Stanley Kubrick is recognised as one of the finest filmmakers of all time, not because he managed to create several cinematic feats, but because his filmography spans several genres, proving that he was indeed a versatile master. From the comedy of Dr. Strangelove to the science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey to his war drama Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick has touched almost every cornerstone of popular cinematic genre.
Horror was not omitted from Stanley Kubrick’s repertoire either, releasing The Shining in 1980 starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. Adapted from the novel by Stephen King, the author was famously opposed to Kubrick’s vision, despite it being considered a great of the genre, telling Deadline, “I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it…I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much”.
Set in the magnificent, fictional Overlook Hotel, located in the Colorado Rockies, the tale follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family who opt to look after the hotel over the winter. Dwarfed by the towering presence of the hotel, however, Jack soon becomes engulfed by an evil, violent presence, influencing his temper toward his wife and psychic son. This spirals towards a terrifying and enigmatic conclusion that sees Jack immortalised in the ethereal history of the hotel itself.
For a more definitive meaning of the film’s conclusion, however, look no further than Stanley Kubrick’s own explanation of the film in a rare interview with filmmaker Jun’ichi Yao. Making a behind-the-scenes look at the paranormal experiences that occurred on the set of The Shining, Yao got the chance to speak to the iconic director and enquired about the true meaning behind the film’s conclusion.
As Stanley Kubrick explains, “It’s supposed to suggest a kind of evil reincarnation cycle, where he [Jack] is part of the hotel’s history, just as in the men’s room, he’s talking to the former caretaker [Grady], the ghost of the former caretaker, who says to him, ‘you are the caretaker; you’ve always been the caretaker, I should know I’ve always been here’”. Continuing, the filmmaker adds, “One is merely suggesting some kind of endless cycle of this evil reincarnation”.
Somewhat reserved about revealing the explanation, Kubrick also notes, “it’s the sort of thing that I think is better left unexplained,” before later adding, “I think the best thing is when an audience looks at a film and wonders whether something that they have seen is an accident or if the director or writer meant them to know it, I think subtlety and allowing the audience to discover for themselves what it is the most important thing”.
Suggesting toward an innate evil that resides in the walls of the hotel itself rather than in Jack Torrance’s tormented mind, Stanley Kubrick’s vision provides a fascinating insight into Stephen King’s story that continues to inspire and terrify.
Watch the rare interview in the clip, below.