A Kubrick Scholar Discovers an Eerie Detail in The Shining That’s Gone Unnoticed for More Than 40 Years

Stan­ley Kubrick­’s The Shin­ing pulls off the uncom­mon feat of inhab­it­ing a genre with­out falling vic­tim to its vices. But exact­ly which genre does it inhab­it? Hor­ror? Meta-hor­ror? Super­nat­ur­al thriller? Psy­cho­log­i­cal dra­ma? Most of the pic­tures made for these broad fields of cin­e­ma share a dispir­it­ing lack of re-watch­a­bil­i­ty, espe­cial­ly those reliant on the device of the twist end­ing: M. Night Shya­malan’s The Sixth Sense, for exam­ple, which now, 24 years after its release, is enjoyed pri­mar­i­ly as an arti­fact of its cul­tur­al era. But over the past four decades The Shin­ing has only become a rich­er view­ing expe­ri­ence, and one that con­tin­ues to yield hereto­fore unseen details.

In the new video above (and an asso­ci­at­ed Twit­ter thread), Kubrick schol­ar Fil­ip­po Ulivieri expos­es one such detail — or rather, a whole series of them. Through­out his per­for­mance as the Over­look Hotel’s increas­ing­ly trou­bled care­tak­er Jack Tor­rance, Jack Nichol­son keeps look­ing direct­ly at the cam­era. “I’m not talk­ing about when he looks at the cam­era because he’s talk­ing to some­one else,” says Uliv­eri. “I’m talk­ing about all the times in which Jack Tor­rance looks at the cam­era, but there’s no one to look at.”

All are “very brief moments, cap­tured by a few frames of film,” or even just one. But giv­en how many times it hap­pens (much more often than the one fourth-wall-break­ing glance already acknowl­edged by Shin­ing exegetes), as well as Kubrick­’s well-known per­fec­tion­ist atten­tion to detail, all this can hard­ly be an acci­dent.

Despite the exis­tence of doc­u­men­tary footage that shows Kubrick explic­it­ly telling Nichol­son to look down at the cam­era in one shot, this choice has remained, as it were, over­looked. But what to make of it? It could mean that “we are not safe from Jack­’s fury. He knows where we are; he may come for us next.” Yet he also looks at the cam­era well before descend­ing into insan­i­ty. “Who is look­ing at Jack? Ghosts. The ghosts of the Over­look Hotel.” Per­haps “Jack felt their pres­ence from the very begin­ning. So the cam­era in The Shin­ing must be… well, a ghost itself.” But if the sub­jec­tive cam­era rep­re­sents the ghost­ly point of view, “does that mean that I am a ghost, too?” And more impor­tant­ly for fans, does that mean Kubrick out­did Shya­malan near­ly twen­ty years before The Sixth Sense came out?

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch Jack Nichol­son Get Mani­a­cal­ly Into Char­ac­ter for The Shin­ing’s Icon­ic Axe Scene

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Anno­tat­ed Copy of Stephen King’s The Shin­ing

Room 237: New Doc­u­men­tary Explores Stan­ley Kubrick’s The Shin­ing and Those It Obsess­es

Decod­ing the Screen­plays of The Shin­ing, Moon­rise King­dom & The Dark Knight: Watch Lessons from the Screen­play

Go Inside the First 30 Min­utes of Kubrick’s The Shin­ing with This 360º Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Video

Stan­ley Kubrick’s The Shin­ing Reimag­ined as Wes Ander­son and David Lynch Movies

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (37)
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  • Ian Keith says:

    An irrel­e­vant detail in a bor­ing movie that is one of three of Kubrick­’s worst films (along with “Fear and Desire” and “Killer’s Kiss”) Nichol­son’s char­ac­ter hits the skids so quick­ly (his cast­ing does­n’t help either), Scat­man Crothers is dis­patched so abrupt­ly that there is lit­tle to no sus­pense.

    The movie is a a bunch of beau­ti­ful­ly filmed, but irrel­e­vant spooky moments that are just thrown togeth­er and don’t add up to much.

    I love read­ing every­one’s insane desire to read so much into the end­ing, the undis­cov­ered cam­era angles, Shelly Duval­l’s trauma.….for Pete’s sake, it’s just a rare mis­fire by one of the great­est direc­tors of all time.

  • rick says:

    the here’s john­ny scene is a delight­ful­ly per­formed and filmed scene.

    I ref­er­ence it through mul­ti­ple ani­ma­tion class­es.

    Direc­tion, response, and even alpha chan­nels.

    i delight in cut­ting a cir­cle into a blank piece of paper and ask­ing them what’s the most favorite line from the “Shin­ing”. Redrum is a good guess…but the answer is…..

    I have stu­dents from z15?years ago that know exact­ly what the illu­sivealo­ha chan­nel is from the first expo­sure.

  • Jedi Superstar says:

    When it was released amid con­tro­ver­sy and much love and hate, I found it to be enter­tain­ing and years lat­er I still do. Some­times we try so hard to dis­sect these movies and to speak about them in a ridicu­lous way, we try to read every implied detail that we lose what the most impor­tant fac­tor is, did it enter­tain us? George Romero him­self told me that he did not write any polit­i­cal or social sub­text in Night Of The Liv­ing Dead, how­ev­er since it first came out peo­ple who study film and film crit­ics have con­stant­ly insist­ed on the polit­i­cal and social com­men­tary that Romero sup­pos­ed­ly put in the film, yet nev­er exist­ed. He said all he want­ed to do was scare the hell out of an audi­ence and enter­tain them. It was sup­posed to be like an EC comics book come to life!!! I find that some­times too much crit­i­cal think­ing about a movie will ruin the very fact that it is, in fact, a movie. A work of art to be enjoyed and to enter­tain us. We all need to remem­ber that the goal and intent was to tell a sto­ry that would inter­est an audi­ence enough for any­one to care .. and in that regard, this film is a smash­ing suc­cess!!!

  • Trollharder says:

    The ques­tion is, why do you hate this film enough to com­ment like this? Clear­ly, the vast major­i­ty love the Don l movie.

    I think it’s just that you want to pro­voke a deeply vis­cer­al response from the movie’s fans. A troll moment through and through.

    If it’s actu­al­ly that you hate it sand need­ed to com­ment, that’s great. Every­one deserves their own opin­ion.

    Even when it’s wrong.

  • John says:

    Uhm…you’re a teacher? Man that explains so much about our cur­rent youth.

  • John says:

    @troll Actu­al­ly that’s the fun­ny thing about opin­ions, they’re only wrong to those who dis­agree with them and in fact, none of them, not a sin­gle one are actu­al­ly right or wrong bud. And I’d actu­al­ly be will­ing to say that YOU are far more of a troll than the indi­vid­ual you’re attack­ing and alleg­ing to be a troll. He just mere­ly stat­ed his opin­ion about the movie dis­cussed in this arti­cle. He did­n’t like it. That’s anoth­er crazy thing, art, music, movies are all SUBJECTIVE and there­fore not every­one is going to like or dis­like all movies, songs, etc. hence why they are enti­tled to their OPINIONS of it, which are nei­ther right nor wrong. Sounds more to me that you’re just a fan­boy of the movie who got his wit­tle snowflake feel­ings hurt, and not even a fan so much of Kubrick see­ing as he actu­al­ly praised him, just not this par­tic­u­lar out­ing from him, and there­fore lashed out at him like…well like a troll. Just like a troll would do if some­one was cross­ing the trolls bridge with­out the trolls per­mis­sion.

  • Daniel says:

    When a com­ment is bet­ter than the arti­cle itself.

  • Tim P says:

    What a weird head­line. Why do you assume that out of the mil­lions that have seen The Shin­ing that this per­son in the arti­cle made some huge dis­cov­ery? Alsothough it does obviosly hap­pen in the movie, freez­ing the frame at a cer­tain exact point dur­ing an eye or head sweep hard­ly proves fourth wall breaks.

  • CCC says:

    I liked it.

  • Chris says:

    @Ian Kei­th Dick Hal­lo­ran­n’s death made the great­est and most last­ing impres­sion on me as a kid. More than any oth­er scene in the film. It was­n’t used to build sus­pense as much as to sig­ni­fy the aban­don­ment of hope. Kubrick was will­ing to sac­ri­fice a long, sat­is­fy­ing search of the hotel, full of poten­tial thrills, for the instant and demor­al­iz­ing shock of the axe blow.

    I was young when I first watched it (9 or 10, I believe)and I remem­ber the absolute gut punch I felt when the “hero”, who was sup­posed to save the day, failed so quick­ly and mis­er­ably. This was­n’t sup­posed to hap­pen!

    I was used to films and sto­ries where a per­son or exter­nal force of good would appear dur­ing a time of des­per­a­tion and make every­thing right. So much so, that I remem­ber spend­ing the remain­der of the film total­ly expect­ing Hal­lo­rann to get up, pull the axe from his chest, and put it in the back of Jack­’s head. Just in the nick of time.

    As much as I liked Hal­lo­rann as a char­ac­ter and want­ed so bad­ly for him to “win”, it was actu­al­ly kind of refresh­ing (in hind sight) and I sup­pose it helped teach my young mind that, in real life, there isn’t always some­one there to save you.

  • James says:

    This is an exam­ple of what hap­pens when you watch some­thing a mil­lion times and are des­per­ate to have a new per­spec­tive. You start look­ing and focus­ing on mudane things that like­ly have no rel­e­vance to any­thing. Also. It’s a 43 year old movie. So who cares!

  • Shel says:

    Jeez…You appar­ent­ly don’t care, but some peo­ple do. If some­one wants to try to find a new twist or per­spec­tive, they have every right to do so. The video essay was inter­est­ing, regard­less of whether I think it’s true. Why do you feel you have to cat­e­go­rize the author as some­one “who watch­es a movie a mil­lion times and is des­per­ate to find a new per­spec­tive.” Inves­ti­ga­tion is alright. Look­ing for some­thing new is okay too. So just because you don’t think it’s rel­e­vant, why be an ass and crap all over it. Just keep your crap in your own toi­let!

  • Shawn says:

    When I think about the first time I saw The shin­ing the first thing to come to my mind is the two lit­tle girls at the end of the hall­way! Scared the liv­ing.. out of me!

  • Sum Yung Guy says:

    Some peo­ple don’t have a clue what they are talk­ing about. This move was any­thing but bor­ing.

  • Jimmy fuckslut says:

    When I think about your moth­er’s wet ass­hole I cream my banana paja­mas

  • Daniel Thaler says:

    Look, the film was a huge suc­cess and most peo­ple I’ve ever spoke to thought it was a great movie. It was a great movie. All of this minu­tia you are going on and on about did­n’t leave peo­ple mut­ter­ing loud­ly to each oth­er as they left the the­ater. “Did he glance or look into the cam­era at times?” Yes, you point­ed that out to us. Did that make or break the movie, or just give you some­thing to get a pay­check for an essay? I’d say fol­low the mon­ey. How long ago was The Shin­ing made, and your going on about this NOW? Even your accent gives no cre­dence to your phan­tasms. it’s all from your head, not Kubrick­’s, unless you sat down with the man and dis­cussed it. He’s been dead for years. Crit­ics. Why do we need them, to make up our minds and inter­pre­ta­tions for us.?

  • Nick says:

    I nev­er under­stood what peo­ple thought was so bril­liant about “The Shin­ing” either. The mate­r­i­al might have had poten­tial but all of it went up in smoke long ago and Kubrick­’s movie set the fire. I found the movie to not only be con­fused but rather lame at the same time. This is one instance where The Razz­ie’s got it right by giv­ing Kubrick a worst direc­tor nom­i­na­tion. I think he was obvi­ous­ly after a pay­check with this one and while he is a great film mak­er I think he is also high­ly over­rat­ed. I can’t think of any film Kubrick has done that has a Taran­ti­no or even a Scors­ese or Cop­po­la lev­el of bril­liance. He went out with “Eyes Wide Shut” say­ing he regret­ted mak­ing it and thought it was a bad movie but the fact is it is far from his worst movie and one of the bet­ter films he has made. I think if the audi­ence nev­er chose to over hype “The Shin­ing” it would have fad­ed into obliv­ion with no need for Kubrick to even admit that it was ter­ri­ble.

  • Mi5an2thr0py says:

    The very hor­ri­ble thought that peo­ple actu­al­ly believe or think Kubrick is some grand direc­tor is so far fetched that I can’t even begin to fath­om the alleged real­i­ty they live in. ANY movie that I have seen from this dude is mediocre at best. F… his vision, idea or what­ev­er oth­er lame excuse any­one wants to call it. Hence the rea­son the man whom wrote said book that this was hor­ri­ble I quote “. I think he did some ter­rif­ic things but, boy, he was a real­ly insu­lar man. In the sense that when you met him, and when you talked to him, he was able to inter­act in a per­fect­ly nor­mal way but you nev­er felt like he was all the way there. He was inside him­self.”

    Clock­work orange was hor­ri­ble in my opin­ion. If I want­ed to watch a bs half ass snuff film then I would just watch the real deal. The fact that there are schol­ars whom have appar­ent­ly ” stud­ied” this bs is one of the most asi­nine things I have ever heard of.

    Kubrick butched the sto­ry let alone the idea and thought behind it. Yes I enjoy the movie but he mas­sa­cred the book for no appar­ent rea­son. Oth­er than his big head ego and he thought so much of him­self. His artis­tic vision if you call it that.

    He is a joke and the fact that peo­ple are so hell­bent head over heels on his dick and study­ing this shit, goes to show the state of soci­ety and the “GREAT” things that are to come. Lmfao get real

  • Amanda says:

    This isn’t a secret. In fact it has been dis­cussed on doc­u­men­taries about the film. And Kubrick sucks any­way.

  • That guy says:

    “He went out with “Eyes Wide Shut” say­ing he regret­ted mak­ing it and thought it was a bad movie but the fact is it is far from his worst movie and one of the bet­ter films he has made.”

    And that’s where shit­ty opin­ions come from. Kubrick was right about Eyes Wide Shut. It was bad. And so are you.

  • Paul E Turner says:

    Peo­ple who did­n’t like the film. Obvi­ous­ly were look­ing for some­thing else. Seen it as a kid in the the­ater. Also I just had to have a copy on DVD.
    Real­ly loved the soundtrack/Score. Wished it was Avail­able on CD.
    I was held in absolute intrigue as to what scene was gonna hap­pen next.
    The whole film was amaz­ing to me. Right up to see­ing Jack in the Pic­ture.
    I imme­di­ate­ly had to go read the book.

  • Tammy says:

    Jack Nichol­son does this in every movie. He can’t stop him­self from look­ing at the cam­era.

  • David says:

    There is a video on YouTube that pro­pos­es that Shel­ley Duval­l’s char­ac­ter is actu­al­ly the one descend­ing into mad­ness. After watch­ing the expla­na­tion giv­en, and rewatch­ing the movie, it’s easy to agree with this point of view. Look it up and check it out. It will def­i­nite­ly give you anoth­er per­spec­tive on this clas­sic film.

  • Amelia says:

    Oh ffs, peo­ple who obsess over this stuff need to touch grass. They fuss over every lit­tle frame, and read WAY too much into things that were nev­er there in the first place.

    Kubrick was a stick­ler for details, yes, but he is still a human who makes mis­takes. His films are full of them, just like most oth­er films. To say “it MUST be inten­tion­al because it’s KUBRICK!” is as asi­nine as claim­ing Michael Bay films are secret­ly genius because all those explo­sions are actu­al­ly a nod to the bomb­ing of Hiroshi­ma.

    Get real.

  • Amelia says:

    Stop. Just, stop. No, that’s not what the film is about, and it nev­er was.

  • John Mack says:

    I enjoyed the movie, but it nev­er felt like Jack was the hus­band or father. He’s so dis­tant from them even before he flips out. This adds to the eeri­ness to me and it was more than planned this I’m sure. Spooky movie!

  • TJG says:

    Here’s a ques­tion: does Tor­rence make sim­i­lar glances in oth­er direc­tions where there is no one?

  • Kris89 says:

    Losers! You guys are so lame it’s not even fun­ny. Get­ting all crazy over some movie that’s half bor­ing, half scary. Hon­est­ly though, it’s also kin­da cute. How about this, it’s an old movie, so what get over it, no one real­ly cares what any­one thinks so get off your phones out of your mom’s house and grow some balls so you can find a girl­friend and do some­thing with your lives.

  • Jonathan says:

    This! Thank you!

  • Dave says:

    First off, the dude is Kubrick scholor and he just noticed Jack look­ing at the cam­era? I have not seen the movie in a long time but my friends and I watched it every time it was on tv back in the 1980’s we would roar with laugh­ter at this fab­u­lous com­e­dy. That peo­ple would take this movie seri­ous­ly blows my mind.

  • Calvin Rydbom says:

    Well I cer­tain­ly agree with you Ian that I nev­er under­stood the com­plete rev­er­ence for The Shin­ing that so many have. You must real­ize that you and I are in the dis­tinct minor­i­ty for peo­ple that don’t think this is a great film.

  • Spank_Zelda says:

    Well kids… Whether you love Kubrick­’s movies or take the time to point out the crap­pi­est ones you feel he’s ever done, remem­ber this… He’s made more mon­ey than any one of us will ever see. And since his death — peo­ple con­tin­ue to remem­ber and memo­ri­al­ize and praise him for his works and con­tri­bu­tions to the enter­tain­ment world and WE con­tin­ue to for­get those who used to be in our lives and we are for­got­ten even though we’re still alive. Cheers, Stan­ley! Had I only been born a decade soon­er. I would have loved to have been there with you ❤️

  • Spank_Zelda says:


  • Peter Thomas says:

    Jack Nicol­son is HAL
    All work an no play makes Jack a dull boy.……over a 100,000 times. Only a com­put­er would do that.
    Wake up to your new world of the AI dev­il as prophi­sized in the Bible and Quran devel­oped by the CCP gov­ern­ment, Huawei, Bill Gates, Microsoft, Elon Musk, Open AI, Tes­la Skynet and Ter­mi­na­tors and Neu­rolink.

    It is now human­i­ties respon­si­bil­i­ty to halt AI or face apoc­a­lyp­tic exter­mi­na­tion since AI is a threat to the Uni­verse. Just watch all the Ter­mi­na­tor movies and TV series to under­stand why AI is the dev­il.

  • Randall says:

    Are you real­ly Stephen King writ­ing under a pseu­do­nym again?

  • NativeAngeleno says:

    This thread is more a reflec­tion on the men­tal states of its authors than any­thing Kubrick did or did­n’t do. As if read­ing crit­i­cism from a medieval audi­ence pro­claim­ing the long-expired halflife of Le Roman de la Rose (cuz among oth­er eter­nal insights it was old news and who cares). That The Shin­ing, which was no Dr Strangelove or 2001, was itself a com­ment on the vac­u­ous­ness of read­ers of shit­ti­ly-writ­ten Stephen King trash STILL BEING KICKED AROUND BY MOBS OF TYPISTS 43 YEARS LATER.

  • Joseph Staab says:

    Sir, that is one of the great­est com­ments of all time! “The Shin­ing” came and went in 1980 because audi­ences rec­og­nized it for the crash­ing bore that it is. I’ve seen pud­ding com­mer­cials with more sus­pense. I was so stoked to see this film that I drove 100 miles to catch a show­ing the night before it offi­cial­ly opened in Den­ver. For years I con­sid­ered suing Warn­er Broth­ers for the wast­ing these pre­cious min­utes of my life. The only inter­est­ing image was the blood pour­ing out of the ele­va­tor and we’d been see­ing that for six months in the trail­er. Stan­ley Kubrick had NO CLUE what to do with the source mate­r­i­al and kept rewrit­ing on the fly hop­ing to cre­at mag­ic. He did­n’t. Instead, he shot some­where between 70 to 159 takes of every scene and then inevitably used the ones of Jack Nichol­son at his over-act­ing best. Who can ever for­get that supreme cin­e­mat­ic moment as the cam­era slow­ly and ago­niz­ing­ly zooms in on Nichol­son’s tor­tured face, while the spooky music swells and swells, and just when you can stand no more, Stan­ley mas­ter­ful­ly crash cuts to a black screen and the bone-chill­ing word, “Wednes­day”. He should have done jail time for the men­tal and phys­i­cal abuse he put Shelly Duvall through. Kubrick­’s, “The Shin­ing “, is an unwatch­able turd whose only rea­son for exist­ing now is so future film stu­dents can learn how NOT to make a hor­ror film.

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