The Repr. of Madness in the Shining and Memento (Corr)

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The thesis is going to highlight schizophrenia as an important element in the collapse of the protagonist as well as its consequences on the male subjectivity and the other characters. Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis as well as Foucault’s theories will be a helping tool in the depiction of madness as well as on the use of different movie techniques, shots and scenes that also add to the representation. Patrick Fuery’s analysis, Madness and Cinema and Silverman’s film theories are going to comment on the crisis of male subjectivity, its masculinity in the body as well as personality disorders in the male subject. The first part of the thesis will highlight The Shining, focusing on the depiction of progressive madness in the protagonist, the deconstruction of his psyche as well as masculinity. Then, the focus will shift on Memento in which not just the protagonist’s disorder will be elaborated on but the collapse of the narrative’s linearity as well. After, there will be a short comparison between the two films and its common features.

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THE REPRESENTATION OF MADNESS IN
THE SHINING AND MEMENTO
By
Brigitta B. Miskolczi - Uhawha

University of Debrecen
Institute of English and American Studies

Supervisor: Dr. György Kalmár

Debrecen, Hungary
2014

1

NON PLAGIARISM DECLARATION

I, undersigned Miskolczi – Uhawha Brigitta Blanka,
student of the Faculty of Arts, University of Debrecen, hereby declare under penalty of
perjury, and also certify with my signature below, that my thesis, titled
The Representation of Madness in The Shining and Memento
is my own work, except where indicated by the reference to the printed and electronic
sources used according to the internationally accepted rules and regulations on intellectual
property rights.
I am aware of and understand what plagiarism entails with reference to university theses,
including:


verbatim direct quotations without

the use of quotation marks and proper

acknowledgment of sources;


close paraphrases or summaries of sources without due referencing;



attempts to present the published words and ideas of other authors as my own.

I hereby declare that I am aware of what constitutes an act of plagiarism and understand that
my thesis will be rejected if found to contain any instance of plagiarism.

Furthermore, I hereby confirm that the text of my thesis, uploaded to the Electronic Archives
of

the

University

of

Debrecen

(DEA),

available

at

the

address

of

http://dea.lib.unideb.hu/dea/handle/2437/85081, is exactly the same as the text submitted by
myself in a hard copy and/or on a compact disc.

Dated in Debrecen : 15 , April 201………………………………
Signature

2

Table of Contents
Part I..........................................................................................................................................1
1 Introduction..............................................................................................................................1
2 Madness...................................................................................................................................3
Part II.........................................................................................................................................5
1 The Shining..............................................................................................................................5
2 Opening Scene.........................................................................................................................6
3 The Overlook Hotel.................................................................................................................9
4 The Interview and the Introduction of Denny and Wendy....................................................10
5 Tony.......................................................................................................................................13
6 First Vision - Elevator...........................................................................................................14
7 Second Vision – Twin Girls...................................................................................................15
8 Mirrors and Reflections.........................................................................................................19
9 Jack’s Madness and the Maze................................................................................................24
Part III.....................................................................................................................................35
1 Memento.................................................................................................................................35
2 Opening Scenes......................................................................................................................36
3 The Narrative and Psychological Structure...........................................................................40
4 The Shining and Memento......................................................................................................50
Part IV......................................................................................................................................51
Conclusion................................................................................................................................51
BIBLIOGRAPHY...................................................................................................................52
Links.........................................................................................................................................55

3

Part I
1 Introduction
Since the 1980s there has been a high interest and fascination in motion pictures, films
and cinema as such. There were many directors who were able to capture the audience’s attention
and interest with the script, plot, music, shooting techniques and even the star system which put
an emphasis on the image rather than the acting. A popular topic which became the basic ground
for many highly acknowledged directors has a psychological attribute, and it focuses on
repressed desires, the unconscious and collective as well as individual madness. Therefore “the
cinema becomes the mirror of the psyche. However, it differs from the primordial mirror in one
essential point: although as in the letter everything may come to be projected, there is one thing
that is never reflected in it: the spectator’s own body” (Metz 45). Still, the cinema triggers bodily
responses, anger, sadness, confusion hence affecting the human soul and mind that releases these
emotions. “In other words the spectator identifies with himself as a pure act of perception, as
Jean-Louis Baudry has emphasized, because during the showing we are, like the child, in a submotor and hyper-perceptive state, because like the child again we are prey to the imaginary, the
double and are so paradoxically through a real perception” (Metz 49). Therefore, the spectator as
well has an important role in identifying with the actor, characters and camera movement as well.
“Without this identification certain facts could not be understood, for instance when the image
rotates and yet the spectator knows he has not rotated his head. The explanation is that he has
turned it in his all-seeing capacity, his identification with the movement of the camera being that
of a transcendental, not an empirical subject” (Metz 50). This capacity of the human subject is
very essential in understanding the madness of the characters and film narrations, being able to

1

identify with them helps in the process of comprehension as well as adds to the pleasure of
watching the film.
A way in which ‘mad’ films are able to become attractive to the sane mind is the way in
which the focus shifts on the aspect of the human psyche, normality as such becomes questioned
and social and psychological order collapses. The viewer is overwhelmed by the unconscious,
looses focus as well as the subject matter hence his/ her attention turns towards the unexplainable
phenomena of the mind and human brain. The thesis is going to argue about the representation of
male madness in media, focusing on two major films in which social order collapses, the
protagonist’s sanity is questioned affecting the characters, viewers as well as the narrative’s
linearity. These films are, The Shining and Memento which are connected on the basis of mental
madness turning into inner as well as outer violence. The thesis is going to highlight
schizophrenia as an important element in the collapse of the protagonist as well as its
consequences on the male subjectivity and the other characters. Freudian and Lacanian
psychoanalysis as well as Foucault’s theories will be a helping tool in the depiction of madness
as well as on the use of different movie techniques, shots and scenes that also add to the
representation. Patrick Fuery’s analysis, Madness and Cinema and Silverman’s film theories are
going to comment on the crisis of male subjectivity, its masculinity in the body as well as
personality disorders in the male subject. The first part of the thesis will highlight The Shining,
focusing on the depiction of progressive madness in the protagonist, the deconstruction of his
psyche as well as masculinity. Then, the focus will shift on Memento in which not just the
protagonist’s disorder will be elaborated on but the collapse of the narrative’s linearity as well.
After, there will be a short comparison between the two films and its common features.

2

2 Madness
“Socrates said that madness was preferable to ‘sober sense’ because ‘madness comes
from the Gods, whereas sober sense is merely human’” (Fuery 6). According to Socrates’
definition, madness opens up a transcendental gate allowing the communication with the
supernatural, therefore it comes from the gods, whereas sober sense is closed, strict and unable
to release itself to a higher power. This definition can be related to the cinema viewer, who in
order to understand the film has to be receptive for a variety of possible interpretations, receive
the divine gift of ‘insanity’ and enter in the realm of the cinematic representation. Therefore,
“madness is meaning and knowledge outside of themselves. It is another version of meaning
that has been placed in a special category of otherness. Similarly, madness is something that
happens to knowledge, for madness produces a special type of knowledge. This is precisely
what happens to cinema and its relationship to meaning” (Fuery 7). Hence, in order to become
receptive spectators we have to become psychologically challenged, abnormal understanding all
the manifestations of madness such as neurosis, psychosis, hysteria, paranoia, delusion as well
as schizophrenia.
Having such a wide interpretation, films dealing with madness invite the sane mind into a
world of excess in which order collapses, meaning loosens and the sane mind is challenged to
look at the film from a different angle and perspective in order to comprehend the message that is
behind the seemingly unrelated shots and scenes. These films go hand in hand with the horror
genre even though there are no monsters in it – “ other than those which lurk within the human
mind”(Howells 223). The collapse of the mental state can have outer or inner causes therefore
the camera technique as well can show the progressive deconstruction of the mind from an outer
or inner perspective. Hence, the viewer is a witness of the collapse of order or is part taker in it,
collapsing together with the protagonist.
3

“This idea of the madness of the spectator is an attempt to advance current psychological
approaches to cinema.[…] The cinema spectator is seen as a deeply unstable and
tumultuous position, required to abandon the certainties of the everyday. In this regard,
the viewer is compared to the hysteric, neurotic and psychotic in an attempt to witness the
madness involved in watching the film, therefore the meaning is also considered as an
unstable process, constantly being formulated, broken down and resisted, only to be
reformulated” (Fuery 2,3).
If the cinema spectator is seen as deeply unstable we can conclude that with each film
watched the personality of the viewer changes in some way. New images bring about new
identifications. According to Emil Benveniste, a contemporary French linguist “ it is impossible
to separate language from discourse, or discourse from subjectivity, the langue from the parole,
even for purposes of analysis. Therefore, within the semiotic model, the viewer does not have a
stable and continuous subjectivity, but one which is activated intermittently, within discourse”
(Silverman11-15). Emil Benveniste simply states that in each discursive situation we are
different, we are different while we watch the film and when we finish it. This also means
identification with idealization, if we see something perfect we want to incorporate it. However
we also incorporate the mad and abnormal aspects of the scenes and shots, walking on a slippery
ground that can make us fall any second into a total state of loss and insanity.
In films what helps us to identify with the characters is a term used by Lacan and
explained by Jacques-Alain Miller which is “Suture”. “Suture is the name given to the
procedures by means of which cinematic texts confer subjectivity upon their viewers”
(Silverman, 195). In this regard the Lacanian “I” incorporates two concepts, two “I”s, the one
talking and the one thinking. There is a split in the self, there is a self that offers a culturally
shaped identity and the another which is a mess, a rest without meaning. However, the “Real”,
the true meaning can be obtained only by the collapse of the constructed self. Still, the alienation
from this desire and through the maintenance of these culturally constructed roles, we sustain
4

normality. Suture is the one element that connects the two opposite selves it stitches them
together helping to offer the belief that the two different “I”s are actually the same. It is
somehow similar to Lacan’s mirror stage in which the child sees the body in the mirror and
identifies himself/herself with it.
In Madness and Cinema Fuery states that “madness is not meaninglessness but it offers a
different type of meaning by which we can come closer to understanding how anything can be
seen as meaningful by looking at its opposite. This comes mainly from Hegel’s idea that things
contain their own opposites within themselves, constantly finding themselves on the verge of
sliding into their own other” (Fuery 3). Therefore there is this constant struggle within the
psyche, between normal and abnormal, meaningful and meaningless, right and wrong, good and
evil, abstinence and momentarily pleasure. In films this is often presented by the phenomena of
the doppelganger which is the personification of the repressed other self that is always ready for
confrontation.

Part II.
1 The Shining
The Shining by Stanley Kubrick is a psychological horror film in which duality, the topic
of doppelganger as well as madness is represented in the life of the protagonist, characters,
narration as well as space and symbols. The film mainly highlights the progress of paranoia and
schizophrenia produced within the psyche. The film invites the viewer into a world where
meaning collapses and the firm subject becomes destabilized having the fear of total insanity. In
the film, Jack Torrance, a writer and recovering alcoholic, takes a job as an off-season caretaker
at an isolated hotel called the Overlook Hotel. From a medical perspective, recovering alcoholics
often complain of visual, tactile as well as auditory hallucinations in the process of withdrawal.
5

Therefore, Jack is already vulnerable subject offering himself to insanity, in whom isolation
brings out the repressed, psychotic behavior and in which hallucination overcomes reality. The
name of the hotel is meaningful and it foreshadows the future happenings as well as describes
Jacks attitude that, of ignorance and negligence. Together with the characters, the viewers as well
see something terrible, they are looking at something which was overlooked, repressed and
hidden.

2 Opening Scene

The opening sequence of the film, the first two and a half minutes is full of meaning and
the representation of the scenes foreshadows the isolated hotel where the deconstruction of the
protagonist will take place. The scene is showed by an aerial shot which is usually done with a
crane or with a camera attached to a special helicopter to view large landscapes, in this case
Glacier National Park (Montana). “ It is a long overhead tracking shot of stunning Rocky

6

Mountain scenery that is coldly intimidating and capable of reducing its human presence to
minuscule dots literally on the edge of disappearing into nature’s enormity” (Magistrale 100).
The fist image shows the reflection of nature in the water surface, therefore there is a double
image in which the reflection is much darker than the primal image. This phenomenon of the
double is going to be a constant theme in the film, highlighting the inner darkness of the
protagonist. “The terrain is a combination of waterways, islands, rock formations, mountains and
forests. The photography at first is high up, then low to the ground. This landscape is majestic,
yet the wide angle lens creates a disconcerting visual distortion” (Falsetto 70). The scene also
shows a car driving on an abandoned road. By the use of the aerial shot the car seems like a toy
compared to the oversized Rocky Mountains. These mountains are huge and ancient. It existed
before civilization, before human appearance. As we move closer to the overwhelming presence
of nature we feel captured by its glory and power. In this way the human perspective is inferior
to “mother nature”, almost invisible in the midst of the huge forest. The scene is almost like a
movement from civilization to wilderness foreshadowing the fact that the human being is
overpowered, he does not have a full control over life. “Later, the viewers get an early sense of
enclosed space in the scene that shows Jack driving up to the hotel in his Volkswagen. The
restricted interior space of the car is related to other enclosed spaces, such as the Torrence living
quarters as well as the final maze space that invoked claustrophobia”(Falsetto 71). However,
“Kubrick’s characters almost always think they are in charge, masters of the bright, fluorescent
worlds they inhabit. But they are never in control, they are, in effect, part of the spaces that
define them” (Kolker 6).
What happens to the scene later is that it shrinks the attention to the human being, from
the earlier seen nature and mountains. The space becomes smaller and smaller, the power

7

becoming incorporated into the human subject the same way Jack becomes more and more
threatening during the film. The car also goes through a tunnel which is another common motif
used in horror films. It implies darkness and mystery but also a process of transformation,
entering and coming out from it the subject is changed, the same way Jack’s personality is
transformed during the film. Combined with the camera shot there is also a non-diegetic, sinister
music being played that also draws attention towards the isolation and it invites the spectators in
the realm of magnificence and horror. Music is important because it creates high emotions in the
viewer, reality becoming much more horrific than fantasy, the same way “ Mainar explains in
Listening to Stanley Kubrick,
“In The Shining extradiegetic music is ominous and lacks melody, matching the horror
story, whereas the diegetic music heard at the ball is melodic, soft and friendly. Music
helps to contrast the two worlds, to indicate the passage from one to the other, and to
suggest the ambiguous attraction of the world of the past (ofmental disturbance) has not
only for Jack but for the audience” (Gengaro 191).

The viewer can also play the role of a voyeur, following the car, getting closer and closer
to it without its knowledge, almost like a ghost after its prey. As the scene goes on we get closer
to the mountains, we see snow combined with fog. The presence of the fog also implies isolation
as well as lack of control over our visual field. There are no clear cut boundaries therefore we
cannot know what stands in front of us. This leads to fear of the unknown, alertness as well as
confusion about what is going to happen and where it is going to take place. “The slower pacing
of the film early sections effectively sets up the quicker pacing of the second half. As the film
proceeds, it will elaborate on many narrative and formal ideas introduced in this opening section
such as duality and various generic references” (Falsetto 70).

8

3 The Overlook Hotel

The

next

sequence

introduces

the

Overlook Hotel that merges into the mountain. If the viewer doesn’t pay attention he or she
would literally overlook it, because the hotel perfectly becomes unified with the huge mountain.
The color grey of the mountain as well as the hotel’s color evokes a feeling of coldness and
emotionless and it is often associated with diseases of the mind and psyche, such as depression
as well as schizophrenia. “Too much of the color grey creates a tendency to loneliness and
isolation. From a color psychology perspective, gray is the color of compromise - being neither
black nor white, it is the transition between two non-colors. The closer gray gets to black, the
more dramatic and mysterious it becomes” (Kemmis). The pine trees that surrounds the hotel
looks sharp and frightening, almost needle like. This also can be in close relation with violence
that Jack is going to use against his own family.
At the beginning we see The Overlook Hotel from the exterior focusing on its mightiness
as well as its resemblance with the glorious mountain in the background. Later in the film we
find out that the hotel was built on an ancient Indian ground with a cemetery under it, in this
sense it is a burial ground, a vertical layering of space which is powerful underneath. Hence the
hotel is in close relation with the dead spirits that haunt the area. The Indian motif is going to
9

have an important role throughout the film. Based on these Indian motifs some critics claim that
“The Shining is not really about the murders at the Overlook Hotel. It is about the murder of a
race - the race of Native Americans - and the consequences of that murder” (Blakemore).
Therefore, we can consider the mountain, hotel and the maze which is part of the hotel, inside
and outside, maze within a maze as metaphors of Jack’s damaged mind. “The notion of mental
landscape is further emphasized by the numerous dissolves and fades to black in the film”
(Falsetto 71).

4 The Interview and the Introduction of Denny and Wendy
In the upcoming sequence, after the introduction of the Overlook Hotel we see on a dark
screen white letters “The Interview” showing that something professional is going to come. “ ‘
Here the entire sequence is shot with the Steadicam without interruptions; we can already see the
structure of the first room of the hotel”(Ferrara 163). “The interview scene in the film shows
Jack Torrance and the Overlook’s manager, Stuart Ullman agreeably if awkwardly participating
in an unremarkable ritual of the business world. Here we can see Kubrick’s need to streamline
the story by de-emphasizing Jack’s history of alcoholism –the reason Ullman is reluctant to hire
him, ironically, the reason Jack gets the job anyway” (MacCabe 177, 178). The scene also
depicts “one aspect of institutional space, the office. The attention to work décor and office
embellishment becomes a sign of underlying human traits that are subordinated to (or repressed
by) the space which envelops them. People will be dominated, controlled, made to look small by
the strongly prevailing institutional environments” (Kolker 58). Therefore, Jack entering in the
institutional world is going to be overpowered by it, undressing his social mask and giving in to
his true personality, that of a killer. The interview is intertwined with the scene where we get to
know Danny, Jack’s seven year old son and his mother Wendy. The scene is in Torrance’s home

10

in Colorado, in the kitchen where we can see them at the kitchen table. “Danny and Wendy are
separately entertained by two very different, abstract representations of violence. Danny watches
a Road Runner cartoon on television and Wendy is reading her book The Catcher in the Rye.
They share a comfortably detached experience of something that will become literal for them”
(Rasmussen 237). The sequence also introduces another important character, Tony, Danny’s
imaginary friend, who lives in his mouth, we can also call him his subconscious, his double.
Therefore, “Tony is clearly Danny’s other, who Danny is but also who he will become. He
introduces Danny to the world of fantasized image, the imago that will come to haunt him at the
Overlook Hotel” (Punter 471). In the scene Tony is very clear about his wish, he doesn’t want to
move to the hotel, he can’t explain why but he is firm in his decision. Even though Danny is
slightly receptive his alter-ego, Tony senses and anticipates the horrific happenings and desires to
prevent them and protect Danny. “Danny (as Tony): I don't want to go there, Mrs. Torrance./
Wendy: Well, how come you don't want to go? / Danny (as Tony): I just don't.” (The Shining)
Tony is also impersonal, he calls Wendy Mrs. Torrance which clearly proves that he is another
person, Danny’s old friend, helping him through in his isolation and lack of company and
friends. “In the kitchen scene there is a specific cross-cutting shot, jumping back and forth
between two locations, the kitchen and the hotel inviting the viewer to find a relationship
between the events. It also allows us to be physically present at both sides of the conversation at
once: a facility that reality does not permit” (Howells 226).
“The inside of the Overlook Hotel, the lobby is large, airy and tastefully decorated in
muted colors. Employees perform their routine duties quietly and efficiently. Stout pillars
reinforce an impression of institutional strength. Entering the lobby, Jack fits into the collective
pattern, to make a proper impression at his job interview he is dressed in a suit”(Rasmussen 236).

11

During the interview we can see Jack’s attitude towards the situation of solitude. “Ullman:
Physically, it's not a very demanding job. The only thing that can get a bit trying up here during
the winter is, uh, a tremendous sense of isolation./ Jack: Well, that just happens to be exactly
what I'm looking for. I'm outlining a new writing project and, uh, five months of peace is just
what I want./ Ullman: That's very good Jack, because, uh, for some people, solitude and
isolation can, of itself become a problem. / Jack: Not for me” (The Shining). He seems boastful
when Ullman calls his attention on the isolation of the hotel. He wants to show the manager that
he is psychologically strong enough for any upcoming challenge and he is capable to stand
anchored in situation where others might have fallen, “Well, you can rest assured, Mr. Ullman,
that's not gonna happen with me. And, uh, as far as my wife is concerned, uh, I'm sure she'll be
absolutely fascinated when I tell her about it. She's a confirmed ghost story and horror film
addict” (The Shining). This attitude is going to be his downfall and will finally prove the
manager right in his prediction. Kubrick himself states that “Jack comes to the hotel
psychologically prepared to do its murderous bidding. He doesn’t have very much further to go
for his anger and frustration to become completely uncontrollable. Jack is predisposed to lash out
against his family; isolation, claustrophobia and stress do the work of pushing him toward
homicide” (MacCabe 185). Therefore, Jack is constantly and progressively deconstructed as well
as reconstructed from a formal schoolteacher, writer into a psychopath recreating the happenings
of the 1920 murder.

5 Tony
In the next sequence we see Danny in the bathroom, standing in front of the mirror
speaking to Tony.

12

“It is a medium long shot presenting Danny closer to the camera from knees up, but still
as part of the setting. Also called ‘American shot’” (Ferrara 164). Instead of seeing himself in the
mirror, Danny sees Tony, his other self making a connection with him. “Tony is considered to be
a tougher-minded persona by which Danny can both explore and shield himself from the
frightening insights brought to him by the power of shining. He is also less emotional and less
dependent on others” (Rasmusses 237). In Psychoanalytical aspect, Danny’s development got
stuck in the “first fundamental period of the mirror stage. At first, it is as if the child perceives
the image of his body in the mirror as a real being, one that he tries to approach. This phase
indicates an initial confusion between self and other. Their relations confirm that it is primarily
through the other that he experiences himself, in this case Danny as Tony” (Dor 95 ,96). Besides
being Danny’s best friend, Tony is able to see in the future, he knows that Jack is going to get the
job at the hotel, he is the ‘shining’ ability of Danny. Therefore ‘shining’ itself is a doubling, it is
seeing the truth behind reality. He is also able to see the traces that the past left behind as the
African-American chef, Dick Hallorann puts it. He can see clearly in the foggy, harsh winter. He
sees what happened and its repetition of it in the future. Kubrick himself claims in connection to
Tony, that “Danny has had a frightening and disturbing childhood. Brutalized by his father and
haunted by his paranoid visions, he has to find some psychological mechanism within himself to
13

manage these powerful forces. To do this, he creates his imaginary friend Tony, through whom
Danny can rationalize his visions and survive” (Hill 208).

6 First Vision - Elevator
“In the next sequence we cut from Jack in the hotel lobby to Danny, who is still in the
bathroom where we saw him last” (Howells 226). Standing in front of the mirror, Tony shows
Danny why he doesn’t want to go to the hotel, in this case Danny has his first vision in the film.
“The camera approaches over his right shoulder until it is the mirror image of the boy’s face ,
which fills the frame in close-up. We then cut to a completely unexpected medium-long shot of
an empty hotel with two identical elevated doors. After some seconds dark-red blood pour in
from the left, flooding the lobby” (Howells 226).

14

Taking in consideration that hotel previously was an Indian burial ground, as well as that the
hotel’s interior space is decorated with Indian motifs, we can draw the conclusion that elevator is
that marginal space that connects the cemetery, death, whatever is repressed, uncanny and
unconscious with the realm of the hotel, life and consciousness. This vision is an image of the
repressed which comes back in the shape of the previous murders in order to conquer sanity
therefore life. Jack being vulnerable, this huge blood flow is able to capture him as well as
change him. So, this vision of Danny’s foreshadows what is going to happen, the repetition of the
previous murder that took place in 1920. This is mainly how repetition breaks down normality,
just like serial killers who always repeat the action of killing to bring them more and more
satisfaction. In this sense, the time of the previous murder clashes with Jack’s murder intention,
the chronological time breaks down, the time becomes disassociated, it is not ours anymore and
we are not ourselves anymore. This is merely the reason why Jack fell in love with the hotel right
away. It is like he has been there before knowing what is going to be around every corner.

15

7 Second Vision – Twin Girls
The

other

vision

Danny

sees,

is

the

image

of

the

twin

girls.

After the shot in which we see the horrifying elevator “ we cut to a very quick shot of another
new interior in which two unsmiling and identically dressed girls face the camera. We have
hardly had time to take this in when shot 50 cuts back to the bloody lobby, introducing how the
narrative proceeds as a sophisticated amalgam of editing techniques” (Howells 226).The girls
seemingly look alike still they are not identical twins, so we can notice a collapse of identity. The
subject is not a unifying whole it is made of pieces, a fragmented body as Lacan calls it. Lacan’s
concept of the fragmented body is in close relation to aggression, he states that “the imagos of
the fragmented body accompanies aggressive intentions, it is seen as the core psychological
16

content of the impulse to aggress. He also claims that when the image of the fragmented body by
the image of the competing with another, or when the subject’s demand for recognition is
refused, the response is aggression” (Malone 51). This is merely what happens to Jack during the
film. He desires recognition from the society, he writes and tries to get a stable job in order to
take care of his family, and when Wendy wants to leave the hotel after Danny’s accident, Jack
becomes aggressive he feels that Wendy doesn’t appreciate his initiative in finding a job. He also
feels important and doesn’t want to let down his employees. Not receiving the recognition from
the person he expects the most support, Jack becomes aggressive and progressively violent and
his other self, double overcomes his socially integrated personality. At the same time, “when the
viewer witness Denny’s psychic experience of the cascading blood and the twins, the film takes
us from a physical state into a psychological insight. We are not just in an apartment or in a hotel
we are invited into the horrors of someone else’s mind” (Howells 226).
The vision of the twin girls also appear when Denny rides his tricycle in the large
corridors of the hotel and stops at Room 237. He tries to enter but the door is locked and he sees
the vision of the twin girls again. “The music in this scene is from Bartok’s Adagio, as the
timpani glissandi starts, Danny sees the vision and he looks up at the door as he gets back on the
tricycle to ride away” (Gengaro 200). This scene of Danny riding his tricycle is very specific for
The Shining.

17

“Most of Kubrick’s films made extensive use of the long reverse-tracking shot. The
Steadicam camera stabilization system, another development of the Cinema Products
Corporation, was mounted to number of dolly devices to ensure exact speed and free
Brown from having to navigate. One such device was the wheelchair camera mount,
designed by Ron Ford. The wheelchair could be pushed with Brown operating the camera
and Steadicam, while focus-puller Douglas Milsome and the sound person rode along on
the back of the chair. On The Shining, this setup enabled Brown to lower the camera to
within a few inches of the floor, creating the extraordinary shots of Danny riding his Big
Wheel tricycle around the hotel’s hallways” (Hill 357) .
In the scene we see Danny exploring the interior of the hotel, every inch of it trying to
familiarize with the space. The viewer as well follows him, therefore we as well are familiar with
the endless corridor, the geometric pattern of the carpet and the splendid isolation that surrounds
the area. Hence, the whole scene is uncanny “there is this sense of transformation of the ordinary
or familiar. In the cinema the uncanny gaze is created through a process of concealment and
often in the context of shadow and light. The identity of the character on the screen becomes
troubled, the subject becoming unknown to its self” (Creed 29). This is merely what happens in
the film, the familiar corridors and spaces are transformed into an unimaginable threat,
everything becoming suspiciously dangerous even if before it was perfectly safe. The isolation

18

gives room to extreme hallucinations and images that will open doors for emotions of fear and
insecurity.
In the following scene, after we see Danny with his tricycle, we see “Jack from the back,
sitting in the lounge, and the camera gradually moving toward him. Kubrick reverses the angel
and we see Jack’s face, intently look at the page in his typewriter. Wendy enters and Jack shouts
at her angrily. The music is still Bartok’s Adagio, the arpeggios begin as we see Jack from the
back and when he pulls the paper out of the typewriter the cymbal crashes again” (Gengaro 200).
Here we see how the camera angles and the music play together to transmit the sense of madness
that Jack is going through. We see that for Jack the main important aspect of his life is his work,
the social responsibility he has to fulfill and not the personal one, his family.

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8 Mirrors and Reflections
The mirror symbol appears in other scenes as well during the film. “It represents
multiple personalities, which can be read metadiscursively as a comment on the logical status of
fictional characters” (Mather 242). An important sequence is set already in the hotel, after they
are established. The first doubling image of Jack is when “Wendy enters their bedroom and
prepares to serve breakfast in bed to Jack - the lettering on his T-shirt is reversed - the scene is
shot in his mirror image to deliberately dislocate his appearance” (Dirks).
“In this sequence Kubrick photographs the first half of the scene inside the reflection in
the bedroom mirror and he second half outside, a form of visual doubling that goes from
a reversed “normal” perspective, from a simulacrum to “reality” itself. Yet within the
“abnormal” reversed imagery of the mirror(the lettering on Jack’s shirt and the illusion
that he eats with his left hand) the Terrence couple engage with a banal conversation
about staying up late and the difficulties of writing("Lots of ideas, no good ones." /
Wendy: "It's just a matter of settlin' back into the habit of writing every day."), while in
the “normal” space outside the mirror, Jack talks about déjà vu and how “he fell in love”
with the hotel “right away”(Nelson 217).
Here Jack’s unconscious is still in a sleeping mode. He can rest, looses the concept of real time
and is even able to sleep off. However, as the months pass by he is consumed by his desire to
work and falls into the other extreme, insomnia.

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Another image of the mirror is seen “after Danny receives permission from his mother to
go to his room to retrieve his fire engine - but expressly cautioned to not make a sound because
his father only went to bed "a few hours ago," he tip-toes into his father's bedroom. His
insomniac father is awake, sitting at the edge of his bed and staring zombie-like into space (and
with a disorienting double image of him in a mirror reflection), asks his son to join him “ (Dirks).
This scene’s importance is enhanced by the background music. “Kubrick uses Bartok’s Adagio to
which Bartok referred to as Night Music. At the moment we see Jack sitting in the bed, the cue
begins at the start of the third movement, with the xylophone plinking with increasing intensity.
The timpani adds accent and then the violas enter with a mournful line” (Gengaro 201). Here,
Danny finds himself between an “ intra-psychic conflict”(Gupta 130), the conscious Jack and the
unconscious one in the mirror. His other self woke up from its sleep and still keeps the conscious
self awake causing him later on nightmares, hallucinations and finally total madness. In this
scene Jack looks totally confused and frightening. His first mental breakdown is depression,
feeling tired and overwhelmed by his work. In his nightmare, he warns Wendy about his
unconscious intention of killing her and Danny. In this moment we see him frightened of his own
self which “rises from the anticipation if evil” (Aristotle) and his capacities, which will be later
on easily repressed by his powerful unconscious. Also in the scene when Danny goes to Jack the
music continues, the second violins begin a line of their own, the two lines violin and violawinding around each other. During the scene Danny asks Jack if he would ever hurt Wendy, Jack
assures him that he would not and the arpeggios begin to make the cue fit. The scene ends with a
cymbal hit and the title that says ‘Wednesday’” (Gangero 201). Here we can see how the music
adds to the tension and danger that surrounds Denny and Wendy. Not just Jack’s specific mad
gesticulations and facial expressions transmit this feeling of insecurity but the music as well, that

21

is chosen consciously by Kubrick in order to lead the viewer into a deeper sense of trans caused
by fear.

“Every major scene in the film in which Torrance is shown interacting with the specters at the
Overlook is cast with a mirror either off to the side or directly in front or behind the central
characters. And inevitably, the mirror is pulled directly into the mis-en-scène, becoming a
framing device that Kubrick utilizes to penetrate more deeply into the mystery of the hotel”
(Magistrale 89).
In the mirror of room 237, the space of the repressed, unconscious desires and horrors,
Jack notices the terrible other. He enters into temptation, falls victim of the deceiving
appearances and faces his deep fears and the heart of madness. The room also represents the
pleasure of the forbidden. “As he engages with the tempting woman in a passionate kiss, the
camera slowly moves around the couple andover Torrance’s shoulder to reveal their reflected
forms in a large bathroom mirror to their side. The audience’s horror at what appears in that
reflection is experienced first by Torrance himself” (Magistrale 89). Mr. Hallorann warns Danny

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and together with him the viewers as well that the room is a prohibited space. In this sense the
room becomes an unobtainable objective in the unconscious which during the film yearns to see
and experience the mystery behind its doors however what the psyche encounters is misery and
insanity.

“What is important about most of the mirror scenes in this film is that they reveal the reality
hiding beneath the various masks that the hotel employs to disguise its true identity. The
polymorphic female in room 237 is presented in a manner that is similar to the reflected
REDRUM/MURDER written by Danny in lipstick that Wendy views later in the film”
(Magaistrale 89).

23

24

Therefore, in all reflection scenes the truth is somehow hidden, the viewer has to be in a
conscious state of expectation as well as has to place effort in the analytical process of the mirror
scenes. Also, “the décor of Room 237 is a combination of green and purple, colors that in
Kubrick iconography work against each other, green suggest rebirth and purple decadence. The
carpet is sexual and mazelike, resembling phallic keyholes inside circles” (Nelson 221). All these
combinations of color and spatial tool add to the abnormality of Room 237 as well as

25

foreshadows

the

madness

that

is

about

to

be

enforced.

9 Jack’s Madness and the Maze
An important sequence in which we can see Jack’s vulnerable mental state is when he
describes to Danny the tragedy of the Donner Party which resulted in cannibalism. “Jack: They
were a party of settlers in covered-wagon times. They got snowbound one winter in the
mountains. They had to resort to cannibalism in order to stay alive. / Danny: You mean they ate

26

each other up? / Jack: They had to, in order to survive” (The Shining). Here we see that for Jack
the act of cannibalism is forgivable if it has the purpose of survivor. If there is no other option,
and the only way to stay alive is to use cannibalism than it is acceptable and rational. Therefore,
for Jack it will become something normal to use violence and aggression in his total isolation.
When he is outside civilization and is socially locked, his instinctual as well as animalistic
characteristics rises and he is able to conquer his humanistic side, deciding to kill his wife and
child in order to be totally left alone and in “peace”.
This animalistic side of Jack’s is also visible in another important image in which one of
the main symbols of the mind is introduced together with the hotel and that is the amazing maze
in which anyone can be lost very easily and metamorphose into a mythological Minotaur, the
same way Jack did.

27

“ The Labyrinth and Minotaur in Greek Mythology can be read as symbols of the dark side of

humanity, the Minotaur represents the 'Beast' in the human psyche that we hide away in the
'Labyrinth' of the unconscious mind. As Kubrick said: "One of the things that horror stories can
do is to show us the archetypes of the unconscious: we can see the dark side without having to
confront it directly." The structure of a maze allows for just such an indirect confrontation of
these dark forces”(Stainforth). This image also works at a symbolic level, because it is so easy to
lose sight and direction in the mental capacity of the brain. Once entering in it, it requires will,
effort and a stable mental apparatus to escape from it. However, Jack lost these attributes
therefore he is unable to come out from his mental as well as literal labyrinth. “ Symbolically,
each outer rim of the maze represents another level of artificiality that society imposes on human
identity, and when the male subject moves endlessly through the artificial layers of simulated
reality, he eventually stagnates, therefore Jack as well is doomed to become frozen, trapped
within the maze” (Karli 169). When he sees Wendy and Danny walking in the hotel’s labyrinth,
he is looking down on them and he feels powerful, in control seeing the entrances. “The scene is
a cross dissolve, medium long shot of Jack walking through the room and going up to the model

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of the maze. We see that it is the entrance hall of the hotel, with the front desk and it is a reverseangle medium shot, showing Jack from the waist up in front of the model”(Ferrara 167).

This is a powerful image, because his godlike position, the all seeing “I” triggers his strength as
well as his mental breakdown. So, the maze is a symbol of Jack’s mind in which his wife and son
is still there, in the centre but who will be replaced with his own subjective self trapping him
inside and offering him an eternal presence in the hotel’s history. “Kubrick mirrors this thematic
maze through the film’s structure. The film begins on the outermost layer of the maze and moves
inward toward the center through a parallel movement from linearity to temporal displacement”
(Karli 170).

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“ This image of the labyrinth is startling not only because of its surreal juxtapositions, but also
because the maze itself—which can be divided perfectly into two identical halves, or
hemispheres—resembles nothing so much as the interior of the human brain. Kubrick implies
through this brief allusion that Danny and Wendy (and, of course, Jack himself) are lost inside
the darkest recesses of Jack’s mind—just as all three of the Torrances are trapped within the
abandoned corridors of the hotel and the sculpted rows of shrubbery in the maze. Ironically,
Wendy and Danny escape their entrapment by literally emerging from these various mazes,
Danny from the frozen maze and Wendy from her futile search to locate the boy on an upstairs
floor of the hotel” (Magistrale 88).
As days pass by at the hotel, Jack’s mental state is slowly deteriorating, having mood
swings and an aggressive attitude towards Wendy. In the midst of isolation and solitude instead
of investing time in his family he engages himself with his work, writing. In this regard work for
him becomes a substitute for alcohol. He is able to forget about his duties, as a father and
husband and turns into a full-time “artist”. So, when Wendy destabilizes his focus from his goal
he gets violent even psychotic. Therefore, writing evokes in him the same emotion as the alcohol
did, which is anger and hatred. “Jack: Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you

30

come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my concentration. You're distracting me. (He hits
his head with the palm of his hand and rips up his manuscript) And it will then take me time to
get back to where I was. Understand?/ Wendy: Yeah./Jack: Fine. I'm gonna make a new rule.
Whenever I'm in here, and you hear me typing (he types keys to demonstrate), whether you don't
hear me typing, whatever the f--k you hear me doing in here, when I'm in here, that means that I
am working. That means don't come in. Now do you think you can handle that?/ Wendy: Yeah./
Jack: Fine. Why don't you start right now and get the f--k out of here?” (The Shining).

Continuing in this spirit, Jack’s facial expression is totally transformed in the next scene,
Thursday. He looks ghostlike, schizophrenic as if his other self took the control, repressing his
conscious self. “The camera tracks in on his disheveled, unkempt, unshaven face - his
lobotomized eyes stare meaninglessly into space. A fire burns behind him. A leering, halfdevilish, satanic grin slowly crosses his mouth.” (Dirk). The image is a close up, dark and shady
the light reflecting only on Jack’s scary face and disturbed expression. Therefore, the image
transfers to the viewer the mental state Jack finds himself in as well as his monstrosity.

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One of Jack’s major hallucinations happens after Wendy thinks he hurt Danny. Jack is
already tagged with the emblem of aggression towards Danny which happened three years ago so
for Wendy is very easy to believe that he tried it again when she sees Danny’s scars.
“Wandering down the hotel's hallway as he gesticulates to himself in anger, Jack enters
into the Gold Room, turns on the lights, crosses the room, and falls onto a stool at the
'dry' bar - empty of people and booze. Unwittingly, he has entered many decades earlier
into the ancient past of the hotel and is being sucked deeper into demonic, past forces that
affected it. With self-pity in his voice and suffering from a past weakness and dependence
for alcohol, a sense of powerlessness, debilitating writer's cramp, and an inability to cope
with the frustrations of his family and his dislocated, unhealthy marriage, he sighs and
mutters to himself a corrupting bargain for his soul: God, I'd give anything for a drink. I'd
give my god-damned soul for just a glass of beer!” (Dirks).
However, he has already given his soul to insanity and madness. He feels rumors for
hitting Danny and tries to justify his actions by saying it was an accident, the same way Wendy is
doing at the beginning of the film. The truth is however, that alcohol opened the door of
aggression and violence which left a trace on his personality and now which is triggered into
action by solitude and isolation.

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His meeting with Mr. Grady, his double, leads him into clearance and he is able to see
his true task at the hotel, which besides being a caretaker is to eliminate his threats, the wife and
child, the same way Mr. Grady did. Therefore, from this moment on, Jack tries to do everything
to accomplish his mission. However, Wendy is powerful she constantly picks up phallic
weapons, baseball bat, knife in order to show her resistance. This is also a commentary of
patriarchal family, the male showing aggression and the female trying to stand firm against this
power. In this regard Wendy is seen as a protective mother doing everything she can to save her
child’s life. The first weapon she picks as well as uses is a baseball bat when she goes to talk to
Jack. “She approaches toward Jack's work den in the Colorado Lounge. In the film's most
frightening moment, a moment of pure terror and also a brilliant moment in cinema, Wendy, who
has been forbidden to look at Jack's manuscript, looks down from above Jack's typewriter - she
sights down on a single sentence repeated many times on the piece of paper: All work and no
play makes Jack a dull boy” (Dirk). Here we see that Jack’s mental capacity of thinking is
corrupted, he can’t produce anything just the variations of the same phrase. His inner child
resurrects desiring relaxation which however was repressed by the mature thinking of work and
responsibility that led to the collapse of the mind. “In The Shining, the mind is violence –both in
what it produces and in what it sees. The mind is regression- all work and no play makes Jack a
dull boy. Survival is outside the maze, survival is outside the mind, outrunning the mind,
outthinking the mind” (Sperb 4, 5).

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The discovery of Jack’s mental breakdown by Wendy is realized through a “point of view
shot. As shown in the first shot (top), POVs must nearly always be set up by showing the person
“looking.” Both parts of this POV are important: her look and what she sees” (Brown 31).
As the film proceeds we can notice a mental breakdown in the whole family not just in
Jack’s mind. In this sense, schizophrenia becomes a contagious force that attacks the ones that
are close to it. Slowly, Wendy starts to hallucinate as well, seeing the anticipated images which
were shown at the beginning from Denny’s alter-ego. Therefore, the film’s main focus falls on
the mind’s apparatus and its deconstruction.

34

“According to Gilles Deleuze, ‘If we look at Kubrick’s work, we see the degree to which
it is the brain which is mis en scene…For, in Kubrick, the world itself is a brain, there is
an identity of brain and world.’ At the end of the film, Jack becomes trapped and then
frozen (literally and then figuratively) within his own mind when he fails to find his way
out of the maze and thus collapses and freezes to death in the harsh winter”( Sperb 3).

“Unlike Grady, at the film’s end, Jack has not managed a resurrecting return to the past: the gap
between the two aspects of Jack’s existence is closed by the camera, which leaves us only with
the image of an image of what he used to be. The Shining thus constitutes itself as the true other
of the nostalgic Gothic Tale”(Abrams 211).

35

Towards the end of the film, Jack chases Danny in the maze begins with Danny running
into the entrance followed by a limping Jack carrying an axe. “The camera is positioned right
behind Danny, suggesting a point of view shot from Jack, giving the illusion that he is much
closer to Danny than he actually is. All the shots in the scene are eye-level-shots, placing the
spectator at the same level with the murderer and victim” (Giehl) Jacks’ mind became so dark
and monster like that in his devilish chase Danny is able to defeat him with an Indian trick,
stepping back in the snow, and thus escape from this trapped situation.
In the scene “the Steadicam captures perfectly Danny’s panic as he runs through the maze
as well as his lucidity in defeating Jack. The camera performs an ‘internal’
‘ocularization’, substituting itself for the character, showing us the movement from the
character’s point of view. ‘It required enormous force to pull the camera around the turns
and a degree of luck to find the right path while essentially looking backward’ recalls
Garrett Brown.” (Ferrera 83).

36

On what Jack seemed to have control from above so he loses his power and becomes a
victim of his own unconscious self merging together with his ancient identity, that of an insane
murderer. However, from Jack’s perspective his hallucinations are real, and his fantasy becomes
his reality. Freud himself claims that “ one must never allow oneself to be misled into applying
the standards of [objective] reality to repressed psychical structures, since for the psyche fantasy
has all the force of actuality” (Silverman 18). Therefore we can conclude that Jack moved from
his “normal” world, where he was considered a failure as a husband and father into an
“abnormal” world in which all his unconscious fears of killing his wife and son awakens offering
him the road towards a psychic satisfaction. Also by the end, Jack’s mind will become
completely disconnected from reality. Peter Vronsky in his book on serial killers categorizes the
Jack type murderers as visionary killers, stating that “voices and visions drive the offender to kill
for reasons secreted in the recesses of his madness. Sometimes these types of offenders are
completely nonfunctional in society—living alone and having no contact with other people. Most
visionary serial killers genuinely suffer from mental illness and some are schizophrenic or
psychotic” (Vronsky 149). Jack as well is dysfunctional in the society this is why he decides to
move to the hotel in order to prove its contrary. However, here isolation is going to drive him
into visions that will turn him into a psychological monster.

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Part III.
1 Memento
Christopher Nolan’s movie Memento is another commentary on films dealing with the
concept of madness and paranoia. Compared to The Shining however, here the concept of
madness is interiorized, it is coming from the protagonist mind due to his severe brain damage,
and not from the exterior as we’ve seen in The Shining. The deconstruction of meaning is also
more emphasized the viewer has a strong compulsion to put together the story, a strong
determination to place the meaning back to its previous state. Therefore, the film invites the
spectator into a continuous and conscious interpretation of causes and effects which has to be
investigated with the same care normally accorded to identifying therapeutic action, taking in
consideration the mental condition of the protagonist. Placing the meaning back to its previous
state however is impossible since meaning comes from our memories, subjective understandings
and the way we narrate them never took place. With every narration there is a different
subjectivity, perspective and character change.
While watching the film, the spectator also has the expectation to find out the truth about
the characters. Finding out the truth could add to the creation of meaning and sense. Even though
there is no such truth presented as expected still there is the “truth of desire which a lie
inaugurates. It is the narrative itself that inspire the viewer, figuring out the film implies figuring
out not the truth that it hides but its foundational lie” (McGowan 53). Therefore, Memento is not
simply about the deconstruction of the protagonist, Leonard and his insanity but also about the
madness of meaning and narrative. The movie does not place the importance on the ultimate
truth and on the sense of understanding at the end of the film rather it challenges the spectator in
discovering the essence of every sequence that a lie encapsulates. The lie comes to the surface

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from those repressed memories and traumas of the mind and psyche which the protagonist tries
to hide in his unconscious, being unable to forget them. “There are times when the mind is dealt
such a blow it hides itself in insanity. While this may not seem beneficial, it is. There are times
when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind”
(Rothfuss) and create another reality in which the pain is more bearable or even substituted.
Therefore, the protagonist instead of dealing with his pain he focuses on revenge and while doing
so he creates narrative fantasy frames in order to cover the original wound. “The film does
something unique: in staging the act of instituting the fantasy-frame that constitutes social reality,
it confronts the domain of false (freedom of) choices with the repressed, traumatic Real of the
primordial choice” (McGowan 131). Therefore the meaning of the film is unstable, by repressing
the primordial choice it creates a covering fantasy-frame offering one social reality which is
going to be renewed by each segment of the awakening memory. “Memento thus substantiates
the Lacanian position that fantasy is on the side of reality. Through depicting this operation for
one particular man in one particular traumatic context, it tells the story of the universal
predicament of subjectivity: fantasy is always required to sustain (our meaningful experience of)
reality, because reality itself is not self-evident” (McGowan 133). For instance, when Leonard
imagines pitching his wife instead of giving her the insulin injection, is a moment of deception
both for him and the viewer as well. He exchanges the real imagery with his fantasy in order to
sustain his own reality.

2 Opening Scenes
Memento’s opening scene introduces the madness of the narration, the unexpected order
of sequences as well as offers hints in the future happenings foreshadowing the protagonists,
Leonard’s condition. In this regard, it is telling and important for the viewer to keep every detail

39

in mind in order to create a narration, to give meaning to the scenes and at the end to have a
whole understanding over the narrative. However, during the film the viewer realizes that the
truth is coming from an unreliable narration making the whole understanding questionable. The
meaning is also questionable because in “ Memento multiple story lines, either progressive,
regressive, recounted, or fragmented, are bound together by elements capable of recalling
previous stages of the story, announcing possible developments, showing effects whose causes
are still unknown and obliging the viewers to reconsider the story as a whole” (Buckland 87).
This complex structure of the film also depicts Leonard’s mental state, his way of thinking and
creates an insanity in the conventional linearity.

The first sequence of the introductory scene shows the word Memento on a background
where the viewers can see a close-up of a dark Polaroid photograph “which fades away slowly
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over its 73 second duration”(Molloy 53). Therefore, Memento introduces the importance of
imagery, photos in connection to memory. As Laytham suggests,
“It is a visual film that invites us to see the failure of hope. In the movie environment
threatens and inhibits hope, while atmosphere suggests hallucination or paranoia that
precludes hope. Environment and atmosphere are not the source of hope’s failure, but
merely the signs. They are used to suggest a failure of plot: the past is unable to produce a
hopeful present. Memento uses visual technique to show us just how hopeless life really
is” (Griesinger 79).
It is a literal as well as symbolic depiction of Leonard’s mind as well as a tool in offering
him a sense of personal objectivity. The fact that the image is dark emphasizes that sometimes
even the memory is blank we forget the details that actually creates the whole understanding or
repress it due to past physical or psychological traumas. This is merely what happens to Leonard,
his memory is corrupted just like the linearity of the narrative highlighting the concept of
madness that holds together the plot and structure. Therefore, the “protagonist participates in, or
is witness to, events whose meaning or consequences escape him: along with him, the film asks:
what exactly has happened? There is a suspension of cause and effect, if not an outright reversal
of linear progression” (Buckland 17). However, together with the protagonist, the viewer as well
becomes blurred concerning the events, for the period being, the spectator as well is lost and
becomes insane. This was merely Christopher Nolan’s desire for the audience, to create a film in
which the spectator feels just as lost as the protagonist. Nolan himself claims, “One day I drank
too much coffee and said to myself, ‘Well, if you tell the story backwards, then the audience is
put in the same position as Leonard. He doesn’t know what just happened, but neither do we’”
(Molloy 45).
In the next sequence we clearly see what is on the Polaroid photograph, a dead body in an
abandoned area surrounded with walls covered in blood. The viewer takes the place of the

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character holding the image therefore we become witnesses of the imagery. According to JeanLouis Baudry, “this is merely the cinematic apparatus which transforms the spectator into a
transcendental subject whose place is taken by the camera which constitutes and rules the objects
in this world. The stream of on-screen images creates an impression of reality that locates the
viewer at the center of vision as the creator of meaning providing a sense of unity and control”
(Livingstone 98). In Memento, however this control that the viewer possesses is subjected to the
narration and the unity and meaning falls apart with each scene. At the beginning of the film, by
not knowing who is holding the image, where and why, the spectator views the picture
objectively, he/she is not involved in any narrative yet, however the act of murder creates a sense
of curiosity trying to interpret the image, add meaning, as well as a comprehensible context to it.
Slowly, this clear image starts to fade away at every shake until it disappears totally. “ This
image represents the nature of human memory, as the different perceptions appear then disappear
before eventually being forgotten, repressed or stored by the mind” (Baker 95). It also depicts
Leonard’s anterograde amnesia, his clarity fading away with each passing minute leaving him
only with a dark, plain image.
Also, the act of taking the photograph is important because it indicates the importance of
remembering the act as it happened, objectively. Photographs show an objective view of people,
places etc., however the act of looking at the picture and remembering is subjective, memory
becoming part of identity and narratives. Towards the end of the scene, everything starts moving
backwards also an element to describe Leonard’s mental state and the narrative which instead of
being linear it is filled with twists, it is fragmented and goes backward. Because of his puzzled
mental state, for Leonard is “ hard to distinguish the real from the imaginary, his inner world
becoming a clearly marked subjective point of view, there is no perceptible difference either in

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the visual register or in terms of verisimilitude, between real and imagined, real and simulated,
real and manipulated”(Buckland 17). Hence, the protagonist offers the viewer the possibility to
mix imagination with reality, simulating reality out of the imaginary or even manipulating
meaning where there is none. “The second shot, another close- up, follows the Polaroid as it is
sucked up into the camera, which flashes; the camera then moves down and out of frame to allow
the shot to finish as a close- up of Leonard’s face. The obvious reversal of events and action in
the first two shots is accompanied by music score, that run forward and therefore counter to what
is seen”(Molloy 53). Now the identity of the photographer is revealed, we see his face covered in
blood spots implying that something horrible has happened and that the person holding the image
is the culprit. “In the series of shots that follow, we can see a gun flying from the ground into
Leonard’s hand, a bullet case rolling backwards and out of shot, a pair of spectacles flying into
the air, Teddy’s body rising from the floor, the bullet case going back into the gun chamber, the
gun is fired and Teddy’s body spins round” (Molloy 53). These are powerful and unexpected
images to begin a movie with. It is incomprehensible and raises the tension in the viewer for the
upcoming sequences in which he/she has to rely on the earlier received knowledge and be able to
put together the earlier seen sequences. Therefore, the movie invites the audience into a
permanent state of attention in order to create a final understanding.

3 The Narrative and Psychological Structure
As Conrad states, “Memento employs an innovative and complex narrative structure that
reinforces the ambiguity and the antihero experiences” (Conard 57). “The film is presented as
two different sequences of scenes: a series in black-and-white that is shown chronologically, and
a series of color sequences shown in reverse order. The two sequences "meet" at the end of the
film, producing one common story” (Kamus). Each new color scene is reinterpreted again which

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also calls attention to the constructiveness of cinematic meaning. It emphasizes the reshaping of
meaning, new and new things are related as we go back to the past. Therefore, there is also this
skepticism about the normality of human meaning and being. The plain black and white scenes
also implies the fact that it happened in the past, at the end of the movie we find out that it
happened way back before the film started, as well as evokes a feeling of clarity, stability and
objectiveness. However, in the case of this film, objectivity is highly questioned taking in
consideration that everything is described from Leonard’s perspective. “ A perspective that is
unable to distinguish between different worlds: he is often not even aware that there might be
parallel universes, and neither is the audience – until a moment in the film when it turns out that
the narrative and plot have been based on a mistaken cognitive or perceptual premise”(Buckland
18). We can also see what Laytham claims, that
“cinematography is used to create a typically claustrophobic and confusing noir setting.
In the color sequences, this setting is accomplished by using typical film noir visuals, and
the black and white sequences, close-ups shot with a fairly unsteady steadi-cam leave us
unsure what we are seeing. We need the camera to hold still long enough for us to
become oriented. Because we do not know how the two sequences are temporally related,
our understanding as viewers does not progress. We, too, are trapped and confused, not
merely by the room or the city (environment), but by time itself, which offers sequence
without coherence” (Griesinger 81).
There is also a parallel story, that of Sammy Jankins in which Leonard finds his comfort
as well as trying to use this story as an excuse for his actions. “Sammy Jankins is introduced in
the second black and white scene as well as the tattoo ‘Remember Sammy Jankis’ on Leonard’s
hand. This opens up a gap which is then left dangling to be picked up later; who is Sammy
Jankis and why does Leonard need to remember him?” (Molloy 52). He says that Sammy had
the same condition as him, but he had no system and without system you collapse in life, ‘he
wrote himself a ridiculous amount of notes but he’d get them all mixed up’(Memento). From

44

Sammy’s case Leonard wants to benefit, therefore he creates for himself a set of rules, belonging
to a system in order to remember himself about the facts, literally enscripted on his body in form
of tattoos. “Leonard claims that his “system” allows him to deal with his condition, often
implying it is superior to ordinary memory, at least for certain purposes, such as his detective
work. This is due in part to the alleged unreliability of memory, as opposed to other forms
of evidence, such as Leonard’s photographs and notes”(Kania 656). “Jean Mitry in his book
Semiotics and the Analysis of Film states his position concerning semiology and systematization,
he states that semiology is capable of saying how something signifies, it has no way of saying
why it does so, and all its systemizations are after the fact” (Livingstone 460). Sammy's diabetic
wife, who was not sure if his condition was genuine, repeatedly requested insulin injections to
try to get him to break his dissimulation. But, he did not and as a result she fell into a coma and
died. The truth is however, that Leonard investigating the case concludes that Sammy’s problem
was psychotic rather than physical, he could have remembered it if he had wanted to. Therefore,
he led Sammy’s wife into a false hope, the same way the narration leads the reader into a false
hope of unity and wholeness. The film at the end however offers a hypothetical truth about
Sammy, ‘Teddy: So you lie to yourself to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all do
it. Who cares if there’s a few little detail you don’t remember Leonard Shelby: What the fuck are
you talking about?/ Teddy: I don't know. Your wife surviving the assault. Her not believing your
condition. The torment and...and pain and anguish tearing her up inside. The insulin. / Leonard
Shelby: That's Sammy, not me. I told you about Sammy./ Teddy: Yeah, right. Like you tell
yourself over and over again. Conditioning yourself to remember, learning through repetition./
Leonard Shelby: Sammy let his wife kill herself. Sammy ended up in an institution. /Teddy:

45

Sammy was a con man. A faker. Leonard Shelby: I never said that Sammy was faking. /Teddy:
You exposed him for what he was. A fraud” (Memento).
This revelation of the Sammy Jenkins story tends to lead the viewer into an ultimate truth
of the film, realizing that the whole story of Sammy’s is just a comfort story for Leonard, not
being able to deal with his rumors and guilt. In this regard the film has a new light and
perspective on Leonard. However, the fact that Teddy is the one revealing this ultimate truth is
ambiguous and ironic, because of his unreliability as well, trying to deceive Leonard many times
“Teddy: [laughing] This is your car [Leonard holds up a picture of the Jaguar with the caption
'My Car'] / Leonard Shelby: Oh, you're in a playful mood. It's not good for you to make fun of
somebody's handicap./ Teddy: Just trying to have a little fun” (Memento).
Later in the black and white scene we see a medium shot of a note taped to the top of
Leonard’s leg with the word ‘Shave’ to give more information about Leonard’s ‘system’. This
becomes a dialogue hook into the next colour scene which opens with close- up of someone
writing ‘Kill him’ on the back of Teddy’s photograph” (Molloy 57). Therefore we see Teddy
from Leonard’s perspective which is “Don’t believe his lies. He is the one, kill him” (Memento).
Hence, for the viewers as well is not as easy to believe his version of the Jankin’s story, even if
it’s more accurate than Leonard’s own. Therefore, the film is very ambiguous with its meaning,
memory and truth which is actually never offered in a whole.

46

As we’ve seen above, Memento deals with memory, remembrance and the
impossibility to remember. Leonard is struggling with short-term memory loss which he acquired
after a past trauma (he killed the attacker who raped and strangled his wife, but a second clubbed
him and escaped). Medically, “Short-term memory is a term used in describing a capacitylimited, immediate memory store used to hold material recalled without distraction; it is usually
preserved”

(Gauthier

179).

This

anterograde

amnesia

Leonard

is

struggling

with

“describes the inability to encode new material since the event onset or injury. It also may be
temporally limited, that is recovery of normal memory functions after a period of hours, days,
weeks, or rarely months to years” (Schoenberg 184-5). Therefore, the last thing Leonard
remembers is his “wife, dying”. This traumatic event led him into a total repression of memory
even psychological breakdown, the only reason of his life being to revenge the death of his wife,
“ Leonard Shelby: My wife deserves vengeance. It doesn't make any difference whether I know
about it. Just because there are things I don't remember doesn't make my actions meaningless.
The world doesn't just disappear when you close your eyes, does it. Anyway, maybe I'll take a
photograph to remind myself. Get another freaky tattoo” (Memento).
“ His trauma however, doesn’t connect him only to his past but also opens up doors to
his future. For instance, seen from the Deleuzian interpretation of Foucault’s shift from
47

“disciplinary” to “control” societies, traumas are a way of making the body and the
senses ready for the new surveillance society. They inscribe “index and trace” in the form
of Aufschreibsysteme (systems of inscription) on the individual body”(Buckland 31).
Leonard’s system of inscription is presented through his tattoos. In cultural theory, a
tattoo is considered “ more than a painting on skin; its meaning and reverberation cannot be
comprehended without a knowledge of the history and mythology of its bearer. Thus it is a true
poetic creation, and is always more than it meets the eye” (DeMello 2). All of Leonard’s tattoos
are a tool of remembrance and memory. Therefore, the “film treats tattoos as functional, both
within the narrative (clues) and as part of the mode of narration (character defining attributes).
As Leonard stands before the mirror, his body is an accumulation of clues and statements” (Allen
61). Therefore, his tattoos become a sight of memory, overwritten, meaning is placed on the
body, even false memories. In this regard, the body is used as a tool of narrative. The body is
made of fragments, tattoo pieces to which there is a separate narration completing the whole.
There are facts, but these are facts only for Leonard, his body cannot remember anything certain,
it is blocked, therefore he remembers the moments of giving the insulin injection to his wife as
pitching her. In normal cases, however such sensory experiences awaken memories. Therefore
we can say that these tattoos are also representations of Leonard’s reality as well as small
discourses within the main discourse, being an important part in finding the hypothetical
character that Leonard is chasing.
Even though these tattoos together with the notes and pictures are an important element
of remembrance, Leonard is still unable to remember subjectively, relying only on the truth of
his objective system. Therefore, “one reading that Memento makes possible is the suggestion that
memory loss is a form of symbolic impotence which functions to offer a commentary on
contemporary masculinity. In this sense, Leonard’s identity is effaced by his impairment, which

48

draws on constructions of hegemonic masculinity, idealized as strong and able” (Molloy 94).
Therefore, Leonard as well would be able to remember subjectively, even without the help of his
objective system, his trauma being more psychological than physical. By repressing his true
memories, he does not make them disappear but rather grow into a covering discourse in order to
make the formal memory bearable. His impotency is on two levels, he is unable to remember
recent events as well as to remember the past as it is. So, his memory is constructed from
fragments just as his identity. Leonard thinks he knows who he is based on his past
remembrance, but Teddy faces him with the truth, “Teddy: You don't have a clue, do you? You
don't even know who you are./ Leonard Shelby: Yes, I do. I don't have amnesia. I remember
everything right up until the incident. I am Leonard Shelby, I am from San Francisco.../ Teddy:
That's who you were. You do not know who you are. What you've become since...the incident.
You wander around playing detective. You don't even know how long ago it was. Let me put it
this way. Were you wearing designer suits when you sold insurance? / Leonard Shelby: I didn't
sell insurance, I investigated it./Teddy: Right, right. You're an investigator. Well, maybe you
should start investigating yourself” (Memento).
In his description of himself, Leonard uses repetition he repeats his name, disease as well
as the way his wife died. “"I have this condition..." Periodic repetition lends these words the
status of mantra for the hero of Memento, a release from Fetal Films. Leonard's mantra marks his
suffering of the film's slogan:"Some memories are best forgotten."” (McGowan 131). All these
rise suspicion in the characters as well as spectators. It is also a sign that the narrative has to be
emphasized again and again in order for this repetition to be covered. It is almost like a convicted
men’s confession who believes he is innocent. This repetition is also connected to repression,
most of the time Leonard seems innocent but at the end the split in his personality is revealed

49

which was there all along. In science this psychological split means that certain memories have
to be repressed in order to achieve a certain identity and normality. From a sane perspective,
Leonard is a person who suffered an incident and later this incident produced in him a
psychological breakdown which released in him the strive to kill. Therefore, the truth about
Leonard would be too cruel and unaccepted in normal conditions, he doesn’t want to face the
truth what Teddy offers him so he has to construct a narrative in which he can place himself as
the loving husband who lives only to revenge his wife. The goal of his narrative is to cover the
original wound and pain as well as to hide the fact from himself that he is responsible for the
death of his wife, “If we can't make memories, we can't heal” (Memento). Leonard’s case hence
is very abstract, firstly he is chasing himself and then he produces a story to cover the traumatic
truth, the story of Sammy Jankins. This trauma can be explained as a wound in the psyche and
the meaning that accompanies the trauma is a part of the healing process. From this we can see
how traumas change and constructs future human beings. Leonard living in the past, forgets his
present and future. His present is constructed from those desires which rose in him after the
incident. However, in the film’s case the real trauma is dubious, it can be the attack on Leonard’s
wife, the rape and murder or it can be the death of his wife caused by him. Therefore, the viewers
as well have to identify with Leonard in order to understand what he is going through as well as
what his goal is. In this aspect we can see Fuery’s theory that cinema is the collapse of normal
meaning and it is replaced by another construct, madness. Without madness we don’t understand
the film, hence there is this triangle established between madness, cinema and spectator. It shows
how sense, and nonsense work together in order to lead the spectator in the state of jouissance.
“The psychotic, for example, will find their reality of meaning, in fact, because it is the
most relevant structure for them. In this way, it is not reality that becomes meaningful,
but that which is meaningful to the subject that becomes reality. The cinematic spectator
50

is the same, cinema is part of the Imaginary, and its meanings and pleasures are derived
from what interests us as spectators. This aspect of being derived from the spectator –
what we take to the film and how we manipulate the realities of the film to fit within
ourselves – finds a parallel in psychosis. As with psychosis, the spectator negotiates
aspects of the reality he/she is experiencing from the position of jouissance. This is the
excessive pleasure of watching a film and becoming a spectator” (Fuery 157).

The narrative structure as well as the desire of the spectator to create a linear story and
find the meaning can be noticed in one of Leonard’s memory while burning his wife’s
belongings. In the scene a well used book takes him back to the past where his wife was lying on
the bed reading her favorite book, which she read “a thousand times”, Leonard states “ I thought
the pleasure of a book was in wanting to know what happens next”(Memento). This is what
happens at the level of the narrative, the viewer believes that the pleasure of watching the film
would come from its linear plot, clarity and straightforwardness. However, the pleasure mainly
arises from the puzzles the spectator has to put together, the same way Leonard does, in order to
get some kind of meaning, even though it is not the ultimate one, “I have to believe in a world
outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can't
remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world's still there. Do I
believe the world's still there? Is it still out there?... Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind
ourselves who we are. I'm no different” (Memento).In order for him to seem normal he has to
create a world outside his own insane mind in order to fit in. For him is hard to believe that the
world is out there and is going on day by day, because all he can remember is the past, therefore
for him the world means some minutes of the present time which are going to fade away as well.
The mirror of the narrative is Leonard’s mind, the viewer must look in his mind, “identify with
him because the spectator can never know more than he does as the narrative structure mirrors
the mindset he is trapped in. Leonard is always engaged in the act of self-creation but haunted by
51

a fear of meaninglessness, his condition making him possible to be exploited all the time, by
Natalie as well as by Teddy”(Conard 39).
In conclusion, the structure of the film invites the viewer into a state of questioning its
verisimilitude as well as it offers free interpretation over the major issues questioning Leonard’s
mental capacity, his true identity and the existence of his enemy, John G. Throughout the film
Leonard is chasing John G. up until the moment when he becomes the subject of his own hunt.
Therefore, Leonard’s case is similar to the Oedipus myth in which Oedipus from a detective will
turn into a criminal. At this revealing moment he faces two possibilities, should he give up his
plan of revenge, or erase any probability of him being the criminal and find another subject of his
quest, another John G. This is merely the paranoia of Leonard and the narrative. Therefore,
during the film “Leonard becomes our surrogate, seeking the answer that will bring meaning and
closure to his life. Or perhaps we become his surrogate, believing that when we finally arrive at
the beginning of the story, we will find the key that makes sense of the whole. We hope to find
the answer, but we increasingly sense that the answer will not give Leonard—or us—hope”
(Griesinger 82). Hence, the spectator faces a total collapse of expectation and hope for a
meaningful ending, receiving rather an open interpretation of the previous happenings.
However, even the process of interpretation has to goal to arrive at some point of knowledge.
“So Knowledge – – – Interpretation produces Knowledge that leads to further Interpretation, and
so on. There are certain elements that will sustain such a cycle – new points of knowledge can
reinforce an interpretation, just as interpretative gestures can strengthen a sense of knowledge”
(Fuery 133). In Memento however these new points of knowledge are not universal, they are
rather insane taking in consideration their source, Leonard’s damaged mind, so it can disturb the
sustained cycle leading to “Freud’s most profound contributions that the rational, civilized

52

person is driven by an unconscious that deals in madness, and that to the conscious mind is
madness. This is the psychopathology of everyday life” (Fuery 133).

4 The Shining and Memento
As we’ve seen above, in order to enjoy movies that deals with the topic of insanity,
madness, the spectator of the film has to liberate his/her own repressed, mad side and embrace
the films with a spirit of open minded comprehension. In the case of The Shining there is a
development of madness, first the spectator tastes abnormality in Danny’s character and slowly
insanity in Jack’s behavior. In Memento however normality is questioned from the beginning of
the film, by the unexpected puzzling of sequences as well as by Leonard’s mental condition. In
both films, the spectator enjoys the insane scenes and waits impatiently for the next abnormal
sequence.
In both protagonists there is a vulnerable tendency towards insanity, Jack is a recovering
alcoholic and Leonard is having a short-term memory loss. However, while Jack is going to
develop strong hallucinations transforming him into an assassin of his own family, Leonard can’t
even remember his last 15 minutes experience, living only for his revenge that of killing the
questionable John G. If we consider one of the possible truths, that Leonard is the one who killed
his own wife in insulin overdose, we can notice a similarity between the films based on the
victimology. In both movies the female is the victim who is subjected to the male’s decisions and
therefore bares the consequences. There is also a difference however, because Jack in his
madness tries to kill his wife deliberately while Leonard is doing so unwillingly in his insane
condition. Also, both movies have as their common ground the act of murder and killing.
Violence therefore becomes an acceptable outcome of their insanity erasing any kind of rumors
and guilt. In Memento we feel compassionate towards Leonard because of his past trauma and

53

his mental state however towards Jack we are more reserved, his character being depicted as
psychotic and more dangerous. In conclusion, while watching both films the spectator develops a
sense of curiosity as well as fear. “Fear, along with the other passions, confines us, the spectator,
within the cinematic apparatus. We desire these passions because they are what enable the act of
spectating to actually take place – this is the psychic commitment to the film itself. This is part of
the idea of identification of the spectator as madness”(Fuery 43).

Part IV.
Conclusion

All in all, we can conclude that madness in cinema is a very tangible and effective topic,
inviting the viewer into another domain in which he/she must become the insane in order to
understand the narrative. In The Shining in order to understand Jack’s actions we must view the
happenings from his perspective as well as understand his social and mental position. His
vulnerable mental state opens the layer towards supernatural, hallucination which also evokes in
the spectator a sense of fear and emotional tension. In Memento this emotional tension is given
by the narrative’s puzzling as well as by Leonard’s amnesia. Here as well, in order to place
meaning we must visualize the happenings from Leonard’s viewpoint. Therefore this capacity of
the human subject to place itself in a variety of perspectives enables the psyche to be transformed
with each film watched. With each film we develop a character change and subjective point of
view therefore even if we watch the same film twice we will have different emotions reflected on
the same happenings. The same way memory works, each time we remember we have a different
human state and sensation. Therefore we can conclude that with each film watched we are more
and more diverse and if the film deals with madness, we can become more and more insane.
54

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