THE ALEX COLVILLE PAINTING THAT DOESN'T APPEAR IN THE SHINING BUT IS WRITTEN ALL OVER IT

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Four paintings by Alex Colville appear in Kubrick's The Shining: Woman and Terrier, Horse and Train, Moon and Cow, and Dog, Boy and St. John River.

The above painting is Alex Colville's May Day, an acrylic from 1970. It doesn't appear in The Shining, yet if there's any painting by Colville that immediately shows overt kinship with the movie it would be this one. Predating the film, it depicts a seemingly despondent woman slumped against a yellow VW Beetle with forest beyond that recalls the evergreens that surround the Overlook. 

Obviously, the painting would be the inspiration for Kubrick's change of King's red VW to a yellow one. As for the forest, in Fear and Desire Kubrick was already employing mountainous evergreen territory as a magical setting in which inexplicable events occur, soldiers meeting their doppelganger counterparts as the enemy. We have the magical forest again with Kubrick's Lolita and the coincidence of the hotel room number at the Enchanted Hunters Hotel matching the Haze house house number. In A Clockwork Orange, Alex becomes aware of a recycling of events with his deja vu upon coming upon HOME in its own woodsy setting, followed by his  realization that he and his droogs had visited this house previously, wherein they'd brutalized the author and raped his wife. In Eyes Wide Shut, Somerton exists in that film's version of the magical evergreen forest.

I was aware of the other Colville paintings that make an appearance in The Shining. I was unaware of this painting and was alerted to it by a reader named David.

The title May Day is ambiguous. May 1st? Yes, but it also connotes an emergency via Frederick Stanley Mockford's Mayday distress call which means "help me" in French, derived from m'aider. The painting's title reminds not only of the isolation of the Torrances at the lodge, but the two cars in the opening scene of the film that are pulled off to the side of the road--one before and one after the tunnel--and, together with the music, are suggestive less of tourists sight-seeing than trouble encountered.

The May Day title also returns us to Walpurgisnacht, already referenced via Kubrick's use of Dies Irae in the opening section, as the VW makes its lonely way through the mountains to the lodge. I write of this and its connection to Goethe's Faust on my website so won't go into that again. Instead, in this post, I'm going to expand upon the subject with also a possible association with Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain.

Jack's employment at the Overlook runs from October 30th (just before Halloween) to May 1st, so the title May Day is very relevant to the film. In the book, the exact timing of Jack's employment is not as explicitly stated, but he would have had to be there by September 15th (when King states the lodge closes) and the lodge remains closed until May 15th. Kubrick shifts September 15th to October 30th and has Jack state specifically May 1st as the end of the employment, thus bookending Jack's employment at the lodge with days associated with the supernatural.

A Walpurgisnacht celebration occurs in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain and later a dream that reminds a bit of The Shining. The dream is had while the protagonist is staying at a sanatorium in the mountains for health reasons.

From Wikipedia's entry on

The Magic Mountain:

Another topos of German literature is the Venus Mountain (Venusberg) that also appears in Richard Wagner's opera Tannhauser. This mountain is a "hellish paradise," a place of lust and abandon, where Time flows differently: the visitor loses all sense of time, and though he thinks his stay only lasts a few hours, when he finally leaves the mountain, seven years have passed. Also Castorp, who originally planned to stay for three weeks, leaves the Berghof only after seven years.

In general, the inhabitants of the Berghof spend their days in a mythical, distant atmosphere, full of references to fairy tales and sagas...

The culmination point of the second part of the novel is perhaps the chapter on Hans Castorp's blizzard dream (in the novel simply called "Snow"), where the protagonist gets into a sudden blizzard, beginning a death-bound sleep, dreaming at first of beautiful meadows with blossoms and of lovable young people at a southern seaside; then of a scene reminiscent mainly of a grotesque event in Goethe's Faust I ("the witches' kitchen", again in Goethe's "Blocksberg chapter"); and finally ending with a dream of extreme cruelty -- the slaughtering of a child by two witches, priests of a classic temple. According to Thomas Mann's interpretation in the text, this represents the original, but deathly-destructive force of nature itself.

Of course, finally Hans Castorp awakens in due time, escapes from the blizzard, and returns to the "Berghof". But rethinking his dreams he concludes for the moment that "because of charity and love, man should never allow death to rule one's thoughts." Hans Castorp soon forgets this sentence, so for him the blizzard-event remains a pure interlude. But for Thomas Mann himself the sentence (which throughout the whole novel is the only one in italics) remains important, and so he states it, for personal consequences and for his readers.

It had never previously occurred to me there might be a Magic Mountain link contrived by Kubrick or possibly Stephen King. I read the novel so many years ago that I'd forgotten all about it. But I still had it on my book shelf.

And looking at the book, I find that when Hans is lost in the snow he experiences  deja vu before falling asleep. Walking blind in the blizzard, he realizes he's gone in a circle when he comes upon a hut twice.  That deja vu fits in withThe Shining and other Kubrick films. The eternal circle. Though in Kubrick's films events don't replicate endlessly, instead they are revisited under similar circumstances with opportunities for different outcomes.

It's then, by the hut, Hans falls asleep and has his dream. In the dream he is first lulled by the warmth of a happy spring/summer celebration participated in by many youth. But the dream changes dramatically, becoming  a nightmare in which two hags tear apart and devour a boy. The terror of this scene wakes him.

Curiously, though Mann doesn't mention it in that chapter, if Hans' dream had only been of the happy spring celebrants then he would have died of hypothermia, the false feeling of heat that comes with hypothermia perhaps observed in the dream. It was the horrible nightmare that jolted him awake which saved him from sleeping himself to death in the blizzard.

By virtue of May Day as International Worker's Day, through its commemoration of the tragedy of the Haymarket Affair and the killing of individuals striking for an 8-hour-work-day, we further have a tie-in with Jack's "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" bondage to the Overlook.


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