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Stanley Kubrick's Effective Use of Mise-en-scene to Highlight the Duality of Good Versus Evil Within the Maze Scene of The Shinning by Josh Feldman

Posted by ywehc on May 28, 2014 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (6)

By Josh Feldman

Many know that I am taking college classes, focusing on a film major.  Since Film is part of my career I decided that I will be posting some of my film papers here.  Here is my analysis paper on The Shinning by Stanley Kubrick.  I hope you enjoy and welcome any comments. 

Stanley Kubrick has the ability to create a world of suspense and tension by combining simple elements of music, cinematography, color and his actors (the mise-en-scene) to create a world where the audience’s imagination plays an integral part of interpreting the meanings within The Shinning. Kubrick effectively accomplishes this in the last major shot sequence of the film, the hedge maze/hotel hallway shot sequence, which is a clear representation of the theme of good versus evil within The Shinning.  This scene is critical to the film because it is the final showdown between good and evil. By creating the shot sequence of Jack chasing Danny and then intermixing it with Wendy racing around the hallway maze of the hotel, it is easy for the viewer to see the duality within the film and the good versus evil that Kubrick is trying to convey. The audience watches with great anticipation to see if evil will take over and eliminate good in the form of killing Danny.

Mise-en-scene is defined as “all the elements that the audience sees in film to create the atmosphere. The word originated in the theater and is french for “put into the scene”. Elements of mise-en-scene are the setting, sound and music; the acting and the cinematography” (Moving Cameras..). Stanley Kubrick was able to create a world within The Shinning to transport the audience to an environment where they feel like they are living and experiencing things with the characters. The Shinning is a look at an ordinary man falling deeper and deeper into madness. The mystery of why Jack is going crazy (the hotel and its ghosts or the isolation in snow) can be debated even after the film is over. It is however, Kubrick’s use of key elements of mise-en-scene that turns this average family and their story into something unforgettable.

The film’s sequence of Jack chasing Danny through the outdoor maze is pivotal in the story thematically and as the final showdown of good versus evil. The maze outside is very similar to the hotel itself which is a series of hallways all looking like mazes and tunnels. It is the Torrance family that is stuck in the hotel and it is the families job to find their way out or forever get lost in the hotel. Jack succumbed to the hotel, its powers and ultimately became part of the hotel. The chase scene in the snow shows how Danny was able to get to the center of the Maze and all of its chaos but he was able to see clearly and find his way out. Jack on the other hand was “lost” before he entered the Hedge Maze. Mentally he was not in the maze, he was in the hotel, he was part of the hotel and he could not see anything clearly.

The maze scene in The Shining is a pivotal scene in the film, its the final climax to the movie. Kubrick moves from one location to another showing the audience that there are parallels between Wendy being chased throughout the hotel by the "ghosts" and Danny being chased by Jack. Rather than showing each chase separately, Kubrick chooses to go back and forth to create the sense of urgency and show how the two scenes are interlinked. It also shows how Jack has “become” a “ghost”. He is the hotel and the hotel is him now. It conveys that the events transpiring in this scene are pivotal to the plot-line and are part of each other and the big picture.

The setting is key in establishing the tone and mood for the film. The time, location, resulting mood and feelings of the characters all have to do with the setting. Kubrick uses his settings to set up the story and uses that setting as part of his plot. The hotel in the middle of nowhere and the weather in The Shining, play their own part to isolate and maybe drive Jack insane. The change in the hotel setting from warm, full and happy to empty, cold and snowed-in also shows a change in Jack. Jack’s mood and appearance changes drastically with the cold weather and he becomes more dark. The hotel itself has human elements as it changes and grows more dark and evil while revealing its secrets.

Kubrick was able to create two very different locations that seem to contrast each other. The hotel is dark, old and full of evil. The hedge maze looks very different when Danny runs into it. It is his escape from the hotel and Jack. It looks almost heavenly glowing clean and white as compared to the hotel which is filled with blood and evil. The cinematography creating the lighting of the hedge maze with the white color being illuminated as Danny runs to it is almost heavenly and glowing with a castle feel. He runs from a dark structure to a light one. This is contrasted with the evil hotel that he had just escaped from. Danny uses the hedge maze as his way out; it saves him. While Jack enters the maze and becomes more and more disoriented because he is in a clean place and not surrounded by the evil of the hotel. The snow and ice, almost have a sterile feeling to them. The longer Jack remains in the maze, the weaker he seems to grow. He can’t speak by the end and finally collapses in the heart of the maze. He dies frozen in the snow. It was the sterile snow that technically killed him.

The use of duality between Wendy and Danny running from Jack and the "ghosts" of the hotel allows the reader to see the parallels between the two. Running from their fears shows the viewer the pivotal points in the scene. You can see the turning points, where Wendy and Danny begin to overcome the "evil." The ghosts are all around her, but her goal of finding her son helps her find her way out of the hotel.

A vital element for bringing to life of the mise-en-scene is the actor. When asked about the actor, Kubrick said “The director's job is to know what emotional statement he wants a character to convey in his scene or his line, and to exercise taste and judgment in helping the actor give his best possible performance. It's rare for a bad performance to result from an actor ignoring everything a director tells him. In fact it's very often just the opposite. After all, the director is the actor's sole audience for the months it takes to shoot a film, and an actor would have to possess supreme self-confidence and supreme contempt for the director to consistently defy his wishes” (Gelmis).

Jack Nicholson is able to transform from the mild mannered family man to the crazed psycho that looks like he is possessed and trying to kill his family. This transformation is done with brilliant acting and with the help of mise-en-scene of music, wardrobe, makeup to visually bring the climax of the film together to create this madman and show his deterioration. Jack’s hair, wardrobe, his voice combined with the facial expressions and then the eyes rolling into the back of his head shows the audience that a drastic change has occurred in him. “Stanley Kubrick, has said of Nicholson that he brings to a role the one un-actable quality - great intelligence” (Rosenbaum). It is that great quality that Nicholson has brought so much to the role of Jack and to create so many dimensions within the film. Throughout the film as we see Jack losing his mind, he keeps the viewer guessing as to exactly why he is losing his mind. Is the hotel possessed or is Jack losing his mind and haulucinating and seeing people who do not exist? It is not until the end of the film in this final scene with the maze that the viewer realizes that there is a problem with the hotel.

We as the audience already know that evil has taken over Jack. His transformation from the family man to the crazed evil killing man has been completed; from his actions, to his mannerisms and his crazy looks and voice. The final question, is if Danny can stop Jack and escape the horrors around him. The sequence within the maze scene allows Kubrick to develop this tension between the characters as we, the viewer, watch Jack end up where he belongs, frozen for all time as part of the hotel.

The Shining was probably one of Kubrick’s best use of long shots. This final scene is done using many long track shots to allow the viewer to follow along on the chase. This is the benefit of long shots rather than cutting abruptly. The maze that Danny is struggling to get out of is a race for his life. The long shot is a great way for the camera to follow him without cutting to a different angle or point of view. We continue on the run with Jack and Danny as they maneuver through the maze. The viewer follows Danny in these low long shots as he maneuvers through the light cold maze. We watch via these long track shots as Danny runs and we run along with him. Then we see how Jack is chasing Danny, but Kubrick allows us to see this as if it is Danny looking back and seeing Jack’s expressions as he’s in pursuit. Allowing us to see the madness on Jack’s face as he continues to pursue Danny, we can see Jack deteriorate within this scene. It’s these shots that keep the viewer glued to the screen because they are allowed to see and feel emotion of the scene.

The music in the film is so very integral to build tension within the film and the maze sequence specifically. While the silence (isolation) was a huge part of the film and driving Jack mad. The silence was broken with music and loud shrieking sounds to show danger was coming, as if it was an alarm. As the scene progressed, the noise and music grew louder, was faster and intensified. This added to the pressure of the scene. As the scene developed, other elements of sound surfaced. The elements of nature (the wind) was brought in with the howling and the demonic chanting was added as Jack was chasing Danny. The chanting, especially was a sign that Jack was possessed or that there was something demonic going on. It was not just a man who went crazy from the isolation and the weather. This was confirmed to the viewer with the chanting.

The use of different musical tracks also conveys a certain mood for the viewer. The use of the cult-like chant tells the viewer that there is an evil presence chasing Wendy and Danny. When something jumps out at the viewer the use of the shrieking music conveys a lot of fear at the reader. When Wendy sees Dick Halloran dead on the floor, the music instantly turns on. Kubrick uses this strategy to give the scene a sense of urgency and edge. The wind blowing in the maze is used to show how cold the weather truly is, which comes into play later when Jack dies due to the cold weather.

Just as loud dramatic music is a sign that something is going to happen, a change of color in the scheme is another sign. Kubrick’s use of the color red over and over again is a stylistic choice. The red elevator doors, the red bathroom when talking with Grady and the red blood flowing in The Shining, all create foreboding and eeriness within the viewer. The hedge maze covered in snow creates an image of a clean, white pure castle. It felt heavenly when Danny ran in there. The white pure snow was contrasted with the red color of blood as Kubrick moved from the red hallways to the white snow covered maze (hallways) as were paralleled in the two locations by Kubrick. The duality of the two mazes were used to illustrate good versus evil. It was the use of color which helped bring this point to the viewer’s attention.

The scenes showing Danny running through the maze are lit more, providing a sense that Danny is being guided by "good." This is contrasted by shots of Jack running through the maze, where it seems more dark and "evil." Darkness seems to follow Jack, showing that he is driven by malicious intentions. Kubrick ingeniously used surroundings to convey the "mood" of the shot. Wendy running through the halls from the "original" caretaker, Grady, shows blood-red walls, which convey evil, and fear. Many subtleties in the shots are used to seed a feeling within the viewer. Whether that be fear, anger, or mystery.

In the article “The Film Director as Superstar”, Kubrick discusses his directing skills in terms of creating Art Cinema. Kubrick has the ability to create the mise-en-scene within the scene by incorporating sight, sound, and his actors. He is able to create ‘the visual experience’ and then backs away to leave the rest up to the audience to fill in the blanks of the story. “I didn't have to try for ambiguity; it was inevitable. Each viewer brings his own emotions and perceptions to bear on the subject matter, a certain degree of ambiguity is valuable, because it allows the audience to "fill in" the visual experience themselves” (Gelmis).

Analyzing the scene in terms of open ambiguity, one could make the argument that Jack knew the hotel inside and out, especially if he was already part of the hotel, and could follow that maze well. However, when he left the hotel and was in the hedge maze, he could not see things and was lost. It only made sense for Danny to find his way out of the maze and for Jack to get stuck in the maze and freeze there. He was frozen in the heart of the maze, perfectly preserved with the smile on his face. He was where he belonged. The image of Jack at the party with the smile on his face, in the center of the hotel with people who possibly belonged to the hotel as well was the same facial expression he had frozen in the maze.

Work Cited:

Gelmis, Joseph. "An Interview with Stanley Kubrick (1969)." The Film Director as Superstar. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and, 1970. N. pag. Web. 10 July 2013. .

"Moving Cameras and Long Takes." N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2013. 

Patterson, David W. "Music, Structure and Metaphor in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"” American Music 22.3 (2004): 444-74. JSTOR. University of Illinois Press, 2004. Web. 10 July 2013.

Rosenbaum, Ron. "ACTING: THE METHOD AND MYSTIQUE OF JACK NICHOLSON." The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 July 1986. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.

Josh joins the cast of CHILDREN Of The DEAD

Posted by ywehc on August 4, 2013 at 2:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm excited to announce that I have been cast as Tib in the Zombie feature film trilogy "CHILDREN Of The DEAD".  The film is written and directed by the very talented Jeff Bassetti and produced by Brian Hillard and PUSH Adventure Productions.  One of the best parts is that I am working with one of my best friends Maxim Knight and Gabriella Holland.

We're in the process of filming the trailer now and then the feature.  I can't wait to post more pics on the set.  Stay tunned.

Go follow CHILDREN of the DEAD

on twitter: @COTDthemovie        

on facebook: Children of the Dead fan page

Spencer Owens 16th Birthday for A Place Called Home

Posted by ywehc on April 17, 2013 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

By: Josh Feldman

On Sunday April 14, I went to my friend's Spencer Owens Red Carpet 16th birthday at Racer's Edge in Burbank.  The party was a fundraiser for A Place Called Home.  All the guests were asked to donate a thumb drive instead of a gift.  

Photo courtesy: The Photographer007

Guests enjoyed great food, Kart Racing and got a chance to win great raffel prizes donated by Kate Mesta, 1SIX5 Designs, Vlado shoes and LC1 Productions. 

Josh Feldman with Maxim Knight getting ready to race!

A Place Called Home is a safe haven in South Central Los Angeles where underserved youth are empowered to take ownership of the quality and direction of their lives through programs in education, arts, and well-being; and are inspired to make a meaningful difference in their community and the world.  A Place Called Home is a dynamic, non-profit youth center located in South Central Los Angeles. APCH provides educational programs, counseling, mentoring, music, dance and art classes. For more information or how to contribute, go to

Happy Birthday Spencer!