If you truly want to understand Stanley Kubrick’s “Shining” you have to be able to decipher whether what the characters are telling you is the truth or a lie.
One thing I never expected when writing this blog was that anyone would question the truthfulness of Dick Hallorann’s dialogue. For me it’s part of the explanation of this enigmatic movie and the meanings that Stanley Kubrick concealed in the script (like the pictures taken from the movie and the alterations he made to Stephen King’s novel) can’t be changed. Viewers will attempt to interpret things in their own ways but the words Stanley Kubrick placed in his finished film can't be altered. They are what they are. It’s like when Stanley Kubrick added this easy to miss statement in the dialogue as Dick Hallorann's explanation of why he returns to The Overlook, “Ullman phoned me last night, and I'm supposed to go up there and find out if they have to be replaced.” It’s not a mistake to take his explanation along with the other things Dick Hallorann says in the film as the truth. I believe the statement for two reasons. 1) Because of the quality of the person who says it and 2) because there is a very good chance that it is actually what happened as it’s the only explanation Stanley Kubrick gives us in the dialogue of why Dick Hallorann returns to The Overlook. Whether people like it or not; his boss ordered him back to The Overlook. It's all about character, and Dick Hallorann has character. He's the hero of this story.
In the novel Dick Hallorann lies several times about why he's going back to The Overlook. He tells variations of his story about his son being shot to the park rangers, to his boss, to the cop that pulls him over, and to Larry Durkin at the garage. They all ask him flat out the same question but he doesn't tell them the real reason for his return. He doesn't tell any of them that Danny uses the "Shine" to call him in Florida. But in the film Stanley Kubrick cleverly alters all this, his "Shining" is different from Stephen King's. If you can find any spot in the dialogue of this film where Danny calls on anyone for help please go back to my main blog and post it. You may feel in your bones that Danny is calling for help in the room 237 scene but he isn't. He doesn't call or ask for help when he's being strangled, at the end of the film when he's being chased by his father with an ax or at any other point in the story. This simply never happens in the film. In his movie Stanley Kubrick cleverly reverses what's happening and Dick Hallorann now only gives one reason for his return and it's either true or false.
There's nowhere in the movie where Dick Hallorann lies, cheats, dumbs down, exaggerates, misleads or tells any falsehood to anyone at all. Any attempt at un-explaining this explicit statement that he makes to his friend Larry Durkin about why he’s returning to The Overlook and who sends him there is pure speculation and a fabrication from the mind of someone that has another agenda, someone who doesn’t want his statement to be true. But what Stanley Kubrick has him say is very explicit and we don’t have enough information to make a wild guess that contradicts what Dick Hallorann plainly states. In the end, as in life, we either believe what he says because of the type of person he is or we don’t. There's no other information to go by in the film. But what’s even more important is; his statement is either true or it isn’t as Stanley Kubrick gives us no other explanation in the movie as to why he returns to the hotel. If it’s true, the implications of the sentence on how we view this movie are immense. His statement totally changes everything about what's actually going on under the surface of this movie because the phones are out and the only way his boss could know something is wrong at the hotel is if he sees the exact same vision of Jack walking into room 237 as Dick and Danny see. There is no other way he could know and the only information we’re given from Stanley Kubrick about this is contained in that sentence. This is what totally frustrates so many of my readers who have a certain agenda. If you don't want to believe the obvious, that Stanley Kubrick gives the "Shine" to other characters in his film than you'll fight this sentence of Dick Hallorann's vehemently. But you can't change it.
It’s obvious that this question must be answered. In the film does Dick Hallorann have any proclivity for lying? Some may think he was he lying to his friend like he did in the novel. He didn’t want to let Larry in on the exact reason for his return to The Overlook. Maybe he was afraid to tell anyone else about his supernatural ability to “Shine” and see visions. Maybe he was afraid to tell Larry about the vision he saw of Jack in room 237 because his friend would think he was completely crazy. But these are all just guesses because Stanley Kubrick only gives us one bit of information about this and it's different from the novel, “Ullman phoned me last night”, and that’s it.
A lot of what I’ve written about “The Shining” is only valid if Dick Hallorann is telling the truth as he’s the only character that knows anything about the “Shine”. We really need to know if he’s truthful or not if we ever want to truly understand this film. I was alerted to a spot in the movie where he appears, on the surface, to tell a lie so I investigated a little and ended up discovering one of the most important things about this movie that no one has ever realized. Just who and what can you believe.
Dick Hallorann: Well I think we can manage that too, Doc. Come along now. Watch your step.
Wendy: Mr. Hallorann, how’d you know we call’em 'Doc'?
Dick Hallorann: Beg pardon?
Wendy: Doc. You called Danny 'Doc' twice just now.
Dick Hallorann: I did?
Wendy: Yeah. We call him Doc sometimes, you know, like in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. But how did you know that?
Dick Hallorann: Well I guess I probably heard you call him that.
Wendy: Well, it's possible, but I honestly don't remember calling him that since we've been with you.
Later.... Dick Hallorann: Do you know how I knew your name was Doc? You know what I'm talking about, don't you? I can remember when I was a little boy; my grandmother and I could hold conversations entirely without ever opening our mouths. She called it shining, and for a long time I thought it was just the two of us that had the shine to us. Just like you probably thought you was the only one. But there are other folks, though mostly they don't know it, or don't believe it.
At first it appears he lies to Wendy by not telling her that the real reason he knows Danny’s nickname is “Doc” is because he has a supernatural ability called the “Shine”. If he’s deceptive here I can’t state that he never lies, and my belief in the sentence above, “Ullman phoned me last night...” relies on his truthfulness. But again in Kubrickland all is not what it appears to be. This quote is actually a goldmine for proving that Dick Hallorann is not a liar at all. This is just what I needed even though I never thought I would have to prove that Dick Hallorann speaks the truth, being the hero of this story. It appears that Stanley Kubrick through his dialogue was well prepared for this conundrum and he has his characters give us the answers to our questions from their own mouths.
The lie appears to be here; “Well I guess I probably heard you call him that.” He doesn’t tell Wendy that he has the ability to “Shine”. A lie of omission? Thinking his explanation is false is understandable because we know, or at least we think we know, that what he said can’t be true. We’ve been watching the movie from the start and we never actually see him hear Wendy call Danny “Doc”.
But I thought about it for a while and it dawned on me; how on earth can anyone after watching the first few minutes of this movie know that he’s lying from that statement alone? We know Dick has the ability to “Shine” but when he uses his special gift this early in the story we don’t know yet how it actually works. And they do call him “Doc” all the time. When he "Shines" does Dick read Wendy’s mind or did it actually happen the way he said, “I guess I probably heard you call him that.” It has to be one or the other. If he’s able to read her mind than he’s lying but if he actually heard her call him “Doc” then he’s not. And if he actually heard her call him “Doc” then not telling her about his ability to “Shine” is not a lie of omission either as he answered her question simply yet truthfully. There was no implication in her question as to whether or not he possesses a supernatural ability, or which of his many supernatural abilities he might be using on that particular day.
For these characters “Shining” is an unusual gift but I can’t think of anywhere in the movie where one of them uses it to read someone’s mind. It doesn’t mean it’s not there I just can’t think of any. It doesn’t matter anyway, it’s undeniable that there are several times in the film where people use it to hear conversations that are happening elsewhere. At 1:45 into the movie Danny, sitting in their apartment, is able to use his ability and listen to his parents conversation before Wendy clobbers jack with the bat. When Jack, inside the hotel, has his vision of Danny and Wendy walking in the center of The Hedge Maze at 00:39 he not only sees it but he’s also able to hear what they’re saying outside the hotel.
Stanly Kubrick gives us plenty of evidence that people who possess the “Shine” can hear conversations that occur out of earshot so what Dick Hallorann tells Wendy is the truth. Dick did hear her call Danny, “Doc” before they met and Stanley Kubrick cleverly puts this into the dialogue so there’s absolutely no confusion as to when Dick hears her use the nickname “Doc”. She says, “I honestly don't remember calling him that since we've been with you”. His perfectionism is unbelievable as Stanley Kubrick has all the bases covered. Wendy obviously knows she said it earlier in the hotel before they all met.
We know Dick Hallorann can hear conversations out of earshot but do we know for sure if he’s able to know the nickname "Doc" by reading Wendy’s mind? Well, rigorous logic won’t work here but it seems that Stanley Kubrick has also addressed this problem for us, and the answer is again in the dialog he wrote. This simple line is so easy to pass up as being unimportant. Jack says, “Mr. Hallorann, I'm Jack, and this is my wife, Winifred.” In the movie (and novel) it's her real name and Jack never uses the nickname Wendy inside The Overlook before they meet Dick. Not only do we never actually hear the name but Stanley Kubrick shows us that example of how she's introduced and there’s no evidence that Jack doesn’t introduce her to everyone they meet in exactly the same way. Jack says, "Hey Babe" when he calls her up after the interview, and even Mr. Ullman never calls her Wendy as we always hear him call her Mrs. Torrance. The nickname Wendy is simply never heard in The Overlook until later. Knowing all this helps to explain this seemingly meaningless fluff sentence Stanley Kubrick added to the dialogue, “Mrs. Torrance, your husband introduced you as Winifred. Now are you a Winnie or a Freddie? - I'm a Wendy.” It’s obvious that Dick Hallorann doesn’t know her nickname is Wendy and there’s only one reason for this; when he “Shined” he simply never heard anyone call her Wendy in the hotel. He doesn’t read her mind at all. There should be no confusion here; Stanley Kubrick alerts us to this by bringing up the two nicknames, Doc and Wendy and Dick heard only one, not the other; he knows Danny's nickname and doesn't know Winifred's. "Now what kind of ice cream do you like Doc? - Chocolate. - Chocolate it shall be." It's so obvious, he doesn't read Danny's mind or he would have known the answer to that question.
The dialogue is clear. We’re talking about Stanley Kubrick, a director who's inhumanly precise and in his movie (unlike in real life) Dick Hallorann never lies to anyone. Not Danny, not Wendy, not the forest rangers and definitely not his friend Larry Durkin. In asking for the Sno-cat he doesn't have to make up any story at all for Larry as to why he’s going up to The Overlook in a snowstorm. Not mentioning “The Shine” to Larry means nothing; it’s not a lie. Larry's question was, “What’s the big deal about getting up there today” and he answers truthfully. Larry didn’t ask about what supernatural ability Mr. Ullman possesses.
He doesn’t lie to his friend and anyone that believes he does, is entertaining pure un-provable speculation as any proclivity for lying cannot be found in him in this story. He's the same as Olivia de Havilland's character in "Gone With The Wind". The purest soul in movies. Someone that doesn't exist in real life. But in film we find people like this. The only person who lies in the film is Jack. Anyone who puts forth another explanation as to why Dick Hallorann would lie by saying that his boss ordered him back to The Overlook (such as nonsense like we never actually see him get Mr. Ullman's phone call or he's confused or was scared to tell Larry that he “Shines”) are wrong. These are just wild unsubstantiated guesses by people who have other agendas to uphold. Like I said before, if you find a place where he lies or exaggerates post it on my blog otherwise he doesn’t and I believe him at his word. We have a movie about people who possess a supernatural ability enabling them to communicate with each other over great distances. I can't imagine how anyone cannot see that in “The Shining’s” reality another of Dick Hallorann’s lines "there are other folks" is true and Mr. Ullman is included in that very small crowd (5 main characters) inhabiting this film's reality. It appears that Mr. Ullman knows something is very wrong at The Overlook. Something that could only be known if he uses the exact same supernatural ability that enables Dick Hallorann to know the exact same thing. There's no violation of the movie's reality in what I believe. Mr. Ullman "Shines" and sees the exact same vision of Jack in room 237 with the old woman as Dick and that’s how he knows what’s happening in “The Overlook”. Don't forget the phones are all out. The implications of this in the film are far reaching yet the dialogue Stanly Kubrick wrote is precise and cannot be altered - it's part of the explanation of this movie. It’s hard not to take Dick Hallorann’s statements as gospel truth when you can’t point to a single lie that he ever tells! “Ullman phoned me last night.” If he isn't lying then he's telling the truth. If you have concrete notions and all this rocks your perception of this movie, well that’s just to bad because you can’t change it and you'll have to live with it, even though you might never fully get it. But why doesn't Mr. Ullman, if he can "Shine", just talk telepathically with Dick Hallorann rather than phoning him? Again from the pen of the director who is ready for that question, "But there are other folks though mostly they don’t know it, or believe it. That's Mr. Ullman. The answers are all in the dialogue, Stanley Kubrick left nothing out.
“Larry, just between you and me, we've got a very serious problem with the people who are taking care of the place. They've turned out to be completely unreliable assholes. Ullman phoned me last night, and I'm supposed to go up there and find out if they have to be replaced.” Dick tells us exactly why he’s going back to the hotel and it isn't because Danny called - which he never does.
“But, there are other folks though mostly they don’t know it, or believe it”. Dick tells us that others have the same ability that he has, and some don't know it.
“No, I'm scared of nothing here. It's just that you know some places are like people, some shine and some don't. I guess you could say the Overlook Hotel here has something about it that's like shining.” He isn't scared because he's lived there and knows of nothing (especially in room 237) that can hurt Danny. If he did he would have told him so.
“You're scared of Room 237, ain'tcha?”
“No I ain't.”
“Mr. Hallorann, what is in Room 237?”
“Nothing. there ain't nothing in Room 237.” He never lies to anyone; there is absolutely nothing that he knows of in room 237.
"Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who shine can see. Just like they can see things that haven't happened yet. Well, sometimes they can see things that happened a long time ago.” All of the Torrances see the same spook show because they all possess the same "Shine". They also have the ability to see the future and the past.
“Remember what Mr. Hallorann said. It's just like pictures in a book, Danny. It isn't real.” The visions they're seeing in The Overlook aren’t real. Not one vision in particular, not every other vision, not just visions on Saturday or Thursday, but every vision they see.
“Well I guess I probably heard you call him that.” They can hear conversations that occur well out of earshot.
“The Overlook Hotel here has somethin' about it that's like 'shining'." "Somethin' about it that's like 'Shining' again isn't the same thing as "Shining" - it's different. The Overlook doesn't "Shine".
Dick Hallorann is the only character in the "The Shining" that knows anything about the special supernatural power that they possess. These statements are all from a board certified expert on the subject. A person who never lies or exaggerates, and in the framework of this movie's reality; I believe everything he says - his dialogue is not only the explanation of the "Shine", in it is the explanation of the entire movie itself.
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