Through the Mirrorform: The Midway Mark, or, Through the Looking Glass’s Looking Glass



Studying the mirrorform means starting at the end/beginning and working our way to the middle. And we do this partly because of how much this story has to do with mirrors. So why shouldn’t we consider the midpoint between mirrors? In fact, I have found reason to study the film as a twice-folded phenomenon, and as a seven-times-folded phenomenon. But for now I just want to consider the significance of the mirrorform’s middle, which is 35:30 into the film, or 2130 seconds. And for those keeping track, yes, 213 is a jumble of 312, the AT code for Bluebeard.

What follows here are my original mirrorform-analysis writings that came from my first realization that this was a significant moment.

As backward Jack needles Wendy for what her plans are, to which she’ll reply that Danny should be taken to a doctor, forward Wendy is passing a magazine in the background called Travel Holiday (Note too the EXIT sign hovering just beneath Jack’s right eye.)

Also, and much more significantly, this is halfway between the beginning/ending and the middle of the movie, the 1/4ths-3/4ths mark of the official film. This is neat because exactly one second from here we get the big shot of Jack in a huge mirror. Jack’s seen in numerous mirrors, of course, at numerous times, but never this prolonged.

Actually, holy shit, the only other time he’s seen in the Suite 3 mirror is 15 seconds past the halfway mark between the 1/4ths-3/4ths mark and the middle moment, which would make it the 3/8ths-5/8ths mark. (Incidentally, these two scenes are 82 and 23 seconds long each, for a total of 105. When Wendy is seeing the blowjob bear, there’s a suite close to her perspective, looking down the hall, called 105. I’ve never had any idea why it might be numbered that before now. But that would gel perfectly with my concept that the BJ bear is a “reflection” of Wendy.)

And for the sake of completism the 1/8th-7/8ths mark is right after the moment of Jack’s first blows to the bathroom, right at the end of THE INTERVIEW and the start of CLOSING DAY, 2.5 minutes after Wendy saw REDRUM in the mirror. So not quite as visually elegant as the others, but Jack is standing between the mirror and REDRUM.

And just in case the shot of the Torrances driving past Alder Creek seems like the least mirror-based of all these moments, recall that the final shot in the driving to the Overlook sequence features the car a few hundred metres further back on this same curve of road, about to cross Alder Creek again. And also, this second set of Overlook approach shots features the car driving on the opposite side of the range that the first set of shots showed it driving up (which would be a rarity if not a completely ridiculous concept for something as short as a “25-mile stretch of road” high up the side of a mountain like this–in reality, the second set of shots show the car driving the opposite way down Going-to-the-Sun Road that the opening shots show, so there’s that mirrorformity too–I’m not saying I’m definitely right about the two mountainsides bit, but I’ve driven through large parts of the Rockies, and I’ve never seen anything like it, have you?).

This got me thinking about something I noticed ages ago in the All Work papers. Check this out. On the 10th page Wendy looks at, there’s a 1/3rd symbol, and on the 17th page, two 3/4ths symbols (the first one is overlaid with the b in “boy”. As far as I know these are the only fractions that made it in, but I don’t think it’s very easy to trip up and accidentally strike a fraction key on any kind of typewriter.

In fact, the 3/4th button is by the right shift key, far from the b or space keys. And the 1/3rd key is way far out from the s, j, or even the shift key.

As for the 10th/17th page business, that looks like another 117 to my Tower of Babel-obsessed eye. In case you’re somehow starting here, there’s a magazine that moves around the hotel featuring a painting of the Tower of Babel, which is mentioned in the bible at Genesis 11:7. The implications of this are pretty massive, but let’s move on.

I’m wondering if the 1/3rd and 3/4ths reference is to draw our thinking to the film’s exact sections. If so, here’s the 1/3rd mark, which includes the phrase EYE SCREAM.

And here’s the 3/4ths mark, which is only 141 seconds after Wendy passed the typos on the page. Jack is saying “What should be done with him?” I’m really not sure about how the 1/3-3/4 images connect, but the most likely thing, it seems to me, is…what should be done with Jack is…he should be turned into a photo ghost, a thing of the past (like the postcards imply). And what should be done with Danny is he should get the eye scream (like the EYE SCREAM note implies).

But there is one very conspiracy theory type of thing to note here.

I can’t disclaim enough that I don’t believe Hitler escaped suicide in 1945. But Kubrick was, according to his daughter Katharina, a big fan of conspiracy theories, and liked to wonder about the secret nature behind things. Also, and this is probably a central factor: two of The Shining‘s five producers, Martin Richards and Robert Fryer were two of the three producers on the film The Boys From Brazil, released two years earlier (while The Shining was in production) which is about the resurrection of Adolf Hitler.

With that in mind, in the above image of Wendy at the switchboard there are a few things:

  • 1) the truck of phone books behind Wendy is exclusively American except for one directory for Buenos Aires, and that’s where conspiracy theorists say Hitler escaped to after the war;
  • 2) they say he escaped by U-boat, and there’s a rather conspicuous U-shaped horseshoe nailed to the wall (nicely framed by a phi grid composition–also, recall that the Arnegger piece behind the switchboard has a Hitler connection of sorts);
  • 3) as discussed, the postcards in front of Wendy’s face here bring to mind the beginning and the end of the movie, and it’s at the end that we get that crossfade where photo Jack looks like he has a Hitler moustache;
  • 4) photo Jack is holding the secret note, just as there’s a secret note pinned to the EYE SCREAM board;
  • and, if you like, 5) the red, black, white tones across the hall behind Wendy look like Nazi colours, as do much of the hotel.

So in light of all that, you could look at the scene following the 3/4ths mark, where Jack begins repeatedly pointing at his chest…

…as a kind of “I’m Hitler!” gesture.

In fact, for one of these, we’ve got the Hitlermobile right in Jack’s throat.

And a moment later he screams, “Has it ever occurred to you that I have agreed to look after the Overlook Hotel until May the 1st!?” Hitler blew his brains out on April 30th. And his “May the 1st” gesture looks like all his pointing at himself gestures.

But you know why I doubt all that (beyond the obvious historical evidence)? I mean, why I doubt Kubrick was unequivocally supporting the conspiracy theory. It’s actually because of EYE SCREAM. When Hallorann turns and asks Danny if he wants some, the mirrorform image is of Wendy heading to the snowcat garage where she’ll find the VW-engined Aktiv Snow-Trac’s heart ripped out. So if ice cream has any relation to eye scream, which I think it very much does, and if EYE SCREAM has anything to do with Hitler, then the mirrorform is basically telling us: he dead. The Volkswagen’s heart has been ripped out.

Also, the mirrorform for EYE SCREAM (the note) is Jack heading to kill the radio. So yeah, if anything, this seems like more of a wink from Kubrick about the fact that Hitler is dead, but also that this conspiracy theory exists about him.

Still, if everything I’ve noticed here was pointing to what I’m assuming it points to (the fractions equalling timecodes; the Buenos Aires phonebook and horseshoe pointing to Hitler) was Kubrick messing with us? If he does think Hitler died in the war, was this all a blind alley for the eye screamer? Or to look at it the other way, if the typos were meant to be interpreted as nothing but chaos, why are all the other typos in the All Work papers so easy to attribute to the surrounding keys? It’s certainly strange, if nothing else.

(Update: after decoding King’s novel, I’ve discovered that Jack in the novel gets obsessed with a scrapbook in the Overlook basement with a bunch of real dates that, in the novel, relate to the Overlook’s history, but in real history these dates point to days that have significance to the assassination of JFK. What’s more, Danny’s lessons and escapes seem to point to forgotten history. So, the point of the book seems to be that Jack gets obsessed with the JFK assassination, a puzzle that, almost 60 years later, is no closer to being solved. And Danny’s historical puzzle is easy solved by following the novel’s own codes, so the difference between Danny and Jack, in both the film and book, is that Jack gets associated to conspiracy theories that will likely never be solved, and Danny gets associated to patterns that derive from science and nature.)

The other thing to note about the mirrorform midway is that all three of our major characters are in abstractions of the three places they will experience their greatest personal terror. Danny being under 237 is obvious, but perhaps this also explains why his emergence from 237 also takes place on this lounge circuit, or why his path in that moment almost seems to be cutting a bisecting line through the loop.

Wendy is crossing an area that resembles the BJ well, complete with twin Oxborough paintings. I say greatest personal terror, because I think the BJ well is the most strongly connected to Wendy’s wrongdoing in the film.

And Jack’s sleeping in Suite 3 which possesses more than a few subtextual connections to 237’s interior. For instance, both (likely) feature a Vesuvius painting. Both feature a reference to a Gould. Both feature character’s seeing something terrifying in a mirror. And so on.

I’m not sure I love that last point, but I’ll keep it in case I think of something else.

Lastly, this mirrorform-middle moment is cool for containing this transition of Wendy’s breakfast approach into the long mirror shot of Jack.

Jack is seen near numerous mirrors before this point (one at the lobby entrance, three in Suite 3, and numerous ones in the Gold Room), but he’s never seen reflected in one.

So this middle-middle, this looking glass’s looking glass, is what we’re passing through. And besides the 105 seconds of time that Jack is lengthily seen in those two major mirrors, there’s seven other moments where he’s seen fleetingly passing a mirror (I cut out one of the other Gold Room entry mirror passes for the graphic).

And there’s the matter of Jack inspecting each ghost in a mirror. In three strikingly different dramatic moments.

In fact, as we pass through the mirrorform middle Jack really starts ramping up the mirror phrases in his fight with Wendy. So it’s almost like he knows he’s leaving the mirrorverse behind, and he’s re-entering a mirror-less existence. You know, in my analysis of the mirror phrases, I note how his increasing frustration with Wendy seems to reflect his frustration with reality, with Wendy not being a trickster ghost, not trying to stroke his ego, or manipulate him the way he wants to be manipulated. But this actually contextualizes that thought.

So, this could be another interesting case of Kubrick’s three major, movie-wide techniques having something in common. In the mirrorform, the second half is like the “mirror” half, in which we experience Jack’s total conversion from who he is in the first part of the first half (“redrum grosses me out!”) to who he is the backward part of the first half (“redrum sounds like a good idea!”).

In Redrum Road, there is, simply, Round 2, the middle third of the film, which starts after Jack’s just bit Wendy’s head off for interrupting his typing, and which features him about to do his first killing (of the radio). So that movie-wide technique divides the Jack who’s only heard about the Overlook making people kill, from the Jack who will be encouraged by the Overlook to kill, from the Jack who will kill.

And in the Fibonacci Shining (The Golden Shining?–I can’t believe it took me that long to think of that), you get the middle movie, the part of the Fibonacci sequence that mirrors back on itself, and which almost perfectly contains all of Jack’s ghost adventures, but divides his more abstract ghost adventures, from the ghost adventures that specifically encourage him to murder.

And if you recall how the first half of the The Golden Shining is the fantasy half, and the second half is the reality half, how cool is it that in the mirrorform, it’s the other way around?

For the record, the timecodes for these divides are 35:30 (mirrorform), 47:18 (Redrum), and 54:14 (Golden). So that’s 18:44 of time in which to stagger Jack’s devolution, if that was indeed the point of these three midpoints.

The other crazy thing to point out there is that the distance from the mirrorform midpoint to the Redrum midpoint is 11:48, and one thing that signifies the Redrum midpoint is that it’s happening at 11:46 in the radio murder dimension, but actually, in the Wendy’s distress call dimension, it’s not much different: it’s 11:40. (Also, if you thought I forgot about the other Golden middle, the transition from Section V-VI, 12:14, I didn’t. But the distance from there to the mirrorform middle is 23:16, which in military time would still be around 11:30–the watches on Wendy and the doctor show around either 11:25 or 4:50). In fact, in the middle of the first “round” of Redrum Road, the time is 23:46.

And the distance between Redrum and Golden is 6:56, while in the scene immediately following Wendy’s distress call, of Danny triking to meet the twins, it’s 6:10. That one’s obviously off by a bit more (did Kubrick get his math wrong? did something happen in the editing stage?), but still. That’s close enough to pique my interest.

This could finally explain why so many of the film’s events seem to happen around the same hours–5, 6, 11. Maybe Kubrick knew that if he needed to shuffle things around, he’d want those numbers in the frame.

Also, I just wanted to point out how the middle of the mirrorform features an image called Supernatural Dream. And this next middle in starts with another such supernatural dream from Tony.

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Through the Mirrorform, Part 4: A Month Later

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