The Shining: Movie Review

The Shining is a 1980 film directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the Stephen King novel published in 1977. Could I actually say anything about The Shining that hasn’t already been said? Maybe not, since there’s a whole literature dedicated to the film, its making of, its themes, and the notable differences with King’s book. In fact, it’s well known that the latter didn’t like the film, so much so that years later he made another adaptation about which I won’t waste a single word.

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is, and I think I’m not exaggerating, one of the best horror (and not only horror) films ever made and probably most cinema fans have seen it already at least once. In any case, let’s start with a brief summary of the plot.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a writer who, in search of inspiration, accepts an assignment as the winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel. He moves there with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son Danny (Danny Loyd). Isolation doesn’t do Jack any good… and here I stop for the three or four people on Earth who haven’t seen the movie.

The Shining is nothing short of incredible. The tension is palpable from the very first scenes in which Jack, obviously already in a precarious state of mind, accepts the job and doesn’t flinch when he discovers that years before his predecessor had killed his family with an axe before taking his own life with a shotgun in the very same hotel. Equally disturbing are both little Danny talking to his imaginary friend Tony and the discovery that Tony is something more than just an imaginary friend. We find out this thanks to a dialogue between Danny and the cook Hallorann (Scatman Crothers). In fact, Danny has a particular power thanks to which he sees things around the hotel that no one else can see, such as two twins who want to play with him (forever). He also seems to be able to communicate telepathically with other people with that same gift (like Hallorann).

Kubrick incorporated these paranormal elements into the film without any need to explain their nature. In fact, he declared that if the events respected a certain internal logic, there was no need to explain everything, and this lack of explanations creates interest in the viewers and is frightening per se. Mission accomplished, I’d say, since the scenes in the infamous room 237 or Jack’s dialogues with Grady (the ancient caretaker played by Philip Stone) and the bartender Loyd (Joe Turkel) are all extremely tense.

But, if I think about it, the tension is actually in every scene of the film. You have the impression that any of the dialogues between Jack and Wendy might explode at any moment, and the fluid movements of the camera create the expectation that behind any corner or door there might be something scary.

Needless to say, everything is shot perfectly, everything is taken care of down to the smallest detail, the cast works very well and the music is nothing short of perfect (curiously, it is a collage of pieces chosen by Kubrick, not a soundtrack composed especially for the film).

On the other hand, it took more than a year to shoot the movie (initially everything was supposed to be wrapped up in 12 weeks), with Kubrick requiring to do multiple takes of every scene. For example, Jack Nicholson acted perfectly during the first ten takes. Then he began to tire, and when the fatigue reached unbearable levels his performance was became completely over the top. Well, it seems that during the editing phase, Kubrick specifically used takes showcasing the different acting styles in order to convey the idea of ​​the schizophrenia of the character of Jack Torrance!

After all, the theme of the double is the fundamental theme of the movie (that same theme has been explored to death by my beloved Star Trek, which has dedicated more than one episode to it since the early days of TOS). Jack can be a loving father and husband, but he can also be very violent. Danny sees two twins. Jack talks to two fictional characters, Loyd and Grady. A woman appears to him: initially, she’s young and attractive, but then she turns into a rotting old woman. Ok, you get the point.

Maybe that’s what King hasn’t accepted, the fact that Kubrick relied on his novel to say something different, something new. An author like Kubrick, who had never limited himself to re-proposing other people’s things without reworking them, couldn’t do otherwise. The result is that we can now enjoy a wonderful movie and also read an equally beautiful, but different, novel.

There are actually many other themes in the film. For example, some have seen in the hotel a metaphor of the United States (founded on the blood of Native Americans just as the hotel was built on a cemetery of those peoples). The beauty of a film like this, with all its questions that remain deliberately shrouded in mystery and yet in which everything works perfectly, is precisely the fact that we the viewers can find different things with each new vision.

Personally, every time I get chills when Jack looks at the mockup of the maze and sees Wendy and Danny in it, as well as in the famous scene of the dialogue in the bathroom between Jack and Grady where Kubrick deliberately breaks the 180 degree rule to communicate, as if it were needed, that there’s something wrong with Jack’s behavior.

Then, the lack of explanations is particularly disturbing: are there ghosts in the hotel? And who can see them? And how can they interact with physical things? How do you explain Jack’s escape after Wendy had locked him up? And how did Danny know about room 237 as soon as he arrived at the hotel? The more the answers to these questions escape me, the more I want to watch the film again!

What else to say? If you explore the Internet, you will find detailed analyzes of specific scenes, of the symmetry of the images, of the ending, as well as various psychology-related theories on geometry, on the cinematography… Not to mention the thousand anecdotes on how the film was made, and the infinite times the movie has been used in pop culture, like in The Simpsons or in Ready Player One (2017). But this isn’t the place for a detailed analysis of the whole movie, of course. I can only recommend watching it because I’m sure that you will enjoy at least some aspects of it. Ciao!


External links:

  • Movie trailer on Youtube
  • Movie page on Internet Movie DataBase
  • Movie review on Sentieri selvaggi
  • Movie review on Sentieri selvaggi
  • Movie review on Sentieri selvaggi
  • Movie review on Sentieri selvaggi
  • Movie review on Sentieri selvaggi
  • Movie review on Sentieri selvaggi
  • Movie review on Sentieri selvaggi
  • Movie review on Sentieri selvaggi

9 risposte a "The Shining: Movie Review"

  1. Ovviamente ho letto ambo le recensioni e va bene così. Ottimo lavoro, specie su una pellicola che sembra facile da recensire ma così non è visto che Kubrick è uno strapieno di sorprese. Nasconde messaggi e significati che quando vengono fuori ti lasciano a bocca aperta. Shining, come altri film del maestro, non è un semplice thriller horror ma qualcosa che rimanda sempre alle zone più profonde del subconscio e dei mali umani (come del resto ha anche Stephen King).

    "Mi piace"

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