The 9-Minute Middle Movie



So the question here is, does the micro middle movie tell us anything about the film’s larger structure, or larger character? What I think we should do is first go through and just see what this passage is made up of, and then we can go from there.

It begins with Jack shutting the fuck up about his “five miserable months” and taking his first drink of the movie, the act that will ultimately lock him into the hotel’s control. At this moment, mirror Jack is seconds away from realizing he’s kissing an old dead crone, but as he drinks he seems to fall deeper into her spell, and as he reacts to this first drink, she transforms back into a young woman.

It’s a pretty incredible visual metaphor for the effect of the hotel on Jack (with a healthy dose of booze/suicide=resurrection/fountain of youth). And on a story level, it’s stunning, because we know this later scene means the opposite thing; the rapid aging of the woman he’s mashing himself into will cause him to question everything about his perception. He uses alcohol to try to control his reality, and the corpse ghost shows him that reality is out of his control.

His degrading reference to Wendy as a “sperm bank” seems quite silly overtop of his being seduced by the most unalluring zombie ghost of all time. I mean, I’m sure someone finds this scene sexy, but at no point is this figure projecting allure at Jack.

Also, as I’ve written several times on this site, the reference to the “ol’ sperm bank upstairs” always sounds to me like a reference to the “man upstairs”, meaning a god figure. And in this sequence, Jack is confronting something like the god of the Overlook. Or two gods. The two gods who aren’t seen outside of Section IX. I mean, all the hotel’s ghastly manifestations are coming from the same source, so far as we know, and they all do something physical to Jack, whether it’s getting him drunk, rubbing him up, spilling eggbooze on him, or freeing him from the pantry. And of course, Lloyd sounds like Lord.

And Lloyd’s “Women. Can’t live with em, can’t live without em.” is trite on a level that goes way over Jack’s head. “Words of wisdom, Lloyd. Words of wisdom.”

Jack very much can live without this woman, and will have to, because…she dead. This god right here? Inanimate. It is an ex-god. You can live without it.

Jack submits a verdict of “not guilty” on the charge of being a son-abuser. There’s something that always makes me laugh about this overlay, it speaks so beautifully to Jack’s character as a man who must live with an invisible shame, and his depthless desire to be freed of it.

He invokes his status as a guilty person before Lloyd, unprovoked. He’s like a person who suspects god knows their every sin, but shows up at the pearly gates anyway. Cuz you never know!

But he’s also like a child, overestimating his ability to bend a truth and swindle an older mind, introducing this wrong-doing as part of an innocence.

“I never laid a hand on him, goddammit. I didn’t! I wouldn’t touch one hair on his goddamn little head!” He says this while backward Jack dreams of touching all the hairs on this goddamn naked ghost’s head.

“I love the little son of a bitch! I’d do anything for him. Any fuckin’ thing for ’em. But that bitch…As long as I live, she’ll never let me forget what happened.”

The elaboration of a bad liar. Jack talks himself into his own guilt, and must then become a different kind of advocate for himself. That’s actually why I love this shot of Lloyd’s passive expression, and overlaid with his naked counterpart’s passive expression. While there is a chicken-and-the-egg situation with how much of Jack’s unraveling has to do with the hotel’s dark forces, when the ghosts present themselves to Jack, they’re almost completely passive (and Grady is even supplicating at first). When temptation is presented, Jack can’t help himself.

This shot occurs while we hear “But that bitch…” Jack calls Wendy a bitch twice in this passage, once openly, and once more subtly. During the more open expression we see Lloyd’s utter lack of a reaction overlaid with the naked ghost, and we’re reminded one last time (before pre-ghostball Lloyd isn’t seen again) just how much the hotel didn’t prod for this self-defence or the ensuing self-incrimination. It underscores the story’s deeper point, that being left alone with yourself is its own hell. We don’t really need divine punishment. We’re quite good at punishing ourselves.

As Jack finally confesses his transgression (and naked ghost steps back into the bath), backward Jack loses his grin. This speaks to the film’s theme of sexual oblivion between husband and wife, and how both divert their sexual energies into art (Jack) and parenting (Wendy). After 35 days of relative isolation (the snowcat is out on THURSDAY, suggesting they’ve been making trips down the mountain, as happens more explicitly in the novel), Wendy is still making attempts to connect and find fun things to do together. But once Jack starts to be seduced by the “important” “meaning” in his “work”, the couple don’t really seem to see each other again until 8 days after Jack’s first eruption.

“It was an accident! Completely unintentional…it coulda happened to anybody…and it was 3 goddamn years ago!”

When he describes his ultimate betrayal of his family as a “momentary loss of muscular coordination” we’ve just finished watching him fixing to cheat, and then cheating, on Wendy for about 2:30 straight.

And if we extend his abandonment process to the prior TUESDAY, when he first blows up, Jack’s betrayal of Wendy is even slower-motioned than that. I wouldn’t hold it against him that he took the job, but if we consider the breaking of Danny’s arm as the genesis of their family dynamic, there’s a kind of telescoping effect to the slow speeds at which Jack implodes the Torrances.

“It coulda happened to anybody.”

Wendy appears right as mirror Jack retreats back into 237, so the painting of the beautiful fox is paired with her arrival, and perhaps that’s why the painting on the opposite wall with the other fox is almost totally obscured by the lampshade, and lamplight: to express the power of the hotel’s seduction.

In fact, as Danny’s final key (the lesson key) is fully revealed to backward Jack, forward Wendy appears at his side, wrenching his shoulder in panic. Is this because Wendy is Jack’s key? It would be sweet if it weren’t so sad.

Also, if that is the suggestion, and the 237 fox paintings refer to Wendy, it would fit quite well with what we’re about to see in Hallorann’s bedroom, where his shirt will bear a very similar design to the 237 bedsheets, and his bed will have a very foxy lady above it (see below).

“Are you outta yer fucking mind?”

The 42-second trek from the start of the 237 exploration to the moment where we see Jack’s hand on the bathroom door is, on a film-language level, perhaps the most interesting in the film. Just before this sequence starts, we see Danny furiously shining an image of his journey into the room to Hallorann. Enough time has passed since we saw Jack ask what room the “crazy woman” is in, for us not to be completely sure this is Jack’s perspective. We might be in Jack’s head, and we might be in Hallorann’s. And we might even be in the collective mind of Danny and Hallorann, as part of a shared shine.

Of course, there’s nothing spectacular visually about these 42 seconds. Presented alone, and without context, they would seem probably pretty bland compared to most moments from most movies. Therefore, Kubrick may be saying, aren’t all movies (and perhaps even all arts) a bit like shining? We go into a dark theatre together, and we all start to see things that we all collectively begin to recognize. This is someone’s idea of real life. Someone’s dream. And for a period of time we’re outside of ourselves, and inside the mind of someone else.

Even the Jack moving through 237 is somewhat out of his mind, in the sense that he knows he’s reliving the journey his son took toward something that was a possible danger (as he later says to Wendy, “He must’ve gone in that room. The door was open. The lights were on.”). As he pushes back the bathroom door, it’s with the slow care of someone expecting something horrible.

Also, I haven’t ID’d the bird painting behind the door here, inside Jack’s head in the overlay, but that could also speak to this line in some way.

As she describes Danny’s abuse by the crazy woman we see Danny shuddering with the force of trying to shine Hallorann, drooling with concentration, looking like someone recovering from an incredible trauma/illness.

There’s also the neat effect here of Danny Lloyd appearing boxed in by the bar lights in a similar fashion to how Lloyd was just boxed in, serving Jack Jack Daniels. This works to remind us of how the filmmakers are using real life to make this art. The Shining is nothing if not meta.

As Jack reacts to this news with a sullenness that suggests something about his frustration with Wendy not noticing what he’s going through in this kerfuffle, we see Danny reaching out to a relative stranger for help with his problem, and the heads of father and son overlap in an eerily beautiful way, suggesting the long cycle of mental and physical violence that has extended back through the generations. In the book we learn that Jack’s father was the kind of monster who required no revving up or supernatural seduction, so…horrible as Jack becomes, we get the impression that his unravelling is more tragic than a cartoon villain’s. Jack is failing against the forces that Danny is somehow preternaturally able to overcome. We can say that Jack’s violence created Tony, or we can say that Danny created Tony to cope with Jack’s violence. Either way, Danny acquired a version 2 of himself, that on some level he’s aware is his number 2 self. His Two-ny. Jack never had a Two-ny, but when he finds something like that in Lloyd and Grady, he is intoxicated.

As Jack says, “Which room was it?” we see a Danny’s-eye view of the 237 key in the door. So this section contains a 42 and a 237.

It also contains a Colville, the film’s dominant artist (besides Oxborough and Penderecki): Dog, Boy, and St. John River. I can’t find a sketch of the piece, to show where the geometry lines might’ve been, so I drew a few of my own non-geometric lines (see below) to show where I see the stress of the image’s components pushing the eye, which is to the boy’s (discharged?) gun. Then I added a golden spiral (unadjusted) to show how well the golden retriever(!) seems to suggest we take a Fibonaccian approach to this piece. Look at how even the spiral seems to want to cross right at the intersection of the painting’s lines, which, again, is the piece’s dominant source of tension: the status of this gun, what it may have just accomplished, and what it will accomplish. Sounds a bit like room 237.

There’s a lot to be said for what this painting means, and even how it relates to the 42-second uncertain perspective from before, but for now we’ll just note that this piece invokes a) that the film uses other people’s art to add to its own art, b) it does this repeatedly, in part by using recognizable masters, and c) by using artists with recognizable, popularized techniques, we can start to gain a sense of the techniques Kubrick may’ve used to craft his masterpiece(s). In the case of Colville, we can start to wonder if geometric forms played a role. In the case of this particular piece, we can start to wonder if golden spirals played a role.

Hallorann’s shine face appears for a moment over a television about to whir into life. This is both the figurative eye scream (since eye screaming has a connection to literal shining), and a literal eye scream (since eye screaming is more about the human race’s extremely recent capacity to disseminate vast collections of information at record-breaking speeds–and the opening montage to Channel 10 Newswatch is a rapidly edited collection of metropolitan scenes).

Also, since the middle scene of the movie, which is 110 seconds long (is that our missing 11?), begins and ends on the same second, I’ve often wondered if this is like a micro-micro movie, and I don’t think it is, I think it’s just a consequence of the film’s geometric structure, but if it were, what would that say about Hallorann?

Oh, actually, the golden spiral for the 9-minute middle movie would actually be at the second Danny’s shine face cuts to 237, while Wendy says, “She tried to strangle him!” And Jack replies, “Which room was it?” Oh man, this divides the 540 seconds of this section into groups of 3:27 (207) and 5:33 (333), 3:27 being a 237 jumble. Now if we apply the spiral cut to both sides, such that we have 3:27 to both sides of the micro-micro movie, that means the time left would be 2:06, or 126 seconds. And 126 is 237 minus 111. Dun dun dun!!!

Math is fun!

Oh, I might as well point out here that since the moment we cut to 237 is the spiral cut, this means that the two music cues of the middle-middle-movie start in opposite directions from here. The Newswatch theme plays toward the middle of the movie for 15 seconds, and The Awakening/Dream of Jacob plays for 205 of the 207 seconds in this cluster. There’s also the Wendy Carlos score, playing first the dentist-drill-style shine sound with a heartbeat sound under it, which eventually becomes just a heartbeat sound. The shine sound plays 73 seconds (52 to room 237, and then another 21–one digit away from a spiral cut within the shine sound), and the heartbeat sound plays for 257 seconds, ending at the spiral cut. So this means the middle-middle-movie contains the film’s dominant borrowed composer, Penderecki, the film’s hired composer, Wendy Carlos, and what we might call native music, music intrinsic to the reality of the drama (the Channel 10 theme).

A few neat things happen during this intro, but perhaps the most interesting is that there’s a few images of 747-type jets soaring around and parked. So that introduces the notion of foresight to Hallorann’s eye scream, since he’ll be on such a plane in about 6 hours, but this might also be a harkening back to Colville, since another Colville from the film, Woman and Terrier, features a woman holding a dog on an airfield, with a 747-type plane deep in the distance, pointed the same way (east?), off the same shoulder as with the Newswatch cops (see below).

So Kubrick is not only invoking the techniques of his fellow artists, but invoking their motifs as well. I think it’s fair to assume the pieces that were selected were largely selected exactly for their particular techniques and motifs, and this becomes clearer the more you study what’s in the film. But even within the 9-minute micro movie we get such an art piece, and such an immediate visual payoff (the other Colville and this Channel 10 plane are 10 seconds apart in the mirrorform).

We also get a shot of someone writing. Writing is probably the dominant art form fixation for the film. The plot suggests it’s the root of every problem in the film. All art is transient, but perhaps literature stands the best chance of survival against the ravages of time(?). So if you’ve ever thought “I should make movies! Wait, nah. How’s anyone gonna watch movies in 200 years, when we run out of coltan? I should write a book!” then you might understand better than most what Jack is really trying to achieve (immortality) through his art, which is probably the opposite of art’s highest aspiration. Which is making the world a better, more bearable, more interesting place for mortals to stave off hunger and boredom.

Hallorann’s room is obviously quite geometric and mirror-like, but it also behaves fairly well for the phi grid (see below). This could be the confirmation that Hallorann is living a much more balanced life than Jack Torrance, and meant to be seen as something of his antithesis (if we needed more proof).

But there’s a fair bit more going on here. 1) There’s a copy of Commoners Crown by Steeleye Span sitting to the left of the room, and possibly something equally significant on the right side. This album features one of the only times Peter Sellers ever performed on someone else’s song (the album’s last track, called New York Girls–a reference to the fact that we’re approaching the “end” of the mirrorform movie?). Putting aside the story of how that came to be, the Sellers inclusion is clearly a reference to Kubrick’s past work (Lolita, Dr. Strangelove–his fourth and fifth major motion pictures out of nine at this point), and I can think of numerous self-referential elements from various of Kubrick’s films (A Clockwork Orange contains the album for the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack), but I don’t know if this was a consistent trend, in terms of this degree of oblique specificity. Still, it feels like a signature.

But also, the album contains tracks called Demon Lover, which seems to speak to the scene that begins and ends the middle movie, and Bach Goes to Limerick bringing classical music to the Steeleye Span style, which is something Kubrick did quite a bit. Giving classical music a modern context.

The opening track, Little Sir Hugh, is based on a “sharply” anti-Semitic medieval song, about a little 13th-century boy being murdered by Jews. This obviously contains a certain similarity to how people regard the Christ story, and there is a fair bit of Christ imagery around Jack. And Jack murders Hallorann. And the entire film opens with a 13th-century song about the return of Christ during the Last Judgment, Dies Irae. Steeleye Span is said to have removed the anti-Semitic elements of the song for their version, but Kubrick’s Shining has not cleaned up novel Jack’s dark view of history in the subtext, though the film obviously didn’t find the time to show Jack ruminating on the horrors of the 20th century, during his research into the hotel’s past.

Also, the name Steeleye Span is said to come from an old song about a fight between two likely mythical men. And the mountain that we see the Overlook sitting on is Wy’east, also named for a Multnomah myth about two men fighting (in their case, over a woman, which lead to all three being turned into mountains). And I just want to add that the band put out an album called Now We Are Six, which is also the name of a collection of poems and stories about Winnie-the-Pooh, who is featured at least twice in the film.

Moving on from the album, we’ve got Supernatural Dream, the name of the photo above the TV. Jack’s journey through 237 will seem like a supernatural dream of Hallorann’s or Danny’s until we realize it is Jack’s journey. Hopefully I don’t have to further point out why that name is generally applicable.

As for Glenn Rinker’s news report, note how there’s a red trident emerging from a rainbow, above a graphic for hurricane conditions. This is possibly, and I would dare say likely, a reference to the Pillars of Hercules subtext, one of the major subtexts of the film. As for the contents of his report, up until this point in the backward action, he can’t be heard over the shine sound, but as the naked Supernatural Dream lady emerges, the sound diminishes, and Hallorann relaxes. But in the forward action he’s describing how “Miami continues to swelter in a record heatwave bringing temperatures to the mid and upper 90s” then tells how in “Colorado ten inches of snow have fallen in just a few hours tonight. Travel in the Rockies is almost impossible.” And on “almost” we cut to a close up of Hallorann dazedly watching. And it’s also in that moment that Rinker’s dialogue on the opposite side of the film can finally be heard over the shine.

So the white noise of the shine seems to be blocking out the most culturally salient element of Rinker’s report: if this was taken from a real broadcast, Rinker was unwittingly reporting on the early stages of manmade climate change. If it was written for the movie, then Kubrick was one well-informed Scientific American-reading muddafudda. But it’s just as likely this was another Pillars of Hercules reference.

There’s also a repetition of a number when Rinker says “ten” twice in his first four sentences. He’ll invoke the “governor of Colorado”, and as I show in the section on indigenous genocide, two counties of the Colorado map behind Wendy in the radio room are outlined in some kind of light-reactive tape, two counties named after old Colorado governors, one of whom oversaw a severe ratcheting up of anti-indigenous sentiment, and took part in relocating the Utes for the sake of taking their lands, Frederick Pitkin.

Rinker also mentions that three people have already been killed by “freezing winds”, a foreshadow of Jack’s demise, and a fearful invocation of the group threat looming over the Torrances at this stage. It even kind of makes you think about what really drove Hallorann to go to such extents. Did he think he could save all the Torrances? Did he want to?

And for a perfect fifteen seconds around the middle, a book appears called The Door, which was the progenitor of the Had-I-But-Known style of mystery writing, appears on Hallorann’s bed stand. This book started the popular phrase “the butler did it!” And of course in this story it was the butler (Grady/”Jeevesy”) and the caretaker (Jack), who is something like a masterless butler, a ronin butler, if you will. There’s also a 10 second shot of The Door, sitting on the shelf behind Wendy (14:35-14:45) which has a mirror moment made up of Jack stalking the back halls with his ax to kill Hallorann (The caretaker did it! With the ax! In the lobby!), and Hallorann walking through the door of the Overlook to save Wendy and Danny. In fact, there are several books in Hallorann’s home that also appear at the Torrances, as discussed in the art section, which means we have a few examples here of absurd object movement.

Also, just a shout out to this being the exact middle of the movie, which, in the active-motion mirrorform is a zoom-out and a zoom-in converging for the briefest moment before flying away from each other. I applied the golden spirals to this shot to see what would turn up, and is it just me, or is the block that separates the right lamp from the bed almost too perfect?

But this was likely just editing room trickery, and not as hard as it looks. Then again, this shot starts 21 seconds before the middle, and the other side of it starts 7 seconds before the middle, and you guessed it, that means the middle shot of the movie spiral cuts itself. Also, if you like, that could be a bonus 217 (the evil room from the book).

So, what’s the verdict? Do we have a middle-middle-movie example of every secret buried technique and message encoded into the film’s subtext? I’m too exhausted to check, but I would wager if we made a list of every technique I’m relating on this site, and every patently demonstrable element the movie contains, without any deep dissection, I’ve probably touched on the vast majority. I hereby declare this middle-middle-movie…approved!

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