A Minor Tour through some ‘interpretations’ of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’
‘People can misinterpret almost anything so that it coincides with views they already hold. They take from art what they already believe.’
- Stanley Kubrick
‘It’s really all going on in his head – Jack’s head.’
- Martin Scorsese
‘Interpretation’ is a word many use when they mean ‘imagination’. When somebody tells you that the first Friday the 13th is ‘a post-feminist reaction by the misogynist collective mind to the rise of women in the 1970s in the context of latent-homosexual self-loathing’ the qualifier ‘well, that’s my interpretation of it’ won’t be far behind. At least it better not. It’s possible the film in question isn’t a ‘post-feminist’ reaction, but rather the person claiming it is obsessed with feminism and misogyny and latent-homosexuality and therefore sees these things everywhere. Not only that, and I think more importantly, to refer to the movie in terms which are interpretative rather than imaginative allows the person to believe some intellectual process was going on in their heads: that their opinion is the conclusion to some real intellectual effort, not just a load of crap they’ve imagined into existence or the symptom of their underlying preoccupations. This sort of thing happens all the time. We’ve all heard someone say ‘well, that’s my interpretation’. Unless that person is translating a language, and arguing for a specific meaning as compared to another, I think it’s likely the person has just imagined that the movie is ‘about’ whatever they want it to be about. Some critics reveal nothing but their preoccupations. It is on this point that a few warnings about criticism present themselves.