to Wendy or the 237 ghost (the mirrorform suggests Wendy), but the way the LR spiral starts in the bathroom door and curves right along the fox certainly seems suggestive of the opposite.
Just wanted to note how the phi-ness carries right up til the thirds-ness of the bathroom is revealed.
As you’d expect, the thirds carry on right until Jack’s disillusionment, and reality comes crashing back. I must admit, I was hoping for a cooler segmentation of the three carpet patterns, but the stuff going on in LR is pretty cool.
Tonnes of great line work in this one. Some cool curve moments too, like the LL spiral curving along the carpet shadow just right.
But the best thing is the way the 237 fob is still dangling in the play column. As shadow Jack stalks away like some kind of bigfoot, he shrinks til he fits almost perfect into the middle of the work column.
Not a lot of “reality” in the 237 autopsy (and this one probably shouldn’t really count). LL starts in Danny and then slashes through Wendy’s worried mind. UR is vice versa. UL starts in Jack’s head, then completely avoids an overlap with Danny, which seems to reflect how concerned he really is about his son in this moment.
This sequence has had more of a thirds vibe up to here, so it’s neat that, as they sit down, it’s like Wendy has regained some of her sense of reality.
I like how REDRUM is presented almost like it’s the banner of the underworld.
I also like how it is almost perfectly divided by the vertical bars into sections of letters forwards (RE), letters backwards (DR), and ambidextrous letters (UM). Not thematically necessary, but it would’ve been a cool trick.
The bloodfall isn’t phi the first time, but becomes more so across the visions, until Wendy’s eye witness version is the complete phi-ness.
As Jack’s deception fails, and his ruse turns to wrath, reality creeps back in til it fully returns upon his exit.
Jack’s back hall tantrum straddles the line between forms, but it’s basically thirds, which I would say goes with the emergence of the unexpected ghost music. Flipping to the evidence of a ghostball, everything suddenly looks very real.
Actually, there are three major first-person-perspective shots in the film–Danny approaching 237, Jack moving through 237, and this shot–and they’re all phi, which probably reflects the reality of these being real people seeing with their real eyes.
LR starts near the red balloon (which I’ve likened to a Masque of the Red Death reference), curves up, cradling the letter board with the reference to INDIAN and LADIES on it, and swooshes over where Maligne Lake will appear in ten seconds. The mountain that features prominently in that painting is Samson Peak. I’m not sure if there’s much to this connection beyond a sense of historicity in all cases (Samson goes back to the bible, Poe goes back to Shakespeare, and the “indian/ladies” are two types of people who go way back), but it’s interesting.
All of Hallorann’s distress call sequences feature the same figure moving through the same space, shot in the same way. But there’s a subtle shift in the second sequence (where he gets through, and is told to call back), so that the framing works better as phi. This is likely because the first and third distress calls both feature Hallorann getting cockblocked by the hotel’s magic will.
The UR spiral capturing the fish hanging, the rooster figure on the China hutch, and then passing near the Car and Driver magazine.
Quite similar to last time, only now Lloyd’s head is about equal in size to Jack’s, instead of much larger. This could be about the way the mirror and echo phrases from that earlier scene are gone from this scene. When Lloyd wanted Jack to see himself in Lloyd, Lloyd took on an inflated stature.
Lots of cool stuff going on here from the Kubrick twins boxed and slashed perfectly in the lower left corner, the chandeliers being perfectly split by the LV bar, to the red floral/hand print on the ghost’s bum being perfectly boxed in the second smallest part of LR at the moment Grady reacts to her interruption. Every part of this shot is in motion, and stays in some motion, and it’s a long shot, going from Jack standing up, to Jack and Grady entering the bathroom. Lots of ways this could’ve gone wrong, a fair bit of dialogue, and 57 seconds of group timing to get right.
The Grady-Jack bathroom scene slips further and further into phi as it goes, switching to thirds after Jack’s final “Mr. Grady. You were the caretaker here.” This leads to Grady saying, “I’m sorry to differ with you, sir.” We’ve entered the hotel’s final round of messing with Jack’s sense of what’s real and what isn’t, and we switch to thirds because the hotel no longer needs to keep up the pretence of this being objective reality (in this impossible bathroom).
Wendy’s escape plan is fairly phi, until it’s interrupted by the thirds-ness of Tony’s takeover of Danny.
It’s also interesting that we’re almost at the 2/3s mark of the film, and we’re seeing the possible Kaiser Mountains painting again, for the first time since it appeared at the 1/3 mark. It migrated to Suite 3 from the radio room. And Jack’s about to murder a radio.
Jack’s radiokilling walk is phi, but switches to thirds once he’s inside Ullman’s fantastical office.
Just a lot of very nice swirls, reminding us that Hallorann is really doing this.
Though there’s a few nice moments, the big deal here is LR nicely boxing and spiralling along with Durkin and the ’74-’78 AMC Matador. The arc of which nicely encompasses all the Durkin-ness of this shot; the other spirals all slash through certain elements, like the snowcat.
But yeah, this emphasizes the way way Durkin will help be a matador to Jack’s minotaur.
Wendy’s head spiral swooshes right under the distant Winnie. In a moment she’ll have to reach past her Winnie-ness to get the bat, whose LL spiral is slashing her in the head here. In fact, as she turns to say to Danny about her desire to fight Jack, the bat spiral will grade much more agreeably with her head position (see below).
I also like how the UL spiral, which is near a butterfly painting, slashes through the table cloth, since this breakfast is something of an imperfect twin to the first lunch shared between mother and son in the film.
There’s a rough phi-ness to Wendy’s lounge fight set-up, mainly in the way she’s centre-crossed upon approach.
Oh, btw, I forgot to mention, when Danny comes in here with his 237 wounds before, there’s rugs that disappear on the work side of the screen, and here, rugs disappear on the play side of the screen. Not sure if this is more than a reference to the All Work and No Play papers.
I’ve wondered if this shot (with Wendy looking the other way from holding her American bat to the indigenous wall mural (and bison head), while she fretfully calls out for a man later compared to Hitler) is a metaphor for the way America has used its saviour position in WWII to sweep its own genocides under the rug of history, and this rather stylized, symmetrical “reality” shot, would seem to be a chip in that pile.
Also, check that sweet swirl around the logo on the bat.
The bulk of the All Work pages are thirds, but this first revelation is phi, which is pretty neat. We start off in the reality of Jack’s monotonous madness, and slide into the absurdity of it.
Then, her first look at the giant stack starts in thirds (this can’t possibly be real), to a close-up, where the middle nine repetitions fill the middle of the cross (this is real; he did this). Even the number of repetitions per chunk are symmetrical here: 5-15-9-15-5
Once Jack approaches we stay in fantasy land until Wendy cracks a skull and breaks the spell. So many great lines and corners and swooshes in this shot.
As she smotes his ruin upon the mountainside, a reminder that Jack is just a feeble little man, not much better than a Grady twin corpse. I also really like how the upper swooshes divide the room, and run along the chandelier. Especially the ones running along the fireplace/mural.
I’ve never had a good idea about the presence of the piano in this room before. But seeing it here, I wonder if its centre-crossed-ness is emphasizing the irony of the “no play” aspect of Jack’s writing. Like, the piano was always right there. You could’ve played whenever you wanted. And now you’re dead.
The locking Jack up sequence is loaded with great phi moments. Especially the way the boxes are divided up. Check it out.
The Sysco boxes even seem to change just to get these phis more phi-ly.
Now that Jack has fully embraced/revealed his murderous capacities/intentions, we only see him in the pantry in this phi perspective. And, I’ve said this many times, but the effect really becomes of one from the underworld taunting the heavens.
Wendy’s flight to the dead snowcat is real until it isn’t. Which is the revelation of its murder.
In the final post-4pm-placard establishing shot, we’ve finally crossed into thirds land. The supernaturality is gonna be high octane from here on out. Ghosts are gonna be opening doors, modern people are gonna turn into old photographs, and little boys are gonna witness murders from inside dark steel boxes.
Kinda rough, but it has its moments.
Hard to see, but the middle column lines up perfectly with the sky. The twin peaks at the bottom of the sky line up perfectly with the UH bar, the LH bar keeps the snowcat in the underworld–although this will change as the shot pans down.
Not perfect. Some cool moments, through. I like the spiral in Hallorann’s E.T. head.
I love how the centre column works with the work and play wings. The way Danny’s knife and the lampshade line up just right with the RV bar is crazy. I also like how the TV and the bookcase fit in their respective columns. Or the way the butterflies snuggle into the righthand swooshes.
Not as perfect, but some cool moments. Wendy’s sleepin’ on the job! Tony’s playing with red…rum…
There’s a cluttered look to this shot that draws your attention to the MURDER door, but there’s a neat thing going on with the butterfly imagery. Only one of the spirals passes through two different butterfly objects. UL passes through the butterfly-shaped tweezer kit, and the painting in the sitting area. And it basically slashes the standee for the mobile.
It was about as hard to realize this shot existed as it was to capture it…so appreciate it, dammit!
Basically I just love how the LL spiral that starts in Jack’s heart curves perfectly along the axehead. But I’m sure you’ll note the other cool stuff by now.
There’s a funny thing about this sequence where Jack has more phi shots than Wendy and Danny, as if their escape were more fantastical than Jack’s complete transformation into monster man.
I guess it’s true that he is home.
He is home.
There is this one shot, though, of Danny sliding down the snow hill. Oddly, one of the most magical, Disney-esque moments in this entire sequence, showing how he goes from UL to LR, perfectly.
Also, I’m still not sure about when Danny re-becomes Danny, but maybe this shot could be an argument for this moment. He certainly seems to possess Danny-like concern as he stares back up in a second.
Another great moment in Axehead-Spirograph History. Note to self: start a TV series called Great Moments in Spirograph History!
By the time we get to “Here’s Johnny!” we’ve reached peak rule-of-thirds-ness.
Hallorann’s interruption shocks us back into reality a little.
Danny’s run for safety is all roughly phi, so this could be another clue that the real Danny has returned.
It’s hard to tell about Hallorann’s walk across the exterior, but it certainly ends in phi. I actually really like how the LV bar cuts the closed door perfectly in half.
Hallorann’s doom walk has its moments.
The heavily shaking image is not as consistent as this still would suggest, but I just wanted to show how Hallorann’s blood splash is roughly as thick as the middle row.
I imagine Kubrick liked that. Because Hallorann really does die for this boy. And the sacrifice is not a small one.
The emergence of Jack’s face gives the image more of a thirds quality, the reality of murder being interrupted by the fantasy of Jack’s vacuity.
The wide shot, like Wendy’s flight up the stairs, is thirds, but the zoom becomes phi. I have a theory that the bear suit is also Wendy, so this rushing in of reality is apt.
The phi-ness is (much) rougher than during Wendy’s version of this shot, but it is still basically the same shot.
The left-right shot of Jack scanning the grounds for Danny moves from phi (when Jack is only seeing things that are basically the same as they were before)…
…to thirds as the hedge maze is revealed, and we see that it’s rotated 90 degrees clockwise since the last time Jack entered it. It’s neat how even the shadow on the ground between moments seems to suggest this transformation in composition.
As Danny vanishes into it, though, the shot morphs back to phis, since Danny’s survival will depend upon the reality of his applications of the lessons and keys to these escapes. The ending wouldn’t work if the labyrinth wasn’t a “real” place. Danny’s triumph over it would just be dumb luck.
Consider what that says about the maze’s two antecedents: the hotel and the natural world.
Wendy’s 2nd trial flips back and forth a bit.
A little rough, but I think it counts. I also think it’s important that we get one “real” shot of Charles Grady, to help us realize he is real.
On a similar note, it’s important that the skeleton ball have some “real” moments to help us understand that Hallorann really has been absorbed by the building, and Jack really will die this night.
One last group photo to show how the columns can divide a group of characters apart.
Basic, but I think it works. Danny really is pulling off this incredible trap. The darkness that wells along the work and play columns almost seem like the dark eyes of the Overlook, furious that the boy is getting this clever.
Wendy’s approach is somewhat loose, but then…
…the final bloodfall almost couldn’t be more phi, and that’s really amazing. The film’s second last supernatural event is real, dammit! Danny’s visions were real to the bitter end.
Also, note the cool pattern of black and red in the door segmentations.
Is the trap really gonna work?
It really will!
Jack’s pursuit of Danny is entirely thirds, so to get smacked in the face with reality at the moment of his defeat is pretty sweet.
Sweet terra firma.
Though it is worth pointing out that the reunion of mother and son is thirds, as if neither can believe they survived. See? Thirds aren’t all bad.
I think you have to work to make Jack’s maze journey a phi-ful affair, but this moment’s pretty good. As he stumbles for the first time, he falls below the underworld bar. Jack is not long for this world.
The phi walls are closing in!
The entire last shot of the movie is painfully awkwardly not phi or thirds. It’s kinda crazy the lengths they must’ve gone to to make sure every frame of this massive dolly-zoom would defy classification. But that they seem to have done. I chose this moment to show the way you can get the LH bar to run along the bottom of the photos for a heartbeat. But yeah, you get the point.
Actually, maybe you don’t, and maybe I don’t, but perhaps the reason was to emphasize the “make up your own mind” dimension of this finale. Yes, we can point out that July 4th, 1921 was on the same week Hitler ascended to ultimate control of the Nazi party. There are numerous points we can make that satisfy the film’s many labyrinthine breadcrumb trails, here. But ultimately this is still something of a case of “if you believe, they put a man on the moon.”