It's easy to love Stanley Kubrick. He made some of the greatest films of all time.
And he didn't do it in a vacuum. There are thousands of pages of notes, endless journals, tons of behind-the-scenes photos, and other items—but they all seemed to be locked away in a vault or just hard to access.
That's why when one is found, it's something to celebrate. And these mounds of documents keep on giving. Recently, the entire 81-page treatment for The Shining was unearthed. Kubrick, famous for his meticulous ways, took his time mapping out every sequence of the movie. Reading it is a masterclass on storytelling, scene breakdowns, and learning how to find the essence of what you're trying to say.
Check it out below and then we'll have some quotes from Kubrick himself about the making of The Shining after.
Credit: Cinephilia & BeyondRead and download The Shining treatment here.
Kubrick's Original Treatment for The Shining Is Astounding
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is one of the most influential horror movies, and movies in general, ever released. It's been heralded, homaged, copied, and posted about endlessly. But now, with access to the things Kubrick used to prep, we have a keen insight into his process of adapting the book into the feature.
The treatment was an astounding read. It felt like each sequence of the movie was carefully written down, with select images and conversation topics elaborated on in simple prose. In a rare interview in early 1980 by Vicente Molina Foix, Kubrick elaborates on his process with this film.
When asked what drew him to the project, Kubrick said:
"Well, the novel was sent to me by John Calley, an executive with Warner Bros., and it is the only thing which was ever sent to me that I found good, or that I liked. Most things I read with the feeling that after about [a certain number] pages I’m going to put it down and think that I’m not going to waste my time. The Shining I found very compulsive reading, and I thought the plot, ideas, and structure were much more imaginative than anything I’ve ever read in the genre. It seemed to me one could make a wonderful movie out of it."
Kubrick's first foray into horror seems to have been met with some skepticism by the general public, but he comes across as a director excited to embrace a new challenge. When pushed over his new tackling of the genre and if it required him learning new laws, Kubrick scoffed.
"About the only law that I think relates to the genre is that you should not try to explain, to find neat explanations for what happens, and that the object of the thing is to produce a sense of the uncanny. Freud in his essay on the uncanny wrote that the sense of the uncanny is the only emotion which is more powerfully expressed in art than in life, which I found very illuminating; it didn’t help writing the screen-play, but I think it’s an interesting insight into the genre. And I read an essay by the great master H.P. Lovecraft where he said that you should never attempt to explain what happens, as long as what happens stimulates people’s imagination, their sense of the uncanny, their sense of anxiety and fear. And as long as it doesn’t, within itself, have any obvious inner contradictions, it is just a matter of, as it were, building on the imagination (imaginary ideas, surprises, etc.), working in this area of feeling. I think also that the ingeniousness of a story like this is something which the audience ultimately enjoys; they obviously wonder as the story goes on what’s going to happen, and there’s a great satisfaction when it’s all over not having been able to have anticipated the major development of the story, and yet at the end not to feel that you have been fooled or swindled."
Obviously, Kubrick's rare press appearances might be explained by some of the more asinine questions he was asked, but it's interesting to see his answers here and juxtapose them with how he saw The Shining in the treatment.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.