by Dave on October 27, 2009
In this scene from The Shining, Jack is in the bathroom with Delbert Grady, the Overlook’s former caretaker. Jack stands to our right and Mr. Grady to our left. The perspective created by the parallel rows of urinals, sinks, ceiling lights and orange paint focuses our attention on the two men.
Kubrick holds this shot as Mr. Grady denies his identity. Jack presses him with a cocky attitude. Then the perspective suddenly changes.
The tables are turned, both figuratively and in the shot. The men “switch sides” as Mr. Grady drops the charade and tells Jack, “You are the caretaker, sir. You have always been the caretaker.” The focus is sharpened with more urinals and sinks are in the shot. Jack’s cocky attitude is replaced with fear.
Now we’re in Jack’s intimate zone. He gives a nervous laugh and his confusion and anxiety are palpable.
Now we’re only a few feet from Mr. Grady. In these close shots the characters have a very personal conversation. Mr. Grady explains the threat posed by Danny, and suggests the “good talking to” that Jack ought to give Danny and his wife, Wendy. Jack admits that Danny is a “willful” boy and reveals a secret about Wendy.
It’s a gradual crescendo that uses cinematography beautifully to heighten the increasing intimacy of their relationship and conversation, and one of the reasons I love Kubrick’s work so much.