The one question everyone who views “The Shining” wants to know is what does the black and white photo at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s film mean?
The answer to the question of what the final July 4th, 1921 photo represents is found in the novel. There’s only one important black and white photo in Stephen King’s novel. It’s Jesus and you can read the excerpt from his novel if you click here.
What he did to Stephen King’s novel is quite remarkable and has to be understood. In the film Stanley Kubrick is showing us the reverse of the novel as if it were being viewed in a mirror. It's exactly like the word, "Redrum". He was so bold in what he did that it starts in the very first shot of the film and no one ever noticed. The most obvious clue is in the colors he chose to use. Jack has an old red VW in the novel and it becomes a new yellow VW in the film. In the novel they’re saved in a yellow snowmobile and in the film it becomes a red Sno-cat. Danny plays with his red ball in the novel and it becomes Jack’s yellow ball in the film. The colors being reversed is only the beginning of an incredible hidden alteration of the source novel. Stanley Kubrick chose to create a mirror image of Stephen King’s novel and he altered Stephen King’s black and white photo of Jesus exactly the same way. In the film we’re viewing the opposite of Jesus. In the July 4th, 1921 photo Stanley Kubrick has Jack posed as the devil (click here).
The photo is a purposeful paradox; a true visual enigma on the screen and audiences have been wondering about it for a very long time. Without looking at Stephen King’s source novel it’s an enigma with no possible correct explanation, and when you first view “The Shining” you'll leave with the impression that Jack Torrance has been in The Overlook before. But this assumption is way to simple and it’s also quite wrong. The July 4th photo is the most perplexing image in the history of cinema and everything we’re looking at in it is the opposite of what’s true. Not only is it the mirror image of the photo in the novel but several things about it must be pointed out and addressed before you realize the true extent of what’s been done here. The key line that Stanley Kubrick took from Stephen King’s novel about the photo is this, “It was a big fake…”.
Click on each line for a more detailed explanation.
1) Stanley Kubrick has it say “Overlook Hotel” but the photo obviously is somewhere else. It’s not The Overlook Hotel.
2) The picture is not a July 4th party like it says. It’s a New Years Eve party.
3) The final photo simply doesn’t exist until after Jack’s death. Stanley Kubrick has it magically appearing, “Shined”, on the wall only in the last shot of the movie. It’s not there at any other time in the movie.
4) Jack Torrance is not the caretaker in the picture, he’s the manager.
5) Jack doesn’t belong in that picture.
6) Delbert Grady must also be there with Jack in the final photo; but he isn't.
7) Jack Torrance is not a reincarnation of the person in the photo.
8) The party in the 1921 picture can't possibly have anything to do with the party Jack imagines in the Gold Room.
9) Jack and Charles Grady were obviously both alive at the same time in 1970. You can’t be the reincarnation of someone who is alive at the same time you are.
10) Where are all the other caretakers?
11) Stanley Kubrick has Jack singing a special song from the year 1921 just before he dies.
12) Who are the people in the photo with Jack?
13) The photo is a vision.
Stanley Kubrick took Stephen King’s quote and has truly created, “a big fake…” in that final July 4th photo. Jack isn’t the caretaker and shouldn’t be there, and what’s printed on the photo is totally wrong; it isn’t The Overlook we’re looking at, it isn’t July 4th, it isn’t 1921 and Jack isn't the caretaker. The entire photo was produced as a fake and we know this from Stanley Kubrick’s interview with Michel Ciment. Jack Nicholson's face was airbrushed onto someone else’s body. To quote Danny's imaginary friend Tony again, “it's like pictures in a book “, "it isn't real".
The July 4 photo is exactly the same as the most famous fake photo in history. Lee Harvey Oswald with his face purported to be airbrushed in by the CIA. When someone's face is airbrushed onto another body there’s only one way to describe the photo; it's an obvious fake and this is what Stanley Kubrick did.
The photo is a fake and is not proof that Jack has ever been in The Overlook Hotel in a previous life. 14) Take one last look. Jack is posed in the final picture and it’s an obvious clue from Stanley Kubrick as to what the July 4th photo represents.
Click here and go back to my blog with almost 500 interesting pictures from the movie, and read more about the secrets held in the final picture from "The Shining".