Kubrick Log ~

# Amazon.com: Stanley Kubrick: Essays on His Films and Legacy (9780786432974): Gary Don Rhodes: Books

# The Wrong Way Wizard: Killing Time: Reflections on Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’

# mbek theDirector’s multiply … – mbek’s Blog

# The Kubrick Corner

# Kubrick FAQ – The Shining

What’s the significance of the maze?


The hotel maze suggests a number of mythological and psychological associations prompted by mazes and labyrinths. In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth of Crete was a dungeon of inter-connecting maze-like tunnels derived from the elaborate floor plan of the Palace at Knossos. In the myth, the architect of the Labyrinth was the Athenian craftsman Daedalus, who designed it for King Minos.

The Labyrinth was so skilfully designed that once a person was incarcerated there it was impossible for them to find their way out again. They would then become prey for the Minotaur (1) – a half-man; half-bull that lived in the Labyrinth. Daedalus revealed the secrets of its construction only to Ariadne, daughter of Minos, but she in turn told her lover, Theseus who used the knowledge to slay the Minotaur and escape.

The Labyrinth and Minotaur in Greek Mythology can be read as symbols of the dark side of humanity, the Minotaur represents the ‘Beast’ in the human psyche that we hide away in the ‘Labyrinth’ of the unconscious mind. As Kubrick said: “One of the things that horror stories can do is show us the archetypes of the unconscious: we can see the dark side without having to confront it directly.” The structure of a maze allows for just such an indirect confrontation of these dark forces.

Michel Foucault (2) articulated this characteristic of the maze in his 1962 essay ‘Such a Cruel Knowledge’ “To enter the gates of the maze,” Foucault said “is to enter a theatre of Dionysian (3) castration, is to undergo a paradoxical initiation not to a lost secret but to all the sufferings of which man has never lost the memory – the oldest cruelties in the world.”

When Jack Torrence is trapped in the maze he ultimately takes on the characteristics the Minotaur thus any specificity attached to his murderous actions is removed of context, and occupies instead in the universal space of myth. Symbolically the maze transcends physical time and space, and the roar of Torrence’s rage echoes down its myriad pathways to connect right back to the origins of rage itself.

Foucault called the Minotaur the very near and yet also the absolutely alien – the emblem of the unity of the human and inhuman. All the imagery of ‘the Shining’ is suggestive of Labyrinths, the long mountainous roads that lead to the Overlook, the corridors of the hotel and finally the maze itself, its as if we are being drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery and yet at its heart what do we find? A demon? Something unknowable and alien to us? No, we find an insane man stalking his child. Kubrick seems to be saying that the evil beings that inhabit our collective memories, Satan, the Minotaur, etc.. are just projections of our evil selves: whilst the devil, if he exists, resides in the ordinary, the banal, the everyday. (4)

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