Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I just read "The Shining" (spoilers ahead), and it's one of those books, which I've discussed before, that I'm glad I read after seeing the film adaptation. I wouldn't have enjoyed Stanley Kubrick's movie version nearly as much had I read the book first.

Stephen King, you may know, was not too pleased with Kubrick's adaptation. For one, he thought Jack Nicholson's interpretation of the character of Jack Torrance left little doubt that he would go insane and try to murder his family. When we meet him, he seems halfway there already.

Indeed, Jack Torrance was a far more complex character in the novel, and the film by necessity dispensed with much of his backstory. Jack Torrance of the film was clearly ill-suited for domestic life, and barely cared to conceal it. The Torrance of the novel, however, was a loving father who wanted to be a good husband. Nonetheless, he was beset by demons that cost him his job, and it was out of desperation that he agreed to become the caretaker for the Overlook Hotel.

In the book, Jack Torrance struggled against insanity, but was overcome by the hotel's malignant power. This was a tragedy in the novel; in the film, it was the subject of black comedy. Torrance was merely a horror film monster that had to be evaded and destroyed. I do give the film credit, however, for providing a more chilling ending than the book. At the end of the novel, the hotel was destroyed, its evil laid to rest. But in the film, it lived to fight another day, and Jack Torrance had become part of its dark history.

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