Friday, April 19, 2013
In 1980 Stanley Kubrick released his film adaptation of Stephen King’s popular horror novel THE SHINING to mostly tepid reviews. The basic premise of the book and film is that a blocked writer, hired as caretaker for an empty, isolated Colorado resort during the winter, becomes possessed by the malevolent spirit of the Overlook Hotel and tries to kill his wife and young son. Initially many fans of the book, myself included, felt that Kubrick’s slow, sterilized approach to the pulpy material missed the forest for the trees – or the hedge animals for the maze. We had hoped Kubrick would make Stephen King’s book. Instead he made a Stanley Kubrick film. During the intervening years, however, the movie worked its way into the subconscious of film culture and began inciting passionate discussions about Kubrick’s true intent, since he clearly failed to make a traditional horror movie. In this enjoyable if somewhat repetitive documentary, director Rodney Ascher gives several SHINING obsessives the chance to expound upon their respective theories, which run the gamut from cogent but unlikely to cheerfully goofy. The most plausible contends that the film depicts the Native American genocide by white settlers, using the Overlook’s preponderance of Southwestern décor, the wash of blood from the elevators, and the ubiquitous horror trope “built on Indian burial grounds” as its basis. The next believes Kubrick was making reference to the Holocaust, with the writer’s German-made typewriter and the repetition of the number “42” (the Nazi’s final solution began in 1942) among its offered evidence. Another suggests Kubrick is confessing to his involvement in the “staged” films of the Apollo moon landings, a widely held conspiracy theory of the time. One points out the impossible geography of the hotel, while another runs the film backward and forward at the same time to find hidden meanings. After a recent viewing of THE SHINING, I believe this is Kubrick’s attempt to drive his audience crazy using visual disorientation and invasive sound design. Based on the evidence of this documentary, he just may have succeeded.