GREAT MOVIES ESSAY: The Shining (1980)

***CONTAINS  SPOILERS***

The genius in The Shining – and indeed, all of Kubrick’s work – is the fact that Kubrick never gives anything away. The Shining is a mystery. A void of confusion. A paradox of unexplainable events. The film’s final shot reveals the fact that Jack Torrance has been at the hotel all of this time – or has he? Questions are posed throughout the film, mainly concerning the issue of whether the events did actually happen, or just occurred in one of the character’s minds. Did Danny actually ever see the two twins? Is Grady a real person? Or maybe, to delve even further, did any of the events actually ever happen? The Shining is shot in such an objective and distanced manner; it’s as if the spirits of the hotel (the hotel is build above an old Indian burial ground) are watching the events unfold. Are the spirits presenting us a false representation? Or are all the events true? Or is everything just a figment of Jack’s imagination? Who knows.

Has Jack Torrance always been at The Overlook?

Has Jack Torrance always been at The Overlook?

To truly solve what actually happens is impossible, and this is one of the many delights of the film itself. After all, nothing is more interesting, engaging (and indeed, scary) as a mystery. Especially an unsolvable one.

The Shining is also a film of outstanding technical brilliance. It’s Kubrick’s most well-made film, next to 2001. The dazzlingly cold opening shot is faultless and impressive. It’s a helicopter shot panning over an enormous river, and it’s done so perfectly: the image on screen looks like a painting, the water doesn’t move or ripple, it stays perfectly still, even such a subtlety as this creates the atmosphere of the film, we instantly know that something isn’t quite right. Indeed, this atmosphere maintains throughout the entire movie, and due to Kubrick’s well-used slow-pacing: a creepy build-up of dread and tension is created. Even in the interview scene, there are awkward pauses, and Jack gives fake smiles, and seems a little shocked about what he’s being told. He then says the second most-quotable line from the film (I’ll leave you to work out the first): “Rest assured, that won’t happen to me”. He tilts his head, opens his eyes and mouth in glee and raises his eyebrows. Something ain’t right.

"...that won't happen to me..."

"...that won't happen to me..."

The Shining never relies on cheap gimmicks to provoke a reaction, there is no gore, blood, intestine, or a shot of three people connected mouth to anus (sorry Human Centipede fans). Instead, Kubrick relies on well-crafted dolly and tracking shots, surrealism and atmosphere to disturb and shock his viewers. It has often been commented upon that the tricycle scenes are the most disturbing part of the movie. Indeed they are. We get a feeling that something is going to happen as Danny turns around the next corner. Of course, it never does. I must point out, I have seen The Shining numerous times, and even though I know that nothing is around each corner, the tricycle scenes still maintain a high amount of tension to it. Surely that makes The Shining something quite of an achievement in the horror genre?

The Shining - making you scared shitless of hallways since 1980

The Shining - making you scared shitless of hallways since 1980

The use of sound in the film is also effective, the high-pitched shrieking violins, the melodious opening soundtrack creates tension and a hell of an atmosphere. Perhaps I’m over-analysing here, but even the different sounds that the tricycle makes as it glides from wooden floor to soft rug in the  living area of The Overlook is oddly quite chilling and disturbing, I’d go as far as to say that this was intentional, and knowing Kubrick’s perfectionism, wanted to get the timing perfect between the tricycle moving from wooden floor to rug just right.

I think Jack Nicholson’s performance has been frequently touched in reviews and analyses of this film. But it really is one of his best performances (next to his stunning one as McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Shelley Duvall’s performance is also excellent, she cries in almost every scene without becoming tiresome or unbelievable, she really is turly terrified, and becomes increasingly more terrified as Jack becomes increasingly more insane.

One of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances

One of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances

In fact, everything in The Shining works, it literally does (scuze the cliché) tick all of the boxes.

Perhaps I’m just fanboying over Kubrick or Jack Nicholson’s performance, or all of the gorgeously composed shots. But I don’t think I am, I find this film terrifying, and it is the only horror film to make me literally feel my heart pound in my chest, to make me sweat and shake in terror.

Sod The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, watch The Shining instead.

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5 Things They Didn’t Want to Tell You (3)

Some film trivia…

(All the trivia is from http://www.imdb.com)

1) Memento – Although the opening scene is portrayed as going backwards, every sound effect is in fact played forwards. The only sound played backwards is Teddy screaming, “No!”

The mind-boggling Memento

The mind-boggling Memento

2) Fear and Loathing in Las VegasWhile Hunter S Thompson (writer of the novel of the same name) was friends with Johnny Depp and approved of his performance, he once said that if he ever saw anyone acting the way Depp does in the film, he would probably hit them with a chair.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

3) Sex Lives of the Potato MenJohnny Vegas who starred in the film, actively defended it, even though it widely known that critics and audiences despised the film. It’s also got an utterly pathetic 4.3 rating on IMDb

4)  A Serbian Film – Banned in Norway due its graphic sexual representation of children and its disturbing violence. One of the few modern movies to be banned in the country since the famous gore film ‘Ichi The Killer‘.

A very angry man in a very sick film

A very angry man in a very sick film

5) Airplane! – The film was filmed in a 34 days and cost around $3.5 million.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

“El labyrinto del fauno”

5 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/

15  119 min  –  Drama | Fantasy | War   –  24 November 2006 (UK)

Director

Guillermo del Toro

Writer

Guillermo del Toro

Stars

Ivana Baquero; Ariadna Gil; Sergi López

Plot:

1944, fascist Spain. A young girl named “Ofelia” is sent along with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) to meet her new step-father – a fascist leader of the Spanish army who is ruthless and abusive. Later, she meets an old faun in a mythical labyrinth and her life suddenly turns…

Review:

A friend of mine criticised Guillermo del Toro’s masterwork by saying that it combines two genres that don’t quite fit: a children’s adventure story combined with a gritty, gorey war story. In essence he disliked this movie because it combined a children’s story with an adult story.

In simple terms, the two halves of Pan’s Labyrinth are like this. We constantly cut back and forth between the two stories, and it works exceptionally well with providing the piece with light and dark shades. It provides the piece with magic and the thought-provoking. The enchanting and the disturb. The sense of wonder and the sense of shock.

The ‘children’s’ section of the story really begins when Ofelia is told by an old faun in a labyrinth that she’s actually a Princess; however, she must complete three tasks to be able to become one. I think Ofelia’s story is one of the many charming sections of this film. Children are so often invited in by stories, and are very much driven by imagination. Pan’s Labyrinth does this exceptionally well: due to the sense of wonder and awe it creates. Not only that, but it brings out the inner 10-year-old in any ‘hardened man’. Even Phil Mitchell.

(Actually, on second thoughts, Phil Mitchell wouldn’t watch this kind of film. Ever).

The most famous of the three tasks that Ofelia has to complete is the second one. Ofelia has to go to the ‘lair of the Pale man’ to collect an ornate dagger. She is accompanied by three magical fairies to guide and help her in this task. The lair of the ornate dagger is guarded by a splendidly gruesome fairy-tale-esque creature: The Pale Man. (Let’s just say, his eyes aren’t supposed to be where they are). However, Ofelia eats some of the grapes on the table and the Pale Man wakes up. Is Pan’s Labyrinth paying homage to Pandora’s box? Does the Pale Man represent the evil of this world?

His eyes are kind of in the wrong place...

His eyes are kind of in the wrong place...

The other side of the film isn’t as enchanting as the one I have just discussed, yet it is still as well-executed and well-directed as Ofelia’s story. The side of the story concerns itself with the a fight against anti-fascist protestors against Ofelia’s ‘father’, Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Vidal is as gruesome as the pale man. (Albeit the fact that his eyes are in the ‘correct’ place). He is involved – in what I think – to be the most powerful scene(s) of the movie. Not because of what he does, but the way he plays it. He has an enamel sharp face, he is sly, subtly sarcastic, and has the slightest grin when it comes to torturing the occasional anti-fascist protestor with his handy ‘torturing kit’.

There will be those that say you cannot combine a children’s story with an adult one. Yet, I would argue this to be wrong. Don’t all children’s stories contain dark subject matter. After all, humpty dumpty falls of his wall…and is never put back together at all.

Verdict:

Magical, enchanting, disturbing and in some places: heart-warming. Pan’s Labyrinth is a fable about free-will which will provoke thought and stimulate your imagination like no other film could. Definitely worth a watch.

Nostalgia (2012)

5 STARS

General Information:

Link to short film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yTjFE88z3A

Drama |

Director

Adam Tindall

Writer

Adam Tindall

Stars

Luke Nicholson; Luke Hills; Lydia Gledhill

Plot:

Joe (Luke Nicholson) is feeling nostalgic, he ponders about how his childhood was so much more innocent than life is now. Yet are things as ‘bad’ as they seem?…

Review:

The beauty of Nostalgia is in its subtleties; it’s a film you have to watch at least twice to absorb the richness of its content and meaning. It’s very true to life in its style: people reflect about the past, philosophise about life, swear, and have banter.

Oh, and they also talk about Pokemon, but that’s just a minorly major detail, we’ll get onto that later.

Joe is your average 16 year-old – his life seems to be getting more and more complex, and from the start of the film, he feels Nostalgic – as he ponders how life was once so much better, and in his own words “innocent”. When did things get so “fucked up”? Was it the adolescent years? Later on, we’re thrown straight into it: house party!

Luke gets drunk, becomes more nostalgic, he brings up with him his ex, Charlotte (Lydia Gledhill). They go in a bathroom because “it’s clean” (albeit the shit in the toilet). This scene, perhaps, sums up the film’s blend of styles: it’s poignant, thought-provoking, moving, yet at the same time it has surreal and black humour (Joe is compared to a “paedo” because he’s relieving his nostalgic feelings by visiting his old school, but don’t worry, he’s not a paedo, because it was a “Saturday”, and kids don’t go to school on a Saturday).

To add to this, I felt that the push and pull of the narrative had  a subtly strong effect on me: tender moments are followed by fights, poignant moments are followed by comedy – and all of this builds up to the most nostalgic moment of the movie: Luke walks around town late at night, on his own. He glances up at buildings, shops, the sky, the river. He reminisces his old life, we reminisce the film.

Nostalgia is not only great on a human level, but a technical level as well: scenes are beautifully shot, well executed, and the script itself is acidically sharp in the point it’s trying to make and the questions it poses.

There were sections of Nostalgia that made me reflect not just the events that have happened to Joe, but to bits about my past life to. Nostalgia made me feel nostalgic.

Verdict:

Nostalgia blends the poignant with the darkly comic. It has its serious moments and its comic moments. It excels on a technical level and a human level. Dazzling with style.