The Golden Shining: Section I



0:14 – 1:14


Forward – First half

  • Horizontal shot of St. Mary Lake, Wild Goose Island, and the mountains Red Eagle, Mahtotopa, Little Chief, Citadel, Reynolds and Goat. Also, possibly Fusillade and Heavy Runner. The water creates a mirror. (20 sec)
  • Near-vertical shot of the yellow Beetle driving east on Going-to-the-Sun Road, next to Lake McDonald, and the foot of Mount Brown. The road creates a kind of yin-yang effect. (20 sec)
  • Music: Dies Irae

Backward – First half

  • Starts right on the fade into the second-tightest shot of photo Jack, with 11 full faces around him (8 women, 4 men total) (14 sec)
  • Photo Jack in isolation, panning down to reveal the impossible date (29 sec)
  • Music: Midnight, the Stars and You

Forward – Back Half

  • Starts right on the cut to a horizontal shot that combines many of the elements from the first two shots: St. Mary Lake with many of the same mountains in the distance (along with some new ones), and the Beetle driving up a curving road into a wooded area to the right of a lake (18 sec)
  • Dutch angle tracking shot of the Beetle driving along the base of Goat Mountain, headed for the same rough spot that the film’s first shot started from (5 sec)
  • Music: Dies Irae

Backward – Back Half

  • The zoom from the photo Jack photo with 8 other photos around it (9 total), into the complete photo Jack photo. (23 sec)
  • Music: Midnight, the Stars and You

I probably won’t go into such detail again about the nature of the camera movements, but I think they’re fairly significant in Section I.

Forward Section I gives us two horizontal shots followed by two shots that explore the pitch and the roll of the camera. What does that mean?

Image result for pitch roll and yaw

Well, if we think of a camera like a plane, the pitch is what it would see by tilting toward the sky or the ground, roll is what it would see by spinning while moving straight ahead, and yaw is what it would see if it wanted to read a really long sentence running along the entire horizon (your welcome for that mental image). With planes, roll and yaw tend to go together, but cameras aren’t so beholden to gravity and motion. And in a static/photographic analysis, yaw is impossible to determine without seeing multiple images.

Thanks to the steadicam work of Garrett Brown, and the helicopter shots by Jeff Blyth being so fluid and gliding, the two rolling shots of Section I (shot #1 (rolls right) and shot #4 (rolls left)) are the only two shots in the film with substantial roll to them. Also, the first one starts flat and ends in roll, and the other starts in roll and ends flat, as if finishing a thought.

Shot #2 is from high above the subject, and is one of several such steeply pitched shots, but only matched in severity by the aerial shot of the labyrinth, and Jack taunting Wendy through the pantry door (shot from beneath).

By contrast, the backward section of photo Jack involves only a zoom, two static fades, and a slow, 5cm pan down. So while the opening features all these high-speed dextrous shots of dozens of kms, the ending is very simple, slow, and staid. In fact, there’s almost nothing but contrasts between these sections. Here’s a list of just what popped into my head.

  • The music feels reflective: Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) and Midnight, the Stars and You refer to day and night. And the moods of the pieces feel diametrically opposed.
  • The forward shots only hint at Jack in his tiny Beetle, and the backward shots feature his frozen face as a central focus.
  • Forward is just outdoors, nature, and natural light with a living Jack. Backward is just indoors, people, and artificial light with a supernaturally dead Jack.
  • Forward colour, backward black and white.
  • Forward has mountains and roads with easy-to-identify names, and backward is packed with people (other than Nicholson) who are utterly lost to history, as far as I can tell. Someone feel free to correct me on that (with proof, not conspiracy theories, please).
  • Forward Jack has never seen the Overlook, backward Jack is going to be there forever and ever.
  • Forward Jack is in a very real world that no one would debate or question to see onscreen, and backward Jack is in a seeming impossibility of being out-of-time-and-place.
  • Forward has no words or numbers, backward has words and numbers.
  • Forward Beetle Jack is impossible to recognize, even in the sense of trying to recognize what kind of car he drives (it becomes recognizable to anyone by fifteen seconds into Section II, at which point photo Jack is way too small to make out), and backward Jack is easy to recognize, and only becomes too small to make out by Section II.
  • Forward gives us a recurring set of shots of the same mountain range with noticable time-jumps (by the snow on the mountains), and backward gives us one time anomaly, with Jack being so unstuck from time, but presented as part of the natural time-moving-forward aspect of reality. In fact, the last shot of the film doesn’t give us any hard evidence that it’s taking place before or after the entire events of the film. All we know is that some objects have shifted around, and there’s sheets over all the furniture. But that could be from the year before. And it could be pre-Grady.
  • Forward has no art pieces in it, and if we interpret photography as an art form, however unartfully this shot was intended to be seen, this is the closest we ever get in the film to an art piece (the other two instances being Hallorann’s TV whirring into life at the middle of the film, and the close zoom on Summer of ’42).
  • They’re almost perfect opposites. So if what we’re looking for there is consistency, I think we have that. Also, if this truly is a movie about mirrors, it would make sense to have that shown right away with this overwhelming inversion.
  • Oh, there’s also the notion of time being presented in that we know the exact date of the photo, but we only know for sure that the forward bit is post-1938, and only thanks to the VW, and only if you’re an eagle-eye, and if you know cars really well (then you might know that it’s post-1973), because it doesn’t come into recognizable size until Section II.
  • Oh, and at no point does living Jack’s Beetle escape being overlapped with photo Jack’s photo. That happens a few seconds into Section II.
  • The forward action begins in shot #1 and ends in shot #4, which include the same range of mountains, shot with the helicopter moving in a fairly similar direction. I would see that as a reference to the film’s interest in cycles and symmetries. The end of Section I takes us almost to the spot where the beginning started, which you can see in the map below, which shows the exact physical locations where the opening seven shots were taken from (8 and 9 are from later in the film, when the Torrances are driving up together).
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(General thought: if the spiral cut is meant to divide each section into two halves, taken together, it’s as if the universe of this section is being divided into four sections, like in the Four Directions.)

If we think of yaw as the x-axis, roll as the y-axis, and pitch as the z-axis, then we’re starting with a study of the z-axis (shots #1 and #2), and ending on a study of the y-axis (shots #3 and #4). And backwards it’s a zoom (which just means cruising along the x-axis) separating the individual and his close unit of friends and family from the shot of the larger group of larger society. The pan down to the date makes for a slight adjustment to the z-axis, meaning that the film begins and ends on a z-axis exploration, however diametrically opposed they may seem in severity.

Incidentally, this always makes me think of the second-last thing sane Jack does in the film, bouncing the ball up and down against the ceiling and floor, catching it in a circular motion, then throwing the ball straight down the hall. That’s pretty xyz, so to speak.

The three-stage backward back half zoom into the photo Jack photo does a neat thing. It starts with the shot of 8 other photos around it (9 total), carries into the complete photo Jack photo showing 76 women and 67 men (a difference of 9), into a closer crop showing 43 women and 34 men (a difference of 9). So, for starters, 76 + 67 = 143, which is the exact number of minutes in the the full movie, and a Fibonacci number, in the context of my theory. 43 + 34 = 77, which has no meaning I know of, except that Tony/Danny says “Redrum” 43 times during the drawing of REDRUM scene. And also 43 is very close to 42, and one of the women I’m counting has her face cut off by the edge. 143 is also the number of heartbeat sounds that connect two later scenes (3:30 from the start of Section X, in fact), with 67 beats occurring over Wendy plotting/Tony screaming REDRUM, and 76 beats occurring over Jack killing the radio and the start of Hallorann’s rescue mission. 34 beats happen over radiokiller Jack, which means that Hallorann has 42 over his section. Also, plotting Wendy gets 24 beats, and REDRUM Tony gets 43 beats. So that’s a cute set of inversions there–34/42-24/43. They’re palindromes of each other just as the crowd people here are palindromes of themselves, by gender.

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Also, as the zooms zoom in, the width lost is always around 25cm (going by the image on this screen), and the final image is about that width across.

The zooms are not uniform in terms of dimensionality; if you add vector lines, they don’t line up from frame to frame. But you do get the loose effect of what several shots in the film do, which is a slow zoom down a long corridor. That’s the kind of shot that lead to this shot. And I know it’s obvious, but I think this “look closer” philosophy is a big part of the heart of the film’s nature.

Like, the moon is this tiny thing in the sky that swirls around us most nights. Maybe that’s all it is. But what happens if we design a telescope? What happens if we try to touch it? What happens if we burrow into it and look deep down into the molecules of its guts?

The Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) theme gets cut off before completion, losing 15 seconds to the following section, although Wendy Carlos’ skittery sounds start at 0:55, so we do get 0:19 of that. The seeming awkwardness of this is somewhat allayed by the fact that the next refrain of Dies Irae comes in right at the beginning of Section III (2:14). The 15 seconds of Dies Irae in Section II will play an interesting role in the geometry of that section, as well.

Similarly, the Bowlly tune comes in here over halfway into the song’s opening (it’s been playing for 0:37 seconds at this point), and plays through an entire refrain (half with and half without singing), before cutting midway through the next beginning. Here’s what we have time to hear: “Midnight for the stars and you, Midnight and a rendezvous/your eyes held a message tender/saying I surrender/all my love to you/Midnight, lord of sweet romance…” That reference to time being a lord of anything is a nice way to kick off this analysis.

So, besides the Day/Night aspect of these songs, they’re both truncated by the Fibonacci lines. Nevertheless, the spiral cut neatly divides the singing apart from the instrumental, and the notion of “Midnight” and “stars” begin while the shot is looking almost straight down from the sky. Also, all the singing about “midnight” happens during shots #1 and #2. Midnight is a word ostensibly meaning 12. A 1 and a 2.

I would say this section conforms to what I would expect to find in a film attempting this kind of technique. The spiral cut neatly partitions two (unequal) halves on both sides concerned with neatly partitioned concepts, which, by contrast, draw our attention to many of the film’s themes. The way shot #1 starts roughly where shot #4 ends, for instance, gives us a perfect picture of the looping nature of this narrative.

Actually, take a look at the Shining Tree of Life again, and tell me which of these isn’t referenced in some way by Section I.

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The one thing that is definitely missing (unique to Section I, as it happens), is anyone saying anything, unless you count Al Bowlly’s singing. Another thing that might be missing is games (I say might, because the people in the photo have noisemakers and funny little heart-shapes pinned to their chests, which could be some old game concept). You might say there’s no literal mirrors, but St. Mary Lake makes a mirror of the horizon in the first shot. You might say there’s no clocks, but there is a gigantic date, and the one song is singing about “midnight”. You might say there’s no 237, but shots #2, #3, and #7 (two of which occur in Section I), have a pattern to them, cutting the more northeast-southwest slash against the more northwest-southeast slash of the other shots.

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You might say there’s no human icons here, but Kubrick actually said in an interview that everyone around Jack in the tighter view of the crowd is an “archetype of the period.” And there’s the VW Beetle which is itself iconic, and probably a reference to some of the most iconic humans of the 20th century. There’s also the Hitler face formed by the last fade in the film.

People think little Jack’s hair makes a toothbrush moustache on the giant face’s upper lip.

You might say there’s no animals, but Jack drives a Beetle, and the lady behind him in the ball photo has a feather stuck in her bird-shaped heart-shape. So you’ve even got an animal of the land and of the sky, there.

The film is starting us off by suggesting there’s quite a lot of duality in this world, none more significant than the relationship between the wild, chaotic nature of the natural world, and the logic-oriented, design-oriented nature of the intelligent world. There’s pure chemistry and there’s pure methodology. There’s even a method to the chemicals (evolution) and chemicals in the method (biology).

Again, I won’t be doing as demonstrating of an overview for each section, I mainly wanted to establish here (as Kubrick clearly did), that the film is about these things, and that there was no time to waste in packing them all in.

Click here to continue on to The Golden Shining: Section II