11 Things You Might Not Have Noticed In The Shining
John Fell Ryan
, July 13th, 2012 03:57
John Fell Ryan has screened Stanley Kubrick's 1980 masterpiece forwards and backwards, simultaneously, superimposed. He shares a few findings
At midnight on Wednesday July 4th, 2012, I finally sit down to watch Room 237, the documentary about people obsessed with Stanley Kubrick and The Shining, in which I am one of the five featured obsessives.
Those of you also obsessed with The Shining will nod in solemn observance of the mystical significance of the exact time and date of my viewing of my own screen debut, but for the rest of you... well, where do I start? Where do I start to try to explain the complex web of synchronicity surrounding Kubrick's most enigmatic creation?
Scores of people have written thousands of words trying to explain The Shining in great detail - all of whom have different points of view, and none of whom cover "everything", none of whom have discovered the Higgs boson of the film. The more you look, the less you know. I can't offer you the secret, but I can give you a brief tour of some of more puzzling anomalies hidden within The Shining...
Ullman's Disappearing Cigarette Trick
Besides the famous 'impossible window' and hotel manager Ullman's weird hand shapes, the interview scene also offers one of Kubrick's bizarre continuity errors. Notice the differences in the two shots above. Besides the pen changing angles, in the lower right hand corner of the screen the cigarette in the ashtray seems to disappear. There is no practical reason why this error would occur as no one in this scene ever smokes. In fact, no one in the whole movie is seen smoking except for Wendy. If you look at the ashtray closely, you'll notice that the cigarette hasn't really disappeared, just the glass ashtray has been rotated 90º clockwise. Take into account that in the film's climax Wendy takes a 90º clockwise turn to enter the bloody elevator hallway located directly behind Ullman's false window. Coincidence? Maybe, but these are the kind of things that keep you up at night once you start obsessing over the details in The Shining.
The Three-Storey Moving Tree
This is the final frame of the shot where Ullman is giving the Torrances the tour of the Overlook Hotel grounds. Notice that Ullman walks right in front of a moving car - a little bit of Kubrickian slapstick humour. Also notice the three-storey tall tree at the far left of the screen, only viewable for a second at the end of this moving shot.
Later in the film when we see the hotel exterior again, the tree is missing.
Even further into the film we see the tree has moved several yards down to the left past the third awning. Fairly elaborate continuity error - what is Kubrick trying to communicate here? Kubrick has said that he left out the animated topiary animals from the Stephen King novel because the special effects would be unconvincing, but here he is, moving trees around subliminally.
The Red Witch & The Black Skier
The posters in the games room scene are a gallery of mysteries. Is the 'Ski Monarch' poster a symbol for Illuminati mind control? Or is it an in-joke reference to Stephen King, deposed monarch of The Shining? Questions without answers, but I'd like to point out a different poster, the one by the door in the first shot of the scene.
What exactly are we looking at? Another skier? Or a hunched-over witch in a red dress knocking at a door? Another echo of Hansel and Gretel to match Wendy's reference to a trail of breadcrumbs? Or a purposely vague image to trap the imagination of seekers like myself?
Other posters in the film also confound. What is Julius Erving doing here in the lobby of The Overlook and why does it look like skis and ski poles have been airbrushed into the picture? For a resort closed for the winter, there seems to be awful lot of focus on skiing in the decor.
Driving The Big Wheel Beyond The Veil
Notice in this one frame from Danny's second Big Wheel ride around the Hotel hallways we see for a split-second the stained glass windows from the vast Colorado Lounge. In this split-second we can make a physical connection between the Lounge and this floor, which includes the famous hexagonal carpet and of course taboo Room 237. A very expensive split-second because it requires a working second storey to be added to the already incredibly large Lounge set. This gives you an inkling of the absurd lengths Kubrick will go to make a tiny subliminal detail that will go unnoticed by almost everyone watching the picture. Also notice the strange diaphanous curtain hanging down from the stairwell. We are moving beyond the veil...
Dissolving 2001: A Space Odyssey
Of the many dissolves in The Shining, this might be my favourite. The scene fades from Wendy and Danny watching TV in the lobby to Danny entering their suite upstairs, but in this instant it seems as if the doorknob takes Danny's place on the blanket by the TV and the door chain extends out from it. Now consider the door chain resembles the spaceship Discovery and the doorknob resembles HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. As Danny is replaced by a murderous computer in this scene, it foreshadows Danny being replaced by Tony, who definitely has MURDER on his mind. The television is the method of psychic communication that Danny uses to bring his 'spaceship' to the Hotel in the form of the Hallorann-piloted Snow Cat.
Up Or Down The Mountain?
Speaking of the Snow Cat, when we see Hallorann driving it towards the mountaintop hotel, it paradoxically seems as if the vehicle is moving downhill.
Later on when Wendy and Danny use the Snow Cat to escape the Hotel, it seems as if they drive the vehicle uphill, into the clouds...
The Loser Has To Keep America Clean
Have you noticed there is no toilet paper in Room 237?
The Edge Of Sanity
Here's the "great party" man, one of the fabulous WTF moments from the climax of the film - but what is that in the glass case to the right? Some sort of fossilized fish or bird head? Another vague and unidentifiable shape lurking in the corners... and speaking of corners, check out the lower right hand corner of the screen. See how it seems as if the dark wood molding disappears into the side of the white column? Seems like reality crumbles around the edges in The Overlook.
Wendy's Knife Switch Trick
Wendy goes from left-handed to right-handed to left-handed to right-handed in the four scenes of her 'shining' visions of The Hotel - color coded blue and red too. I don't know what to make of this one, even if the knives seem only to be literally shining in the blue scenes.
One Final Parting Shot
Did you ever notice the man-bear-pig upstairs has Wendy's eyes?
Performer, musician and recording artist with electronic rock group Excepter, and also of New York free-music ensemble The No-Neck Blues Band, John Fell Ryan writes and edits KDK12, an ongoing visual analysis of Stanley Kubrick and The Shining. He is also a DJ, palindromist, former video librarian, and current culture-jammer for WFMU, the longest-running freeform radio station in the USA. More of John’s work can be found here.