The Family Graveyard: Poltergeist for more) mentions a date, it really means to draw the audiences' attention to an event which occurred on that date; as Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) interviews for the position of winter keeper at the Overlook Hotel, Ullman (Barry Nelson) explains of the horrible accident which happened in 1970 with Grady (Philip Stone) killing his wife and two daughters; in the winter of 1970, such a crime actually happened, the MacDonald Family Massacre in which the husband/father Jeffrey R. MacDonald was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters. Jeffrey MacDonald always blamed the murders on hippies tripping on acid, similar to the Manson murders. But the similarities to Grady's murder spree in The Shining are unmistakable. As Ullman (a play on "all man" and his first name Stuart means a "steward" of something, i.e., all men are only stewards of this country) explains the situation, you can't help but notice the small American flag on the right-side of the screen, suggesting that Grady's murdering of his family wasn't an isolated incident, but something on a national scale.
The Kent State shootings.
If we are going to bring the murdering of a family from the micro to the macro in 1970, the United States firing on students demonstrating about the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia would have to be the pathway (for more on the Vietnam War, please see my post on how America's position on the war is coded in the hit song An Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and the Vietnam War). The Shining seems to be saying that the military firing on its own people is as brutal as a father (read founding father) "cutting down" (with an axe) their own children (the future). But there is another side to this story: 1921, the year the photograph at the end was taken. If you examine a timeline of 1921, you see numerous areas in the world becoming Communist, Fascist and the beginning of the Nazi party power take-over. The words repeated over and over about the winters at the Overlook Hotel are "isolation," solitude," and "cold," words which can also be linked to the Cold War being fought against Communism and the potential policy of isolationism the United States could have taken instead of being so pro-Democracy.
|The main memorial at Kent State honoring the shooting's victims.|
|The photograph at the end of the film.|
He (Blakemore) believes that indirect references to the American slaughter of Native Americans pervade the film as exemplified by the Indian logos on the baking powder in the kitchen and Indian artwork that appears throughout the hotel, though no Native Americans are ever seen. Stuart Ullman tells Wendy that when building the hotel a few Indian attacks had to be fended off since it was constructed on an Indian burial ground.
Blakemore's general argument is that the film as a whole is a metaphor for the genocide of Native Americans. He notes that when Jack kills Hallorann, the dead body is seen lying on a rug with an Indian motif. The blood in the elevator shafts is, for Blakemore, the blood of the Indians in the burial ground on which the hotel was built. As such, the fact that the date of the final photograph is July 4 is meant to be deeply ironic. Blakemore writes,
As with some of his other movies, Kubrick ends The Shining with a powerful visual puzzle that forces the audience to leave the theater asking, "What was that all about?" The Shining ends with an extremely long camera shot moving down a hallway in the Overlook, reaching eventually the central photo among 21 photos on the wall. The caption reads: "Overlook Hotel-July 4th Ball-1921." The answer to this puzzle, is that most Americans overlook the fact that July Fourth was no ball, nor any kind of Independence day, for native Americans; that the weak American villain of the film is the re-embodiment of the American men who massacred the Indians in earlier years; that Kubrick is examining and reflecting on a problem that cuts through the decades and centuries.Blakemore also sees this film as similar to other Kubrick films where evil forces get weak men to do their bidding.
Film writer John Capo sees the film as an allegory of American imperialism. This is exemplified by many clues; the closing photo of Jack in the past at a 4th of July party, or Jack's earlier citation of the Rudyard Kipling poem "The White Man's Burden". The poem has been interpreted as rationalizing the European colonization of non-white people, while Jack's line has been interpreted as referring to alcoholism, from which he suffers " (Wikipedia, The Shining (film) Native Americans).
|The Overlook Hotel, timberline.|
|At home while Jack interviews for the winter caretaker position.|
|The most important moment in the film: establishing Tony as the double for Danny.|
|Dick Hallorunn and the Indian Chief Calumet behind him.|
Decoding the Decoding: Scream, the chef's knife has a long history in slasher films of being associated with sex as a weapon, and Wendy utilizes the same symbol, the same strategy. The axe, in the hands of first Grady and then Jack is the weapon of the founding fathers, not only to cut down religious differences between people (the tree symbolizes the wood of the cross and the religious wars and civil wars which prompted people to abandon their homelands to move to America for religious freedom) but also the vast forests which had to be cut down for developing homes and farms and railroads. This is the reason the Donnor Party is mentioned: they were heading west, just like the Torrance family, looking for a new chance. The entire opening sequence of the car (a German Volkswagen which was literally developed at the order of Adolf Hitler) driving through the wilderness is like a wagon going west in the era of Manifest Destiny.
There is a problem in this marriage and Jack's projections of what he wants are at odds with Wendy's lackluster character. Jack sleeps when Wendy brings him "breakfast in bed." Noting that it's already 11:30, Wendy says, "I guess we've been staying up too late," meaning, they've been having a lot of sex. Things will change, however, or at least Jack will perceive that they have changed.When he's having the drink with "Lloyd" the barman, he tells him there's a bit of a problem with the old sperm bank. Either Jack has become impotent--which has carried over to his writing--or Wendy is no longer agreeing to have intercourse with him. Given the prevalent images of the "cold" after this point, I would guess that she's become frigid to him. As she takes on the responsibilities of maintaining the hotel and he's left to his writing, she loses respect for him and won't sleep with him.
|Breakfast in bed. In this still, we are seeing Jack in a reflection of the bedroom mirror.|
|Selling his soul for a drink of bourbon.|
I think this is a symbol fo America, and how Danny (the future) and Jack (the status quo) views the country: as America is trying to cleanse itself of crimes and sins (the bath) to the young generation, America is an old country, trying to strangle the younger generation that would change her from what she's become. To the establishment, such as Jack, she's a beautiful young woman, in the inviting bath where they, too, can be rejuvenated and project themselves as writers expressing themselves on paper. Why does the woman turn once Jack takes a hold of her? Because he can't get a hold of it. He's at a luxury hotel, but he's not on vacation, he's a servant (staying in the servants' quarters, in an apartment) not a jet-setter staying in a luxury hotel room. The room he enters is far nicer than their apartment, but because Jack can't succeed financially, it's like a beautiful woman taking a bath that he can't have as his own...
|The "key to understanding" is in Room 237; Kubrick gives us this, so to understand what happens in that room is to understand the film. It's the same woman yet the old Torrance and the young Torrance have a different relationship to her.|
|"Come play with us, forever and ever..."|
It's a weak character who manages to survive and that's important. The constant "torrents" of abuse and anger which Wendy endures helps her to see what's really happening to her so she can go with the "wind(y)." As Jack forces her up the stairs, backwards, holding a bat, we have a powerful image. The stairs, of course, symbolizes a higher plane of consciousness; but she's going up "backwards," which means she's not looking up, but looking down on the daily routine and what does she see? Herself, holding a bat, as if it were a phallus. Wendy, in taking over the responsibilities of maintaining the hotel, as also taken all the responsibility from Jack, something he complains about, but not something he does anything about.
We discover in the conversation in the bathroom with Grady, that Jack recognizes Grady because he looked up the newspaper articles. When Wendy had come in and wanted to know how his writing was coming, there was a scrapbook open on Jack's right side of the table, so Jack was probably trying to write a novel about what happened to Grady and why he killed his family. At this point, if this is what Jack has been doing, we could say that his conversation with Grady is a severe case of character identification. We also find out something very important about Danny: Grady recognizes that Danny has a very great talent and he's using it. This totally undermines Jack--not necessarily is authority--but worse, Jack's own knowledge that he doesn't have any talent.
In order to understand this sentence, and its multiplicity, we need to define "work" and "play." I think this goes back to the complex situation of being a servant at a luxury hotel that he's living in, but his work means that he can't have any play because he would never be able to afford to actually stay there. Remember at the beginning when Wendy and Jack are getting the tour and she's gushing that it's the most beautiful hotel she's ever been in. This makes for a clear class distinction: there are all these gorgeous rooms in the hotel (for that time period) but they are staying in the servants' apartment. If you took Jack's situation, living in the land of the free where he can't get a job that he wants, and multiply Jack times a thousand (that there have been thousands of Jacks) then he has written a book; a book about class struggle, where never getting to play and enjoy life makes him dull ("dull" as in un-educated) and directly clashes with the idea of "play" that Danny has and needs to make sure that he doesn't become "a dull boy," but we have to question, is that what is happening? In both senses, Jack's and Danny's, "play" is essential to our individual identities because it also helps us to define what our "work" is. Towards the beginning, Jack was throwing a ball against the wall; many would consider that play but because he has no responsibilities, Wendy takes care of it all, he can't also have a sense of play.