#TheShining is one of Stanley Kubrick's seminal films, and one that still influences movies today. Being a long-time horror movie lover, I get chills every time I think of the film's creepy hidden meanings, disturbing imagery, and soul-scarring apparitions.
But perhaps the most important bit that I and other fans continue to examine is the very last scene.
After Danny and his mother manage to escape from an extremely violent Jack by freezing him in the maze outside the Overlook Hotel, the camera pans to a photograph on the wall. It's dated 1921, and shows a party with various hotel's guests. Right in the middle, Jack Torrence is seen, smiling with open arms, celebrating away.
But how could this be? The movie takes place in 1980, so why is Jack in 1921?
This has been the source of much "What the actual hell?" and endless speculation. What did it mean? Did the hotel absorb Jack into its torrid history? Did Jack have an ancestor who lived in the hotel? Was it a symbol that the hotel had claimed another victim and subsequent spirit in Jack?
Finally we have an answer. During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the film's writer, Diane Johnson, and executive producer, Jan Harlan, gave us an answer.
But before we get to the good stuff, we need some context. Johnson talked about a cut scene that dealt with Jack Nicholson's character finding an old scrapbook:
"The scene that I thought was really necessary was the scrapbook scene. The point of it in [King’s] book and in the script was that the scrapbook was “the poisoned gift” [...] It’s an element in classic fairy tales — like the poisoned apple. Jack seizes the scrapbook to use in his book, and at that moment he’s now under the power of the hotel."
That quote may seem weird to you right now, but worry not, it will make sense in just a minute. After that, Johnson finally revealed what that picture is all about...
A Curious Case Of Reincarnation
Turns out, Jack is actually a reincarnation of a previous hotel guest:
"There is an explanation for the photo, though it’s a bit strange and paradoxical because it’s both real and unreal — the idea that Jack was always at the hotel in some earlier incarnation. Jack had somehow been the creature of the hotel through reincarnation. At the same time, we’re meant to experience it 'in the now.' There’s no way of resolving that, it’s meant to be magical. I do think it would have made more sense [with the scrapbook scene included]."
Throughout the movie, we get a few hints here and there that it isn't the first time Jack Torrence has been in the Overlook Hotel. For example, when he's chatting in the bathroom with the creepy Delbert Gray and the butler tells him:
"You are the caretaker. You've always been the caretaker. I should know, sir. I've always been here."
For such a well-kept mystery, the reveal was not disappointing and made complete sense. That's... really surprising. Even more if we take into account that, according to Jan Harlan, #StanleyKubrick did not care about explaining what was happening in the plot because it was just a horror movie:
"Very often crew members asked him, 'Can you explain that to me?' And he said, 'I never explain anything, I don’t understand it myself. It’s a ghost film!'”
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The Shining has always been one of my favorite #horror films, and after years of wondering what the heck was up with that picture, I'm glad there's finally a concrete explanation for it.
Are you happy with the explanation behind 'The Shining's photograph?