I just rewatched the Shining. If you've been living on Mars and not seen it because you've just arrived I'd recommend not reading on as I am going to SPOIL IT ALL for you.
It must have been about 1996 when I last (and first) saw it, and boy is it as good as ever. I really am not a horror movie person (she says) though I can enjoy them if the mood is right: Night of the Living Dead for example or Sean of the Dead, I enjoy the odd (ok most) Hammer Horrors and to be fair most of Kubrick's films are elaborate nightmares, and they are all good. There's Eraserhead, anything by David Lynch. It's all horror if it's horrific (which covers at least half of all books and films ever). There's also a few very famous ones that aren't thought of typically as horror, such as the Passion of Christ, because Religion. Though in fact torturing an innocent soul for reasons of jealousy or power madness is right on point. So is sacrificing someone as payment for unseens sins. But I digress. Or do I?
While watching this time, it occurred to me just how American-Indian the wife character looks, she even wears her hair and clothes to suggest this idea. It is she who brings up the sacred burial ground point. This idea led on to my wondering if her (abusive) husband isn't meant to represent the European settlers? Their son - the next generation or future generations - is being urged (like us the reader or viewer) to listen to the wise and kindly cook-underdog-African American. (I'd completely forgotten that horrible scene where the N word is used which firmly places the father in the 'you're evil/ and doomed' category). The son is to be different (not a liar, insane, racist, alcoholic or misanthropic) to accept and understand his gift of clairvoyance in order to escape a rather 'deathly' cycle. The cook is by far the hero - the outside factor that isn't expected by 'the devils', the oil on troubled waters, the sacrificial lamb, the provider of the escape 'vehicle', the one who listens and warns the boy of the danger not to get drawn in. But the boy still tries the door.
It is the whisky quenched father though who is already on the verge of being a perfect representative for the what is sadly becoming (again) a common problem (typified by the so called leader of the free world Donald Insane Trump). He exhibits what I hesitate to call Toxic Masculinity though you could just call it narcissism by any gender. (Though toxic masculinity usefully refers to the way boys are brought up as though feeling or describing emotions is wrong, leading to excesses of said emotions unrecognised and thus likely to be expressed as other ideas/emotions incorrectly and dangerously, like shooting people or just being an aggressive lunatic one way or another, America I'm looking at you). He is completely rude, selfish, and abrupt. Even before he goes tangibly insane he is heading that way though sheer egomania. She is ostrich like and seems oblivious to his complete unabashed distain for her - he literally sneers when she speaks.
Nicholson is amazing though. He plays the overlook lunatic so well ("God-Damn"ing all the way) it makes me wonder how anyone in his life copes being near him… But he is an actor after all. What makes him most chilling however as he descends into a faustian fury is that he is smiling constantly.
Unlike Faust he isn't saved. He is, rather, compelled ever onwards to 'prove' himself - as the British ghost of his past self (America's ancestry?) taunts him with suggestions of his inadequacy.
It is a humorous film as well though, and that Stephen King is writing about a writer who just repeats him self over and over is a wry self criticism that isn't wasted. The self-importance of creativity is ever its flip side and shouting at someone offering you sustenance is a sure sign you've got cabin fever.
It is amazing to me this time round how every single line of the script is precise and meaningful, in particular the conference between the cook and the boy at the beginning. He says something along the lines of "Most folks have the shining and never realise it" and he isn't wrong. By the end of the film the once oblivious parents who disbelieve or refuse to take seriously their son, are themselves seeing the ghosts of the overlook hotel.
The cook is a beacon with his wisdom and patience who brought to mind someone who acted that way for me in my early life. Only a film as elegantly spare as this one, can be so malleable as to fit into almost any metaphor - from the personal to the global… it is an inspiration. And I am glad to say not quite as scary as I found it years ago.
The funniest part is the sudden shot of the caretaker frozen in the snow - his eyes still fixated in their comically mad expression.
The music at the beginning was very reminiscent of Clockwork Orange, we love our synth and the incredible camera work is a thrill 37 years later. The pacing, use of Chapters and inter titles is a clever reference to the authorial commentary - perhaps after all - the author's ego is what needed to die - in order for him to write what is now commonly recognised as a masterpiece.
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