The Shining feat. Albert Dubreuil
This week we are joined by Albert Dubreuil, friend and contributing writer to our website, to talk about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. The three of us cultivate different viewpoints — Albert drawing on a knowledge of King works, Scott appreciating it, but not being really drawn to the film, and I am a fan of the formalistic choices that make the film unique.
It’s a Meaty Topic
It’s nice to reach a Kubrick film, because that means we have plenty to talk about. There is subtext with subtext, intentionally disorienting cuts, music, lines, and shots that are meant to make the viewer question their own sanity. That becomes clear when you start examining the different fan theories that are out there. Instead of dwelling on the plot, we toss around the big theories, as well as our own theories. It’s a haunted hotel, right? Or is it cabin fever? Maybe it’s about something deeper — like Native American genocide, or the Holocaust. Uhh, it could also be about addiction and being seduced by the devil. Maybe it’s just really a misunderstood story about family?
Don’t get me wrong — the plot is easy to follow. It’s a simple enough story on the surface. A man and his family become caretakers of an isolated hotel, evil and/or madness creeps into the man as his family struggles to survive his ever-growing violence tendencies. There are moments where Jack (Jack Nicholson) can redeem himself, yet leans into his evil. He becomes the devil behind the bar, the mad father who (attempts to) kill his family. But we know where this is going, and it’s the whole ride of the movie. Can his family survive, though?
The Shining is pure Kubrick. Spectacular framing, haunting music, and strange characterizations tie together seamlessly. The acting is stressed, realistic, and fantastical at the same time. Scott and I were enamored by Shelley Duvall’s amazing horror faces, and that was impacted by the stories Albert told us of her torturous treatment at the hands of Kubrick.
What we get to in this episode is that The Shining is an easy film to talk about, and a difficult film to agree on. While all three of us have seen it, we each had different feelings going in. I found myself thinking of my religious upbringing and the fear of the devil while watching the film, as well as tying every vice to a demonic presence instead of human behavior. Scott found that he felt it really is a story about the madness of isolation.
But that’s the beauty of a well-made film, right? You give the audience an experience they can dwell on, discuss, and even experience change with over time. This was a fun episode, and we’re glad to have Albert on the show.