the shining

Want to see something really scary?

The horror genre is much bemoaned for its tendency toward artistic bankruptcy. Filmmakers are content to adhere to cliché in the form of gore, scare chords and contrived suspense. If these cinematic temptations are defied by a sophisticated auteur who understands the nuances of audience manipulation, the result is a film to be remembered. Indeed, meticulous attention to detail is among the most celebrated aspects of Stanley Kubrick’s legacy. Even for a Stanley Kubrick film, the production of The Shining was long and painstaking. The film took almost a year to shoot at 51 weeks, while it was only intended to take 17 weeks, and it had very long workdays — rewrites of the script would happen several times a day.

The sense of space is a basic subconscious instinct that all human beings have and rely on every day. This is the pressure point that Kubrick chooses to strike at in order to disorient and ultimately disturb viewers on a level that conventional horror technique cannot approach.

An obviously intentional example of this is the scene where Halloran is leading Wendy through the kitchen. The Steadicam precedes them as Halloran winds through counters and tables, taking twists and turns that that camera and the gaze of the audience moves with. Ultimately, we see him from behind opening the freezer with his right hand – we cut to the camera inside the freezer, and Halloran is seen opening what is supposed to be the same door with the other hand, and the door is now hinged and swinging from the wrong side. When they exit, they, the door swings from the original hinging, giving the impression that they are on the same side of the hall, but this time the kitchen is flipped in front of them and they walk towards it in the wrong direction. In the scene where Jack is interrupted by Wendy, we have a depth of field shot there is a chair clearly in-focus behind Jack. The camera cuts to Wendy then to Jack, and the chair is gone. Geoffrey Cocks notes in the documentary film Room 237 that this disappearance could have been intentional, or could have been just been a continuity error. A third intriguing possibility is that it could have been a continuity error that Kubrick chose to keep. A similar phenomenon occurs with the typewriter changing colors between shots. The third possibility raises interesting insights into the nature of The Shining and of choices in films in general, where even films with meticulous production are fertilized by the unintentional. The interior of The Overlook hotel itself is replete with physical impossibilities, which are, in line with the movie being a psychological horror, instinctually disturbing on a less than conscious level to the viewer. The constant spatial challenging of the psyche is noted by Juli Kearns in Room 237:

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