The Shining, released in 1980 and directed by Stanley Kubrick, is a film about how vast isolation can drive a person into insanity and torment an individual’s mind. It tells the story of writer Jack Torrance and his family who are caretakers to the Overlook hotel over the winter break and Jack’s slow descent into insanity which eventually leads to acts of terror and violence towards the ones he loves.
Figure 1. Hysteric (c1980)
The props in the film are used to unconsciously unsettle the viewer. The film switches props mid-point in scenes for example the same object but of a different size and colour or by the props appearing in one scene, not being there in the next but reappearing afterwards, which might also be a way to express that the un-natural nature of the hotel, but could also express a sudden character change in mood or opinion. As Kimpton states: “Yet the scariest thing about The Shining is how it always plays with your perception. (…) in a precursor scene in the same Colorado lounge, when Jack tells Wendy not to disturb him when he is writing, the typewriter changes from a small white model to a large grey one, and a chair in in the background disappears, reappears and disappears. The film is full of other object and hotel layout anomalies which subconsciously cause us disquiet. They simply cannot be continuity errors from a director so well known to be painstakingly meticulous.” (Kimpton, 2014:2)
The film often uses a filming technique which is referred to as steady cam which steadies the picture while the cameraman is taking the shot which allows for very long shots without the camera shaking up and therefore giving the ability for the directors to create quite unique shots and scenes, for example the distant girls, a long shot scene where we are almost looking through Danny’s eyes and seeing a very un-nerving far off sight. There are also several scenes where the camera is used for dramatic affect for example the camera being close to the character in many scenes which is perhaps used to create the feeling of the viewer being caged together with the character creating a feeling of further tension. Haruvister writes: “The bit that encapsulates Kubrick's genius, for me, is when Danny is on his tricycle, about to face the Grady sisters. We've been following close behind him all this time, and suddenly Kubrick's roaming camera stops, as if afraid. When we cut to Danny again, we're no longer following, we're actually attached to his vehicle. No escape.” (Haruvister, 2014:2)
Figure 2. Danny with tricycle (c1980)
Colour is used subtlety in the film to emphasise situations. Red seems to be used a lot during moments of hallucination and fear. The red doors of the elevators, the red bathroom where Jack has a hallucination, red appears in a lot of core moments to almost indicate something surreal is occurring on set. Red is a bold colour that stands out, used in many cultures to portray acts of madness and violence, perhaps this is what the directors are trying to emphasise with the use of this colour.
Green is used in a less symbolic but more direct way, it is worn by the ghost in the bathroom of 237, which is painted in green, and who at first appears healthy and young but then reveals sickly green patches all over her body and her true age, which might be a symbol for Jack’s progressing sickness of mind which eventually leads to acts of intense violence towards those he loves.
Figure 3. Room 237 (c1980)
Sound is used effectively in this film in times of no music a different sort of soundtrack is used, a growing sound in the back of things that builds and builds to the point of action where a character either sees something horrifying or something horrific occurs. An example of the growing volume of a high pitched sound can be found in the scene where the wife is looking for Jack but cannot find him only to suddenly see walls covered in writing confirming her worst fears that her husband has lost his mind. Ashley Clark states: “Even more chilling is the sound design, a deeply unsettling contrast of dead silence and piercing noise.” (Clark, 2012:2)
The sound track is also used to compliment anticipation and anxiety for example a very shrill high pitched sound is played whenever something supernatural or unexpected is about to happen like the child having visions of the girls and floods of blood, the fathers further descent into insanity coupled with hallucinations of parties that cannot happen in an empty hotel as well as the wife’s hallucination being further emphasised with the haunting soundtrack giving the viewer a much higher form of dread. The soundtrack is a core feature of the film, it is used subtlety and boldly to emphasise moments of terror and fear as well as to portray the emotions of the characters and the direness of the situations they are facing.
Altogether, The Shining combines all the elements of camera, props, colours and sound to create a very intense horror film that is still being discussed today and has left a footprint in film history. The combination of multiple affects creates a film that is both compelling and terrifying to watch.
Clark, Ashley. (2012) http://www.littlewhitelies.co.uk/theatrical-reviews/the-shining-22374 (Accessed on 27/22/2014)
Kimpton, Peter. (2014) http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/24/the-shining-the-film-that-frightened-me-most (Accessed on 27/22/2014)
Haruvister. (2014) http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/02/the-shining-stanley-kubrick-jack-nicholson-review-1980 (Accessed on 27/22/2014)
Figure 1. Kubrick, S. (1980) Hysteric. [Still of Wendy] Available from: http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140512045448/stephenking/images/e/e4/The-Shining-010.jpg (Accessed on 27/22/2014)
Figure 2. Kubrick, S. (1980) Danny with tricycle. [Still of Danny] Available from: http://www.toddalcott.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/sh_satbw4.jpeg (Accessed on 27/22/2014)
Figure 3. Kubrick, S. (1980) Room 237. [Still of room 237] Available from: http://ktismatics.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/shining-bath.png (Accessed on 27/22/2014)