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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Genre Criticism Of Stanley Kubricks The Shining - 1808 words
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The true measure of success for any film lies in its ability to establish a relationship with its audience. Perhaps more than in any other genre, the horror film must be aware of this relationship and manage it carefully. After all, the purpose of a horror film is not necessarily to invoke thought, but rather to evoke an emotional reaction from its audience. Horror films of all types have used frightening images, disturbing characters, and thrilling sequences to inspire fear. Within the genre, "tried and true" methods have become staples in evoking this response from the viewer. From serial killers "around the corner" to monsters under the bed, the horror genre has employed these methods to guarantee a scare from its audience.
The result is often a predictable film that only touches the surface of this relationship. Every once in a while, however, a film comes along that explores the possibilities and experiments with the depth of this relationship. Such films are presented in ways to attach themselves inside of the human psyche and remain there long after the film is over. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is one of these films. A true auteur, Kubrick steps into the horror genre and explores the potential of the power of a horror film
Through the use of imagery and sound, Kubrick creates a film that is beautiful, terrifying, and thought provoking. With its use of shot selection, motion, lighting and pace, The Shining defies the conventions of the horror genre to create a unique and captivating film experience. At its core, The Shining is a narrative about a haunted house. Jack, played by Jack Nicholson, is a man who takes on a job as an off-season caretaker at a huge, isolated resort with a haunting past and brings his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, along to spend a winter alone at the Overlook Hotel. As a struggling writer, he sees the job as an opportunity to work on his writing in a peaceful, serene setting.
The supernatural powers of the house and the effects of isolation begin to wield their power over Jack and turn him into a crazed murderous lunatic. His descent into madness ultimately leads him in an attempt to kill his wife and son. The title of the film is derived from Danny's ability to see into the future and communicate with the supernatural. This "shining" serves as a conduit through which the audience is allowed to see the hotel's more disturbing secrets and their effect on its inhabitants. Danny shares this gift with Dick Hallorann, the hotel's head chef. Even after Hallorann leaves the hotel for the winter, the "shining" allows him to foresee the danger for the family.
Ultimately, he journeys back to the hotel to protect the family from their impending doom. The narrative is fairly conventional, but the film is made memorable through Stanley Kubrick's unique direction. The Shining is a visually stunning picture that uses the camera cleverly to create its beautiful shots. The most interesting camera technique employed by Stanley Kubrick is his use of motion. When Jack and his family are taking their initial tour of the hotel, the camera is always moving along with them. This is an effective technique because it expresses the vast and overwhelming size of the hotel.
Jack and Wendy seem to be "led" by the camera through the long hallways and enormous rooms of the hotel. Also, the camera often uses wide shots to track their lateral movement. These extreme wide shots accentuate the contrast between their small figures and the large and open space in the hotel. This automatically introduces the vulnerability of this family to the powers of the Overlook Hotel. Kubrick also expresses this idea of vulnerability through the use of aerial shots. In one sequence, Jack is standing over a model of the hotel's maze while Wendy and Danny are outside walking through the real maze. The camera seamlessly cuts from a shot of the model to an exactly replicated aerial shot of the maze outside.
Wendy and Danny are shown as two incredibly small dots walking through the middle of this gigantic labyrinth. Again, this is a terrific use of the camera to show the vulnerability of this mother and child against the powers of both the hotel and Jack. This is another example of Kubrick's unique direction, as such detailed and expressive camerawork is rare within the horror genre. Another unique aspect of the film is its effectiveness despite its relative lack of blood and gore. The images that make up the film's most terrorizing sequences are relatively carnage-free.
The film's power lies in its psychological manipulation of its audience rather than in gruesome images or sequences. Perhaps its most powerful images are the reoccurrence of Danny's (Jack's son) visions of two nearly identical twin girls. We know from Jack's interview with the hotel director that their father who, like Jack, was a previous off-season caretaker at the hotel murdered these girls. In any other setting, these girls would not be particularly frightening. They are not intimidating or imposing figures, but their presence has an arresting effect on both Danny and the audience. There is certainly an eerie and disturbing quality to their appearances, but the source of this uneasiness is not easy to define. The Shining also does not have a conventional villain or killer, usually a requisite for any horror film.
There is no "Norman Bates" or "Leatherface" in the film. The major force of evil in the film is the hotel itself, with all of the spirits that inhabit it. Even Jack, who ends the film a murderous psycho, is never portrayed as being particularly evil. He is seen as a victim of the overwhelming power of the hotel and the isolation that is driving him insane. One of the most disturbing sequences of the film involves Jack and a beautiful naked woman in one of the hotel's bathtubs.
She gets out of the bath, revealing her beautiful figure to him, and they exchange a passionate kiss. It is not until a few seconds into the kiss that he realizes that this woman is old and decomposing. He immediately pushes her away and she walks slowly after him, laughing hysterically. This sequence is an example of the hotel's power over Jack, exposing Jack as a victim and the hotel as the true villain of the film. The film is also extremely terrifying despite unusual lighting techniques.
Many horror films rely on darkness and shadows to add suspense to their environments. This movie manages to scare its audience without the use of such dark lighting. In fact, the most frightening and suspenseful scenes in the film are shot inside of rooms and hallways that are surprisingly well lit. In one sequence, Jack is talking to one of the hotel's resident spirits in the men's room. The fluorescent lights in the room are an almost blinding white, and the walls are a very bright shade of red. This is certainly an example of the film's resistance to the conventions of the horror genre.
Another effective tool used in this film is its deliberate pace. The film carries a running time of 144 minutes, which is unusually long for a horror film. Everything about this movie moves slowly, from the camera fades to the dialogue. The result of the film's pace is the buildup of suspense. The plotline is basically laid out in the film's opening sequences, but Kubrick is going to reveal it to us at his own pace.
From Jack's interview with the hotel director, the premise is laid out for us. The hotel has evil powers and it will wield them over Jack and his family. The true suspense lies in the deliberate and anxious development of these plotlines. The film's slow pace allows the opportunity to develop and reveal Jack's descent into madness on an in-depth and natural level. In accordance with the deliberate pacing of the film, "The Shining" has its own time keeping device.
There are black frames with white text that separate scenes from one another. Examples of titles on these frames include "The Interview", "Closing Day", "One Month Later", and "8AM". Perhaps most interesting is that in the beginning of the film, the time periods between these are longer (i.e. one month) and they progressively get shorter as the movie goes along. The length of these time periods also coincides with the pace of the film, getting shorter as the pace begins to quicken. These "time cards" are perfect examples of the unconventional nature of Kubrick's direction. The film also uses the faces of its characters to convey the terror of what is going on off screen.
Just about every one of the scarier sequences use open shots in which the character's facial expression is seen before any terrifying images. This adds to the effectiveness of these sequences because it results in the buildup of anticipation. Also, the close-ups of these faces serve as a warning for the audience. We are warned by these shots that what is about to be shown (or not shown in a few examples) is terrifying. I think this is an example of Kubrick exploring the horror genre, pacing the movie slowly, and toying with his audience. The film gets none of its chills and thrills from quick sudden surprises, but rather from the calculated accumulation of anxiety and suspense.
One example of this accumulation comes near the beginning of the film and involves Danny's exploration of the hotel. In one of the most beautifully shot sequences, the camera follows Danny as he rides his tricycle through the hallways of the hotel. The camera "rides" right behind Danny, showing us everything that he sees on his tour. Again, the moving camera is used to establish a unique perspective. We get the feeling that Danny is leading us into another frightening encounter with the hotel's resident spirits. However, as we follow him on this ride, nothing happens.
Every corner he turns serves as an opportunity for a shocking image or a quick scare, but Kubrick never gives us the expected payoff. In fact, Danny completes a full circle and ends up right where he began, safe and sound. This is one of many examples in which the film explores its relationship with the audience and uses its deliberate pace to maximize its potential. Overall, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is both beautiful and terrorizing. In one-way or another, Kubrick manages to defy all of the conventions of the horror genre to deliver a unique and chilling film experience. Through the brilliant use of his camera and the calculated accumulation of suspense, he creates a film that is very aware of its relationship to its audience and revels in its opportunity to explore the potential of that relationship.
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