The Shining Review

A book and its movie adaptation should be treated as two different entities when they are talked about. This is a principle I have always adhered to when I have reviewed any book adaptation on this blog. This may be due to the fact that in the case of every book adaptation I have reviewed here, I watched the movie first and book later. In the case of The Shining, the case was different.

And to be honest, the workings of these two are so divergent that it is impossible to treat the movie with the same mindset as one might treat the book. First of all, Kubrick is a visual suzerian, so he treats the subject matter with that mindset. The images in The Shining and perplexing, especially the layout of The Overlook hotel. There are windows and doors where there should not be, carpet designs so abstract and asymmetrical in terms of their color scheme that seem to have a convulsing effect on the subconscious. It feels like the unfulfilled dream of Alfred Hitchcock, who envisioned to trick the subconscious with images and sound to create horror.

The camera seems more menacing than Jack throughout the movie. The steadicam gives an eerie feel to the shots, of a silent intruder who is always behind the heels of these characters tiptoeing his presence into their minds. However, this entire effect is atrophied by the background score which got on my nerves with its untimely explosions. Instead of creating a feeling of distress which I believe was its objective, it atrophies the entire feeling of dread. The most brilliant scenes are Jack and Grady’s conversation and Jack’s encounter with the girl in the tub, devoid of any noise. Silence, as I have repeatedly said without any avail, is the most scariest tool in the arsenal of any film-maker who aspires to make a horror film.

The reason why I found the movie less effective than the book seems to be Kubrick’s mindset that the true evil is Jack. He explores him as a non compos mentis from the first scene itself, a man who is hostile and distant to his family. This seems to take the very essence out of what was the actual horror of Stephen King’s work, which was to paint Jack as a tormented and pitiful soul who loves his family and how The Overlook and its ghosts eventually wear all humanity out of him. In the novel, the effect is distressing because we actually care about Jack as an individual and actually do feel contrite when he gradually goes down the spiral.

Kubrick’s movie however raises serious questions on the reliability on the mental state of its characters, which in turn, raises questions on the presence of any real supernatural entity in the hotel. The book by Stephen King gave us characters which seemed to consider the Overlook as a redemption to their diabolical lives and induced a feeling of claustrophobia and cabin-fever with its slow-pacing which made me feel as if I was shut in by the ghosts the Overlook seemed to house, creating a feeling of utter distress and eventual terror. On the other hand, Kubrick’s movie grows on to you and then lets go and oscillates with these feelings throughout, in the end creating an impersonal work which is at times chilling, but rest of the times, making an effort to be.

RATING :- 5 / 10

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