One of the most ambiguous movies shot by Stanley Kubrick is “The Shining”—a horror film, that tells a story of a family that has moved into a hotel called the Overlook, which was inhabited by ghosts. Throughout the film, the plot develops around the Torrance family: Jack, Wendy, and their son Danny. Kubrick based the film on a novel written by Steven King of the same name. The literary source is rather thrilling and intriguing, and the film can basically be given the same positive assessment.
According to the screenplay, Jack Torrance, a writer who had quit abusing alcohol, moves into a distant hotel in the mountains with his family. The winter weather conditions render the hotel fully isolated from the outer world. All roads leading to it are covered with snow, so no vehicles can pass. During this period, the hotel is closed. Isolation, however, is what Jack needs to write his new novel, and at the same time, he will work as the hotel’s keeper. The hotel was built on a patch of land where an old Indian cemetery was located. During the film, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicolson), influenced by the evil spirits, gradually goes insane and attempts to kill his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd), but fails to do so and dies.
The first and foremost criterion to evaluate “The Shining” is the atmosphere that was reproduced in the film. Kubrick managed to convey a sense of isolation and detachment, as well as the supernatural fear constantly increasing throughout the film. Despite the luxurious furnishing, the Overlook hotel looks like a cemetery. The tension is also delivered through scenes with ghosts and the depictions of how Jack gradually loses his mind. One of the most horrifying moments in the film is when Wendy takes a look at the manuscript Jack had been writing during the period of time their family spent in the hotel. She sees that all pages are scribbled with just one phrase: “All fun and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and she then understands that her husband is completely insane. The sense of fear and desperation, which Kubrick intended to convey to the audience, is delivered masterfully, thus speaking in the film’s favor.
Then, speaking of the acting, with the exception of Jack Nicholson and Scatman Crothers, it is unfortunately unconvincing. While Jack Nicholson managed to create an image of a psychotic writer suffering from alcoholism, the other two members of the Torrance family, played by Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd, look stilted and simulated. In the case of Danny Lloyd, allowances can be made for him because of his age and lack of acting experience; however, Shelley Duvall in this particular movie is not at her best. In most action scenes, her play looks factitious, and sometimes inappropriate, which is irritating. This makes significant contrast to Nicholson’s character who is persuasive, such as in the scene when he breaks the bathroom door with a fire ax. This is, perhaps, one of the best scenes in the film.
The technical performance is also important for the film’s evaluation, and “The Shining” can be noted for a high level of cinematography. The film introduces a number of novelties that were never used before, or were used rarely. Almost all stills with Danny were shot from the growth rate of a small boy. This technique helps the audience feel the world of a child in a more realistic manner, and view the ghosts and the surrounding scary environment through his eyes. Also, during the filming, a Steadycam system was used. This technology allows for the stabilization of the picture in dynamic scenes. For example, the scene when Danny rides his bicycle in the hotel’s corridors was shot with the help of this device.
“The Shining” is an excellent horror movie, made by a renowned director, based on a famous writer’s novel. It portrays a dense atmosphere of despair and isolation, which is valuable when portraying the plot. Technical novelties used during the filming also contribute to the positive assessment of the film. One of the most significant factors speaking in favor of “The Shining” is Jack Nicholson’s acting ability in portraying the image of a psychotic writer, who is convincing and genuinely scary. However, in his background, other personages are lost due to the characters played by Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd looking simulated.
King, Stephen. The Shining. New York: DoubleDay Publishers, 1977. Print.
Kubrick, Stanley, dir. The Shining. Warner Brothers, 1980. Film.
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Writing an Evaluation Essay
Despite its setting being a jail, “The Shawshank Redemption” strangely captures viewers in its warm hold, making them members of the family. There are a number of films that provide viewers with vivid experiences and create swift, shallow emotions. This movie, however, moves slowly, employing the quiet, perceptive voice of the narrator to include viewers in a tale of a prison community. It holds deeper meaning than a majority of other movies, being themed on continuity within a lifetime, on the basis of hope and friendship (Ebert).
Interestingly, although the movie’s hero is Andy Dufresne, (condemned ex-banker played by Tim Robbins), viewers don’t get to view actions from his standpoint. The movie kicks off with Dufresne being given life penalties for two murders – his wife’s and her lover’s. After this scene, the movie never shows his outlook again, but moves to the outlooks of the prison community, especially Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (another inmate with a life sentence, played by Morgan Freeman). Redding narrates his recollection of the time Dufresne first walked in (“looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over”); the former, apparently, erroneously predicted that Dufresne would not be able to survive prison (Ebert).
Right from Dufresne’s first appearance to the culmination of the movie, viewers only perceive Dufresne from others’ perspective, including his best mate, Red; Warden Norton; the elderly librarian, Brooks; prison guards; and fellow inmates. Red is the deputy who viewers are able to relate to; the redemption, eventually, is Red’s. Dufresne’s example proves to viewers that one needs to always have hope, remain true to oneself, be patient, set a subtle, straightforward example and leap at the opportunity one is granted. “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really,” he tells Red. “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” (Ebert)
I believe Shawshank’s structure doesn’t revolve around Dufresne, but around how viewers relate to him–their approval, interest, and sympathy. If Dufresne was portrayed as the courageous, endearing hero, Shawshank wouldn’t have held so much mystery and would be just like any other movie. In the end, as Dufresne is existential he doesn’t depend on luck and chance, but ensures he makes decisions which afford him control over his life.
Dufresne displays freedom’s awful existential nature, when he plays the recording over the public access system knowing full well that his action will have consequences. He doesn’t object to his solitary confinement; rather, he believes it was the most stress-free time he spent (Ebert).
Dufresne is a dependable person who loves to assist other people in reaching their complete potential. For instance, he teaches Tommy and others to ensure they are able to pass high school-equivalent exams and strives to ensure the prison’s library is fully stocked with a broad range of books for inmates. Hope doesn’t belong to existential thinking. True existentialists go with the flow, without believing in the afterlife or in a better future (Klassen).
Dufresne constantly displays hope and urges fellow inmates to do the same. He relies on the bond he has with Red, who provides him numerous things necessary for successfully escaping. Clearly, Dufresne cares for his friend, leaves money behind for him and invites him to Mexico, none of which is existential. Existentialists consider man to be a free, self-sufficient loner (Klassen).
Dufresne dreams and provides self-motivation, envisioning Zihuatanejo’s sandy beaches and blue waters rather than dwelling on his current circumstances. Real existentialists wouldn’t fantasize this way; instead, their focus would only be on real life. Dufresne demonstrates human existential is when resisting The Sisters’ and Boggs’ advances (Klassen).
Dufresne adopts the tough course, choosing to take control of his own destiny. Instead of losing hope and remaining imprisoned until death, he fabricates his escape. He never lays blame for his incarceration on external circumstances. He admits to being led to prison by the ramifications of his own actions. Despite not being guilty of murder, Dufresne feels he is to blame for pushing away his wife: “She was beautiful. God I loved her. I just didn’t know how to show it, that’s all. I killed her, Red. I didn’t pull the trigger, but I drove her away. And that’s why she died, because of me” (Klassen).
Dufresne’s character embodies several existential qualities. He is a determined, alert and exceptional man who leads life based on his personal ethical code, makes choices for himself, and attempts to maintain control. He goes all-out to regain his freedom. He is, in the end, an existential character (Klassen). Moviegoers prefer exciting films and exciting titles draw them to the theatres in hordes. They are wary of movies themed on “redemption” and are usually not excited by the idea of a movie which has much serious work put into it. However, they seek hope even in channels of entertainment and any movie that provides it will probably enjoy staying power, irrespective of whether it immediately attracts audiences or not (Ebert).
DoL. Criteria for Evaluating a Film Essay. n.d. 14 February 2017.
Ebert, Roger. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. 17 October 1999. 14 February 2017.
Klassen, Anika. Andy Dufresne, an Existential Hero? 28 January 2014. 14 February 2017.