7.6.14

Exploring The Shining

A glimpse inside the Kubrick Archive
A still from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980)
Model for the Overlook Hotel
Model for the Overlook Hotel
Location of the Overlook Hotel
From the BFI (British Film Institute)
With the recent release of the original extended US version of The Shining, the Stanley Kubrick Archive, held at the University of the Arts London’s Archives and Special Collections Centre, has seen an increased interest in the materials relating to the director’s 1980 classic. As Michael Herr wrote in his short memoir of Kubrick: “Stanley didn’t like to talk about his films; he’d tell you how but never why.” The same is true for the Kubrick Archive, but it undoubtedly contains some tantalising pieces which give us an insight into how the films were made and the lengths to which Kubrick went to make the film he wanted.

The Archive documents the planning for the set construction with extensive research photographs of the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon (the model for the exterior of the Overlook Hotel) and the interiors of the Awahnee Lodge Hotel (the model for many of the Overlook’s interiors) in Yosemite National Park, California. Then there are the hundreds of photographs of the miniature models built by the cinematographer John Alcott to plan the lighting; the technical drawings planning the building of the sets; and the production stills documenting their construction, including the giant façade built on the backlot of Elstree Studios.

The Archive also shows the great attention to detail which Kubrick applied to the advertising of his film. Catriona McAvoy researched in the archive for her MA dissertation. She highlights the correspondence between Kubrick and Saul Bass who designed the poster for the original release of the film. She refers to the letter in which Kubrick explains that all of Bass’s designs are “beautifully done but [none] of them are right”. He requests “A GREAT MANY PENCIL ROUGHS” but then asks, “By the way, what happened to the face version which you showed me in London?”

The closing line of this letter is also truly exciting as it reveals Kubrick’s thematic aims for the film: “ps. I would like to suggest it is a film of terror (a must) and the supernatural (if possible).”

But probably my favourite items from The Shining materials are the copies of Stephen King’s original novel, which are littered with Kubrick’s handwritten annotations, prising out ideas from the story and expanding on narrative and character points. As Nathan Abrams of Bangor University told me, “They not only gave me insight into what Kubrick was intending… [but also suggest] a body of additional texts that he was thinking about while working on the screenplay.” [Read More]

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