Thursday, September 10, 2009

THE SHINING (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, USA) Jack Torrance is a torrent of misogyny, denial, and self-loathing: devoured by compulsion, he writes his failure in blood. Director Stanley Kubrick has crafted one of the great horror films: though it deviates from the source novel it stands on its own as a brutal metaphor of secretive domestic violence, the self-destructive impulses of alcoholism, and child abuse that is a preternatural curse, a pre-existing condition that allows Jack to become a violent boy of all work and no play…and his axe isn’t very dull either. Kubrick creates the dynamic tension from the very beginning as Wendy Carlos’ eerie score haunts Jacks’ tiny VW as it climbs towards the Overlook Hotel, the omniscient viewpoint like some ethereal ghost following his tragic journey. The paternal family is already fractured as Wendy and Danny are left alone while Jack is being interviewed, and the car ride to the Hotel is indicative of their relationship: cold, sparse, and emotionally isolated. Kubrick frames the three of them with Danny in the middle, but the dialogue is icy and static, dreary and rehearsed, a symptom of a family already disintegrating. Filmed mostly with a Steadicam, the cinematography seems to float and stalk the family, the Overlook like a hulking demon from Danny’s viewpoint. Soon Jack’s mental breakdown comes as no surprise, possessed by some dark power that to him has become a harsh reality. Danny’s gift is only a picture book of ghastly images and dire warnings, while Wendy discovers that a battered woman can indeed find inner strength against her abuser. Beautifully filmed and masterfully paced, THE SHINING veers towards burlesque with Nicholson’s performance, but it plays perfectly against Shelly Duval’s hysterics, her reactions emotionally claustrophobic and restrained until the final act: she is a woman on the verge of a mental breakdown but, unlike her husband, is able to commit a selfless act to save her son, and find salvation. THE SHINING is a work of fiction, a Grand Guignol ghost story filled with genre conventions, but strip away the supernatural and the narrative still works on a visceral level: it becomes a believable story of a marriage turned murderous. And herein lies the true horror like the Telltale Heart, a savage rhythm obsessively audible under thin ice. (A+)


Shubhajit said...

I know that Shining is a highly revered work and thus I'd seen the movie with a hell lot of baggage that such a movie makes one carry.

The atmosphere was quite riveting, and Jack Nicholson was in his explosive elements as usual while playing the kind of character he really loves playing.

However, I didn't like the movie as much as I'd hoped I would. Somehow it just failed to enrapture me or get stored in my mind for posterity - and that, for me, was a disapointment of sorts.

Alex DeLarge said...

Thank you for sharing your insight! This is a film that needs to be seen unedited: if you've only seen this on tv then your missing most of the picture! Even so, I understand you detachment from the film because Kubrick was never very good at creating empathetic characters. I believe that HAL is the most human and emotional creation in any of his pictures, and James Mason as HH in LOLITA a distant 2nd. But if you can see this on a big screen with a great sound system, the film totally immerses you in its savagery; Wendy Carlos' score is so eerie that my firends, who've watched this many times on their tvs, where astounded at how important it is to the atmosphere when heard through a heart-thumping HD analog sound system.
However, it's cool that we're all not impressed by the same things or Art would become static.
Again, thanks for posting and hope to read more from you:)

Shubhajit said...

Sure, it was my pleasure to share my views here at your blog. And I'm already a regular visitor at your blog.

I agree, its important that people disagree for art to continue being what it is. As for your pointing out about the 'edited version' thing, I'll keep that in mind in hoping that I manage to lay my hands on an unedited copy, provided of course I did see an edited version.

And as for the movie not having any likeable characters, well, that isn't really a problem with me. In support of that statement, film noirs are one of my favourite genres (though I'm rather disinclined to call it one). Neither Sunset Blvd nor Taxi Driver had any empathetic characters, yet they are two of my absolute favourites.

By the way, hoping to see you too at my blog sometime :)

Miss Topanga said...

never gets old... the twins still haunt me, although its been over a decade since i first saw it. and they still scare me, no matter how often i see this flick.