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published page: 03/08/03
last update: 03/08/03


the Shining

The Shining - UK 1980 - Colour, dolby, two version : 120 and 146 mn.

Directing, production : Stanley Kubrick. Scenario : Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson, from the Stephen King's book.

Images : John Alcott.
: Bartok, Penderecki, Ligeti - W. Carlos & R. Elkind.
: Ivan Sharrock.
: Ray Love Joy.

Characters : Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance), Shelley Duvall (Wendy Torrance), Danny Lloyd (Danny), Scatman Crothers (Halloran), Barry Nelson (Ullman), Philip Stone (Grady).


The story :

The Overlook hotel is closed every year for the slack season. This year, Jack Torrance is agree to be the guard for this hotel, for prove he is up to it, so much as take advantage of quiet of the mountain and write a book. The manager tell him that the next guard : Grady, is become completely wild because of the quiet, he killed his wife and two children with an axe before to commit suicide. Jack settle in yet, with his wife Wendy and his child Danny.

Little by little the character (and the audience too) become to confuse imaginary and reality. Danny who possess the shining, is assail by visions of murder, as if the old slaughter have left tracks that the child could feeling now. He is obsess too by the "237 room" who may be contain the secret of this mystery. Jack become wild and attempt to kill his wife and his child with an axe. But they succeed in running away to spare the tracked vehicle of the cook Halloran, who was coming to help them and who was killed by Jack. Jack finally die of exposure in the snow.









From the beginning of the film the tone is installed, it's a matter of a psychological thriller : while the camera show us an air view of a desert mountain landscape, many note of music go up, the Dies irae, the famous funeral song.

the Dies irae is the fourth part of the Gregorian Requiem, it's too the most dark and dramatic (Dies irae Dies illa - angry day, this day…). With the Roman tradition, this funeral mass, the Requiem, is normally divided into 9 parts from Introït to Absoute . Stanley Kubrick, as every time, never leaves anything to chance. He construct his film of this structure, he divide him up into 9 parts, with 9 titles from the meeting to red rum.

The romantic period stress the Dies irae's part of the Requiem. Mozart, Verdi, Brahms with there Requiem, are take words and change the music. Liszt (Totentanz) and Berlioz (Synphonie fantastique) are take the music of the Dies irae. More recently, Penderecki, which Kubrick use him music in this film, compose a Dies irae, in 1967 in memory of martyr from Auschwitz. Strangely was this music not very used for cinema : Dreyer in 1943, construct a film around this theme (Dies Irae) and Bergman in 1956 use the music at the beginning of the seventh stamp1 (Det Sjunde Inseglet). Kubrick pursue this approach with using the structure of 9 parts from the Requiem.

In spite of the happy end, this film is tragic and morbid, without access to the final serenity of the Requiem. The final <<red drum >> could open out onto the dream (per analogy between drum/dream), the illusion, the capacity of the human to imagine, the end and the beginning of a new cycle (like the Requiem). "the red colour is a goal" write Milorad Pavic. On the contrary, for Kubrick, this <<red dream>> is only <<red rum>>, only a nightmare, the picture in the mirror of <<murder>>, and the red colour is only a gigantic flood of blood.



The Shining
is so a "dark" film. It was yet make in colour. And using of colour, is not here, like often elsewhere, a commercial prejudice, but on the contrary, assume a capital importance and had

been the subject of a particular attention.

Main colours are two. They are every time present into the film, in forms of pigment (object…) or radiation (light). It seems first they have a relation, like a couple, like a waltz or a tango, and then they break out, they separate them and try to get the upper hand. This two colours are blue and red. Kubrick don't try to combine them, to synthesis them : on the contrary he is interested only in conflict between this two colours. So, the purple colour don't appear into the film.

Blue and red are first side by side and alternate : blue of the Wendy's coat or trousers, of the Danny's dungarees, Jack's sweater and shirt ; red of Danny's sweater and Wendy's boots. Danny's "Dreams" are haunt by the appear of two binoculars sisters dressed with blue clothes and by the "flood of blood" who fall away sharply across the hotel. Jack is little by little like snatch up by the red colour, red of the blood of the old slaughter of this hotel, which he can't forget, red of the lounge where he go regularly, where he had hallucination, even the red toilet where he believe to meet Grady, the previous murder, who drive him to kill his wife and his child. At the end of the film Jack is dressed with a red jacket, whereas Wendy is dressed with blue clothes. The two colours, like husband and wife, are definitively separated and cleave one against the other.

A third colour, more discreet, is constancy present into the film, the white of the snow. This is this white who overcome the red : Jack finally die of exposure in the snow.

This tree colours are too those of the American flag, blue, red, white, who fly, in a gigantic set, instead of Jack's head, when he's writing his romance at his desk. Flag, who fly instead of the head of all American people, bitter blend of prestige and disgrace. Prestige to be the greater in a lot of domains, and limit of this greatness, disgrace of upset of this country who quote himself as a model, who want himself as the more just, the more democratic of all. Disgrace of the atomic bomb, of the Vietnam's war, which theme Kubrick will treat just after The Shining with Full Metal Jacket. But too the disgrace of the origin : the slaughter of the American Indians, the red Indians.




At the beginning, we tell us the hotel called Overlook (view over the mountains but too ignore something) was build in 1907 and 1909 over a red Indians cemetery. And at the time of the tragic incident, the old guard Grady has killed his wife and two children with an axe, before to commit suicide with a rifle. Wendy haven't it, moreover, a likeness with a red Indian, with her fine feature and her long black hair ? Blue and red from the American flag are too the blue of Yankees uniforms and the red of the Indians skin. This is this blue and this red which confront each other on the screen. At the end is Wendy dressed with blue clothes, she was a success, notably with her marriage, to become integrated into the American society. Danny is still a little of each colour together. And lastly, doesn't accept Jack the red, he stay in a perpetual conflict with it, he will try too to kill his wife and his child with an axe, he will kill finally with an axes blow in heart, the only really good man of this story, the cook Halloran. Like if the real Jack's problem was coming from the heart. And we can believe to heart the ghost of the colonel Carrigton who repeat his too famous sentence : "a good Indian is a dead Indian", and we could heart him, who add more : "a good nigger is a dead nigger"…

The Indians genocide had begin in America from the XVI. century with coming the European settler. It live now about two millions in USA and Canada together. Kubrick recall this heavy heritage into the collective unconscious. He get so against the image of the majority of westerns. This is this unconscious feeling of culpability, of responsibility (according to Jack's words) which generate conflict in his brain. This is too, this stifling loneliness, called <<the ill of the solitary confinement>> by the red Indians, which exacerbate and transform a little disquiet into destructive madness. This is finally the horror of the last slaughter which haunt him, which invade his brain day like night and which bring him to repeat it, as for succeed to understand it, to digest it, as if history must always be repeated. And Kubrick examine what append in the labyrinthic meander of the human brain. Polanski, 4 years ago, in Le locataire (1976) had observe too this phenomena of repetitions, which bring food for thought about the human brain : <<Si on me coupe un bras ou une jambe, je dis j'ai perdu un bras, ou j'ai perdu une jambe. Mais si on me coupe la tête, est- ce que je dit ? J'ai perdu ma tête ou j'ai perdu mon corps ?">>




As Deleuze had it so good understood, is the theme of brain permanent into Kubrick's films : <<Chez Kubrick, le monde lui même est un cerveau, il y à identité du cerveau et du monde, tels la grande table circulaire et lumineuse de 'Docteur Folamour', l'ordinateur géant de '2001 l'Odyssée de l'espace', l'hôtel Overlook de 'Shining'. [...] Le monde cerveau c'est 'L'orange mécanique, ou encore un jeu d'échecs sphérique où le général peut calculer ses chances de promotion d'après le rapport des soldats tués et des positions conquises ('Les sentiers de la gloire').>> In The Shining, is the human brain like a labyrinth : a labyrinth-garden which where Wendy and Danny walk, where the final scene will play ; a labyrinth-model which over Jack bend down like for look into himself ; a labyrinth-hotel finally, with his many rooms, his immense kitchen and above all his corridor and their carpet's patterns which are just a gigantic labyrinth. The Minotaure is the woman of the 237. room. Finally Wendy and Danny will succeed to go out to the labyrinth whereas Jack die of exposure inside.


This film is so very worked. It remain nevertheless all this violence restraint all times of the film, and break out with the final scene. It remain this morbid, sterile and a little unhealthy atmosphere, which don't give a place for dreams except like a nightmare or a murder (red drum - murder) which from it doesn't seems possible it come out other than a kind of disgust and scorn of the human species.


Colas Ricard, 1995.

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