Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Shining - Film Review

The Shining film review

fig.1 film poster

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, 'The Shinning' is a 1980 British-American film focusing on themes of loneliness and isolation. As expected from a Kubrick film there is strong use of the rule of thirds amongst other devices, both old and new. The resulting product has created a lasting impression on popular culture retaining the same value in cinema today as it did in the 90s.

Based upon Stephen King’s 1997 novel under the same name, ‘The Shining’s’ plot follows a family of three as they move into a hotel for the course of several months. During this time the father, Jack Torrance slowly becomes more unstable, acting more aggressively towards his family. This results in the attempted murder of his child, Danny and his wife, Wendy. Fortunately the two escapes with Jack freezing to death. The film ends on a photograph featuring jack dated 1921.

One reoccurring theme that appears in Kubrick’s work is the effective use of suspense to hold the audience’s attention. The ‘The Shining’ proves especially effective in this area as the film falls within the psychological horror film genre. Despite being tame in comparison to the horror films produced in this day and age ‘The Shining’ remains culturally relevant retaining the same appeal it had during the day of its release. This can be attributed to its use of more practical effects and camera work which can be exhibited in the elevator scene.

fig.2 elevator scene creating use practical effects
Regarding how the ‘The Shining’ was filmed, Kubrick had decided to use a gimbal in order to stabilize the camera for far smoother tracking shots. A notable example of the use of this relatively new technology is when the camera is tracking Danny as he rides his tricycle through the halls.
“There's pure inspiration simply in the scene in which young Danny (Danny Lloyd) rides his tricycle around the endless corridors, the wheels thundering on the wooden floor, then suddenly quiet over the carpets” (Bradshaw, 2012)

This scene proves especially effective as the tracking for the camera has a far more spectral feel tracing the steps of the boy as if the point of view is hovering with Danny. The use of this more ‘spectral’ tracking shot means that we are limited in the way we see round corners and hallways. In this case the visual is married with more obscure yet striking sound design. The silence only acts as a reminder of the lack of people in these open halls only to be broken by presence of the small family. This concept is mirrored throughout the film with a lack of music or background noise in certain scenes. Examples includes jack throwing his baseball and his use with a type writer.
“Then they're alone, and a routine begins: Jack sits at a typewriter in the great hall, pounding relentlessly at his typewriter” (Ebert, 2006)

Not only does Kubrick make effective use of silence but also uses of a rather memorable sound track. These pieces tend to be more simple consisting of fewer instruments and obscure noises matching the lonely nature of the hotel. Assisted by the timing the sound is brought together with the shots to hint towards the viewer of the sense of an impending fate. Despite the lack of true horror factors the film retains a large amount of suspense through these components.

As always with Kubrick’s films the ending remains unclear and ambiguous with the antagonist being displayed in the old photograph. Paired with the previous events it is uncertain whether or not the story being told is from a reliable source. As stated by Ebert, ““The Shining" challenges us to decide: Who is the reliable observer? Whose idea of events can we trust?” (Ebert, 2006). With this the ending remains open for interpretation and as such have been received in various ways. ‘The Shining’ is not a simple a film that is seen and enjoyed but requires more intelligent thought. As shown by the documentary ‘Room 237’ many individual theories have been spawned from this single film.

It is never clarified if the following events are due to isolation and madness or more super natural causes. Despite this the film remains as an example of effective camera work, sound design and timing, leaving a lasting impression on pop culture.  

Illustration List

fig.1, Website (accessed 03/12/16)
fig.2, Website (accessed 03/12/16)


Bradshaw, Peter (2012) The Shining - Review (accessed 03/12/16)
Ebert, Roger (2006) The Shining (accessed 03/12/16)

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