The Treachery of Images: Room Totals and the Work/Play Dynamic



Small formatting note: I like seeing numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) instead of written out numbers (one, two, three, etc.). I realize this may bother some people. Throughout the site, I’ve tried to only use numerals to express time values, since I’m making so, so many references to months and minutes and moments. Here, I’ll extend this to the value system describing the various photos (eg. “2-value” refers to the second of the 21 photos, “6-value” to the sixth photo, and so on). But I might get carried away in other areas.

If you skipped the intro, the one thing you need to know going forward is that I discovered that the final 21 photos (F21) seen in the film, and which repeat throughout the hotel earlier in the film, are meant to be understood as having the following values.

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I set about seeing what all the F21s would add up to, and while 811 (the total of everything added up) didn’t seem to mean anything (it would be 13:31 expressed in seconds, which is neat), when we zoom in on the three places where F21 photos appear (the lobby, the lounge, and the games room), a fascinating pattern emerges.

The total for the lobby? 237.

Map courtesy of Redrum: The Shining II

The total for the games room? 157. Which is 2:37 in seconds.

Just note the numbers and ignore the colour boxes here–they’re from a different stage of my analysis.

The total for the lounge? 417.

Or, 157 east of Jack’s typewriter, and 260 west of Jack’s typewriter.

Sorry, I made a mistake about where I placed that 33, and I don’t want to have to remake the whole graphic.

And in case you’re thinking, “260 is not 237, Joe.” Yeah, I know, and I’ve wondered about that. My best guess is that the first wall we see in here during Danny’s first lesson (the “55” sum in the above graphic) is the only single wall in the entire building to feature two twin F21 photos (two 13-values; the teal boxes in the below graphic), and that the part of this wall that would put it furthest from everything else in the lounge features a 10 and a 13, making 23.

So, if that logic makes you wrinkle your nose, yeah, I wrinkle mine a little too. But room 237 is right above this area, and 23 is two-thirds of a 237, so…

I don’t know.

The other thing that bugs me is that in my original count for this room, I had 420 (long story short, I overlooked an F21, and one of my guesses at an F21 turned out to be a non-F21). And I liked it way better when it was 2:37 (games room), 237 (lobby), 26 (twin 13s), 237 (west of typewriter), 2:37 (east of typewriter). But what we have now (2:37-237-23-237-2:37) is fine too, I guess. That 420 is just neat because 42 is a major number that appears multiple times in the film, as we’ll be discussing later.

The other neat/frustrating thing about this particularly majestic tidbit is that each room has a moment in the film when we, the audience, have seen every F21 photo that completes the total for the entire area, right? Like, in the games room, the moment we’ve seen every F21 photo is when the shot reverses on the twins at 21:47. But then the film cuts back to Danny noticing them, and a sort of twin shot of this 157-completion shot starts at 21:57 exactly.

The moment when we’ve seen the last new photo inside the lounge is technically over at 1:41:56, but this next second, 1:41:57, is not that far off. That’s like a mashup of 417 and 157. Wombo combo.

Finally, the moment we’ve seen the last F21s for the lobby is right here, at 2:07:10…

…but this shot ends at 2:07:32, which seems pointed to me.

There is just one thing I want to point out here, though. There’s this one photo that never appears before the moment right before Hallorann takes the axe to the heart, and it’s at 2:08:37. And I don’t think you could ever get a wholly positive ID, but the one F21 photo it resembles is the 2-value photo.

And of the two other 2-values that appear in the part of the lobby that leads to the Gold Room: as you can see here, the one on the east side has been substantially darkened, as to make it unrecognizable. The one on the west side is so bright, you can actually make out the women better, even at this distance, even though the angle is more severe.

So I’ve wondered if perhaps we’re not meant to count the darkened 2-value, and if we’re meant to have faith in the Hallorann death photo being the real 2-value. Or something like that, for the 2:08:37 finale. I’m really not sure.

Food for thought.

What is clear to me is that 237 and 157 are like duelling work/play numbers. The 237 is work because what the hotel wants above all else from Jack’s employment is for him to kill Dick. The 157 is the play number because the hotel wants Danny to come play forever and ever and ever. And forever and ever and ever…is time. And 157 in time is 2:37.

Also, sorry if this (more than anything else on this site?) makes me sound like a crazy person, but I figured out what the balls were on the table here, and as you can see, there’s a ball for every of the F21 values on the wall behind it. You do have to be a little creative, imagining that the 1 and 8 balls would combine for the 18-value photo above, and the left over balls of 11, 3 and 6 don’t comfortably add up to make the 19-value that remains.

But what I also noticed is that the balls that must have been sunk at this point in the game–2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 14–add up to make 42, which, again, is one of our mystical numbers. In fact, if you haven’t read this elsewhere on the site, my theory about 42s is that they symbolize impossibility or “magic”. And these connections that exist between these balls and these pictures is pretty wild as is.

But yeah, I’d say 237 is work and 157 is play.

It’s interesting then that, while the Colorado lounge halves (157/237) are extremely apparent in their being connected (they’re the same room), the lobby and the games room are never shown to be connected, though we do get two strong clues about their proximity.

The first clue is in how the lobby features different couch designs in each section of the layout, and the couch design closest to the bathrooms looks like the couch sitting just outside the games room.

Then, in the scene below, when Ullman is about to turn left, to follow in the same eastward direction that Watson went off toward, Jack says, “I better collect my family first” and Ullman smiles knowingly, and turns to his right, to exit in a northerly direction. Jack had already said “My son has discovered the games room”, so Ullman would know where that was, and corrected his path to head that way. Jack follows, and doesn’t seem to deviate from a path straight north.

The other neat thing to mention here is that when Danny is making his final turn before meeting the twins for the last time, he’s turning north into the hall that Jack and Ullman would likely be heading toward in that earlier moment. The red arrow indicates where Jack and Ullman would turn once hitting the bathrooms.

Now, it’s possible the games room would be reached by Jack and Ullman turning right instead of left here, and going east toward the double doors down the hall here. But I doubt this. This hallway, with its punchcard station, and the accountant’s office, and all the plate stands and so on, looks way more like a working area that would normally be shuttered to guests.

And they had to have turned left or right at this juncture, because straight through would be the washrooms.

And remember, the Suite 3 bathroom window lets out about 20 feet west of the hotel lobby’s entrance.

So, if Danny’s encounter with the twins is meant to be happening somewhere east or north of Suite 3 (there’s never hard evidence of this–the wallpaper is the same, but this “staff wing” of the hotel could stretch east and west in ways we don’t know) it’s possible it’s happening just above the games room.

So, yeah, I think it’s strongly suggested that as Danny’s triking toward the twins for the final time…he’s last seen heading in the direction of the games room, where he first encountered them. And which would be fitting, again, since he’s about to receive an invitation to play from girls standing approximately where he was standing one floor down, by the dart board.

And to get poetic for a moment, I wonder if what this says about the subtext of the film is that time and space are the real enemies of this story. When we play, we have playtime. When we work, we need workspace. 237 is the physical act of killing Hallorann, and 2:37 is the time, for instance, between Jack stalking to kill Hallorann (2:06:04), and Jack killing Hallorann (2:08:41).

Jack’s issue is an existential one. In his interview he shirks the title of “school teacher” and bestows upon himself the title of “writer”, before becoming instantly sheepish about this. If he was a natural writer, he’d probably have published something before his current age of 42. Part of his problem seems to be that he can’t “settle into the habit of writing every day”, and when Wendy suggests he do just that, he balks at the absurdity of her casual tone. Wendy doesn’t understand that real work is the work of making peace with yourself as a limited, mortal entity, striving to achieve just one masterpiece before you die, to be remembered by. But when Jack’s given all the time and space in the world to create his great work, his natural inclination is to read newspapers, and throw a tennis ball at a wall for hours on end.

Once he finally can sit at the typewriter, and bang out the same sentence hundreds of times (535 at least, by my count), it’s like he’s being ground up between the two millstones of these opposing forces: the hotel’s desire for him to physically kill Hallorann (work), and its promise for him to become an immortal member of its private version of eternity (play). If you kill…you may live forever.

In this sense, “All work and no play” could be seen as “All space and no time makes Jack a dull boy”. And that’s eventually what becomes of him. As a frozen photo on a wall, he becomes (in an evolutionary sense), only the physical matter of photo fibres. He’s a dull boy in that photo.

Also, I should point out that where Jack’s typewriter sits for the majority of the film, we first see a golden bowl. This bowl seems to be a reference to two items from world mythology: 1) the golden bowl that Hercules rode to fight Geryon, and 2) the golden bowl of biblical fame that leads to the verse, “Vanity of vanities sayeth the preacher. All is vanity.” I could reproduce my “violence and mythology” analyses of these gold bowl appearances, but you might as well go read about that here and consider what it might mean in this context. Basically I think it’s saying that Jack’s work and play are in vain.

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Before we move on from this part of the analysis, I just want to point out that the “work” half of the lounge has a pool table in it identical to the ones in the game room…

…just as the “play” half of the lounge features rugs that appear in the lobby. In fact, just as the pool tables had that connection to 42, so do these rugs, since this TV plays Summer of ’42 midway through the film. And you might notice that the TV the movie’s playing on has no power cord, and you might think that the cord is grounded into a floor plug, accessed through a hole cut in the rug. But then why would the rug change within 3 days, and who among the Torrances would think this was a good idea?

So, no, this was more likely a magical, shifting rug, and perhaps this is why it does so: to suggest a connection between the lobby and the “play” half of the lounge. This would make a Law of Four/Four Directions sort of thing out of the work and play halves of the lobby/games room and lounge. The lobby and games room are north and south of each other, and the lounge has a west half and an east half. 157 is north and east, 237 is south and west. And the pool table and the rugs help to form connections between the north and west (pool table) and the south and east (rugs).

(And I haven’t put much thought into this, but perhaps a similar thing is being said about the Gold Room and kitchen, which are highly suggested to be closely linked. A place for play and a place for work. I noticed a pattern in the appearances of the bloodrug and waverug that suggest the bloodfall hall is right behind the Gold Room, which could suggest that the kitchen is accessed through the bloodfall elevators. If so, the remaining areas we see of the hotel’s interior mainly involve the “staff wing” (where we see Suite 3, the twinhall, and the blowjob well–places for play?) and the boiler room (a place for work). In fact, yeah, the only other places I can think of that are ever seen in the film are either highly suggested to be closely linked to these areas (the 2nd entrance and the bloodfall are obviously near the Gold Room and kitchen), or are visibly connected to the other area (room 237 is above and behind the Colorado lounge). So, yeah, all the other areas in the film probably compose a secondary Four Directions work/play dynamic. Oh! There’s a strong suggestion that the boiler room is in a basement, as is the kitchen. So perhaps the Four Directions between those are about ups and downs (the boiler room is beneath the lounge, the kitchen is beneath the gold room). This might be the best evidence that the bloodfall elevator leads to the kitchen, which would be apt, given the murdered Hallorann’s connection to that area.)

Now, this does all depend on you taking my word that the sums are what I’m saying they are. And while you could reproduce all my work (as someone probably should someday), we are getting close to the part where I will be analyzing the individual meanings of each F21 photo based on where they do hang, so you’ll probably end up getting a facsimile of that process if you read to the end here.

I mention that there because there’s one more truly mind-boggling thing I learned from studying the photos in the film to the point of absurdity, and there’s no way in hell I have the time to prove it to you, nor you the patience to be proven to, I’m sure. If you add up every appearance of every F21 photo (not counting repeating shots of the same photo appearing in the same framing in the same scene), they all add up…to 2368. The first count I did of everything was exactly 2370, but that was before I discovered my three mistakes, and yeah, now it’s 2368. So, that would be yet another reason to suspect that final photo above Hallorann of being a 2-value, because it would get us there, ever so perfectly.

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But only if we also count the darkened 2-value (in the two shots it appears in, for 4 points), and I’m not sure why we would count both, since that would make the total value of the lobby 239, ultimately.

Anyway…that’s why this section is called…THE TREACHERY OF IMAGES!!!

But before we move to the next section, consider how insane it is that the film’s grand total might be 2370. That would mean that every shot of any F21 photo (of which there are 37 in the film (not counting doubling shots), out of a total 664 shots (there’s two darknesses that I count as extra shots to reach 666)), would have to have been so carefully framed in order to get us to exactly 2370. That might not sound like the most colossal effort (any random chase scene from a James Bond flick might contain 4 or 5 times that many shots), but consider how in moments like this, as Wendy’s running to nightmare Jack’s side, we get our first look at a 17-value that hangs way up in the second part of the southwest stairwell. And we only see it for a split second as this shot rushes by.

But then, as she returns to fight Jack for Danny’s future, the shot reveals that there was a second F21 photo up there, an 8-value, which vanishes from the screen almost as rapidly.

So those two shots had to be framed and executed just so, in order to achieve these results. And so did every other of the 37 shots. Oh, and before that starts to sound too easy, remember that there are many shots in the film which involve photographs, but crop out all or most of the F21s that we know to be on that wall. So, as Wendy first enters the lounge for the big fight, as she’s passing the eastern part of the north wall, where we see a 17, a 6 and a 14 at other times, here we only see the 17 before the whole area is whisked away.

I’ve never worked a camera rig before, but that sounds like a mind-boggling amount of tiny perfections to get right.

And when the shot reverses on this area in a few seconds, now the 37 points-worth of photos are blocked by the fireplace. So we only reach 2370 by looking at exactly what showed up in each shot. Not by counting each moment of a bay of photos showing up, and the values we know to be there.

In fact, this is probably why one of the photos that switches between different scenes (the red line on the left–ignore the other red line and blue highlight box) is an 18-value, a “hell” photo, to suggest that we should never take for granted that the F21s are always where we imagine them to be. Because they’re treacherous!

But yeah, that means that not only did Kubrick figure out where each F21 photo should go throughout the entire hotel to achieve the work/play dynamic for the different areas, he also had to figure out how 37 shots (many of which move through several positions) would have to be framed in order to achieve this infinitely grander vision of 237dom. The final of these shots is this reverse shot of Wendy reacting to the skeleton ball, in which we can only see 42 points, made up of 5 on the right, and 37 on the left. So, it’s our magic number (along with that sly, sinister 37) that brings us to the ultimate wombo combo. Of 2368…if you don’t believe in secret 2s.

Oh, and in case you’re like, “Isn’t the final wall of photos the last shot of F21s?” Yeah, that’s technically true, and they add up to 231, which is kinda neat. But since taking them out gets us so close to 2370, my feeling is that they were meant to exist separately from the rest of the appearances in the film. Just like how a map and the legend for the map depend on each other, but are not technically the same thing. The legend helps you understand what the map is saying, but it is not “the map”.

Also, as I mentioned, we reach this total by not counting every “twin” shot of the same photo on the same wall with the same framing in the same sequence. If we did count every single reappearance (like the 12 extra shots of the 4-value in the 12 other shots of Jack in the interview), along with the value of the final 21, we would get 2822. Which doesn’t mean anything that I know. So if you prefer a meaningless sum over a meaningful sum, there ya go. Enjoy.

Oh damn, I forgot to mention that there’s exactly 420 photos in the entire hotel (landscape (353) and portrait style (67) combined). That’s pretty cool, eh? Kinda makes you wish that lounge total was 420 too…

Click here to continue on to The Meaning of F21s