Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"The Shining" (1980)

Most filmmakers are story-tellers but not all. Some are poets. Others, like Stanley Kubrick, delved into film as abstract art. A hallmark of this modern movement is that the artist relies on the observer to give the work meaning. In some cases, like Elliot or other modern poets, the artist has a true intention hidden amongst all the references and allusions. It is up to an informed and observant audience to arrive at the intended meeting, the authorial intent. In other cases—and I am convinced Kubrick falls into this category with some of his films—there is no precise intent.

In some of his films there is a pretty strong “Emperor’s New Clothes” element. People are too scared of coming across as stupid to admit that elements of “2001” have no meaning. It is part beautiful visuals, plus a gut feeling of an idea, plus extra dressing to keep people guessing.

In “The Shining” there seems to be an even stronger example of this going on. The story is very simple. A family moves to a hotel for the off-season and the dad losses his marbles. However, the film has more going on than just this story. The decent into madness is accompanied by a highly subjective perspective. We see the events through the eyes of people losing touch with reality. Every scene and every shot is called into question. We truly cannot trust anything we are seeing.

Based on my above thesis, I do not think there is much more going on here; not more than meets the eye anyway. Other interpreters of this film embrace Kubrick’s let-the-viewer-supply-the-meaning approach and go to some comical extremes. (For more on their misguided approach to interpreting see my post here.) But there are two take-aways here: (1) isolation and disconnection is bad for us as communal beings, and (2) subjectivity makes isolated interpretation of reality problematic.


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