The review of the shining

Essay by tashyUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, April 2004

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The Shining is to graze in a field of possibilities, to lose oneself in a phantom garden, to seek the shapes of clouds. 2001 is a passive vision of the universe, and history, and thought itself. The Shining is an active experience, like an intimate conversation with an uncomfortable relation, or an old, nearly forgotten friend, who remembers more of the friendship than we do. It pulls us gently in and traps us there to tell us horrible things.

Unlike more straightforward works, and I'd even place 2001 in that category with regard to The Shining, I would argue that this film beckons to us to help it out. Kubrick's strategies involve a radical and extreme involvement on the part of the audience. At every crucial point in the film we as audience members are given moments to reflect, to question, and to disagree. The most apparent of these is when Jack leaves the locked pantry in which Wendy has confined him.

The unexplainable nature of the escape he manifests calls into question nearly everything we've seen so far. Are the ghosts he sees, then, real, and he not mad? The Shining practically begs us to ask questions of it, and to demand answers back. And the film is prepared to provide us with a meaningful dialogue. The pace is certainly more leisurely than horror films are "supposed" to be. We're prejudiced into thinking that horror = gore + no time to think + catharsis. The film undermines each of these. We're given only sporadic bloodshed, a puzzling and contradictory ending, and, most upsetting of all, much more time to think on our own than we feel we ought to have. This is far from a 'roller-coaster ride of terror.'

Kubrick again and again asks us to look at...