Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Shining - Film

The Shining

I finished reading The Shining on Saturday night and it was a bit late and with a belly-full of wine I didn’t think I’d make it to the end of the film. So, I resolved to do so at the next convenient opportunity.
6 AM, next morning and BOING!, my eyes spring open and sleep eludes me. That’s 6 AM on a Sunday morning, which is a catastrophe in anyone’s book. So, while it’ll be a push to fit the whole thing in before the kids wake up, it’s still dark, I can still have the room and TV to myself, so I tramp downstairs, make a cup of coffee and put the DVD in.

I’ve come to realise that rather than saying that I’m not much of a fan of Kubrick, I should say that I haven’t watched his films properly and didn’t appreciate the complexity of what he was doing. With that in mind, when I went out to buy The Shining on DVD in preparation for when I finished the book, I ended up buying a box-set of his last eight films plus the Jan Harlan documentary.

So, lights off, volume up.

As I’ve said before, comparing books and film adaptations and getting all bent out of shape about the divergences from verbatim is for whiny tits. They are different and for good reason. Kubrick’s film is his vision, not Stephen King’s.
I’ve seen the film before, but this time it hit home. There are times when you wonder whether Jack Nicholson was the right choice for Jack. From early on, you can see the psychosis bubbling under the surface. His cracking up isn’t a big step and I’m sure, even for those who haven’t read the book, it doesn’t come as a surprise.

I made it through the first 45 minutes or so when I heard my son chatting away to himself. Well, I initially just heard some noises and, being a bit on edge from the film, wondered what it was. I paused the film and went to the foot of the stairs to find that he was calling me. So, I went upstairs to find him leaning over the headboard of his bed and peering out the window to announce,
“Daddy, it’s snowing!”
I hardly watch any scheduled television and very rarely see the news or weather reports, so this snowfall came as something of a surprise. There wasn’t much on the ground at that time and it could have gone either way, but after three hours steady snow, we had to cancel the day’s plans (cinema followed by dinner at the mother-in-laws) and were effectively, although much less dramatically than it sounds, snowed in. At this point I had to leave it there and, far from contemplating a bloody conclusion to the day as the mildest of cabin fever seeped in on the heels of the Tinkerbell dvd followed by lashings of Thomas the Tank Engine, we made the best of it.
I eventually finished the film that night. Awesome.
I know many people have a problem with film adaptations for not sticking to the source, but the few I’ve watched so far, ‘Salem’s Lot (2004), The Shining and Carrie last night have been so much better for having just read the books. Far from spoiling them by taking away any of the surprise of the plot turns etc. you can appreciate the film much more as ‘the film.’ There’s no need try to work out motives or who did what (or even who’s going to do what) and, a bit like the inverted detective story format favoured by Columbo and Hitchcock among others, you are free to sit back and revel in the spectacle of it all. Done well, you can see the actors breathing life into the characters, see the director’s take on the vision and, done badly, you at least get a reminder of the Stephen King story and, quite often, a nudge to read the novel or story again.

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