Rigor or Rigor Mortis? The Analysis Paralysis of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining


As Lean Six Sigma Black Belts we like to analyze things. But what if a bunch of Black Belts was let loose on a never-ending analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film, The Shining? One suspects that the result would be the plethora of theories, some tenuous others surprisingly well-supported by fact-based data from the film itself, that one finds on the internet today. Some of these theories are captured in a documentary, Room 237 (http://www.room237movie.com/), named after the infamous hotel room in Kubrick’s version of The Overlook Hotel.

But as good Black Belts we certainly also remember the warning that correlation is not necessarily causation. Many of the analyses and theories about The Shining are examples of this principle in action: one can certainly find patterns in the film but it doesn’t that mean that it proves our particular hypothesis. It is frustratingly difficult to prove a negative such as trying to prove to a moon-landing denier that NASA didn’t fake the moon landings (“You can’t prove that they didn’t fake them”) and, according to one conspiracy theory subplot, none other than Stanley Kubrick himself was the film maker retained by the U.S. government to fake that landing.


Still, a number of film theorists have established remarkably rigorous and interesting interpretations of Kubrick’s films and of films in general. For example, I recommend Robert Agar’s detailed analysis of The Shining (http://www.collativelearning.com/the%20shining.html) that is part of a larger website he runs called Collective Learning (http://www.collativelearning.com/FILMS%20reviews%20BY%20ROB%20AGER.html).

Particularly fascinating is his detailed analysis of the architectural layout of The Overlook Hotel as portrayed in the film and its “spatial” impossibilities” that creates a subliminal effect on viewers that Agar contends (and I would agree) contributes to the general unease one feels when watching The Shining.

But perhaps the most perceptive analysis of The Shining belongs to the writers behind The Simpson’s. Their take on Kubrick’s film, (they called their’s “The Shinning”) is in classic Simpson’s style, both funny yet remarkably close to the heart of the matter: one gets the sense Kubrick fans wrote the episode.

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