Symbols and Signs in Stanley Kubrick’s Film "The Shining"
In the course of work that intended to reveal the means of filmmaking, which help to communicate the meaning of Stanley Kubrick’s film the Shining, the following conclusions had been drawn:
The process of image perception is both physical and mental and the ability to comprehend a film depends on learning, which allows regarding cinema as a language that can be compared but not equalized to a verbal language. The same as a verbal language a film language communicates the meaning in two ways: denotatively and connotatively; and it also loans such terms and their meanings from a verbal language as- the signifier and the signified, and the metonymy and the synecdoche. Unlike the verbal language the film language has its cinematic signs: the icon, the index and the symbol.
To apply the main theme of the Shining Stanley Kubrick has chosen to refer to history, utilizing cultural connotations in the film. The first cultural connotation is filmmaker’s reference to Greek mythology and first known maze in the history of the world. The parallels between the Greek myth about Minotaur and the actions and the characters of the Shining have been drawn, comparing Minotaur to Jack, Danny to Theseus and Wendy to Ariadne and considering the Overlook hotel with the hedge maze as the symbol of the Labyrinth of Crete.
The second cultural and historical connotation is Stanley Kubrick’s reference to the Native Americans and African Americans who were the most persecuted ethnicities in the history of the United States of America. The Indians and Afro-Americans are the prototypes of Wendy and Danny, who are regarded by Jack as inferior and weaker people who should be destroyed.
The third cultural connotation is revealed through the sounds produced by the TV set in the film. Without filming the screen of TV but using only the sound of a famous cartoon Stanley Kubrick makes a viewer recognize ‘the Roadrunner’ and that way creating the associations with the chase, which is relevant to the content of the film.
Another symbol of the film is the mirror, which, first of all, symbolizes hidden truths that in the Shining reveal beastly nature of Jack and his intentions to murder his wife and son and secondly, the mirror symbolizes the energetic denial of death and the immortality of the soul, which in the film is shown as reincarnation of Jack.
Stanley Kubrick’s choice to film frequently Wendy and Danny from the back suggests his intention to imply the idea of being chased. The use of shadows in the film suggests the danger. By filming the stairs from different sides- the left and the right- Stanley Kubrick implies the direction of movement before anyone ascends or descends the stairs.