Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, January 02, 2012

Does Kubrick's The Shining really have any subliminal secrets to share?

One of the movies scheduled to be screened at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival is already starting to get a bit of buzz,a documentary entitled Room 237 that discusses a number of interpretive theories regarding Stanley Kubrick's horror film The Shining.

Some of these trains of thought are rather conspiracy theory in tone,such as Kubrick putting in visual hints about the validity of the Apollo moon landing while another notion considered is that Kubrick was showcasing not-so-subtle metaphors about the treatment of Native Americans by early European settlers.

The latter does seem to hold some water,as this clip I found online carefully makes the case for such an argument. Given that Kubrick was known for making his own obsessions and viewpoints fit whatever material he had to work with,this sounds somewhat plausible to me:

However,speculation aside,I do have to point out that this is more about Kubrick himself than the actual film. For one thing,a few of the elements of the story that are under dispute here are straight from the source material,Stephen King's 1977 novel.

It's no secret that King and Kubrick did not see eye to eye on this adaptation and for good reason;both men had very different takes on reality and the supernatural which are at the heart of the plot here.

King has not been shy regarding his disappointment with the Kubrick film and if you've read the novel beforehand or afterward,the changes made in the tone of the story and with the characters are literally worlds apart:

While the 1997 made for television revision of The Shining that King was involved with sought to remedy that situation,each interpretation lacks the overall strength of the other-basically,one has all of the scares and one holds all of the emotional cards.

It's sort of a shame that no one has figured out how to make those two great tastes taste great together on screen so far. With Stephen King planning to release a follow-up to The Shining featuring an adult Danny Torrence called Doctor Sleep interest in the original book and it's first film version should be peaked even more.

Another thing to take in consideration here is that Kubrick tended to repeat certain visual gimmicks to make his films effective in terms of style as well as create his own unique signature on each project.

The elaborate set designs,the wide camera shots and use of empty space were all handy tools in his bag of movie magic tricks which you can spot throughout his body of work.

One of the reasons that Kubrick attracted so much admiration amongst his peers,despite the difficulties of directly working with him,was due to his bold artistic approach and fearlessness as a film maker. Whether or not this director was the right one to first bring The Shining to life on film is debatable but it's hard to deny the massive talents of Stanley Kubrick even in a less than successful(story telling wise) adaptation:

It's too soon to tell what the impact of Room 237 will be at Sundance and other film festivals but the impact of the Kubrick version has been holding strong for more than one decade. Parodies,music videos and video games have paid tribute to it and no doubt future references will be made as time and pop culture goes on.

The legacy of The Shining as a horror film may appear to be greater than the book it was based on yet since one wouldn't exist without the the other,both are bound to live on as a hallmark of the genre.

A tried and true test for any classic is to be able to influence and inspire audiences beyond it's time period and by that standard,The Shining is bearing that sinister torch rather well. Rereading the book is recommended along with watching the film again to see if you can find some new wrinkles in this deceptively old school ghost story:

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