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Examining the possible connections between Colville's painting, May Day, and Kubrick's The Shining, in respect of the distress call, Goethe's Faust, Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, and the International Worker's Day

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. The forest beyond recalls the evergreens that crowd the Mount Hood ski slopes beneath the Timberline Hotel that masquerades as The Overlook in The Shining.

The painting seems it would obviously be an 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 street number of the Haze house. In A Clockwork Orange, Alex becomes aware of a recycling of events with the deja vu of his coming upon HOME in its own woodsy setting, accompanied by the realization that he and his droogs had previously visited this house wherein they'd brutalized the author and raped his wife. In Eyes Wide Shut, the mysterious Somerton's environment is 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 Alex Colville gave this painting, May Day, is ambiguous. Is it a day? May 1st? But the woman in the painting looks distressed, and May Day 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 Overlook, 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 a tunnel--and, together with the eerie music, are suggestive less of tourists sight-seeing than trouble encountered.

The May Day title, in respect of The Shining, also brings up Walpurgisnacht, 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 in my analysis of the opening so I 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 dates of Jack's employment are not as explicitly stated, but he would have had to be at the Overlook 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. Days associated with the supernatural thus bookend Jack's contract to work at the Overlook.

A Walpurgisnacht celebration occurs in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain and later a dream that reminds a little of The Shining. The dream is had while the protagonist is staying at a sanatorium in the mountain 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'd read Mann's novel so many years beforehand that I'd forgotten much about it. But I still had it on my book shelf. Pulling down the book and looking at it I found 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, they instead are revisited under similar circumstances with opportunities for different outcomes. It fits with Jack's wandering the maze in the blizzard.

It's by the hut, when Hans realizes he has circled around, that he 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.

For why the yellow VW was able to hold so much more than it could realistically carry, see, The Relationship of The Yellow VW in The Shining to the Traumnovelle Novel.

March 2016 extracted core ideas from analysis and wrote separate post. Approx 1437 words or 3 single-spaced pages. An 11 minute read at 130 wpm.

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