Engaging plots, evocative settings and unimaginable plot directions, Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film 'The Shining' truly is a monster to behold. This iconic movie based on Stephen Kings novel of the same name follows the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family, consisting of wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Loyd), as they live out their stay in the Overlook Hotel. Complete with a vacant hotel, chilling backstory and a seemingly regular family The Shining really does set itself up to be anything other than ordinary from the offset. Nicholson plays the role of an aspiring writer, grateful to be given this opportunity of solitude as he sets out on a new project. Over the course of a displaced period of time, Jack slowly begins to lose his mind, envisioning old occupants of the hotel and engaging with them as if they were true physical beings. As one can imagine these irregularities in Jack's character fail to go unnoticed for to long and Wendy, fit with all her placid character traits in toe, begins to notice frightening changes in Jack. After Nicholson finally fulfills this imminent prophecy of a full blown breakdown, the Overlook Hotel really begins to play host to a Menagerie of madness as Jack begins to hunt his family down in the haunting environment, all building up to the iconic 'here's Johnny!' Scene.
Although The Shining seems to bare a slightly smaller cast, it would be more than wise to view the Overlook Hotel as the most dominant character of them all. Almost playing the role of a puppet master. The Overlook seems to view Jack as more of character for it to bend and warp into the role it seems to have played host to in the past oh to frequently. The hotel spares no time in weaving supernatural events into Jacks every day routine, such as leading the slowly deteriorating man into a full blown interaction with a barman who is nothing more than illusion, appearing only to morph Jacks persona further towards a state of mental instability. This idea has also been thought before by others, as Egbert states "The movie is not about ghosts but about madness and the energies it sets loose in an isolated situation primed to magnify them" (Ebert, 2008), suggesting that the hotel is simply an instrument to contain the issues the plot harbours. It would seem that Jack's longing for reclusion and isolation is in fact what succeeded in ensuring that the writer became the daunting psychopath that the Overlook Hotel in fact desired.
Fig1: The Shining, Poster
Now this desire that the hotel possess', is what the plot of the shinning essentially revolves around. the audience is told a chilling tale of a care taker who lost his mind and slaughtered his family long ago in one of the earliest scenes of the movie by the manager of the Overlook, and the final shot the viewer is shown is a photograph from 1921 in which Jack Nicholsons character is present. This arguably suggests that the hotel is living within a constant cycle, playing host to Nicholsons murderous character in a continuos loop, time after time. This obviously opens up an array of rambling questions from many a viewer and along with so many other events in the film, is obviously impossible. Just like the corridors within the hotel, all the events taking place throughout the movie seem to suggest that Kubrick simply doesn't want the viewer to understand, but rather just accompany Jack on his trail of mental breakdowns as he to, bares witness to the impossible.
Now with all this madness shrouding the plot of the film, it seems only obvious that a more relatable character to cling on to is necessary, and this comes in the form of Jacks wife, Wendy. Without this character relentlessly bringing down the supernatural back to a more watchable level, Jacks mindless rants and looming corridor strolls would become only too predictable and ridiculous. Because the audience is constantly having to endure the impossible, and sit through Jacks one sided conversations, Wendy's more nervous and rational personality traits really help remind the viewer that it's perfectly fine to question this madness and that it's definitely not a regular occurrence in this family. With Nicholsons performance being described as "Hammy and deeply disturbing" (Turner, 2012), a personality like Wendy's seems to glow in solitude. Although the character may seem overly flakey and cautious throughout the film, one cannot argue that without her the plot would stay completely supernatural at all times and lose that desired level of human reliability.
Fig 2: The Shining, Screenshot
Amongst all the madness of Jacks character, it would seem implausible for the Shining to house any more plot lines, but no, an even more otherworldly theme runs through within the character of Jacks son, Danny. When the audience first meets the child it is obvious that the boy is housing some inner demons as we see him conversing with his finger, embodying the persona of a supernatural counterpart 'tony', and having horrific visions within a mirror. After arriving at the Hotel, Danny is introduced to Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), a cook working at the Overlook. This encounter brings upon the realisation that Danny posses the telekinetic name sake, the shining. The shining is a power residing within Danny and Dick that allows a person to communicate with another simply through thought. This may sound like an extremely dominant plot line, however it rather casts a shrouding shadow over the surrounding storylines, further diminishing the idea that a viewer could understand the events taking place within the shining, which seems to be exactly what Kubrick and indeed King wanted.
Amongst all the chaos of the closing scenes of this movie the audience does witness the possibility of an outsider coming to rescue the remaining sane members of the family as Dick returns to the hotel in fear of the families safety. With Nicholsons character on a monstrous rampage hellbent on carrying out the task sent to by him by the past occupants supernatural entities, you would imagine that the good hearted character of Dick wouldn't stand a chance, and sadly you would be right. As Jack becomes aware of the presence of an outsider he seems to add him to his murderous list and, eventually kills the honest man. Now this murder seems to hold more meaning to it rather than just another kill, for as Jack carries out this killing, the audience firmly witness' the hotel actively reject the idea that an outside influence, or a role not set in the hotels master plan, should interrupt the grand scheme, set once again, solidly in motion.
Fig 3: The Shining, Screenshot
Although an array of themes and plot lines may encase The Shining, the film itself stays extremely easy to watch as the cast execute fantastic performances across the board and Kubrick directs a twisted tale with power and intent. With descriptions such as "Strange and deeply scary" (Bradshaw, 2012) to its name one can hardly disagree that the film has left a big mark on many a cinema lovers mind. The Shining may shroud the viewer with theories and ideas but one thing stays prominent through each line of dialogue, each plot line and each character, superb writing from Stephen King.