The Shining Explained: Why Is Jack in the Photo?

“Horror drives him crazy”: Meaning of the movie The Shining (1980). The film adaptation of the cult novel by Stephen King received recognition immediately after the premiere. Despite being heavily criticized by The King of Horrors, the project has been called one of the scariest horror films of the 20th century. The plot and meaning of The Shining is not only frightening, but also makes you think about the possibilities of the human mind.

What is the movie about

Jack Torrance is a writer whose work is not successful. He worked as a school teacher until he was fired for drunken assault. In the family of Jack, too, not everything is going smoothly. The wife sees no point in living with an alcoholic who broke their son’s arm. Jack wants to start a new life and stops drinking. He meets with Stuart Ullman, the owner of the Overlook Mountain Hotel, and asks for a job as a caretaker.

Jack NicholsonJack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a writer. Frame from the film.

Jack drives to the Overlook with his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny. The owner reveals that the past caretaker went mad and killed his family, but Jack doesn’t take the description of the tragedy seriously. At the hotel, the Torrances meet chef Dick Halloran, who takes an interest in Danny. Halloran thinks the boy has a “radiance”: the ability to see the other world and predict the future. Danny had had strange visions in the past, but his parents thought they were an illness.

Before leaving, Halloran advises the child not to enter the 237 room, and also promises to come to help if she needs it. Jack is about to finish his play, and he is sure that an empty hotel is the perfect place for creativity.

A month passes. Frequent and prolonged snowfalls begin. The road to the Overlook is swept. Torrances can no longer travel to the city, they are now isolated in a hotel.

Jack has a creative crisis for which he blames his family. It seems to him that the Overlook is too cramped for them, and his wife and son are constantly making noise, preventing him from working. Jack has a dream in which he kills them with an axe. Fuel is added to the fire by Wendy, who suspects that her husband has again raised a hand against his son. Jack goes to the Golden Hall, contemplating that he is ready to sell his soul for a drink. He sees behind the counter a bartender, and behind him is a whole collection of alcohol. Torrance gets drunk.

Barry NelsonJack Nicholson (Jack Torrance), Alison Coleridge (secretary), Barry Nelson as Ullman. Frame from the film.

Danny does go into room 237, where he sees an ugly woman in the bathroom. He tells his mother about it. She runs to her husband in the bar, which again becomes empty, and talks about what happened. Jack goes to the room and sees an attractive girl there. He kisses her, but the mirror reflects a decomposing old woman. Terrified, Torrance runs out of the room.

After a while, Jack returns to the Golden Hall, where a noisy party is in full swing. The bartender tells him that Wendy and Danny are misbehaving and should be punished. Torrance sees the ghost of a former caretaker who advises him to deal with his family. Jack disables the snowmobile and starts stalking his wife and son.

Wendy and Danny try to hide from a distraught Jack in a hotel. Danny telepathically contacts Halloran and asks for his help. He arrives at the hotel, but the distraught head of the family kills him. Danny hides from his father in the maze garden. Torrance Sr. runs after his son with an axe, but loses his bearings. The boy is found by his mother and led out of the labyrinth. They leave on Halloran’s snowmobile.

Jack freezes to death in the maze. The hotel enslaves his soul. The ending shows Torrance in one of the group photographs taken in 1921.

Labyrinth in the movieFrame from the film.

Ending explanation

The meaning of the ending of The Shining is not as straightforward as it might seem. At first glance, everything is clear: the tyrant died, his family was saved. But how then did Torrance end up in the old photo? Is there a hidden meaning in this?

As Stanley Kubrick explains, in a past incarnation, Jack Torrance worked at the Overlook. Even then, he sold his soul to the demons, and already in this life, the Overlook called him again. There is another version: Jack’s soul became the property of the hotel, and the photographs are a mystical cage in which the prisoners of the Overlook are forever imprisoned.

The ending of the movie is different from the book. In Stephen King’s novel, Jack is controlled by an otherworldly being who has enslaved his soul. It is important for this creature to keep the hotel intact, but Jack forgets to depressurize the heating boiler, which is now threatening to explode.

Halloran arrives at the hotel and sees that Jack is trying to kill his family. He rushes to the rescue and Torrance stuns him with a croquet bat. Later, he goes down to the cellar and turns on the valve, but it’s too late. The cauldron explodes and blows the Overlook apart. Wendy, Danny and Halloran escape on a snowmobile.

In 1997, director Mick Garris filmed the mini-series The Shining, the plot of which exactly (with minor digressions) repeats the content of the novel. Stanley Kubrick showed more imagination, while Harris tried to stick to the original source.

The explanation for the ending in the two projects is different: in the Stanley Kubrick film, Jack’s soul remains in the hotel, while in the Mick Garris series, it is released and goes to heaven with the other prisoners of the Overlook. The end of the 1980 film is dark and hints at a sequel. The final episodes of the mini-series sum up and put an end to this story.


The meaning of the film

The main idea of ​​The Shining is that the human mind in isolation is capable of the most unexpected actions. The hotel, inhabited by ghosts, serves here as a decoration, but not as a key object. The Overlook itself is an ordinary old hotel, in which various events took place, not always pleasant ones. In the walls of the building they killed, stole, hid evidence. The accumulation of negativity gave rise to a gloomy energy, but this can be found in any old hotel.

Man is a social creature. He needs contact with other people to feel complete. There are no random elements in Stephen King books, and The Shining is no exception. The main character is an alcoholic. Addiction thinned his psyche, made Jack vulnerable to circumstances.

In ordinary life, he restrained himself, but, left alone with his family, cut off from the outside world, he succumbed to heavy thoughts and temptations. He began to invent what is not, and justify his behavior. An important role in releasing his aggression was played by his wife, who constantly rebuked Jack. After he raised his hand to his son, Wendy pulled away, and did not try to get close again.

At the hotel, Torrance lost the meaning of life. If earlier he had friends, and it was possible to put up with the alienation of the family, then in the Overlook he fully felt his loneliness. And he began to look for meaning in his own fantasies.

Shelly DewallScatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann, Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance, Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance. Frame from the film.

What is happening in the hotel cannot be taken literally. The entire Torrance family is supposed to be “shining”. That is, they are receptive to the energy that surrounds them. The content of The Shining hints that there are no ghosts, and they are just Jack’s invention, an attempt to stop feeling lonely.

Danny also feels this energy, which paints terrible pictures for him. The boy sees things that do not exist, but because of his age he cannot understand what his imagination is playing with. Wendy, on the other hand, has little to no otherworldly activity. Her “shine” is weak, she lives in the real world, which suits her. Therefore, the dark essence of the hotel almost does not concern the heroine. However, Wendy still has abilities, so sometimes she sees strange things for which she cannot find an explanation.

The essence of the film also touches on the topic of selling the soul. It is believed that a person who has given his soul to the other world begins to see it and participate in the events taking place in it. This is what happened to Jack. Declaring that he was ready to part with his soul for a drink, he opened the forbidden door, but what he saw drove him crazy.

A detailed analysis of the film shows that the mind is able to go beyond logic. It is he who creates ghosts and monsters around a person, and not the place in which this person is.

crazy nicholsonFrame from the film.

Similar films

  • Doctor Sleep , USA, 2019. Forty-year-old Dan Torrance leads the life of an alcoholic and tries to suppress his gift. He is forced to use it to help gifted children. Sequel to The Shining.
  • 1408 , USA, 2007. The writer checks into a hotel room, about which there are frightening rumors, and falls into a trap. He tries to find a clue to what is happening in order to get out of the room.
  • Apartment 1303 , USA/Canada, 2012. A girl rents an apartment whose previous tenant committed suicide. Aggressive ghosts begin to terrorize her.

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