A study of the comparative heights of Jack and Wendy as they appear in scenes together in The Shining. Also an investigation into Jack’s competitive “race” against Wendy for primacy in the Hotel’s power hierarchy.
∆ In their first scene together, Jack and Wendy appear the same height, although Danny has an inch on the both of them. Despite the fact the Jack is driving and his hand is far left, Wendy’s face is first in line as the car moves to the left of the screen.
∆ In their second scene together, Jack and Wendy again appear to be the same height, with Ullman slightly taller and Watson slightly shorter than the two of them. All are dwarfed by the scale of the Colorado Lounge.
∆ Side note: The Colorado Lounge tour provides Bill Watson an opportunity to play another of his telekinetic pranks. As the Wrong Way Wizard observed, in the Interview scene, Watson magically changes his pants. Here, as Bill and Jack cross the bookshelf, it appears as if Bill razzes Jack with a handkerchief. In reality, a worker in a dark jumpsuit is dusting the bookshelf, but he is the same value as the background so isn’t really noticeable ‘til the feathers fly.
∆ Jack silently gives Bill the what’s-up.
∆ As they round a corner and talk turns to elitism and “all the best people,” Jack moves to overtake Wendy in line.
∆ Bill quickly moves in to match Jack in walking one step behind Wendy, who is one step behind Ullman. As Jack is crowned by a bright lightbulb, with little birdies at each ear, he appears aware of the competition underlying the scene, giving a sideways glance to Bill, who has Jack’s photographic death grid on his mind.
∆ Bill Watson disappears as Jack and Wendy approach their bedroom. Jack’s competitive eye is now trained on the departing “girls” and the disappointing news that “none of the other bedrooms are heated during the winter.”
∆ Jack and Wendy move in unison as they tour their quarters at The Overlook Hotel, simultaneously ducking to peer at Danny’s new room.
∆ ”Cozy,” sums Jack, crowned by the eyeball of the bathroom molding as he turns to face Ullman, revealing the Sheela Na Gig figure on the headboard. Cozy indeed, as Jack is surrounded by vulva shapes; the folded bedding, the oval log painting with suggestive horizon, the pitcher, the very suggestive flesh-colored lamp.
∆ Of course, Wendy makes it first to the bathroom.
∆ Jack, under the guise of tub inspection, rushes in to overtake Wendy, making him seem smaller in perspective.
∆ Jack corrects his height disadvantage by moving closer to Ullman to declare the room "Homey."
∆ After touring the Famous Hedge Maze, Jack thumbs his nose as Wendy passes the Maze Map.
∆ As Ullman mentions the indian attacks, Jack attempts to overtake Wendy, crowned by lamppost as he does.
∆ As they round the Snow Cat, Watson follows Wendy and Jack follows Ullman. Jack perhaps trying to edge in on Ullman’s attention.
∆ Jack’s attempt to step up is thwarted as the walking order down the Gold Room hallway is returned to Ullman, Wendy, Jack, Watson. Watson gives Jack the eye for trying to peek at The Gold Room ahead of schedule.
∆ As the tour crosses The Gold Room, Ullman takes a strong lead, the gulf between him and the rest emphasized by the gilded bandstand backdrop. Wendy’s little dance at the prospect of a “party” draws all eyes toward her.
∆ As Ullman reaches the bar, Jack finds himself last in line, behind even just-arriving Hallorann. Jack, halo over his head, kills the party, announcing they “don’t drink.”
∆ Danny arrives and walks past his father to take third place behind his mother.
∆ After Hallorann gives Wendy a tour of the kitchen, Ullman arrives with Jack and Bill in tow, equidistant apart.
∆ After rejoining, Ullman asks Jack and Wendy to follow him to the boiler room, while Danny is left in the care of Hallorann. The frame above illustrates the crude psychosexual power dynamic at play between the Torrence’s and the employees of The Overlook Hotel.
∆ As the party leaves, Jack and Wendy are walking arm-in-arm, but as the scene dissolves into another hallway, the old power order is back in place: Ullman followed by Wendy, then Jack and Watson. Jack has lost the race, and Wendy now rules the roost.
∆ As the story skips ahead one month, in their scenes together, Wendy will consistently seem taller than Jack (at least until Jack visits Room 237.)
∆ Wendy leaning down to serve Jack breakfast emphasizes her height, making it seem as if the room is too small for her to fit in.
∆ Jack looking up at Wendy as she sits.
∆ We don’t even see Jack’s legs in this scene, but check out Wendy’s phallic raised knee. Jack is on the defensive.
∆ Jack speaks of deja vu, samo samo … the scene dissolves into his “work.”
∆ Work that isn’t happening … Jack at play is dwarfed by the vast scale of the Colorado Lounge. He’s smaller than even the table centerpiece. (Btw: what is driftwood doing on a mountaintop?)
∆ A dissolve, a cinematic technique corrects Jack’s shrinkage in providing the however brief illusion that he is is taller than his playing family. He jumps up for effect.
∆ The next dissolve in the film provides the illusion that Jack is large enough to contain his family in his body
∆ The model of The Maze in The Lobby provides Jack an avenue for his fantasy that he is above and in control of his family.
∆ The shift to a God’s-eye point-of-view cements Jack’s fantastic self-regard, but also illustrates the fallacy of his perspective. The Maze here pictured is of an absurdly different scale than the model pictured in the previous shot. Jack is looking at his future death. Note he saw out of the corner of his eye the baseball bat Wendy uses to subdue him just before approaching The Maze model.
∆ The previous two dissolves provided the illusion of Jack larger than his family. In the above dissolve, Wendy appears vastly larger than the Hotel.
∆ While Jack was dwarfed by the scale of the Colorado Lounge, here in The Kitchen, Wendy maintains a level of control despite the exaggerated scale of the place. She looks down at the television, and has to bend down to pour out the (however large) can of fruit cocktail.
∆ In their first scene together since breakfast a few days ago, Wendy enters above Jack’s headline.
∆ Jack leans back so he can look up at Wendy. Jack will remain seated while Wendy will remain standing throughout this scene.
∆ Wendy must bend down to kiss Jack.
∆ Jack leans back to look at Wendy who looms in the left of the screen. (Note the chair in the background will disappear after Wendy leaves.)
∆ Jack humiliates Wendy for having “interrupted” him, but never gets up out of his seat. Like the breakfast scene, Jack is rooted to the spot and below Wendy’s sightline.
∆ A few days later, as Jack is “shining,” he looks up, suggesting he sees something larger than himself.
∆ The next time we see Jack, he is completely swallowed up by the immense scale of the Colorado Lounge.
∆ Now Jack, possessed by nightmare, is being pressed down by an invisible force. His chair is being pulled out from under him.
∆ Jack’s nightmare cries forces a reunion with Wendy. As she runs towards him, she remains above him in the screen view.
∆ Again, Wendy bends down to reach Jack.
∆ Jack falls beneath the desk, Wendy crouching above him. While Jack dreams of murdering his family, the diagonal of photographs extending out of his head leads up a strange stairwell similar to the one where Jack will plot his only successful murder, that of Hallorann.
∆ As Danny enters the scene, Wendy pulls Jack up off the floor. Revenge might be on Danny’s mind as stairs and photographs lead from his head to where Wendy nearly kills Jack.
∆ As Wendy approaches Danny, she remains above Jack diminished on the horizon.
∆ Even as we switch points of view, Wendy remains above Jack.
∆ Note as we see Jack’s stunned reaction of denial, the bench and chair are missing from screen right.
∆ The next time we see Jack and Wendy together, she interrupts his vision of Lloyd the bartender. Note her head remains above Jack’s as she approaches.
∆ Like in other scenes, Wendy stands while Jack remains seated, immobile. Note Jack has progressed from bed to chair to stool, sightly gaining height on Wendy in each scene.
∆ Nag, nag, nag. Wendy asks Jack to check out Room 237.
∆ Returning from the mystical room, Jack and Wendy now appear on equal ground.
∆ Jack puts a comforting arm around Wendy and they look each other in the eye.
∆ But Jack seems to have a slight height advantage as he leads Wendy to the bedroom.
∆ And now the patented Kubrick “crazy stare” makes its appearance.
∆ Now the reversal: Jack stands while Wendy sits, immobilized.
∆ Jack storms out of the room, Wendy reduced to a blip on his shoulder. Jack even breaks the fourth wall, glaring at the audience through the camera.
∆ And that’s it, he’s gone.
∆ Now as Wendy discovers Jack’s “work,” he looms large, his shadowy figure filling screen right.
∆ Jack’s dark figure moves in to menace Wendy.
∆ So begins Jack and Wendy’s confrontation. Until Wendy reaches the stairs, they do not share screen space, instead we intercut back and forth in their war of words. Notice, for the most part, Jack and Wendy maintain roughly equal height with regard to the screen frame. Though the rhythm of the edit is set to Jack’s mounting verbal violence, the couple maintain even ground in their visual presence.
∆ ”So, what do you wanna talk about?” Words are the battlefield Jack choses.
∆ But Wendy holds a physical weapon, her advantage.
∆ As talk turns to Wendy’s motherly concern over Danny’s health, Jack begins to mock her, debasing himself with increasingly ridiculous expressions.
∆ Jack points towards himself and asks Wendy if she’s ever thought about his responsibilities, an ironic gesture because it is Wendy, not Jack, who tends to their main responsibility of “heating different parts of the hotel on a day-to-day basis.”
∆ Jack points towards his mouth, identifying himself with his speech, but his words make less and less sense as this scene goes on. His only logic is terror. He has no judgement or moral ground. Mindless text is his output, just like his pointless novel.
∆ Jack crouches, lowering himself. Violence is not man’s strength, but his vulnerability, as an attack opens one up to suffering a defensive strike, as the case will be here.
∆ The black rectangle of The Monolith observes as Wendy approaches the sacrificial stair.
∆ Jack talks about “moral or ethical principles” as if repeating a concept in different words will mask his own moral or ethical vacuum. Why would his employers put his son’s life over low-level janitorial maintenance? The American flag, backed by a horned Devil observes from the top right of the screen.
∆ As Wendy rises, the stair railing form wings around her and the painted ceiling patterns crown her like the flames of the phoenix.
∆ As Wendy climbs the stairs, she and Jack share screen space just like the top of the scene with Jack’s dark figure filling screen right. We may recall psychologist/cartoonist Bob Thaves' famous quote about Fred Astaire,
Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards…and in high heels.
∆ Now the reversal: We cut to the opposite POV and Wendy’s dark figure fills screen left, looming over Jack. Hopi Indian figures dance on his head. A dead moose watches over a fatal photograph grid. A bearskin rug points the way.
∆ Jack’s head passes through a Monolith rectangle as his body passes through a piano big enough to be buried in.
∆ As Wendy retreats from the frame, Jack flashes the Devil’s horns and delivers his ultimate nonsense non-sequitur, “Wendy, I’m not gonna hurt ya … I’m just gonna bash your brains in.” Wendy has the bat. What kind of bashing is Jack going to do?
∆ From Jack’s POV, his head is above Wendy’s in the frame, despite her position above him on the stair. But Wendy has the lighting advantage. She has the crown.
∆ ”Give me the bat, Wendy.” Jack assumes a bat animal form. The weapon and target become one in a visual homonym.
∆ Jack launches up as he falls. X marks the spot.
∆ Now Wendy has the superior position, in every sense.
∆ Jack is upside down now, completely below Wendy, who is transforming her kitchen into his prison and its utensils into her weapons.
∆ Wendy’s long-nailed hands above Jack’s feet, she removes the rod from the latch.
∆ Gurgling like a baby, Jack is led back into the womb.
∆ Jack is dominated by CUPS, the feminine suit in the TAROT.
∆ Jack is below the TREE TOPS, underneath the mountain. Wendy shuts the door.
∆ A silver Monolith in Wendy’s place. Toppled by the Snap, Crackle and Pop — no more smoking for Jack.
Wendy and Jack do not share screen space again in the film. Throughout his subsequent axe attack, Jack remains separated from Wendy by either a door or editing. Only Jack’s hand and Wendy’s knife meet briefly on screen before the sound of Hallorann’s approaching Snowcat distracts Jack and draws him away to his animal destiny of becoming killer and killed.
∆ Looking up …
∆ Directly up.
∆ But still at the bottom.