The Labyrinth and the Ascent to the Overlook


Go to TOC for this film ( (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).

It didn't occur to me to compare the ascent to the Overlook with the labyrinth, but I'm now wondering if Kubrick plotted the ascent to reflect a labyrinth of his own devise.

The red numbers and arrows show the Opening Day approach to the Overlook, the cliff drop off always on screen left: (1) the helicopter begins here and swoops up to the 4 point, moving west; (2) is the next shot of the serpentine road Jack travels; (3) is the field he crosses and is out of sequence; (4) is the point where the helicopter passes him; (5) is the West tunnel he goes through, rather the East, still going west, but on the lower section of road; (6) is where he is shown after the tunnel, passing the kayak car; (7) is where Kubrick fades out, Jack still going west on the east side of the Continental Divide.

On Closing Day, the car is always going west to east, the cliff drop off always on screen right. The blue numbers and arrows showing the Closing Day shots, (1) appears to be where we enter, (2) is what we view out the window rather than having an aerial shot, and (3) is where we crossfade, still to the other side of the Continental Divide, heading east.

Though the Overlook is in Colorado, the opening shots, along with the Closing Day shots, pinpoint a kind of psychological/philosophical/mystical place for the lodge as being on the Continental Divide. In the opening, the VW travels east to west on the Going-to-the-sun road, and the final crossfade is just to the west of the Continental Divide. In the Closing Day section, the VW travels west to east on the road and the final crossfade to the lodge occurs west of the Continental Divide. There is only one road to the Overlook, so it would be impossible to approach the lodge from the opposite, westerly direction, as the VW does on Closing Day, but Kubrick has mirroring doubles happen not only throughout The Shining but also in his other work. A "divide" is usually had, a "between", which is part of the significance of his single point perspective work with its high degree of symmetry. For example, in 2001 we finally see, toward the film's end, that this "between", the "divide" is the monolith itself. In The Shining it is represented by the heart of the maze, and geographically by the Continental Divide. At the same time, this divide, though it may be represented geographically, as a metaphor, is not tied to one geographical spot but is ever-present.

I had only considered the ascent to The Overlook in respect of the divide, but here's what happens if we look at a classical labyrinth.

Above is a classic, unicursal, 7-circuit Cretan labyrinth, which was also a dancing ground for Ariadne. It relates to the Greek Key, a running meander. Though the levels (circles) are in order, 1 - 8, one doesn't walk the labyrinth in this order.

The sequence path for walking this labyrinth is 3 - 2 - 1 - 4 and 7 - 6 - 5 - 8.

Look again at the map for the ascent to The Overlook, the plot of locations relative to what shot they appear in. The sequence is 3 - 1 - 2 - 4 and 7 - 6 - 5 which crossfades to the 8th shot which is the Timberline (Overlook) way out in Oregon, not Montana. So we do have 8 opening shots. But rather than being ordered 3 - 2 - 1 - 4 it is in stead 3 -1 - 2 - 4.

For the 2nd Closing Day ascent, Kubrick displays the same opening pattern of 3 - 1 - 2 with a crossfade to The Overlook/Timberline located not on this road but in Oregon, which would be the 4th part of the sequence.

Did Kubrick base the ascent on a 7 circuit labyrinth, but for some reason played with changing the sequence path? I don't see how it could be done, yet I have the feeling that this is exactly what was on his mind, and is one of the reasons for which he opens with 8 shots and why he plots the shots on the road as he does.

But why 3 - 1 - 2 - 4 instead of 3 - 2 -1 - 4 when 3 - 1 - 2 - 4 seems an impossible sequence path?

You can see in the figure above the section he would have to remove in order to open up a possibility for a 3 - 1 - 2 - 4 sequence path. Kubrick's films wrestle with predestination and free will. A unicursal labyrinth, which provides a set path, could be looked upon as an example of predestination. With the maze there are multiple ways to reach the center. Is this reversal in order, the 2nd and 1st paths traded, meant to signify choice? The breaking of the labyrinth into a maze?

If we look at the last two sections being titled 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. I think we have there a possible confirmation of the 7 fold labyrinth being hidden in the ascent, the opening of the film having 8 shots, the sequence of ascent crossfading (as described above) from the 7th shot on the road to the 8th shot, the Overlook as center, that isn't on this road. Then with the Closing day ascent we have instead a 3 fold labyrinth, the sequence of ascent crossfading from the 3rd shot to the 4th shot, that of The Overlook, the center, that wasn't filmed on this road but at Mount Hood.

Below are links to the posts on the initial and Closing Day ascents:

St. Mary Lake
Serpentine Bends
Before the Narrows
Helicopter Takes a Pass
Entering the West Tunnel
Exiting the West Tunnel
The East Tunnel (not used in the film)
After the West Tunnel
Last Shot of Glacier Park in the Opening
Pinpointing the locations of the Closing Day ascent

There is another more hidden location referenced in The Shining that is also on the Continental Divide. I discuss it in the post Exploring the Monarch Poster in the Game Room and its Relationship to 237 and the Maze.

Sept 2018. Approx 1200 words or 3 single-spaced pages. A 9 minute read at 130 wpm.

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