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Hess, N. (2010). The Shining: All Work and no Play …. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 91(2):409-414.

(2010). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 91(2):409-414

Film Essays

The Shining: All Work and no Play …

Noel Hess

The narrative of Stanley Kubrick's well-known film of 1980 is deceptively simple: Jack Torrance, with his wife Wendy and son Danny, takes a job as caretaker to the Overlook Hotel, high in the Colorado Mountains, for five months during the winter while the hotel is empty. He is an ex-teacher and believes himself to be a writer, so this is an opportunity to write. During the course of their stay, he becomes mad and attempts to murder his family. He succeeds only in killing Halloran, the hotel's black cook, who returns to the hotel sensing danger. Jack's wife and son escape to safety. He freezes to death in pursuit of his son in the hotel's maze.

But there is more: the hotel has a history of murderousness. The previous caretaker, ten years earlier, has killed his wife and twin daughters. Also, Danny possesses a special gift, the shining, which allows him to see events from the past and to see into the future. He locates his ‘shining’ in his imaginary friend Tony. Halloran also possesses this ability.

The central characters, then, are Jack, Wendy, Danny and Halloran and, crucially, the Overlook Hotel itself, an extraordinary feat of interior design with its combination of maze-like corridors and huge, empty, cavernous spaces. The film explores the internal world of a man gradually driven to madness and murder; the themes of ‘play’ and ‘home’ are central to understanding this inner collapse. I want to discuss how we can understand his descent into madness, the form his madness takes, and the interesting complicity it generates in the audience.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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