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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Shining – Making Disappointing Changes to the Story

Stephen King never really liked Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining.  Though King said it was an inarguably brilliant film, he still described it as “maddening, perverse, and disappointing (King, 214).[i]” And with good reason.  Kubrick’s film took King’s basic story (creepy hotel, isolated family, horror, madness, murder) and made something altogether very different than the story that King wrote.

The differences between their two works are really quite interesting.  Stephen King is an emotional writer –he writes with pathos, he wants his readers to feel with and for his characters.  Stanley Kubrick’s films are emotionally detached – almost clinical.  King wrote about supernatural horrors that began to affect the psychological state of the family.  Kubrick, skeptical about all things supernatural, made The Shining into a psychological horror story (with a few ambiguous elements of supernatural activity). 

Some of the changes Kubrick made to King’s story were done for practical reasons – the topiary creatures that menace the family in King’s novel, for instance, were replaced by an enormous hedge maze in the film.  The limits of the special effects industry in 1980 made the change necessary; there was no good way to make the topiary creatures look frightening and realistic.  But the change that Kubrick made, again, reflects the differences between the two artists.  Monster topiary animals that come to life are a supernatural horror appropriate to King.  The hedge maze that Kubrick substituted is symbol of that twisted mind that is lost and unable to escape from the mental maze of insanity. 
Both are powerful work, different as they are.  Both are frightening – though for different reasons and in different ways.

And here I make a left turn from the thousands and thousands of essays, books, and blogs that have been written about The Shining (in any of its various incarnations – Novel, Movie, Television Miniseries) to wonder if the Gospel writer Mark would have felt something similar to Stephen King’s disappointment had he seen (if he saw) the versions of the gospel story produced by Matthew or Luke.  Would he have been disgusted by the changes made to his artistic work by these later authors?

Just something I thought about as I watched The Shining again. 
You might also want to look into Room 237.

Other Monster Movies in October this year:

[i] King, Stephen Danse Macabre Berkley Publishing Group, New York, NY, 1981. 

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