A shorthand guide to the meaning and significance of all the unique terms, themes and concepts explored on this site.
3 Little Pigs
Jack casts himself as the Big Bad Wolf, to the “little pigs” of Danny and Wendy. Since Hallorann makes for Jack’s third victim, this reference, occurring right before Hallorann saves the day, may be a subtle foreshadow to the arrival of a third hero, and a reference back to Delbert Grady telling Jack that Danny was “trying to bring an outside party into this situation.”
The basic moral of the fable is that by working together, and by relying on advancements in technology, the vulnerable can protect themselves against threats. Four paintings by John Gould, who helped inspire the theory of evolution, appear in room 237. Danny’s shine power is like a human evolution, which he uses to summon the heroic Dick.
In the Four Directions analysis, canines are associated with the hotel, so Jack identifying with a wolf figure signifies his total immersion into the nature of the hotel.
The 3 Little Pigs is a classic fairy tale, of which a few others are referenced overtly: Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood. It’s believed that Little Red Riding Hood and the 3 Little Pigs are stylistically connected folktales, bridged by a middle story with similar elements from each, called The Goat and the Seven Young Kids. And Snow White and the Seven Dwarves bears several similarities to that bridging story. It’s possible then that Kubrick is suggesting Snow White is something like an evolution of The Goat and the Seven Young Kids, to show how stories themselves evolve, and work to gird human psychology against threats.
Disney cartoons are referenced throughout the film, and Disney put out a few short films telling the 3 Little Pigs story. In one version, the pigs work together with Little Red Riding Hood to thwart the Big Bad Wolf. In another version, the wolf uses an anti-Semitic face mask to try to trick the pigs into letting him in. As Jack pretends that he’s the Big Bad Wolf, a painting appears behind his shoulder by Alois Arnegger, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, most famous for rejecting the application of a young Adolf Hitler (in 1907 and 1908–the years the Overlook was being constructed), setting up the conditions for the Holocaust to take place.
9-Minute Middle Movie
The 4.5 minutes of film stretching in either direction from the middle second of The Shining. My theory is that The Shining can be deconstructed by a formula deriving from the Fibonacci sequence, and the 9-minute middle movie derives from that formula.
I’ve studied this phenomenon exclusively in the Golden Spirals (Fill Your Eyes) section.
In the Golden Shining analysis, the mirrorform film is divided into ten segments, each made up of a number of minutes corresponding to the first ten numbers of the Fibonacci sequence. Each segment is then divided by something I call a spiral cut, which is the length of time that would make a golden ratio out of that segment. Because of the nature of the mirrorform, the second last segment (in this case, the ninth) will always reflect perfectly back on itself, to create something I call the middle movie, partly because it always crosses the middle moment from the complete film. But the spiral cut lands (in this case) 4.5 minutes from that middle. Thus, thanks to the nature of the mirrorform, we can think of these doubled-up 4.5 minutes as 9 minutes of narrative story that might act as a kind of micro movie within the middle movie.
Eleven seems to me to be one of the three most significant, recurring numbers in the film, along with 42 and 237.
In the Treachery of Images analysis, which studies the meaning behind each of the 21 photos that appear in the final shots of the film, the 11th photo is the one in which Jack now lives forever and ever and ever. And the date within that photo is Independence day, the fourth day of the seventh month (4 + 7 = 11).
Danny wears an Apollo 11 sweater, which becomes ripped and torn thanks to his experience confronting the ghost in room 237.
Also, there’s a plethora of people and things in the film that appear like twin pillars, most famously the Grady twins. But there are other, similar, much subtler moments such as when Wendy is discovering the All Work Papers, there seem to be 11s floating in the balcony bannister above her head. And then, when the shot reverses on the endless repetitions of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” we get two “ll” moments in the words “All” and “dull”.
The constant invoking of these twin or pillar shapes may be about reminding us of the network of clues connecting to the Pillars of Hercules.
And there are actual pillars inside the hotel that take on significance once you grow an appreciation for the F21 photos that hang on them. The most intriguing of which being the two pillars behind Jack whenever he’s typing in the lounge. These two feature F21 photos adding to 20 and 34. And 20:34 is the time code for the moment Jack first sets foot in the lounge. So these pillars serve as a constant reminder of Jack’s origins with the hotel, just as the Pillars of Hercules serve as a reminder of the origins of Western mythology’s concept of familial violence.
Forty-two is one of the three most significant, recurring numbers in the film, along with 11 and 237. My dominant sense is that the number is meant to draw our attention to the concept of impossibilities. I’ve written an analysis of this phenomenon here.
It first appears on the shoulder sleeves of Danny’s Bugs Bunny shirt, which he wears while still in the Boulder apartment, and where we see him get his first mind-shattering shine from Tony (an impossibly supernatural event). It later appears in the title of the film Danny and Wendy are watching MONDAY morning, Summer of ’42, on a TV that has no power cable. Ullman’s office has a bank of windows in it which show bright, glaring light pouring from outside, but as we see the architecture of the building unfold throughout the film, we realize that these windows don’t have the outside behind them, but rather a hallway, where we see six stacks of 7up pop bottles (6 x 7 = 42). It also appears in the licence plate of the car Dick drives to (almost impossibly) save Danny and Wendy, and it appears in collections of objects, like how there’s 42 cars parked outside the Overlook when Jack arrives for his interview. Also, Jack Nicholson would’ve been 42 in 1979, the year of his character’s death, so, though filming took place across 3 years, the Jack Torrance of our drama would be 42 in Nicholson terms. And the year 42 BCE was the year that the saga surrounding the assassination of Julius Caesar effectively met its end, with the suicide of Marcus Brutus–Caesar’s murder being a major subtext of the film.
And going with the theme of 6×7 and 7×6–the 1921 photo that Jack impossibly appears in at the end of the film happens to include 76 women and 67 men, for a grand total of 143 people, and The Shining happens to be 143 minutes long. In fact, Jack’s experience inside room 237 ends at exactly 76 minutes into the film, which is our last moment inside room 237. So I guess this 76/67 split gives us a 237 half and a post-237 half of the film. There’s also a phase in the film where we hear 143 heartbeat sounds, 76 of which occur atop Wendy plotting her escape and then discovering from Tony that Danny has impossibly “gone away”, 67 of which occur atop Jack ripping the guts out of the Overlook radio and the beginning of Hallorann’s absurd rescue mission to save Wendy and Danny.
Also, with this sort of logic in mind, 237 and 42 are linked by virtue of 2 x 3 x 7 = 42. So it’s possible we’re meant to think of every reference to either as a reference to the other.
The number of Stephen King’s most sinister room in the novel. This number appears much less frequently in Kubrick’s film (to my knowledge), though there are two F21 photos on the stairwell going up to room 237 that have the values 21 and 7. There’s also the thing in the Tower of Fable analysis which shows that the four bloodfalls bear a connection to the number.
But the most interesting thing my work on the number has yet revealed is that Danny enters room 217 in the novel…on page 217. That got me wondering if pages 127, 172, and 271 might also connect to room 217, and they really do. Head here for the full analysis, but know that King’s page number jumbles, and his cat’s cradle of interconnections don’t end there.
The most openly intriguing of the three most significant numbers in the film, along with 11 and 42.
One of the most expansive studies of a single phenomenon within the film is my study on the number 237, which notes the way that the number is baked into the films shots, objects, time codes, scene lengths, and all kinds of things, really. This number also seems to bear a unique relationship to the hotel’s desire for Jack to kill Hallorann.
And while 11 seems to refer to the Pillars of Hercules and 42 seems to refer to impossibilities and absurdities within the film, 237’s dominant subtext might be to the 1969 Apollo 11 moon mission, which you can read all about here. But yes, this gives a contextual connection between 237 and 11. And 237 and 42 bear a connection by virtue of how 2 x 3 x 7 = 42. So all three of the film’s dominant numbers are linked.
If I’m calling something a “jumble” I’m usually pointing out that it’s a number made up of the same numerals as a more significant number in the film. A jumble of 237 might be 732, 273, or 327, for instance.
This would predominantly appear in my analysis of the number 237. But I believe I’ve mentioned it in some of the larger analyses, like the mirrorform or the Golden Shining.
I did a study on the number of seconds in each shot and sequence of the film, only to discover that the film is made up of 143 passages, each of which is comprised of a number of seconds that is one of the set of significant numbers Kubrick baked into the film’s subtext. Numbers like 11, 42, and 237. But some of the passages are made up of 732 and 273 and 73 and 37 and 23 seconds, and so on. This, what we might call, jumble logic seems to me to be an extension of the mirror logic of REDRUM signifying MURDER.
There’s also the matter of how the years that the Overlook was built (1907) and that Grady killed his family (1970) are jumbles of each other. Or how there’s a poster about the Denver flood in the games room, which occurred in 1912, while Jack gets stuck in the year 1921. Stuff like that.
The number on the room across from room 237. The door to this room opens between shots of Danny first reacting to witnessing room 237. It’s my feeling that Dick Hallorann’s essence is absorbed by this room after his murder by Jack.
This phenomenon has a dedicated study in the Treachery of Images series. Though it may be difficult to follow if you don’t read the intro.
Hallorann’s body appears to Wendy the second last time she runs through the lobby, but has vanished the last time she runs through that area, as covered in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse analysis. In decrypting the F21 Key I came to believe that the photo above photo Jack represents heaven and the photo below photo Jack represents hell. These photos appear before Wendy as she perceives Hallorann’s corpse, and behind her as she witnesses the skeleton ball. Our concept of the fate of Hallorann’s soul becomes uncertain. But room 238 would seem to tell a different tale.
What’s more the number 237 seems to signify (among other things) the hotel’s desire for Jack to do the work of killing Hallorann. So it’s perhaps appropriate that these numbers would sit so close together.
1921, July 4th
The year and day Jack becomes symbolically stuck in, within the 11th photo at the lobby’s entrance to the path to the Gold Room.
Jack longs to return to a past in which he hasn’t made his worst mistakes. The hotel presents such a past, in the form of the ghost ball, where he meets a man (Delbert Grady) who wears the same outfit he’s wearing in the final photo. The actual date this refers to just so happens to land within the period of days in which the nazi party broke out in a mutiny that resulted in Adolf Hitler tendering his resignation a week later, only to be lured back a few weeks later under the proviso that he become Führer. As others noted before me, the last fade in The Shining gives giant face Jack a Hitler moustache in the form of tiny head Jack’s receding hairline. Note how the mirrorform causes this moment to overlay with a Volkswagen Beetle driving to the Overlook. Beetles were the brainchild of Adolf Hitler.
So Jack drives a Hitlermobile and (we learn only in the novel) was born in Berlin, New Hampshire (Hitler suicided in Berlin, Germany). Hitler might’ve avoided causing the Holocaust if he’d been accepted to art school, and Jack might’ve avoided slaughtering Hallorann if he’d been a good enough writer.
On a similar note, July 4th is America’s Independence Day, a day that celebrates their separation from the tyranny of British royal rule and decree. The first Independence Day was in 1776, effectively delineating the British genocides against the indigenous populations from the coming American ones (and don’t the sharp shadows on the conifers here remind of the tipis at the Sand Creek Massacre?). The day’s name might also be regarded as ironic for anyone with any concept of American slavery.
See also: F21
I have a theory that Kubrick’s The Shining can be watched with Abbey Road by the Beatles playing over top, which I call Redrum Road. That album came out in 1969, which was shortly followed by the Beatles secretly breaking up, as a band. They announced their official breakup in 1970, the year that Charles Grady is said to have murdered his wife and two daughters, the year that John Lennon put out Instant Karma/We All Shine On, the EP that helped inspire the novel’s name, The Shining. The recording of Abbey Road took place in the spring and summer of 1969, which is when the Apollo 11 mission was being prepared and then executed. Danny wears an Apollo 11 sweater as he walks into room 237. So that all got me thinking that the years of 1969 and 1970 might have some special significance to the film. I probably won’t remember every reference that links to this entry, but here’s some highlights:
- A few of the old timey songs that play at the ghost ball were recorded at Abbey Road studios, which we could take as an indirect reference to the album.
- Jack Nicholson catapulted to stardom that summer thanks to Easy Rider, and when the Torrances are arriving at the Overlook, Danny’s tricycle is white, and parked next to a red-and-black plaid piece of luggage. In Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson rides on a motorcycle a very similar shade of white, with a very similar piece of luggage at his back.
- Shelley Duvall’s career began in 1970, starring in Brewster McCloud, a film about a young man attempting to build a one-man flight suit, à la Icarus. The poster for that film resembles a postcard that floats next to Wendy’s face in one shot of The Shining, but also, there’s the subtext that Danny is an Icarus character, for the way his foot prints seem to end in the middle of the labyrinth. Icarus escaped the labyrinth by flying out on his wax wings designed by his father.
- Scatman Crothers played “the corpse” in the 1969 film Hook, Line, and Sinker, and of course he plays a corpse here too. But I also appreciate how he voiced George “Meadowlark” Lemon on the Harlem Globetrotters cartoon show in 1970, and dies just feet away from a poster of Dr. Julius Winfield Erving.
- In a mirrorform moment, Jack overlays with a nine-rung ladder while talking through the pantry door to Grady. There’s 9 years between Jack and Grady talking (1979) and the Grady murders (1970).
- There’s four art objects (so far) from this year, two books and two paintings. The books are a biography of Julius Caesar and Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede, which is about an abbey. The paintings are December Afternoon, painted by a WWII vet, and which hangs to the left of the bloodfall, and the Ski Broadmoor poster in the games room, which hangs to the left of a dartboard, and has a connection to Adolf Hitler.
- Any Beatles reference would seem like a tacit 1969/1970 reference given those being the years of their undoing.
Here’s the link to the part of the art section that attempts to review this phenomenon.
The final album the Beatles recorded, in 1969, before John recorded We All Shine On, which inspired the name of the novel The Shining. My theory is that you can play this album three times atop the mirrorform Shining in order to gain access to a bevy of previously undiscovered connections between the film and the disintegration of the band.
Abbey Road also happens to be the name of the recording studio the band recorded at, which also happens to be where a few of the songs on The Shining‘s actual soundtrack were recorded. Perhaps most notably the song that plays over the final three shots of the film, as well as the bulk of the credits, Midnight, the Stars, and You.
ABBEY ROAD TOUR
Whenever I say this in my Redrum Road analysis or elsewhere, I’m referring to the scenes of Ullman, Wendy, Jack, and Watson walking single-file through the Colorado lounge, the Overlook exterior and the Gold Room, in the style of the Abbey Road album cover. I might sometimes be referring to the larger sequence of the Overlook tour, including the moments with Hallorann, but Hallorann appears right at the end of the Abbey Road Tour, which happens to occur at 24:37, a few seconds before Side A of Abbey Road ends.
The film is loaded with things that disappear and reappear, things that transform between shots or sequences, and things that can’t possibly happen. The kitchen pantry is especially absurd.
Why these things are happening is frequently enhanced by looking at the mirrorform, as in the example of how two red couches that appear and disappear in the lobby and Gold Room throughout the film.
I also do a study where I consider the possibility that every area of the hotel is not a different room, but the same room being re-entered over and over and over again, thanks to ghost magic. It’s actually a lot less bonkers, and a lot more substantiated than that sounds.
The inner design of the Overlook hotel was modelled after the Ahwahnee Hotel. This is a Miwok word meaning “mouth”, so whenever we’re seeing these designs, there’s a subtle suggestion that the Torrances are living inside a giant mouth, sort of like the little plover birds that live inside the open mouth of a crocodile. I see this as playing into the general theme of cannibalism throughout the film.
Colville is one of the best-known Canadian painters of all time, and five of his works appear in the film. These are, in order of appearance, Woman and Terrier, Horse and Train, Hound in Field, Dog, Boy and St. John River, and Moon and Cow. There’s also a strong case to be made, I feel, that a good deal of the film’s compositional style was inspired by Colville’s geometric compositional style, and that there are several moments in the film that resemble earlier works by Colville not otherwise seen in the film, as explored here. There are also moments in the film that seem to imitate the paintings that do appear, such as when Wendy hugs a mute Tony/Danny in the Colorado Lounge–this moment resembles Woman and Terrier for a moment. And when Jack sits down to die in the labyrinth, this moment resembles Moon and Cow.
It’s also interesting to note how Kubrick selected works with names that present a kind of forced duality. What do moons and cows have in common? Horses and trains? Dogs and women? Similarly, The Shining is concerned with a multitude of dualities, some less intuitive than others.
There’s also the matter of something called the Colville Indian Reservation, which I believe bears a connection to the film’s indigenous subtext, as explored here.
Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll’s ubiquitous masterpiece is openly referenced a few times in King’s novel, especially to invoke the concept of decapitation (“OFF WITH HIS HEAD”), a concept which appears in Kubrick’s film in a few ways, like with the minotaur subtext.
The two stories also share certain similar obsessions, such as mirrors, animals, royalty, absurdities and games. It’s been theorized that Alice in Wonderland is what I would call a mirrorform story (as well as Crime and Punishment, which also appears in the film, directly across from the Grady twins looking like a couple of Alices in the games room), which could partly account for Kubrick’s making The Shining into one.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
This line appears 536 times in the film, and at 5:36 Jack is responding to Watson’s line “What line of work are you in now?” with his line, “I’m a writer.” And fun fact: 536 CE was nominated as the worst year to be alive, thanks to a catastrophic volcanic eruption that made life miserable globally (volcanos being a running subtext to The Shining).
But the line is also a proverb dating back centuries, and which has been invoked in media as diverse as Karl Marx’s Das Capital, Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, and James Joyce’s Araby. In fact, numerous figures appearing on the Sgt. Pepper album cover have invoked it.
In my Treachery of Images analysis I discovered that these concepts of “work” and “play” are quite central to Jack’s existential struggle, as well as being symbolically expressed through a numeric sequence present in the room where he’s seen to be typing this word out all these hundreds of times. And in my study on the film’s shot compositions, I realized that there are sections of the screen that can be described as the “work” column, and the “play” column.
In general, I see Kubrick’s use of the proverb (which is not a thing in King’s novel) as a shorthand for all the ways that repetition can drive people crazy, whether through the monotony of time, the monotony of language, or the monotony of a cultural mythology that refuses to evolve.
The flip side to this is the way in which perfection of repetition can lead to a certain cultural ownership over the thing repeated. So, while the phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” was used for centuries before Kubrick’s film to state a seeming truism about the way humans need a balance between work and play to stay sane, you can’t use the phrase anymore without recalling Kubrick’s usage (unless you somehow haven’t heard of The Shining, but have heard the proverb, I suppose). And I don’t know if that would be quite as true if the phrase didn’t seem to resonate so well with what the film is otherwise saying. So Kubrick’s success in owning the All Work phrase depended upon his ability to perceive and combine its repetitive familiarity and meaning with the film’s nature. Similarly, Danny’s eludes his father’s axe by perceiving the repetitive patterns in his life.
Finally, let me just say that, holy god, I have had to type out the same points referring to the same theories so many times on this site, it’s insane. It’s driving me insane. But there’s literally no way to write everything I’ve needed to write to make every theory independently comprehensive, while never repeating whole swathes of theory. This glossary is, in part, an attempt to show exactly how dynamic Kubrick’s executions of his techniques, styles and themes, to create a hub for the few hundred repeating points that there are to be made. It’s a labyrinth and a half, this ol’ movie.
All Work Papers
This is a shorthand I use many times throughout the site to refer to the pages upon which Jack has typed “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” at least 536 times.
There’s an entire discourse of study on this site just looking at the dozens of animals that appear in the film, and which major characters seem to bear subtextual connections to which animals.
My dominant thought on this presently is that this was done to force the audience to consider the value of the indigenous philosophy known as Four Directions, which you can read about here. But there also seems to be a Noah’s Ark thing going on, since a painter whose work appears three times inside room 237, who painted the zoo animals of a British zoologist Gerald Durrell, who wrote several books with titles comparing zoos to Noah’s Ark. Room 237 also contains paintings by John Gould, who helped inspire Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
A small horde of anniversaries are referenced overtly and subtextually throughout the film. The first and last days that Jack appears alive within the film (September 22nd and December 13th) are the two feast days of two saints referenced in tiny art objects: St. Maurice and St. Lucia. Ullman mentions how the Overlook closes on October 30th, also known as Devil’s Night. Jack mentions in his ranting that his time as caretaker would end on May 1st, also known as May Day. There’s a Playgirl magazine that reference’s New Year’s Day on its cover. The Torrances own a copy of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Books. And of course, the last thing we see in the film is a close up on the day Jack Torrance is stuck in forever and ever, Independence Day.
There are over 300 art objects sprinkled anonymously throughout the film. Identifying them has been one of the most wearying of my many tasks these past 2 years, though hitting on the identity of a piece, and extrapolating its significance, both within itself, and as it relates to all the other art in the film, has certainly been one of the most rewarding of my decryptive efforts. The more I learn about these pieces (there’s about 30 left to get), the more I realize how they form a labyrinth of meaning within the larger labyrinth of the film’s construction.
Generally, I think the reason Kubrick did this was to suggest the way in which science is like the east wing to art’s west wing for how human’s have striven to understand reality. This is best exemplified in the way room 237 contains four paintings by John Gould, whose bird art helped inspire Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
There’s an interesting phenomenon of artworks being included by artists who were either the creators of art collectives, or who collaborated with one another. Alex Colville’s Hound in Field appears alongside a piece (possibly) by his friend and fellow artist Avery Vaughan. A piece appears by Carl Schaefer, who was a student of JEH MacDonald, who is featured at least twice. At least six pieces by the Group of Seven’s members appear (I suspect a seventh piece as being by Franklin Carmichael), and two pieces by Norval Morrisseau, of the Indian Group of Seven, appear. The German political cartoons of Oskar appear in three spots, while at one point Wendy walks past a television playing an episode of the German game show Dalli Dalli, upon which Oskar appeared as a sketch artist. Brueghel the Elder, whose Tower of Babel appears in the lobby, was a great friend of Abraham Ortelius, whose Theatrum Orbis Terrarum appears in Ullman’s office moments later.
It’s possible that there will seem to exist some similar connection between every included artist at some point, but for now just know that I think the point here was to cause us to contemplate the error of Jack’s ways. He thinks he needs to withdraw from society to finally accomplish his great art, when what seems to be happening all around him is artists banding together for mutual greatness.
This is perhaps contrasted, however, by the Redrum Road subtext, which concerns the disintegration of one of the 20th century’s greatest artist collectives.
AVENUE OF THE DEAD
In my Tower of Fable analysis, which involves considering that all 11 areas of the hotel are meant to be understood as one 7-square-by-11-square game board of sorts, I found evidence that Kubrick based this complex design of overlapping floor plans on a real series of pyramids in Mesoamerica, called the Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, which are connected by something called the Avenue of the Dead.
So there’s that.
But another thing I realized upon identifying all four of the John Webber etchings along the hall outside room 237 is that they seem to suggest that the hotel wanted to absorb Hallorann into room 238, Wendy into room 236, and Danny into room 242, while the spirits of the real Grady daughters live in room 234. There’s reason to think the hotel was successful in capturing Hallorann’s spirit, and we all know the evidence for Jack’s presence in the hotel following his corporeal death. So would that put Jack along this avenue of the dead? If so, where would he end up? My thought is that it would be room 231, for the reasons explained here.
A thing that symbolically connects heaven to earth. There are numerous kinds of things that could act as one of these – pyramids, ladders, pillars, the smoke from a calumet pipe – and what I noticed, upon studying my Tower of Fable analysis, part of which involves studying every floor of the Overlook hotel as one single 7×11-square board (almost like a chess board), is that the film is not only loaded with these axis mundi objects, but that they almost exclusively appear in the square I call D4. For an exhaustive review of how I arrived at this realization, head here.
But it’s worth pointing out here how the D part of D4, could be expressed as another 4, since D is the fourth letter of the alphabet. So the Overlook’s heaven-and-earth connection point is the 4×4 square, and don’t 4s bear a profound connection to film’s subtext?
Backward (Jack, Danny, Etc.)
In my mirrorform analysis, whenever I refer to “backward” anything or anyone, I’m referring to the action that is moving opposite to the forwards moving action.
The bathrooms featured in the film are uniformly ominous, from Danny’s receiving his first vision of the hotel in one, to the obviously sinister revelations of the room 237 bathroom, to the Gold Room bathroom with its physical impossibility, to the one Wendy can’t escape while Jack lays siege upon which Tony/Danny drew his REDRUM. Thanks to the mirrorform, moments in, or near enough to these bathrooms to have them appear in the shot, occur for 13 straight minutes from (10:30-23:30), and then again for 7 (49:00-56:00), and then again for another 8 (61:00-69:00). Bearing in mind that the mirrorform allows you to watch the entire film in half its runtime (70.5 minutes), these 28 minutes of direct bathroom moments makes for a fairly sizeable chunk. If we included any moment where we know a character somewhere else is in or near a bathroom (like how Tony/Danny is sitting next to one the entire time Wendy’s fighting Jack in the lounge, seeming to re-experience the bloodfall vision which he first got in the Boulder bathroom, and in the shadow of a painting called After the Bath), then this effect would expand greatly.
I mention this because of the way bathrooms are frequently used to express concepts of shame, secrets, and the subconscious in the films of directors with Freudian concerns. Kubrick mentioned Freud’s work on the uncanny valley by way of trying to summon a justification for why he made a horror movie at all. So the connection seems likely.
Bears are one of the four dominant animals on most Four Directions wheels. Here they seem to most correlate to forces trying to protect Danny, like Wendy and Hallorann. There may be a dark side to this as well if my theory about the painting in the twinhall is correct.
Be Kind, Rewind
The Shining went into production just as the first video stores were opening across America. Kubrick himself had a home theatre, which he used to “try to see everything”. He knew that audiences were about to possess the ability to control how they watched movies, and gave them a film with clues worth studying.
I’ve often been asked by the few who’ve known about this project for the past year the same (infuriating to both of us for different reasons) question: it’s plain that the self-evident clues I’ve discovered point to certain of my analyses being correct…but what’s the point? Why go to such trouble? Why not just write an essay titled, Indigenous Genocides and Why I Don’t Like Them To Happen?
Why I find that question infuriating is because I don’t think there’s any one reason that either unifies all the possible reasons, or towers above all the others. Everything I’m outlining here is the reason. From enlightening the masses about wartime lies, to inspiring a future generation of filmmakers to think in nine dimensions, to just seeing if he could pull it all off. But what undercuts even my most diehard admiration for his complexity, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe Kubrick’s own personal views (about war, art, or mythology) don’t enter into it. Maybe it all comes down to something this basic: he wanted to give the video rental generation something to toy with…all summer. And it was true. And it was interesting.
Bill Watson (Son of Light)
I have a theory that Bill Watson may be one of the most powerful shiners in the film, if not the most powerful.
Birds are one of the four dominant animals on most Four Directions wheels. Here they seem to most correlate to Danny, who wears a FLYERS jersey, an Apollo 11 sweater, and survives Jack’s axe by virtue of the two four bird keys, leading to a moment where Jack arrives at the end of Danny’s trail, and screams into the sky, as if his son had actually achieved flight for some reason. This reads as slightly silly in the film, but there’s good bit of evidence to suggest a connection was being drawn to the concepts of Jacob’s Ladder and the Icarus myth.
Blue vs. Red
The film is riddled with dichotomies and delineations, some more arbitrary seeming than others (usually until you realize what Kubrick’s getting at). The most major example is Wendy’s Four Horsemen portals, where she runs through two red and two blue landscapes, to experience and surpass four haunted regions with association to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. In doing so, she seems to earn her release from the hotel, and I think it’s because her ability to survive each trial in quick succession shows that she’s finally brought balance to the various fears that were plaguing her, keeping her from escaping when the time was right.
The sum of the many, many other examples of this sort of thing seems to be a recurrent message that finding the right balance between things is the best way to survive the rigours of life. I don’t think Kubrick is suggesting that walking the middle path in every facet of life is always the best thing to do in every situation. But then again, the film does have a lot to do with middles.
Since annotating the novel recently, I’ve come to think that this phenomenon was inspired by King’s abundant use of the terms “Redrum” and “Bluebeard”, two terms closely linked to Danny’s exploration of the hotel’s more sinister locales.
In the novel, Jack uses a “bug bomb” to kill all the wasps in a nest he finds in the hotel’s roof, while repairing shingles (which he “bombs” the ground below with, chucking down rotted shingles). The wasps then mysteriously come back to life after he gives the desiccated nest to Danny, and the boy gets stung multiple times before Jack can trap the nest under a clear glass bowl, which, he later finds, becomes almost coated in resurrected wasps.
This failed bomb business is omitted from the film, since that whole section of the story was lopped clean off from Kubrick’s script. Nevertheless, the carpet outside room 237 does resemble the hexagonal pattern one would find upon cutting open a wasp nest. And the word “bomb” is invoked multiple times. In the dialogue it appears in the line from Jack (standing at the Gold Room bar), “Hey Dan! Get tired of bombing the universe?” implying Danny was playing some video game about alien invaders (in the novel, Jack calls his martinis “martians”, which are “friendly”). As he says this, Ullman is wearing what’s known as a “bomber jacket”, and in the mirrorform, we see Ullman wearing this directly across from Tony/Danny drawing REDRUM, which he does while moving back and forth from a book called Bomber Pilot, which was written by a WWII bomber pilot about his exploits. And finally (brushing aside all the other war imagery in the film), Wendy walks past a TV showing an episode of a German game show called Dalli Dalli, which also featured a honeycomb-styled set, and a regular guest named Maxi Böhm (whose name sounds like “bomb” in English), who was nicknamed the “joke king” of Austria.
Also, as you’ll read in the Redrum Road analysis, there’s a moment in the film when Ullman is almost run down by a car called an Austin Maxi, which happens to be the same car that John Lennon crashed while the recording of Abbey Road was beginning, an event that almost killed him, Yoko Ono, and two of their children. In the novel, characters are constantly referring to the Torrance Volkswagen Beetle as “the bug”, which was and still is a nickname for Beetles. So I think Kubrick saw something suicidal or familicidal in this bug/bomb connection.
What’s more, there’s also a good deal of “alien” imagery in the novel, which I think Kubrick saw deriving from this wartime mentality of us vs. them. And what do you do when the invading force is your own family trying to stop you from writing your great masterpiece?
Also, I recently discovered that, according to the subtitles in certain versions of the home version, Jack is singing a song from the 1921 Al Jolson musical Bombo, which is likely a reference to the Spanish word for “drum” (bombo). The play is about Jolson playing a slave accompanying Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to find America, so there’s an imperialist if not specifically war-themed subtext at play there.
I’ve also wondered if this serves to draw our attention to the L. Frank Baum subtext.
Brands vs. Myths Vs. ICONS
It might be a small point, but there are almost sixty name brand items in the film, several of which seem to bear a symbolical connection to their adjoining moments. The easiest to talk about would be Tony the Tiger of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes fame. Hallorann is connected to tigers, in several ways. Tony (the Tiger) appears in and outside the kitchen pantry, and in the mirrorform, these moments draw this link between Hallorann’s tiger connection, and the fact that Tony the Tiger shares a name with Danny’s twin self.
So, since there’s already a mythological tinge to the whole Tony (of Danny fame) business, it occurs to me that Kubrick (and perhaps King as well) saw something mythological in the way Westerners were creating these symbols and mascots to represent their business interests (not that Easterners don’t do it too).
It’s also worth remembering that heavy usage of real-life brands in fiction to establish a sense of everyday reality is called the Fleming Effect, after Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. And there’s numerous subtextual references to Bond throughout The Shining.
Quentin Tarantino, btw, is not the only storyteller to use fictional brands in his work, but he might be the only one who consistently uses these made-up companies (Red Apple Cigarettes, Acuña Boys, Big Kahuna Burger) in ways that most often have nothing (other than symbolism) to do with the plot.
And I don’t think I’ve written about this elsewhere, so I’ll write about it here: what’s the real difference between a Tony the Tiger and a Peter Pan and a James Bond and a Hercules? They’re all icons, they’re all fictional. They remind us of real things, and we use them as shorthands for real things, but they are not real. Where this gets interesting is with the matter of Jack Torrance: Jack is a fictional character, whose name was likely inspired by the real Olympian athlete/footballer Jack Torrance who competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics, subject of the famous Nazi propaganda documentary, Olympia. If you’re aware of both, you might start to blur what they separately represent as icons in your mind. So it’s like King was drawing our attention to how this line between real and unreal icons can be blurred. Such blurring occurs to Jack within the novel: he’s at the hotel ostensibly to write his play, in which he sees parts of himself in both his cruel headmaster character (Denker) and his victim student character (Benson). As he ponders over the similarities between his own drama with George Hatfield, and the drama of his play’s characters, he has to force himself to ignore the similarities between himself and his villain, choosing to invest himself fully in his hero. But the more significant choice he’s making is to see himself in the characters at all. He’s giving in to what we might call “myth-thinking”, or “brand-thinking”, where instead of confronting your complexity (we all have the potential to do “good” (Benson) and “evil” (Denker)), you reduce your reality down to some moment from some drama, to some character from some novel. Jack Torrance actually is a character in a novel, so it’s secretly hilarious that we read about him having this struggle while being sublimely unaware of it. In fact, ironically, you might say that had he had our perspective, had he had the ability to know he was a character in a novel, he might have avoided his predetermined fate (predetermined because King created him that way). The last point I want to make about this is about the name Jack. In the novel, Danny attends a Jack & Jill Nursery School (pg. 26), so King does make at least one reference to the cultural notion of “Jack”, which is a name that does have an etymological connection to “John”, but is also part of a collection of Western names whose root meaning is “a man” (Charles, by the way, goes back to “Carl” which is one such name). So if Jack was just “Jack” (something that “Jack” Nicholson helps moviegoers to feel he is, and the Jack & Jill/Olympian Jack reference helps book readers to feel he is), then there’s the iconic value of that name floating over the entire character. Does character Jack really own his identity? Or is he just “a man” like billions of others who’ve ever lived and died and been forgotten? What “Torrance” and “Nicholson” help do is signify these men beyond their icon-value, and catapult them further into the realm of “real” and “complex”. But can they (the actor or the character) ever feel that about themselves? Or does being iconic rob them of that?
BRINGING BALANCE TO THE SHINING
So Danny masters his lefts and rights, and Wendy faces off with the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but Jack is so unbalanced that he can’t tell lefts from rights. When Grady leads him into the Gold Room bathroom they make two rights, and Jack can’t tell that he’s been led into an impossible room. So, while his parents serve as a pass and a fail against the temptations of extremism, Danny survives as a hero of objectivity; the labyrinth he runs into at the end is clearly not the same as the one he was in before (it’s rotated 90 whole degrees clockwise, to face the Overlook), but he bests it anyway.
How Kubrick himself seems to have embodied Danny’s objectivism was by providing differing subtextual viewpoints on almost all of the film’s themes. So, to say that the film is anti-colonialist is a position unperfected by the inclusion of the John Webber illustrations of indigenous peoples discovered by he and Captain Cook, which hang outside room 237, or the book by Tenzing Norgay in the Torrance apartment detailing taking the first white men up Mt. Everest, or even Danny’s Apollo 11 sweater, signifying man’s achievement of walking on the moon, possibly the first intelligent species to have achieved this feat of extraplanetary travel in 14 billion years. While Jack’s brutish racism and sexism establishes him as the imperial colonialist whose only care is “what can this land do for me?”, Danny uses his time in a strange land to explore the physical hotel and to learn its mysteries (the very process that saves him in the hedge maze). Both men confront the frontier’s dark heart in 237, and it’s clear which of them took the right lesson from it. Jack and Danny represent two ways of looking at conquest, and while both pay prices for their missteps, it’s clear which one learns from his mistakes. There are numerable examples of Kubrick giving similarly even-handed studies of things—nature vs. civilization, progress vs. conservation, work vs. play, masters vs. servants, twins vs. duos, design vs. chaos, and on and on.
First, read my section on bombs.
Now, consider how strange it is that Danny’s nickname comes from the catch phrase of a character named Bugs. Whenever someone (Dick, Jack, Wendy) calls Danny “Doc”, they’re assuming the character of Bugs, saying, “Enh, what’s up, doc?” Rabbits in the film otherwise suggest a link to the most powerful shiners.
The Camera Walk
The CAMERA WALK sign, and all its connected phenomena, is neatly summarized here.
Canines are one of the four dominant animals on most Four Directions wheels. In the film, they seem to correlate to the hotel, and the hotel’s influence over other things, like how Jack (who was previously associated with horned beasts) becomes the Big Bad Wolf while threatening Wendy with the axe.
The literal subject enters the film through Wendy mentioning the Donner Party, and leaves by way of Jack’s transformation into the little-pig-gobbling Big Bad Wolf. Two events which occur directly across from each other in the mirrorform.
But I wonder if there isn’t a metaphorical handling of the subject going on in the artworks that appear throughout the film. Whether it’s something like Alex Colville’s Woman and Terrier being his self-described “Madonna and Child“, or how the Dr. Nyet novel is cannibalizing the James Bond series for comedic effect, or how the Roadrunner that Danny watches at meal time looks an awful lot like the Woody Woodpecker that Kubrick allegedly wanted for those scenes, or just the way that I’ve found dozens of lookalike artworks in the film for almost every painting I’ve tried to ID…there’s certainly something like cannibalism that goes on in the art world almost as a matter of course. And perhaps Jack’s inability to tap into this artistic cannibalism is what drives him to the more literal kind.
There’s something in the film I call the Jack’s Son Phenomenon, and I’ve looked at how Bill Watson’s name could be a way of saying he’s a “son of light“, which leaves two other “son” things to look at. First there’s a Tom Thomson painting in the lobby and three Ralph Thompson paintings in room 237, which I’ve often wondered about–whether they’re meant to suggest a connection between these areas. But more intriguing is the connection between the small handful of “Carson” names in the film. The word “car” or “truck” appears in the novel as one of the most frequently recurring words, whether it’s in reference to the family’s Beetle, Danny’s toy cars and trucks, or to the elevator “car” that Wendy’s so afraid of getting stuck between floors in.
So, while the most famous phrase to have sprung from the film, other than “All work and no play…” is definitely “Here’s Johnny!”, being a reference to the Johnny Carson show, there’s also a moment, when Jack calls Wendy about getting the job, that the 1952 film Carson City plays behind her for a few moments before Danny gets his first bloodfall vision. Head to that last link to see how that film connects to the Herakles myth, and to the Sand Creek massacre. There’s also the small matter of how an actor named John Carson seems to be sitting below Jack the moment he first walks into the Overlook. And then we might consider how a few of the magazines throughout the film seem to be dealing with the oil crisis (something that will affect cars and trucks quite a lot), or how the soundtrack to a documentary about the deadliness of Formula 1 racing appears next to Carson City in Boulder, or how a giant torrent of blood issues from the elevator car in the film four times to get a full concept of just how shabby the film seems to think it is to be the son of cars.
That said, Danny receives his lessons and escapes by means of a tricycle, and even his toy cars and trucks appear in interesting ways throughout the film which seem to suggest there’s a bright side too.
I’m less certain than I have been in the past that a specific point is being made about the art form of cartoons, and the role of the giant cartoon producers, like Disney. But Kubrick does have a quote about disliking Disney as a manufacturer of children’s stories, and how the death of Bambi’s mother is one of the most traumatizing things a child can experience at the cinema. I originally thought the fox painting outside 237’s bathroom was by Mirko Hanák, who illustrated a version of Bambi. And it’s true that Hanák’s style is virtually identical to the actual artist behind the piece, but it’s also true that it’s not actually Hanák, but Ralph Thompson. And maybe if the significance of it being Thompson wasn’t so interesting on its own merits, I would be inclined to see this as a round-the-corner reference, but I have my doubts.
In any case, there are quite a few references to cartoons in the appearances of Bugs Bunny, Peanuts, The Roadrunner Show, To Itch His Own, Snow White, Winnie-the-Pooh, Teeny Weeny Adventures, Tony the Tiger, Tom & Jerry, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse. There’s also references to fables with cartoon iterations like Alice in Wonderland, Hansel and Gretel, the Gingerbread Man, Little Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan and the Three Little Pigs. The Overlook also features at least three German political cartoon posters, perhaps to show the way adults have their own purposes for the art form. And some of the posters and artworks throughout the film are more cartoony than others, like Gene Hoffman’s Olympics poster.
Charles and Jack (The significance of names)
In the novel, Delbert Grady is just Delbert Grady, never Charles. The etymology of both Charles and Jack is that they simply mean “man”. Whereas Delbert means “noble and bright” and is the masculine form of Alberta, which happens to be the name of the Canadian province where most of the visible indigenous people seen in the film are from. These are largely Stoney people, and Delbert Grady is played by actor Philip Stone. And Albert also happens to be the name of the old drinking buddy of Jack’s in the novel, who gets him the Overlook job, and who sits on the hotel’s board of directors. Kubrick removed Albert Shockley (among so mainly of King’s other creations), and so severed that connection between the hotel and its warped underlings. But King’s attention to names was not lost on Kubrick, who included the book Tiger of the Snows, the biography of Tenzing Norgay, the first man to climb Mt. Everest, which was unofficially coauthored by James Ramsey Ullman, who I think Kubrick saw as being the inspiration for Stuart Ullman, with his proud hotel atop Mt. Wherever. What’s more, the actor who I believe to be portraying the real Charles Grady is named Norman Gay in real life. Tenzing Norgay. Nor-Man-Gay. With a ring of connections like that, it’s not hard to think that no name was handled idly, whether it’s Wendy with her connections to Peter Pan and Winnie-the-Pooh. Or Danny with his connection to the Tower of Babel.
Cycle and Progress
This is one of the most overarching concepts from the film, I think, best symbolized by the way Danny’s lessons and escapes are both about experiencing repeating patterns, and then applying what the lessons of those patterns seem to imply.
In the novel, Jack’s history of abusing Danny holds Wendy’s opinion of him in a kind of stasis lock for years afterward, which becomes magnified for both of them by the situational stasis lock of life at the snowed-in Overlook. In fact, Danny enters room 217 right after the Torrances find they can no longer drive down to even the closest town of Sidewinder thanks to the risen snows. So Wendy’s supreme mistrust of Jack and the family’s inability to move from their spot on the face of the earth go hand in hand. And the more simmering mistrust that predated Wendy’s newfound terror was already a looping emotional cycle Jack desperately wanted to break free from. They had been making some progress, but Jack’s cyclical nature as someone who “loses his temper” (a phrase King uses relentlessly) was causing events that were pushing the family to the practical brink of ruination, even as emotions between husband and wife were cooling.
Perhaps one of the most large-scale symbolic reflections of this theme is in the way Kubrick handles time. There’s a sharp telescoping in time across the ten placards we see: THE INTERVIEW, CLOSING DAY, A MONTH LATER, TUESDAY, THURSDAY, SATURDAY, MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, 8am, 4pm. But the screen time taken to express these passages is about even. From the start of THE INTERVIEW to the end of A MONTH LATER is about 40 minutes, a period of time in the film that covers about 69 days. TUESDAY to the end of WEDNESDAY (9 calendar days) is about 55 minutes, and the final day of the 8am/4pm section is about 45 minutes. So our experience of these relatively even passages of screen time are concerning periods that get more and more momentous. Kubrick knew how to keep us “regular” while making significant “progress”, and as Hallorann tells Wendy, you got to stay regular if you want to be happy.
Danny’s Lessons and Escapes
A million links throughout this site will bring you here, so let me first say, this is a relatively simple phenomenon, though if you decide to go read everything there is to know, you’ll note there’s a lot I’m about to leave out, like what the Beatles may have to do with it.
Here’s all you probably need to know: the lefts and rights that Danny makes with his tricycle (and while exploring the hedge maze with Wendy) are reflected in the lefts and rights that he makes while running through the hedge maze at the end. If we assign the clusters of lefts and rights from each of the four lessons the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4, then the order in which they apply to the escapes is 2, 3, 4, and 1.
Then I noticed that there’s a set of four bird paintings inside room 237 that hang in the same sequence (1234) compared to four stickers of birds that are seen on Danny’s bedroom door in Boulder (2341). So it’s very likely, in my view, that Danny used these “keys” to transmute his “lessons” into his “escapes” and win the day against Jack. What’s more, the paintings in room 237 are by John Gould, whose bird art helped inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution. So, while looking into the names of these birds gives us a weighty insight into the themes Kubrick probably thought of as the audience’s “key” for understanding his film, my ultimate thought on this is that they’re meant as a shorthand for the way humans use science to better understand the natural world (The Overlook) and overcome the ignorances of the past (Jack Torrance).
Danny’s Lesson and Escape Keys
There’s a set of four bird paintings in room 237 that are the same four birds as seen in stickers appearing on Danny’s bedroom door in Boulder. The order that these two sets of four occur in is 1 2 3 4 – 2 3 4 1, or A B C D – B C D A. This order is the same order as the lefts and rights Danny makes while riding his tricycle and walking through the labyrinth with Wendy correlate to the lefts and rights he makes while running through the labyrinth at the end of the film. So the 237 birds are the “lesson key” and the Boulder stickers are the “escape key”. What’s more, the meanings behind the names (Latin and otherwise) of the four birds are like a “key” for understanding the dominant themes of the film. You can read all about this phenomenon here.
The Days of the Week
I’ve already discussed Kubrick’s handling of time in the entry on cycles and progress, but I thought it was worth pointing out how he drew our attention to the day of the week five times in the films placards. These days always skip a day, and go TUESDAY, THURSDAY, SATURDAY, MONDAY, and WEDNESDAY. These days take their names from the gods of Norse (Old Germanic) mythology, except for the middle day here, Saturday, which gets its name from the old Roman god Saturn, for whom the Norse had no analogue. In terms of how this impacted my analysis, it mostly came up during my mirrorform analysis, since the corresponding gods seemed to bear some connection to whatever was happening on that day. Click the above day names to go to the start of each day, which is where I usually wrote the most about the god’s significance.
Also, quick note: I don’t think I’ve written about this elsewhere, it’s on WEDNESDAY (which sounds like “wend’s day” when spoken by the english tongue) that the song Home plays over Jack and Grady in the Gold Room bathroom. This song contains the line “My heart’s forever wending home”, and the word “wend” occurs at 90:46 right after Jack has said the line, “It’s his mother. She, uh…interferes,” as an explanation for Danny’s supposed malfeasance. The movie’s soundtrack by Wendy Carlos will pick up moments later, while Wendy plots escape. So there’s a whole lot of “wend” flying around in the 90-91 minutes section of the film. Point being: the name Wednesday comes from “Odin’s day”, so “wend” is something like an echo of “Odin” the “all-father” of Norse mythology. So by encouraging the murder of “Wendy” on “Wednesday” I wonder if what Grady’s sort of doing is encouraging the forgetting of outmoded mythologies. He did just wipe down a Jack who stood in Christ pose for a long moment.
One of my theories is about how the Overlook’s layout resembles a specific set of ancient pyramids, one of which is actually several pyramids that were built over (and therefore built up) across time. And Ullman even draws our attention to how a “decorator from Chicago” was brought in to redecorate the Gold Room area of the hotel, and the Jack-Grady Gold Room tryst is also soundtracked by the song It’s All Forgotten Now, so it might not simply be about the symbolic murder of ancient deities through the killing of Wendy – after all, Grady is also encouraging the slaughter of Danny, whose name comes from the bible – but the literal forgetting and burying of what came before (to say nothing of the indigenous burial ground beneath the Overlook’s floorboards).
Dead (Jack, Wendy, Etc.)
In my The Rum and the Red analysis, calling someone “Dead” Whoever was always my way of describing the character in the action starting from the middle of the mirrorform film, and running in opposite directions towards the beginning/end of the mirrorform. Calling someone “Quick” Whoever always described the characters in the half starting from the beginning/end and running toward the middle. I would then use “Backward” to describe the character in the action that would appear in reverse to the audience. So “Backward Quick” Jack is murdering Hallorann about 13 minutes into The Rum and the Red, for instance.
Many objects appear and disappear from shot to shot, throughout the film. This is almost always explained by considering what’s on the opposite side of the film in that moment.
There are a few exceptions to this, however, where the disappearing/appearing object tells us something about the context of that moment alone. Like, there’s a painting in the lobby called Log Hut on the St. Maurice. It appears in a spot where there was no painting in the shot of the same area that came seconds before. This occurs during the skeleton ball, which is the moment that Wendy is seeing that Hallorann’s body has mysteriously vanished from where it was before. St. Maurice’s feast day happens to be (very likely) the same day (September 23rd) as the first day in the whole film. And I already had a theory that the skeleton ball represents Famine in the Four Horsemen analysis. This appearing/disappearing St. Maurice would seem to draw our attention to this feast…and Famine.
And for the record, I don’t tend to think of disappearances as being the same as transformations and absurdities, though there is some overlap there, to be sure.
Obviously The Shining is concerned with the notion of doctors, and perhaps, therefore, with the notion of natural science as a medicine for ignorance. But Bugs Bunny’s usage (which is where Danny gets his nickname) is ironical: he’s usually assigning the name to an inferior adversary/predator. Also, the film includes references to a few “fake” doctors, like the poster of Dr. Julius Winfield Erving, who is only really a doctor of playing great basketball. So the term, however respectful in its way, is not being used as some profession of infallibility.
But I also wanted to draw attention to how significant the Rum and the Red analysis is to our understanding of Kubrick’s creation. And the origin of all that is a documentary, which in English is sometimes called a “doc”. So just as Jack’s son Doc is perhaps the film’s most impressive shiner, the film also has this other “doc” hovering ghostly above it like a patron saint.
Dreams and Sleep
The word “dream” has an (English) etymology linking back to the word for trauma, which gives it an interesting double-edged quality. On the one hand, we can imagine that dreams are meant to help us process our traumas, and on the other hand, they can either fail us in this regard, and make the situation worse, or even seem to create traumas of their own, in the form of inexplicable nightmares.
In The Shining, our hero, Danny, is never seen sleeping, but we do go into his dream-like shines with him, to see what Tony wants him to process. Similarly, the next best shiner, Dick Hallorann, is on the verge of sleep when he receives his ultimate shine. Wendy is never seen sleeping until right after she almost kills Jack, and discovers the murdered snowcat, with Tony/Danny chanting “REDRUM” over her dreaming form (waking between the 36th and 37th chant, in fact). Jack, who seems to be the worst at containing his traumas, and who is definitely the best at spreading them, is seen sleeping the most, with his long dream face coming right after the one-quarter mark of the film, as Wendy brings breakfast, his long nightmare face as he dreams of hacking up Wendy and Danny, and his long, deep, caveman slumber in the food locker, roused only by Grady’s sharp knocking. Otherwise, there’s a recurring suggestion that Jack leads the most sleepless existence of all. Though there’s also the suggestion that Hallorann’s rescue mission required him to remain alert through all the night and day leading from Dan’s supershine to his own grisly demise.
There’s also a song that occurs three times on the soundtrack, which possesses the interesting distinction of having multiple names. Its original Polish name is some long reference to text from the bible, but its English name is either The Dream of Jacob, or The Awakening of Jacob, depending on who you ask, I guess. Either way, it’s about the two halves of the Jacob’s ladder myth, the part of the bible/torah where Jacob falls asleep and discovers a ladder that Hebrew scholars believe was meant to represent time. His realization upon awakening is that this dream signifies the presence of the lord in this particular location, causing him to found a holy city there. Symbolically, the rungs on the ladder were thought to represent years. And The Shining is absolutely beside itself with objects bearing numerical significance, such as when Wendy clubs Jack atop the stairs: he falls down 23 stairs to the first landing, and it’s 7 more to the lounge’s ground level. 23-7. So perhaps Kubrick is making the (admittedly well-worn) point that films (or perhaps all arts) have this potential to act like the dreams of the bible, to use inherent and assigned meaning as a way to help the viewer understand a deeper message. And just as dreams can heal or further traumatize, horror films have perhaps a special potential for achieving the former by enforcing the latter.
Dream to Live, Don’t Live to Dream
Many of the painters featured in the film were commended in their lifetimes for their attention to naturalism, and for capturing the physiology of their figures in close step with reality. Likewise, The Shining is, even in its most fantastic moments, almost documentary-like in its realness. But then, by featuring a vast network of repeating symbols and motifs, and never seeming to play favourites, Kubrick is striving to present life as it is: packed with opposing opinions and world views, while remaining a relatively shared experience. So when the Overlook begins to disrupt these patterns in seemingly meaningless ways (like when photos, paintings, and rugs shift freely throughout the hotel), our Jack-like sense of familiarity and déjà vu is tested without our noticing; our subconscious is lured into thinking that the Overlook is in control of all reality. Remember, 99% of the film was shot on a massive sound stage, all of it under Kubrick’s command. He’s daring us, like Wendy, to think we’re doing it to ourselves, or making things up, or that these are simply the oversights of a meticulous genius off his game. But buried deep within the film’s blizzard of clues is a pattern that only Danny notices, and it’s what he’ll use to survive. Just as Wonderland is Alice’s dream, and, like all dreams, serves to help her sort out everything she thinks about life (“I give myself…very good advice…but I very seldom follow it…”), the Overlook is something of a collective nightmare, enforced from within by its deceptions, and from without by our acceptance of those lies. Hallorann, our other key hero (with his utterly sleepless existence), sets the example of the one who does the right thing in the face of certain death, suggesting that life is not just for the living. Dream to live, don’t live to dream.
There’s a tonne of instances in the film where characters repeat each other word for word, or repeat portions of each other’s dialogue. Echo phrases is a term I made up to define the latter phenomenon, and you can read all about them here.
Edgar Allen Poe
Wrote The Masque of the Red Death, which majorly influenced The Shining. Poe was also known to bury patterns and messages in his poems and stories, just as King and Kubrick seem to have done in abundance here.
Everything is Connected to Everything
In trying to think of one thing that Kubrick was maybe trying to say, independent of what he was trying to wrest from King’s book onto the silver screen, it occurred to me that the jaw-dropping degree of interconnection that exists within artworks buried in the film is perhaps not something that King was trying to do with all his cultural references (of which there are way fewer in the novel). But more than that, as you begin to go through each of Kubrick’s techniques, you realize just how much one thing leads to the other, how much one thing reminds of another. It’s a seemingly inexhaustible breadcrumb trail, an architecture of only the most staggering conscientiousness.
This is what this site is all about, right? If you’ve somehow discovered this entry, but don’t know what I mean with this phrase…first of all, it’s written on a note pinned to a board in the Overlook radio room. And in English, “eye scream” sounds exactly like “ice cream”, so when Dick Hallorann is asking Danny, “How’d you like some ice cream, doc?” I now can’t help hearing “How’d you like some eye scream, doc?”
So what is it? Well, I see it as opening your eyes (or whatever senses you possess) as wide as you can, to perceive as much about life and reality as possible. As I’ve spent my countless hours trying to identify all the paintings and books and magazines buried in the film, or as I’ve borne my own witness at all the atrocities (and non-atrocities) connected to these things, I’ve frequently hit points where I can’t take anymore, and had to tap out. That was actually the first thing I started calling the “eye scream”, my exhaustion with pouring through the endless reams of culture and history involved in this research. But then I realized that it was a phrase I’d borrowed from the film itself, and then I discovered the little note in the radio room, and now it seems to me like this is what Kubrick intended for us to think, intended us to experience. As Hallorann tells Danny about how good and bad things can leave a “trace” of themselves behind, the chocolate ice cream still on Danny’s lips speaks to how a bowl full of sugar made this medicine go down a little easier. Similarly, the fabulous spectacle of Kubrick’s film makes all the genocides and atrocities of history (along with who’s responsible for them, and why) a little easier to swallow.
Another way I’ve started to think of this is: when you make a movie as well as Kubrick knew how to make a movie, the viewer feels compelled to watch it. Even if they aren’t necessarily jiving with everything about it, you don’t want to scroll on your phone, you don’t want to talk to your friend, you don’t want to stare around the room or play with the sticky theatre floor beneath your feet. Your mind, heart and eye are totally engaged. I would call a movie good enough to hold your attention this utterly an “eye scream” movie. Few directors can pull off one after another like Kubrick.
The final 21 photos seen in the last few shots of the film, hanging in their 3 rows of 7, appear in different areas of the hotel throughout the film. I decided to catalogue their movements and appearances, and in so doing realized that if we assign them the numbers 1 to 21, from left to right, top to bottom, then the way they appear throughout the hotel gives us all these incredible number combinations, which turn out to have symbolic significance to the larger film (like “heaven”, “hell”, “work” and “play” to name a few). I refer to these photos as “F21” photos. You can read the start of my study here.
There are, for the record, other photos in the film with special significances that are not F21 photos, like the ones I call Ullman’s Eyes.
Like the lesson key and escape key, the term “F21 key” refers to the existence of the F21 photos.
While the film is generally concerned with children’s materials, like cartoons, it also contains direct and indirect allusions to several fairy tales, including Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the Gingerbread Man, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Three Little Pigs.
One interesting byproduct of this is a small plethora of “wicked witch” and “big bad wolf” icons being associated with various characters. I suspect this is intended to underscore Danny’s need to manoeuvre between the madness of his father and the untrustworthiness of his mother.
There’s also a vast index of numbers called the Aarne-Thompson (AT) Folktale Index, and I discovered that the SKU numbers in the storeroom all correspond to these folktales. Go here for the complete analysis. And know that this phenomenon probably originates in King’s novel.
While there isn’t a more direct reference than this, there’s two moments in the film that can help connect us to the Faust story. First, Jack’s emphasis on how he signed “a letter of agreement, a contract(!)” with the hotel, while stalking Wendy to what he thinks will be her doom. Second, how Ullman’s office features a RED BOOK. Now, this is a real red book, which acts as a directory for hotels and motels, but Satan is also supposed to have a “red book” in which people sign their souls away. So, while I’m not comfortable saying that Faust was outright referenced in the film, 100%, it seems fairly likely that it was on the minds of King and Kubrick.
Any sequence of numbers where you add the last two digits to create the next number in the series. Starting from 1 it goes 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21… and so on. But you can actually take any two numbers ever and repeat this process, and what happens in all cases is that the numbers will eventually create something called a golden ratio. A golden ratio can be used to create something called a golden spiral, which is something used in the composition of certain paintings and photographs.
The song Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta by Béla Bartók (who is referenced in King’s novel) appears in Kubrick’s film three time, and is theorized to be composed according to the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. With that, and the fact that the film is almost 144 minutes long (144 being a Fibonacci number), I began to wonder in what ways the sequence, and golden spirals affect the film.
For the way I think it affects the film’s structure check this out. For the way I think it affects the film’s visuals check this out. And if you’re already familiar with phi grids, you might realize that the logic of the mirrorform is quite similar, but instead of two opposing golden spirals, it’s two opposing directions for the film to play in.
Also, the number after 144 in a normal Fibonacci sequence is 233, which means the one after that is 377. So the 13th and 14th Fibonacci numbers look like an elongated 237: 233-377. On top of that, 23 is the number that best makes a golden ratio out of 37. So it’s possible that 237 was the number Kubrick chose for the fateful room thanks to this phenomenon.
The Fifth Horseman
The complete version of this theory can be read here, but here’s a short version. It occurred to me that there are four horsemen of the apocalypse, but that the horsemen known as Conquest, became known as Pestilence, and has been interpreted in other ways as well. So, besides the fact that it’s neat the way a name denoting human frailty (our need to conquer each other) transformed into a name denoting an act of natural science, say, I think it’s interesting that these four horsemen seem to want to be more than four. While thinking about this, I stumbled on the fact that there are five major principles governing the natural universe: time, mass, space, gravity, and light. And don’t the four horsemen seem like abstractions of these? Time is what leads all living things to Death. Mass is what’s needed to stave off Famine. Space is what everyone is always Warring over. And gravity is what pulls things together, sometimes too much together (Conquest).
Where does that leave light? Could that be…the fifth horsemen? Could that be…the shining?
There’s an abundance of flood imagery in the film, from a poster commemorating the 1912 Denver flood, to a postcard featuring St. Lucia, whom one of the worst floods in herstory is named after, to the fact that room 237 is filled with Ralph Thompson paintings (Thompson was most famous for capturing the zoo of zoologist Gerald Durrell, who wrote several books comparing zoos to Noah’s Ark).
My main feeling about this is that the imagery was meant to connect the reader to thoughts about all the epic floods in our deepest depths of our psychological origins. Primarily the flood that connects to the Pillars of Hercules.
The last name of our main family is “Torrance” and while this is potentially because “Jack Torrance” is an Olympian from history who broke a few records of his day, it’s also worth noting how this repetition of the sound of their name might be intended to hit the reader/viewer again and again with a name that sounds exactly like “torrents” (in English), and aren’t floods and snowstorms made up of “torrents” of water and snow?
There’s a thing Westerners know most commonly as a “medicine wheel” but which is properly known as the “Four Directions”, which is a circle divided into four equal parts, each quadrant of which is then filled various groups of things, like the four seasons, or the four major phases of life, or the four compass directions. Things like that. And which ingredients go in which quadrant depends on which indigenous north American tribe you talk to, robbing the practice of a central dogma. There are, however (in my research anyway), four animal types that most commonly appear on most wheels: canines, birds, horned beasts, and bears. These happen to be the four most recurring animals in the background of The Shining. So head here to read all about that.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The Shining (novel) was inspired by (or at least pays extensive homage to) The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allen Poe, which was in turn inspired by an ancient drama about three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse getting together to decide who is the most badass, for killing the most people. In that ancient drama, Pestilence describes the victims of War as having met the “red death”. The Shining (film) opens with a song called Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), which was composed in honour of the Christian apocalypse, which is when the four horsemen were supposed to show up and usher in the destruction of everything. In the mirrorform, right as this song is ending is when the Wendy at the other side of the movie is just ending what I call her “Four Horsemen Portals” or “Four Horsemen Trials”. These include her encounter with the masked bear figure having some kind of ghost sex (Conquest), her encountering Hallorann’s corpse and the “Great party!” ghost I think to be the original Charles Grady (War), her encountering what I call the skeleton ball in the lobby again (in which Hallorann’s corpse has now vanished) (Famine), and her encountering the bloodfall (Death).
One neat supporting argument worth mentioning here is how there’s two paintings by Frederick Horsman Varley (emphasis on the “Horsman”) that appear in the Death, Famine and War portals, and, so far as a I know, no such painting in the Conquest portal. But thta portal does involve a figure in a bear mask that looks like a mashup between Wendy and Winnie-the-Pooh, while the last (hitherto unseen) painting she encounters in the last portal is Varley’s Arpeggio. Before IDing the final Varley, my concept had already been that the Conquest portal reflects Wendy especially, while War reflects Grady, Famine reflects Jack, and Death reflects the hotel’s interests. So, when Hallorann poses his first question to Wendy in private, “Mrs. Torrance, your husband introduced you as Winnifred. Now, are you a Winnie or a Freddie?” what he could be asking is: is she a Winnie-the-Pooh or a “Frederick” (Horsman Varley)? She replies that she’s a “Wendy” and so far the only reference in the film I know of to a “Wendy” is a photo in the Colorado lounge of a boat called the Wendy II where a woman is posing with a shark she just reeled in. This photo hangs right beside where Jack says, “Wendy? Darling? Light of my life!” moments before she cracks him atop the stairs, almost killing him. That’s what the movie thinks it means to be a Wendy.
I also noticed while doing a study on the novel that there are four recurring names that seem to work as recurring, microcosmic reminders of the four horsemen: Ullman is a name with a connection to the climbing of Mt. Everest, something Kubrick alludes to in the film – and that’s something of a conquest; George Hatfield, the student Jack beats up at his old job, has the same name as half of the “Hatfields & McCoys”, two American families divided by a river, famous for being endlessly in conflict – a sort of miniature war; the Donner party is the most obvious, and the most openly literal in its historic reference within the book, and they’re obviously famous for their famine; and while death is a component of all these subtexts, and many, many more, the assassination of JFK is alluded to in the scrapbook that Jack finds in the Overlook basement, and Danny sees a giant bloody vision in the “Presidential Suite” of the hotel, so I would count that for our historic, microcosmic death.
If these concepts interest you, you might also want to read up on Blue Vs. Red, Wendy’s connection to Winnie-the-Pooh, what I call The Law of 4, and something I call the Fifth Horseman.
The four seasons are heavily invoked by numerous elements within the film. Like the four seasonal photos of Mt. Hood that sit outside Ullman’s office. Wendy and Danny watch Summer of ’42. Dick is killed next to a painting called Winter Landscape. Two posters in the games room advertise Steamboat Springs, and two paintings in the lobby and lounge depict English Springer Spaniels. And Jack’s assault of Suite 3 occurs beside a piece called Touch of Autumn. It’s possible we’ll see other seasonal names among the 30 unidentified pieces left to get, but so far we’ve got one of each (although the “spring” ones are not as on the nose).
The other thing of note about seasons: the film, to the best of my determinations, starts on September 23rd, and ends on December 14th, or two days after the autumn equinox and a week before the winter solstice, meaning, despite the fact that the film makes us feel like it’s about the horrors of winter, the whole thing takes place in the literal autumn.
There’s very few art pieces in the film created by artists with the same first name. I think there’s a couple Johns (Webber and Gould), a couple Jameses (Lansdowne and MacDonald), and there’s a couple Alexes (Colville and Jackson). But there’s at least five Frank/Francis names, four of which are certain (Kies, Borsi, Silkey, and Cattermole is relatively certain) and one of which is uncertain, but fairly likely (Carmichael). And there may be even more.
My feeling is this has to do with the Frank empire of olden days, which later split up into modern day France and Germany. But when it first split up, there was a middle region called Lorraine, and the ghost in room 217 (room 237 in the film) is named Lorraine Massey. The word “massey” only otherwise appears in a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story which is considered by some to be another precursor to The Masque of the Red Death, which was a major influence on The Shining. That story also features a masque, which is interrupted by passing ghosts of American Civil War history, just as the Masque of the Red Death is interrupted by the Red Death, the personification of a term which comes from a 15th century drama, and means “people who died in war”. So I think the ghost that strangles Danny, and spooks (novel) or makes out with (film) Jack, represents the horror of separation, the horror of wars that lead to mass death and cultures splitting apart.
There’s a couple of paintings of two dogs (flanking the Franklin Carmichael painting), one of a Brittany spaniel and one of an Alsatian (aka German shepherd). These two breeds are named for the regions of France and Germany in which they were created–though shepherds became known as Alsatians (after the part of France that borders with Germany: Alsace) during world war two, when British attitudes toward Germans were at their iciest. These paintings disappear right after Wendy sees Hallorann’s corpse, and right before she sees the ghost I believe to be the real Charles Grady (though the German Shepherd/Alsatian reappears in the 2nd entrance, when Jack is looking to chase Danny into the maze). My theory there is that these paintings represent the murdered Grady family–click that last link for the full details. And the name Charles is the French form of the original Germanic name Karl, which simply means a (German) man. A Frank.
So how interesting that one of the film’s Franks would be a Francis Kies? In English this name sounds like “keys”, as in the F21 key or the lesson and escape key.
In my analysis of the F21 photos I realized that each of the 21 photos probably had an individual meaning behind it (start here if you want to read all about that), and the meaning for the number 1 photo, it seemed to me, was about the nature of origins, the nature of genesis. Part of why I think that is because there’s buried references in the film to the Tower of Babel, Jacob’s ladder, and Noah’s Ark. Three of the main stories from the bible’s book of genesis. We could also interpret all the snake and apple imagery to be about the garden of Eden, and the importance paid to days of the week as a reference to the dawn of creation.
I imagine this was inspired by King’s constant references in the novel to something being the “first time” xyz ever happened in the lives of the Torrance family. Not to mention the general conceit of Tony being created by an act of violence somewhere near the dawn of Danny’s own consciousness, and all the attention paid to his role in Danny’s life.
But this concept isn’t limited to the mere idea of the origin of everything. Kubrick has also laced the film with art objects that themselves refer to firsts. Tiger of the Snows is the biography of the first man to climb Mt. Everest. The world’s first atlas hangs in Ullman’s office. John Webber was the first European artist to document the people of the Pacific. I’m not sure, but I imagine Squaresville/Flipsville is one of the first, if not the first book that can be read from either side toward the middle. No End to the Way is considered the first gay Australian novel. Playgirl was one of, if not the first erotic periodicals marketed to women. Burda Moden, an early example of what became known as the German Economic Miracle following WWII (something the VW Beetle was an icon of), became the first Western magazine to be published in the Soviet Union and later China. A likely poster for the 1976 Denver Olympics recalls the fact that they were the first city to democratically unelect themselves as the games’ host city. John Gould’s bird art helped inspire the theory of natural selection. Mart Roberts Reinhart’s The Door originated the phrase “the butler did it!” If the connection between “clews” and Edgar Allen Poe is intentional, this would reference The Murders in the Rue Morgue, considered the first detective novel. A poster for the National Western Stock Show represents the first pen cattle show in the world. The likely connection between the appearance of Mickey Mouse and Steamboat Springs would refer to the fact that the cartoon Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon to ever have synchronized sound. Similarly, we see a sticker from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on Danny’s door, which was the first ever feature length cel-animated cartoon film, and the first of Disney’s feature efforts. And of course we’ve got the Apollo 11 mission on Danny’s sweater.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that a mirrorform film concerned with origins should also pay a fair bit of heed to end times too.
This term originally meant when something is infused with the spirit of something else. If people thought you had Aphrodite literally walking around inside your flesh, you had her “genius” inside you. I came upon this nugget of etymological history thanks to discovering numerous objects in the film referring or depicting Mt. Vesuvius, which was thought to be infused with the genius of Hercules. It struck me that Danny’s Tony is probably meant to be regarded the same way.
An adversary of Herakles, whose defeat almost signalled the end of Herakles’ ten labours (before an additional two were tacked on). Geryon was the grandson of Medusa, and over the years depictions of him mutated quite a bit, but he was always shown as having had numerous forms, whether he was a mashup of several different beasts, or whether he was a regular-looking homo sapiens, but with three heads. The idea with him seems to be his multiplicity of form. There’s a song on the film’s soundtrack called Polymorphia which means “many forms”, and this song more than any other seems to signify and accompany the hotel’s worst moments of willing evil upon the Torrances.
It’s my firm belief that the hotel wanted Jack to kill Hallorann much more than it wanted him to be a Grady 2.0, and kill Wendy and Danny. This concept is explored in its entirety here, though if you’re just interested in the proofs for the claim, you can start here.
THE GHOST BALL
When I say “ghost ball” I’m almost always referring to the Gold Room’s gala affair where Jack meets Delbert Grady, not to be confused with the skeleton ball that Wendy encounters in the lobby. But I’m also sometimes referring to the pink tennis ball that rolls up to Danny outside room 237. But it does seem like “balls” are what the hotel uses to lure the Torrances toward the worst thing they experience in the hotel.
Another phenomenon of note: there were a few versions of The Shining, released at different moments in time, and in one version, a tint has been applied to the shot of the ball rolling up to Danny such that it appears pink in one version (the “official” 144-minute version) and yellow in another. Wendy says that “pink and gold” are her “favourite colours” as she enters what Ullman calls the “Gold Ballroom”. And while I’ve never owned a copy of the version with the yellow ball (which I suspect to be the much shorter 119-minute “European” version of the film), I’ve wondered quite a bit if there’s as much analysis to be done upon that version as there is to be done upon the 144-minute version. If we think of the “pink” version as the “American” version, then perhaps what Wendy’s “favourite colours” signify is the bridge between American culture and its European parentage.
There’s also the recurring notion of “parties”. The ghost ball is the most obvious visual iteration. But there’s three verbal invocations: 1) the Torrance’s discuss the “Donner Party”; 2) Grady warns Jack that Danny is “trying to bring an outside party” into the Overlook “situation”; and 3) the ghost who says to Wendy, “Great party, isn’t it!” Also, if you zoom in on the many black and white photos throughout the hotel, many if not all of the photos show numerous figures from the past in dining halls, usually dressed up fancy like. So I’m guessing these were meant to invoke a similar feeling.
Ultimately, these are all lines from the novel, so I think Kubrick sensed that King was repeating this “party” motif as a way to curdle the audience’s sense of fellowship and belonging. The Overlook is a party you don’t want to be at, the “great party” ghost’s party looks like a bad party, the Donner Party is the last party you want to be in, and Hallorann doesn’t seem like any kind of party you’d want to turn away.
The idea of ghosts within the film is one of the most explored themes by the armchair analyst class (not that I’m an expert in other theories about the film, but I’ve glanced at the headlines), whether they’re really real, or what Kubrick’s opinion on them was, and what the scope of their power really is.
My feeling has oscillated quite a bit throughout my several major discoveries. My initial reaction to the film was that the ghosts were some percentage the original people they’re based on: 237 ghost has some percentage Lorraine Massey in her, Delbert Grady has some percentage of Charles Grady, and Lloyd might even have some percentage of whoever Jack is thinking of when he imagines him into existence.
Since discovering the Pillars of Hercules subtext, with its association to Geryon, I’d come to think that the major speaking ghosts in the film were more likely tentacles spreading forth from a single hub, and that this is why the hotel can’t seem to get the details quite right (like when the Grady daughters, described by Ullman as “about 8 and 10” appear to Danny as twins, or like how when Charles Grady becomes Delbert Grady). But then, what does that say about Jack’s likeness appearing the F21 photos, or the “Great party!” ghost, who I’ve asserted may be the real Charles Grady? The hotel is showing us that it does possess the ability to truly capture some part of a living person’s quality.
So I guess where I’m at now is some happy medium between the hotel as a Geryon-esque entity, projecting forth human faces all speaking from the same heart, and the hotel as a soul/shine-absorption machine, bent on building (or maintaining) its ability to continue doing what it does. In my Treachery of Images analysis I note that there’s a couple photos that seem to reflect notions of “heaven” and “hell“. These photos appear in interesting ways throughout the film (like how the “hell” photo only appears in the lobby once Jack hears the ghost ball), but especially during the shots connected to Hallorann’s murder, and Wendy’s perception of his corpse, which later vanishes. The insinuation seems to be that some part of Hallorann has been absorbed into room 238. But it’s unclear if it’s just his physical form that’s been absorbed into this “hell” while his spiritual essence managed to escape into some other dimension, or if the hotel got that too. My good will toward Hallorann makes me want his himness to have ultimately escaped the hotel’s clutches. And I wish I could say for certain that the F21 photos proved it conclusively, one way or the other. But perhaps the uncertainty is the point.
My complete analysis of the road and all the names (indigenous and otherwise) connected to the surrounding area, as well as the geographical locations of each of the seven shots that open the film (and two/three that follow as the family drives up the second time), can be read here.
The Golden Bowl
The tour of the Overlook reveals two golden bowls to the audience, both of which sit in locations that later experience some kind of transformation. The golden bowl of biblical fame is connected to the phrase “All is vanity”, while the golden bowl of Heraklesian fame is connected to him completing his 10th labour. You can read all my thoughts about this phenomenon here.
The Golden Shining
There’s a song in the film called Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, by Béla Bartók, which is theorized to be composed according to the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. Bartók is invoked by Wendy in the first paragraph of chapter 26 of the novel. The Shining is 143:46 seconds long, including the opening WB logo and the end credits. And 144 is a Fibonacci number. So I analyzed the (mirrorform) film in chunks of 1 minute, then 1 minute, and then 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and 55 minutes, to see if there were clear stylistic or narrative demarcations at these points. What I’ve discovered is nothing as simple as I was hoping, and I’m not a 100% certain that the technique was intentional, even with all the apparent evidence.
The most interesting analysis connected to this, in my opinion, is the introduction to the larger analysis, in which I consider that there’s something that occurs at the midpoint of what I’m calling the Golden Shining that might be the best proof for its existence.
But there’s also a phenomenon worth point out here that emerges from this way of looking at videos that happen to be what we might call Fibonacci Films: the second last section of any film edited according to the Fibonacci sequence–if the film is the exact correct number of seconds–will always start and end the same number of seconds from the start and end of the larger film. And so there’s a potential there for this Middle Movie, as I call it, to do something interesting in concert with the earlier and later wings of the film. You could think of it as Act 2 to the Act 1 of what came before, and the Act 3 of what follows. In the case of The Shining, it possesses some fascinating distinctions, which you can glance at here.
Goofus and Gallant
A term I’ve used somewhat ironically throughout my analysis. It’s a reference to an old 1940s comic strip where one child, Goofus, is usually shown doing the unsavoury thing, while the other, Gallant, is shown doing the admirable thing. In The Shining, it can sometimes feel like Jack is Goofus to everyone else’s Gallant (“Jack listens to an evil ghost man and tries to hack up his family for almost no reason. Hallorann gets a psychic vision in the middle of the night and flies 3300 km when after a call doesn’t go through.”), but Kubrick was careful to include details to show how some blame lies with Dick and Wendy. And how Danny’s sacrificing Dick to save his own skin wasn’t the noblest thing ever.
The Gould Room
Room 237 includes at least four paintings by John Gould, who helped inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution. So we could think of it as a “Gould” room, just as the “Gold Room” is the Gold Room. In fact, the name Gould derives, unsurprisingly, from the word “gold”.
People before me have perceived the story as analogous to the Colorado gold rush (something that lead to much violence and murder against indigenous peoples), but I also hold that there’s a running subtext to the film concerning the Olympics, where a “gold medal” signifies whoever was the best that year at whatever sport. This, it seems to me, also connects to the film’s interest in firsts and origins, as well as the general notion of pioneering that connects all this to stuff like the moon landing.
I’ve already written a fair bit about the significance of Grady’s first name. But I just wanted to note how the word “grade” appears in the novel many times, to either describe the “grade” of a particular slope, as someone is driving up or down the mountain, or to describe the “grade” someone should get for doing a particular job to a particular standard. Jack’s violence against a student lost him his job as a schoolteacher, so he moves into a career that requires him to never have to “grade” anyone but himself, and what he does is become subservient to a man named “Grady”, who cajoles him into trying to murder his own offspring, who Mr. Grady insinuates is far superior to Jack. So it’s like our ability to perceive where everything else is positioned along the various “grades” of existence is what forces us to compete for superiority (whether that’s in the world of sports or politics or even spirituality), sometimes in more harmful ways than the average game of basketball. But is there any way to escape this dynamic? Other than suicide? Or is this The Shining‘s ultimate catch-22?
The Grady Paintings
I doubt that every painting in the film possesses a unique secondary association to one of the characters in the film (or anything else as major), but there’s two sets of paintings that seem to associate to characters in the film. One set seems to correlate to the actual Grady family who the Overlook actually killed in 1970 with its shine powers. And the other set seem to correlate to the twins that Danny encounters who are definitely not the “about 8 and 10” girls that Ullman describes.
There’s also a painting that I think could represent the dark cyclopean eye of the Overlook itself, while the AY Jackson painting Red Maple seems to signify the fact that Danny is the most important character of all.
The Great Conversation
What makes great art great, 99.9% of the time, is the great art that inspired it. The novel’s name, The Shining, comes from a John Lennon song, so Lennon had to be referenced on some level. Stephen King frequently references Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death in the story. So the film needed to not only reference Poe, but also Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which inspired Poe. Jack Torrance spends good chunks of his alone time ruminating on 20th century atrocities, so the film invokes many of the same notions of environmentalism, imperialism/colonialism and war (which means confronting America’s behaviour towards its indigenous peoples). Kubrick’s position as head artist on the film meant bringing into it what inspired him to make it, but what was that, exactly?
Apparently, during the making of Dr. Strangelove, Kubrick mused to someone that he wanted to make the scariest movie ever made (sorry, I can’t rediscover the quote–perhaps it was in one of the books I read). One that wouldn’t contain conventional scares, but which would traumatize viewers just by its mood, by its essence. I seriously wonder if that’s why he pulled out all the stops, and embedded all these subliminal techniques that would respond off the brain without the viewer knowing how or why it generates the response that it does, using the obvious ferocity of King’s plot to mask his true intentions.
Great Party Ghost
My theory is that the ghost appearing to Wendy who says “Great party, isn’t it?!” is the actual Charles Grady. Read about it here.
The Group of Seven
A group of originally seven Canadian landscape artists (four of whom are confirmed to appear in the film, so far (Jackson, MacDonald, Harris and Varley), with several others appearing with looser connections to the group) who specialized in artworks of the Canadian wilderness, and whose art was later used as a form of promotion/propaganda during WWII, when silk screen printmaking made proliferation of paintings easy and affordable. I say propaganda, because that’s the position of one book studying this phenomenon, that the art was giving soldiers a sense of what they were fighting for: the glorious Canadian wilderness.
And while I’m no art expert, to be sure, I have now gazed upon some untold hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of artworks from throughout history in my quest to identify the 100+ paintings in the film, and the style the Go7 had of painting the exclusive wilderness, with almost never a trace of human culture or civilization in view, seems somewhat revolutionary to me. In my searches, there doesn’t seem to be a tradition of this practice predating their era. Most pre-Go7 landscapes have the added function of featuring some animal or human activity.
It’s also worth noting that a Go7 piece is both the first and last new painting to appear in the film, both from the year (or near the year) that Jack becomes stuck in: 1921. I’ve also wondered if the Go7 are meant to heighten our sense about the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves subtext. There’s also a twin “group of seven” in the sense that the film features the work of Copper Thunderbird, a member of the Indian Group of Seven.
There’s a book called The Door that appears beside both Wendy and Hallorann in the beginning and middle of the film. This book is part of a literary tradition called “Had-I-But-Known” where the plot unfolds with the idea in mind that our humble narrator regrets early on not knowing what the ensuing events taught them. The Shining would appear to be a clever manipulation of this trope, where Danny has a foresight of approaching calamity, and Wendy is similarly forewarned and admits knowing about Jack’s propensity for violence (in the novel she thinks about little else), and Hallorann is both fully aware of the hotel’s nature and Danny’s superior shine power when he leaves them to their fates. Nevertheless, the story wants us to feel sympathy for all involved. So it becomes a question of fate and free will, blame and shame.
A neat offshoot of this phenomenon is how the mirrorform only works if everything plays out the way it does. There’s endless instances within the mirrorform where the one side of the film seems to be talking to the other side. So the inevitability of the story’s events speak to why they work out as well as they do. So, even if we want to blame Wendy and Hallorann, or even Danny or Tony, for not interceding to stop the worst thing in the film (Hallorann’s murder) from happening, the mirrorform wouldn’t work if they had, and we wouldn’t be able to extrapolate the incredibly endless scope of meaning that the film gives us that way. King’s novel, with its radically different ending, might be softer and more forgiving of its characters, but perhaps that blocks it from being as intellectually and spiritually rich.
The Hands of Time
Clocks and dates and anniversaries play an important part of the film’s subtext. Also, the word “hand” is one of the most recurring words in the novel, not to mention the significance of the hand-shaped bruises on Danny’s neck, or how Danny’s dislocated shoulder ties to the creation of Tony. My thought is that these hand references are meant to tie to mythology (specifically Norse myth, where the god Tiw sacrifices his hand and arm to the wolf Fenrir so that it can be contained).
Hansel and Gretel
Wendy references the fable (which is thought to have been inspired by the Great Famine of 1315-1317, which lead to mass cannibalism among Europeans) while moving through the kitchen, saying she’d have to “leave a trail of breadcrumbs” to find her way through the “enormous maze” of the Overlook. Kubrick connects this to the Theseus/Minotaur myth, with the “clew” Theseus uses to retrace his steps after slaying the bull man.
My general sense about this is that the “breadcrumb trails” and “clews” of myths like these are meant as a kind of symbolic reference to the homo sapiens tendency to use science as a way of decoding the natural world. The proof that Wendy understands natural science might be in how she conquers the Four Horsemen portals, while Danny’s is clearly in his mastery of the lessons and escapes.
Fun fact: Hansel is a name that means “God is gracious” while Gretel means “a pearl”. And there’s a book above the doctor’s head in Bolder called Angell, Pearl, and Little God. Coincidence?
Most of what I want to say about this myth is covered in the Pillars of Hercules section, but I also just want to make a note about how the demigod’s name switched when Greek myth become Roman myth.
Herakles means “pride/glory of Hera”, but the Greek goddess Hera became the Roman goddess Juno. So why didn’t he become Junocules? They felt the need to drop that “a” to make “Herak” into “Herc”. What’s the effect of that? Well, one of my theories about the myth of Herakles is that he’s a symbol of the way that humans realized they had a power similar to that of the gods. In a nutshell it goes like this: people understood that the gods were killing them through natural disasters like floods and volcano eruptions and stuff like that, and natural disasters were most likely an expression of mother energy, owing to our association between earthly matters and maternal deities. This never seemed so bad until whatever inspired the plethora of great flood myths that we see throughout early cultures all over the world. The idea of a great flood coming and wiping us all out started to sour us on the notion of these feminine energies. Along comes “the glory of Hera” who also killed his family after being informed of his godly status, to bring balance. So both men and women can commit the ultimate taboo of family murder, hence “Herakles”. But maybe whoever designed the Roman deity names either didn’t understand this subtext or didn’t like it, so kept the name similar enough to “the glory of Hera” to distance its message from whatever “Juno” meant to them, culturally. Or perhaps in their ignorance of this symbolic subtlety they didn’t go for Junocules just cuz (sort of like how Saturday stayed Saturday in the list of otherwise Norse day names), and as a result Roman mythology maintained this vestigial limb of Greek thinking. Or maybe the popularity (and humble demigod status) of Herakles made Romans want to hold on to the brand recognition. Whatever the explanation, there’s this quality to this slight historic mutation that makes me think of the song that plays overtop the beginning of Jack realizing Grady is not the “Jeevesy!” he first thought he was: It’s All Forgotten Now.
Life isn’t just a labyrinth in need of a breadcrumb trail, it’s a matrix in need of a serious wikipedia. I haven’t done enough research into this to know if I’m the first person to think of this Herakles/Hercules thing, and even if I am, there’s probably no way to ever be sure if I’m right. Some things just get lost in the shuffle, lost in the sand mandala of history and culture and every little moment.
The film closely correlates screen media to the nobler characters in the film, while Jack denigrates television early on, and is never shown having an interest in film or television, and, again, he’s an aspiring playwright. So it’s interesting that he’s making the most pop culture references, and almost exclusively to what would either be considered lowbrow (The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Jeeves) or childish (The Three Little Pigs, Looney Tunes). Of his two literary allusions, the one is straight up racism: Rudyard Kipling’s poem White Man’s Burden.
I’m a big fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where they use “herstory” as a feminine form of “history”. So my idea has been to use “herstory” when I’m talking about something from the past having to do with women or a woman. Of course, this made me realize that we could have an “ourstory” or “theirstory” for other ways of connoting the past, but the more I think about it, the more it puzzles me.
Home (There’s No Place Like Home)
There’s a song called Home that plays over the more murderous half of the Jack/Grady meeting. This occurs not long after Jack strolls through the ghost ball where he passes a ruby-slippers-wearing ghost sitting on a couch next to a woman with an emerald headpiece that caused me to write this analysis which seems to indicate that Kubrick used Wizard of Oz imagery to highlight the hotel’s (and fantasy’s) propensity for evil.
Generally, I think the concept of what “home” is is something that floats over the whole story, like an unpleasant vapour. The Torrances are escaping their home in Boulder, which was itself an escape from their home in Vermont, in order to live in a place that is no one’s home, and cannot be anyone’s home by its very transient nature. Even the original name for a hotel, “inn”, derives from the Celtic/Romansh word “En”, which meant “water”, something our landlubber species would have a hard time thinking of as home, however dependant we are on it for our continued existence. Nevertheless, and terrifyingly so, life itself is like water: transient, mercurial, and beholden to nothing but the most fundamental laws of science. We turn to a concept of “home” in order to achieve a sense of conservativism; life, we tell ourselves, is something we can depend on, and assure an everlasting reliance on and connection to. This logic we then extend to concepts of culture and nationhood (and afterlife). We think that the Europeans of the past and the North Americans of today conquesting all over indigenous peoples of the world is horrifiying (which it is), but tied to a sense that indigenous people have a special claim to the land they’re on. But by this logic, are we not all Africans by the furthest extension of our biological origins? When do we stop being Africans and start being Pilipinos? Or Inuit? Or Russian? What could be bad about one earthling wanting to be closer to another earthling in a land they’ve never experienced, especially when that distant earthling invites the traveller into their home?
I’m not saying there’s an easy way to feel about all this, or that identity politics is an unworthy arena of thought (we need it to fully appreciate why Jack is so easily manipulated to hate Hallorann enough to kill him 24 hours after his own terrifying murder dream). A concept of home can be very fulfilling, and a life lived without such a concept can be very lonely indeed. But it’s that very feeling that Jack is partly destroyed by, and that Danny becomes our hero by managing to thrive without.
In my F21 analysis, I noticed that this concept is furthered by the photos that appear around the hotel. Jack sets foot in the Colorado lounge (with its connection to room 237) at 20:34 into the film. And the totals of the F21 photos that hang on the two pillars in front of him at this point add to 20 (north pillar) and 34 (south pillar). And almost every time we see the pillars again from that perspective, they show these totals again, behind a Jack furiously typing his All Work papers. The insinuation being, I think, that Jack feels most at home in this room. In fact, the shot of him hitting the bottom of the stairs after Wendy’s clubbing (his last moment in the room) is exactly 34:20 from the end of the film, perhaps signalling Jack’s extradition. And 34:20 is the last second of the first establishing shot of the post-closing-day hotel, which is followed by a shot of Wendy alone pushing the breakfast cart to Jack: the first second of her in her new home. Similarly, the first shot of Wendy and Danny in their Boulder home is 4:17, and in Danny’s first shot inside the hotel (throwing darts in the games room) the F21 photos behind him add to 89 and 23, with a 4-value and a 19-value boxing his head in isolation (the 23 total) when he notices the twins for the first time. I like to think that this imperfection (4:17 vs. 4-19) reflects the hotel’s inability to fake Danny into thinking this is his true home. Also since, fun fact, at 89:23, the song Home is starting to play behind Jack and Grady in their bathroom chat.
On the subject of these “home numbers”, let me also draw your attention to my study of the various neoclassical compositions used on the film’s soundtrack. If you go to the page listing all the songs and their symbolic significances, scroll down to the section labelled as TIMING to see not just where the songs appear, but what portions of these songs were used in each corresponding scene. Surprisingly often the songs start and end at the 2:37 mark of the recording, or the 2:34 mark or the 4:17 mark. And many more such significant number codes.
Jack is the character most associated with horned animals on the Four Directions wheel, not to mention his subtextual connection to the minotaur. But the film has a fascination with horns that goes beyond these connections, I think.
There’s a tiny eagle statue that gives Ullman horns throughout the interview, which might have been intended to further cement our concept of him as a devil figure. There’s wall sconces featuring two candles, most visible behind Wendy as she gawks at the bloodfall, that appear throughout the hotel, as well as numerous similar instances of pillar-esque twin shapes and/or elevens. But horns are unique to those things, I think, for the way that they most often do not resemble perfect copies of one another (like twins), but perfect reflections of one another. They’re an example of symmetry as a naturally occurring phenomenon of biology. If we didn’t have mirrors, or water surfaces to stare into, we would still know that biological symmetry existed (and can, indeed, be weaponized) thanks to horns.
I tend to never think of the mirrorform as two films laying overtop each other, but as one film folded over itself, which means that, if you watch it from the middle to the end/beginning, the narrative becomes like a pair of horns, however varying the symmetry.
Illness As Metaphor
The subject of a Susan Sontag book, discussed in a copy of the New York Review of Books on the Torrance living room table in Boulder. Sontag’s argument is that we shouldn’t treat illnesses in metaphorical terms because this will more likely obscure the reality of what’s occurring. A medical experience should not be thought of as a “battle” against a disease, because then we might invite in all the other connotations that go with our idea of warfare, and get disproportionately scared or confident, and then experience fallacious emotions when the medical process succeeds or fails. Of particular note: we might label ourselves as weak for “losing” the “battle”, when we actually have no control over the nature of the disease beyond the tools of medical science. This article hovers just out of view as Wendy and the doctor get into the subject of Jack’s alcoholism. And The Shining as a film or novel could be viewed as aptly conveying the nature of alcoholism in a dramatic story, which we the viewers may apply to ourselves, imagining that the alcoholic in our lives should never be left too much alone, or that alcoholism is the worst kind of addiction there is (according to research it does seem to be one of the worst for preventing personal happiness and causing divorce). And perhaps there’s a serious danger in any kind of metaphoric thinking, whether it’s done through the arts or through the myths. The other New York Review of Books laying nearby compares president Jimmy Carter to Julius Caesar, something The Shining does to Jack Torrance in no small measure. And are those, really, apt comparisons?
There’s an interesting phenomenon of artworks hanging throughout the hotel that are just plain impossible to make out. And certainly the first few hundred artworks I ID’d were much easier to get than these last 30 have been. In fact, I’ve noticed that a couple of the most obscure things I’ve put names to were able to be found online when I started this project, and are not now, because the auction site I found them on doesn’t keep an image record, I guess. So at least a few of my own discoveries were simply made at just the right time, and it’s possible that some of these final 30 mysteries won’t be solved until some estate sale makes the image searchable again. The best single example of this would be in how there’s a painting certainly by Hugh Monahan hanging across or nearby a second, extremely similar piece, probably also by Monahan, which neither I nor the artist’s family have been able to put a name to, despite the fact that we’ve joined forces to search through some hundreds, possibly thousands, of his 3500+ paintings. And it just so happens that the certified one, December Afternoon, has a name with a clear purpose within the film’s subtext: the painting is first seen by Danny in a vision in September of a bloodfall that his mother will witness on a December afternoon. The painting’s name signals the accuracy of Danny’s foresight, and is one of only hundreds of other artworks that cause us to think deeper about Kubrick’s labyrinthine achievement, and cause us to want to get every last piece, for a complete understanding of everything he was saying.
These indecipherable, unrecognizable pieces serve as a counterpoint to the promise of ever fully understanding Kubrick’s message.
This is a subject too complex to summarize simply, so head here for my collected findings.
It took time to design a film this dense with internal machinery, and it takes even longer to decode it. At this point, dozens of substantial analysts have tried, and forty years later, no one has deciphered every clue (though, collectively, I think we’ve almost got it). But it would take a genius beyond even Kubrick’s to get it all in one sitting.
(Addendum to that point: this might sound a little crazy, but I’ve had this thought too many times over the past nine months not to make some note of it. At the end of AI: Artificial Intelligence, the little robot boy gets locked in ice for some untold millennia, and then thawed out by alien archaeologists of the future (who might be our evolutionary descendants), and they use some kind of mind-scanning power to read all the robot boy’s memories, and so learn all there was to learn about life during his time on earth. Since Kubrick had actually toyed with the idea of adapting that movie before switching gears and doing The Shining, he clearly had that concept on the brain. So I wonder did he not think that people would ever decode The Shining, but if some advanced intelligence would do it someday (it certainly wasn’t done in his lifetime). We definitely have the internet to thank for getting this far with it (Wikipedia alone was absurdly indispensable to my work), so in a very real way, advanced intelligence is to thank.)
This term describes the phenomenon where similar sequences line up perfectly on opposite sides of the film, like the teeth of a zipper, made apparent by studying the mirrorform. Check out my analysis of interlocks here.
The Internet of People
“[Stanley] was a man who had a kind of internet before the internet: he knew things, he had contacts…” ~Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society) circa 2010
According to Room 237 and the Jon Ronson documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, Kubrick had a team of researchers who investigated every aspect of what he wanted a film of his to be (to say nothing of his own incredible research abilities). From the design of the Overlook, to the natural and cultural history of the locales in the book and film, Kubrick would receive a glut of photographs and notes providing him with an endless supply of options for exactly how he would design a set, or decorate it. He also laced the film with art objects (books, films, paintings) that were doubtlessly hand-picked by the director (each one has thematic relevance). Everything that made it into the movie was selected, by Kubrick, from these thousands of photos and data points. This was his private Eye Scream, and he reportedly loved it. It only took me a few months to identify over 75% of the buried references, but I needed the modern internet in order to go it alone, so to speak. This was my Eye Scream. And it really can’t be done without at least an internet of people.
The lesson I take: first, artistic enlightenment is not something you can do alone. Second, to become enlightened, prepare to glue your eyelids back and turn your face toward the great flood of human culture.
There’s a curious phenomenon where the clothing worn by our three main characters seem to switch and reflect one another. Read all about it here.
Is it True and Is it Interesting?
In researching this project, I read a fair number of interviews with Kubrick, and listened to what recordings I could find of him discussing film. In many of them he invoked this simple metric to express his criteria for how to adapt a story to the silver screen: is it true and is it interesting? Something can be one or the other without being both, and I think he always strove to never find himself in such a position.
In creating this project, my longtime partner and I have butted heads more than I’d ever love to relive over whether my assertions and theories about Kubrick’s techniques are accurate. In her opinion, the only way to be certain if anything I’ve discovered is true is to have written or spoken confirmation from Kubrick. It occurred to me later that even that could be another misdirection. I posed to her this question: what if I remade The Shining, had everything be as identical to Kubrick’s film as possible, and then said to the public, “the reason I made the film this way was to achieve everything that you can read about on my Eye Scream website”? What’s the difference between that, and Kubrick himself admitting that my theories are correct? What this little mental exercise helped me realize is that there’s really no way to ever be sure what Kubrick intended. The only things we can ever really talk about are the same things that Kubrick used to make his films: is what I’m saying about the film true, and is it interesting? If you find it’s not interesting, then it barely matters if it’s true. And if you find it’s not true (and if you do, please let me know), then it barely matters if it’s interesting.
It’s All Forgotten Now
The film is also a lament for the transience of context, and the way that icons shift and change, the fight of memory against time, and the enormity of what there is to know vs. what’s best to know in the moment. The hero of the book and film is the one who will “remember what was forgotten”. Danny’s triumph is not just in mastering the four directions of movement, he’s also mastered the inner workings of his mind and body, his relationship to his mirror self, Tony, and, at the risk of sounding too grandiose, his relationship to physical reality. Circumstances might force him to take part in his father’s death, but he takes part. He doesn’t collapse into fearful oblivion.
Jackson or Jack’s Son?
Similar to my section looking at all the Carsons in the film, there’s a few Jacksons and Johnsons (Jack being a derivative of John), one in particular being infinitely more significant than the rest.
So first off, Anne Jackson plays the doctor who inspects Danny and judges Wendy silently for her deference toward Jack’s abuses. Beside Anne Jackson is a book called No End to the Way by Neville Jackson (a pen name for Gerald Glaskin). When Wendy is later staring into the room with the blowjobbing bear mask person, a painting behind her depicts the Johnson House of Hanover, Ontario. The film itself was cowritten by novelist Diane Johnson. A poster in the games room looks very much like the ski slopes of Jackson Hole, Colorado. And Hallorann is murdered right in front of Red Maple by AY Jackson.
There’s also two other paintings in the film which strongly resemble AY Jackson’s works composed in Baie St. Paul and Port Radium.
My initial sense about this phenomenon was that it was mainly about how Hallorann is killed in the shadow of the Jackson painting, in a moment that Danny is then seen witnessing with his shine power. Jackson and Jack’s son were in the room when Hallorann went down.
Then, recently, I discovered the One By One soundtrack that’s hiding in the Boulder apartment, and realized that it could be played atop the film in order to gain a secondary way of viewing the film. In analyzing the film through that lens, I realized that there was only one thing that was either on screen or nearby whatever was happening on screen in-between each track of the album: Red Maple. Jack’s son. So if we think of the film as being like the sewing cards Danny keeps in his bedroom, Jackson is like the thread that punches through each “hole” created by the gaps between songs. To read all my findings about this, click here.
I’ve probably described this enough times in this glossary alone, so for the song in the film about Jacob’s ladder, click here. And for the unidentified artwork which may be a reference to the bible myth, click here.
My general feeling about this myth’s inclusion in the film is that it’s meant to connect us to the idea of looking at the form of things to better understand their symbolic value. So, Hebrew scholars maintain that the rungs on Jacob’s ladder represent years, and numerous things in The Shining, from the length of shots, to the number of stairs in each room, to the actual ladders seen throughout, reflect numbers that have contextual significance to the film.
I’m not sure yet if there’s a deeper implication at play here, but there’s a tiny network of references to Bond in the film, worth pointing out.
- Barry Nelson (Stuart Ullman) was the first actor in history to play James Bond in a 1954 episode (Casino Royale) of a TV series called Climax!
- A book in the Boulder apartment, The Manipulator, is written by Diane Cilento, who dedicated the book to her then-husband, Sean Connery.
- Another book in the same pile is called Dr. Nyet, an obvious parody of the first Connery Bond film, Dr. No.
- There’s a poster in the games room showing Werner Mountain, a mountain named for an Olympian who died in an avalanche while filming a movie about skiing for director Willy Bogner Jr. who would go on to act as cameraman for four Bond films, though the only two he’d worked on by The Shining‘s time were On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
- It might be worth noting, then, how Kubrick visited the set of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) to help with the lighting for the submarine sequence.
- Also, Diana Rigg, who played Bond’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was the star of the 1975 adaptation of In This House of Brede, based on a novel that appears above the doctor’s head, and which came out the same year (1969) as the Bond film. Rigg was also the star of The Avengers (1965-68), which Danny thinks about in the novel to boost his confidence during a scary moment.
- It’s also a fact that there’s something called the Fleming effect, named in honour of Bond’s author Ian Fleming, who used name brands in his writing to enhance the reader’s sense of everyday reality. King has done this relentlessly across all his writing, something Kubrick no doubt noticed, but, since this was only his third novel at the time, perhaps Kubrick thought it was more specific to The Shining.
What does it mean? I’m wondering if it’s meant as a contrast to the Herakles subtext. Bond is a strong man, to be sure, but he’s much more reserved in his killing, and much more vulnerable in terms of how perilous his exploits get for him.
This subject has been neatly compiled here, so I don’t think there’s any need to repeat myself.
I will say that the film has a subtle obsession with rulers, dictators, presidents, and the like. Though Eisenhower is the only such figure referenced directly in the dialogue.
For the original edit of the film, Kubrick had hired composer Wendy Carlos to compose a feature-length score, which she did, and she claims that the original cut was much longer, and so we can imagine that when she saw the finished film and heard that only two of her more musical compositions survived the editing process, that she would’ve been quite incensed. Carlos was largely replaced by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s original works, seven of which appear in the film, and four of which are biblical, though the unfamiliar ear would probably not be able to tell the difference between his liturgical and non-liturgical works.
My dominant feeling about Penderecki’s inclusion was for all the meanings one can get from studying the way the meaning behind his songs combine with their associated moments. Also, the chaotic nature of the compositions makes it extremely difficult for probably even the familiar ear to detect when massive edits are made to them…which is exactly what Kubrick and his editor Gordon Stainforth conspired to do. The effect of these edits is something I explore throughout my study of the Golden Shining, few of which are momentous or general enough to describe shortly. But one example would be how the Polymorphia that plays atop the lounge fight, and which carries into Wendy locking Jack away, plays for 732 seconds, 237 of which occur during the part when she’s locking Jack up, having bested him just around the corner from room 237, which seems to be what he was pushing her toward.
Another thing about Penderecki: he was an avid dendrologist who built mazes, mazes made from trees, no less.
Kubrick, the Deceiver
We don’t go to magicians because we expect them (or their friends) to reveal the secret to their tricks. Likewise, it should come as no surprise that Kubrick got ahead of codebreakers cracking his codes by drawing attention to the “coincidences” in the film in his interview with Michael Ciment. But it seems that he was also careful to make some mistakes in that interview, which were not corrected despite the fact that Kubrick himself was given the opportunity to edit and approve the released interview. He refers to the song The Awakening of Jacob/The Dream of Jacob, as “Jakob’s Dream“, which might seem like a small thing, or even a legitimate overlook, but consider that in his next three answers he perfectly names Ray Noble’s song Midnight, the Stars and You, and Freud’s essay Das Unheimliche (The Uncanny). And a few answers later he accurately quotes three sentences from Luis Buñuel’s review of A Clockwork Orange.
Now, I’m perfectly open to the possibility, even the likeliness, that mistakes like these were purely an accident, not designed to draw our attention to anything. But consider two things: 1) the mistake occurs in a passage where Kubrick is dismissing the film’s apparent coincidences, and 2) in the vast array of seeming mistakes that are in fact part of the film’s subtext and mistakes that might be honest mistakes, this would belong to the microscopic minority of genuine slip-ups. The Shining, if nothing else, is a testament to the most extreme genius ever seen in the filmmaking sphere of human history. Part of expressing that genius had to be that no (or extremely few) unintentional mistakes were made, so you have to ask yourself: is this the limit of that genius, or just another of its 10,000 aspects?
While it’s true I haven’t looked into non-Room 237 theories about the film (despite YouTube constantly foisting them at me), I did allow myself to read several books analyzing the film, and I noticed something quite striking: everyone, without exception, makes some giant mistake of interpretation, and hardly anyone makes the same mistake. So, for instance, in Thomas Allen Nelson’s Inside a Film Artist’s Maze (one of the more respected analyses of Kubrick’s life work), he asserts that Jack is a shiner, and that this is proven by the fact that when Jack stands over the model labyrinth he “shines” Wendy and Danny walking around in the centre of the actual labyrinth. This isn’t simply not supported by anything in the movie, it’s actively disproven by the following shot, in which we can easily see that the design for the model maze and the actual maze are completely different, and that the little figure in the maze Jack can see isn’t wearing the bright red that Wendy is.
The second sentence in Rodney Hill’s essay on The Shining in The Stanley Kubrick Archives goes, “Departures from Stephen King’s 1978 novel abound…” the novel was published in January of 1977, something he later understood when chronicling Kubrick’s collaboration with co-screenwriter Diane Johnson. Hill makes the same mistake about Jack’s shine powers.
But I really don’t think this is cause for embarrassment. I can’t tell you the number of times I had facepalming moments of my own, after months of thinking of something the other way around. The eeriest of which was when I realized, after watching the film in its entirety probably dozens and dozens of times, that the door behind Danny outside 237 opens between shots.
I honestly think that Kubrick wasn’t simply designing a magic trick, but a film that could be studied scientifically. A film that would yield up buried treasure when approached with an archeologist’s logics. This process of public (and academic) discovery wouldn’t work the same way if everyone on the creative team was constantly, vociferously reminding us that there was something we hadn’t figured out yet.
The implications inherent to Kubrick’s insertion of a labyrinth into the film are fairly wide-reaching. The connection to Greek mythology is obvious. But the inspiration for that connection seems to rest in the novel’s being inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe. The largest study connected to the labyrinth is the one for Danny’s lessons and escapes. There’s also a series of postcards that appear in the labyrinth, the hotel, and the US Forest Service, which seems to suggest that these things are like Russian nesting dolls: the forest service is life (or, if you like, the wilderness), the hotel is the human conception of our place in life (or civilization, if you like), and the maze is a metaphor for how humans confront the nature of life.
The Latent Masterpiece
The film initially debuted to lukewarm reviews and crowds. Then, several weeks into its sluggish performance, interest exploded (a very rare phenomenon in theatre-going these days–the only thing like it from the past decade might be The Big Short). I do wonder if that owes somewhat to Kubrick’s seemingly dominant interest in making a film where the subtext outweighed the text. Those initial waves of viewers probably experienced something like what most of the 237 theorists expressed: a dejected inception, not having received what they had anticipated (a titillating, spooky thrill ride), followed by the creeping realization that there was something more going on below the surface story. Perhaps most famously was Roger Ebert’s total reversal on his opinion, rating it first as a subpar dalliance from an otherwise genius, then hoisting it into the stratosphere as one of his 300 Great Films.
And while I think it would be hard to prove this whatsoever, I wonder if part of The Shining‘s appeal comes from the way it does for glitzy populist fare what Jaws did for the b-movie. It showed (however subconsciously) how the glamourous industry picture could operate on a level lightyears ahead of the most compelling or uplifting prestige flick. Which, in a way, democratizes our perception of all the different kinds of movie that exist, and makes an Easter egg hunt out of the entire film industry.
The Law of 4
There’s an almost absurd amount of interest paid to things in groups of four. The Abbey Road Tour alone can be looked at as Ullman/Wendy/Jack/Watson or John/Ringo/Paul/George or Bullfinch/Blackbird/Kingfisher/Fieldfare or Conquest/War/Famine/Death or even Satan/Winnie-the-Pooh/Minotaur/Bugs Bunny.
The film makes heavy reference to the four seasons, the Four Directions, and even the four horsemen of the apocalypse. There’s four major mythologies being invoked from the Judeo-Christian to the Norse to the Greco-Roman to the indigenous myths of the Americas. In the Treachery of Images analysis, the overlook photographs (among other clues) let us know how the two sets of four locations within the building situate from one another.
There’s even four secret alternate ways of viewing the film (the mirrorform, Redrum Road, The Golden Shining, and The Rum and the Red), with four special middles to let us know they are what they seem to be.
Leave a Trail of Breadcrumbs
As discussed, a presenting problem for convincing others of the film’s severe complexity is the question, “Even if Kubrick was smart enough to plot all this out, why would he bother?” I have a million thoughts on this, but perhaps the better question is, did Kubrick understand intersectionality? How can you deal with the total subject of white male violence without taking up a nest of cords with labels like conquest, history, war, religion, slavery, famine, morality, death? How do you differentiate between the ways white men are violent against themselves, their partners, their children, people of other cultures?
Well, you do it with science and technology. The best bread crumb trail ever devised by sapiens. We want to know where we’ve been if we’re to have any hope of coming back from when we’ve gone too far. Kubrick wasn’t afraid of going too far. He knew the risks. And he trusted the tools science put in his toolkit to work, just as Danny trusts in his shine. But science isn’t the only thing that moves us forward.
A Little Bit of You (In Everything You Do)
Besides the film’s own meta narratives (like how Jack Nicholson and Danny Lloyd are playing Jack and Danny Torrance), Kubrick understood that, as director, a film should embarrass you by how much it reveals about your inner processes. Just as the actual soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey appears in a scene of A Clockwork Orange, The Shining makes numerous references to the director’s career and private life…
…like by including Steeleye Span’s Commoners Crown, which included a performance by Kubrick’s good friend, Peter Sellers.
Or by including a volume of The New York Review of Books in which the reviewer slams Steven Spielberg (famous secret friend of Kubrick) for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, while using 2001: A Space Odyssey as a benchmark for high quality outer space effects.
Lobby as the Heart of the Overlook
There’s an interesting phenomenon where something seen in the lobby is seen in every other location in the film, with the somewhat exceptions of Hallorann’s apartment, Durkin’s Garage, and Stapleton airport, otherwise known as the Hallorann rescue mission.
My general feeling about this is that the lobby is meant to be like the “heart of the maze” for the hotel. Hallorann dies there (right next to a model of the hedge maze, no less), and Jack dies near the heart of the actual hedge maze. This could also explain why we never see a main character pass directly through the hotel’s front doors into the outside world, or vice versa (Jack enters from it for the interview, and Danny and Wendy pass from it to access the labyrinth, but we don’t actually cross the boundary with anyone): because the heart of the labyrinth doesn’t connect directly to the outside world, and so, neither would the hotel’s heart.
It’s possible that there are other bible verses hidden in key places (I’ve since found a few in my analysis of the movie’s music), but at the moment the one that’s really stuck out is the one that seems to mark the middle of the Golden Shining. Each of the The Shining‘s main four middles (for the mirrorform, Redrum Road, The Golden Shining, and The Rum and the Red) seems to bear some kind of distinction that lets the viewer know the technique is intentional. For the Golden Shining, it’s in how we see Danny’s first ever scream face 13 seconds to the left of the Golden Shining‘s middle, and, thanks to the mirrorform, we see the last scream face he makes (in reaction to Hallorann’s murder) 29 seconds to the right of the Golden Shining‘s middle. In other words, they’re exactly 42 seconds apart in the mirrorform (they’re exactly 7000 seconds apart in the film proper). So that made me wonder what the significance of 13 and 29 might be, and the first thing that turned up in my searching was this bible verse from the book of Mark, where he’s telling about a time when Jesus was informing his followers about how to recognize his return before the apocalypse. It goes like this:
“Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.”
The middle of the Golden Shining comes mere seconds before Wendy’s four horsemen portals begin, and it comes right at the second that The Dream of Jacob ends. So this reference to the apocalypse being “right at the door” is already apt on that level, but it’s also interesting that going the other way the action leads to Danny’s interview with the doctor, a sequence that leads doctor and Wendy to sit next to a book called The Door, which also happens to mark the exact middle of the mirrorform itself, sitting beside Hallorann, who, again, has just been axed to death. And Jack Torrance’s father (in the novel) was named Mark Anthony Torrance. So, while I think there’s one or two other 13:29 bible verses, this one seemed the most likely for that and the other reasons I’ve just described. The Mark Anthony of history was a supporter of Julius Caesar, who later committed suicide with his lover Cleopatra, some 30 years before the mythic birth of Jesus of Nazareth. And the doctor and Wendy are about to discuss “Tony” at length, which also happens to be Danny’s middle name in the novel.
To read my analysis in full, and see the visual evidence, click here.
The novel is heavily influenced by Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, which was itself inspired by several other stories involving masques, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest. When Jack attends the ghost ball, we see that none of the ghosts are wearing masques (a major departure from King’s novel), but when he first hears the music playing from the lobby, the song he hears is Jack Hylton’s Masquerade. And there’s a subtext in the film concerning the 10th labour of Hercules, which involves Herc going up against a monster named Geryon (the grandson of Medusa, in fact), who was depicted to have multiple heads or to be a composite of several animals. It’s my feeling that the hotel reflects Geryon in this way, where the ghosts act as its many faces, and in so doing, become like full-figured masks at the ends of its shine tentacles.
There are, also, two masks in the film, almost directly across from each other in the mirrorform. The one is the bear suit person who I believe to be an abstraction of Wendy (since it resembles both Winnie-the-Pooh, who acts as Wendy’s avatar in a few sequences, and Shelley Duvall herself), and the other mask is a tiger mask sitting on Danny’s toy shelf in Boulder. This mask is visible behind the doctor during that interview, with eyes that become covered during the mirrorform moments when Dick is approaching his death, but which become uncovered as Dick’s murder occurs. So while all the Torrances experience full-figured ghosts at some point, only Danny and Wendy are ever in the presence of literal masks, which perhaps suggests their superior ability to detect false faces.
Jack Nicholson sticks out his tongue a lot during this performance, and when we see him finally dead, icy tendrils seem to slither down his frozen face. A major subtext in the film seems to be invoking the 10th labour of Hercules, in which Herc goes up against Medusa’s grandson Geryon, so how odd would it really be, I wondered, if Jack symbolized both grandmother and grandchild? Well, maybe very odd, since he already seemed to be symbolizing the minotaur of Crete. But what all three of these beings have in common is that none of them feature in any major dramas before the events surrounding their murders by a hero (Theseus, Perseus and Herakles). Their significance rests almost wholly within their decapitation-style defeat, especially Medusa, whose head was then sealed to the shield of Athena (sister of Apollo) so that the goddess could turn her enemies to stone. One of Jack’s major fears that the ghosts use against him is his fear that Danny is better than him, is perhaps replacing him. A Freudian analysis would connect this fear to such decapitation fears, which is what I explore in my larger review of these ideas.
There are four special film-wide ways we can alter the original film to reveal secret depths of design in The Shining, including the mirrorform, Redrum Road, The Golden Shining, and The Rum and the Red. And while the larger analyses for each of these is enough, I think, to understand the lengths Kubrick went to make his intentionality clear, he added in a special detail at the exact middle for each technique like a signature of confirmation.
The mirrorform’s middle is what I like to call the Middle-End, since, once the viewer watches from the start of the mirrorform to that moment, they’ve seen every moment from the film. But you could also call it the Middle-Start, since you could achieve the same effect by starting there and watching to the Start-End. The signature is in the appearance (for 7 mirrorform seconds) of a novel called The Door on Hallorann’s night stand. This novel also appears in the Torrance living room in Boulder, which first appears to the audience 4 minutes into the start of the film (the living room, not the book). So on a basic level, this book, along with all the others that Dick and the Torrances have in common, is suggesting a link between the start and the middle of the film. But The Door is also an example of what’s called Had-I-But-Known, a style of mystery writing in which the protagonist laments at the beginning not knowing something from the start that would’ve helped them later on when the madness of their situation becomes clear. So Had-I-But-Known is a way to make readers think, from the beginning, about what the middle and end will be like.
The middle of Redrum Road is simple enough: there’s a set of postcards in the radio room that show sweeping views of Mt. Hood right above a picture of black and white faces in a collage of some sort. When you mash these together, you create an image that looks exactly how the start of the mirrorform looks (with the Jack photo overlaying the shots of Jack driving to the Overlook). We see this right as round 1 of Redrum Road comes to an end, and, because of the nature of the mirrorform, we see the exact same moment at the end of round 2. I think of this as the “middle” because I think of the three full performances of the album as being something you could fold over one another. But you might argue that they’re more like Middle-Ends than pure middles. So if you want to look at the exact middle moment from the first and last performance of Abbey Road (the middle of the second performance is, simply, the middle of the entire movie again), that would be 23:27, which just so happens to be the moment that Ullman is seen walking at the front of the Abbey Road Tour, about to get hit by an Austin Maxi, the same kind of car that John Lennon crashed during the recording of the album, that almost killed him, Yoko Ono, and two of their children.
The middle of the Golden Shining is between sections V and VI of X, which is 12:14 on the film file. And its middle is a little more complex than the others, something I already covered in complete detail here.
And the middle of The Rum and the Red (which is The Shining with the soundtrack for The Quick and the Dead (1975) played overtop for 38:42) is, as I see it, between side 1 and side 2 of the album, at 19:06-19:07. This is because, when the album comes to an end, Danny says, “Dead end!” and laughs as he and Wendy encounter a turn-around on their way to the heart of the labyrinth. So I thought of this as the “Dead end” for The Quick and the Dead, and wondered if there was a “Quick end” too. Turns out, exactly 1 minute to either side of the gap between side 1 and side 2 (18:06 and 20:06) are the only two instances of a character saying “quick” in the entire film (Wendy says it backwards in the line “Run, quick!” and Ullman says it forwards in the line “…take a quick look at your apartment…”). But if you wanna get literal, the middle of 38:42 is 19:21, which in the Twice-Folded Shining, is Jack and the woman (Dorothy) in Summer of ’42 saying “Well” while Quick backward Jack is saying “home”, in the line, “Wendy? I’m home.” And the song playing over forward Dead Jack is Henry Hall’s Home. And we know that Jack will end up living forever in the “summer of ’21”. And this moment is also the first part of the first establishing shot of the hotel (after Jack’s got the job), Jack’s new “home”. So you’ve got 19:21, two references to “home”, and Summer of ’42, basically. It’s also neat that the two potential middles are at time codes that represent the start of the Overlook’s initial construction (19:07), and the time Jack becomes stuck in (19:21).
The MIDDLE MOVIE
In any film that can be broken down into sections that would correspond to the Fibonacci sequence, the second last section will always cross the midpoint of the film, and the start and end of this section will always be equidistant from the start and end of the total film. In The Shining, this is the 34-minute ninth section, which has 54 minutes of action before and after it. You can read everything I have to say about this section by clicking here.
The Shining (novel) makes dozens of references to The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe. There’s a ball of thread in the Boulder apartment kitchen that dangles a thread down past a little yellow square of paper upon which seems to be a drawing of Poe. A year before he published Masque, Poe published what is considered the first piece of “detective fiction”, The Murders of the Rue Morgue. In this story, he four times writes the word “clue” as “clew”. A clew is a ball of thread, and is what Ariadne gives Perseus for after his defeat of the minotaur in its labyrinth, to find his way back out again. And Wendy’s Boulder clew sits directly across the room from a novel by Roy Clews, called Young Jethro. There’s also something to be said for the Sewing Cards (a children’s toy designed to teach sewing by passing a thread through a silhouette of punched holes) seen in Danny’s bedroom, and later at the Overlook.
But the point is: I think it’s extremely likely that Kubrick meant for us to regard Danny and Jack as Perseus and the minotaur. Where this can get a little confusing is in the way they also seem to be being compared to Perseus and Medusa, and Herakles and Geryon. In all three of these Greek myths, however, we have the imagery of decapitation. The Minotaur gets his throat slit, Geryon gets shot through all three of his heads with an arrow, and Medusa’s head is famously cut completely off. Jack’s symbolic relationship to decapitation and myth is explored here.
We can also observe how the Hansel and Gretel story involves a similar act of using a specially marked trail (of breadcrumbs) to help our heroes find their way out of danger.
What the mirrorform is is simple. You take one version of The Shining, turn it backwards, make it see-through, and play it overtop a forwards-running version. Doing this makes it spectacularly easy to see how beautifully each moment of the film pairs with its corresponding moment on the opposite side. It’s like how REDRUM can spell MURDER, and I suspect this is to be why Kubrick felt the need to make The Shining a “mirror” movie. But I submit this word, mirrorform, as a word that could describe any work of art composed in such a way as to achieve this effect. Like, if you could play a song forwards and backwards simultaneously, to create an attractive listening experience, that would be a mirrorform song. Or if each chapter of a book spoke to the events of the opposing chapter in some intricate way, that could be a mirrorform novel.
And when I say “mirror moment” I’m talking about a single instant from the mirrorform, whether that’s the single image of a single frame of doubled-up film, or a short moment where two small parts of a larger scene flow over one another in beautiful synchrony, like when two characters are saying a line of dialogue on either side that seem to be speaking to one another.
My analysis of the The Shining‘s mirrorformity (which begins here) is one of the longest on the site by word count, but I’ve used it in every other analysis to reach deeper richnesses of meaning. I would link to theories that are especially affected, but I honestly think it’s a part of how we end up looking at everything.
Also, a year and a half after discovering the numerous applications of the mirrorform, I discovered that the film can be folded in on itself a second time in what I’m calling the Twice-Folded Shining. I’ve since discovered some evidence that a third fold might be possible, but there’s an actual reason to look at the Twice-Fold (as you’ll read in that analysis), and I haven’t found a reason to look at a Thrice-Fold just yet, so I’m holding off for now.
Mirrors are an interesting little subtlety of the film.
- Jack is the character most often seen in them.
- Every major character receives a sort of shine while staring directly into one (Danny’s first warning from Tony, Jack conjuring Lloyd into existence, and Wendy seeing REDRUM/MURDER). Hallorann seems to be the exception to this: though you might think of the reflective surface of his Miami television as a sort of mirror.
- Mirrors play a role in each of Jack’s interactions with ghosts. Lloyd pops into existence while Jack is laughing into his own reflection. The 237 ghost is revealed to have transformed into a necrotic corpse when Jack’s right eye catches a glimpse of her rotting form in the bathroom mirror. And Jack inspects the unchanging Grady in the Gold Room bathroom mirror while trying to see if he might actually be the Grady he’s heard and read so much about.
- An enormous mirror appears behind Lloyd when he and Jack are alone, and then the mirrors move to Lloyd’s sides during their ghost ball conversation so that an enormous glaring light appears behind him. Then, during the Grady chat, he’s split, with a glaring light running down his one side, and a giant mirror running down the other. This reflects the way that these ghosts talk to Jack.
- There’s numerous instances of a character saying something, saying something different, and then repeating the first thing, like when Jack says, “Words of wisdom, Lloyd, words of wisdom.” And consider too how sometimes the things people say can suggest a mirrorformity to some abstract concept, like when Jack references Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, two towns on opposite sides of the country with the same name, suggesting America itself might be something like a mirror.
- There’s an ovular mirror in Suite 3 that hangs directly across (but through two extra walls) from an ovular painting of a mountain, which might be showing a place called Mirror Lake. It’s my general thought that this painting represents the “eye” of the Overlook, and that its placement across from the mirror represents the Overlook’s narcissistic self-interest.
We can also consider the roles that twins and the law of 4 play in our understanding of mirrors, or the appearances of butterflies (which are like mirrorform creatures themselves) in the film, but I would consider those more abstract examples.
This is my nickname for the phenomenon of camera movements in the film that either completely copy or very closely copy very similar moments from elsewhere in the film. You can see all the examples of these by going here.
The significance of mirror movements is most obvious when you look at the mirrorform or the Twice-Folded Shining, or even Redrum Road, and you see how characters keep moving through the same spaces in the same or opposite directions at the same time, or how they’ll cross through the same spaces back to back. Like how Jack’s backward walk to kill Ullman’s radio ends just as Wendy’s cross from the reception radio to Ullman’s radio begins. When you start to think of the film this way, it starts to look like a bunch of twirling mirrors all strung together.
Characters are constantly repeating each other word for word, so I decided to look into how and why this might be happening, which you can read all about here.
There’s numerous subtle references to the moon throughout the film:
- A box of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies behind Danny’s head in the “eye scream” moment shows a large crescent moon shape on its side.
- Wendy passes a painting in the blowjob well called Moon and Cow, and another painting of Mt. Vesuvius bathed in moonlight, possibly by the descendant of a man nicknamed “Moonlight Pether”.
- Danny stands from a crescent-shaped arrangement of toy cars and trucks while wearing a sweater featuring Apollo 11 upon being summoned into a room with a number very close to the average number of miles between the earth and the moon (237/238,000 — and there is something to say about room 238 too). Incidentally, the novel makes numerous direct references to the moon, with some possible subtextual ones too, like how the evil room, 217, shares a number with the time the Apollo 11 rocket landed on the moon (20:17), and the date that Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon (July 21st — 21/7).
- Wendy clubs Jack while standing directly above a portrait of Tatânga Mânî, and Mani was the name of the Norse moon god.
- There’s a series of kitchenware objects all over the Boulder apartment with a cartoon frog on it, named Neil the Frog, which could be a Neil Armstrong reference, for reasons I’ve detailed here.
- There’s a whole passage of the film (51:16-57:02) about the day of MONDAY, a name which means “Moon Day”, which includes Danny wearing a shirt referencing an old Mickey Mouse cartoon called Touchdown Mickey (“touchdown” being the thing the Apollo 11 rocket achieved on the lunar surface – and the cartoon being the 11th Mickey Mouse short of 1932) and also Jack having not slept the whole night, and looking like some kind of crazy zombie person.
- And there’s a recurring series of references to Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner, who come from the series called Looney Tunes, “Looney” deriving from the word “lunatic” which literally means “moonstruck”.
- With that in mind, there’s a painting called Flock of Loons (depicting a family of eleven loons) that appears in two locations within the hotel, and though “loon” the bird doesn’t come from “luna” (the Roman moon goddess), “loon” the derogatory word for a mentally ill person does.
- Also, if we take the Redrum Road analysis as given, track 8, Because, was composed as a backwards version of the Moonlight Sonata.
- In my analysis of the various 237s embedded in the film’s design, I realized that the movie can be broken down into massive chunks of time (in seconds) with the following numbers: 2370, 1100, 1430, 210, 1921, 1430. The section that’s 1100 seconds starts with the cut to the aerial shot of the outdoor labyrinth (which gives the impression of an aircraft landing on a podium), and ends with Danny entering room 237 in his Apollo 11 shirt.
So, while I think it’s fair to say that most dramas are going to have something to do with day and night, and therefore the sun and the moon, perhaps it’s fair to say that The Shining has gone to some extra length to invoke our most romantic satellite. For a complete rundown of what I think the moon’s thematic significance is in the film, click here.
There’s a lot to say about the various mountains that appear in the opening seven shots of the film, and connection to indigenous myth and history, which you can read all about here. There’s also numerous artworks in the film depicting mountains, like Mt. Vesuvius and Mt. Hood. I haven’t tried to ID the mountains in every painting, and I’ve struggled to get some of them and failed, but the mountain names in this Lawren Harris painting of Maligne Lake seem to be part of a network of clues about the true identity of “Great party(!)” ghost. Mountains also appear in Trapper’s Camp, the Colorado tourism posters, the Grady Twin paintings, the various ski posters in the games room, in JEH MacDonald’s paintings of Sand River, Algoma and the Montreal River, the Touch of Autumn painting, on the cover of Outdoor Life magazine, the Steamboat Springs poster, there’s a few unidentified ones in the blowjob well that will almost certainly turn out to be mountains, and the biography of Tenzing Norgay is a tacit reference to Mt. Everest.
What I generally mean by this is almost any of the things you’ll read about in the absurdities analysis or the disappearances analysis. But there is something to be said for the fact that some of the things that move within the film aren’t necessarily absurd or disappearing. Like, it’s completely possible that one of the Torrances moved the Grady Twin paintings from the reception radio room up into Suite 3 at some point between SATURDAY and WEDNESDAY. Things were pretty tense in the family at that point, so it would seem to be odd behaviour. But it’s at least possible. Why it seems unlikely in most cases that these aren’t absurdities is just the extremely high degree to which absurdities occur. But it’s not impossible that some are the result of the Torrances just living life.
There’s also a little book/magazine in Danny’s Boulder bedroom called Teeny Weeny Adventures, which has a curious connection to the hotel’s desire to kill Hallorann. I’ve often thought of this as shorthand for the way things move throughout the hotel, as if a series of teeny weeny beings are the ones moving everything around.
The Murder Awards
My nickname for the Olympics, as explained in this section.
While I have noted some fairly subtle (possibly erroneous) references to Hinduism (an elephant in Susie’s office), Taoism (the black-and-white dressed Kubrick twins at the ghost ball) and Buddhism, there are concrete references to the mythologies of Christianity, Greco-Roman times, the Norse, and various indigenous cultures. When I can bring myself to make the time, I’ll create a list here of every significant myth I’ve discussed throughout the site.
In general, I think Kubrick relied so heavily on myth not only to trigger our sense of our origins, nor even to pay homage to all the corresponding references in King’s original novel, but to most fully convey that this is a story about story, a narrative about narrative.
Ne Plus Ultra
Means “nothing further beyond”, a phrase that appeared on the Pillars of Hercules according to mythology, a warning to seafarers about the dangers of trying to cross the Atlantic.
My feeling is that part of what makes up the metaphor of the shining is the human ability to find ways of communicating across vast distances of both time and space. And while the lion’s share of reference points for this in the film lay with art objects, there’s a nice wedge carved out for the news. A newspaper in Boulder is what lets us know the (most likely) date at the start of the film. Danny’s first experience inside the hotel has him sharing a space with a poster designed by the Denver Post. The first thing we see on TUESDAY (the first day of Jack’s unraveling) is Wendy watching a news broadcast about a woman lost in the mountains while a storm is on the way. This is the first thing she talks to Jack about in their next scene, and his reaction about this coming storm (“What do you want me to do about it?”) is how she knows there’s something off about him. And finally, Hallorann’s rescue mission starts with him watching the Channel 10 News broadcast about the inclement weather in Colorado, where “three people have died” by exposure to freezing winds. While the middle of his mission features a KHOW broadcast from Hal & Charlie, letting him know how narrowly he avoided his whole mission getting blocked by the storm.
It’s also the news articles in an old scrapbook that Jack finds in the basement that suck him into the pattern of behaviour that leads to his real doom in the novel, but this is only vaguely referenced in the film. “I, uh, saw your picture in the newspaper. You, uh, chopped your wife and daughters up into little bits. And then you blew your brains out.”
Just as the Pillars of Hercules study looks at how the Mediterranean Sea separates Europe and Africa, a couple of postcards of Niagara Falls in Hallorann’s office suggest a counterpoint to this, in the way these relatively revered falls help form the Great Lakes that separate America and Canada. I’m also wondering if the placement of these postcards is meant to suggest that the bloodfall elevator is somewhere directly above, helping us to better understand the cat’s cradle of Overlook room locations.
There’s a subtle undercurrent of pornographic imagery throughout the film, none less subtle than the 237 ghost, and Jack’s wolfish response to her. A close second would be Hallorann’s twin nude posters in Miami.
The boiler room has a series of eight nude images that might be miniature nude paintings and might be clippings from porn magazines. These are seen only once, and are highly obscure to the casual eye, despite being in plain sight. Similarly, Jack’s reading a Playgirl magazine when Ullman and Watson arrive to begin the tour, and a strange man at Durkin’s garage is looking at an erotic calendar of some sort. I’m not sure if this was meant to soften the nude ghost sequence, or comment on it like, “Look, it’s a lot more common than you think, okay?” but it seems clear that there’s a connection there.
Perhaps it’s meant as a comment on how these things exist (pornographic images and such) as a way for men to blow off steam, similar to what sports and games are meant to do. This would explain the proximity of the boiler room nudes to the boiler, which the Torrances need to “dump” several times a day to release its steam, and keep the building from exploding.
The film has a rather large obsession with numbers. The most significant, and self-evident, three are 11, 42 and 237. But in the Treachery of Images analysis we also discover that every number between 1 and 21 has some contextual significance, and that every time appearing on every clock likely means something relating back to that number set.
Of these, I would say that 4 is the number with the greatest individual significance, for the way it plays into the four horsemen, four directions, and four seasons analyses.
There’s also the not insignificant attention paid to years, like how the year of the Overlook’s construction (1907) and the year of the Grady murders (1970) flip the last two numbers. Same with the year Jack travels back in time to (1921), and the year appearing on the games room poster about the Denver flood (1912). There’s also a high degree of references to 1969.
Also, I did a study looking at the number of seconds in each section of the film, and found that the film can be divided into exactly 143 sections (143 being the number of minutes in the film, and the number of heartbeats on the soundtrack during a key passage), each of which runs for a number of seconds that is a significant number in the film’s codex of significant numbers. And when you look at what the number of seconds is for each accompanying passage, the meaning of that number pairs well with whatever’s going on onscreen. Then I realized that the 8461 seconds that make up the entire visual film (8484 with the opening WB logo, and the darkness after the final fade to black) could be broken up into six large sections of 2370, 1100, 1430, 210, 1921, and 1430 seconds, and you can probably see why these are significant numbers now.
Also, 143 is always (to my knowledge) divided into groups of 67 and 76. Like, there’s 143 people in the final photo with photo Jack: 76 women and 67 men. And those 143 heart beats create a cool significance by how you look at where the first 67 and the second 76 beats occur. And those two 1430-second segments of the film can be broken into perfect 760-second and 670-second chunks, that lend a little extra meaning.
Numbers also play a huge role in my analysis of the Golden Shining.
In my study of the F21 photos, I realized that we weren’t simply supposed to add up the totals in each area, but to sometimes (perhaps in every case–I’m not exactly sure yet) study the totals that were created on individual walls, and then to consider how these totals worked against the nearby totals. You can read all about this phenomenon here.
One By One (Album)
There’s an album in the film that can be played overtop the film to generate some additional meanings. Click here to read everything there is to know about it.
The Only Thing that Can’t Be Explained Any Other Way
Absurdities are important because they disrupt patterns, thereby underscoring the significance of patterns. Oddly, the one that seems to have stuck in the most craws, and stood out as the most singular, is Jack’s impossible release from the storeroom by Grady. This has been erroneously identified as the only thing in the film that can’t be explained any other way, then as a physical act of the hotel affecting physical space. On the inoffensive side, this is wrong by virtue of the way the film presents its numerous structural absurdities. But less tactful is the way this suggests our collusion with the ghosts.
What do I mean by that? Well, Danny’s bruises from the 237 ghost only have one explanation. To justify another explanation where Danny, Jack and Hallorann all experience the 237 ghost, and yet either Wendy or Jack or Danny himself is responsible for catatonia-inducing bruises on a child’s neck is not only not supported by any visual evidence, it’s contradicted by Wendy’s report that Danny told her the 237 ghost did it, immediately followed by Danny sending Hallorann a shine of the 237 ghost about to do it. Absurdities are baked into the film’s construction so that close analysis proves the presence of the supernatural. How could Danny know what Wendy would see in 11 weeks in a building he’d never set foot in before? Because he’s a shiner. How does everyone who works for the Overlook not notice its structural impossibilities? Because they don’t not notice them (“Some places are like people. Some shine. Some don’t.”). How does semi-rational Jack not react with terror to the appearance of a ghost, and how does he become drunk on ghost booze? The All Work and No Play pages show us that the hotel has been casting its spell on Jack since at least long enough for him to have written hundreds of these pages, which takes a long time (it took me about ten minutes to type out one, and it was mighty soul draining), and we know that he’s experiencing extreme sleep deprivation.
What the release of Jack by Grady really is is the most dramatically neutral supernatural event (there’s no reason that Danny or Wendy would want him released, and Jack’s not a “shiner”). And that neutrality is what disarms what a skeptic might call their rationality, allowing them to begin to consider the other supernatural suggestions. What gets in the way of accepting the other absurdities (until someone shows them to you point blank) is your shame at having believed a lie or falsehood. People don’t like being tricked (at least, not in ways they weren’t expecting), and especially not by something that has every other quality of apparent reality, and no obvious motive for deception. But think back to the first time you learned about the Holocaust, or the indigenous genocides. Did you say to yourself, wow, that’s horrible, we should definitely help return America to its former stewards, so that injustices like this don’t become the norm? Or, wow, we should definitely do everything in our power to prevent another minority from ever being exterminated by fascists? Or was the scale of those tragedies so enormous, so absurd, that you couldn’t quite face it head on? Did some (however minuscule) part of you say to yourself, “I think [they] probably did it to [themselves]”?
There is an equally dangerous flip side to this, of course, where you believe everything you hear, until proven guilty, which can lead to some mind-boggling social movements aimed at refuting irrefutable science. I’m sure I don’t have to name one before you’ve thought of ten. And I am sympathetic to people cozened into these movements (I grew up thinking aliens were among us, and still like to contemplate the possibility), but I would simply ask you to consider, what is the worst possible outcome of, for instance, the world being round, and what do you hope to change by proving otherwise?
The Orgy of Evidence
To bury his secrets, Kubrick overstimulates your senses, giving you too much to filter all at once, daring you to parse pattern from coincidence. Many of his clues are presented without context, so the pattern only emerges once someone with the background or instinct to understand them (like Juli Kearns and the Room 237 gang) takes an interest in decoding them.
Like Magritte’s famous (non-)pipe, the buried clues (or “winks” as I call them) appear to anyone without the necessary background to dismiss them as just a piece of art being a piece of art.
And occasionally he gives you information that’s too obscure to get it all in one go, or to get it without being able to stop and zoom in. But once you do this, you find that these collections have a total value. Like how the dolls in the lobby tell the story of the hotel’s plot to kill Hallorann, or how the games room posters speak to the film’s mythological implications, or how the brands behind Jack when he’s agreeing to become a familicidal maniac speak to a dozen of the film’s buried subtexts.
Once you look beyond the chaos of the orgy, you’ll start to see that the things that seemed random before (like the little red stick sticking out behind Danny’s left arm, two pictures back), have meaning that you couldn’t gain without deeper research. That little red stick is the flag pole on the Poppers Supply Co (now defunct) logo, featuring the name Portland, Oregon. Jack will say “Portland, Oregon” to Lloyd quickly after referencing White Man’s Burden, which, itself has a close relationship to conquest and manifest destiny. So, as Danny’s being asked if he’d like some “eye scream”, he’s ignorant to what that totally means. He’s been born into a world that he’s unaware belonged to someone else once. But he accepts the invitation, like Neo did Morpheus’.
The kitchen pantry is the area of the hotel with the most absurdities in one area. I detailed what these were right here. I suspect absurdities were heightened here due to the phenomenon I call The Story Room.
Wendy corrects Hallorann’s assertion that she would be either a Winnie or a Freddy with the statement, “I’m a Wendy.” Then, when Jack’s chasing her up the stairs later, he says, “Wendy? Darling?! Light of my life!” And Wendy Darling is the girl who follows the third star on the right to get to Neverland and Peter Pan. For my other thoughts on the implications of this connection, click here.
Phi Grids vs. Rule of Thirds
I did a study of every shot in the film composed according to the logics of a phi grid, of which there’s almost 200, which you can read all about right here.
Phones and Radios
In my view, the shining, as a natural phenomenon within the story, is meant as a metaphor for the uniqueness that homo sapiens exhibit as creatures capable of sharing and understanding one another’s inner workings, even across vast distances of space and time, and this is partly suggested through the abundance of art references, and references to the news. But both the film and novel make regular use of phones and radios, such that numerous characters who share scenes are never seen in the same room together (Wendy and the forest rangers, Dick and the forest rangers, Dick and Durkin). But why I don’t think we should limit our understanding of the phenomenon to this sort of thing is because, in lieu of any such means of contacting Dick, and with the Overlook actively trying to block communications with the outside world, Danny is able to reach across thousands of kilometres and pinpoint his target receiver. Danny’s physical person does this, and no other technology.
And just for the record, this is why I always refer to Jack’s murder of the radio as a murder. Not just a symbolic murder, or a thing that primes the circumstances for his ultimate human murder. He’s killing something because it can do what his son can do.
This is my nickname for when a certain type of thing seems to keep happening, keep appearing on screen, like vehicles, or art objects, or references to food and drink. You can read all about it here.
The dominant pillar-based subtext would seem to be the Pillars of Hercules subtext, which comes after this entry, and I do think that’s the most specific thing Kubrick was using pillars to draw our attention to. But there’s also the phenomena of 11-shapes (which all look like twin pillars) and of twin-style things throughout the film (not limited to the Grady twins), but perhaps most curiously, the Treachery of Images analysis revealed that the Overlook photographs are almost always arranged in two uniform clusters on two uniform walls, forcing our attention to not just the pillar shapes in the elevator doors, but to the massive pillars that hold up the Colorado lounge, where the photographs move in very curious ways indeed.
The Pillars of Hercules
Charles Grady murdered his wife and two daughters in 1970. Herakles (the original name for Hercules) murdered his wife and children upon being informed by a messenger of Hera, by the name of Iris, that he was the son of a god, Zeus. This familicide is both what causes him to transform from the lowly Alcides (a name meaning “the strength of men”) into the self-aware demigod Herakles (a name meaning “the pride of Hera”), and what causes him to have to perform his ten (which turned into twelve) great labours, as penance to the ruler of the day. The tenth labour was to steal some red cattle from Medusa’s grandson, Geryon. On his way, he punched through a mountain called Atlas, transforming it into what became known as the Pillars of Hercules. Greeks and later Romans understood that these pillars were a real place, which we now call the strait of Gibraltar. So I would say it’s likely that anyone familiar with both the myth and the place (and the Mediterranean Sea as a whole) would’ve understood that by doing this, by punching through Atlas, Hercules was creating the Mediterranean Sea, effectively separating Europe from Africa. Would they not have envisioned, then, a great flood, ensuing from Hercules’ mountain destruction? If so, perhaps they saw all these things as byproducts of “the strength of men” and “the glory of Hera”. What’s more, these pillars were said to bear the phrase “ne plus ultra” (“nothing further beyond”), a warning to any seafarers who dreamed of finding more than ol’ Herc did, in venturing across the Atlantic.
In The Shining, Danny sees a flood of blood crashing, interrupted only by brief flashes of two pillar-esque Grady twins, and a vision of himself screaming in the dark, which we later discover is the shot of him reacting to the murder of Dick Hallorann. And when he encounters the pillar-esque Grady twins, whether in a vision, or in seeming reality, we don’t see him go beyond the spot he’s trying to go through. It’s not until he’s witnessed them oscillating between their pillar form and their bloody murder form that he can finally “go beyond” by gaining entry into room 237, the room that both saves him (by providing him with the lesson key), and condemns Hallorann.
There’s also the matter of two phenomena that recur throughout the film that relate to Hercules, which I won’t go into great detail about here.
First, there’s several art pieces in the film with direct ties to Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that genocided the peoples of Pompeii and a lesser-known city called Herculaneum in 79 CE (exactly 1900 years before the Torrance murder). Vesuvius can be translated as “son of Ves”, Ves being the name Zeus has when he’s a god of rains and dews, which happens to be the form he took to create Herakles. And Romans of the day understood that Hercules infused Vesuvius in the same way that Tony infuses Danny.
And second, there’s numerous subtextual references throughout the film to the Olympics, which are believed to have been founded by Herakles.
And there’s even one shot in the film (the first shot inside room 237 – 71:50-71:57) where there’s a painting by the mother (Nadia Benois) of the only actor Kubrick ever directed to Oscar gold, Peter Ustinov. That was for 1960’s Spartacus, who lead a slave rebellion (73 BCE) that ended up with a fortification on…Mt. Vesuvius. The painting next to it is the only suspected Vesuvius piece I haven’t proven yet. But if it does turn out to be that, we’ll have a more direct connection between the mountain and any major historical event than we’ve had before. And since the film is loaded with Julius Caesar references (Caesar having ascended to political power at the same time as the Spartacus rebellion), this web of connections might have even wider-reaching implications than we yet know.
So there’s a lot going on in this analysis (notions of duality, balance, separation, and the thing that bridges people and gods (aka murder)), which you can read all about by going here.
The film has a particular obsession with the idea of our origins as a species. And in considering the broader implications of this Kubrick laced the film with examples of things that were the first of their kind:
- Tiger of the Snows is the biography of the first person (we know of) to climb Mt. Everest, Tenzing Norgay.
- The world’s first atlas hangs in Ullman’s office.
- John Webber was the first European artist to document the people of the Pacific.
- I’m not sure, but I imagine Squaresville/Flipsville is one of the first, if not the first book that can be read from either side toward the middle.
- No End to the Way is considered the first gay Australian novel.
- Playgirl was one of, if not the first erotic periodicals marketed to women and gay men.
- Burda Moden, an early example of what became known as the German Economic Miracle following WWII (something the VW Beetle was an icon of), became the first Western magazine to be published in the Soviet Union and later China.
- A likely poster for the 1976 Denver Olympics recalls the fact that they were the first city to democratically unelect themselves as the games’ host city.
- John Gould’s bird art helped inspire the theory of natural selection.
- Mart Roberts Reinhart’s The Door originated the phrase “the butler did it!”
- If the connection between “clews” and Edgar Allen Poe is intentional, this would reference The Murders in the Rue Morgue, considered the first detective novel.
- A poster for the National Western Stock Show represents the first pen cattle show in the world.
- And of course we’ve got the Apollo 11 mission on Danny’s sweater, referencing the first time people walked on the moon.
- Also, some have theorized that Crime and Punishment is what I would call a mirrorform novel, and I would not be surprised if Alice in Wonderland and Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass could ever be regarded in kind. So I wouldn’t be surprised if these would count as references to the dawn of mirrorform technology, so to speak.
The dark side to this is, of course, manifest destiny, and the genocide of indigenous peoples by the British and Americans, which is heavily, if subtextually, referenced throughout.
Quick (Jack, Danny, etc.)
In my The Rum and the Red analysis, the Quick action is the action that leads from the start of the mirrorform to the middle.
Rainbows are an important symbol of the Pillars of Hercules myth, the Noah’s Ark myth, and in Navajo culture they represent happiness and friendship. They appear in The Shining a good deal in small ways, appearing most significantly all over Danny’s bedroom and in the wall mural above the Colorado lounge fireplace, but also in the Channel 10 weather broadcast, and ever so subtly in the Battle of Sister’s Creek painting.
The Real Gradys
Regardless of whether my theories on this are true or not, the film is very careful to draw a distinction between the Grady ghosts who appear to Jack and Danny, and the real Gradys who actually died in the hotel 9 years earlier. Delbert through his name not being Charles. And the twins through their not being “8 and 10” years old, as Ullman describes them.
I’ve explored this concept at length in the Treachery of Images analysis, where I posit that the number 8 photo represents the real Gradys, and in the mirrorform analysis where I explore how a collection of vanishing paintings may indicate that “Great party(!)” ghost is the phantasm of Charles Grady.
There’s a tonne of links around the site leading people here for a lot of different reasons, but mainly to clarify what this term means in case you didn’t read the intro to this site. It’s relatively simple to explain. Basically, I have a theory that you can play The Shining backwards and forwards simultaneously, while playing Abbey Road by the Beatles three times (minus the secret track, Her Majesty), and get hundreds of fun little stylistic and structural synchronicities between the film and the music. If you didn’t know that already, chances are you can now hit backward to whatever you were reading before.
But if this hasn’t clarified what you were reading before, here’s a little more insight: while watching this Redrum Road I made a note for every time the lyrics seemed to be describing what was happening on screen in some way, or every time a passage from the music perfectly fit within a shot or sequence from the film, and it turned into one of the three longest single analyses on the site, along with the mirrorform analysis itself, and the review of all the different artworks in the film. The strongest single connection between the novel and the band is in how the name The Shining comes from John Lennon’s first post-Beatles EP, Instant Karma/We All Shine On.
But why would Kubrick go to such extremes? I’m honestly not sure. What I suspect is that Kubrick saw a deeply embedded thread of connection and inspiration between the role the Beatles played as a symbol of the end of the hippie era and King’s idea to write about the painfully tortured disintegration of an artistic family. Paul McCartney became an isolated alcoholic in the wake of the Beatles falling apart, and even wrote songs for his musical family’s final album about Maxwell stalking around with a “silver hammer” and a desperate man who will “fall down and die” if his lover doesn’t need him anymore, and how “once there was a way to get back homeward”. A way that has become shut. With themes like these to transpose against King’s story, it becomes clearer and clearer why Kubrick chose to keep in what he kept in from the novel. All things that heighten this connection between story and album.
You can read about how I realized one was meant to watch the film this way here. And you can read about all the other curious connections between the Beatles and The Shining here and here.
The film bears a not insignificant number of connections to the 1976 hit film Rocky. For starters, Dick Hallorann reaches the Overlook with the assistance of Larry Durkin, played by Tony Burton, who played Apollo Creed’s (and later Rocky’s) trainer Tony in six Rocky films. The model in the nude photos over Hallorann’s bed in Miami is Azizi Johari, who played a “Ring Girl” in the first Rocky. And there’s a number of black and white photos throughout the hotel of various fishing people hoisting up their trophy fish, which I believe could turn out to be from the Balboa Angling Club (Rocky’s last name is Balboa). On a cool technological note (something I realize my analysis is woefully short on), Rocky and The Shining were among the first 5-10 films to make use of Garrett Brown’s invention of the steadicam. Also, given the strong man subtext of The Shining, it might be worth noting that both films end with their Neapolitan main figure squaring off against a man of African-American descent, leading to the Neapolitan man slurring out the name of the woman in his life, defeated. And of course the whole story is set in the Rocky Mountains, the indigenous name for which is the “Shining Mountains”. So perhaps Kubrick saw a Rocky/Shining connection that felt intrinsic to King’s story (and of course, this plays into the Charles/Delbert subtext). I wonder if Kubrick saw the name Rocky Balboa as a mashup of “Rocky Mountains” and Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the Spanish conquistador who was the first European to reach the Pacific Ocean. In which case, the name would seem like a sly allusion to the greatness of Europe’s quest to invade and conquer the western hemisphere.
As for how intrinsic this would be to King’s novel, I doubt any connection. The film came out 2 short months before King’s novel hit stands.
I don’t think I can summarize my feelings on the room better than I did in the intro to this section.
But in a nutshell I think the room represents our creative desire to go places we’ve never gone, and have been told we’ll never reach. Just like how the Pillars of Hercules used to say “Nothing Further Beyond” on them. Consider that it’s a room with connotations connecting to the moon, to distant China and their social revolutions, to the science of zoology, and the theory of evolution. Consider how the Alex Colville painting seems to have golden spirals in it. And if we can ever nail down the Vesuvius painting, or the other mysteries, my gut says this notion will only be further and better explored.
The flip side to the room’s number is that it seems to symbolize the murder of Hallorann. So I don’t know if that’s a “if you wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs” kind of thing, or if there’s something even more sinister at play there, but I suspect the latter. And it’s sad to think that Danny’s survival depends upon Hallorann’s sacrifice. Or that this is what the hotel wanted all along.
In the Treachery of Images analysis, I realized that the photos at the end of the film repeat throughout the hotel, throughout the film, and that if we apply the numbers 1-21 to these photos, then the way they repeat add up to interesting things. The photos in the lobby add to 237. The photos in the games room add to 157. And the photos in the lounge add to 260, or 157 east of Jack’s typewriter, and 237 west of the typewriter, with a bonus 23 lounging in the space directly below room 237. Sine 157 would be 2:37 expressed in seconds, it occurred to me that these batches of 2:37-237-23-237-2:37 were saying something deeper about how the physical space of the hotel speaks to the events in the film.
The Rum and the Red
The album One By One by Stomu Yamash’ta’s East Wind (itself the soundtrack for a Formula 1 racing documentary called One By One, later renamed The Quick and the Dead) appears in the film at the exact moment the album would be transitioning between track one and track two. So I figured that we had another Redrum Road situation on our hands. Long story short, this process helped me realize that we can fold the film in on itself a second time, so that we’re watching four layers of the folded Shining unspool simultaneously, like a double mirrorform. You can read my analysis of how the music interacts with the film starting here, but I decided to analyze first the way the album works with what I call the Quick half of the film, and then how it works with what I call the Dead half, which starts here.
There’s at least five saints referenced in the film. St. John is in the title of a 1958 Alex Colville painting, and refers to a river by the same name. St. Mary is the name of the mirror-esque lake from the first (and third and fourth) shot of the movie (and there happens to be a painting in the lobby that looks exactly like that opening shot). St. Maurice is in the title of a Corenlius Krieghoff painting in the lobby, and refers to a river. St. Lucia is the name of an area of Naples appearing in a postcard on the Torrance fridge in Boulder. St. Francis of Assisi is referenced near the end, when Jack sings out, “San Francisco, here I come/Right back where I started from” while dying in the maze. And St. Louis is seen on the hockey jersey of a woman passing through the lobby on CLOSING DAY, who bids Ullman farewell while walking away from the parking lot, and into the hotel, with her luggage. This jersey most likely refers to Claude St. Louis of the Trois-Rivières Ducs, a French-Canadian hockey team. The city of Trois-Rivières is so named because the St. Maurice river divides into three mouths as it hits the St. Lawrence river. And this woman strides right past the St. Maurice painting as she passes Jack and Ullman. It’s possible there’s other saints being referenced subtly in the other paintings that I just don’t know about, but that’s a lot of saints already, three of which would be getting a reference in the hotel lobby alone (though two of those are to the same river, technically, and the other is just a look-alike to the opening St. Mary Lake).
I also read on the Kubrick Archive website how along with some of the prop photos they have from the film is a cache of photos of the Billy Wilder film The Spirit of St. Louis. So if some of those appear in the film, and turn out to appear in the lobby, that could be two St. Louises and two St. Maurices in one room, with the nexus being in that woman’s jersey. If this turns out to be the case, it’s worth noting that the people these designations refer to died almost 1000 years apart in 287 and 1270. I’ve written at length about the significance of St. Maurice, the black martyr of the Krieghoff painting here. But it’s worth pointing out here how Maurice was born in Africa and died in Europe, while St. Louis (if indeed Claude St. Louis was named for Louis IX of France) was born in Europe and died in Africa. Perhaps this is a comment on how Hallorann travelled all the way from Miami to die in the Colorado mountains, while Jack, who as far as we know spent his last 44 days on earth completely within the Overlook, travelled into the outside world to die in the hedge maze.
The other, and perhaps most significant thing is in how the feast days of St. Lucia and St. Maurice (September 22nd and December 13th) happen to be the first day we ever see Jack alive, and the last day we ever see Jack and Hallorann alive. A bonus is in how St. Lucia was the patron saint of authors and stained glass makers, which could suggest that Jack was never really an author, and Hallorann was never really associated to the hotel (with all its stained glass).
Danny owns a set of sewing cards (little cards with holes punched through the silhouette of a figure, intended to teach children how to sew) which appear in his Boulder bedroom, and once later at the Overlook. For how I think Kubrick intended us to see these as a metaphor for the construction of the film, click here.
Wendy compares Jack to Shakespeare in the novel, and the book is influenced by Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, which was itself inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest a drama that also features a masque.
There are also many references in the film to Julius Caesar, and the Russian edition of Shakespeare’s biography that appears in the film appears almost directly across from the biography of Caesar in the Boulder apartment. So that lead me to think that Kubrick held the Caesar play above the Tempest play in terms of how Shakespeare influenced his own work here, perhaps most notably in how The Shining bears a similar dramatic structure to Julius Caesar, and similarly decentralizes the audience’s sense of who the main character is.
The Shame of Being Watched
Kubrick referenced Freud’s essay on the uncanny valley as part of his explanation for why he made a horror movie. In his theory, Freud posits that humans feel a creepy aversion to anything that resembles a human being, however vaguely. Kubrick had the Overlook designed to incorporate many eye shapes sprinkled throughout the hotel in subtle ways. But while this feature certainly leads to Wendy and Danny experiencing an aversion to the place, Jack’s necessary resistance to disliking the Overlook (in that leaving it will lead to economic ruin, and the possible obliteration of his family unit) causes him to sublimate his fear into shame. A shame that is then exploited by the hotel manifesting human-shaped entities based on real people, to cause Jack to think it alone can sooth his ego woes. For my complete review of this phenomenon, click here.
The Shared Library
There are books that appear in both the Torrance and Hallorann personal libraries that we see in Boulder and Miami. A few of these we can recognize, like The Door or the Europe book. And a few of them would require the film to have been shot in 8K resolution for us to ever make out the writing on their tiny spines.
So, while the books that can be ID’d do tell us things about the film’ subtext, I wonder if the other ones were simply meant to give us that sense of connection between these places. An Occam’s Razor approach would say, “The production crew probably didn’t want to have to find a bunch of other random books. The sets were probably within walking distance of each other. Don’t overthink it.” And if you’ve even managed to find this entry, you’re probably already capable of seeing the other side of Occam’s Razor here: The Door is significant. The Europe book is significant. So the others, even if we’ll never know their names, might be significant too. Also, there’s a Car and Driver magazine in Hallorann’s living room that doesn’t appear anywhere else, and for good reason: its cover features a reference to a car called the “Zephyr”, a name that derives from the Greek god of the west wind, Zephyrus. And the Torrances have an album in their collection with a name referring to the East Wind. So, just as the things that connect them have significance, the things that oppose them have significance (Miami being east to Boulder’s west).
Similarly, there’s things that connect the Torrance apartment with the Overlook, like the sewing cards or the golliwog doll, or the prevalence of Alex Colville paintings. While there’s almost nothing that connects the Overlook to Hallorann’s apartment. The only thing I know of, after almost two years of study, is that they both contain the same model of RCA television (the Overlook one is in Suite 3), and a bottle of Jack Daniels (though the Overlook one is meant to be imaginary).
I feel like this notion of “sharing” objects between spaces that are not understood in the greater context to be supernatural as locations, certainly not in the way that the Overlook is, works as a counterpoint to the Overlook phenomenon of things seeming to move throughout the hotel for no good reason.
My cutesy name for films that seem to be inspired by the forms and techniques Kubrick’s put on display here. This site contains analyses of Shutter Island and Inception, and the complete works of Quentin Tarantino, but I’ve done about a dozen others that I haven’t decided if I’m going to post yet. At this point I’m thinking it’s likely I will not.
Analysts of The Masque of the Red Death, the short story that influenced and informed King’s writing, have been cautioned by their fellow analysts not to try to define too exactingly what the titular “Red Death” is a metaphor for. Despite the fact that the term “red death” comes from a known source, and was being used in that source to describe people who died during acts of war. Similarly, we might imagine that the term “shining” comes from the fact that this is the indigenous name for the Rocky Mountains, where the story is (almost) completely set. And we might imagine that it was meant as a reference to the four horsemen of the apocalypse, for the reasons described here.
The term is only used four times in the film in two clusters of two, by Dick Hallorann, talking to Danny in the kitchen. “She called it shining, and I thought it was just the two of us who had the shine to us.” “Some places are like people: some shine, some don’t. I suppose you could say the Overlook Hotel here has something about it that’s like shining.” And the mirror moments for these moments are Jack saying, “Wendy, I think you hurt my head real bad…” and then later, it’s the moments of Wendy cracking that head with a Louisville Slugger. So the mirrorform might be saying that the shining is a protective and/or abusive force.
And there’s one other indirect reference to the shining, which is when Delbert Grady tells Jack that Danny has a “very great talent”, and that he’s “not sure if [Jack is] aware how great it is.” And the mirror moment for this is the camera zooming out on the film Summer of ’42, which Danny and Wendy are watching on MONDAY morning. Kubrick claims this was his favourite film. Grady earlier tells Jack that Danny is “trying to bring an outside party into this arrangement”, and Roger Ebert famously called the medium of film an “empathy machine”, an art form designed to help people see into the thoughts and lives of their fellow sapiens. So, while people who shine are people with a profoundly enhanced ability to share and receive thoughts from one another, the Overlook’s interest is in shutting down these wires of connection.
And yeah, I don’t think any of these four major ways of interpreting the shining (as a reference to the natural world, to mythology, to creative/destructive acts, or to empathy/ignorance) is the “best” or “most correct” interpretation. And the inherent messiness of the interpretation allows us to better understand the form and function of this supernatural phenomenon in its setting: why, for instance, is it that an elderly man who has the power to read other people’s thoughts, not to mention his ability to see the future and past, is found working as a head chef at a remote (and haunted) mountain resort, and not betting on all the right horses at the track until superwealth overwhelms his every other concern? And why is a man who is clearly his mental inferior able to get the drop on him? And why, in a world that generates shiners, is it that these mentally superior individuals don’t completely make up the class of individuals Ullman describes as “all the best people”?
My guess is it’s because that’s not how evolution works, and that’s not how people are. The shining is only as useful as the will of the person (or place) endowed with it. And those people and places sure are wreathed by an awful lot of darkness.
The Shining Tree of Life
When I started this project I divided all my notes and findings about the film into categories, which later struck me as seeming like binary twigs forking out from an overarching root branch. As I began to give names to these phenomena, the thing that seemed to be the ultimate root was “life” itself, which forked out into “fantasy” and “reality” both of which forked into their binaries, and so forth. I started calling this the Shining Tree of Life (as seen in the intro to this site), and I probably don’t reference it too much by name, but it’s a force that informs practically everything you’ll read on this site.
Sidewinder to Boulder
Sidewinder is a fictional town referenced only twice in the film (by Ullman and Wendy) while Boulder is a very real city outside Denver, Colorado. The Torrances never live in Sidewinder, but since it’s the closest town to the equally fictional Overlook, we might think of them being a sort of narrative unit.
It occurred to me while annotating the novel that the connection between these three locations is referenced a lot, despite the vast majority of the action taking place at the hotel. And since the film makes an abundant number of references to the Book of Genesis, and since the Krzysztof Penderecki music gives the film a similarly abundant set of references to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I began to wonder if Kubrick saw “Sidewinder” as a reference to the serpent in Eden, while Boulder would signify the boulder that was rolled away from Christ’s tomb to reveal his resurrection. In other words, are the Torrances heading backwards away from the progress that the New Testament represents (to Christians) toward the relative dark ages of the Torah’s opening verses?
There’s even a novel in Boulder about a New York Jewish artist struggling with his urge to employ Christian motifs in his art.
I’ve also wondered if this factored in Kubrick’s decision to (possibly) use the Avenue of the Dead (which includes the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon) as a template for the Overlook’s overall design. For the record, to understand what I’m saying in that last link, you need to understand the Tower of Fable discoveries outlined here.
THE SKELETON BALL
My nickname for the crowd of skeletons Wendy encounters in the lobby during her final four horsemen portals. My general interpretation of this ball is that it symbolizes Famine, and works as a counterpoint to the reaction Danny and Jack have to their respective ghost balls. And Jack would be in the Famine (3rd) position during the Abbey Road Tour, so if you want to skip straight to my Famine analysis, you can see how the skeleton ball is symbolic of Wendy’s realization that her real husband will die this night.
In my Golden Shining analysis, I find that we can divide the 143-minute film into ten perfect sections according to the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence itself generates something called a “golden ratio“, which is when any two numbers divide to create the result 1.618. So I began to wonder if these ten sections could be divided meaningfully by looking at the “golden ratio moment”, and seeing if they consistently, cleverly divide the ten sections into golden ratios of their own. In my opinion, we can gain a lot of insight into Kubrick’s construction by looking at the film this way, and these “spiral cuts” as I call them, impact the entire Golden Shining analysis.
Sports and Games
There’s numerous references to sports and games and toys in the film, which are listed and explored here. The largest single analyses concerning “play” in the film are the one I did on the Olympics, which you can read here, and the one on the significance of Danny’s sewing cards, which you can read here. You might also want to know about the film’s coded references to “work” and “play”, which you can read about here.
My general thought on this is that the attention paid to games has to do with the parts of the novel which deal with Jack’s daily need to dump the hotel’s boilers, and how his eventual obsession with his “work” (the writing of a play) causes him to ignore this requirement of his survival, leading to a deadly build up of steam. Sports and games allow us to blow off a lot of similar social and personal steams, through the way they shrink the competitive nature of Darwinian reality down to the more manageable nugget of a card game or a round of throwing sharp things at a porous circle. Not that no one was ever shot over a hand of poker or died from an overly intense boxing match, but sports and games give us that outlet, when it doesn’t turn us into mindlessly obsessed versions of ourselves, striving for the relatively meaningless designation of being the “best” in the world at whatever competition. And Jack, who can’t bring himself to finish (in the novel) or start (in the film) his great work of art, seems similarly self-focused. He’s not trying to create a great work that other people will be able to enjoy, he’s only actually retyping the same (comforting?) phrase over and over, eternally. And it’s not even originally his phrase.
Similarly, there’s an undertone of sexual frustration in the film, where Jack and Wendy seem to have a relatively bloodless marriage, their only act of physical affection being the kiss that kicks off Wendy’s experience of Jack as a moody asshole on TUESDAY, which continues almost uninterruptedly to the end of the film. A period which includes Jack betraying his wedding vows, to make out with the 237 ghost. And when we think of her being about as imaginary as the rest of the hotel’s manifestations, isn’t it like he’s making out with himself?
Also, it’s worth pointing out how there’s a famous Olympian named Jack Torrance, a famous champion steeplechaser named Red Rum, and that there’s an entire secondary way of watching The Shining, which involves the soundtrack to a documentary about Formula 1 racing.
STARTIN’ TO SEE PICTURES, AIN’T YA?
What is shining? Both book and film use their respective arts to convey the nature of its power; film Danny’s shines are like a movie, book Danny’s shines can be like “pictures in a book”. So both convey the King maxim, “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” In a broader context, a shiner seems to be someone who cares about the future of mankind, someone who wants to use their mastery of backwards, forwards, left and right, for the betterment of all.
There’s at least one, but probably two posters in the games room advertising the Steamboat Springs ski hills in Colorado. Perfectly in-between them is a poster commemorating the 1912 Denver flood, a subject that The Shining is interested in for various reasons, perhaps none more significant than what it has to say about the Pillars of Hercules. Or Noah’s Ark, which would bear a resemblance to this Steamboat of ours. Danny is later seen (on MONDAY) to be wearing a sweater showing Mickey Mouse, who was originally known as Steamboat Willie (because he was the captain of a steamboat). Mickey also appears on Danny’s door in Boulder, though not in the first close-up shot of the door.
Perhaps what drew Kubrick in this direction, toward the “steamboat” image, was how, in King’s original novel, a major subtext (utterly avoided in the film) is in how Jack needs to dump the steam out of the boiler that heats the Overlook. And perhaps that’s how it connects to floods: the Noah’s Ark myth is to do with god essentially blowing off his steam about how corrupt humanity had become, eradicating all but one man’s family. In the Pillars of Hercules myth, the slaughter of one family by its demigod father/husband (who is blowing off the steam of having been informed of his demigod status) is what’s paralleled with the flood. And perhaps this is why “steamboats” only appear after Danny has had his first vision of the bloodfall. Now he knows that it’s time to prepare for the worst.
Storeroom? Or Gingerbread House?
This is one of the ones that’s almost completely in the title, if you can guess what I’m getting at. So here’s the link for all the juicy details.
The Story Room
When Hallorann lets Wendy and Danny into the storeroom it sounds like he’s saying “story room” in the line, “Now, here’s the storeroom.” I might simply be hearing things, but if this was Kubrick’s purpose, it’s worth a look into the pantry’s physical nature to understand what it and the film’s story have in common.
Ullman shares a name with the man who helped Tenzing Norgay write the story of his life, and climbing Mt. Everest. A copy of that book is in the Torrance Boulder library. So on the one hand, there’s the sense that no matter where we go, Ullman is there. And on the other hand there’s an association made between Stuart Ullman and someone who sounds like a good person. That’s significant because Ullman has a book on his desk that could be linking him to the master of lies, Satan himself. And the name Stuart Ullman can be rearranged to spell “Murtull Satan” which sounds like “mortal Satan” in English. That anagram might be pure coincidence, but the connection to the dark lord seems less so.
Summer of ’42
Kubrick said this was his favourite film, but that would seem like a poor reason for Wendy to be showing it to Danny one frosty MONDAY morning. The film is a complex, realistic, and emotionally graphic depiction of a young man’s sexual awakening at the hands of an older woman, pining for her departed war hero boyfriend.
But besides the plethora of things it does for various other analyses in the film, what I think its dominant purpose is is to draw our attention to the film’s focus on the four seasons, and Jack’s struggle to cope with the cycles of life. Jack becomes trapped in the summer of ’21. The Apollo 11 launched in the summer of ’69. And as we see in the Treachery of Images analysis, these summers even seem to follow Jack around.
The Timed Shining
It might seem beyond comprehension, but in my study of the film’s 664 shots I realized that the number of seconds for each shot (or each cluster of shots) has a numeric significance to whatever’s happening in that scene. So the big take away is that Kubrick had to have known everything that he wanted to be in each second of the film in order to achieve the arch symmetry that goes into things like the mirrorform, the Treachery of Images analysis, Redrum Road, The Rum and the Red, and anything else like that.
I think this is where a lot of readers and viewers of my findings encounter the hardest block to climb past. But think about it like this: there’s only 8470 seconds-worth of movie to plot out. So just as a painter figures out where all the hundreds of brushstrokes go, and just as the writer figures out in what order to lay down hundreds of thousands of words, Kubrick only had to know what would appear in those 8470 slots of time. And of those slots, a great many were comprised of shots lasting over 30 seconds, or of scenes going on for over 5 minutes, set in one location between only two or three characters. And everyone on set attests to the fact that each shot in the film could be filmed dozens and dozens of times–meaning that Kubrick sometimes had a hundred different shots from which to pluck one that did the things he wanted it to do, at just the right moment to make the mirrorform, for instance, as perfect as possible.
So, while I personally find it to be one of the most sublime creations in the history of film, this process of timing one’s movie could be done for a number of reasons, which wouldn’t have to be in service to something as archly labyrinthine as The Shining otherwise is. Kubrick simply took it up to that next level of complexity.
Danny Torrance is Daniel Anthony Torrance just as his grandfather’s name was Mark Anthony Torrance, as discussed in the section looking at the Mark 13:29 phenomenon. In the novel, a doctor in Sidewinder asks if Jack and Wendy know if Danny is aware of where the name Tony most likely came from, or if anyone ever pointed it out to him. And they silently agree to let Danny figure it out on his own. Later, a similar trick is pulled on Jack in the novel’s version of the ghost ball, when the various recognizable ghosts (Lloyd, Grady) speak about the hotel having a “manager” whose true identity Jack should really know without having to be told. In both scenes, the reader is left to fill in the gap on their own. Tony is named Tony because “Anthony” can become “Tony” in English. And the manager is…Satan? The hotel’s dark heart?
In the film, neither of these specific subjects come up in the dialogue. We’re left completely in the dark as to what Lloyd means when he says “Orders from the house.” And we’re left completely to our own devices as to who Tony is and where he comes from (did the dislocated shoulder create Tony, or did it just reveal his presence?), and what are the extent of his powers (if Danny forgets Tony’s shines, as he tells Hallorann, what do they really do for the boy?), and when has he fully assumed control of Danny’s body, and when has he fully exited it (the period between the 44 repetitions of “REDRUM” and the moment of Hallorann’s murder (resulting in a very Danny-like eye-scream) don’t make it clear at what exact moment Danny came back to being Danny, though I have my theories).
The main secondary clues about Tony are the abundance of Tony the Tiger images seen throughout the film, and the casting of Tony Burton as Larry Durkin. Hallorann is associated to tigers in several scenes, which suggests that Hallorann and Tony represent a similarly friendly force in Danny’s life, and Tony Burton is most otherwise famous for appearing as Tony “Duke” Evers in the Rocky films, the trainer of Apollo Creed. Danny wears an Apollo 11 sweater when entering 237, and Larry Durkin is the one who provides the snowcat that becomes Wendy and Danny’s final escape pod. As of this writing (June 2020) I haven’t found another Tony or Anthony in the names of any of the authors or painters or whoevers involved in any of the secret art objects sprinkled throughout the film. So, as of right now, Tonys only correlate to goodness.
But there is the small matter of Danny’s grandfather, Mark Anthony Torrance. While the film never gets into the existence of this man, the first two parts of his name are the same as a man in the life of Julius Caesar, who is one of the most abundantly occurring subtextual references in the film. And both these men of ancient history were the subjects of plays by Shakespeare, both of whom died under ignoble circumstances connected to the pursuit of ultimate power. So it seems that Tony’s connection to this long lost hubris was not lost on Kubrick.
In general, I think Tony works best as a limb of the film’s obsession with twins and duos. “Tony” looks a bit like “Two-ny” as in “Danny number two”. As if Danny has named his second self “Me 2”. When pondering his relationship to the other twin-like figures in the film, I often think of Frodo’s description of Aragorn in The Fellowship of the Ring: if Tony were really evil, he would “look fairer and feel fouler”. If Tony were really another Lloyd or Grady type character, he wouldn’t give Wendy the stink face all the time, and he would probably be a little more suave and a little less frustratingly cryptic.
TOWER OF FABLE
A complex theory growing out of the writing and research phase for the sixth documentary series, This Is The Story Room. It’s mainly comprised of three major conceits:
1) The numbers appearing on the SKU boxes in the kitchen storeroom are all made up of what are call Aarne-Thompson code numbers (or AT codes). So, Little Red Riding Hood‘s AT code is 333, and 333 appears above Jack’s head when he’s woken by Grady, in a scene that’s followed by Hallorann riding a little red snowcat up Mt. Hood. There’s at least 133 of these AT codes to consider amidst the boxes, but every fable invoked by the film has a number that is featured somewhere in the “story room”. Here’s the link for this part.
I should also note that the page numbers in King’s novel may have inspired this phenomenon. Read all about it here.
2) It occurred to me, upon inspecting the blueprints of the Overlook, as designed by fellow Shining theorist Juli Kearns, that the various layouts of the major areas of the hotel are either very similar in design (as in the case of the lobby, lounge, and Gold Room) or could fit perfectly within a certain area of another layout (as in the case of the kitchen/bloodfall hall overlaying snugly within the L-shaped pattern of the lobby’s east side). It helped me realize that the reason we never see anyone pass between these areas might be because they’re actually meant to sit atop one another like some Gothic horror Tower of Babel. I then made a grid by which to see if the locations of certain objects and story events would coincide in any meaningful way, and I’m happy to say I think I’ve discovered abundant enough evidence for this, as detailed in this section, which I call Star-Crossed Blueprints. If this phenomenon was intentional, it’s worth pointing out here, that no area of the hotel would be wider than 11 squares, or taller than 7 squares, making a 7×11 chess board of sorts out of Overlook. Consider the significance of 7-11s from the last section.
3) I had previously made a list of every 30 seconds of what happens in the film, across from whatever’s happening in the 30 mirrorform seconds on the other side, in order to see if there were broad-stroke large-scale patterns that could be pointed to to show Kubrick’s structural conceptions were intentional. Then I discovered The Rum and the Red, which caused me to fold the film a second time, and when I tried to make a graphic that showed these four layers of narrative, what I realized is you have to go to 15-second chunks, or else you’ll lose the last little bit of overlay, and everything gets screwed up. That helped me realize that you’d have to go to 7.5-second chunks if you folded it again. Then 3.75, then 1.875, and so on (pretty close to 7-3-2, eh?). And as I imagined this process, with an 8-layer/thrice-folded version of the film at my disposal, I realized that as you fold the film again and again, there’s always one of the four bloodfall moments somewhere within seconds of the midpoint of the newly-folded Shining, seeming to beg us to fold again. Long story short, you can fold the film 7 times to where it’s 66 seconds long, made up of 128 layers of the film all playing at the same time. And what I realized is that the four bloodfalls can all still play out in their entirety at this super-compressed level, none having crossed over any of the midpoints. As a result, this 66-second film goes: 2 seconds of no bloodfall, then 47 seconds of bloodfall in chunks of 17, 7, and 23, and finally 17 seconds of no bloodfall. 2-17-7-23-17. It’s like a mashup of the two scariest rooms from the novel (217) and the film (237). This is the “DNA” of Kubrick’s arch editorializing.
Also, those four sequences of bloodfalls are interrupted at four moments, and at the 66-second level, these occur at 11-13 seconds (Wendy reacting to the real bloodfall), 21 seconds (a flash of REDRUM interrupting Danny’s final vision), 42 seconds (a split second view of the Grady twins interrupting Danny’s first vision), and 45 seconds (Danny’s scream face from the first vision). These happen to be the numbers for major years in the life of Adolf Hitler. 1911-13 were his prime painter years, cut short the following year by WWI. Then, 1921 was the year he became Führer of the Nazi party officially (3 weeks after the date in the photo Jack photo). And of course 1942-1945 were the years he squared off against the superpower that defeated him. So click here to read all the details.
Various objects in the film retain their physical quality in all ways but one throughout the film, like when Danny’s trike goes from being white to being red. Or when Jack’s typewriter goes from being white to being grey-silver. I’ve looked at phenomena like these in the section you can find here.
As for how these sit apart from other absurdities in the film: they don’t really, and I’ve often had a mind to combine them into the larger absurdity analysis, but the thing about some of these transformations (like with the trike and typewriter) is that the change becomes permanent, whereas other disappearing things reappear, and some inexplicably bizarre things aren’t really about permanent change, or are hard to tell what’s going on, frankly. Whereas these transformations seem to draw specific attention to way that these objects were once one way, and are now another. Naturally, I assume this has to do with the film’s obsession with butterflies, who are generally associated with ghosts and murder, the transformation of life into death.
The Twice-Folded Shining (or, The Twice-Fold)
Basically, you could think of the mirrorform as the “Once-Folded Shining” and The Rum and the Red as the “Twice-Folded Shining”, since you’re perfectly folding the 8470 seconds of the visual narrative into 2117 seconds of the film’s four layers playing simultaneously, two running forwards, two running backwards. Though, The Rum and the Red technically runs over the Twice-Fold mark, bringing its total seconds to 2323. As a result I see the Twice-Fold and The Rum and the Red as being separate phenomena, and I’d like to one day analyze the Twice-Fold in much the same way as I’ve analyzed the mirrorform. Alas, I’m almost out of space for photos on this website, and so you might have to be satisfied with what I managed to point out in the Rum and the Red analysis for now.
Twins and Duos
The Shining can seem, especially after reading everything on this site, like a giant hall of spinning mirrors, and perhaps because of this Kubrick laced the film with innumerable visual and figurative twins and duos. I’ve done my best to compile these into a list of every instance, but this was one of my earliest courses of personal study with the film, so it’s quite likely this will be an incomplete list at the moment. Click here to see what I’ve found so far.
There’s a couple of photos that appear behind Ullman in the interview, which appear at other locations in the hotel. I call these Ullman’s Eyes, and you can read all about them here.
The Uncanny Mountain
Kubrick brought up Freud’s idea of the uncanny valley to justify the nature and the dignity of telling a horror story.
“A story of the supernatural cannot be taken apart and analysed too closely. The ultimate test of its rationale is whether it is good enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. If you submit it to a completely logical and detailed analysis it will eventually appear absurd. In his essay on the uncanny, Das Unheimliche, Freud said that the uncanny is the only feeling which is more powerfully experienced in art than in life. If the genre required any justification, I should think this alone would serve as its credentials.”
In fact, the film is awash in uncanny valleyisms from the notion of a somewhat dull and inarticulate five-year-old being the mental superior of his worldly, erudite father, to the notion of what is Jack really experiencing when we see him talking to ghosts who disappear when others are around, to one of the film’s most incredible narrative inventions: Jack’s walk through Room 237, in which we’re at once unsure of whose eyes we’re seeing walking through the room (it could be Jack, Danny, or even Hallorann reliving the experience through Danny’s shine). Even once Jack sees the naked ghost, the experience that Danny had, which we see him again later shining to Hallorann, is functionally the same, minus the make-out session. All three of the main men in the film experience the exact same journey through the room, and we experience it through each of their perspectives simultaneously. It may not register at the time, but in that moment, the first-time audience is experiencing the uncanny valley of visual perception.
Up the Down Staircase
As discussed in the intro to the Redrum Road analysis, this is my term for the way Kubrick seems to consider every element of his story at its macro and micro.
The Wall Rugs
There’s a set of five rugs that hang on the walls of the lobby, and three locations in or near the gold room. Click here to read about what they can tell us about the film’s themes and the Overlook’s spatial composition.
What’s in an Inn?
As described in the entry on the subject of “home” the word “inn” comes from the Romansh word “En” which means “water”. Perhaps because of this, there’s an abundance of paintings in the film depicting bodies of water, many of which bear connections to one another. Here’s a complete list, in case you’d like to cross-compare.
- The Battle of Sisters Creek
- Beaver Swamp
- Campement du trappeur (Trapper’s Camp)
- December Afternoon
- Denver Flood Commemorative Poster
- Dog, Boy, and St. John River
- Hood River Valley Postcard
- Log Hut on the St. Maurice
- Makah Returning in Their War Canoes
- Maligne Lake, Jasper Park
- Mandarin Ducks
- Mist Fantasy, Sand River, Algoma
- Mt Hood in Autumn Photo
- Mystery Carmichael
- Mystery Jackson
- Mystery Monahan
- Mystery Vesuvius
- Northern River
- Paysage d’hiver, Laval (Winter Landscape, Laval)
- Pether-style Vesuvius painting
- Red Maple
- The Solemn Land
- Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay
- Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World)
- The Tower of Babel
- Two Niagara Falls Postcards
- Wood Section Landscape of Mt. Hood
There’s also a few as-yet-unidentified pieces in Ullman’s Office and the BJ Well worth looking at for a complete idea of all the water-based works. And there’s water imagery on the cover of Field and Stream Magazine, in the name of The Beach Girls, intrinsic to the story of the Gingerbread man, and in the very nature of bog oak. And there’s numerous photos throughout the film of people posing with the large fish they’ve just caught, or showing them boating or fishing around, only one of which do I maybe have a positive ID for yet (the one of the Wendy II). And we might consider how the bloodrug and waverug and probably also the rainbowrug bear a symbolic connection to water on top of their proximity to the bloodfall.
But yeah, that’s at least twenty-eight for sure featuring or referencing bodies of water, with six more that very likely or definitely do feature water. If there are merely two more than what I have with references to bodies of water in their names, or some such, we could be looking at thirty-seven water-inspired paintings and postcards.
Anyhow, that’s not the entirety of my point, here. I’m also struck by the way that the nationalities of the painters in certain areas are frequently exclusive to certain countries of origin. So, for instance, everything I’ve ID’d concretely in the lobby so far (which is eighteen of the total twenty-nine pieces) is by Canadian artists. And several of unidentified pieces strongly resemble the works of Canadian artists like Franklin Carmichael, JF Lansdowne, and Hugh Monahan. Only The Tower of Babel and Theatrum Orbis Terrarum are by non-Canadians, and both of those were Dutch artists who were also good friends in the 16th century. And both of those are never seen in the lobby again after Jack arrives for the interview. Blue circles in the below image represent pieces I’m not sure about, and the German flags refer to pieces that are not paintings.
Similarly, everything properly ID’d in room 237 (not counting the Colville in the antechamber) is by a British artist, while everything outside (blue circles indicate pieces I’m not sure about) is either Canadian or British.
So I guess what I’m wondering is: if we can ever ID everything, will there emerge a story about the nature of nations, and of war and conquest and things like that? And maybe even how water is at the heart of it all?
A wink is my shorthand for any little reference or peculiarity that draws the viewers attention to Kubrick’s hidden schemes.
I don’t think I have anything to say here that isn’t covered in the part of the art section that focuses on the Pooh bear’s appearances, and his connection to Wendy. And I can’t remember if I’ve linked from anywhere to here, so if I did, click this link for the goods.
The Work/Play Dynamic
They aren’t just words in Jack’s endless psychobabble, “work” and “play” are major themes of the film, and Kubrick went as far as to bake them into a secret language that peppers the entire film. Click here to read all about.
World War II and Genocide
I’ve made this the last entry in this glossary to work on I think because I’m daunted by the scale of the implications here. Like, should we talk about everything that goes with the Pillars of Hercules theory, since that has to do with the genocidal nature of the gods? Should we talk about everything there is to say about the genocides of the indigenous populations of America?
This is actually a place where I tend to agree with Kubrick’s assistant Leon Vitali, who speaks out against interpreting the film as simply a metaphor about the Holocaust, a subject that Kubrick would have confronted head-on in his never-realized film Aryan Papers. But we would be forced apart in our analyses if he were to go as far as to say The Shining has nothing to do with World War II. For starters, the hotel is peppered with works of art by the Group of Seven, whose paintings are thought to have been used as a form of propaganda during that time.
There’s also the recurring images of the Volkswagen Beetle (a car that Hitler proposed the development of), driven by a man from Berlin, New Hampshire (Hitler killed himself in Berlin), and a floating copy of Burda Moden, a German fashion magazine. Both of these objects are considered major icons of what’s called the German economic miracle or the Miracle on the Rhine, referring to how quickly and wondrously the German economy recovered after the war.
There’s also a painting very likely by Alois Arnegger and one painting definitely by Louise-Amélie Panet-Berczy, wife of William Berczy (and that painting is about America’s failed invasion of Canada). Both of these men were graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the art school that most famously rejected the applications of Adolf Hitler in 1907 and 1908 (the years that the Overlook was being constructed you might recall). So it’s worth considering their placement and movements throughout the hotel. The Arnegger piece features most prominently behind Jack’s head when he’s doing his “Little pigs, little pigs” routine. And if you saw Room 237, you’ll recall that an early Disney cartoon linked the Three Little Pigs to notions of anti-semitism.
And speaking of anti-semitism, the album that appears most visibly at the foot of Hallorann’s Miami bed, Commoners Crown, kicks off with the song Little Sir Hugh, based on a 13th century song about a little boy supposedly murdered by a gang of Jews, with lyrics noted for their hatefulness. The band Steeleye Span deleted these aspects of the original writing for their version. It might be worth pointing out here that there’s a painting by a Hugh Monahan (a painter who acquired PTSD in the war) with an intimate connection to ideas of murder.
And speaking of music, composer Krzysztof Penderecki, whose music appears in seven compositions used repeatedly, is noted for creating works inspired by the second world war. Penderecki composed a 1968 version of Dies Irae (the 13th century song that plays at the start of The Shining) in memory of the victims of Auschwitz, and rose to fame by composing Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. For a short time I thought a segment of music from the part where Jack arrives at the end of Danny’s trail in the labyrinth was a short excerpt from Threnody, it sounds so much like De Natura Sonoris #2.
The children’s toy known as Fuzzy Felt Farm, which appears in Danny’s bedroom, was invented as a result of WWII.
The film Summer of ’42 is, of course, all about a boy falling in love with the partner of an overseas bomber pilot, a mere season into America’s involvement in the war.
And there are several books (fiction and non-fiction) with links to the war, such as:
- Bomber Pilot: A Memoir of World War II, which appears next to Tony-Danny while he goes “REDRUM” and when Jack’s axe first begins its assault on Suite 3
- Catch-22 and Catcher in the Rye, both of which appear in the first shot of the dining area in Boulder, are either set in the war, or begin just after war’s end
- China Flight, which I’m not sure if I’ve got right, is about the horrors of Japan’s invasion of China after Pearl Harbour
- A yet to be ID’d book called Europe is one I suspect will bear some connection
- Holding On is the story of one British family before, during and after the war
- Orange Wednesday concerns the post-war period, and involves ex-Nazis and Neo-Nazism, and was written by a man who covered the trial of Adolf Eichmann
- The Wish Child was a big hit with Germans in the time between the two world wars, and its author, Ina Seidel, became a friend of Hitler and the Third Reich, though she would go on to write works that dealt with the Christian guilt about involvement in the Holocaust
So that’s six books with clear connections/allusions to the second world war, and two that might be right or not. Is that enough? Is eight books, a movie, a children’s toy, a song off an album, a dozen or more paintings, a host of references to other genocides, a magazine and a VW Beetle enough for us to say Kubrick might’ve been slightly invoking WWII here?
Well, there’s also the fact that there was an Olympian named Jack Torrance who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the same games that Leni Riefenstahl helped transform into Nazi propaganda through her twin documentaries Olympia (Part I and II). In the novel, Lorraine Massey (the 237/217 ghost) kills herself after drinking a bottle of Olympia (pg. 22), and we learn that book Jack turned to football in high school as a way to work off his aggressions resulting from his abusive alcoholic father (pg. 109), back in Berlin, New Hampshire.
There’s also the small matter (and I do mean small) of the Overlook phonebooks, and how one of them is for Buenos Aires, Argentina, the place Hitler was thought by some to have escaped to. Click here to see all the evidence for that, but just know that there’s now sufficient evidence for Hitler’s suicide, and that there’s a strong chance this detail was included at the behest of The Shining‘s producers, two of which produced the science fiction film The Boys from Brazil, concerning a cabal of Neo-Nazis making Hitler clones in South America. If Kubrick had a personal, artistic reason for connecting Jack to Hitler, I think it’s merely to show how he, like Hitler, saw himself as a failed artist, and turned to murder and strong-man-ism as a way to vent his frustrations at not getting to live the life of praise and worship he thought would come through self-expression.
The Younger Dryas Cataclysm
It’s almost pure speculation on my part, but while writing the Pillars of Hercules section, it hit me that there might be a deeper psychological connection between the floods of ancient herstory and male-on-female violence. Click here to read all about it.
ZooKEEPERs and SchoolTEACHERs
We learn at the beginning that Jack is formerly a schoolteacher, and at the middle of the movie Jack is passing through room 237, which is outfitted with at least three paintings by Ralph Thompson, best known for documenting the zoo of zoologist Gerald Durrell. I’ve mainly seen the Durrell connection as a reference to Noah’s Ark, since Durrell wrote several books comparing zoos to mythic Arks. But it’s also occurred to me that zoos are a bit like classrooms for how they attempt to corral and civilize/educate their inhabitants. And besides the direct connection to Noah’s Ark, the Overlook features dozens of animal artworks throughout its many chambers, and the Torrances survive there alone for about 44 days and nights (close to Noah’s 40 days and nights) and ultimately fail the test.
Perhaps what this reflects is how it’s Jack’s wild temper that loses him his teaching position, and the Overlook serves to show how he’s a poor zookeeper as well. Danny’s lessons and escapes show a different kind of storm readiness, and show how there’s more than one way to be a good Noah.
MAIN PAGE ⎔ SITE MAP ⎔ GLOSSARY
OTHER MAIN PAGES FOR SHINING ANALYSIS
THE MIRRORFORM ⎔ THE BEATLES ⎔ THE RUM AND THE RED
BACKGROUND ART ⎔ OVERLOOK PHOTOGRAPHS ⎔ GOLDEN SPIRALS
PHI GRIDS ⎔ PATTERNS ⎔ VIOLENCE AND INDIGENA ⎔ ABSURDITIES
THE STORY ROOM ⎔ ANIMAL SYMBOLS ⎔ THE ANNOTATED SHINING