AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S FILM THE SHINING - Remembrance and Repetition in Kubrick's The Shining

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.


SUBHEADERS FOR THIS SECTION:

WORD PLAY AND GEMATRIA IN KUBRICK'S FILMS

THE DART BOARD AND A REVEALING OF ROOM 237

REMEMBRANCE, ZKR, ANAMNESIS AND 237

ShNH AS SHINING

Return to Table of Contents for "The Shining" analysis


I am going to get into something here which I've been deliberating on for a while, but it was only with John Fell Ryan's recently posting on the dart board in The Shining, and something I discovered while examining Clockwork Orange, that I was able to put these thoughts together in a way that I considered might be worthy for posting, but I also do so with the cautionary note that I well understand that sometimes we can find a thing that has meaning for us and end up seeking out further evidence that leads to a predetermined conclusion.

WORD PLAY AND GEMATRIA IN KUBRICK'S FILMS

My belief for a while has been there's a possibility that some key words and concepts in Kubrick's work hold meanings that can only be understood through an acquaintance with Hebrew.

For instance, CRM-114.

As I note in a post on Clockwork Orange, much is made of and speculated on Kubrick's using CRM-114 or a version thereof somewhere in most of his films. CRM-114 homophonically appears in Clockwork Orange in the drug Alex is given to make him ill upon reviewing films, conditioning him so that he becomes what is later stated as the perfect Christian.

ChRM, in Hebrew, means "chosen" as in secluded, devoted to religious purposes, especially destruction, and so I think it's significant that the shot of the vial of Serum-114, in A Clockwork Orange, occurs at the same time that Alex is being told he's quite lucky to have been chosen. Of course it could be perhaps coincidental that Alex is being told he was "chosen" at the same time Serum 114 (CRM 114) is shown on the screen, but it is interesting that as "chosen" is said we have a quick zoom in to a close up of the vial and its label, Serum 114.

Again, in Dr. Strangelove the use of CRM is in conjunction with seclusion, meaning the lone, damaged jet which could not be contacted and turned back from delivering its bomb.

I state in my writings on Clockwork Orange:

As the Kubrick fan knows, there's a history behind Kubrick and 114. Turning to Dr. Strangelove and Peter Bryant's book "Red Alert":

"To ensure the enemy cannot plant false transmissions and fake orders, once the attack orders have been passed and acknowledged the CRM 114 is to be switched into the receiver circuit. The three code letters of the period are to be set on the alphabet dials of the CRM 114, which will then block any transmissions other than those preceded by the set letters from being fed into the receiver."

Or, as it is put in Wikipedia:

"The C.R.M. 114 Discriminator is a fictional piece of critical radio equipment,the destruction of which prevents the crew of a B-52 from hearing the recall code that would stop them from dropping their atomic bombs on the U.S.S.R."

So, the CRM 114 was not an invention of Kubrick's. But he liked it. A lot. And it homophonically becomes Serum 114 in A Clockwork Orange.

How this separating out and seclusion works in relation to Alex is with Kubrick setting him up as a kind of Antichrist figure (in the meaning of a substitute), this hinted at in the film but deliberately inferred when Alex stands between his two droogs as policemen, one bearing the number 665 on his uniform and the other 667. Hence, Alex becomes 666, a substitute for Christ, as the perfect Christian who can perform no ill, who must turn the other cheek, only as this "666" he has no choice but to be the perfect Christian by being unable to defend himself, and destined for destruction, outcast, tortured to the extent that he attempts suicide.

Another instance is in Eyes Wide Shut when Bill is at Somerton's gate, looking for answers at to what happened night before, and a car drives to the gate and a person as and he receives his message. The license plate on the car is BQR 213. BQR is "to inquire, to make search" and the message Bill has received is "Give up your inquiries..."

Again, perhaps this is coincidence, and perhaps it is not.

But I should move on to the topic of "remembrance and repetition" in The Shining.

THE DART BOARD AND A REVEALING OF ROOM 237

John Fell Ryan recently posted The Games Room, which has some interesting ideas for consideration. Among other things, he discusses the dart board in the Games Room.

I didn't know anything about darts, hadn't thought about them before, and examining the image he put up of a dart board I noticed for the first time something of interest. With the kind of exhaustive examination this movie has undergone, this has probably been observed before, but I'd not noticed it nor had I read of it. Looking at the dart board the numbers arranged at the bottom popped out at me. 7 19 3 17 2. So you have 237 separated by 19 and 17.

The Shining - Dart board like that in the Game Room

I think that's a bit interesting. Yes, the 237 is reversed so it's 732, and is separated by the 19 and 17, but that doesn't bother me for much of what happens in The Shining concerns doublings and mirrorings. And I'm going to kind of flick the 19 and 17 off to the side as being irrelevant.

The fact is, when Danny has his first vision of the two girls in blue, he is standing before his bathroom mirror speaking into it--thus we have a doubling, a mirroring. When he next sees the two girls in blue, he senses their presence when he is facing the 7 19 3 17 2, which is in effect 237 reversed, and turns to see them standing in the doorway. When he has his third vision of the girls is the first time he advances toward the double doors of Suite 237, tries the doorknob, finds it locked, looks up at the number 237 on the door and sees the two girls in his mind before him. He returns to his Big Wheel and cycles away.

The Shining - Danny plays darts

The Shining - Danny turns to see the girls in the Game Room

I'm going to examine the 237 idea more closely in a bit, but first take a look at the Colorado flag and its C shape and how the empty space at the bottom could possibly be seen as encompassing that range of 7 19 3 17 2 on the dart board. That's perhaps just coincidental, but I still think it's something to take into consideration.

Of course when I think of the bull's eye, I'm going to think of the minotaur, and when Danny turns from the dart board to see the girls is also when we see the "skier" poster that I believe is intended to bring to mind the minotaur.

This straight line leading to a partially circumscribed area is seen again later.

Before Danny enters Room 237, the yellow ball is rolled down such a path.

The Shining - The yellow ball rolled to Danny

The next shot shows a reversal of the pattern on the rug with the ball enclosed.

We observe the two women with the afros on Dick's walls in his Miami room--different images but, in effect, a doubling--as he begins to "shine" and Jack enters Room 237. With each of these we have a version of the incomplete circle.

The Shining - Picture of woman with afro above Dick's television

The Shining - Picture of woman with afro above Dick's bed

We certainly see a variation on the design inside Room 237.

The Shining - The carpet in Room 237

The Colorado flag is hanging also in the Colorado Lounge behind Jack's desk.

The very nature of the game of darts is in itself interesting, considering all the mirrorings/doublings of which Kubrick is fond and his possible mirroring of 237 here. On the game of darts, I find online:

"The numbers were originally arranged so that two players, one starting at the 20 and the other the 19, could form various number combinations to play point games. Today we just use the triple twenty or bull until an out is reached. Most likely this idea of using combinations for scoring originated from the card game of cribbage, a favorite card game of the time. What made the games fun and challenging was that each player had to form those combinations using only the numbers on the side of the board they started on! How it is possible that two player using different numbers and opposite sides of the board can play the same exact point games is what the numbering system is all about! To achieve this, the HIGH NUMBERS are cleverly arranged so that two halves of the board MIRROR each other in POINT VALUE."

I had no idea previously about the two halves of the board mirroring each other in point value.

I think it's probable that it is a standard numeration dart board we see in the film but because of the numbers being hooked around the metal ring, and the extreme side view, we're getting some distortion that only makes it appear as though some of the numerations aren't standard. I can definitely make out (going from the top down the left side) 5 12 9 14 11 (probable 8 where it should be) 16 7 (19 is hard to make out but I think that's distortion) 3 (the 7 of the 17 is visible and the 1 may be not seen because of distortion) and then where the 2 should be does look like it could be a 9 instead but that isn't possible, not for the game to work. I think instead the 2 is distorted and its bottom portion being wrapped around the encircling wire of the board in a way that exaggerates the distortion. Even with the 19 and 17 and 2 being more difficult to make out, I think if that many of the numbers match the standard then it's reasonable to assume that the rest is the standard arrangement. In order for both sides of the boards to be balanced, mirroring each other in point value, the right sight, it seems, would have to be standard numeration just as is the left side.

Do I believe that Kubrick may have made it more difficult to make out the numbers properly? Yeah. When you have that many numbers on the left side that can be clearly discerned, then you get down to the bottom and have trouble with the 19, 17 and 2, then I think there's a reason for this. Kubrick has us positioned way off to the side for a reason, so we can make out the game but he doesn't show it straight on. Perhaps he didn't want 732 (237) leaping out of the screen at everyone.

REMEMBRANCE, ZKR, ANAMNESIS AND 237

So, why the dart board with its 237 (732) when Danny could be playing a different game? Why 237 at all? And never mind the story of how the Timberline asked Kubrick to change the room number from 217, thus 237.

Consider how the "shining" is described by Dick:

"Some places are like people. Some shine, and some don't. I guess you could say the Overlook Hotel has something about it that's like shining...when something happens it can leave a trace of itself behind, say like when someone burns toast. Well, maybe things that happen leave other kind of traces behind. Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who shine can see, just like they can see things that haven't happened yet, maybe they can see things that happened a long time ago."

And then how Tony describes it to Danny:

"Remember what Mr. Hallorann said, it's just like pictures in a book, Danny. It isn't real."

The key idea is remembrance. It isn't real like how pictures in a book aren't real, like how memories aren't "real" when one is remembering them.

In the Opening section, I have already discussed Kubrick's use of "Dies Irae" for the music and its relationship to Rosh Hashannah.

...the magnificent U-netanah tokef (we shall ascribe holiness to this day) is chanted prior to the Kedushah. The concepts on which it is based come from Jewish apocalyptic literature and parallel Christian writings based on similar sources, the most famous of which is the "Dies Irae"(day of wrath), found in the requiem mass, which offers a vivid description of the day of judgment for all humankind. In U-netanah tokef, however, the subject is not the final judgment but the much more immediate, yearly day of judgment, Rosh Hashannah.

Source: Entering the High Holy Days: A Guide to Origins, Themes and Prayers, page 87.

I note in that section how the holiday of yearly judgment is also known as Yom Ha-Zikkaron, a day of remembrance, ZKR.

I normally stay away from the gematria aspect but will go ahead and make a stab at at here, concerning Room 237. Zakar or zeker (ZKR, ZKRI) means, in Hebrew, remembrance, but it is an interesting kind of remembrance, not just any type but an especial type of remembrance.

The gematria of ZKRI, a form of ZKR, is 237.

Kemper Crabb, in "The Implications of the Eucharist for the Arts" describes ZKR in this way:

Zakar has a very specific meaning within the given context. The context of the covenant, remember, is more than just thinking of whatever is brought to mind again. It's a dynamic concept. It's an active concept as opposed to a passive one. It's not you just have this idea come into your head. It's not that you just bring this idea. It's more than that. In Israel's worship, in what are called the complaint psalms, Jaweh is invoked to remember (zakar, anamnesis) his covenant mercies from the past as a motive for him to act now to intervene on behalf of his covenanted people on the grounds of what he remembers he has covenanted to do...Anamnesis denotes not just calling to mind, not simply going back and remembering now something that was done in the past. It's not a repetition of a past act in the present, doing it over and over again. Anamnesis is a ritual act celebrated now, in the present time, that makes an act an action, a reality, a mystery present in God's time, now. It's an invocation. In anamnesis, the past, the present, and the future are all involved at the same time. The past, because it is remembered, becomes a present reality.

Kevin Irwin's "Models of the Eucharist" describes the concepts of zakar and anamnesis in this way:

What biblical and liturgical commentators try to unpack when they discuss the Hebrew family of terms for making memory (zakar) and the Greek terms derived from them (anamnesis) is that essentially to engage in a memorial concerns a particular way of understanding history and of telling time...The Passover of Israel and the paschal mystery of Christ are both events that occurred once and for all and yet they are also events that by their very nature occur still, here and now, in the unique moment of liturgical commemoration. The Judaeo-Christian understanding of "making memory" in and through the liturgy means that the saving events that occurred once and for all can be and are experienced still, in the here and now...At the heart of biblical religion and liturgical commemoration are the rabbinic phrases 'To remember is to give life--to forget is to let die' and 'Remembering is in the doing'.

I find it noted elsewhere that the Mishnah affirms that "in each generation, man out to consider himself as having personally come out of Egypt", that all must consider the Passover as being a thing which happens through themselves, and that they themselves have experienced being delivered from bondage, in keeping with this concept of zakar, to remember.

Room 237 and the two girls are all about zakar and remembrance, about experiencing for oneself in the present not just "as if" but an actual happening. The remembrance becomes so real that they deny Dick's assurance that they are but traces of things past, Danny's tenuous confidence that they can't harm, and physically interact with the characters.

As per zakar and the Passover, I elsewhere explore the relationship of Passover, pasach, to The Shining through the music, dialogue, and other symbolism.

To quote myself on Jack's referring to "the white man's burden" in the Gold Room:

White man's burden is a direct referral to Manifest Destiny and the supposed weight of the civilized white man in lifting the remainder of the world out of the dark, into the light.

From Rudyard Kipling's poem:

Take up the White Man's burden, And reap his old reward; The blame of those ye better The hate of those ye guard; The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light: Why brought ye us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?

The biblical reference is to the Passover and the emergence of the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt. The idea of the Passover will return again later.

Jack's line on the white man's burden is in King's book, but Jack says many things in the book, whereas this movie is pretty light on dialogue, so what's there is choice.

Again, to quote myself:

As Jack axes the door, Pendereck's "Kanon Paschy" plays, which is concerned with the entombment and resurrection of Christ and is the Passover Canon, Christ serving as the Passover lamb whose blood marked on doors prevented the Destroyer from entering those homes consecrated with the blood, the Destroyer going on to take the lives of the firstborn of the Egyptians and any with unmarked doors.

Jack's blood marks the bathroom door. On the other side of the door, in this area, is where Danny had written "redrum" in red lipstick.

When Dick had taken Wendy and Danny into freezer C4, he had listed off all the meat contained therein then had asked Danny if he liked lamb, whereupon they exited out of freezer C3 in one of the film's more overt displays of doubling, overlaying. If one wonders about this, Jack's mysterious release from the virtual prison of the "story" room and then his axing through a door while the Passover Canon plays, then it might do well to consider the idea of entombment and resurrection as signified by the music, and whether the place of entombment is the same as the place of resurrection.

And:

In the maze, Jack continues to follow Danny's tracks. But we see the boy now carefully backtracking in his footsteps, then covering his tracks as he steps to the side and hides.

Danny covering his tracks, in the lodge Wendy now comes down a red hall and looks--astonished, confused, disbelieving--right into the hall of Danny's bloody elevator vision, and witnesses herself the blood pouring through the elevator's doors, filling the hall, as if the blood of how many Passovers, the Passover being an observance to be repeated in perpetuity, forever...In the maze, Danny hidden to the side, is passed over by his father who follows Danny's tracks to where they suddenly stop, as if he has simply disappeared.

Thus again does the Overlook recall the Passover.

I have read that pesach (passover) is also as a combination of pe, "mouth", and such being something like "converse", this combination meaning that the right to self expression and rule over one's destiny is restored, the individual released from the cage of pre-ordained fate.

The concern of being released from this cage of preordained fate is a primary theme in The Shining as well as A Clockwork Orange, and I think is in much of Kubrick's work.

ShNH AS SHINING

"Shining" as a word also ties in with this, and not only through zakar, remembrance, but I have believed it is through the Hebrew shanah (we see it in Rosh Hashnnah), which at its root can mean not only shanah as in double, duplicate, fold, do a second time, transmute, disguise, but also to change. A similar shanah means to sleep. Page 30 of the "The Judicial Procedure of the Jews", a translation of the Talmud Tracate Sanhedrin, dealing with judicial procedure "particularly relating to capital punishment" has, "And he shall write a copy (mishneh) of this law, i.e. a law which was at a future time to be changed" and is footnoted that here is found a play on the double meaning of the root shanah, with to repeat and to change, the word mishnah, repetition, coming from shanah, which also means to study and review. I know that most think of "shining" in the sense of light, but because of the use of doubles throughout the film, and Wendy entreating Danny to wake up, I have thought of "shining" as instead being shanah, that we begin with shanah as "doubling", and that we end with it as "change" with the escape of Wendy and Danny.

An interesting thing to me is that in Clockwork Orange one of the books on the shelves of the writer (one of the few books I can make out and is prominent) happens to be Elie Wiesel's The Jews of Silence. This has to do with the holocaust and with eventually speaking out (and stands as evidence perhaps to ideas had by Geoffrey Cocks that Kubrick included in his work subtext on the holocaust). We see the book in the scene where the writer, Alexander, is listening to Alex sing and realizes who Alex is...the shot from below of Alexander gagging, his facial expression recalling when he was bound and gagged at the beginning of the film and unable to speak because of the gag.

David Patterson, writing on Weisel in Hebrew Language and Jewish Thought describes different types of silences: "...while sheket means silence, hush, quiet, or calm and implies a certain peacefulness, shatkan is more like an imposed silence. The latter's cognate shitek, for instance, means to silence, as well as to paralyze." And he goes on to give an instance of this in one of Wiesel's novels.

The Shining, with the exception of music and sound textures, is a very silent film when one considers the amount of really critical dialogue. The film could be stripped almost entirely of dialogue and there would be enough information remaining to well know what was going on. Kubrick designed it as a silent film, Wendy, Danny and Jack trapped in silence, and Wendy and Danny finally released from silence and the cage of pre-ordained fate.

A companion post to this one is Stanley Kubrick, Anamnesis, and his Use of Railroad Imagery.


NEXT: A MONTH LATER


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