∆ Special focus has been placed on the missing chair in The Shining in critiques of documentary Room 237. While in the doc, professor Geoffrey Cocks merely offers up the possibility that the disappearing furniture could be Kubrick’s dry parody of b-movie haunted house conventions, his observation is invariably touted as evidence that Kubrick researchers place ‘deep meaning’ into insignificant ‘continuity errors’.
But the disappearing chair is no random error, despite what condescending former PA comment-section-types might believe. The missing chair motif goes deeper than one might realize at first, second, third glance.
Deeper meaning? As usual with Kubrick, no easy answer, but strong evidence of a definite, deliberate intelligence at work…
∆ First, let’s gather the evidence: the chair in question, against the pillar in the background in the ‘Tuesday’ Lounge scene, goes missing for one single shot, pictured above, while Jack says, “What do you want me to do about it?”
∆ But the Lounge chairs disappear again later in the film. As Wendy wakes Jack from a nightmare, the chair-bench combination from the previous shot disappears as the scene cuts to a POV from under the table.
∆ After a shot from a different angle, we return to a second shot missing the bench and chair. Jack speaks of his nightmare, cutting Wendy and Danny “into little pieces.”
∆ After Danny’s entrance into the scene, and Wendy’s accusation of Jack hurting him, the reaction shot of a speechless Jack is also missing the chair and bench, screen right.
∆ As Wendy berates the incredulous Jack, we see a second shot of the missing chair.
∆ And as Wendy leaves with Danny, we see a third shot of Jack with the missing chair.
So three POV’s of the missing Lounge chairs .. One shot of the first one, two shots of the second one, and three shots of the third one — 1,2/2,3/3/3 — a pattern too ordered to be a random continuity error.
In fact, this is just the kind of pattern that SETI look for to distinguish random information from a signal from an alien intelligence.
And, with 4 shots missing the chair against the northern pillar, and 2 shots missing the chair against the southern pillar, we have another instance of The Shining magical number 42.
∆ But what does it mean?
∆ Before the first instance of the missing chair in the Lounge, we see Wendy preparing dinner in the Kitchen. Note there are three settings, but no chair at the head of the table. So a place is set, but there is no expectation of Jack sitting down to a family meal. The accelerating frequency of chairs disappearing in the Lounge track Jack’s accelerating separation from the family.
∆ The next time we see the Kitchen table is when Wendy is dragging Jack by his heels toward the Store Room. Note there are six chairs tucked under the table.
∆ After Wendy locks Jack in the Store Room and kneels down by the Kitchen table, a chair has now gone missing.
We can see from the crossbar at the head of the table, that no chair would comfortably fit there, so Jack’s place-setting during the previous Kitchen scene was without expectation that he would ever sit down to a family dinner. His imprisonment in the Store Room makes it final. We never see Wendy and Jack in the same room again.
∆ Of course, there are other missing chairs to be found …