Monday, March 18, 2013

Kubrick's "The Shining" further explored in new DOC


Stanley Kubrick's films are quite something aren't they? The more you watch them the more you start
noticing new things you hadn't seen at first hand. THAT my friends is what cinema is all about to me. The potential for revelation. The potential to explore the great beyond. Most movies are two and two is four. What are the movies that represent the most ADVANCED math? The far bounds of particle physics? The Einstein or Stephen Hawking notebooks that no one has quite figured out the squiggles of? The skullcrushing Advanced Calculus to the 99th Power? That was a question that was recently asked by a friend of mine on Facebook - to which I had to mention recent fare such as; 

Terrence Malik's The Tree Of Life 
David Lynch's Mulholland Drive 
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan 
Michael Haneke's Cache 
Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood & The Master
Joel Coen's No Country For Old Men
Alfonso Cuarron's Children Of Men

Let's face it. No brainers right? Films that will be undisputed film school staples for years to come. Just like Stanley Kubrick's films already are. 2001: A Space Oddysey is his visionary masterpiece, a film that cannot fit into the 2+2=4 category. One that needs a closer look to -at least try to- fully understand its vision and impact on your mind. These are the kind of movies I eat up. Films that don't give a fuck and aim for the beyond. Kubrick's The Shining -another masterpiece of his- deserves inclusion into this category. It is a film that doesn't play by any rules of the horror genre and decides to not explain to us the full gist of what's happening on screen. We know it is about a father that completely loses it on his family and tries to murder them but why the sudden murderous rage? Kubrick doesn't answer that question in a linear manner. The hotel at which the family is staying is filled with a haunted past that we -as the audience- need to figure out. 

The images Kubrick conjures are indelibly puzzling but haunting. Too many scenes cannot be fully explained on the spot. Why does the wife walk in on a man in a bear suit giving a blowjob to a hotel clerk? What's the deal with the film's final image in which an eerily ancient painting features Jack Nicholson's Jack Torrence? Who was that creepy woman in room 237? Redrum? The "river of blood"? Those creepy twin girls? "all work and no play". Just so much stuff to dissect. Which brings me to this new documentary called Room 237 which will come out in the next few weeks and has gotten great buzz for its obsessive look at some of The Shining's most puzzling moments and the fans that eat this stuff up for breakfast.
 
The film does massively play with a sense of space and time - e.g. the blueprint of the Overlook doesn't add up. The doors beside room 237 make no sense (the interior of the apartement covers these doors, so they go nowhere). There is a corridor running behind Ullman's office, yet his office window shows the outside. There are windows on three sides of the Torrance's apartment, yet when Danny is dropped through the bathroom window, that whole side of the hotel is flat. All this leading to a final head-screw image, to twist your head off completely as the film finishes. The film should be looked at more in terms of its feelings and tones (like a David Lynch film) rather than logic. The subtext is about Jack being weak as an abusive alcoholic, Wendy being weak as a mother who ignores it, Danny being a kid who dissociates as a way of dealing with it - and how that dynamic breaks the family apart. Everything on the surface hints at those themes, but without a clear sense of logic.

The film cannot all be taken literally but this new documentary does try to attempt to solve some of the film's nuttiest mysteries. Which brings me back to the movies that represent "advanced math". If The Shining isn't one of those very movies, I don't know what is. I look forward to watching Room 237 but with a little hesitation. Some films don't need to explained but do in fact need to be dissected. Does that make sense? It sure does to me. Cinema is an art form and like all great art there doesn't need to necessarily be one answer. There can be many. Kubrick knows that. That's why The Shining is a full fledged masterpiece.


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