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PILLARS OF HERCULES ⎔ GREEK FACES ⎔ SHAME OF BEING WATCHED
FOUR HORSEMEN ⎔ GOLDEN BOWL ⎔ INDIGENOUS CONTENT
It took me a while to come around on this concept, but I think Wendy’s final four trials in the film are meant to reflect the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I’m not sure if this has significance beyond illuminating certain unclear elements (by which I simply mean that I’m not a bible scholar, and have no interest in becoming one), so there’s possibly a host of subtle points I’m missing out on. But let’s look at what the layperson can see.
First off: what’s the order of the horsemen?
Conquest (white), war (red), famine (black), death (pale).
(Not unlike the procession of figures in The Masque of the Red Death, eh?)
And what’s the order of Wendy’s horrors? The blowjob bear (light blue), dead Hallorann and the Grady ghost (light red), the skeleton ball (dark blue), and the bloodfall (dark red). Note too that the blue scenes feature a left-handed knife, and the red scenes feature a right-handed knife.
For a long time, actually, before I even started Eye Scream, I noticed this oscillation, and wondered if it had something to do with politics. The red vs. blue of contemporary liberal/conservative, democrat/republican, socialist/fascist rudimentary political delineations.
I still think that analysis is apt, for the record, but I’m wondering if the four horsemen add another dimension. Those who recall my section on Danny’s left-right lessons and escapes will know how important lefts and rights are to The Shining. And since Wendy will also survive this ordeal, I think Kubrick felt that she had to undergo some left-rights of her own, and invoked the four horsemen in part to achieve this.
The film, after all, begins with the song Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), which was about judgment day, the thing the horsemen arrive to usher in. And the first shot in the film includes a view of Mahtotopa Mountain. Mahtotopa is a misspelling of Mato-tope, a Mandan chief whose name means “Four bears”. So, is that just a clever coincidence? Or do bears themselves have a connotation to death and destruction in the film?
Short answer: yep. They do. Like how the mirrorform moment for Hallorann getting the axe to the chest is Danny resting on a giant bear.
Or how the spot where Hallorann is killed is seen surrounded by bears.
Or how Wendy runs over a dead bear while Jack dreams of chopping her up into little pieces.
And let’s not forget this guy. Or is it a guy?
Doesn’t its pronounced, globular, make-upped eyelids and large, dulcet irises look like a sly nod at Shelley Duvall’s natural features. Wendy is compared several times, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, to Winnie-the-Pooh, so this Pooh bear-toned mask would seem to be another wink in that direction.
Also, of the four mirrorform moments of Wendy’s horror face, only the first one overlays with something outside of Jack’s interview, and that’s the first one. Going by the bible, the first horsemen is Conquest. So why would Wendy be seeing an abstraction of herself while passing through Conquest?
THE FOUR HORSEMEN PORTALS: CONQUEST
At the risk of sounding like I’m only saying this to defend Wendy’s honour, I want to say before we continue that I don’t know if the four horsemen, with their odious designations, are meant to be regarded as entirely bad things. Conquest is part of how all the cultures of the world have come together; war can be waged against despots and tyrants; famine can force invention and adaptation; and death is the great neutralizer, bringing an end to all things good, yes, but also all things bad. We are creatures of good and bad, and so the horsemen are hominids for a reason.
Kubrick himself had complex views on warfare. According to his biographer, Michael Herr, Kubrick didn’t think war was altogether bad, and, “…he also accepted that it was perfectly okay to acknowledge that, of all the things war is, it’s also very beautiful.” Did this logic extend to the other three horsemen? I suspect it might’ve.
My own understanding of Wendy’s situation is this. She’s alone in a remote place, and feels like she has no one to reach out to for help. When Jack starts to crack, banishing her from his workplace (which as far as she’s concerned is the entire hotel–by the way, isn’t it funny how the more familiar you become with this story, the less you think of the Overlook as Jack’s workplace?) and no doubt rendering their connection rather sexless, she knows on some level not to rely on her five-year-old as a substitute, but who else is there?
Her next move is to connect with the forest rangers, but that only gets her so far, and the mechanical tone of their dialogue discourages future discourse (“Is there anything else I can do for you, Mrs. Torrance? Over.”).
After that fizzles, she tries watching an R-rated film with Danny about sex and war. When he retreats from that under the pretence of wanting his fire engine, possibly to preserve his position as her child, she tells him to come right back…for lunch!
The next time she sees him, he’s dissociated into Tony from his experience with a nude old ghost lady, and he’ll remain Tony (or remain buried within Tony) for almost the entirety of the remainder. When she speaks to a Tony/Danny shouting bloody REDRUM, she goes straight to addressing him the way she addressed Jack in the lounge, “Come on, hon, wake up. You just had a bad dream. Everything’s okay.”
I think placing this level of responsibility on Danny to help her maintain her equilibrium is a part of why she didn’t take him and run when she had the chance: in her mind, Danny was worthy of replacing the disintegrating Jack. If she understood how alone and threatened she was, she might’ve acted with greater self-preservation sooner. And so this effort to draw Danny into the role of surrogate husband is a kind of conquest. It’s not full-blown incest or any kind of abuse that arch and life-destroying for Danny, but that’s why the blowjob bear is so horrifying. Wearing the face of a warped, Wendy-like Winnie-the-Pooh (Wendy’s protector icon in Danny’s pantheon of toys), the mother can now see the nightmare of the direction she was headed in with her son. And that’s why I think it’s so perfect that this horror overlaps with mirror Danny’s dawning horror at the nature of his first shine. Her gaping mouth and Danny’s widening eye in the mirrorform create a spear of darkness that seems to lance both mother and child.
In Danny’s first shine from Tony, he sees the bloodfall, the twins, and his own screaming face. That’s the face he’ll make at the end of the film when Hallorann gets murdered. So, Tony is essentially warning Danny, before he’s even met Hallorann, that if he goes to the hotel, someone is going to die, and it’s going to be terrible. When Hallorann is killed, Danny is within earshot, inside the steel cupboard. And even if he somehow couldn’t hear the old man shouting, he most certainly would’ve shone Dick’s presence. He could’ve easily warned Dick with his shine power that death was approaching.
I know this is a lot to expect of a 5-year-old (even one that speaks like a Stephen King character) and his magic shine buddy (how many of us, Tony or no Tony, would know what to do in this situation at 5?), and that’s why I don’t really hold Danny/Tony responsible for Dick’s death.
Any more than I really hold Wendy responsible for getting confused about her son’s role in her life. But both are being shown here a kind of abstract, objective judgment about the dangerous roads they’re heading down.
Also, there’s two paintings by Frederick Horsman Varley (emphasis on the “Horsman”) that appear in the Death (Arpeggio, 1932), Famine (Stormy Weather, 1921) and War (Stormy Weather, 1921) portals, and, so far as I know, no such “horsman” painting appears in the Conquest portal. The bear mask person in that area resembles a hideous Winnie-the-Pooh, while the last (hitherto unseen) painting she encounters in the last portal is Varley’s Arpeggio.
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)? Is she a Conquest, or a War/Famine/Death? 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. But Wendy is associated at other times to Winnie-the-Pooh, so she’s at least part Winnie, and in the sense that she’s associated to the horsemen through that Conquest connection, she’s also part “Freddie”. She’s mostly Wendy, I think it’s fair to say, but Hallorann was able to see the conflict in her right away. And perhaps by posing this question he was helping her to realize the way that we all have component parts to us, preparing her for what she encounters throughout her final escape portals.
The mirror moment is Jack saying, “No need to rub it in, Mr. Grady. I’ll deal with that situation as soon as I get outta here.” In my mirrorform analysis page for this sequence I note how, while Wendy gets stuck in a literal window and is saved by the arrival of Hallorann, which is just like how the imaginary Pooh bear is pulled out of Rabbit’s hole by Rabbit and the very real Christopher Robin working together, Jack’s situation is the opposite: he’s a real person stuck in “rabbit’s hole” (Hallorann is compared to rabbits throughout the film) who is boosted out by the imaginary Delbert Grady. So we could say that Jack is like a “Winnie” talking to a “Freddie” here. Which, again, underscores the significance of the “Wendy” designation.
The one thing I can’t quite resolve (and it’s sort of a moot point) is why the Overlook takes it upon itself to edify Wendy in this way. None of the ghosts advance on her, or threaten her, and the bloodfall is technically an inanimate phenomenon. My best guess is that it hoped one of these Four Horsemen Portals would drive Wendy insane, or cause her to kill herself in a fit of despair, or that they were meant to delay her while Jack finished the job with Danny. But if you look at it from the perspective of Danny being fully equipped to handle the Jack situation, and the hotel not doing anything physical to Wendy during her escape, it’s kind of funny that it chooses to do this with its remaining grip on power.
Edification? Delay? Fuck you?
But it’s not a fuck you, because Wendy just passed the Trapper’s Camp painting, which signifies the hotel gloating over Hallorann’s death. Perhaps in a strange way the Four Horsemen Portals reflect the way Wendy’s mind responds to the nature of the hotel, the way Lloyd was partly a manifestation of Jack’s. She sees Conquest first because of her immediate guilt about not getting Danny out sooner, perhaps.
Now, before we move on to War, we should spare a thought for all the artwork in the Conquest stairwell, since it is one of the most art-heavy realms of the hotel. Sadly, I’ve only concretely ID’d about half, but of the ones I know there’s some interesting crossover.
The first piece she passes is from right before Danny sees the Grady twins, which is a Nicholas de Grandmaison portrait of a Bearspaw child. The scene immediately following Danny’s encounter with the twins is Wendy showing him Summer of ’42 (a symbol of her conquest impulse).
Then there’s the Hornyansky one after that. And nothing says “conquest” quite like Hornyansky.
The next is Trapper’s Camp, which will appear by the bloodfall in all the visions (though not to Wendy in real life). My most complex theory about this painting is that it indicates the hotel’s ultimate desire: the murder of Dick Hallorann. In the chronology of the film, Dick was just murdered, so Wendy passing it a second after passing the Oxborough seems like the hotel gloating over having claimed another life. And if you appreciate all the buried subtext about the violence involved in the conquest of the Americas, Dick is probably the epitome of that aspect of the film.
Then she passes two yet-to-be-confirmed pieces that seem to be showing Mont St. Michel, France, and Derwentwater, England. The former is a tidal island nearest to a fellow tidal island named Tombelaine. In the novel, when the Torrances live in Boulder they live beneath “Tom” and “Elaine”, who are always having bitter, audible fights. And once Jack starts to learn about the hotel’s sordid history, much of it seems connected to the first post-war owner Horace Derwent, who shows up as a ghost throughout the story. Kubrick seems to have noted that both these sets of character names connected to places with connection to water and flooding. Which is doubly cool since the mirror moment for this is Danny seeing his first vision of the bloodfall (see below), and Wendy looks like she’s tramping through the flood.
Then she passes two more Oxboroughs, one of which repeats at the 2nd entrance (see below), where she passed through to find the dead snowcat, and where Jack will pass to chase after Danny into the labyrinth in the scene following this one. The other does not, to my knowledge, repeat anywhere else, and its title is nothing that distinguishes it from Oxborough’s other works (Native American Girl Child), so perhaps it’s just there to evoke more Oxborough-ness. More of the manifest destiny dimension of the film. I don’t know.
If the Hercules vs. Geryon subtext is correct, then Moon and Cow appearing here could have a connection to the European conquest of the Americas. But as discussed in the analysis of the painting, this painting appears above the 23rd step out of 37 that Wendy climbs, and I believe this has a little something to do with our attempt to set foot on the moon. A kind of benign conquest, perhaps.
This piece is called The Johnson House, Hanover, and has no connection I’m aware of to the Johnson cult of New Hanover Island, but if that is the reference Kubrick is making, that was a fascinating example of a nation unconquered by the nation they were inviting to conquer them. Basically, a group of Lavongai people in Papua New Guinea, after decades of being invaded by different world powers, voted in their first democratic election for President Lyndon B. Johnson to be their president. This was an act of political theatre and rebellion against Australia for its poor behaviour as their prior colonizers. My guess is that several of the other unidentified paintings in the Conquest stairwell would bear out similar narratives if we ever ID them.
For instance, the portrait to Wendy’s right here I believe to be by the art professor Thomas Eakins, who lived most of his professional life in shame for being sexually suggestive and provocative with his students, in some cases using himself as a nude example to female artists, in the late 1800s.
The painting to the left here is of the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius doing a little erupting in the distance. There’s lots to be said on the Vesuvius issue, and how it could connect to conquest. And muskox are called muskox because of the sexual musk they give off during mating season. Also, while I’ve ID’d the Naples painting itself, the painter is unknown, but resembles the works of a family of artists known as the Pethers, who apparently fell into some ruination, and I wonder if that’s why this piece is of unknown origin. Also, I haven’t officially ID’d the muskox piece, but it’s clearly depicting that animal.
As for the final piece inside the blowjob room, I have theories about it, but nothing positive. The dominant theory: it’s possibly of Broughton Island, named for the man who named the mountain upon which the Overlook sits, Mt. Hood, while on the Vancouver expedition. If so, that’s another interesting conquest factoid. A Brit named a mountain in what later became America, and the name stuck.
One last thing: while the visible rooms on the second floor read 15 and 17 for its address, the two visible rooms above are 105 and 107. So, since we’re talking the four horsemen here, these could be Revelation quotes. 10:5-10:7. I’m not sure I see the connection, but that line about how the “mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” does sound related to how Danny is just about to receive Tony’s prophecies, and how, in this moment with Wendy, they’ve almost all come to pass. The bloodfall (Death) will be another couple minutes.
THE FOUR HORSEMEN PORTALS: WAR
The rest of these should be a lot simpler to talk about.
Here, Wendy is seeing the Grady ghost while Ullman is telling the Grady story. The art in this hall, which will actually be repeated in the bloodfall hall, is largely by the Group of Seven, Canadian painters, many of whom got their starts as painters in the first world war, and whose art was later used as post-WWII propaganda to promote a more idyllic view of the world, I guess, or to promote Canada’s natural splendour.
When Wendy looks back and sees Grady, a man of violence like Jack, he’s standing next to a painting called Makah Returning in their War Canoes by Paul Kane. This is the only visible art near him because the ones we saw before on the wall behind have disappeared, and the other one Jack passes earlier is hiding behind the glass display case. My best so far for what that other art is is from an ancient piece of art called a Biblia Pauperum, which was inspired by the Great Famine of 1315-17 (see below), in which Death rides a lion above Famine. If the piece is something like that, then perhaps Wendy represents the conquest aspect of this scene, and all four horsemen are being invoked at once, but I’m not sure why that would be, honestly. As we’ll see, this area will be connected in two very different ways to Famine and Death, so, perhaps that’s all it is. In which case, perhaps Wendy isn’t completely emblematic of Conquest.
Until further discoveries are made, I’m content to imagine this to be the War sequence.
THE FOUR HORSEMEN PORTALS: FAMINE
While Wendy is witnessing the skeleton ball, Ullman has just finished saying to Jack how isolation and solitude can become a problem for some people. Jack smugly and confidently replies, “Not for me.”
Just as we’re reducing conquest to an improper sexual urge and war to one man’s murder-suicide, famine can be reduced to the fact of there not being enough of something to go around. In this sense, while you can easily tie all the other horsemen to him, I think famine really is Jack’s dominant horseman. He doesn’t have enough social interaction in his life, and he was never a good enough writer to avoid this fate, so that feeds off his lack of inspiration, and he doesn’t even notice that he’s typing the same phrase over and over, perhaps imagining that he’s saying much much more.
The photo next to his head here is the one that will be hanging right behind where Wendy’s standing here, along with photo Jack’s photo, in the last shot of the film. In this photo, a bunch of wealthy people sit around dinner tables. In photo Jack’s photo, a sprawling sea of partiers celebrate American independence. There’s not a trace of famine about these photos, but they’re really illusions of abundance. They make the hotel seem full of souls and faces, just like the ghost ball does, but they’re empty mental calories. They do nothing to stave off the madness of starvation. That’s what Wendy’s seeing when she sees the skeleton ball. The horrifying irony of the starved-to-death poised in acts of empty abundance.
There’s a few other neat little things to observe here, like how the last time Wendy was coming up this hall she was pushing Jack the breakfast cart she made for him (feast vs. famine).
Or check this one out: there’s two servant skeletons in this scene, right? Look where they’re positioned.
These are the exact points that Jack walks between in his last fully sane moment in the film. So it’s as if the hotel is telling Wendy (if she had somehow seen the movie we’ve seen) that this is what her husband traded his soul for. To be a famished skeleton butler forever, and ever, and ever. And that that tendency of his pre-existed the violence (war), the aggression (conquest), and the suicide (death). His ultimate fear is his lacking, his not being enough.
It’s also worth pointing out that Wendy is running into the same room she just saw dead Hallorann in, but from the other side, and Hallorann has evaporated. Obviously, that’s not the only change, here. It’s like Kubrick’s saying War and Famine are two sides of a coin. On the one side, the death we inflict on others, and on the other, the death that’s inflicted on us. What we take away, and what’s taken from us.
Because of this, and the earlier shot of horrified Wendy standing in front of the spot where photo Jack’s photo will be, I like to think that part of Wendy’s horror in this moment is the final setting-in that, much as she probably never wanted to see him again at this moment, Jack is not going to make it. Her husband is going to die this night.
THE FOUR HORSEMEN PORTALS: DEATH
So, Wendy has passed through the horror of her own participation in the collapse of her family (Conquest), the horror that the man she loved and trusted enough to marry has become the absolute worst version of himself and is no better than the assholes of yesteryear (War), the horror that all this was somewhat out of her control and was determined by pre-existing conditions (Famine), and now she must face the ultimate horror: all is vanity.
Her witnessing the bloodfall is her witnessing the fact that everything dies, no matter what can be tried to stop it. Whether it takes a hundred years, or a billion years, or ten hundred thousand million billion trillion jillion years, nothing can last forever. At least, we know of no inexhaustible resource, and the supernatural realm is all speculation at best (did you hear the large hadron collider disproved the existence of ghosts?). Life is an uncaring meat grinder. Light, gravity, energy, matter, and time. And that’s basically it.
Of course, the reality of this can drive some people quite bonkers, and understandably so. If you’re not seduced by the comforts of religious delusion and dogmatism, you can be seduced the other way into the dark heart of pure nihilism (where I certainly spent my mid-teens). Your mind will make almost any bargain to convince you objective reality isn’t what it seems to be on its face. And I say this as someone who is still processing the death of his mother after 11 months. I feel like I completely understand and accept the reality of death, but that doesn’t make it any easier, somehow. So I completely get why some people go the Life of Pi route and opt for the exciting fantasy over the brutal reality.
But some people don’t get the choice of deciding, like Danny Torrance, who is shown the bloodfall by Tony, overcomes the Grady twins by realizing they’re just like scary pictures in a scary book, survives being strangled by an old zombie woman, and finally traps his howling, murderous father in a maze that kills him.
Hilariously, Kubrick thought The Shining was optimistic, as he saw all ghost stories being, for the way they imply life after death by their very narrative functionality. If there are ghosts, there must be an afterlife! But I think why so many people find Kubrick’s relief a joke is because they seriously don’t live in the reality that death is final, and that only oblivion lies beyond it. This is perhaps a glass half-full argument. If you think oblivion is scarier than a 50/50 shot at an afterlife, you’re like me and Kubrick. If you think even the possibility of hell is scarier than oblivion…you’re insane. Especially because hell keeps getting rewritten whenever the old hell loses its lustre. Nothingness is just nothingness. It, unlike religion, cannot evolve. You can’t imagine nothingness to be slightly better than you’re hoping it might be. It simply is nothingness.
Anyway, in the mirrorform here, Ullman is responding to Jack’s question about why the Overlook shuts down in the winter. He’s saying “When the place was built in 1907, there was very little interest in winter sports, and this site was chosen for its seclusion and scenic beauty.” Wendy’s eye makes a kind of third eye on Ullman while he makes a form with his hands like he’s praying (is he praying to the bloodfall, or to Jack, the bringer of Hallorann’s death?). It would perhaps make sense for Ullman to be praying to death, since his character can be linked to Satan (as I’ve discussed in my Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are study, but I don’t think I mentioned there that his name can be rearranged to spell Murtull Satan, which is what Stuart Ullman the man is in this context, a mortal Satan, though I think that’s probably just a silly coincidence).
Ullman’s little bloodfall speech here is also peppered with subtle references to death. He tells us the place was built in 1907, which he’ll do again later, before connecting this to the fact that the place is built on an indigenous burial ground, and how the builders had to “repel” (ie. shoot with bullets) some indigenous peoples attacking the builders (so perhaps the conquesters had some deaths as well). 1907 also happens to contain the same numbers as 1970, which was the winter Charles Grady hacked up his family and blew his brains out.
When he says there was “very little interest in winter sports” this brings to mind the fact that the games room is covered in skiing posters advertising the great fun of winter sports. The games room being where Danny sees his first ghosts.
And when he says “this site was chosen for its seclusion and scenic beauty” that’s the first invocation of the conditions that lead to Jack’s death. The beauty of the place makes him never want to leave (and he won’t), but the seclusion drives him to familicide.
The other major thing to note about the bloodfall hall is that it contains four instances of art that repeats at other areas of the hotel. The most interesting structural instance of this is the Group of Seven paintings Beaver Swamp, Mist Fantasy and Red Maple, which first appear in the eastern lobby access hall, where Wendy just saw the Grady ghost.
You’ll note that there’s been a major inversion. This is definitely not the same hall, technically, but it feels the same. Except either all the art hopped to the opposite side of the hall, or the red doors have flipped from north to south.
Ah, except the bloodfall doors aren’t doors, but an elevator. Wendy is standing at some glass doors, opposite an elevator. So the art then acts to let us know that it’s as if she’s running back into the Grady ghost hall. Which means that when the bloodfall starts falling, it’s as if it’s falling on Charles Grady. Which is possibly why Kubrick decided only to let us know he was the real Charles Grady through all the buried clues. Because part of the horror of the bloodfall is in its anonymity. This is all the blood of all the forgotten dead who’ve ever lived, loved, and laughed.
The hall that she’s running up to see the bloodfall appears to be the exact same design as the hall behind the lobby. Study the image below. This means that when Wendy’s looking toward the bloodfall, she’s standing in the same doorway that she ran through to escape Grady. Which means that the flat red wall behind her as she gazes over the waves of blood was the same spot that Danny was hiding in his steel cupboard, vulnerable to Jack’s discovering him. Also, where her run here starts is right at the same spot the clock was hanging earlier. Remember that, because that’ll be important at the end.
And you know, even with all the clues, I’m not 100% sure if that’s really Charles Grady. In the novel, some rando ghost says, “Great party, isn’t it?” and Kubrick obviously liked that line best for this moment, probably to throw any literalists off the scent. The shotgun wound on mystery ghost has cracked his head in such a way that it creates a mini bloodfall, and his glass of red rum evokes a certain red rum quality. But it’s still possible…that he’s not Grady. And that possibility speaks to the anonymous bloodfall. But to flip that argument around, doesn’t the possibility that he is Grady make the bloodfall even more significant? Because it would suggest that within this anonymity is an ocean of buried identities.
Stanley Kubrick: master of having his cake and eating it.
Oh, and note how in the reverse shot for both of these scenes we get a straight-white wall with dark brown wood and red accents, and a straight-red wall with dark brown wood and white accents.
Also, I should note that there’s nine chairs behind Wendy here, and there’s 9 years between the Grady murders and the Torrance murder.
The other major art to point out here is Hugh Monahan’s December Afternoon, which appears in every shot of the bloodfall, to Jack’s right once Danny jumps out of his hiding spot behind reception, and to the left of the elevators near the 2nd entrance.
I’m not exactly sure why it does this, but it jumps from left, to right, to left, in the moments we see it (there are three instances of characters seen in this hallway shot from the other direction, which would put it on the left each time, but it’s never in frame). In both instances with an elevator, it’s to the left…
…and while Wendy and Jack are both seen running out the 2nd entrance in the same way, Wendy’s instance crops out December Afternoon. I suppose this was done to keep appearances of it strictly to Jack’s death lust and the bloodfall, but shortly after Wendy runs through here, she finds the murdered snowcat. So…I don’t know. Seems deliberate, though.
Perhaps because Wendy doesn’t “see” it here, but does “see” it at the bloodfall, the effect was meant as a completion of her exposure to every evil that lives/lived inside her husk of a husband. When she saw the snowcat, she was only seeing most of the picture of his evil. But when she saw December Afternoon, she was finally seeing the Jack who would see their child running for his life, and run after him with an axe. She was seeing the man who would turn on those lights, and stride out into the snowy labyrinth in mortal pursuit.
There’s also a rug I call the waverug, which appears in a few of Danny’s visions, in the 2nd entrance hall, here in the bloodfall hall, and to the right of photo Jack at the end, opposite the rug I call the bloodrug. Together they make a “wave” of “blood”, though this last zoom is the first time the two are seen in the same shot (if anyone needs a good 80s synth-pop nostalgia band name, may I suggest Rum Reddy and the Bloodwaves? I think they would sound a little something like this).
In both Wendy and Jack’s flight through the 2nd entrance, the blood rug is seen in the centre, and then the waverug is seen to the right of the entrance. But if you imagine yourself looking into the hotel from the door to the outside, the waverug is left of the elevators here, in roughly the same spot as the waverug is to those elevators.
The last thing I’ll note here is the way this shot crops out Trapper’s Camp, the painting that probably refers to Hallorann’s murder. It appears in every other shot of the bloodfall, all Danny’s shines.
I suppose this was done because the murder portion of the film is done now (unless you think (wrongly, in my view) that the Overlook or Tony/Danny is responsible for Jack’s death). And this is just about death. In the 2nd portal Hallorann was a corpse, in the 3rd portal he was absorbed, and now…it’s all forgotten now.
SPECIAL: THE FOUR HORSEMEN PORTALS: INTERCONNECTIONS
I’ve already been covering this, but I just wanted to point out how all the portals connect to the other portals.
CONQUEST AND WAR
It’s possible I haven’t ID’d more substantial connections throughout, but these are worth noting.
When Jack is stalking to the spot where he’ll hide to kill Hallorann, he passes two Oxborough paintings of Bearspaw kids (4th image below) and a photo (2nd image below) which is only seen in one other place, which is when Wendy’s on the second floor. On the second floor of her climb, Wendy passes two of her own Oxboroughs, neither of which are the same as the ones from the lobby stalk, but hung in a similar eyes-shape pattern. All of these Oxboroughs appear at other points in the hotel except the one I double-boxed. Not sure if that’s significant.
It’s also neat that the photos both appear with bannisters in the shot, and the Oxboroughs both appear on either side of a set of doors.
The folded up bed stand beneath the one-time Oxborough also gives the same grid quality as the lobby latticework.
And, yes, it’s true that neither of those cross-connections appear on screen when Wendy herself is passing through the War portal, but I still think it’s significant.
CONQUEST AND FAMINE
Aside from the blue-yellow tones that dominate these two regions, there’s a couple other things to point out.
1) These are both areas we’ve been in before, but which have gained an alien quality that augments our previous experience. In the case of the lobby there’s the cobwebs, but more importantly, there’s a mirror missing on the wall behind Wendy here, and in its place we get that huge window light, but in the last two scenes of people passing up this hall, there’s no such window to shine this light. Which brings us to the second oddity.
2) Both these sequences have an instance of bizarre lighting. That huge glaring light that lobby Wendy is about to pass through is coming from the inside of the building. When she turns the corner, we see that the lobby extends just as wide as we remember, but the light here is as if powerful outdoors light is shining in through these windows. Then, in the Conquest stairwell, we get this powerful light emanating from the middle of the well, but we never see where it’s originating from. It’s as if a set of floodlights are suspended in the air in the middle of the well, and Wendy’s unbothered by this. In fact, you can see at moments, like in the third image below, how there’s even shadows for dead lights also hanging up out of the shot.
Also, note the similarity to the well outside Suite 3, where Jack looks back with more than casual interest at some passing dames. “Goodbye girls!” Ullman shouts, as Jack contemplates the coming famine of his potential to conquest.
This hall also contains two Oxboroughs, hung along the exterior wall of Suite 3, but again, neither is one of the ones in the Conquest well.
CONQUEST AND DEATH
This one might seem a little tricky on my part, but seriously, check this out. Almost the entire time Wendy is climbing the stairs, in the mirrorform Danny is having his first bloodfall vision. What’s more, for this one glorious instant, we’ve got two versions of Trapper’s Camp hanging on opposite sides of the screen, left for Conquest (Wendy holds the knife in her left hand here), right for Death (Wendy holds the knife in her right hand here).
Now, when Wendy gets to Death, Trapper’s Camp cannot be seen next to the bloodfall for the only time in the movie. It seems to have been cropped out, as if the imagine was processed to omit it (or was this scene actually shot with multiple cameras?). Perhaps that was done to throw people off the scent (it can be seen when Wendy approaches, but it’s way too small to confirm it still is the same painting), but I think it’s more about the fact that Hallorann’s death (what Trapper’s Camp symbolizes) has been dealt with. It’s fait accompli. And since we’ve already passed through Famine at that point, Jack’s death is also fait accompli. Because really, even if Jack had turned left instead of right in the heart of the labyrinth, Danny would’ve run off again, and maybe Danny would’ve ended up caught and axed, but a similar amount of time probably would’ve elapsed, leading to Jack’s being collapsed by the cold. I don’t think he would’ve made it back to warmth or safety. To say the least.
The shot that immediately follows this sight (of ours and Wendy’s) is of Danny in the heart of the maze, anxiously wondering if the trap he’s set for Jack will work. But it’s not a trap as much as a survival mechanism. He’s throwing Jack off the scent. Danny did not design the maze. Running away from a murderer trying to murder you (even one you’ve confused) is not itself murder. Jack had the free will not to go further into the maze. He might’ve followed the snow-steps back out and back into the hotel. So this is no longer about traps and camps. It’s about survival.
WAR AND FAMINE, WAR AND DEATH
I can probably skip this one, but yes, Wendy is entering opposite ends of the same room…
…which is, more abstractly, what happens with War and Death, as discussed.
The one thing worth noticing is how when Wendy is seeing Hallorann, she’s looking at the spot where photo Jack will hang, and when she’s seeing the skeleton ball, she’s looking away from photo Jack’s final resting place (or, if you will, at the same vista photo Jack is doomed to stare into forever). That seems like a sly nod to how Wendy could sense the violence in Jack (War), but not what was inspiring it (Famine).
Notice too how the end of the hall in Famine has gone completely dark, which, again, suggests Wendy’s obliviousness, or at least her inability to see.
FAMINE AND DEATH
With all the connections between the other six mash-ups in mind, this one’s neat for its uniqueness. It’s more about learning the nature of the building as a whole than identifying any photo or painting.
So, we know that the western corridor of the lobby leads to the Gold Room, not just from the signage, but also by the carpet. In Famine, Wendy is running eastward away from the Gold Room (technically north in the image below, but she stops while facing east). Note too how the two halls have the same style of mirror hanging on opposite sides of the path. In fact, many of the design elements are present, but inverted.
These two paths lead to two very different experiences of the same kind of thing. Whereas Jack is comforted by this obvious reminder of death and famine (all the music at the ghost ball is from 1932-34–The Great Depression), Wendy is horrified by it.
The corridor leading to the bloodfall tells us two things: 1) it’s the storage area for the Gold Room’s extra tables and chairs, and 2) its aesthetic is quite similar to the Gold Room bathroom. So, while it’s never completely clear what direction is being faced here, we know it’s another offshoot of the Gold Room. If we imagine that it’s on the west side of the Gold Room (logic would suggest it’s any side but east), then it would be opposite the path from the lobby. Why would that end of the hotel have an elevator? I have no idea. But it’s possible that this region is meant to be taken as imaginary, since the Gold Room bathroom is also imaginary, if not impossible. Wendy’s next sequence after this is her escape from the hotel, running out to intercept Danny by the snowcat. So I like the idea that the hotel’s last two moves against her were to try trapping her in the same room over and over (the lobby) and then to trap her in an imaginary portal.
So while Juli Kearns wrote a lovely essay on this subject, this is why I can’t stand objections to film-version Wendy, noting her supposed status as a snivelling weakling. She faced off against the fucking apocalypse, and came out the other side. She’s a damn champion.
FOUR HORSEMEN MUSIC CUES – CONQUEST
There’s also an interesting thing to note about the music used for the four horsemen. Conquest gets Penderecki’s Ewangelia and Polymorphia.
Ewangelia kicks off the resurrection portion of a two-part liturgical composition that deals with the entombment and resurrection of Christ. So if I remember my bible myths accurately, that would probably be the moment the boulder rolls away and reveals that Christ has come back from the dead. The word ewangelia is Polish for “gospel” which can mean the “good news”. So, the good news is that Hallorann’s dead and Wendy is almost a pedophile…?
As discussed, “polymorphia” means “many forms that mean the same thing”. Its inclusion only during Conquest would be quite key, because Conquest has been interpreted by some to also mean Pestilence, the Antichrist, or, as it happens, Christ. As far back as the 2nd century, scholars were interpreting Conquest as Jesus Christ, for various reasons, and that his emergence among the other horsemen represented the successful spreading of the gospel, and, hence, end times. Great party, isn’t it? But, man, is Kubrick mashing up Geryon and Christ? The antichrist?
But yeah, it makes sense to mash up Geryon and Conquest, doesn’t it? He’s a beast of multiple forms that no one can quite agree on, and Conquest is such a hard thing for people to all the way embrace or all the way disparage. Even calling it conquest starts to feel icky after a while. You can imagine technology freeing intelligent life from violence, poverty, and even mortality in some way, but how would it free us from give and take, exploration and encounter? Without placing us in an alternate reality of some kind, where we understood that nothing taking place inside resulted in actual suffering, but that seems kind of beside the point, doesn’t it? Kind of Matrixy.
FOUR HORSEMEN MUSIC CUES – WAR
This one is just Ewangelia again, which carries all the way to the start of Famine. In this sequence we get the very dead Hallorann and the very undead Charles Grady. It’s really difficult not to see that as at least a gentle ribbing at the resurrection.
FOUR HORSEMEN MUSIC CUES – FAMINE
So yeah, Ewangelia again follows Wendy’s flight up to the skeleton ball…
…and then the music shifts to Penderecki’s Kanon when the shot reverses on Wendy’s horror. I assume Kanon is also about Christ. Much of Penderecki’s work is liturgical, and this is called Kanon, so…
But I can’t find what exactly about Christ this piece is describing/invoking. Honestly, while I’m no especial fan of Christian mythology, obviously (which is not to say I can’t appreciate its beauty or its cleverness), I’m finding it hard to say whether the use of this music over these sequences is meant as a critique of that faith or not. Kubrick has been open about his not putting any credence in any known monotheisms, but does that mean he hotly disdains them?
I’m wondering if what he was going for with this was simply to apply a sense of fear to the very notion of an afterlife. Like, forget what any one religion or myth guesses what the afterlife might be life. Perhaps he was just trying to make us dread the mildest possibility that life proceeds after death. That line about him saying all ghost stories are optimistic for how they presume life after death might’ve been part of the dawning of this concept. And he just happened to use Christian music because he was structuring his story around wasps in a so-called Christian country. I highly doubt it’s that simple. But it could be.
It’s also worth noting, thanks to the brilliant work by Valerio Sbravatti, that of all the music applied in the film, Kanon was the most messed around with by Kubrick and his assistant editor Gordon Stainforth. It was chopped up, and sections were repeated, and the quality of the sound was messed with. So, there’s that element too. Even if Kubrick was using the music to express an attitude about Christianity, how he did that was by tearing it all to shreds and gluing it back together in his own Dr. Frankenstein kind of way.
Point being, the meddling was intrinsic. So could it be deliberately profane? My feeling is it slants aesthetical.
FOUR HORSEMEN MUSIC CUES – DEATH
Death carries on with Kanon from Famine, up to the zoom-in on the bloodfall.
At this point, another section of Utrenja, called Kanon Paschy, starts to play overtop Kanon (twin kanons?). The other track is about the passover aspect of Christ’s resurrection. Kanon plays over the full bloodfall, right to the cut to Danny hiding in the maze.
It’s worth noting that the only other two instances of Kanon Paschy are right when Wendy clubs Jack and right when she slashes him with the knife. So there’s a subtle linking together of Wendy’s violence against Jack, and the abstract notion of all the death of herstory.
FOUR HORSEMEN MUSIC CUES – OVERVIEW
So we’ve got Ewangelia with a dose of Polymorphia (Conquest), Ewangelia (War), a dose of Ewangelia into Kanon (Famine), and Kanon overlaid with Kanon Paschy (Death). Honestly, I just wanted to point out how this section is completely liturgical, but there’s something more going on, it seems.
For one thing, while Conquest is isolated in the mirrorform, it being the horseman that Wendy and Danny seem to share, the other three overlay with the interview. And here, Death is the only one without a dose of Ewangelia (the gospel, the good news). In the bible there are four dominant gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–and here we have four horsemen.
Now, I don’t have any proof for this, or much reason to think this is so, but perhaps this refers to the reality of the synoptic gospels. What are those? Well, it turns out that of the four gospels, three are largely identical (cuz the bible’s clever like that)–Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John is apparently almost totally unique.
If Matthew is Conquest, Mark is War, Luke is Famine and John is Death, it’s interesting to think that Death and the bloodfall could be being singled out in some way. The bloodfall is the only of the Horsemen Portals to have appeared before the end, and in three separate Tony visions. Also Death is somewhat unique on a literal level from the other horsemen, since while the others can lead to death, you could have a deathless conquest/war/famine, but you can’t have a deathless death. Except of course in myths like the resurrection of Christ. Maybe that’s why Death gets blasted with Kanons.
As for the “triple tradition” (the stuff that overlaps between the first three gospels), glancing over what Wikipedia feels are the notable overlaps, ones that jump out would be “calming the storm”, “the exorcism of a boy with a mute spirit“, and “render unto Caesar“. Caesar is a major subtext of the film as I’ve discussed at great length, the mute spirit boy could refer to the way Danny doesn’t say a word (as Danny) for over half the film, and “calming the storm” (a story in which Jesus is on a boat in a storm and says, “Hey storm, knock it off” then turns to his boys after the storm knocks it off and goes “You didn’t know I could do that? Come on…”) could be the most apt, given all the storms in the film.
But it’s hard to go all in on this theory because the bloodfall hall is hugely similar to the Grady ghost hall. And if John is so different from Mark, who only has 3% original stuff to say, the least original gospel, you would think the bloodfall hall and the Grady ghost hall would be like night and day, but they’re more like mirrors of each other.
I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: I’m no bible scholar. But I know a pattern when I see one. So if anyone feels like taking up the task of plumbing the Christian depths of the film’s subtext, I’ll be happy to link to your work.
If it’s quality.
SPECIAL: THE FIVE HORSEMEN?
This was originally a tangent in the introduction to Death, but it felt worthy of its own section. It came right after the part where I was saying that light, gravity, energy, matter, and time are the five major principles that government the natural universe.
You know, maybe that’s why the four horsemen were necessary to invoke: they’re an incomplete picture of the natural world, according to its principles. Gravity is the natural way things draw together (Conquest), energy is what’s needed to keep everything moving and functioning (Famine), matter is what makes up everything of value (and therefore worth fighting over; War), and time is what keeps anything too good or too awful from lasting forever (Death). But the five major principles that define our existence include light (Shining). And there is no fifth horseman. And maybe that’s why some have characterized Conquest as both the Christ and the Antichrist, because of that sense that a fifth dimension was needed. And in the sense that “shining” is a metaphor for intelligent thought, and everything that branches out from the dawn of intelligent thought, it does share some attributes with Conquest in the sense that a meme can take over the intellectual discourse of a school or practice of thought until the meme is either rejected somehow, or woven into the fabric of the thought. Religions themselves are almost all always in a state of aspirational conquest, each trying to coat the intellectual world with their dogma. And now we have science, the best tool ever devised for understanding the natural world, which probably seems like a conquesting force to most of the so-called faithful.
And so I wonder if part of what John of Patmos was tripping balls about was the way that future societies would discover the science of the natural world, and that these…revelations…would prove corrosive to religious literalism. Don’t mistake me for a deliberate apologist for religion, and the way it (in the hands of humans) has hurt and killed countless millions, but if that’s what John of Patmos was onto…pretty clever guy!
On a similar note: science and technology (by way of industry and law) has created, in the space of just one human generation, the man-made climate catastrophe that could end organized human life as we know it. One scientist (I forget who, and can’t find it now, I’m afraid) used the phrase “living on borrowed light” to describe the way we’re burning through fossil fuels at a rate that won’t last the next 100 years, let alone the next 10,000 or 1,000,000. All that oil is the result of millions of years of sunlight that we can’t get back now. So Shining (in the horsemen sense of the word) is like the other four horsemen, in that it has one very positive effect (delivering us from ignorance) and one very negative effect (ending human civilization as we know it).
Finally, here’s one last mindblow for you (if you were unaware, that is). We’re presently living in what’s called the Stelliferous era of the universe, the era of star formation. This should go on for around 100 trillion years, until stars stop being produced by the universe, at which point we’ll begin the slow transition into a universe dominated by black holes, which could be a rather lightless, shineless place. So here’s my question: in that era, would a four/five horsemen way of seeing the universe still make sense? If not, what other morals and ethics would fall by the wayside?
Click here to continue on to Here Comes the Sunken Place, Part 5: The Golden Bowl
MAIN PAGE ⎔ SECTION 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