Having been a devoted Stephen King fan for many years, it often scares me to think of a director attempting to realize his remarkable writing into cinema. However, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 thrilling feature, The Shining, lived up to many of my expectations.
Starring Jack Nicholson as the winter caretaker of an isolated hotel in Colorado, he along with his wife Wendy, Shelley Duvall, and son Danny, Danny Lloyd, encounter the dark secrets embedded within the walls of the hotel. As Danny’s psychic premonitions become more disturbing, Jack begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac, terrorizing his family.
Visually, Kubrick out-did himself. The film’s stylized set designs, imagery, and framing, was both picturesque and disturbing all at the same time. The Overlook Hotel’s intentional nonsensical visuals allowed for an uncomfortable setting to even more uncomfortable events.
Thematically though, I think Kubrick went off on his own tangent. In an interview related to his work on the television series Omnibus (1952), Kubrick stated “The Shining uses a similar kind of psychological misdirection to forestall the realization that the supernatural events are actually happening.” For the most part, this worked incredibly well throughout the film’s narrative, but I believe this foreshadowing led to downfalls in the central character developments.
A specific example of this is Jack Torrance’s story arc. The novel portrays Jack’s psychotic downward spiral as a gradual process, however, in the film, Jack’s character is almost set-up from the first scene as an unstable, dark, and untrustworthy character. As Stephen King said in response to the film “the book is about Jack Torrance’s gradual descent into madness through the malign influence of the Overlook—if the guy is nuts to begin with, then the entire tragedy of his downfall is wasted.”