The Kubrick Meltdown

Last week, this video came out that sparked a reaction so great I now have the phrase “Kubrick Meltdown” to add to my vocabulary. What everyone sees as a eye-opening experience into the mind of the genius, I saw as a universal zeitgeist to get my ass in gear. The problem (and really not so much of a PROBLEM as it is a distaste that it’s not my project) I have with this video is the same problem I have with releasing the info as it stands with the kubrick project– it’s incomplete. Yes the video points out Kubrick’s tendency for the one-point perspective- and this observation is the very reason I’m doing something called The Kubrick Project to begin with: I noticed the multitude of alignments and use of alignments to designate thought in 2001, and here we are today. But that’s all it says!

 

Working on deconstructing Kubrick’s films, I make sure to consider whether something is purposefully crafted, or if it’s simply Kubrick’s natural aesthetic. It’s a fair question, and something I as a worker in the creative industry have to look at on a regular basis. Throughout our work on The Shining, I’ve gone into quite a tizzy over questioning whether what I’m seeing is something The Shining specific, or whether its Kubrick’s eye, tinging all it wants across every movie. With some things, like this one-shot perspective, it’s Kubrick aesthetic. You have something that stretches across an entire artists canon? Aesthetic. You have something that seems to be dealt with in a particular way in this film, and contrastingly different in other films? (Say for example the use of purple in The Shining and in A Clockwork Orange) That’s purposeful/movie specific, but the use of color would be a device Kubrick uses to communicate through his individual films.

 

I thought I would talk through one of my favorite devices Kubrick uses throughout The Shining, with one of my favorite examples: Danny and The Grady Girls.

Easily one of the most misunderstood aspects of the film (but there are so many of those, Jenny), but I would say maybe the easiest to deconstruct.

Catching you all up to speed with the bare bones of the scene (because I watch this film every day doesn’t mean you all have to!), Danny has ridden his trike near the Torrance apartment and on turning, rides straight into the Girls at the end of the hallway.

There are quite a few things to pay attention to with this deceptively simple scene, but the one we’re focusing on now is what I like to refer to as “color appropriation”. Kubrick styles the shots with exactly the same color in both compositions; it’s just the context of that color that changes. For example, in the first shot, Danny wears a bright red sweatshirt, a light blue sweater, with a red and dark blue plaid collared shirt. His bike handles are visible: shiny silver. The second shot shows the dead Grady Girls. It shows the shot with exactly the same colors– they’re just used in different places. The girls wear light blue dresses, the same as Danny’s sweater, and lay on a dark navy blue carpet, the same as the blue in his shirt. The red, well; that’s self explanatory, same as why Danny would be wearing a red sweatshirt– it envelops him much like the blood saturates the girls, visually they’re both covered in blood.

When the brain sees objects in like colors, it groups them. Without even really being aware of the action, it happens. Subliminally speaking, Danny and the slain girls on the carpet ‘read’ as the same image, which visually and conceptually connects Danny and the dead girls.

 

Another example of this device is present in another pair of shots, Danny on the 2nd floor carpet, and Halloran in the Continental plane flying to Colorado. The plot points are a bit different, but along the same lines of connectivity. The shot of Danny on the carpet, everyone and their mother is familiar with. But the shot of Halloran on the airplane, I imagine gets overlooked (no pun intended, please) quite often. It shows the same exact color palette of Danny on the carpet, re-contextualized. In this instance, I see Kubrick using the similar palettes to communicate where the character’s (Halloran) attention is focused– back to that time where Danny was lured into 237.

I find Kubrick’s use of this visual device absolutely fascinating! I mean the flight attendant’s hair is similar to Danny’s. It’s no accident that the two shots speak to one another.

This ‘webbed’ approach to the symbols, characters, and their connectivities and meanings is what makes this project so difficult and so glorious to work with. In this way, it feels more like discovery than just ‘understanding’, and I cannot wait to finish piecing it all together so that  people can discover, on their own, what I’ve been working with for years.

*The screen shot I used for the featured image of this post features another one of Kubrick’s aesthetic tricks: The Golden Ratio! 

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