On Wednesday, March 9th, 2011, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, The Spectacle Theater screened Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining forwards and backwards simultaneously, superimposed. This experiment in projection was inspired by the analysis of The Shining by MSTRMND, and one line in particular:
The Shining is a film meant to be watched both forwards and backwards.
We took the MSTRMND gambit at face value. We put the US DVD version into Final Cut, removed all corporate logos and leaders at the beginning, and cut all credits at the end. The entire film image sequence was then copied, reversed and superimposed over the original forwards version. (For clarity’s sake we screened the forwards/backwards superimposition with the forwards audio only.)
Full video of the experiment is not currently available online due to data constrictions, but by following the instructions above you can make a copy for yourself on your home computer.
The following is a selection of stills from the superimposition:
[Note: once we get to the center of the film, we’ll stop, as the superimposition just repeats itself in reverse order from that point]
∆ The first image and last image: the mirrored mountain lake and final photo caption combine to form a postcard invitation to a party.
∆ An evergreen mountain road trip through Jack’s head in the Land of Giants.
∆ Jack Nicholson’s name, his photographed image and vehicle all intersect for one instant.
∆ Hasn’t even got the job yet and Jack is already getting axed.
∆ The way in = the way out.
∆ ”A little boy that lives in my mouth.” … [ALL WORK]
∆ The Elevator. “There’s no way to make it economically feasible to keep it clear.” … [NO PLAY]
∆ The Bear. Why don’t you want to go to the Hotel? “I just don’t.”
∆ The Elevator. Wendy.
∆ The Twins. Wendy.
∆ The SIlent Scream. Wendy.
∆ The Bear. The Silent Scream.
∆ ”It’s just the sort of thing you do a hundred times with a child.”
∆ Wrong Way Wizard.
∆ Chutes and Ladders.
∆ The Manager’s orders.
∆ The writing’s on the wall.
∆ Danny’s weapons
∆ The Twins face Danny in the mirror. The Exit Door of the Games Room superimposed over the closed REDRUM bathroom door, through which Danny will leave The Hotel. Wendy’s dream lamp cigarette machine illuminates Sun-bearing Monarch Mountain ski beast and husband’s future-past frozen death grid.
∆ The Gold Room. Golden Rey. Pyramids. Behind Door #4.
∆ Though the two Storé Room scenes at opposite sides of the film are close together in the mirrored form, they do not overlap in superimposition. Halloran’s Storé Room is used to temporarily separate the family from Jack.
∆ ”Is the something bad here?”
∆ Danny patrols the Colorado Lounge on his Big Wheel, while his parents confront each other in the same room on the opposite side of the film.
∆ The Elevator of Blood lines up with Danny’s bedroom doors while Jack dreams in the mirror.
∆ The most important meal of the day. Note the REDRUM door is 180º opposite Danny’s bedroom door, making this superimposition a double mirror. Here Wendy enter’s Jack’s mirror, connecting her to the MURDER.
∆ Dressed like the Bear, Danny sees both sides of the mirror and tastes the meal prepared.
∆ ”It’s almost as is I knew what’s around every corner.” Jack’s actions in the Bedroom are linked to his actions in the Lounge. “How do you like it?”
∆ Another double mirror: here we see Jack’s idle typewriter and, from the 180º opposite direction, Wendy’s discovery of the fruits of Jack’s labor. All play and no work = all work and no play.
∆ Lights on upstairs, Wendy projects the Mind Maze.
∆ Walking through the word forest of the English Garden.
∆ America’s pastime. Batter up! Let’s play ball! Jack pitches to Wendy.
∆ The Labyrinth.
∆ And it’s only Tuesday! (According to urban legend, chocolate is added to tainted batches of milk to hide the blood stains.)
∆ In the hallways above the Lounge, Danny looks back towards Room 237, in the same relative position as his bedroom in the superimposition.
∆ The number 237 is seen in Halloran’s rear view mirror. Room 237 acts as kind of psychic call box between Danny and Halloran.
∆ Danny rotates the doorknob of Room 237 like the steering wheel of Halloran’s snowcat, which Danny will ultimately use to escape the Hotel.
∆ The Twins appear over Durkin’s Garage. Durkin and The Twins are telekinetic spirits living in the archetypical pioneer West. Durkin blesses his techno cabin in the mountains with a snow-throwing Indian dance before mind-flipping his magic cube to teleport Halloran into the Snowcat.
∆ Wendy superimposed over Halloran. They are both only half illuminated — they see, but they don’t know. If Halloran ”shines” why does he leave Danny alone in the Hotel? Wendy also is complicit in Jack’s abuse of Danny. Both Wendy and Halloran will be forced to fix their mistakes.
∆ While Wendy is verbally abused by Jack for interrupting his work, Jack is typing away on the opposite side of the film. Wendy’s eyes line up with the site of her ritual wounding of Jack atop the pyramid-like stairs at the Eastern end of the Colorado Lounge.
∆ Time’s up for Jack.
∆ In this superimposition, Danny-as-Tony seems to mouth the words of Wendy calling on the radio Jack disconnects above. Danny uses his “shining” like a radio …
∆ The Twins appear superimposed inside Wendy and Danny’s bedroom door.
∆ Wendy and Danny’s bedroom door are replaced by Grady and the men’s room mirror.
∆ The Twins’ murder superimposed over Jack staring at Grady, the bloody scene forming a clown mask. This is The Twins’ message for Danny. We do not see them again.
∆ Danny covers his face with his hands, but peaks out into his father’s head.
∆ Peeking further, Danny sees through his father’s eyes at his reflection as Grady, murderer, Caretaker.
∆ Grady appears to speak through the television to Danny. The television is playing The Summer of ‘42, the story of an affair between a young boy and an adult woman.
∆ Jack also seems to speak through the television, but his words are directed toward Wendy on the couch. The cuts back and forth between Jack and Grady sync with the conversation between Wendy and Danny.
∆ Danny opens the door inside of his father’s head.
∆ Danny sees his father’s split.
∆ Mirror mirror …
∆ Grady’s sexualized rubbing of Jack in the men’s room is superimposed over the intimate bedroom scene between Jack and Danny, emphasizing the subtext of sexual abuse contained therein.
∆ Grady wipes the advocaat off Jack in the Gold Room. Does Jack see Danny and Grady as servants to him? Note: the bathroom window escape hatch superimposed over the men’s room door.
∆ Grady spills the advocaat onto Jack and over Danny’s face. Note how Danny has illuminated rabbit’s ears over his head, while Jack has an unlit halo.
∆ hump day!
∆ ”Orders from the house. Your money’s no good here.”
∆ The House rolls a ball to Danny in the hallway outside Room 237 as Jack attempts to buy himself a drink. Note: both the ball and the drink are yellow. Toys for boys: Jack and Daniel.
∆ Lloyd’s left eye over Room 237. Note EXIT door to the right, behind liquor bottles. Also note: the ashtray pillars connect Room 237 to The Elevator.
∆ As Danny stands, the Apollo rocket launches through Lloyd’s head.
∆ The illuminated bar forms a runway into Room 237.
∆ The white bar is mirrored in the red Room 237 key. Monoliths …
∆ The red Room 237 key draws Jack across the Gold Room.
∆ While Jack plays in the Gold Room, Wendy works in Boiler Room.
∆ The moment Jack enters the Gold Room, Wendy hears the dreaming Jack scream from a nightmare.
∆ Wendy wakes the dreaming Jack as Halloran makes the hotline call to reach the Hotel on his red telephone. The terrified Jack appears to see the shining light of Halloran’s lamp.
∆ The crossroads: Jack confesses to Wendy of his dream of ax-murdering her and Danny, while in the mirror, between double diamonds, Jack becomes transfixed by the party going on in the Gold Room.
∆ A wounded Danny enters the Colorado Lounge to confront his parents, overlaid by the image of his father flying into a rage in the staff hallway behind the Lobby. Note the red Elevator doors behind Jack’s head and desk.
∆ The wounded Danny walks between the superimposed image of his parents arguing. Note the lake halo above Wendy’s head and Jack’s superimposition over the stairwell where he will eventually be wounded by Wendy.
∆ As Wendy inspects Danny’s wounds, The Elevator of Blood returns.
∆ Danny’s Silent Scream again, now rotated 90º so his mouth is superimposed over his neck wound and his left eye over his mother’s face. Do you see?
∆ Wendy appears to hug Jack’s head as Jack lies to her.
∆ The sideways Silent Scream again as Danny listens to his parents argue in the next room overlaid with Jack reacting to Wendy accusing him of abusing Danny.
∆ The REDRUM exit door overlaid across Jack’s desk as Wendy asks “How could you?”
∆ Frustrated, Jack retreats to the Gold Room for the “Unwinding Hours” while in the future, Wendy desperately looks to him for answers. Note: the doubled heart-like symmetrical knot work in the Gold Room sign coupled with the strange asymmetrical heart-liver-palette form above.
∆ As Jack walks toward the bar in the Gold Room he seems to be leading himself-as-Wendy.
∆ Double mirrors as Jack offers to “Sell his goddamn soul for a glass of beer.”
∆ As Jack removes his hands from his eyes, backwards Wendy closes the bedroom door.
∆ ”A little slow tonight, isn’t it?”
∆ Lloyd the bartender’s first appearance overlaid with Halloran’s first distress call. Note Halloran also has liquor behind him.
∆ Lloyd looks the other way and fixes Jack a drink while he sneaks out of Room 237.
∆ ”White man’s burden, Lloyd, white man’s burden.”
∆ “Seems I’m temporarily light”
∆ ”I like you Lloyd. I always liked you.” On the opposite side, Jack looks at himself in the mirror … does he like what he sees?
∆ A cool drink.
∆ ”How are things going, Mr. Torrance?” … “Things could be better, Lloyd. Things could be a whole lot better.”
"I never laid a hand on him, goddamn it."
∆ ”Maybe I did hurt him once.” … “Could have happened to anybody.”
∆ As Wendy tells Jack Danny’s Room 237 story of being attacked by a ‘crazy woman’, as the image of Room 237 bathroom fades into the Gold Room bar mirror.
∆ The image of Room 237 is replaced by Danny in his bedroom, in a trance, ‘shining.’
∆ ”Which room was it?” …
∆ The image of television broadcast of Channel 10 in Miami is superimposed over the image of Halloran in a trance receiving Danny’s ‘shining’ message.
∆ And here is the center image of the film: Halloran lying in his bed in Florida, about to receive Danny’s ‘shining’ message. Note that he is looking into the television screen just as we, the audience, are looking into a screen at Halloran.
Note also that Halloran is not looking directly into the camera, but off screen to the right.
Compare to the final image we see of Dave Bowman in the ‘beyond infinite’ hotel before he enters the monolith and is transformed into the ‘starchild’ in 2001: A Space Odyssey:
[Further exploration of the themes of space travel in The Shining here.]