The Shining Movie Interpretation
Released in 1980, The Shinning was directed by Stanley Kubrick and adapted from the best-selling horror novel by Stephen King. As with most works by the genius Kubrick, the film is riddled with symbolism, metaphors, and plenty of visual trickery designed to reward those viewers who pay close attention. For those of you who want a greater understanding of what to look for in this movie, I proudly submit this article designed to serve as an explanation of The Shining. Spoilers abound, however, so consider yourself warned.
Reception for The Shining
Before we dive into The Shining analysis, let’s take a minute to look at the film’s reception:
When it was originally released, the critical response to The Shining was positive but not overwhelmingly so. In later years, however, its status as a masterpiece of the genre has risen, with everyone from Roger Ebert to Martin Scorsese hailing it as a modern classic. For his part, Stephen King was disappointed in the film, saying that Kubrick left out or glossed over some of the book’s most important themes. His dislike of the movie has dulled over time, however, and he admitted in a later interview that he found the adaptation “dreadfully unsettling.” The film now holds a place on numerous rankings from the American Film Institute, including 100 Years…100 Thrills, 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains, and 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes (“Here’s Johnny!”).
Main Characters in The Shining
If you want to have The Shining explained, it’s first important to understand the main characters. Here’s a list of all those who play a major role in this horror classic:
- Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) – A writer and recovering alcoholic who takes the job as a winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel. As the film progresses, Jack slowly loses his mind.
- Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) – Jack’s meek and supportive wife. She’s finally forced to grow a spine when Jack flips out and tries to kill her and her son.
- Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) – The young son of Jack and Wendy, Danny is gifted with the ability to see glimpses of the past and the future.
- Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers) – An African-American chef at the Overlook Hotel who also possesses the abilities of ESP. He later received a telepathic sense that Danny is in trouble and journeys to the Overlook to help him. That’s when he runs into a deranged and axe-wielding Jack Torrance.
- Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) – A former caretaker at the Overlook who went mad and murdered his family. His ghost appears to Jack Torrance and encourages him to do the same.
The Shining Explained – The Shining Analysis
As you watch The Shining, keep an eye out for the following themes and subtext. This is the meat of our The Shining interpretation.
- Claustrophobia vs. Agoraphobia – The Overlook Hotel is a massive structure, and it somehow manages to invoke elements of both claustrophobia and agoraphobia at the same time. The sheer enormity of the property becomes frightening, as madness and danger seems to lurk around every corner. On the other hand, the enclosed hallways and hotel rooms create a sense of isolation and suffocating danger.
- The Perils of Alcoholism – Jack really begins his descent into madness when he falls off the wagon courtesy of a ghostly bartender in the Overlook.
- The Destruction of the Family Unit – The Torrance family has problems from the beginning thanks to Jack’s drinking problem, but it slowly unravels completely thanks to his madness and the supernatural presence of the Overlook.
- The Struggle Between Words and Images – Jack relies on words as a writer, while his son Danny gets glimpses of the past and future courtesy of images in his head. These worlds collide eventually, with the mad author trying to murder his own son in a twisted Oedipal conflict.
- The Slaughter of Native Americans – The Overlook is built on top of an Indian burial ground, and some have interpreted the repeated rivers of blood to represent all those who died at the hands of the white man. In addition, the final shot of the photograph on the wall shows that it was taken on July 4th, a date that would celebrate the founding of the United States and guarantee the eventual downfall of the American Indians.
- Modern Fairy Tale – Some have also described The Shining as a modern fairy tale, with Danny as the child hero at odds with a mad giant (in this case, his father). The film itself also features references to Hansel and Gretel.
- Architecture – The architecture of the Overlook, as shot by Kubrick, is meant to leave viewers feeling disoriented and uneasy. Furniture seemingly moves from one room to another, doors exist that can’t possibly lead anywhere, and a number of other examples that seem to defy physical logic.
- The Photograph – No discussion of The Shining ending would be complete with mentioning the photograph in the final shot, showing Jack Torrance at the Overlook during a party in 1921. Kubrick himself dispelled any doubt when he stated that Jack was a reincarnation of a previous employee of the Overlook.
I hope you’ve found our The Shining movie interpretation to be useful, and those looking for The Shining explanation or The Shining meaning should also feel equally at home. Now that you’ve had The Shining explained, run on out and buy yourself a copy on DVD or Blu-ray. You won’t regret it, as Stanley Kubrick was truly a master of the medium.