Friday, 24 February 2012

The Shining : Looking At One Image

This is one of the last shots of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. This is the (driven) mad father whose attempt to kill his family has been thwarted.

The devil's hell has frozen over.

He is frozen in an expression of inhuman rage. A pure emotion, a state.

It is an uncanny and horrifying end to those uncanny and horrifying last days. It is pathetic and blood-curdling. Even though he is gone and seemingly no longer a threat, it is uncomfortable to look at him. He is a beast.

It is humorous too. This is a cartoon villain like the ones with whom he is associated, and who he associates himself with, in the film - Wile E Coyote* or the Big Bad Wolf** - who are never able to catch their prey or satisfy their hungers.

This is an extreme image of the frustrations of an artist paralysed by writer's block.

His eyes are rolled up in death but also as if the awful flame of his ardours have been doused with refreshing cool - he almost looks ecstatic, his mouth slightly open (aaah!)

He is stuck in the ground like a tombstone to himself, an epitaph of insanity written on his face. There is no need for anything beyond "here lies".

Time is frozen. He is the so-called "caretaker" who has somehow been here before. He is being preserved. He is a tombstone to a type of man, perhaps.

There is something monumental here, something larger than life.

Will he come again; will he thaw? The danger is still alive. What is frozen implies life and movement before. Will he, it, move again when spring comes? The ground is angling downwards but it hasn't taken him all the way down into hell/the earth.

* Earlier we saw Danny watching a Road Runner cartoon and we can hear the lyrics "the coyote's after you... when he catches you, you're through."

** When he is standing outside the bathroom with an axe he takes on the role of the wolf "little pigs little pigs let me come in...then I'll huff and I'll puff".

Wile E. Coyote cemented solid in Going Going Gosh!, 
a victim once again of his own trap


  1. wow, I like this whole idea of breaking down one image of a film. I also feel like a bit of a dufus as I recently watched the Shining and totally missed the Wile E. Coyote reference.

    nice post, I enjoyed checking out your blog,


  2. Thanks very much Adam.

    The Wile E Coyote bit is pretty much in the background of a scene and, if you do notice it, it's not something that you'd place much importance on at the time. I only heard it properly when I was flicking through the film a second time.

  3. Another thoughtful post Stephen on what most moviegoers would concede is an unforgettable image. Talk about the PERFECT timing of coming upon this post! Tomorrow evening at Manhattan's Film Forum I will once again be laying eyes on this horror classic with Lucille and the three boys at a 9:00 P.M. showing AFTER the 6:30 P.M. showing of 2001: A Space ODYSSEY on this all-Kubrick venue in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) which threatens the very future of 35 MM. The kids are excited, and I have a fondness for both films. Your descriptive delineation of this image is fascinating!

  4. Thanks very much indeed, Sam.

    "Talk about the PERFECT timing of coming upon this post!"

    Thank God you've already seen it! It's quite a spoiler.