I’ve been crossing paths with The Shining lately. As you can imagine, it’s been somewhat disconcerting. I was looking for examples of artists subverting other’s work for their own purposes and hit the motherlode. There are no less than five major theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s contentious re-envisioning of Steven King’s classic (wait, they are both “SK”, make that six). After all, creatives generally have a “day job”, so why not put your own spin on it? Or in Kubrick’s case, potentially hide some of the most shocking revelation(s) in the history of film.
First off, watch this video. Luminaries give heartfelt insight into the unparalleled detail and vision within The Shining. Worth the price of admission alone.
Now, I’m not going to do a conspiracy theory case study. Well, maybe a little. The most easily palatable Shining discovery is that Kubrick may have made the Overlook Hotel spatially impossible in order to disorient the viewer. Sounds reasonable, if not expected. Check.
Next is the idea that The Shining was Kubrick’s statement against the wildly under-acknowledged injustices to Native Americans. Okay, the Overlook was on an Indian Burial Ground (how cliche) so wha…wait. Come to think of it, there are repeated Navajo patterns in the set design. And Jack does repeatedly throw a ball at a tapestry featuring a decapitated buffalo. Then his wife and kid’s clothing does evolve from All-American red-white-and-blue to people-of-the-earth neutrals including…a teepee jacket! Then there’s the cowboy vs. Indians standoff, complete with Danny escaping Here’s Johnny! by retracing his steps, brav- style, in the final maze scene. Got it? Now just think of the Native business an allegory for the Holocaust. But, ladies and gentlemen, we’re just getting warmed up.
The Cold War was so hot. Kubrick, despite being exceptional, was no exception. You could stop at the ridiculous amount of bear references that might have obviously represented Mother Russia. But why? Because the battle against the Reds could only be won – in space. Which is supposedly why (2001: A Space Odyssey) Kubrick was enlisted by NASA and Co. to direct the fake moon landings and why guilt made him bake the “true story” into The Shining as a catharsis. Far fetched? Do you think a country that can’t balance its checkbook could put a man on an orbiting rock a quarter million miles away…in 1969. Just sayin’. Oh, and check out Danny’s Apollo 11 sweater. Cosmic, ain’t it?
But I’m not here to judge. Just learn, then judge. Given that Kubrick was one of the most meticulous directors ever, it’s fair to assume that nothing in his films happened by accident. If you accept that, you have to assume that The Shining had some layer (if not a dimension unto itself) of subtext. THAT is the lesson. Of having a perspective and weaving it into your narrative so thoroughly that audiences aren’t quite sure what hit them, with an axe, in the sternum.[vimeo http://vimeo.com/23030893]