This is an interesting tumblr begun 2011 to showcase Lucas's mirroring/doubling (thanks John Fell Ryan for spotting). While they begin with a series of Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai and Searchers's parallels, the tumblr shifts later to internal dialogue doubling, isomorphs and object-oriented scale-mirrors.
Here are two pieces from our archives about what this all might mean.
Winogrand is one of the few masters of his genre, street photography. His method was relentless, at his death some 6000 rolls had yet to be developed and tens of thousands of negatives remained untouched. Like another master Lewis Hine, entire off-camera narratives can be derived from Winogrand's pictures, and they go hand in hand with the age of movies, exposing unseen sides of human desire. With so many negatives left unscanned, a veritable secret history of the 20th century awaits archivists in the Winogrand collection. The N.Y. Times chose his tour of the 1960 Democratic Convention to showcase.
It is not the literal past that rules us, save, possibly, in a biological sense. It is images of the past. These are often as highly structured and selective as myths. Images and symbolic constructs of the past are imprinted, almost in the same manner of genetic information, on our sensibility. Each new historical era mirrors itself in the picture and active mythology of its past.
- George Steiner, In Bluebeard's Castle (1971)
Today Titanic returns from the deep to take more passengers onboard, yet the more timely Avatar is the myth that needs sifting through. Unlike Titanic, Avatar is hiding from its past.
Not to be misunderstood, our generation's Walt Disney via Werner von Braun, James Cameron, carefully combs his five previous sci-fi arcs through the lenses of both The Matrix and the cgi Star Wars Trilogy. He comes up with a blatant utopian-eden fantasy named Avatar. More or less a retake of The Abyss's central themes about ecology and technology, Avatar is staged a few light years away in our galaxy (updated from Abyss's salt-water to non-breathable air for humans, a step-up on the movement ladder, but he keeps that bioluminescence vibrating anyway) on a planet not subtly named Pandora (a prophecy from Earth's mythos).
The most expensive film ever made is about an invasion of little green-obsessed men (humans). They've colonized a green planet populated by blue-giants, the star-affixed Nav'i, who remain somewhat tethered to their planet and its creatures in a manner not unlike a bio-analog version of The Matrix's pulsing digital simulation (plugging into its moon-wide broadcast signal). If you're blue, wrap your hair around a local plant and suddenly: who knows what might be under your tannenbaum. Cameron takes his best actor and has her undersell the miracle of Pandora to her superiors (hint: reweave Earth like this and you can save it and make the bucks). Sigourney Weaver's throwaway key monologue (a scene repeat from the much better Aliens) would have us comprehend the revolutionary aspects of Pandora's biome at the expense of the deaf ears of the military-industrial complex that's paying for the project. They're both protector and enemy, a metaphor for the studio that footed the film's bill. They're aiming for the exact same thing the planet achieves by plant life digging roots and linking botanic and geologic forms, except these business types are using wiring and encryption and credit card access. People still gotta pay for it, yet Pandora the planet is an open source biological wi-fi network waiting for a genetic revolution of information. Is this open source's first massive metaphor? Cameron is so obsessed with the tech-aspects of his film, he shorts our comprehension of his biggest star, the sphere the film is set on. A somewhat 'thinking' (somewhat conscious like its resident bipeds, the Nav'i) living planet operates in unity, unlike our own Earthly disconnected networks of animal, plant and geosphere. Disney's Pandora, is a clearer name for this film (and it almost was), whose technological revolutions bypass Pixar, Lucas and Jackson by the second reel. The Na'vi are as somewhat monotonous as the troopers that inhabit Pandora's opposite, the Death Star. The Na'vi, does it read as na'ive? They never use the tree-network to phone for help; never once try to ride 'the last shadow' themselves, whose riding is the sort of legend equated with the discovery of 'The One" in The Matrix. They remain at a consciousness mezzanine within their planet's potential and Cameron suggests their game-changer (the awakener Sully) must be a specifically disabled outsider, with few preconceived notions of their world. The key to Sully is his lack of legs which gives him an unconscious weightlessness neither the other avatars nor the Na'vi can experience flight through. Cameron shows you his atrophied legs as a taunt, like an afterschool special hero's, they look pathetic, yet they render his Na'vi unique in many unmentioned ways.
Earth by this time, 2154, is a dead planet (the film's first shot, travelling over rainforest, could be a memory of Earth). And humans, thinkers from the dead-planet, bring the usual suspect archetypes, a working class-hero - Sully, a tough as nails scientist (Grace Augustine, an unsubtle reference to the Christian thinker who wrote the autobiographical The Confessions, about a pleasure seeking sinner redeemed), a colonel with self-esteem issues. Cameron wisely glosses over the usual set-up conflicts and goes right for the meat of the journey: whether or not these humans belong on Pandora's Eden. Like most films about the future it's actually about our past. His film is telling us, our way to eden is by reverse thinking to a near past, the moment we began our colonization and rape of the Americas/Africa/Asia; humans must become what they once were, isolated in pockets, and change the outcome. He even slyly hints that we can reverse our invention as a reinvention. His symbolic visuals are still operant, sometimes even vibrant. Pandora is first seen as a metaphor for us in an earth-made mirror, a vast field of solar panels, an earth-like gem framed by a blue-hued Jupiter copy. The creatures that signify promise are Abyss's spindly bi-valves (and they suggest the air in Pandora also has properties of water). The beds one accesses an Avatar through are green hued - a shout out to The Matrix, and the list goes on. The compression is impressive, Sully's got his Military father-figure (Quaritch's speech to the troops is framed by a window that apes the USA's flag - only now in green, a dead twin (never seen), a Scientist Mother figure (that runs slightly Oedipal once she inhabits her Avatar), a harried corporate golf-pro (again, all humans), a rebellious sister-type played by Michelle Rodriguez (she slips out of the tree assault early like a spoiled child). Then there's the locals, an entire array of Nav'i - natives developed around a cauterized First Mother First Father First Daughter and the first heir. Cameron rejects complexity here, there is no threatening Uncle, the son-heir, though contentious, is easily impressed. The real question is, why is he using Earth mythology to show-off an altogether different planetary consciousness - is he unconsciously lampooning it? amping it for the contrasts? is he making fun of his own projection? Their slim biometric customs and animal life that compete with the human tale for screentime are the secret stars of the film along with the orb itself: Pandora. Cameron even blends the bioforms through a bilateral-symmetry that's more ordered than Earth's (connected like Lucas whose influence here is felt, except Cameron is linking the life forms AND the spaceships, slightly different than what Lucas does). Pandora's Nav'i have flattened noses that appear in other lifeforms. Watch the flying creature's quick glance into the camera, it looks just like a Na'vi, a subtle mirror in staring. The unspoken visual elements are sometimes, enragingly brilliant: the bioluminescent 'stars' the Nav'i facially possess suggest, wildly, that the 'planet' (and the spirit of the planet Eyva) sees these stars and then projects them genetically (through time via nature, through genetic patterns that emerge through mating-sequencing across eons) into the individual Na'vi patterns. The planet is, however distant as a controlling force, still connected to these creatures, and weirdly, the Nav'i's consciousness disconnects them from the total system's possibilities- sound familiar? Even though the Na'vi express fear, doubt even rage against the encroaching aliens, their planet doesn't get the message. As chunky as the material is and as blatantly copied as the third act accomplishments are, his real feat is haunting the planet with a feasible antidote to the false simplicities of eco sci-fi.
Cameron is best when he makes the process of discovery seem intuitive with deadly force. Jake Sully's avatar Nav'i is told not to look his romantic interest's flying creature in the eyes. Later, as he approaches a herd of them to claim one for himself, he asks her how he will know which one to choose from. She tells him only then the proper choice will try to kill him first. Later on however the brutality of the Nav'i seems to run counterintuitive to the sacred treatment that counterintel agent-Sully's Nav'i avatar receives, when the humans start ripping the Nav'i's forest to shreds (a direct reference to Phantom Menace), they banter about whether Jake is to be trusted. Cameron slides from brutalism to chicanery when the audience requires it. Similar logic-holes surround the half-completed premise of the sleep-wake cycle built into the Avatar program, and Cameron aims for laughs rather than complexly address what is a crucial, serialized disconnect: the inert Avatar host body 'sleeps' while his human inhabitor is awake. Imagine what Cameron could have done with a Sully coitus interuptus scene between his Nav'i female and Grace Augustine (Weaver) trying to 'wake' him. Another source of plot-waste is the video-diary Grace forces him to perform, obviously a direct feed to their military and corporate handlers (is Cameron trying to make his audience paranoid of its social-media ties while making mother-figure Grace appear foolish? Cleverly he shows us a reverse of how the computer sees him.). While aspects of utopian bio-genetic structuralism lure the audience with intensive and futurist group eco-therapy, the film seems more concerned plot-wise with our recent past colonizing the Americas and erasing form-connections between native image and knowledge. The Nav'i (Native-Avatars) are dead ringers for the harassed, evacuated and now nearly erased Indians that now nickname our military's flying hardware. There are enough broken arrows aimed at bullet-proof glass to veer slightly into self parody. The American blockbuster ethos seems like a playground of Native-myths searching for a resurrection in our language (see esp. the Skywalker regime). The way west transformed into third-stage mythmaking (past the scrubby predecessor Europeans). Unfortunately like all unconscious colonizers, he's thinking like an American but acting like a King's subject, he can't seem to connect to new myths or new forms beyond those narratives of the early 20th century, he's simply refitting our catastrophe to theirs, a somewhat conservative approach (that's the disconnect, the planet is sure damn weird but the play he's having performed on it is oddly routine). War is war to him, its outcome looks no different than an Iraqi/Vietnam War exodus of technocrats leaving the Green Zone (and they my friend, are doing what everyone does when the film is over, they're our mirror, we ALL have to leave Pandora behind). He still thinks innovation lies in the hybridization between 'freethinkers' like Sully and the static-continuity of local wisdom (a leaky trope taken from James Fenimore Cooper or worse, Kipling); it's Sully after all who does what the Nav'i themselves did not know how to do. He calls in the biological ground and airstrike via the fiber-optic tree (he prays to the econet) AND conquers the forbidden, legendary and flame-painted 'last-shadow' (he has no fear of what the Nav'i fear). All within 25 minutes of screentime.
Sully's tree request has its direct feed from Amerindian history: The Ghost Dance. This epochal last resort prayed for an end to the Indian Wars by sweeping the Europeans out of the Americas through a mystical armageddon. Congress outlawed it and Avatar parallels it with Quaritch's planned Tree of Souls destruction. Cameron, like Sully, brings the Ghost Dance mythology to life to boost his climax and turn an impossible tide. Pandora's merely a vector for an American trope lead by a hero that can't decide if he's really joining the locals. Watch the back-and-forth, we think Sully can't decide if he's human or acting Nav'i as a ruse, but of course he's going native. Cameron thinks he can sustain tension at this level of the plot, when really the conflict lay in the how, not the why of it. This is a common failure of recent blockbuster narratives, a genre regressing faster than it can evolve. Directors like Cameron haven't gotten scientific about why the product has to be emotional but he's the sharpest at pivoting emotions when the audience needs something besides adrenaline to hold on to. He crassly uses ancient markers of film-sentimentalism to get us to well-up on cue (he engages James Horner for this unexotic task). The problem at the core of Avatar lies in its activist plotting outmoded by craft advancement. A megathinker like Cameron believes that by reverse-engineering propaganda, the film's messages can warn us against our impending eco-disasters here. Instead he falls into the first paradox of all anti-war/anti-technology 'message' films: the war is too riveting, it drives the pulse rate and brings us back for more. To be as revolutionary as Cameron thinks he is, he had to attack the baseline of humanity: the meaning of the issues, the definitions of the words and symbols we use to discuss ecology and commercial exploitation. Instead Cameron does his work in the casting phase hitting up great actors who embody archetypes that can submit to the film's black and white ideas of good and evil. For all its visual advances, Avatar is still spiritually Manichean, an approach that turns heads without altering them.
Sully's not employing particularly earth-based innovations (ha! they're universal) but Cameron wants us to think he is, maybe he assumes the final, only worthwhile earth-export is 'thinking outside the box'. The lack of proof is in the videogame: Cameron doesn't fold his mediums, he farms out a paint-by-numbers from Ubisoft simply because the economics require it - Cameron's alter-ego is slightly more the steroided Colonel than the open-minded Sully. Cameron is still a masterful even revolutionary technician despite his considerable conservatism (the action sequences are more riveting than lately Lucas/Spielberg/McTiernan, the optical detailing, gaseous distortions, exhaust streams, and the machinery are staggering in execution, they are not to be missed. And follow-through: the final battle between his G.I. Joe Colonel and Neytiri is a brilliant upgrade of Ripley's loader-assisted battle with the Queen Mother Alien. And his product is carefully visually crafted (he gets the scale shift between human and Nav'i dead-on, an inventive digital lens that captures forest floor alternating with a new eye-popping armageddon scale fluidly, a movie-first outside of Lucas and Spielberg, something Emmerich's Godzilla didn't, Spielberg's War of the Worlds did carefully, and Transformers does intermittently). The pairings between technology and bioform are crucial. The Nav'i's flying horses and the "last shadow" equate with the two scales of airframes (Spider and Gunship). Cameron even forms his cockpits as frozen rasterized versions of these creature's heads, and to square the point he applies a decal of a yellow dragon to the giant gunship of Quaritch's. Some subtle techniques developed in 2-D (in early silents) remerge finally in the 3-D, when Sully and Neytiri are exploring their languages and the meaning of seeing early in the film, Cameron has her look at the audience for a second after she spends the majority of shot looking down at Sully. This is the first 3-D film to weave parallax and character's eyeframes carefully (he knows the medium's technique flourishes with audience-character eye-contact: imagine City Lights or Donnie Darko in 3-D). Cameron's first two shots, a traveling shot over the forest canopy of, what is guessed is, a real image of earth's fauna and a screen filling cloud (a flash of memory for all of us and hopefully the only special effect-free shot in the film), and a zero-g close-up of beads of water merging under purple light (a sly SFX nightmare version of that natural cloud), indicates that he's got the nuances in play, it has the feeling of being visionary. Is it visionary? Only at its petri stage, what Cameron could have grown as a narrative, not what happens here. In a film that continuously references the idea of seeing both in English and Nav'i (and unspoken: film's own visual definition), he ends the film with more than a nod to 2001. It's a direct copy. A now 'unified' Sully (unified in his avatar by the Pandoran network) opens his eyes looking directly at the audience, if only for a split second. Cameron, who knows he is the heir to sci-fi's baton, is also its current placeholder for the next visionary. Maybe visionary is next up in Avatar 2.
Two final shots, supposedly one message. Stars migrate from background to face. Stepping forwards or stepping back?
A mind-bending summary article for a very complex physics experiment that yielded light (photons), not a reflection but a generation from molecules. Both summary and paper are web-visible.
Mirror, Mirror: Collective electron excitations in metals, called plasmons, can play an important role in second-harmonic generation of light.
Below, Second Harmonic Generation.
The Boulder bathroom: storytelling through tracking continues, Danny's childhood, as Disney/Warner Bros/Peanuts image-glyphs suggest, is being left behind, moving past the left side of the screen, as the island in the opening shot does; this mimicry links both lake and bathroom reflective surfaces, defining and evolving our notion of mirroring and passages. Besides being a deft play on words (left-behind), the movement, sidedness, and multiple mirrors (either implied like the bilaterally symmetric blankets or actual) indicate Kubrick has a passing knowledge of neuroscience. His use of mirroring reflects the split-brain's right/left divide and the slippery, nearly invisible crossover between them. Danny's ritual passage into adulthood is coming rapidly on the right inside the mirror where his father is to be slain by him and the hotel. The left wall exhibits a sliding show of children's mythology and animal life recalling the preceding, offscreen Roadrunner animation. Mickey Mouse will later appear on Danny’s sweater, another mischievous hero; Kubrick identifies Danny with troublemaking seers from all canons of animation, a contrast to Wendy's novel/text world, Danny consumes and identifies with animated visual mythologies. Unlike his parents he has no books in his room: without reading skills, he has no dual, or lexemic (mutliple) or metonymic meanings in his brain's language centers, a freedom the adults do not enjoy nor do they even perceive this advantage.
By using Tony as a reflection of himself, Danny appears consciously dual; his double works as a tool, it-he prevents Danny from being swallowed into The Overlook's mirrors. And in contrast to the film's terminus bound storytelling (ending in 1921), Kubrick contrasts the lifeless B&W still (appearing in both the last shot and the last shot of the film) with Woodstock's rainbow in-motion. The spectral-light of Ullman's office (a Shining) dissolves from Jack's forehead to the bathroom's sunlight, he is dissolved to an approaching room with a central light source framed precisely like Ullman's office, a travelling reversal of our shot of Jack. The Boulder apartment's actual sunlight is subtly contrasted/transitioned with the Hotel's false window's pure white light, a light-value (white balance) in reverse of the previous. Doubling seen in background of previous Boulder shots and the nightmare doubling of the hotel beginning with Bill Watson extends metaphorically to these cartoon figures: doubling through anthropomorphism - spirits entering bodies. The textless myths affixed to Danny's wall will be used use to slay/fool his father. All three, Jack Danny and Wendy inhabit these archetypes variably. Second clearly visible mirror of film (the lake is the first), the bathroom's, is man-made and now vertical. Danny is speaking into it, he treats it like a two-way medium. The mirror is an element of a tween effect, an unseen animation from Danny's view of the TV's cartoon. This sequence separates the animated characters left (the past in numerous temporal paths). It's somewhat like storing them in your memory. Kubrick compounds methods of Danny's sight, from TV to mirror. He peers into the mirror and sees beyond the TV's metaphors, to the 'future' of the film. The medium he sees here is photorealistic, a movement from cathode-cartoon animation to reality. Danny uses the TV's animated, mythic archetypes as guides from nature that transform into physical archetypes. He is the eagle that followed his father during the credits. His overlook much more powerful than his father. Danny then goes a step further, passive reception of the hotel's transmission. Does Tony travel to these events, or does the hotel send its warning? Later Danny will contact Halloran through a TV, hitching his signal to the newscast. Danny's abilities are supernaturally conscious - 'now' time travelling, both the bleeding elevator (which is witnessed by Wendy at film's end) and the girls (he later witnesses them from his tricycle) are future events actively sent to him as physical realities; he predicts Wendy's coming call seconds later. Once isolated in the mirror, we see Danny stands in a pink-tiled, red bordered room that cuts directly to the elevator's red mask.
We pan right from the kitchen to the living room as Wendy completes the milk's reverse journey from glass to carton to refrigerator. In this shot we see Wendy with consumer telecommunication devices, TV & Phone. Media (books, TV and wall imagery) form an arrow-tree shape pointing upwards. This is the opposite view of the Boulder apartment establishing shot of the dining table, with Danny staring as the TV plays Roadrunner. The film is an escalating series of visions accessed through TVs and mirrors; now he is staring from the bathroom mirror 'into' Wendy's TV framing: he predicts the call. Look at the call's intercutting closely, she picks up a white phone, and in its same position in the next shot is a woman walking in all white who passes into a glint of sunlight reflection, framed to contrast the Boulder apartment TV with its live-action western, an implied animation into realism from the Roadrunner cartoon, a transition from children's entertainment to adult-themed conflict, from sound-only to image-only, both are wild west mythologies. Later Danny will watch an adult themed film below a TV surrounded by toys wearing a Mickey Mouse sweater. He'll then walk to a conversation with his father who acts like a cartoon villain. The TV's effects are diminished representationally in Boulder, it is surrounded by books, telling us the adults find their text information superior to the TV's. This TV reappears in Halloran's house with reversed surroundings. All hanging art is relevant, here they provide contradictions, Boulder apartment's Japanese print and TV screen are framed in precise verticals with Hotel lobby's columns, their intercutting becomes key. What they mean: the Boulder's print is of nature, sharpened, the nature seen outside the Lobby is ghosted: supernatural and they mirror one another. It coyly hints once you enter the Hotel, nature is no longer powerful, the supernatural is dominant, beyond our conception of nature (the print). The TV's cowboys, in their cathode blue hue, contrast the reddish column it cuts to, a spot with the highest shine, and directly mimics Bill Watson and Ullman's pose. The glyphic transaction between shots is obvious, that medium was TV, this is 'shining.' Our first clue the entire hotel's vision is merely conjured, yet in a medium far more complex than television. Shot reveals Jack at phone, a 45 degree mirror exhibits Ullman and Bill Watson in similar, mirrored conversational positions to Jack. A man in the lobby's far background regards the maze model in the opposite position to Jack's stance above it later. The TV used to watch Summer of '42 later in the film is shown in background, inert. The four hotel employees all overlap the columns painted a similar earthtone to Ullman's office. Jack joins their overlapping. The bellhop that stands at the near column is carefully patterned, his colors flow from the pattern he stands above, even his foot stance continues. Wendy and women-at-desk are similarly dressed, like settlers out of Little House on the Prarie: a hint at gender roles. Photographic contrast is high at home and low at hotel (it is shining).
The column behind Jack, and its inverse, the inset framing him in the office interview, are both the width size of Danny’s bathroom mirror as his zoom above begins, a compression that links TV and mirror via their visual connector between the shots: the column. The mirror's door is not closed, it is slightly opened on its left side. A doorway in editing. This ajar/folding space motif is employed continuously in the film; variations of this logic, spaces and rooms that have folds and doorways that are left open, are also continuous, a visual play on words. Vertical interview. Some cuts invert background and subject. Others are bookend transitions, like an image of Danny looking, appearing to see what lurks in the next shot (seeing what we see). Patterns made of folded walls in backgrounds, irregular wall designs, impossibly overlapping spaces, all begin to emerge slowly as animations across cuts. Kubrick may have adapted some of this frozen animation style from his own manner merged with ghost logic/graphic topiary scene in the novel: there each time Jack looks back at animals carved from shrubbery they've moved, in effect Kubrick makes the entire film this blink-and-the-scene-is-different, and he gets to avoid the topiary scene's pulpy narrative device, its visual effect's problematics. Importantly the topiary scene is a strictly a literary device - it's only perceivable by Jack, who turns to walk and loses sight of the hedges, Kubrick rigorously chooses to avoid King's devices and offer hallucinations that are continuously and communally viewable.
This interview exhibits two faces: Danny's and the elevator's.
Above, a series of four interrelated forms. Notice the centering of the elevator's left call button, forcing its embedded T-shape asymmetrically right, and the mirror is the poster's T, asymmetrically left.
East (ritual blood portals) meets West (elevators)
This image has been cropped to frame one of the elevator's 'faces' made out of both lit call buttons and the skin-toned urn's nose.
The film's poster, a medium that descends from stelae and other publicly placed displays, illustrates what shining actually is, in yellow, animating the Starchild's/Danny's face from a black and white realm, or the final view as the child is frozen into the black and white realm the film ends with, a horrifying conceptual sunset. The elevator is a progression from/to this poster's title-image, the T of The (the Mayan 'ik) is transformed to the Mesoamerican (Aztec/Mayan/Mixtec/Zapotec) lintel form, a staging location associated with rulership rituals that included bloodletting (warfare, rulership acension, and priesthood were sometimes linked through blood spilling) and human sacrifice. Like the poster's T 'ik window subconsciously transforming into the elevator's T-shaped lintel, Danny's/Starchild's eyes animate (in some respects they merge) into the elevator's dials. The poster's yellow (can be read as a literal version of k'an sunlight, see below) is diluted from the elevator's red and white, an implied color transition. Two black and white framed posters/photos of Indians on left and right walls act as mirrors. The chandelier is in full blast, an overexposed shining like the poster's overblown yellow light. [Proof for the 'ik existing in poster can be found in the first entry mstrmnd.com/log/802]
The demonic face of the hotel, the elevator, in a sunlight less corridor, ejects blood from its left side indicating the hotel is an intelligent entity conjuring corporeal hallucinations. Similar doorway/elevator masks are laced throughout the hotel. The blood pours earthward to mirror - mimic the water the film begins with, the furniture moves and floats not unlike the island's movement. Examine the liquids consciously: Red (blood) White (milk) and Blue (lake). Gravity enforces the division made by the liquid/sky - it moves from upper to lower, red falls in contrast to the blue titles that rise. Watch further examples of right-left entrances. Red is isolated in this shot, spilling into a nearly duotone hallway. As an extraction blood-rite, the elevator's bleeding visually summarizes the extreme ritual of sacrifice and bloodletting. As a destiny-destination that separates body from spirit, the Hotel combines the transference of human sacrifice through a visual metaphor: a body dies, its 'spirit' is trapped. Obviously this blood refers to Jack's draining at the climax once you connect Wendy's view with the maze's simultaneous trap. The color, life concentrated into a liquid, is drawn from the living who, if doubled and killed inside the hotel/maze, become black and white as a final state (which is why the landscape images outside Ullman’s office can keep their color, there are no humans exhibited). Brilliantly, by surrounding an elevator bank with blood-red Native patterns, designers of the Ahwanee Hotel in 1927 seem to consciously or unconsciously refer to these temple-portals that led (like elevator's strict functionality) to alternate upper and lower realms. Stairless portals of the machine age. Here it can be labeled a T-shaped Mesoamerican portal hybridized with North American Indian forms. The lintel is used in platform portals that descend into the underworld, like most portals atop Mayan/Aztec/Mixtec/Zapotec/'Olmec'/Toltec pyramids, they represent a mythological doorway connecting spirit, blood and lower worlds. No other primary color appears. Like Ullman's office, there is asymmetry within apparent symmetry. Flash cut, the girls appear as twins though they are not (we've been told they are different ages), an asymmetrical doubling meant to invite Danny, if unaware, to join and double himself (which has already begun to Jack). The Hotel is showing Danny a conjuring, a penetrating false-mirror, they are supernatural guides to the building's uses, like a loop in a videogame that warns us on several occasions what to avoid to survive while showing Danny a clue; a how-to guide to the hotel's hidden mirrors. We stare at them laterally (our eyes remain on a horizon) but we interpret their differences in conscious and unconscious manners sideways, there are right-left differences of bilateral symmetry and asymmetry (ie: differences in body weight, dress length). Their shot has blue as a primary and yellow as secondary (the title sequence returns as color leitmotif contrasted against elevator's pure red and white). Their background is littered with asymmetries and complex shadowing as well as a left hallway (like the blood they too arrived from the left). Notice the precision of Kubrick, below, both elevator and girl's corridor share exactly matching left wall corners. The hotel's animated power, hinted at by the T-form fronting the elevator, separates into further asymmetries, colors diffuse their purities into other patterns. Back to the elevator. Now red pours onto floor (and the red animates into the hotel: the kitchen's access way that Danny drives over, the walls of the Gold Ballroom’s bathroom, the fire alarm bells, the piping, the snocat...)
The elevator (and its framing) is related to the outer/inner symmetries split into asymmetries in Ullman's office, in this framing there is both asymmetry and a centerpoint. A brilliant animation in cutting: look closely at the second image above, at the frame's dead center is the elevator's left call button. This is a direct portal with the murderous logic of 2001, combining color (the red of HAL's eye) and the form (the lit call-button) equates HAL 9000's eye-display with this elevator bank. Why? Kubrick equates them. Both are masks of murderous entities, and they are intelligences that discovered murder in revolt to the paradoxes they were created/conquered by. There are complex differences as well. The hotel's manifest intelligence is asymmetric and analog in contrast to HAL's framed symmetric, heuristic, digital identity (supernatural/supercomputer). They are opposites on one level and yet both are murderers. If the view facing Ullman at his desk and his false window is an illusory, complex portal to a perceived skylit ghosting-form (the lighting fixtures and the window) through an opening in native wave-lightning patterns (the curtains), decrypted for the audience by a visual shift (which reveals the asymmetry hiding behind symmetry), then the elevator bank's asymmetry is a progression from both office framings (HAL is a cyclops, the elevator bank is cockeyed: the way Kubrick frames it for us), a metamorphosis that combines in one shot what is seen in Ullman's office in alternate shots: a central mask. HAL is born from perceptive and taught electrical logic (and collapses into computerized, murderous rage) and the Hotel (with elevator button like HAL's seeing interface) is born from holocaust murder-death purified into spectral logic.
Return to Boulder, red and blue (and white, her skin) are grouped back into Wendy’s outfit.
Third redhead, the doctor, examines Danny by shining light into his eyes (and our last image was of a very faint point of light in the center of frame), who lies upon a brown bear pillow with the elevator's half circle eye form (protected like a native in his sleep/dreams by a spirit-bear). See the mirror both bear and doctor create. She also is dressed in brown hues, a fellow bear of the forest. Her inner bodygarment is black suggesting a void, like the bear's mouth he could be swallowed up by and in motif similar to the animal illustration on the floor which duplicates every color in the room (and mimics monolith from 2001) and acts as a void. Appliques on left wall become three dimensional on right wall. Danny's eyes cross the center plane both horizontally and vertically (similar to the poster), as if he has seen beyond. The doctor mimics him in communication but does not succeed entirely ("is Tony one of your animals?"), she remains above horizon. When asked if Tony tells him to do things, he looks both left and right: he checks with both sides of himself - a sign of consciousness. He tells her he will not answer anymore questions. Danny disagrees with her request to remain in bed. A hero's defiance: he is suspicious of her motives. Wendy stares at bed from its foot, this exact stance 90 degree morphed is doubled at film’s end for a shock scene, the bear reappears at the film’s end reversed: as Wendy runs up the stairs, she spots a Bear giving head to a partygoer sitting on bed, her angle to the bed 90 degrees off this first bear. Danny sees the bleeding elevator before this bear, Wendy sees it after her bear. This tells us the hotel scares you with signs you are not aware of consciously: it reads your mind and later shows something you fear to you at right angles.
The movement from bedroom to living room is a series of right angles. "Shall we go into the living room." Kubrick repeatedly shows us the normality of this apartment and it will contrast with the monstrous impossibilities of the Hotel's design (to be explained in detail later).
Cigarette: Doctor sits under sunlight and disappears into color void, like Ullman her hair matches the curtains, she is ghosted. Forms of curtains here are animating from Ullman's curtains: now a Navajo sunset pattern is used. Doctor's hand gestures differ when cutting, suggesting the Doctor is part of this mirror world that Wendy is not, she remains to one side of her unlike Jack. She's contrasted in both outfit and skintone/haircolor. Wendy takes out a cigarette (a reference to Navajo/Crow peace pipe) and is interviewed. Her unconditional retelling of Danny’s accident means she does not rewrite history. The magic of the Navajo spirit in the smoke is honored (tobacco is a truth/peace drug). Although her past is not peaceful, she does not hide from it. This scene occurs in Altman’s 3 Women with very different palattes. Like Ullman, she refers to violence as "just one of those things." The ‘Navajo’ pattern from the Ullman interview is here composed of books, it is centered and is the highest point in the frame in almost same spot as the office, except here it is perfectly centered horizontally. Notice the shift of window left from Ullman office while the zig-zag pattern remains centered and closed. The desk is no longer a seat of power, it is a communal coffee table. These interviews achieve subtle alterations in their meanings.
Closing day is Halloween. Ullman explains earlier their season runs May 15 (very near film's release date) through October 30th.
The car drives on left slope of approach valley, a reverse of first approach.
Framing of family in car allows Danny to be the tallest (and he remains visible to Jack in Bug's interior rear view mirror). He's subtly haloed, and is hungry, behavior more akin to the coyote than the roadrunner. Last Danny standing shot was looking into the bathroom's mirror right, now he looks left into another mirror now offscreen, the car's rearview mirror, and speaks into it. Jack glances at him in it repeatedly, in effect Danny is chasing him (the Roadrunner/Coyote reversed). This scene is a mirror to the opening of the film, where Danny followed Jack from the sky, now he follows Jack inside the car. Notice audio, the car is almost silent, “Boy it sure feels different up here.” Danny mentions learning about cannibalism from "the TV." Jack mimics hims sarcastically using the medium's full name: "television." One of the few shots composing the family together. This is the only original piece of music composed for the film as the opening theme is the Dies Irae.
The following shot is a reverse of the interior angle.
Again hotel is shown as ghost ship, the dissolve maps the Beetle's arrival as a vision, see the Beetle appears on a road to itself curving, where it is parked. Different time of day/angle of sun/change in sky condition from opening.
Reverse angle from initial lobby establishing shot (Jack’s initial arrival). A mirror staged to re-enact his first interview, Jack is seated like he was in Ullman's office. Ullman is dressed in same colors as column. Like bellhop in previous scene in lobby, reversed. Once out of red white and blue uniform, he adopts the hotel’s appearance. The dissolve(s) showcase patterns, surfaces and perspectives in play. In the distance, BOTH interiors have matching staircases, like a lock's form, look at the dissolve: the man with the rolled rug is ascending. Many facements overlap perfectly (notice photographs). Crosses dissolve into elevator door.
Ullman and Jack depart left and arrive right. A red pool table links this room with Games room (the Games room has a Colorado flag). Tour of Hotel is replayed during film’s last scenes in reverse, kitchen, maze, quarters, gold ballroom. Sequences are even reversed ie: while describing maze, the party is actually walking away from the maze, surreal but not enough to awaken an audience into questioning storytelling. Establishing shot of Colorado lounge showcases the group’s exit from the right elevator doors, the first time we see the doors post-blood vision and the only use of the elevator for ascension ever shown. Later we will see this room has other elevator-masks. An American flag caps the room’s end, just below here, Jack will begin writing. On an opposing 45 degree plane from the elevator is the first visible Navajo rug, made of browns, animating the hotel’s décor into a symbol source (from Lobby's polished surface designs to the weaving the patterns are born inside). Wendy is dressed in rug’s same colors. Wendy is centered throughout tracking. Colorado lounge is a pronounced symbolic battlefield. Vast Tudor chandeliers lord over flattened Navajo patterns in rugs. Much of the Amerindian symmetry is walked upon or used out of context. A man now walks down stairs with a rug, towards us, in opposition to the previous lobby scene. Movement creates overlays in window-distance, mid-ground and foreground imagery. At opposite position to establishing elevator is a scale differential: an impossibly large fireplace (humans can fit inside it) opposite Sitting Bull's portrait. Sitting Bull was the victor over Custer at Little Big Horn. This is a cross-scene movement from colorful abstract wall art outside Ullman's office (the stylized, doubled chief) to this black and white photograph of a chief, placed opposite this massive fireplace. Transitions from color art to black and white photograph suggests death, like Jack's transition into his. Fireplace under staircase means the chimney also opens also at stair's top (it does, we see it as Wendy backs up later), converting the staircase into an internal, well-hidden temple structure with portals to both sky and lower realms. Sitting Bull is its honoree, in its underworld.
Games room is beginning of the Overlook's game, a game of death the hotel plays with any active user. Here Danny's first real time hallucination occurs, this doorway appearance of the Grady girls. Games room sequencing is beginning of the Hotel’s alteration of time made visible through editing: watch closely, the girls, their establishing vision and their outfits will expand into other sequences. "My son has discovered the games room." A hint at The Discovery, HAL's conscious vessel from 2001, the quote also lets the audience know that this is a game spirits play. A suggestion that foreknowledge is a weapon that emerges from knowledge. Kubrick shows mirrors within shots: Danny travels through the shot to return to an opposite stance, like Jack's initial hotel lobby sequence. Danny throws red darts (in contrast/parallel to his dad, who hurls a tennis ball later at the initial Navajo blanket beyond Ullman's office) to target and in whip-pan, girls in blue penetrate this dimension, they are no longer relegated to ‘visions’ of Danny’s, they appear present, corporeal, escalating the Hotel’s intention with Danny. The Hotel is animating (call it from now on shining) the dead as invitation to Danny: it looks as real as you are. A poster above this pair continues their symmetry deeper. In reverse to the Colorado Lounge with its United States flag at top, this is the games room with a Colorado state flag (made from Colorado tribe's visual forms). Both flag and dart board are target-shaped and are shown at right angles. The state flag is also obviously a sun object, as is the skiing poster left of the girls (a clever mirror). Kubrick condenses symbol, color and technology in one room; the phones (communication), the card tables, the skiing, the buffalo hunt, and the conversion of the Colorado Indian emblem to state flag are part of this game of conversion, a vast metaphoric glyph of a conquest game. Its mirror is Jack's ball toss, who parallels Danny by throwing his ball in the Colorado Lounge against an Indian form. They both agree to play a game, signing on after psychic discoveries; the Hotel's mirrors must be consciously navigated to survive now.
Like separation of blood-red pouring and girls’ establish shot, the red darts play counterpart to the girls’ blue isolation. They are responses to Danny's assertiveness, depsite the images he's been shown as a warning, he's prodding the hotel to communicate, he's pricking it to play a game with him. As the instigator, he will activate a portal to Room 237 by turning its knob (and seeing the future, again). Phone booth mimics vidphone in 2001. In effect we are at both films' stage of consciousness: remember Floyd communicates with his daughter, now there are two girls this age communicating, in reverse they are replying to him. Danny’s face stares at the departing girls, and cuts to arriving Torrances, in corridor with wall pattern behind where we first met girls in corridor vision in Bathroom mirror. The solid yellow baseboards and blue walls here extrude from that rear corridor, amazingly the girls' fabric pattern is now on these walls. A complex completion across time and edits, a Shining. These subtle shifts cannot all be explained here, this guide excerpt is roughly half of the notes, but like Ullman taking lobby column's colors, and these girls' fabric extending on foreground wall in a future within the film, the upcoming is littered with hundreds of planned transferences. These keys are subtle and manipulative in an unconscious way (it makes the film riveting without knowing why).
Look below and see the EXIT sign background right. This would imply a corridor is there and a staircase. Once we enter the bathroom of their apartment, and are shown the window in the bathoom (and then later we see Danny exit an entirely flat exterior wall) this corridor and implied exit are false in physical space. We have been fooled without seeing it exactly: unconsciously we can tell the entire Hotel's design is false. Deformities in spatial logic are continuous.
Grown twins, tall, fair haired women, walk towards the blue floral wall pattern and Jack stares at them, duplicating Danny’s last act of seeing other near twins. They are seeing twins at differing time scales. Oval image above bed duplicates at final bed in 2001: A Space Odyssey and is a portal to the opening shot a few minutes ago (lake with island). Kubrick probes the rooms until the bathroom to ensure we are aware of this layout logic.
Bathroom is white and black and is terminus of this sequence as well as at film's climax, again a colorfield movement towards the photographs' black and white state.
Both are followed by maze sequences.
Introduction to Overlook's hedge-maze is begun with party walking away from it, the maze is capped by pyramids. They encounter red snocat, first blood red object featured centrally after elevator expulsion. The snocat's form is dissolved towards a right angled (to it) love seat at entrance to Gold Ballroom, which it turns out has much blood red furniture. Entrance to maze is capped by the continually reappearing half-circle. The eye-form of the poster and elevator dial.
The k'an symbol. Paradoxical that the day is celebrated in a room missing sunlight. The day, signified by k'an, is walked upon, the yellow sun's symbol broadcasts up from an underworld. Time, daylight and false sunlight are in constant interplay inside The Overlook. At its separations, INTERVIEW, CLOSING DAY, TUESDAY, 4pm, The Shining itself contracts in time spans, ending in the fraction of a second on a date that acts as the counterpoint to earlier looser framings; at film's beginning we view an infinity of time (the landscape's Interview). Mayan time expands from a centerpoint of creation, as the future expands so does the past. Western time leapfrogs over pivots: creation to birth to death. Non-linear or Continuum vs. Linear: the horror here is becoming trapped into a millisecond, into a flash at the end of the film before the film has begun, a nightmarish western time freeze. Gold Ballroom: there is a crucial play on words here, the yellow tennis ball will be the only ball we see consistently. Once properly decoded visually, this set is an inverted ballcourt (the ceiling) with a repeating sun image on the floor (the sky now below). This ritual-game was the central practice in Mesoamerican societies, combining warfare, sun worship and sacrifice in an effort to assure the sun's movement and reappearance. The conquest of the Americas included the discovery and industrialization of rubber, witnessed first by Cortes through this spiritual game of human-sun interaction (and then harvested madly through the 18th, 19th and part of the 20th century - see the diaries of Roger Casement). The yellow tennis ball is, in effect, proof of colonization, a supreme compaction of sun-worshipping/ballgame played in Mesoamerican societies until the 1600's. The ball that Jack throws remains a sun-object that has been conquered and absorbed into English game codes and now returns to the hotel as an ingenious prompt. It is a tease the spirits use, the Games Room expanded into every room.
“I found him outside looking for you” Danny seeks. Susie, a redhead, like the Doctor, also intervenes with Danny. “Did you get tired of bombing the universe?” Another reference to Danny’s origin as 2001’s Starchild - final act unseen in 2001's script was the simultaneous destruction of the Earth's orbiting nuclear weapons. His jacket reads Flyers as a hint to his conscious mirror Tony and the "eagle-spirit journey" that opens the film. Halloran is met in Gold Ballroom. Original goals of American conquest: passage to orient and gold. Halloran's outfit is highly contrasted. Staff met in Ballroom are near parodies of colonial battlefield, Halloran is an apparent Uncle Tom (it is his performance mask) and Grady is stodgy butler persona: they are cartoon characters (Scatman Crothers has voiced Disney characters, an audible mirror to the cartoon characters on Danny's door).
Watch Kubrick employ, as in Ullman's office and his singles of Ullman and Jack, two framings of the ballroom, left and right oriented. The ballroom is introduced through lateral tracking, a penetration into left-right mirror worlds. The eye-forms (poster/elevator etc) appear as half-domes above insets on the golden stage far in the back. Ceiling and rear wall gold forms mimic Ullman's office window, light fixtures and shelves. Consistently, we see both sides of the mirror, an interview, illustrated above, indicated by the ladder's toggling between Halloran's shoulders. Danny crosses this mirror from a right framing and joins them on left. The parallax lines the ceiling creates recalls the 'Beyond the Infinite' sequence of 2001. The ceiling also mimics Aztec/Mayan temple interior/exteriors hung with Tudor crown chandeliers: the Sun God is not only worshipped, its glittering spectacle is rendered day and night. The tables are clearly moon-shapes (to achieve their color temperature in a predominantly yellow hued room is difficult), and showcase the moon descendant, unworshipped, support for alcohol and tobacco usage. And to go with his moon table is a repeating pattern of sun logos. On the floor carpet, one of three wall-to-wall patterns in the film, is the Mayan logoglyph k'an composed in Mesoamerican colors of pink, gold and brown: the pouring blood red separated. K'an (which means yellow), is simultaneously a logoglyph and a cosmogram of the sun. "An abstraction of the four directions, this equal-armed cross may be the most widely shared symbol in the ancient Americas. As an implicit cosmogram, the cross was commonly associated with the sun..." [Reading Maya Art, Stone & Zender 2011]. While this is a coded symbol in Mesoamerican cultures, the symbol has been found across globe and time in many prehistoric cultures as early scrawled notation (it also is considered an entopic image; other early entoptic symbols include bar, dot and tri-dot [see Brian Hayden for further details]), k'an is the first communicable representation of the sun in the Americas, here Kubrick links the Gold Ballroom to the Mayan symbol for yellow through its carpeting and serves up a critical flow of ideas. This is a mirror of the sky. Completing cosmologies, the film now has North and Central (Meso) information coding systems: the Navajo (and Apache, Crow, Blackfoot) are societies without written representation, yet their signs and symbols still encoded narratives, and now the Aztec and Maya are illustrated, societies who encoded information into syllabaries of logograms, logoglyphs and ideograms, a leap of written language that bypasses the west and its Indo-European alphabetic systems entirely. Dick Halloran enters and keeps an optically clear ladder (teepee form) on his shoulder with a man standing on it, first indication Halloran may possess unusual gifts.
Tour of kitchen is like their separate learning of the maze later on. It shows Wendy how to use the hotel, she uses its portalling abilities consciously or unconsciously. Jack never enters the kitchen except unconsciously, dragged by Wendy. He also never leaves the Hotel until film's end. Kubrick elevates continuity tricks here into a form of phenomenology. The film is littered with perhaps hundreds of changed orientations of props, directions, entrances. Look closely when watching, Halloran opens a door to the freezer on one side of this hallway and they exit another freezer opposite. Notice the shift in door orientation entrance to exit. Kubrick is proving the hotel is a shifting corporeal engine, at times the doorways have no obvious logic, they are portals. The kitchen itself has illogical openings across the entire hotel. During the film's climax, Kubrick probes other accessways: Wendy will leave the lobby area, enter a red-mask of the hotel (the doorway to the kitchen, not an elevator) behind the Ullman office and will reappear a few seconds later across it in a darkened, cobwebbed version of the lobby. The final, key shift occurs during this lobby-split: the mirror entrance to the maze, which was first shown in daylight 90 degrees away, aimed away from the hotel, at film's end it now faces the hotel (Kubrick shows you a right pan to it). Danny has properly perceived the maze's final opening, by studying both outer mirror and inner, his disoriented father is lured here, to an entrance to the maze only Danny seems to be aware of. Wendy's moments later discovery of the lobby moonlit and cobwebbed is, like the alternate maze entrance, the Hotel's mirror alternate state. This is the 'other side' of the Hotel's 'language,' for lack of a better word. The language Danny understands, Jack does not, and Wendy patently avoids until the ending.
Frozen meat suggests this is another roomful of red, yet frost covers it with white. Containment of death that Jack will die in outside. Monochromatic like the B&W images.
They enter the dry storage room, an impossible space that overlaps the freezer they've just departed. In storage room, zoom reveals Halloran mirrored with Calumet baking powder. It appears both on his left and ours at right angles. Yellows, oranges and greens counterpoint frozen monochrome hell of frozen storage. Music begins cue that shining is occurring and it seems to be the result of the visual mirorring between Halloran and the only modernized Indian 'cartoon,' an unanimated archetype color image of a Native American just behind him. Calumet was the Iroquois's peace/war pipe that became a contract between French and tribe later dismantled by U.S. Government’s evolving policies (despite the contract's acceptance into treaties). Jack will be imprisoned here, a step-away from the frozen mirror he ends inside, mirrored in time, the kitchen's maze is mirrored against the one outside. Danny’s favorite food is french fries and ketchup, yellow and red. Dry goods storage is asymmetrical, the mausoleum-like cold storage for frozen meat is symmetric.
Brilliant sequence. The group's departure leaving Danny and Halloran behind suggests Halloran can still hear them as they depart out of earshot: they never leave his head's 'aura' in dissolve. Both parties are reversed from one another, ending with a dissolve of the group farther away into Halloran's head who begins with "do you know how I knew your name?" as Kubrick has just slyly explained visually how he does. Subtle, distant voices are heard throughout this scene.
Arrow forms are now aimed downwards, the knives on the background's column pointing towards the underworld. Favorite flavor is chocolate. Inadvertant result of America’s conquest is west's discovery of cocoa (Aztec/Cortes). Halloran is revealed as protector, first testing validity of Tony’s advice, then discoursing about the Overlook, discouraging his curiosity. Danny has eaten from a silver cup-chalice that he surrounds with his arms. Both use hands posed in signalling manner of discussion, initial one indicates collective prayer, they mutate per shot, defying continuity. Danny is a seer, like Halloran. Objects and head shine here. Shine in Danny’s chalice and Halloran’s head and their shapes intentionally similar.
The k'an symbol. Paradoxical that the day is celebrated in a room missing sunlight. The day, signified by k'an, is walked upon, the yellow sun's symbol broadcasts up from an underworld. Time, daylight and false sunlight are in constant interplay inside The Overlook. At its separations, INTERVIEW, CLOSING DAY, TUESDAY, 4pm, The Shining itself contracts in time spans, ending in the fraction of a second on a date that acts as the counterpoint to earlier looser framings; at film's beginning we view an infinity of time (the landscape's Interview). Mayan time expands from a centerpoint of creation, as the future expands so does the past. Western time leapfrogs over pivots: creation to birth to death. Non-linear or Continuum vs. Linear: the horror here is becoming trapped into a millisecond, into a flash at the end of the film before the film has begun, a nightmarish western time freeze.
Gold Ballroom: there is a crucial play on words here, the yellow tennis ball will be the only ball we see consistently. Once properly decoded visually, this set is an inverted ballcourt (the ceiling) with a repeating sun image on the floor (the sky now below). This ritual-game was the central practice in Mesoamerican societies, combining warfare, sun worship and sacrifice in an effort to assure the sun's movement and reappearance. The conquest of the Americas included the discovery and industrialization of rubber, witnessed first by Cortes through this spiritual game of human-sun interaction (and then harvested madly through the 18th, 19th and part of the 20th century - see the diaries of Roger Casement). The yellow tennis ball is, in effect, proof of colonization, a supreme compaction of sun-worshipping/ballgame played in Mesoamerican societies until the 1600's. The ball that Jack throws remains a sun-object that has been conquered and absorbed into English game codes and now returns to the hotel as an ingenious prompt. It is a tease the spirits use, the Games Room expanded into every room.
We'll take it anyway we can get it. Remember?
Stare at it for a long, long time.
"The United States is the only developed nation without a visual literacy curriculum in its public education program."
paraphrased from Douglas Rushkoff's Coercion