..........“A film is not a book.” - Roger Vadim
What important visual message was Stanley Kubrick telling us in this shot filmed in the same mirror that Wendy later sees "Redrum" in?
The fictitious town of Stovington, Vermont is mentioned in 4 of Stephen King’s novels, and it’s the only direct visual link in the movie to his novel. What’s printed on Jack’s t-shirt is meaningless to moviegoers but it’s a well-known name in Stephen King circles. What’s interesting is that for some strange reason Stanly Kubrick shows it to us backwards, “NOTGNIVOTS”. It’s reversed because we’re looking at it in a mirror. The inverted word is a metaphor because as I will show you we’re viewing Stephen King’s entire novel the same way, in a mirror; Stanley Kubrick’s special mirror, his version of “The Shining” where everything may turn out to be the opposite of what you think.
I can’t think of any other movie where reading the source novel was so enlightening. You cannot have a through understanding of Stanley Kubrick’s “Shining” without looking at what he did to Stephen King’s story. Viewers have often wondered why so much was changed from the novel but just exactly what did he do to alter the story? After reading it myself I discovered something else that’s been cleverly hidden in the same fashion as the numbers I spoke about in the last section. Something Stephen King has never said anything about even though he must have noticed right away. Stanley Kubrick, being one of the most intense perfectionists in modern cinema, didn’t just randomly alter things from the novel as many viewers think. He’s inverted them. It’s like looking at the image of Jack in the mirror, the image we see is the reverse of what’s real. I realized this with the colors of the two main vehicles in the story, and that's just the beginning. Stanley Kubrick meant for these color changes from the novel to be obvious and noticed and they’re a crucial part of the explanation of what’s happening in this movie. In the novel it’s not that easy to find the color of their VW as it is only mentioned once but just look at the VW in the opening credits of the movie; you’ll never forget that color. In the novel they’re brought to The Overlook in a red VW and have a yellow snowmobile at The Overlook. In the movie they’re brought to The Overlook in a yellow VW and have a red Sno-cat at The Overlook. They're also saved in a red Sno-cat. In the movie Jack plays with his yellow ball and in the novel Danny plays with his red ball. The colors Stephen King uses in the novel for these major props have been inverted by Stanley Kubrick.
He even does it with the sets. Except that they’re in the same hotel (or are they?) Stanley Kubrick was very meticulous in changing all the places from the novel where the scenes in the movie occur. The location of The Overlook has even been altered. In the novel the Torrance’s are in Colorado. In the movie The Overlook is in Oregon as we see early on when we’re shown The Timberline Lodge, which is located on Mount Hood in Oregon. Don’t let the Colorado State Flags all over the Colorado Lounge fool you. What we see in the beginning of the movie and when Dick Hallorann returns near the end is in the state of Oregon, not Colorado. Not one major thing happens in the movie’s Overlook in the same place it did in the novel’s Overlook (room 237 and 217 are different in each, the VW’s are different and change from red to yellow, Jack works in the basement in the novel and in the movie there is no basement, there’s no Gold Room in the novel and Jack meets Grady and Lloyd in the Colorado Lounge not The Gold Room. In the end of the novel Wendy and Jack have their knock down fight in the hallway not in the apartment. The final chase takes place inside The Overlook in the novel, not outside like the movie. Even Mr. Ullman's office was changed. In the novel Jack has his interview in the Manager's office and the story starts there, in the movie Mr. Ullman has been changed to the General Manager and the story starts in Jack's VW.). When he didn’t change the exact location, like Larry Durkin’s Conoco or the pantry, he alters something else about it. He did a perfect job and these inversions can’t be ignored. As I’ll discuss later, he’s also done this with the plot. He’s turned the novel inside out. Stanley Kubrick has taken Stephen King’s work and held it up to a mirror, and what we’re seeing in the movie is that reflection. A reflection where, in typical Kubrick fashion, just enough obvious changes are puzzlingly noticeable (The Hedge Maze and colors) and just enough is left alone (names and places), not being so obvious as to give it all away; the alterations are hidden exactly like the numbers he wants us to notice.
If you're interested in looking at more of the differences I've noticed between the novel and the movie, and how closely they relate to each other click here.
If you have preconceived ideas the reversals I’ve noted that he made to the novel are shocking. Especially when you think of how he was able to hide all this in plain site. But if you “go check it out” what I’ve writen is quite correct. It’s not only correct but it can’t be debated, altered or most importantly dismissed. It is what it is. In the novel he noted that readers would never know what “Redrum” meant without looking at the word in a mirror and he created a movie that can’t be truly explained without looking at it in a mirror. Red is yellow and yellow is red, a true reversal of the source material and, as I show throughout this article, these reversals are crucial to understanding many of the mysteries this movie holds.
Perfectionism without attention to detail can be a real train wreck but when a true perfectionist works average people look on in wonder at the world wind of intensity they create. When you think about the scope of the reversals here, the minute details that were altered and the time it must have taken, it’s a marvel to see and should be appreciated by all. Stanley Kubrick’s “Shining” may truly be The Eighth Wonder of the world of cinema. Here’s an interesting example of the inversions (and doubling) Stanley Kubrick made to the novel. The Grady girls, the most famous twins in history, never appear in the novel. This can't be ignored. Danny only meets up with the lonely invisible spirit of one single child in the playground in Chapter 34 (page 197). “... Now, in spite of the snow-dazzle, he thought he could see something there. Something moving. A hand. The waving hand of some desperately unhappy child, waving hand, pleading hand, drowning hand. (Save me O please save me. If you can't save me at least come play with me... forever, and forever, and forever.)” In the movie instead of one unseen child we now see two children who repeat the line together, twice, “Come and play with us. Come and play with us, Danny, For ever and ever, and ever.” Here’s another interesting example of the inversions. In the novel Danny sees but doesn’t understand what “Redrum” means and he mentions it to several people throughout the story. In the movie this is all reversed and Danny never sees “Redrum”. If you look closely at the movie it’s Tony that sees it, keeps repeating it, and writes it on the bathroom door. Totally reversed; and Stephen King’s fans never noticed. The chapters and page numbers I’ve included are all from Stephen King’s 307 page version.
It’s impossible to pinpoint when Stanley Kubrick decided to alter the source novel the way he did but Stephen King’s style of adding many details to his work may have been part of it’s appeal to him. He definitely had a brilliant source novel providing him a lot to work with. Here’s another great example indicating how Stanley Kubrick shows us inverted mirror images of plot points from the novel. Take a look at the entire scene with the old woman in the bathroom. In the novel it’s Danny who disobeys Jack and Dick Hallorann by walking into room 217 where he sees a dead women in the bathtub. In the movie we’re shown an entire reversal of this. If you look very closely Danny never disobeys anyone, as he doesn’t walk into the room. It’s Jack that walks in and sees not 1 but 2 women in the bathroom of room 237. In the novel Jack never sees anyone as he enters the bathroom only to find an empty tub with no woman in it. He only thinks he hears her after shutting the front door, and she rattles the doorknob. He never sees her. It’s obvious everything in this scene except the names of the characters has been inverted. Even the bathrooms are in different rooms. In the novel it’s 217, but in the movie they’re in 237. It’s so subtle and barely noticeable unless you stop and really think about it, and the entire movie is like this from beginning to end. Stanly Kubrick is beyond meticulous, even the person who pulls the shower curtain in the bathroom is reversed, in the novel it’s Danny but in the movie he never touches it, it’s the woman who does. The movie’s dialogue is also inverted. In the novel Dick Hallorann says this, “People who shine can sometimes see things that are gonna happen, and I think sometimes they can see things that did happen. But they're just like pictures in a book.” In the movie this line is very cleverly reversed because when Danny, after the beating, is in his catatonic state it’s Tony who says, “Remember what Mr. Halloran said. It's just like pictures in a book, Danny. It isn't real.” We never hear Dick Hallorann speak this line in The Overlook’s kitchen. In the novel the place where Danny and Dick Hallorann have this conversation is outside of The Overlook in Dick’s car, it's now been reversed to inside The Overlook’s kitchen while Danny has ice cream. It just goes on and on.
Tony is Danny’s subconscious mind that protects him just like any other normal person’s subconscious does. What’s unusual in the story is that Danny has the ability to “Shine” therefore his subconscious also has that special power. Stanley Kubrick made a huge inversion here as now Tony can’t be seen, in Stephen King’s novel he can. In the novel Lloyd the bartender and Grady never speak to Jack with a mirror present. In the movie this is also reversed as Jack speaks directly to both while looking directly at himself in a mirror. Stanley Kubrick’s attention to detail is unbelievable.
You still may not agree with me that the movie is an inversion of the novel but (click here) take a look at how meticulous Stanley Kubrick is as he inverts the entire scene with Danny and the pediatrician. It’s from chapter 17 “The Doctor’s Office” in the novel and it’s easy to spot how the details are reversed.
Not only did he alter Stephen King’s novel but it appears that Stanley Kubrick may have left a special message just for him in the middle of the movie. Click here for one of the more interesting hidden shots you’ll ever come across in a movie.
I feel this shot is a very special visual message “Shined” from Stanley Kubrick to the readers of Stephen King’s novel. He’s telling you what he did to ‘The Shining?’ Just like 'Redrum' only makes sense when seen in the reflection of Wendy’s mirror Stanley Kubrick created a movie that’s the same as the word “Redrum”. It will never truly make sense unless viewed in the genious director’s special mirror”. He even placed that reverse image of Stovington, as viewed by us, in the opposite side of the exact same mirror where we later see "Redrum" as the word murder. It's clear; we must also watch the movie's mirrors as something important is hidden in their reflection.
Sometimes it’s shocking to see how a screenwriter changes your favorite novel for the big screen. I remember reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” and being surprised to find out that Arthur 'Boo' Radley talked to the children. They changed this in the screenplay and I believe not having him speak throughout the story created a mystery that added much to the movie’s appeal. I can see how fans of the novel could be a little perplexed at what Stanley Kubrick did but you must admit he did an unbelievable job and Stephen King really couldn’d say much about the alterations.
Here’s a great clip of Stephen King talking about Stanley Kubrick on You Tube. Again after seeing it he described Kubrick’s film as “a big beautiful Cadillac, with no engine.” Recently a question was posed to Stephen King in USA Weekend (March 6-8 2009); I have always heard that you never really liked Stanley Kubrick’s version of “The Shining”. He answered; “My problem with ‘The Shining’ was never the adaptation. I certainly didn’t mind the idea that it was more psychological than supernatural. What I didn’t like was that I thought it was cold, and I always resented that. I’m an emotional writer. I think that’s why I’ve written so many things that people term “scary” or “horror”. I’m not that interested in what you think all the time, but I am interested in what you feel.” I feel both stories are brilliant in their own special ways.
I’ve looked into the rumors of where the actual Overlook Hotel from the novel is located? Click here.
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