Monday, December 13, 2010

Temporarily Light

After my previous musings on just what the hell is going on in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining, I offer some further random thoughts and observations:

If Danny began to channel "Tony" in Nursery School, right about the time he was injured by Jack, that would place his age at around 3 or 4. But Wendy says that right after the incident, Jack gave up drinking and hasn't had a drink in 5 months.

How can the incident have been only 5 months ago? That makes no sense. Danny is clearly about 7 years old. There's no way this child can be only 5 months out of Nursery School. And if it's been only 5 months since his arm was pulled out of its socket, I think he would still be recovering from that.

One way to look at it is to assume that Wendy is simply lying to cover Jack's ass, but she's obviously not doing a very good job and she can't get her story straight. And when she lights her cigarette, note how her hand is trembling with theatrical nervousness. But why would she even admit to the incident and bring it up in the first place?

Consider when Jack is seated at the bar and confesses of the arm-dislocation incident to Lloyd, he speaks of it as being three years ago. And yet, he also reiterates Wendy's confused timeline about having given up alcohol 5 months ago. From this, we may infer that Jack has actually harmed Danny more than once.

Clearly, the timespace dilation that is causing discrepancies throughout the events of the film is also at play here. I think by the point Jack is drinking at the bar, he has his feet in two different points in time, perhaps even two different universes. It may be that one of these incidents he speaks of was actually committed in a previous life.

The case of Grady and his two daughters is similarly puzzling. We're told at first by Ullman that a man named Charles Grady killed his wife and two daughters with an axe in 1970. But most people who watch The Shining never even notice that when we think we're meeting him as a butler who spills Advocaat on Jack, we're actually meeting Delbert Grady, who cannot be the same man as Charles. Delbert is part of the 1921 crowd who manifest to Jack repeatedly, and is theoretically the father of the two twin girls in Alice in Wonderland-like dresses look like they're from that time period. So we have two different men named Grady who axed their families - one in 1921 and one in 1970.

Actually, we may have three different incidents, because the newspaper article that Jack reads in the Overlook Hotel scrapbook he finds (you can see it in the foreground beside his typewriter in the scene when he's telling Wendy not to interrupt his writing) says that Delbert Grady hacked them up "into little pieces" with the ax. But as Danny sees in the apparition of the twin girls in blue, they are fully intact, though dead from abdominal wounds. And consider that Ullman already told us that Charles Grady didn't leave his victims laying out in a hallway, he "stacked them neatly in one of the rooms". So what the heck?

Is this related, then, to the reason why two, possibly three, different naked women appear in the bathroom of Room 237? (One young, one old, and then there's seemingly a variant old one with shorter hair.)

With any other director - even Hitchcock - I would chalk these matters up to carelessness, sloppiness, and mere continuity errors. But we all know that Stanley Kubrick, the greatest obsessive-compulsive control freak in the history of motion pictures, left absolutely no detail thoroughly unresearched and exercised fanatical control over the placement of every word spoken and every picture hung. The man spent over a year picking out drapes and carpeting for this film; it's no wonder he only made a handful of films after "Spartacus".

Another sign of timespace dilation: watch when Jack walks down the hallway towards the Gold Room after Wendy accuses him of strangling Danny. Right after he says "me??" to himself, we can see his reflection appear on a mirror on the left hand side. Moments later, as he walks on, his reflection appears again in a second mirror, but not the third. If you watch this scene over and over - pause it at the reflection moments to study it closely - you can see that it is not possible for Jack's reflection to appear in those mirrors at the points that they do. I don't even know how Kubrick did the shot, unless there are some well placed mirrors hovering from the dolly as it rolls backward to film the shot. And when Wendy rolls the dining tray down the same hallway earlier in the film, there are no such impossible reflections.

Jack's hair and his typewriter both change color in the course of the film.

Does all of this mean anything, or is Kubrick just messing with us? Both, maybe.

The Satanic undercurrent in the film - which goes over the heads of most casual viewers - is practically shouted from the rootops. Jack's Baphomet pose in the photograph at film's end; his reference to his "employers" and the "contract" he signed with them, which would jeopardize his future if broken; Lloyd's hints that they are in either in hell, purgatory, or some sort of timespace-limbo where "your money is no good here"... and don't forget Lloyd's ominous reference to "the house".

Jack seems to be entering this world more and more as the movie progresses. Whereas only Lloyd manifests to him in his first bar sighting, the entire ballroom and all its patrons appear to him the second time. And these people are real, not spectral ghosts - real enough that Grady can spill Advocaat all over Jack, help him wipe it off, and then unlock the door of the storeroom to let him out. Tony and Hallorann's false assurance that these people aren't real indicates that they don't know everything that's happening here.

The Advocaat that Grady spills, by the way, is surely one of Kubrick's little jokes that he inserts into his films. Since this is apparently Satan's hotel, and the drinks come "from the house", then what Grady is bearing is "the Devil's Advocaat". Get it?

Advocaat, by the way, is a liqueur made from eggs, and eggs are well known as a symbol for the soul (as referenced by another cinema Satan in the film "Angel Heart".) Eggs also appear when Jack is eating them sunny-side-up while staring at his own reflection in bed.

Finally, I think it's interesting to note that Jack's Volkswagen in the original book was red, and Kubrick changed it to an egg-yolk yellow (the same color as Kubrick's typewriter from which all of this was conjured). And if you look closely at the car wreck that Hallorann slows down to observe as he makes his way in the Snowcat, a red Volkswagen has been totalled by an overturned semi-truck. Is this, as some have joked, Kubrick's little "fuck you" to Stephen King (who was unhappy with all the changes he made to his story)? Or is it meant to suggest that we're seeing a momentary convergence of parallel universes, and that this is literally the book version of Jack, Wendy and Danny?

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