Mapping “The Shining”
August 8, 2011
Last month film buff/self-fashioned psychologist Rob Ager uploaded an in-depth, two-part essay investigating issues of spatial awareness of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining. With all the enthusiasm of a die-hard fanboy, Ager spends over 20 minutes (and countless online entries) pulling apart the film’s architectural anomalies and implications, complete with annotated plans and film scenes.
Unsurprisingly, Ager posits that the film’s quixotic and irrational set design can be attributed to the overall sense of disorientation Kubrick wanted to convey to the audience. Rather than falling into classic horror tropes of chiaroscuro, elusive shadows, and veiled danger meant to induce fear, Kubrick, it seems, fully, if subtly, exposed the incongruities and incompatibility of the film’s sets to “communicate the illusory nature of the Overlook Hotel.” Click for more.
As Ager points out, the Overlook’s large rooms bear relation neither to the dimensions of neighboring rooms nor to the hallways connecting the bedrooms to the rest of the hotel. As Danny circles around the place on his tricycle, the thinness of the walls make those famous double-loaded corridors impossible. Bedrooms and staircases overlap one another, rooms are lit by impossible windows, doorways lead to nowhere, not to mention the physically shifting hedges of the grounds’ maze or the fact that the actual property used for the exteriors is too small to accommodate the large, windowless expanse of the bar room and the inability of its diagonal axes to conform to the strict orthogonality of Kubrick’s sets.
These “spatial mind-games” add to the film’s palpable creepiness. It can be fun following Ager down the rabbit hole, and you’re likely to find yourself losing a work afternoon doing so. He makes some convincing points, along with some more extreme (or not) claims, such as the implausibility of the reality of room 237, and some keen observations, like noting the over-sized carpet motifs and imposing ceiling heights that add to the dwarfing of the inhabitants.