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GOLDEN SPIRALS – SKIP TO A PAGE
MARK 13:29 ⎔ I ⎔ II ⎔ III ⎔ IV ⎔ V ⎔ VI ⎔ VII ⎔ VIII ⎔ IX ⎔ X
THE MIDDLE MOVIE ⎔ IX MIRROR MOVEMENTS
2:14 – 4:14
GOLDEN SPIRAL MOMENT (3:00/3:28)
I’ll spare you reading it, but basically I spent 4000 words talking myself into analyzing the forward action with a different spiral cut than the backward action. Here’s the updated version.
Forward – First Half (46 sec)
- Jack drives to the Overlook; establishing shot of Overlook
- Music: Dies Irae (46 sec)
Backward – First Half (74 sec)
- Wendy/Danny’s snowcat escape (in 8, 6, and 12 second chunks = 26 sec)
- Jack emerges from his stumble and proceeds to holler in thrashing futility until a moment before his final collapse. (12, 8, 8, and 20 seconds = 48 sec)
- Music: De Natura Sonoris #2 (46 sec)
Forward – Back Half (74 sec)
- THE INTERVIEW placard (3 sec)
- Jack arrives for his interview (33/35 sec)
- Establishing shot of Boulder apartment (3 sec)
- Music: Dies Irae (3 sec)
Backward – Back Half (46 sec)
- Defeated Jack stumbling into collapse (in chunks of 6 and 10 seconds = 16)
- Wendy and Danny escaping the hotel/maze, reuniting, getting in the snowcat, and turning it around to escape (in chunks of 19 and 12 seconds = 31)
- Music: De Natura Sonoris #2 (22 sec), Kanon (43 sec)
The forward spiral cut for Section III perfectly divides the remainder of Beetle Jack’s approach (31 sec) and establishing the Overlook (15 sec) from INTERVIEW Jack entering the Overlook and meeting Ullman (71 sec), and the establishing shot of the Boulder apartment (3 sec). There’s obviously a nice thematic consistency there of approaches followed by establishing shots. And the two mountains behind the establishing shots (Hood and Green), are named for a person (Hood) and a place (Green) originating far from where these mountains are located. And the literal mountains used in the film are far from each other. In fact, Glacier National Park (used throughout the intro) is in Montana, also very far from Oregon and Colorado. All three states are at least a state apart from each other, separated by Wyoming and Idaho. Point being, as opposed to Section I and II, where the mountains are close together, if not presented in perfect sequence, a mere four minutes into the film and we’ve already seen (without realizing it), areas of the country separated by hundreds, maybe thousands of kilometres. So there’s a subtle expansion going on.
Also, the two establishing shots feature roughly 42 vehicles each (the Boulder one includes several cars driving by on the nearby streets).
During the last bit of Jack’s approach, the geography experiences another backwards leap going from the shot #6 view of Heaven’s Peak to the shot #7 view of Heavy Runner mountain. This makes it like Section I, and unlike Section II (in terms of the shot order–but more like Section II in the sense that it goes between indigenous and Christian-themed mountains). Heavy Runner Mountain is named for a man murdered in a massacre of Piegan peoples by the American military, and Mt. Hood was formerly Wy’east, which has a very charming etymology.
During Jack’s cross of the lobby (back half) he’ll pass a painting by JEH MacDonald and one by AY Jackson. The front half of Section I included a Lake called McDonald, and during the back half of Section II there was a name credit for Anne Jackson, who plays the doctor.
The first thing Jack does, crossing the lobby, is walk between a giant mirror and a picture of a weird shadow monster that both hang in the foyer.
Crossing to Ullman’s, the next and last time the mirror is visible is 16 seconds later (3:06-3:22) when some tennis players are seen just exiting.
I mention this because the film also opens on a giant mirror lake, and we do revisit that lake, a cool 17 seconds after it first fades completely from view (0:34-0:51).
Also, at the reverse-spiral-cut (3:28; pretty close to a 237 jumble, there), Jack is overlaying with a painting we’ll see much later (during the “middle movie”, in fact: Section IX), which strongly resembles the first shot of the film, Maligne Lake, Jasper Park.
At 2 seconds into the scene, Jack is obscuring a painting (Log Hut on the St. Maurice) referencing 3rd-century martyr (of some historical dispute) St. Maurice, and is about to cross near the Scientific American with The Tower of Babel on the cover. Well, Maurice is not a derivative of Mary (though both are referencing bodies of water in the film, and there is a neat connection between St. Maurice and St. Mary involving water), and the Tower of Babel is not connected to the Last Judgment (referenced in Dies Irae, which just ended), but rather the earliest part of the book of Genesis. I suppose a fun way to interpret the Tower of Babel might be as a sort of warm up Last Judgment. In any case, these two references strongly connect to the music of Sections I-III, and to St. Mary Lake.
Maurice was also a black martyr, which goes well with the fact that Hallorann will become a similar figure on the spot Jack will cross in 23 seconds, at the other spiral cut.
The film contains three direct references to a “Carson”. 1) Here, at the start of the back half of forward Section III, we see actor John Carson, reading something next to a camera and alcohol, 2) halfway through the back half of forward Section V, Wendy will answer the phone while Carson City is playing in the background, a place named for legendary American frontiersman Kit Carson, who spoke out against the Sand Creek massacre, and 3) exactly one second before the spiral cut in Section VI, when Jack says “Here’s Johnny!” These moments are all neatly recaptured in the back half of Section X.
The first appears at 3:03, the second at 10:59, and the third at 17:07. The back half of Section X is 22:12. But that includes the end credits, which are not accounted for at the beginning of the film. So “Here’s Johnny!” occurs 3:22 from the start of the back half, while John Carson would appear again 3:03 before the final fade to black, while Carson City is 8 and 6 minutes from either of those events, almost perfectly midway. I’m not sure if there’s a specific point being made there, with the rough geometry of it, but it is neat that the two “John” Carson references occur within 3 seconds of a spiral cut, and the Kit Carson reference (which appears at 10:59 and leaves at 11:13) is almost perfectly between the nearest spiral cut (10:19) and the Fibonacci line (12:14). In fact, it’s 40 seconds from one side and 60 seconds from the other, which would require a plus/minus of 10 seconds to make perfect, right? Just as the Section X corrective would be 1 minute to correct the 8/6 split.
As for the three Carsons, they do seem unique with regard to their inclusions. This Carson is most likely a reference to Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are, a TV movie that inspired Kubrick’s approach to reinterpreting King’s material for his own purposes. Kit Carson/Carson City is likely Kubrick using a pop culture reference to expand on what he saw being a buried theme in King’s material (the Sand Creek massacre). And “Here’s Johnny!” is a popular phrase not unlike “All work and no play…” in the way that a) it’s used so often that it’s lost some of its meaning, and b) The Shining totally hijacked the popular emotional understanding of both (you almost can’t say it without thinking of Kubrick’s film). The novel is about how repetition (combined with deprivation…and ghosts!) can drive us mad, so, clever as Kubrick was being, this trick does help expand on pre-existing themes.
So I suppose we could look at the three Carsons as describing the three ways Kubrick approached using references as shortcuts to touching on the subtext of one’s source material. You can use entire plot structures and aesthetic properties (like he does with Snow White and Julius Caesar, besides Come Out, Come Out), you can use historic references to the source material’s concerns (which is accomplished by many, many of the buried art clues, besides Kit Carson), and you can use stylistic references that unify in a way that describes the source material’s intent (like how even the three Carsons unify to reveal the technique I’m now describing), and which also speak to how you, the adapter of that source material, are choosing to process that material for your own artistic purposes (like how “All work and no play” was also in a 50s war drama (The Bridge on the River Kwai), or how the hotel used in the film for the Overlook’s interiors was used in another 50s war drama, The Caine Mutiny, and, you know, how the art throughout the film is regularly referencing war).
The other major wink to talk about in Section III is the murder of Hallorann, and how our first clue comes at 3:45, 29 seconds before the end of this section. The murder of Hallorann lasts for 10 seconds, a phase that starts 30 seconds into Section VI.
And how I connect the above moment to Hallorann’s murder is largely through the power of the Clarence Gagnon painting, Trapper’s Camp, seen in the red boxes below.
As we’ll see, the Ullman interview takes place in every half of Sections IV and V (meaning the painting is offscreen, but still in the room), and in the back half of backward Section V is when Wendy will pass Trapper’s Camp again on her run up the BJ well. And if we want to get really nuts, we can look and see that the painting appears in the Sections VIII, IX and X (to the right of every bloodfall vision). Meaning that Sections I, II, and VII are the only ones that don’t feature the painting in one form or other. And Section VII is almost the entire tour of the hotel, which features Hallorann extensively.
More to the point, from the moment Trapper’s Camp appears to the moment Hallorann receives the axe (9 minutes exactly), there’s only 90 seconds of mirrorform screen time when someone isn’t in a room with the painting, or in the room Hallorann was killed in.
It might be neat to isolate every one of the Come Out, Come Out/Trapper’s Camp references, and see if they make a pattern, but both of those things contain multiple reference points, and my feeling is that even if they make up some grand design, what we have already is mind-boggling enough. Here’s something worth considering, though: Sections I and II don’t, to my knowledge, contain a direct reference to either, and they are the “twin” sections, each being a minute in length. The hotel’s two mortal on-screen victims are the Grady twins and Hallorann (and Jack in a way, but he’s everywhere). So perhaps excluding the plot on Hallorann from the twin sections was in reference to that. That said, the final zoom on photo Jack (which spans Section I and II) does cut a straight line from Hallorann’s murder spot to Jack’s photo ghost. So…yeah. There is that.
With regard to the music, thanks to the reverse-spirals situation we get one twin effect that’s kinda cool: while there’s 68 seconds worth of De Natura Sonoris #2 in Section III, with the shifted spiral cut there’s now 46 seconds worth in the first half, which is the exact same as the amount of Dies Irae which fills the first half of the forward action (it ends naturally at 46 seconds, it’s not just a consequence of the spiral cut). So there’s the (broken) twin effect, but there’s also the fact that Penderecki did his own version of Dies Irae, which was released along with De Natura Sonoris.
But the 46 seconds of De Natura Sonoris #2 is also split by the film editing into a 31 second chunk that goes from the start of the section, and a 15 second chunk that runs to the spiral cut. Why that’s neat is 31 seconds is almost a perfect quarter of Section III’s runtime, and you might recall that Section II began with Dies Irae playing for the first quarter.
Another cool effect of the reverse-spirals is that the 43 seconds of Kanon that appear in the backward back half almost completely fill the 46 seconds of the period. And the 22 seconds of De Natura Sonoris #2 that run from the spiral cut is an almost perfect half of the back half’s 46 seconds. Sorry, I realize this would be easier to understand with an audio clip, or something, but I’m not that advanced yet.
Also, this back half of the backward is officially the first time that two Penderecki tracks are played overtop each other (check this if you don’t believe me; and you better believe me, cuz it’s gonna happen a lot going forward), but Wendy Carlos’ track (officially named The Shining) which includes Dies Irae, is also like two tracks playing overtop each other: the ancient apocalyptic melody, and Carlos’ gorgeously haunting skittery-voice background sounds. A secondary effect to the overlapping music is that this is the first segment to have more actual music playing than seconds in the segment. It’s a 46 second segment, but it has 65 seconds of music. And if I’ve somehow overestimated, it could be 64 seconds, and therefore palindromic with 46.
As for surface level theme, the spiral cuts divide up Wendy and Danny maybe escaping from Wendy and Danny definitely escaping, and Jack the interviewee who hasn’t crossed the threshold of this dreaded, haunted place from Jack the PR-smiling charmer who is too desperate and defenceless to resist the hotel’s wiles. Entry and escape, application and abandon, imprisonment and freedom.
What’s also neat about that is how at the beginning of the backward action (meaning the end of the back half), Wendy and Danny are running to reconnect and begin their final escape, while in the forward action at the beginning of Section IV Wendy and Danny are just being introduced. There’s a running theme in the film about how in order “to get back homeward” you have to venture out some place. You have to go “there” to get “back again”. You have to go to the moon to really know what earth is. So this perfect divide of Section III’s reunion between mother and son, and Section IV’s first breakfast together, where we establish what home really is for these cats, seems apt. It’s apt not to have the reunion with “safe and normal” and the original “safe and normal” overlap perfectly, because they are two different experiences. The one can only really remind of the other.
Click here to continue on to The Golden Shining: Section IV
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