The Shining (1980) : adapted from the Stephen King novel by Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson; directed by Stanley Kubrick; starring Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance), Shelley Duvall (Wendy Torrance), Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrance), Scatman Crothers (Halloran), Barry Nelson (Ullman), Philip Stone (Grady), and Joe Turkel (Lloyd): Three times have we watched The Shining in the last seven years, as reviewed here and here. And that’s not even mentioning Stephen King’s novel. Or Doctor Sleep, King’s sequel to The Shining.
One of the noteworthy things about The Shining is how many nutty interpretations (and even conspiracy theories) it has inspired. Many of these come from very literal-minded people who seem to be extraordinarily unfamiliar with the idea of sub-text, much less interpretations that don’t rely on suppositions about what the director intentionally put there.
The best one — that The Shining is Kubrick’s subtle confession to the idea that he faked the Apollo 11 moon landing — is all sorts of crazy. And that’s leaving aside the fact that if Kubrick had been hired in 1968 to fake the 1969 moon landing, the 1969 moon landing wouldn’t have occurred until at least 1973. Do you know how many retakes those shots would have needed? And do you really think Kubrick would have used the bit in which Neil Armstrong blows his first line on the Moon?
The Shining is, of course, both great and a complete departure from the Stephen King novel it’s based on, which is also great (contra Kubrick, who thought the novel was weak). One view that works pretty well is that the whole thing is a satire of horror movies that also works as a horror movie. Well, whatever. The Sublime is conjured up, and even the looming, menacing Overlook Hotel finds itself dwarfed by that Sublime landscape.
Some view the surprising death of a major character who doesn’t die in the novel as one of Kubrick’s ‘Screw you!’ moments addressed to Stephen King and fans of the novel. Is it? Because it looks an awful lot like Kubrick riffing on Hitchcock’s use of Janet Leigh and her character in Psycho. To me, at least.
Lots of room for interpretation here. So it goes. Highly recommended.