Media Studies A2 Genre Study

HISTORIC TEXT 8 The Shining (1980) Directed by Stanley Kubrick

What is the story behind Kubrick’s “The Shining”?
•“The Shining” was the third novel to be written by Stephen King. •Kubrick bought the rights to the book shortly after it was published in 1978. •Kubrick wrote the screenplay with Diane Johnson, often changing huge sections as he was shooting it. •The production used a variety of new filming techniques (such as the Steadicam) to further demonstrate Kubrick’s visual flair.

Intertextuality: is “The Shining” more Kubrick than Horror?

film focuses on the insanely rational world created by the Overlook Hotel. This vision of a new world is seen in other Kubrick texts like “2001” and “A Clockwork Orange”. The style of the piece is very detached and impersonal, as is best seen in “Eyes Wide Shut”. “The Shining” utilizes new filmmaking techniques. This was equally true of “2001”, with the use of rotating sets. None of Kubrick’s other movies were based within the horror genre. This is perhaps the only major difference between “The Shining” and Kubrick’s other films.

Iconography: the character & portrayal of Jack Torrance
During the opening section of the film, we get the impression that Torrance is rather highly strung. Jack Torrance’s regression into madness is deliberately slow. Kubrick uses skewed camera angles and nightmare visions to further enhance the iconography. The axe sequence is the most iconographical moment, both visually and aurally due to the phrase “HERE’S JOHNNY!”

Representation : Is Wendy Torrance a positive female role?
Wendy is the only main female character in
the whole film. She is shown as a protecting Mother figure, but also as one who ultimately overcomes the evil her husband is possessed with. Whilst Kubrick shows Jack sliding further into madness, he shows Wendy finding her inner strength to defeat him. The portrayal could perhaps be seen as stereotypical, due to the amount of time Wendy spends in hysterics. This possibly makes her seem weak.

Analysing the syntax: key scenes from “The Shining”
Four influential sequences exist in the 1980 text “The Shining”.
These are:

1. The opening Interview scene where Jack Torrance learns about the Overlook Hotel. 2. Danny’s encounter with room 237. 3. The first confrontation between Jack and Wendy. 4. The final chase through the maze of the Overlook Hotel.
Watch these scenes again and deconstruct them, considering the following :

Mise-en-scène, Cinematography, Representation, Audience, Narrative, Editing, Sound, & Lighting.

Why was “The Shining” unpopular with the critics?

As a completed piece of filmmaking, it was not what the critics had expected from Kubrick after “Barry Lyndon” (1975). Compared to his other works, “The Shining” was a horror movie based on a book by a little known novelist. Many critics felt it was very ambiguous for a genre film, as it leaves a large number of questions unanswered. This is especially true of the ending.

Is “The Shining” faithful to the Stephen King novel?

emphasis of the screenplay is on Jack and not Danny. The clairvoyant ‘shining’ itself is very much left in the background. The Overlook Hotel is haunted in the novel. There is no evidence of that in Kubrick’s film. Torrance’s alcoholism is a key part of novel’s narrative. The ending of the book was completely altered by Kubrick due to “technical issues”.

Was this the beginning of the end for Stanley Kubrick?
•Between “Barry Lyndon” and “The Shining”, Kubrick had gained a reputation as a difficult and controlling director. •This reputation was compounded by “The Shining”, where Scatman Crothers had to do 160 takes of a scene, Shelley Duvall had to do 125 takes, and Jack Nicholson was fed cheese sandwiches (which he hates) to bring out his inner revulsion. •Kubrick was finding it more and more difficult to find material to work with. He only made 2 more films in the 19 years between 1980 and 1999. •He never completed his long-term project “A.I. : Artificial Intelligence” before he died. That task was left to Steven Spielberg in 2001.

Strengths & weaknesses of “The Shining”
1. “The Shining” contains outstanding use of visuals and sound to create brooding menace. 1. “The Shining” is not a faithful adaptation of the King story.

2. Kubrick’s ideas are commendable, but 2. The film contains stellar Jack Nicholson needed much more performances from a very impressive control from the director to make his cast. performance more believable. 3. “The Shining” takes its time to set up 3. “The Shining” is a typical Kubrick film the characters and the situation – it is very impersonal, and does not carefully. allow the audience to engage with the fate of those on the screen. 4. The direction by Kubrick is meticulous and precise – he uses 4. Some of the sets and costumes have minimal violence to enhance the dated very badly since the film was psychological aspects of the first released. Stephen King story.

Practical Exercise 1 : the making of “The Shining”
In order to enhance your understanding of this text, you are going to watch the documentary on the making of “The Shining”. Directed by Kubrick’s daughter Vivian, it contains key details about the making of the film and Kubrick’s methods.
Working individually, you are going to watch the 30 minute programme and complete the worksheet that you will be given. The worksheet has 3 boxes which require you to look specifically at the three main people involved (Kubrick, Nicholson & Duvall). Your task is to fill in the sheet by listening carefully, and then writing down as much about these people as possible in the relevant box. You will need to concentrate carefully, as the programme moves from one personality to the other, so be prepared!

Practical Exercise 2 : evaluating Kubrick & “The Shining”
Using what you have seen in the documentary and what has been discussed in this session about Kubrick’s work, you are going to work in pairs to produce an evaluation of “The Shining” and the work of Stanley Kubrick on the film. You will be assembling your ideas in a pair, but once you have fully discussed your ideas you will be required to write the evaluation INDIVIDUALLY. The completed piece of writing should be between 500 and 750 words in length. In the evaluation, you must answer the following : 1. Describe Kubrick’s techniques in “The Shining”? What is your assessment of them? 2. Is “The Shining” is a conventional horror genre film? Why or why not? 3. Does “The Shining” succeed in what it sets out to do? 4. What is your verdict on the film?

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