The Shining - The July 4th 1921 Ball Photo

Go to Table of Contents of the analysis (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).

The most important thing which must be kept in mind with Kubrick's films is there is the surface or principle story and then the internal or sub-story. In many of his films, if we're really paying attention, set elements pretty much immediately destroy the surface naturalism. One may not notice this destruction the first, second or third time one watches the film. Through constructive disorientation and disconnectedness, and sleight of hand as to where our eye focuses, Kubrick, the magician, intentionally obfuscates these elements that destroy the overt and naturalistic story line. The surface story lines are the principle ones, and this is maintained and supported by the intentional obfuscation of the deconstructive elements which keep them sub rosa. At the same time, these deconstructive elements are plainly there, alongside his tremendous effort to make things look real and believable, and once we bypass the disorientation and his purposeful refocusing they become a puzzle, annihilating the sense of reality. This destruction of the film's naturalistic story line is difficult enough to conceive of and accept that most people stop at this point and decide these puzzling aspects of Kubrick's films are errors when they are not. They are part of the art of a director cleverly designing the overt story line to be unimpeded by an internal story that tears it apart. Indeed, the sub rosa elements of the internal story may be discreet but they are enough in evidence to complicate the surface story with an aura of attractive, indefinable mystery, which is one of the reasons viewers return to Kubrick again and again. To work with the "reason" and "why of the internal story line is to try to settle into Kubrick's sensibility, examining how these internal stories form a dialogue in his oeuvre with repeating themes and ideas, elaborated upon from film to film. The internal stories haven't a "plot"; they aren't that kind of story. Instead, you have to be willing to deal with comprehending the themes and ideas represented in them as instead ultimately forming a different terrain for the setting of the surface story, guiding and interacting with the overt story and giving it a new form.


We shall go through the final scene of The Shining very carefully, step by step, beginning with shot 658.

658 MCU Jack frozen. (2:19:24)

Daylight. Jack is seen from the front, frozen, engulfed in snow, his eyes rolled partly back in his head, his mouth partly open showing his bottom teeth. His expression is much the same as when he took his first drink of Jack Daniels in the Gold Ballroom in shot 288. It is much the same expression as had in shot 211 in the Thursday section of the film. It's the same expression Pyle will have in Full Metal Jacket before he kiss the drill instructor then blows his brains out, soiling the clean "head" with blood. The wind howls.


Figure 58 - Frozen Jack.

Jack must be dead. He appears to be dead. We know he would have to be dead.

In Barry Lyndon, following Barry's recovery at the inn after the duel, as he was leaving, there were three shots of him exiting the hotel. The last one, shot 778, had him climbing into a carriage and as he handed off his crutches Kubrick freezes the frame. The narration over this freeze states that he travelled to the continent but there is no means of following his life there accurately, etc. The shot of the frozen Jack outside the Overlook, in the maze, would seem to be referring back to this freeze frame of Barry. Perhaps also referring to Barry's leaving the inn with his mother are the shots of Wendy and Danny as she reunites with Danny after his surviving his altercation with Jack. She assists Danny into the Snowcat and they then turn and drive it away from the Overlook, disappearing in snow haze as they surmount a ridge. Barry is injured but survives the duel with his stepson, reunites with his mother, and the last we observe of them is their leaving the inn. Danny survives his duel with his father, reunites with his mother, and they flee the Overlook. In Barry Lyndon, the freeze frame leaves us in a state of suspended animation, as with Jack, though we feel we know Jack's fate, and we feel too we know Barry's fate, which we sense is steeped in sad futility. Even though Barry's high moral point in the film is his refusal to fire upon his stepson.

Comparison may also be had to the latter scenes of Full Metal Jacket in which Eightball is "wasted" by a sniper, then Doc Jay and Cowboy as well. Cowboy and Joker, who had been in basic training together, were reunited at "Hotel Two Five", not at all a hotel but the remnant of a destroyed building. Joker having been tasked with bringing along and protecting a photographer, at Hotel Two Five, one of the soldiers had asked the photographer if he wanted to take a "good picture", then pulled a cover off an individual seated beside him to show a dead North Vietnamese soldier. When we see the final photograph in The Shining, it is revealed to have been taken on July 4th, America's freedom birthday. In Full Metal Jacket it's the dead man's birthday. "This is his party. He's the guest of honor. Today is his birthday...Once we rotate back to the world, we'll miss not having anyone worth shooting." Which is to be reflected upon when Eightball, Doc Jay and Cowboy are shot. As it turns out, the sniper is a Vietnamese woman, which surprises the troopers, as well as the audience. All we have seen of women in the film are Vietnamese women degradingly used as prostitutes. It is as if the abused women of Kubrick's films have rallied to have their revenge.

After the freeze frame on Barry, the film turns out not to be quite over. The freeze frame on Barry could be the last shot, feels like a final shot, but is not. We are then shown Lady Lyndon, at a table with Graham, Bullingdon and Runt, signing bills. They are reunited. In the background is a sofa on which Barry and Bryan had once sat and looked over Bryan's drawings. In their absence, Barry and Bryan are an invisible presence. Lady Lyndon, her gaze distant, hesitates over the bill for Barry's annual 500 severance guineas, remembering. As it turns out, though Jack's frozen body could be the last shot, The Shining is not quite over either.

659 LS to CU through the lobby to the Gold Room hall. (2:19:33)

The camera moves through the lobby toward the Gold Room hall. The lights are off. The Gold Room sign is on the right again, as it was in the Interview sequence. The photos for the same entertainer are still observed on the sign, which helps fix us in a time frame not too distant from the Torrance's stay at the Overlook.


Shot 659 - The ending recalls Humbert entering Quilty's mansion to murder him, Quilty appearing
from beneath a sheet on a chair and asking if he's Spartacus come to free the slaves.

The seating is all covered with sheets. We assume that after Jack's death, after the escape of Wendy and Danny, the owners must have mothballed the hotel for the winter, decided to not get another caretaker or were unable to retain one. But we may also wonder why all the furnishings weren't covered with sheets during cleaning day in the first place, even with winter caretakers. Because of the paranormal aspects of the film, the sheets also remind of ghosts. It is as if we are at the beginning of Lolita, Humbert entering Quilty's mansion, out of which he is moving, some of the furnishings there also covered with sheets, and any moment one of the sheets will become animated and from beneath it, separating himself from a chair, Quilty will rise, calling out, "I am Spartacus. Have you come to free the slaves?" Or perhaps we are at the end of Lolita, for after the credits Lolita begins as it ends, with Humbert entering the Quilty mansion, seeking the man who took Lolita from him.

Lolita

There are some differences between how the lobby and hall are outfitted in this scene and in others. One that I've discussed previously is how in the opening shot of Jack arriving for his interview we clearly see heating vents for forced air behind the radiant heaters. As if there are two hotels merged together, the old one which had the radiant heaters, and an updated one that has forced air heat.

The Shining - Jack enters The Overlook's lobby
Shot 10 - The vents for the forced heat are visible behind the radiant heaters just above the baseboard.
Click on the image for better view. I've lightened the shot so they can be a little better seen.

There are no forced air vents behind the radiant heaters in this section, or they are deeply obscured in shadow, which amounts to the same thing.

The Shining - Jack enters The Overlook's lobby
The radiant heaters in the closing section.

The red sofa seen through that doorway into the Gold Room hall in shot 10 in The Shining refers back to Barry Lyndon.

In the opening of The Shining, the couple beyond the closed doors in the Gold Room hall attract attention, and do so especially later when we realize how the photos behind them have been obscured in that scene. The woman is wearing an outfit that seems to be of the same plaid material in which the other female hotel employees are dressed, but her skirt is noticeably wide and full. My guess is this, too, refers us back to Barry Lyndon and the women in their long, full skirts, assisting in an eventual association being made between the bright red sofa outside the music room and the one beyond the board that advertises musical entertainment in The Shining.

Kubrick's films have the device of the play within a play. When Lord Bullingdon leads Bryan into the music room, Bryan clomping in the shoes of his older step-brother, it is Hamlet. Bullingdon is enacting the scene in which Barry "killed" Sir Charles Lyndon. Sir Charles had excitedly exclaimed that Barry wanted to step into his shoes, to fill his shoes! Take his place. Bullingdon enacts that with Bryan, telling Bryan it's too bad he's not dead so Bryan can take his aristocratic place. In that scene, Bryan wears a suit of a deep burgundy color (not too different from the color of Jack's jacket), the seeming same cloth that had been introduced as a possible garment for Barry in an earlier scene, in which the same color red as the sofa had briefly been observed as its lining. These two reds are remarked upon in A Clockwork Orange when Alex rhapsodizes on how the blood on the screen is more lively than in real life, and he curiously wonders why that is as he watches a film of "fake" droogs meting out violence so convincing that he is unable to reason how it is contrived. Again, a version of the play within a play and a breach created between physical reality and the screen so they flow together.

In Barry Lyndon, this scene of the fight with Bullingdon will be the ruin of him. Afterward, society abandons Barry and Bryan dies. He plunges into drink.

The camera continues closing in on the photos in the adjoining Gold Room hall. We notice there is no bright red sofa below these photos any longer. Instead we shall soon see that the mirrors left and right of the photos have been replaced with rugs and one of them will be the diamond rug of a deeper red that we'd seen in the entrance foyer to the bathroom and in a hall near the entrance to the Overlook not completely blocked by snow.

A kind of curious thing happens as far as the "center" of the image.

Or, at least, it's curious to me. True center seems to be where we think it is, zeroing right in on Jack in the middle of the photograph that is about to be revealed. And it rather lines up with the center of the wall sconce right above. But it doesn't with the designs in the wainscotting below the photo, nor with the design of the carpet, nor with where we've a "center point" in the design of the lobby floor before the door. One will think I'm picking at details but I don't believe I am. Kubrick's symmetries are often not absolutely perfect symmetries, they're not mirror images except in the rare instance, just as how the two "twin" girls in The Shining aren't really twins. It has struck me that we have at least one other "center" here, which is the right light of the sconce just screen right of center, for it positions itself also as a center element, and that thus we really kind of need to pay attention to the shadow sconce. The one that isn't there. Yet is. The phantom sconce. Also note that Kubrick has it so that the shadow of the left "candle" of the sconce falls perfectly under the "center" (right) one. We have, after all, been dealing throughout with vanishing points, things disappearing and reappearing, and the film opened, did it not, with an image that could be taken as expressing "as above, so below", the mountain with its reflection in the lake, and the island as well.

The Shining - The island in the lake

We really do need to pay attention to this idea of the "mirrored" sconce reorienting our idea of true center somewhat, for we are, after all, about to have revealed to us the hidden Jack.

I think you can see, with the very opening image set above this closing image, how the island's alignment with the mountain has a certain relationship with the wall sconce and its shadow. And even as we zoom in on the image that shows Jack we will have yet more hidden information divulged, will we not? It's like something keeps opening up and revealing more to us of what has been hidden.

In 2001 we had perfect symmetry at the film's end as the camera zoomed in on the monolith and those elements of the surrounding room which weren't perfectly symmetrical fell away. We passed into the monolith, into an area between perfect symmetry, and thus was Dave reborn.

2001

2001

After the camera passed into the monolith, in the black dark of space appeared the moon, Dave as the star child, and the earth.

What happens if we remove the monolith from that shot in 2001?

This isn't perfect but it gives you the idea of the "between" of the monolith, what happens when it is gone. A reason I'm showing it here is because as we zoomed in on the monolith there were two 3-candle sconces in the background, separated by the monolith, partly occluded by the monolith, which become one when the monolith is removed. Kubrick is constructing much the same shot here in The Shining as we zoom in on Jack's photo, which is why I'm suggesting we need to pay especial attention to the center two-candle sconce which is made three with the shadow candle, and which gives us two centers.


Figure 61 - The photos. The red diamond rug now to their side and turned 90 degrees from the way we have always seen it.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a red and black diamond rug now, instead of a mirror, to the left of the photos, all of which seem, every one of them, to be different from any we've observed earlier on this wall.

And we begin to have revealed to us a photo with Jack in a tux, at the head of a party of people perhaps in the old ballroom.

Closer in, we see people at a table in the lower left photo who appear to be looking up to the middle photo of the Overlook Hotel.

Jack is waving at the camera, at us, a piece of paper tucked in the palm of his hand.

660 Crossfade to CU of photo. (2:20:31 begin crossfade, ending 2:20:34.)

Crossfade to a closer view of the photo.



661 Crossfade to extreme CU of photo. (2:20:41 begin crossfade, ending 2:20:45.)

Crossfade to a close-up of the photo clearly showing Jack's face, if there was any question about it. The camera pans down to show Overlook Hotel, July 4th Ball, 1921.

There is movement even in these last couple of views of the photos. In shots 660 and 661 Jack's shoulder is dropped down to reveal the woman to his left (our right) holding something. This is covered by his raised shoulder in shot 659.

Fade out and begin credits at 2:21:20.

"...surrender all my life to you..." can be heard on the soundtrack.

We wonder how does the man in the 1921 photo have Jack's face? People likely see the paper he is holding and wonder about that, but it's unlikely they see the woman is revealed to be holding something in shots 660 and 661. The audience likely feels now that they must have missed something in the film that will provide a clue to the photo and will watch the movie again. In this way, to a degree, they are led onto a path of the same deja vu experience that Jack had of the hotel, that he'd been there before, that he knew what was going to be around every corner. Instead of passive observers, the audience will become active seekers. What did I miss? Where is it?

When the movie could only be seen in the theater, that also meant revenue. More tickets sold.

The audience will likely wonder if this photo has always been there. It hasn't. At least in shot 576 when Dick walks past the photos, we're given our first opportunity to catch a glimpse of them and this photo isn't there, and all or most of them seem to be different.

The audience may wonder if Jack is a double of this person in the photo, or is he that person reborn in some way and destined to return to the Overlook to be reabsorbed into it. The Hotel had been waiting for him to make it back there, aware and reigning him in with long distant puppet strings. Or has he been instead pulled into the photo to replace someone else? Just as the 1970s Charles Grady became the ethereal 1920s Delbert Grady, has Jack assumed a new name and identity through the lodge? What is the piece of paper he holds which makes us feel if we could reach out and take it we might know the answer, it may have a message? Why does the man behind him stand with his hand on Jack's upraised arm? Who is the woman with half closed eyes, in the laurel leaf crown, the heart-shaped pin on her breast, a bow decorating, a feather extending from it?

If the movie begins with "Dies Irae" (and it does), music for the Day of Wrath and the judgment of souls, might the feather and heart refer to the judgment of souls through the weighing of the heart of the deceased against a feather, symbol of Maat. Is the single man viewed blowing on a party horn intended to recall the horn of judgment? Why the year 1921? Has this any connection to the World, the 21st card of the Tarot, the woman in a circle of laurel leaves, immediately following the the 20th card, the Judgment card? Is Jack's upraised right hand and lowered left hand intended to recall the fifteenth card, that of the "devil" whose arms are positioned like this as well, and who is said by some to represent self-bondage, but also the adversary by which one is strengthened through struggle. Must dualities be forever wildly opposed in their extremes, demanding entire subjugation or elimination of the "other", or is there a balance to be had, such as seen with Maat's feather and the heart in balance?

July 4th. Summer stands at an opposite pole from winter. But with this date we're asked to look again at issues of bondage that have been expressed throughout the film, and we wonder has Jack in some peculiar way, smiling as he is, found his own freedom, his gaze free of the inward stare that burrows into the back of the brain, is that what the July 4th date symbolizes? At the same time, what exactly does July 4th mean when freedom for some means bondage for others, such as American Indians who are mentioned in the film, pictured here and there, who lost their land, their culture, their language, their ancestors. What did the freedom of July 4th mean to Africans shipped over from Africa. Does Jack's smile simply mean he's happily at home again, never to leave, himself comfortably enslaved to his colonialist, repressive idea of the white man's burden? The end of A Clockwork Orange can be as confusing for people, Alex brought back from near death, his brain tweeked again, no longer nauseated by violence, lying mummy-like in his bed as he makes a deal with the "devil" that will give him the good life, an understanding between friends, from his perspective we look out at the photographers who rush in (whereas here we are in the position of the photographer) to chronicle the agreement, then in the second to last shot we return to Alex whose eyes roll back in his head, to a vision of his cavorting naked with a woman between two rows of clapping men and women in Edwardian dress. "I was cured all right," he says. And perhaps he is, for the fantasy that overtakes him as he listens to the music isn't one of violence, instead it's of sex.

Certainly, the audience feels, the answer lies in that little square of white Jack reveals to us against his right palm. If we just knew what it was, the mystery would be solved. What of the paper that Jack holds, which would answer the question as to why must Jack keep his fist clenched shut as he pursues Danny through the maze? The little slip of paper he is revealed to be holding in his right hand in the ball room photo at the end of the film is the reason. He has it. This paper. He has not released it. That is what he had his hand clenched fast about, perhaps not literally, but symbolically at least. This paper was in that fist and he now displays it for us, what he had been holding as he chased Danny through the maze. The paper hasn't manifested out of nowhere at film's end, Jack had the paper in hand from the moment Danny entered the maze.

If one thinks back to the one previous entering of the maze in the film, when Danny was playing with his mother, involved was a race. Wendy had encouraged Danny with the threat that whoever lost would have to keep America clean. Danny made it to the maze first. A clear foreshadowing of Danny racing his father to the maze is had in that scene. Jack's hand clenching (at least symbolically) that paper from the moment Danny enters the maze, is Jack having to keep America clean as the caretaker, holding some bit of litter in his hand for the photo to see at film's end? Seems a rather lame punch line for the mystery of Jack and the revelation of the palmed piece of paper. And though I do think the two events tie together, it's not so simple. If we look to other films of Kubrick we find parallels. The little slip of paper Jack holds here links with the white handkerchief Bill takes out of his dresser when he is looking for his wallet at the beginning of Eyes Wide Shut. That handkerchief helps set up for the audience his later meeting with the two models, one of whom reminds Bill that he had come to her aid during a photo shoot in which she had gotten half of Fifth Avenue in her eye. He had loaned her his handkerchief, and as to that she makes the odd remark that she recollects the handkerchief was "clean". For this, being a person who works too hard and misses much (just as all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy), Bill is invited to the "end of the rainbow". That handkerchief again finds a parallel in the white napkin upon which Nick later writes the password "fidelio".

Kubrick is said to have become interested in "Traumnovelle", the inspiration for "Eyes Wide Shut", as early as at least 1971, and we perhaps see that nascent interest in the last shots of "The Shining" in the photo the camera zooms in upon that reveals Jack or his doppelganger at a July 4th 1921 ball at the Overlook. The woman on Jack's right (our left) seems the victorious belle of the ball with her Apollonian laurel or olive wreath crown, the badge with its feather decoration on her breast--and of all people in the photo it is this belle whose eyes are shut, seeming caught mid-blink, but for all intents and purposes a closing reference to "Eyes Wide Shut", however many years ahead of its time. Nearly all else gazing straight into the lens, the honored guest is the one looking inward, perhaps living the "dream". She appears almost drugged, her face lax, not lit with a smile though one side of her mouth is upturned.

I've read often enough that an old photo was used for the focus of the film's final shots because Kubrick thought a vintage photo better than an attempt at a realistic duplication, and that Jack's head was pasted in. Eventually, I ordered for myself the book in which the said to be unaltered original photo appears, and I tossed it as it only showed a portion of the photo (which you can see at this website). What is the whole truth of this I wonder--because I find it difficult to believe that an old shot was found of a man holding his right hand just so, in the position Jack or his vintage body double has assumed. We can see from the small view of the original photo allotted that certainly his shirt and bowtie were pasted in as well. In Vivian Kubrick's documentary of "The Shining" there is a brief glimpse of Nicholson appearing to be dressed in the dress suit he's wearing in the photo, and I'm inclined to think Nicholson supplied both head, bust and the right hand or forearm. Was more than one person pasted in? It can seem as though perspective falls apart, giants lording their stature over small faces, but that just may be a peculiarity of angle and lens.

Never mind that the location looks very little like the 1970s version of the Overlook based on the lobby that hasn't been redone. After all, we've been told the Gold Room was redecorated. Perhaps that excuses our inability to find any similarity between the room in the photo and what we've seen of the ballroom at the Overlook. I'm not confident we should never mind, too, that the women look little like the very fancily dolled up partiers in Jack's shining of the Gold Room, almost all of whom had headdresses and were loaded down with beads and sequins. Here, their necks and arms are largely unadorned, the norm seeming a simple string of pearls, not the elaborate necklaces and chokers in "The Shining". There are a few headbands but all are slender, not outstanding, and not a single skull cap or cloche. Whereas numerous feathers were on display in headbands in "The Shining", almost none of them have feathers here, one of the few being the woman to Jack's left (our right). A white feather limply dangles down as if added in, which I believe it was, if the woman is actually vintage. Another feather on display is on the woman's breast to Jack's right. In other words, it's interesting that this photo was chosen instead of creating one in an old ballroom setting using some of the partiers in the film.

Have you tried to duplicate Jack's holding what seems to be a slip of paper against his palm in the manner shown in the photo (A)? It looks easy, doesn't it, and when one just thinks about it one imagines it is a natural position because of how easily and naturally one can cross the thumb across one's whole palm, but it's actually fairly uncomfortable and unnatural to hold a small piece of paper with one's thumb against the palm as we see in the photo.

Rather than perhaps a slip of paper, is Jack instead holding a cigarette? I don't believe so.

There is a sense of concealment with the little slip of paper. As if it is for no one else there but the photographer, for us.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

As for the object held by the woman to the left (our right), it isn't there in the furthest removed static view of the photo. The shoulder of Jack's jacket has been worked so that it is higher and obscures the object and her fingers. One can see in this adjustment how the shoulder and upper arm are added in/widened, as compared with this.

So, we have difference between the further removed still and the close-up, which is curious, that we have at least two images here.

And, of course, there's the mystery of whatever it could be that Jack is holding.

This below shot of Jack from "The Overlook Hotel Tumblr" reveals what is going on with Jack's right hand. It rests atop the snow, clenched tight. His left hand is instead relaxed open upon the snow. The holding the jacket shut has been, in a way, an excuse for Jack keeping that right hand closed fast. The holding the jacket shut against the cold was not the important thing. It was not why Jack's hand was clenched shut. Had he continued to hold his axe with that right hand as well as with his left, we would not have noted eventually that something had changed, seemingly in connection with Danny having entered the maze. Seeing Jack here in the snow, frozen, no longer holding his jacket shut, but that right hand still clenched tight, seals that Jack's clenched fist hadn't anything to do with having to hold shut his jacket shut. It's just that as long as he was holding his jacket shut with that clenched fist our attention was not immediately drawn to that clenched fist as peculiar, we thought his fist clenched over the jacket, holding it shut, was in response to the cold. Not so.


Figure 59 - Frozen Jack with his right fist still clenched shut.

I've not exactly scoured the film looking for clues, but I've kept the mysterious slip of paper in mind. It's one thing for Kubrick to implant impossible windows in the film and move objects about, but this is different. The slip of paper displayed against Jack's palm can only be taken as an intentionally placed mystery, as well as the the revelation of the object which the woman is holding. Were the object she's holding evident in the furthest static photo, she would not be a mystery. But Kubrick has made her a mystery that pairs with Jack.

Looking at Figure 6, if you know the lighter field below whatever the woman is holding is the lower arm of the woman behind her, to my eye it almost would appear the woman is holding a rolling paper in her left hand and her right hand is depositing in it whatever she's intending to smoke.

I think the notion of the "ball" deserves some consideration here.

The Interview section at the films beginning has a couple passing, ostensibly to go out and play tennis, the woman carrying a bag of white balls but wearing high heels. Note that they pass before the doorway through which we travel at film's end and see the picture of the July 4th ball.

So, at the end of the film, when we see the photo of the ball, we have come full circle, that ball refers to the beginning, and the beginning to the end. (And I will pass on looking at other uses of the ball in the film for now, in relation to this.)

In "The Killing", toward the beginning, patrolman Randy Keenan, attending to some personal business, enters a bar. He addresses one of the men sitting at it, "Hey, Charlie, what's the good word?" (I've seen the person's name also given as Tiny, and it may be. Charlie is what I heard.) And the person replies, "Same as always, having a ball."

The scene reminds a little of "The Shining", does it not? A presage of Lloyd the bartender, and the person who says "having a ball" may remind us of Jack seated at the bar in "The Shining".

At the beginning of "Lolita", Humbert arriving at Quilty's first overlooks him, for Quilty is seated in a chair covered with a sheet, just as the furniture at the end of "The Shining" is covered with sheets as the camera zooms in to the picture of the ball. Quilty, appearing, makes reference to one of Kubrick's prior films. "Are you Spartacus, come to free the slaves?" Then invites Humbert to a game of pingpong. "OK, you serve." And from under the sheet Quilty now wears draped over him he produces a ball with a magician like quality. "Bet you didn't know I had that," he says. He refers to his serve as being tricky, then follows that with discussing how he holds his bat. "Did you ever notice how the champs, different champs, use their bats? You know, some of them hold them like this, and everything. I remember one guy didn't have a hand. He had a bat instead of a hand. He was really sort of wacky."

We could look at it this way. Humbert enters Quilty's house and with the sheet covering the chair, Humbert calling for Quilty, there is a kind of ghostly air to the place. The draping on the chair is carefully arranged so it gives no hint of a person's form beneath, so when Quilty appears it is as if he materializes out of nowhere. Kubrick has Quilty forge a direct connection with a prior film, "Spartacus", before he magically produces the ball from beneath the same sheet from under which he'd appeared ("Bet you didn't know I had that"), and begins the game of ping-pong which is not in the book "Lolita". He serves, discussing how he holds his bat. Then at the film's end, we cycle back around to this beginning, Humbert again entering Quilty's home and calling for him.

In "The Shining", at the end, we have the drapes covering the furniture in the lobby, which stands out to the viewer as the furniture had never been draped before, and is also notable as it follows the appearance of the ghosts and the skeletons in the lobby. The camera rolls past the drapery, focusing in on the photo, and there appears Jack at the Overlook Ball, his hand raised. And, as with "Lolita", we'd had a cycling around as the interview section had opened with the individuals with the balls passing before where we will later see this photo.

How Sellers holds his bat here very much resembles how Jack holds his hand up to the camera at the end of "The Shining."

For comparison, rather than show again an image of Jack's holding his hand up to the camera, I'll instead give a close-up of the cross-fade, the camera moving even closer into the image. Funnily enough, the watch on the man who presses down Jack's arm becomes, in a sense, Jack's thumb. And Jack's hand is layered with the heart medallion or shield the woman behind him wears on her breast.

Finally, in "Eyes Wide Shut", Bill and Alice attend a ball held by the mysterious Victor. After complementing Alice, Victor remarks on an osteopath to whom Bill referred him, and says that Bill ought to see his serve now, as he holds his arm up and flexes it then punches Bill's shoulder as a server passes behind with a tray. "The top man in New York," Bill says, and Victor says he knew that from the bill.

As for the woman to Jack's left (our right) who may be rolling a cigarette or a joint in "The Shining", in "Eyes Wide Shut" we have Alice and Bill partaking before Bill begins his long night out on the town. What immediately precedes it? Bill and Alice are in the living room, Bill watching a football game. "And now the hand off!" Then cut to Alice taking the bandaid box out of the medicine cabinet.

You know things but sometimes it doesn't hurt to look them up again. You might come up with something interesting. Such as "solve et coagula" or "solution and coagulation". And Calumet. Yeah, I'll get to that in a second.

The figure Jack forms in the final revealed photo of The Shining can certainly remind of "The Devil" card in the Tarot, or Eliphas Levi's Baphomet, one arm pointing up in a 90 degree angle with the word "solve" on it and the other pointing down with the word "coagula" on it. A white moon is above the raised arm, a black moon is below the lowered. Levi described the white moon as being of Chesed, the black one of Geburah, a balance of mercy and justice. One arm is female and the other is male. "The beast's head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes".

Rather than the white moon on the solve side and the black moon on the coagula side, Kubrick has on the solve side the woman with the laurel leaf crown and the black feather sticking up out of a heart on her bodice, while on the coagula side there is a woman who has a white feather hanging down from her hair. She's rolling a cigarette behind his shoulder.

The one hand pointed up and the other down refers to as above, so below, which is the image the movie opens with of the reflection of the island and its tree in the lake, the shape of the island with its tree also anticipating the mountain in the background. We were then shown also the Rorschach mirroring of the cliff to the right of the lake in the lake's waters. As above/so below actually appears throughout the film, and is a common theme in Kubrick's work.

Kubrick began his feature work with "solve et coagula" in the creature of metamorphosis, Proteus, as the dog in Fear and Desire, and Sidney, as Aerial, referring to the metamorphosis wisdom poem of Taliesin.

Anyway, I'd been reflecting again on Jack and the object in his raised right hand and the woman at his shoulder who appears to be rolling a cigarette or joint, which I felt was later expressed in Eyes Wide Shut and Alice getting the weed from the Band-aid box etc., which leads into the argument and revelation that so throws Bill. And though I know about "solve et coagula" (very little of these things can be verbally articulated) I decided to look it up.

What did I happen upon? Looking down the first page of the results I saw Rene Guenon's "The Great Triad". Hmmm. I guess I'll check that out. Below is the first page of his chapter on Solve et Coagula and it turns out to have something very interesting.

Since we just alluded to Hermetic coagulation and solution, and even though we have already said quite a bit about this on different occasions, perhaps it will not be without profit to further clarify certain ideas that are rather directly related to what we have said on this point. Indeed, the formula solve et coagula is regarded as containing in a certain respect the whole secret of the 'Great Work' insofar as this reproduces the process of universal manifestation, with its two inverse phases that we have just noted. The term solve is sometimes represented by a sign depicting Heaven and the term coagula by a sign depicting Earth; which is to say that they are likened to the actions of the ascending and descending currents of the cosmic force, or in other words to the respective actions of yang and yin.

What is interesting is the footnote to this passage that Guenon supplies.

We are alluding here to the symbolism of the signs of the 18th degree of Scottish Masonry and also to that of the rite of the 'calumet' among the North American Indians, which comprises three successive movements relating to Heaven, Earth, and Man respectively, and which can be translated by the terms solution, coagulation, and assimilation.

The book was published in 1957. Was Kubrick familiar with it? If so, it may have provided his inspiration for the calumet observed in The Shining. Yes, we have references to American Indians, they are throughout, they are united with the very earth upon which the lodge is built and the spirits inhabiting it in places as depicted in the art. Of course, it's not all about American Indians, The Shining contains many stories, but they are throughout and Kubrick chose to represent them by use of the Calumet.

What is the woman doing who stands to Jack's left side? She is rolling a cigarette on his shoulder. Tobacco. I wouldn't pounce on this and consider this may have been his inspiration if we didn't have the woman rolling the cigarette standing right there with the solve et coagula.

Skipping ahead a few pages in Guenon's book:

...this double operation of coagulation and solution corresponds quite exactly to what Christian tradition calls the power of the keys; this power is in fact also double, since it incorporates both the power to bind and the power to loose;; now bind is obviously the same thing as coagulate and loose the same thing as dissolve. (Footnote: In Latin, moreover, there is the expression potestas ligandi et solvendi, the power to bind and loose. Ligature in the literal sense is found in the magical use of knots, which has its counterpart in the usage of the points in the dissolution process.)...Alchemically they refer to analogous operations accomplished at two different levels, respectively the whitening, which corresponds to the lesser mysteries, and the reddening, which corresponds to the greater mysteries...each of the two keys must be considered to possess the order to which it relates the double power of opening and of closing, or of binding and loosing...(Footnote: Even so, it can be said that in a certain sense the power to bind predominates in the key corresponding to the temporal, and the power to loose in the key corresponding to the spiritual, for the temporal and the spiritual are yin and yang with respect to each other; this can be justified even outwardly when we speak of constraint in the first domain and freedom in the second.)

I wanted to bring in the ideas of binding and loosing because of the photo being of the July 4th ball, freedom (also it is in summer, near the summer solstice, oppositional to the winter solstice). Also because of the band-aid box from which Alice takes the weed. Medicinal allusions yes but bandage comes from a French word meaning "to bind". And I've often sometimes wondered if the white square on Jack's palm is a band-aid, band-aids having been released to the public in 1921, the year of the ball. It would seem peculiar perhaps that the band-aid would be on the solve side but there are no absolutes. Yin is in yang and vice versa.

When we first see the Calumet container of baking powder, we only see CALUME. Danny "shines" as he sees it, and his first shining had been in the mirror while "The Awakening of Jacob" played. I had reasoned that perhaps Kubrick also was expressing in this Jacob's ladder, which is "cullam", and that his reasoning may have been in terms of ascension there, as with the rising of smoke. Dunno. An idea. Later, when Jack is talking to Torrance from inside the storage locker, the Calumet containers are sometimes in evidence and sometimes not. In shot 510 we don't see them, and in sight is a "No Smoking" sign on the wall. In shot 511 the camera is pointing away from that wall so we don't see the No Smoking sign and instead we see the Calumet containers where they weren't previously in shot 510. Jack is freed from the storage room.

Further Notes (From a Conversation)

You know things but sometimes it doesn't hurt to look them up again. You might come up with something interesting. Such as an old esoteric book drawing a relationship between "solve et coagula" and Calumet. Yeah, Calumet. I'll get to that in a second.

The figure Jack forms in the final revealed photo of The Shining can certainly remind of "The Devil" card in the Tarot, or Eliphas Levi's Baphomet, one arm pointing up in a 90 degree angle with the word "solve" on it and the other pointing down with the word "coagula" on it. A white moon is above the raised arm, a black moon is below the lowered. Levi described the white moon as being of Chesed, the black one of Geburah, a balance of mercy and justice. Etc.

Rather than the white moon on the solve side and the black moon on the coagula side, Kubrick has on the solve side the woman with the laurel leaf crown and the black feather sticking up out of a heart on her bodice, while on the coagula side there is a woman who has a white feather hanging down from her hair. She's rolling a cigarette behind his shoulder.

The one hand pointed up and the other down refers to as above, so below, which is the image the movie opens with of the reflection of the island and its tree in the lake, the shape of the island with its tree also anticipating the mountain in the background. We were then shown also the distinctive, clear Rorschach mirroring of the cliff to the right of the lake in the lake's waters. As above/so below actually appears throughout the film, and is a common theme in Kubrick's work.

Kubrick began his feature work with "solve et coagula" in the creature of metamorphosis, Proteus, as the dog in Fear and Desire, and Sidney, as Aerial, referring to the metamorphosis wisdom poem of Taliesin.

Anyway, I'd been reflecting again on Jack and the object in his raised right hand and the woman at his shoulder who appears to be rolling a cigarette. And though I know about "solve et coagula" (very little of these things can be verbally articulated) I decided to look it up and see if I could find anything different that sparked something new in my brain.

What did I happen upon? Looking down the first page of the Google results I saw Rene Guenon's book "The Great Triad". I guessed I'd check that out. Below is the first page of his chapter on Solve et Coagula and it turns out to have something very interesting.

* * *

"Since we just alluded to Hermetic coagulation and solution, and even though we have already said quite a bit about this on different occasions, perhaps it will not be without profit to further clarify certain ideas that are rather directly related to what we have said on this point. Indeed, the formula solve et coagula is regarded as containing in a certain respect the whole secret of the 'Great Work' insofar as this reproduces the process of universal manifestation, with its two inverse phases that we have just noted. The term solve is sometimes represented by a sign depicting Heaven and the term coagula by a sign depicting Earth; which is to say that they are likened to the actions of the ascending and descending currents of the cosmic force, or in other words to the respective actions of yang and yin."

* * *

What is interesting is the footnote to the above passage that Guenon supplies. It's below.

* * *

"We are alluding here to the symbolism of the signs of the 18th degree of Scottish Masonry and also to that of the rite of the 'calumet' among the North American Indians, which comprises three successive movements relating to Heaven, Earth, and Man respectively, and which can be translated by the terms solution, coagulation, and assimilation."

* * *

"The Great Triad" book was published in 1957. Was Kubrick familiar with it? Guenon was popular enough. May it possibly have provided inspiration for the Calumet observed in The Shining. Yes, we have references to American Indians, they are throughout, they are united with the very earth upon which the lodge is built and the spirits inhabiting it in places as depicted in the art. Of course,the film's not all about American Indians, The Shining contains many stories, but they are they are there and Kubrick chose to represent them by use of the Calumet.

What is the woman doing who stands to Jack's left side? She is rolling a cigarette on his shoulder. Tobacco. Not a pipe but it's tobacco and right next to Jack in his solve et coagula pose. (They say Jack's face was pasted in the photo, but we know at least is face and bust were pasted in, and the left shoulder was reworked. We've no idea how the original person in the photo was posed as we have only ever seen a cropped version of the original photo.)

Note: Am publishing it for November 2011 but the date today is Jan 20 2012.


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