Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

All That is Golden

Simms had a hard-on for Kubrick. I’m suddenly reminded of this because of an excellent documentary on the making of The Shining, as filmed by Stanley’s daughter Vivian. Go watch this immediately.  This is required.


Simms had these insane theories that Kubrick was obsessed with the Golden ratio.  I’d never heard of the concept, that one plus the square root of five divided by two appears all over the place in art and nature.  1.618 is everywhere, from Greek temples to da Vinci’s paintings to the endoskeletons of shellfish.  Simms argued that 2001 must have been recut before release, using a computer that counted frames and trimmed things according to this mathematical equation.

I remained skeptical of all of this, until he brought me to a midnight showing of The Shining at the student union.  We sat in the front row, and Simms kept whispering at me, “look – look!”, pointing out the framing of shots.  And I’ll be damned, every scene, the hallways of this haunted hotel scrolling by the little kid on a bike, the tracking shots of people running through frozen mazes, everything was blocked and composed with this magic ratio in mind.

This short documentary contains some amazing little things, like a few sneaking glances of a Steadicam in operation, in the making of the film that would become an integral part of the device’s history. And there’s shots in the maze, of the little Danny Lloyd being told to run away from Jack in the snow.  Plus you see all of this behind-the-scenes coverage, of amazing stuff like Kubrick banging away on a portable typewriter at a kitchen table, while Nicholson marks off his lines in a script, using some technique that he claims he learned from Boris Karloff.

But the amazing takeaway of this doc is the glimpse of Nicholson as a working actor, and not the caricature that he has become after decades of every single white male hack comedian on the continent Doing Jack.  You see this charming young man joking with the crew, looking debonair, brushing his teeth before a take.  And then he hops up and down a few times to get the adrenalin going, and BAM, he instantly transforms into the demon-possessed Jack Torrance, wielding an axe and going into the windup to kill his wife.  And then cut, and then he’s Jack N again.  It’s truly amazing to see him switch on and off this role.

Now I’ve gotta go see if the original film is on Netflix or Amazon for streaming…

(Other unrelated trivia: the original hotel Stephen King wrote about is in Estes Park, Colorado.  That’s about 90 minutes away from… Golden, CO.)