The Shining – Devastatingly Kubrical

[Pic –]

Every time I want to write on film released long back, I fall short. To think about it, I realize that it’s the hesitation that one goes through in re-hashing stuff that has been already said and analysed. So when I wanted to write on Anjali, Unnal Mudhiyum Thambi or even Sridhar’s Kathalikka Neramillai, I was unable to. Either I compulsorily procrastinate or I consciously forget to write about it. The same isn’t true with The Shining. This is the 25th year of The Shining’s release. Watching it even now on a 27″ inch screen, which is nothing close to a movie screen, I was awestruck. I was stunned and floored. A stream of thoughts and emotions ran across as I watched the film and it is still disturbing me after two days. Not many films have disturbed me as Kubrick’s movies. First it was Mahanadhi, second it was Hey Ram and ofcourse Schindler’s List.

Based on Stephen King‘s third published novel, The Shining is regarded as an epic of modern horror films. While in school, I had stayed awake to read the scariest of Stephen King’s stories. My favorite of them being IT. The Shining isn’t even close to ‘IT’ in terms of the storyline. Its just the way how Stanley Kubrick has fancied it, has made it into a prodigious flick.

The premise of shining comprises of three primary characters and a grand hotel. Jack Nicholson, a man suffering from mid-age crisis takes up a job as the winter caretaker in far-flung hotel near Denver. When he, his wife and his kid Danny re-locate to the hotel for pursuing his job, the hotel gets closed for the winter season. The family gets stuck in an improbable situation that makes them undergo sheer terror, hardship and loss. With just these characters Kubrick terrifies the audience thoroughly.

I watched The Clockwork Orange and was amazed by Kubrick’s flamboyant manner of film-making. He is probably the first director to understand the grammar of the big screen. His sense of imagery and colors are thought provoking beyond doubt. Having watched few other older films, I had my expectations set for haunting images and mesmerizing music in this one. My assumptions were blown-away, for good. The images and the background music are nothing close to description. You have to watch it to believe it. Even as the logo of Warner Bros fades away in the first shot, the movie opens into a huge land of wilderness. The water and a strip of mountains around stay still as the camera, from the helicopter, locates a volkswagen travelling on the mountain road. The camera[from the helicopter] starts to zoom in on the car and also starts to descend, it cuts through the road and flies back in air over the water. With a movie like Shining, one would expect a dark start but this one is just out-of-the-world experience. I could easily vote that this is one of the best opening shot of any film ever made.

Through out the movie, there are all types of horror. We see the ‘ghosts’ briefly, we await the unknown, we listen to some outrageous background noises that scares your spirits, we go on a horror-and-seek in a maze of snow. This is probably one of the success formula for the movie. Kubrick has used all types of horror to make this a pilot for horror films. As Shelley Duvall, the wife of Jack Nicholson, in the movie, scans the bundles of paper types by Jack throughout the day time. She sees nothing but All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. The BGM and the slow camera pan during this scene affrights even the unscared. The hotel with it’s grandeur and technicolor restrooms plays it’s own part in increasing heartbeat. The use of mirror in the movie enormous. Kubrick surprises with the mirror shots and also scares you at the same time.

Jack Nicholson with his eyebrows lifted gives peculiar stare and shouts, Here’s Johnny. It’s been written and written again that Jack is one of the finest actors of previous generation. Proves it with ease even from the first scene. Danny Lloyd as the kid is brilliant. It’s been said that Kubrick scanned through 5000 kids for the casting of Danny’s character. The effort didn’t go for a toss. Danny delivers and even as the camera is stuck very closely in his face, his expressions show the mature actor in him. As we watch The Making of Shining we know how Kubrick, with his loud shouts during filming made acting a cake walk for Danny. A performance to remember for ever and ever and ever(watch the movie to see the significance of this line). Shelley Duvall starts out unassumingly and as her character grows, tries to vanquish Jack himself.

Though the motifs and the ending of The Shining has in debate over the years by Kubrick’s fans but for a normal unassuming viewer its nothing more than a top-class horror flick. No one is complaining. For each of the audience gets what he is upto. The Shining isn’t one of those b-grade Hollywood horror flicks made in shoestring budget. Kubrick stresses on the fact that a movie needs the grandeur it demands. His lavish spending on the sets and the art hasn’t gone waste. Even when you are making a horror movie, make it as the best of the genre. It’s Kubrick’s philosophy on film-making, as he quotes, “One man writes a novel. One man writes a Symphony. It’s essential for one man to make a movie”. For he is undoubtedly, THE ONE.

30 responses to “The Shining – Devastatingly Kubrical”

  1. Venkat Avatar

    Yeh Shining is a great movie – its disturbing and powerful but its no where near as good as 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001 is easily one of the ten best movies ever made. Dr. Strangelove is a fantastic comedy, The Killing is a brilliant film noir and A Clockwork Orange is extremely provactive, disturbing and visceral. Yeh I’m a Kubrick fan – I was extremely delighted with what Spielberg did with A.I. Artificial Intelligence – in my opinion A.I. is one of the finest movies ever… If you haven’t seen it – you should.


  2. Abhishek Avatar

    See Sarkar its jus an awesome combine of Balasaheb and Godfather


  3. Krithika Avatar

    “One man writes a novel. One man writes a Symphony. It’s essential for one man to make a movie”. Quite understandable. Maybe that’s why he chose to make Clockwork Orange. That movie scared me like no other film. Still suffer from Psychopath-phobia. And in the Kubrick collection you left out Dr.Strangelove. Forgetting the satire and Peter Sellers for a moment (which is hard when speaking of the film), the interior of the aircraft is so accurately done even in an age when CG wasn’t heard of.


  4. Lazy Geek Avatar

    Venkat, 2001 Space Odyssey is on a different league than The Shining. Even the first 20 minutes was an achievement in the movie. There is no dialogue and after watching all these Kubrick films, I only wish I had a chance to witness them on bigscreen.

    Abishek, I am waiting for the DVD of Sarkar.

    Kirthika, Haven’t see Dr Strangelove. I missed the DVD somehow. Am planning to see it anyway. And you said Clockwork orange was haunting. Fabulous images. He was well ahead of his time. Shining is yet another shining example.


  5. Zero Avatar

    Check what Mr. Anand had to say about IR’s TIS in the latest outlook issue. The horror! the horror!
    My post [which essentially is a bunch-a-links] –


  6. Ganesh Avatar

    Pleazeeee dont give too much of importance to this Anand guy, to him everything falls under caste discrimination, the guy comes up with some controversial stuff that has nothing to do with music. Where does communism etc fit in symphony.


  7. Ravi Avatar

    It is not easy to ignore either when this person Anand keeps writing some purposefully derogatory articles about Tamils and Tamilnadu in general. That too in a popular magazine. Does it say anything about the magazine itself, I wonder ? I am not a great fan of tamil movies and all either but why would a magazine choose someone who hates something to be the weekly columnist about it ?


  8. Sridhar Avatar

    On the Shining, didn’t you feel that something was lacking. Shining is a good movie, and maybe a great movie for movie-goers. But, for a Stephen King fan, the movie was not that great – didn’t always stick to the source. The book was scarier.

    Aside: Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile were more faithful and better adaptations of Stephen King works.


  9. vijay Avatar

    Kubrick is terribly overrated,especially so by some desis who come here to US and start watching Hollywood flicks, read Roger Ebert or IMDB to know who Kubrick is and then brainwash themselves into beliving that Kubrick is great and end up exaggerating or over-rating all the scenes in his films. Its funny. I have seen it all.

    Kubrick’s movies rarely establishes any emotional connection with its audience. Its as cold as it can gets. Watching 2001 space odyssey is like watching a documentary. I would rather watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on screen than watch 2001 space odyssey.

    The Shining was repulsive and boring in parts. And Jack nicholson as the mad guy was predictable in his acting. Kubrick does a good job with his camera angles and lenses. The technical aspects of his filmmamking have been good. But emotionally he doesnt deliver it. I have hardly empathized with any of Kubrick’s characters.

    Watch Eyes wide shut- to test your patience level.


  10. raapi Avatar

    I was amazed too when I watched the movie!
    don’t forget to check the script link!
    Its got more trivia and things that one would’nt notice while watching the movie!


  11. Indian Guerrilla Avatar

    the amazing thing is that THE SHINING still shines. And since we are in the topic of AWSOME hollywood flicks, check out the movie “MOMENTO”. Its an edge-of-your seat thriller. There are movies which come in with a lot of hype and end up flat. Momento is the opposite. I was stunned. Definetely one of my all-time fav


  12. Lazy Geek Avatar

    Vijay, Now you are becoming the Anand of the blogworld. Its not only when people reach US they can see a Kubrick film. Thats sheer under-estimating the city of Chennai and India as a whole.

    Infact this was the first movie of Kubrick I watched in US. I watched Clockwork Orange back in India and got the DVD from Tic Tac.

    When you say that you have seen this all , you migrated from india and you went through all this nuisance before you started generalising all desis as the same ?

    I am terribly upset that you think the source for Kubrick movies are IMDB and Roger Ebert. There are better sites and reviewers who have torn apart kubrick’s films.

    Give me an unassuming viewer who has no clue who Kubrick is. I will show him shining and let’s find out his reaction. The movie needs no brand name. mouna raagam or kannathil Muthamittal needn’t have the name Mani Ratnam engraved on it. they stand alone. so is shining or space odyssey. if you can answer me without getting frusatated, which is the best movie you have ever seen. we can take it from there.

    Again, I say this, Ulagathula Paatezhuthee Paer vaangum pulavargal irukiraargal. Kutram Kandupidithey….


  13. Lazy Geek Avatar

    Vijay, Do all the desis in Atlanta talk like this. Just curious.


  14. vijay Avatar

    Lazygeek, I am talking about the general desi attitude. It doesnt matter if you have seen the films in India or here. I didnt intend that to be a main point. I am talking about desi attitude when it comes to reviewing “inglepees ” movies 🙂 they assume a whole different attitude and talk like as if they are Roger Eberts themselves. Many Hollywood movies are made to appeal to primarily American audiences. And I dont agree that the movies make the same impact on a desi viewer as they do on an American viewer. I am pretty sure many Indians would’nt be able to relate with De Niro’s loneliness in Taxi Driver yet they will talk in a tone as if the movie was a classic and as if they were immersed in it, just to show off that they watch Scorsese movies or so called “intellectual” movies which is just BS.

    “mouna raagam or kannathil Muthamittal needn’t have the name Mani Ratnam engraved on it. they stand alone.”

    true, they are tamil films and they resonate more with us. Even if I had;nt known that it was Mani rathnam’s movie I would have still been rooted to it.

    “so is shining or space odyssey. ”

    definitely not. If you didnt know who Kubrick was you would have probably not even gotten to see 2001 Space Odyssey in the first place, leave alone appreciate it. The movie is one big documentary-the director’s self-indulgence written all over it.

    Its just a matter of reading all the hype and then brainwashing yourself into liking it because if you said you didnt like a Kubrick movie you might be looked downn upon. Did you find out that Kubrick had selected that kid out of 5000 kids
    (and other technical details of the movie) after you saw the movie? I am guessing you did it before. You probably read and heard a lot about the movie and then saw it later.

    To be frank, Godfather didnt make the sort of impact that Nayakan had on me. I have no qualms about admitting it. But I am skeptical about certain desis who would have seen Godfather after they had seen Nayagan and then go gaga over it, calling it a classic and such.

    I firmly believe that one has have to have been “americanized” enough or have been born and brought up here on a Hollywood fare in order to genuinely go gaga or claim to appreciate the nuances of filmmamking here. Otherwise a desi’s review on a Kubrick film would be equivalent to an American film critic’s review on say Lagaan or Nayagan – “a musical peppered with action, romance where the main characters dance in the rain whenever they experince sorrow…” or something along those lines :-))


  15. vijay Avatar

    and what gave you the impression that I am from Atlanta? 🙂

    No, I have seen and observed Desis in general both back home and in US. “peter udardhu”nu keLvi pattadhillaya? something similiar, extended to movie reviewing 🙂 The emotional connection that you establish with Thamizh films can only very rarely be replicated in Hollywood films. This is not just my opinion but several others with whom I have conversed, most of whom prefer Nayagan to Godfather.


  16. vijay Avatar

    and the thing is,even amongst Americans opinions are hugely divided on Kubrick. He has his own set of sincere fans. But even many Americans dislike him for the lack of an emotional string in his movies and his cold characters. They admire only his technical expertise.


  17. Lazy Geek Avatar

    Vijay, First-off – I am not into an ego trip of reviewing ingplees movies. I didn’t read anything about Shining excep that it was a good movie from a fellow desi. he never told me anything on the tech or the trivia of the movie. i saw it to believe it. for some more reason, i tend not to read reviews before I watch a flick. the reason is that i may get swayed by their flowery words or screwed up bashings.

    my friend a fellow blogger has spoken about kubrick in a very small discussion. he urged me to watch it but never influenced me about kubrick. i watched A clockwork orange, went to the net and read about this guy named kubrick. thats because the images in the movie affectred me.

    thinking back, i shouldnt be arguing like this with you. i have a basic reason not to. i feel the language of the movie a lesser impact than the images of the movie. maybe when i watch an iranian flick, through the english subtitles i may not get the essence but still i can symphatize with the characters. i truly enjoyed every bit of cinema paradiso, an italian flick. the language wasn’t a barrier.

    //I firmly believe that one has have to have been “americanized” enough or have been born and brought up here on a Hollywood fare in order to genuinely go gaga or claim to appreciate the nuances of filmmamking here. //

    give me a break dude. take a sip of neer more(you have to americanized ro drink mountain dew). this argument is going nowhere because you are stuck with a basic misconception and adamant to move on !!

    keep commenting and happy movie watching 😉


  18. Indian Guerrilla Avatar

    hey Lazy,
    First off, you are an awsome writer. (soappu podala mapla, unmai). Important for a good speaker/writer is “Listening”.

    After reading what Vijay has to say, tho’ i disagree with him on a lot of levels, i can’t just dismiss him. HE HAS A POINT. WE ARE influenced by our environment and what others have to say. Some c’d be negative, like there are some folks who w’d definetely watch a comedy flick after the ‘big ebert’ has given a thumbs down. We definetely are influenced by the BRAND name. Be it a movie director, restaurent, style, clothing….anything. mmm maybe i will blog on this.


  19. Lazy Geek Avatar

    IG, The fact that I’m writing a lengthy reply says I’m listening. Thanks for your feedback. I’ve hard learned the lesson to listen and probably thats one reason I’m fine with comments of any sort[not personal].

    Many a times, I’ve patiently listened and answered back just like now. But what gets on the nerve is that when someone has pre-concieved notions about something and if he isn’t willing to even argue on it. I agree that Vijay says has a point. I am fine with his views on Shining and other ‘over-rated’ Kubricks flicks according to him but when he ‘puts word in my mouthsssss'(PKS), I can’t chew them. When he genralises on desis and commenting on this particlular post, he point those accusations on me, indirectly. I just blogged what I saw and there wasn’t a compulsion on me to take a 80’s hollywood flick and review it.

    When I am saying I like the movie which I saw the weekend and someone accusses me of blogging for intellectuals, I should react. Shouldn’t I ?

    After all, this isn’t the first time myself and Vijay are engaging in a ‘WAR of the WORDS’. So much for film lovers like me and him !!


  20. Indian Guerrilla Avatar

    So its a on-going war, hah. Well, i didn’t know that. i didn’t know the ‘history of the accident , geography of the incident’


  21. Nilu Avatar

    One humble request – please do not get into an argument with an idiot. It is way below your dignity. And because the idiot has a lifetime of experience to draw upon, sane people cannot match “wits”.

    In case you wish to take him apart, Maanga will be pleased to act on you behalf 😉


  22. Arvind Avatar

    lol .. back to form , nilu?

    recently i watched “paths of glory” , the first of the anti-war trilogy by kubrick… brilliance written all over the film…i liked this more than “full metal jacket” and “Dr.Strangelove” , the other two films of the trilogy. kirk douglas acted wonderfully.


  23. k7 Avatar

    i am a big fan of Stephen King and i did like the shining.It is midnight here and i am starting to think abt kubricks last film Eyes wide shut.some good body show, but hated the story.


  24. Vijay Avatar

    First off, to characters like Nilu and others who cant make civil, sensible arguments and have to stoop down to name-calling I dont have anything to say further.

    Lazygeek, I didnt put any words in your mouth. Yes, I do have a notion about desis and its nased on what I have ibserved and experienced myself. Many others have agreed with me on my observation too and they have about how much they have been influenced themselbes by all the factors I mentioned. I am just skeptical, I am not dismissing you completely.

    “this argument is going nowhere because you are stuck with a basic misconception and adamant to move on !!”

    how can you say its a misconception? Unless you relate to issues/themes prevalent in US how can you genuinely go gag over a film no matter how well the “images” are? You can appreciate all the technical aspects/camera lens angles etc. as much as you want. But definitely from an emotional point of view you cant get any closer to the film. I have the Nayagan/Godfather example which you havent responded to. Its not just me who felt that way. Tell me honestly that “Taxi Driver” made as much an impact on you as say “Sethu” did. The theme behind the former was loneliness/urban decay which most from India wont be able to relate with. You might appreciate Scorsese’s camera angles or the way he shot NY but to go gag over it and exclaim it as a classic you need to have been emotionally drawn into the movie and felt its full impact.

    At the very least you have to admit that you need to have watched several hundred flick to understand the people/culture/themes/styles prevalent in the US society before claiming to understand the movie’s greatness.

    Have you had any instance where you had watched
    a Hollywood flick didnt like it and then later found it to be hailed as a classic in media here?
    I guess that never happens to you since you read/hear about most famous movies/directors before you see the movie. And then you are afraid to trash a Kubcrick movie even if you didnt like genuinely it all that much for fear of being rejected. On the same note, have you genuinely liked a Hollywood flick which you later found it to be trashed by critics and then found it a bit uncomfortable to accept in the open that you liked the film?

    Will an American film critic(or a general viewer) be able to appreciate Mudhal Mariyaadhai or Salangai Oli, if he had just seena few Indian films? The emotional impact of those films would be lost on him due to the huge difference in culture. Exceptions are maybe some of those sci-fi flicks/animated films etc. where dialogues/emotions are’nt a big factor.

    For most other movies, language is as important as images. What is Godfather without its dialogues?
    What is Dr. Strangelove without its wit-laden dialogues? Most of Vivek’s comedy would be lost on a foreigner who watches Tamil films with sub-titles. He would laugh at a movie like GuNa.
    He will run away from any songs.
    Theres a huge cultural difference here.

    My comments/thoughts are not just based on your review of 2001: Space Odyssey but in general. I have seen posters like you who go gag over a Kubrick film with a Ebert-like tone in their reviews and then next day write a review on Chandramukhi saying “thalaivar thalaivar dhaan..” :-)) There’s hypocrisy somewhere.

    I admit to enjoy a lot of Hollywood/foreign flicks as well,but many times felt distant due to the themes involved and the cultural difference. Only certain movies were able to cross these barriers and make an impact that genuinely made me elated about the movie and make me claim it as a classic based on my own perception. I dont find that’s necessarily the case with many desi reviewers of English films.

    My intention is not to offend you here. But take a hard look at yourself and find out if you truly feel the same way about a so-called great Hollywood flick as you feel about the critically acclaimed Tamil films? This is not about your knowledge of movies or anything else. I am just talking about a psychological factor attributable to desis.

    Its like some of the guys whom I have seen back in India who claim that they listen only to “Pink Floyd” or “Jethro Tull” since they feel its great music. Most of these guys wouldnt be able to pick a discordant note in a scale if it hit them on the face.

    Even for 2001: Space Odyssey there are multiple explanations given for the ending of the film and a lot of symbolism attributed to certain images in the film. Its not even sure what Kubrick intended to convey-only few conclusions can be made based on his interviews on the film. The movie is like a long drawn out science seminar. Its intelligent enough to provoke a discussion, but is it entertaining as a cinema should be or does it move the viewer enough? Do you honestly claim to enjoy those long minutes of deliberate silence and nothingness in the movie? Leave alone Kubrick. Do you enjoy Adoor gopalakrishnan more than say Mani Rathnam? Just a few questions that you can pose to yourself. Sometimes a little introspection is’nt so bad.


  25. Lazy Geek Avatar

    Thats a long one and It will sure take sometime for me to answer them.

    Few points and quick reactions –

    1) I didn’t Sethu and Taxi Driver.
    2) I am not a critic yet. I am paying for a movie and I am commenting about it. I enjoy Rajini and Kubrick together. It may be ironical but isn’t life filled with ironies. I love cinema and there are times where having known to be a trash film, Ive still watched it. So my life isn’t restricted to this blog. This blog serves as a vent to my likings. Even without this blog, I will be watching the so called psuedo intellectual flicks and discussing with a like-minded friend. I am not trying to brand myself here. If only I was, I have to keep yapping about the emails I get. I don’t do it.

    3) Above all these I never said the movie affected me emotionally. I said ” A stream of thoughts and emotions ran across as I watched the film and it is still disturbing me after two days”. Well I should have explained more on those “emotions” before you start thinking that I am affected sensitively by the character of Jack. I wasn’t. The thoughts and emotions were related to the mode of moviemaking that kubrick followed. It was ruthless. He went for the kill. The BGMs, the camera angles and ofcourse the characterisation were just so applaudable that I sat there thinking cinema couldn’t get better than this. Though I accept Shining is not the end of the world nor GodFather is, I have to say while watching a good film, all these are bound to happen.

    If you are picking up on that line and miunderstood me, I have to say it was mis-ommunicated. If it wasn’t the case, how about re-thinking your grudge system?


  26. raapi Avatar

    Didn’t really read thro Vijay’s latest retort,but the very first line made my day 🙂 and stands testimony to his sanity!
    Silly piece of $hitty character indeed!
    Tries very hard to get noticed,may be since the time it was born and still continues to falter!


  27. Manu Avatar

    If you’re a big fan of this movie and you happen to be visiting Colorado anytime.. make sure you make a short stop at the Stanley Hotel at Estes Park where this movie was shot.


  28. vijay Avatar

    raapi, keep your “crappy cacophony” coming :-))

    Lazygeek, the questions I have raised are for you to ask yourself. Are you being true to yourself when you endlessly praise a Hollywood flick? or have you been influenced in any way?

    The very title of your post “devastatingly Kubrickal” reveals that you knew a lot about that guy, probably read a lot about him and then saw this movie. Did that have an effect?

    “The BGMs, the camera angles and ofcourse the characterisation were just so applaudable that I sat there thinking cinema couldn’t get better than this.”

    really? I havent seen even Kubcrick fans include Shining in their top 3 or 4 films.they consider it as a second-tier creation of his. Anyways, Inorder to make assertive statements like the one you have made above you need to be an expert on camera angles/BGMs. If not you probably knew beforehand about Kubcrick, the kind of filme he makes, and then let that influence you a bit while watching the movie. It is entirely possible.

    Like I mentioned earlier, try to find films which you found really good but were’nt critically acclaimed or a movie which you didnt like but is considered great. If you stumble upon a movie accidentally on your cable channel, was riveted to it till the end and then later read upon the movie/director and found they were both really famous or critically acclaimed, then its a different issue. Thats the most natural movie watching experience. Like I had with “Kaadhal”. I only knew that the movie was a commercial success, no expectations about the director/hero/music and the movie had me riveted till the end. And I dont believe many hollywood flicks, especially Kubrick’s can affect a viewer with strong desi roots emotionally. Leave alone desis, even in US when 2001:space odyssey was screened first in a preview theater half the audience stormed out
    criticizng the movie, its pace etc.Of course, later the movie was proclaimed as one of a kind. So when a desi viewer claims that 2001 space odyssey had him rooted or that its a classic upon first viewing I have to be really skeptical.
    Desis, (barring ABCDs or someone who has been here a long time or who has been in Desh but has been sufficiently “americanized” froma young age) rarely have the technical knowledge/cultural attachment/emotional requirements to genuinely be affected by a so-called great English flick as they are by Desi flicks. Its true the other way around too. If an American attempts to review “vedham pudhidhu” or “salangai Oli” imagine the fun!

    “I enjoy Rajini and Kubrick together. It may be ironical but isn’t life filled with ironies.”

    Its not irony. Its just that you like to wear different hats while watching Tamil and English flicks.Judge them by diff standards. Theres a small measure of hypocrisy involved.


  29. cogito Avatar

    Was reading the rediff countdown of the top 10 ” Horror movies” . Shining was #1 on the list .