The Shining (1980) is the fullest representation of Stanley Kubrick’s self-conscious alienating lens. The film is more about Kubrick, the polymorphous satirist, than Stephen King, the modern master of the colloquial horror tale. This version of the story is a satirical deconstruction of the speculative concept of life after death, as filtered through the nightmare logic of society’s sensitive prophetic realist, the Capital “A” Artist (another concept, this one Capital “R” Romantic in nature, that the film dissects with transgressive glee). From this labyrinthine vantage point, other considerations are satirically analyzed, including the stability of the family unit, the artist’s place in such a construct, the artist’s alienation toward anything and everything, and the artist’s problematic quest for “truth” and “immortality.” For Kubrick, the artist is an exaggerated cipher for everyone, and our species’ inability to reach a fundamental conclusion on anything provides the vast majority of the cosmic horror and absurdist humor in this supremely difficult work. The bathroom scene with Jack Nicholson and Philip Stone is one of the most unique moments in cinema, and the ironic line “Great party, isn’t it?” is a microcosm of the film’s metaphysical investigations.
A retrospective review by Barry Germansky