‘Hello Danny. Come and play with us... ...come and play with us Danny. Forever and Ever and Ever.’ The Shining (1980, 1hr 19mins)
Director: Stanley Kubrick Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson, Stephen King Jack Nicholson: Jack Torrance Shelley Duvall: Wendy Torrance Danny Lloyd: Danny Torrance Scatman Crothers: Dick Halloran Philip Stone: Grady Barry Nelson: Ullman
Writer Jack Torrance takes the position as caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. He takes his Wife and son to live in the deserted building for 5 months, allowing him to maintain the premises over the winter as he writes.
There is no evidence of a strong family bond, from the start of the film Nicholson’s caretaker, husband and father is played with benign neglect. In fact there is very little dialogue in the early scenes as the family settle in. Kubrick instead allowed his spooky house to fill the audience’s head with the vastness of the building, and the remoteness of the Mountain location. ‘Kubrick's unbalanced approach (over-emphasis on production values) results in soulless cardboard cutouts who can do little to generate audience empathy.’ Adams D., (2006) It seems Adams has a very low opinion of Kubrick’s work. Kubrick approaches this film as he has every other, with the meticulous eye of a Director who truly knows what he will allow his audience to feel. True, Kubrick’s stage is vastly empty here. But the silence is punctuated by some stirring performances. Duvall’s wife is a weak character, but that allows, all the more domineering from Nicholson’s beast. Her performance can never be described as gutsy, but she does show genuine fear in several scenes, no doubt leading to the ill health she suffered during the shoot. All other performances sit so well as to not cause Kubrick’s grip on the viewer to be broken. Scatman Crother’s plays Dick Halloran with just the right level of sobriety to communicate with Danny and the audience. Danny Lloyd is superb. As the audience reels and withdraws from Nicholson’s monster they run to and with Danny, almost desperate to see him safe and out of harms way. As Roger Ebert writes, ‘The movie is not about ghosts but about madness and the energies it sets loose in an isolated situation primed to magnify them.’ (2007) while there are certainly nods to the supernatural throughout, this is truly a tale of isolation. Danny has a more nurturing and constructive relationship with his invisible friend Tommy than he does with either parent. Shelly Duvall’s character suffers that loneliness that a lot of mothers must, being in a relationship with a physically or emotionally absent partner, having only their child as company. And Nicholson stands alone with his frustrations and
failed ambitions, turning ever more from his family and his human side to the solace he finds within the walls of the overlook. The final scenes are vicious, cut with a savage intensity that drives the pulse of everyone watching. Nicholson remains a threat right to his dying breath, fortunately Kubrick stops short of ending Stephen King’s tale with tragedy. Allowing us to believe that if ghosts and monsters are real, we at least have a chance of outrunning them. ‘It's the experience more so than the actual content of The Shining that radiates cold, anti-humanly indifferent terror.’ Henderson E., (2007). Henderson surmises well. The Shining seems to be one of that rare breeds of films that transcends the screen leaving it’s mark on the viewer, indelibly. While the film is flawed as all art can be to different beholders, The Shining leaves a chill long after it’s component parts have blurred and lost their menace. Don’t we all look at the Elevator doors of lobbies of a certain size with a certain dread?
Adams D., (February 9, 2006). ‘Time Out’, rottentomatoes.com Ebert R., (May 8, 2007). ‘Chicago Sun-Times’, rottentomatoes.com Henderson E., (November 19, 2007). ‘Slant Magazine’, rottentomatoes.com Image List Poster Image: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/shining/