Doctor Sleep, opening in cinemas this week, has got fans re-examining the hit 1980 movie that precedes it: The Shining.
Author Stephen King famously didn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his most famous novel, going as far as to make his own TV miniseries of the story in 1997.
One of King’s criticisms is that Kubrick’s take on his 1977 novel is that the legendary director made a completely personal film. Kubrick refused to read King’s screenplay, and instead shot his film from a script he’d written with novelist Diane Johnson.
And – according to conspiracy theorists – The Shining is littered with references to Kubrick’s own obsessions.
And most significantly, they say, The Shining is Kubrick’s confession that he helped NASA fake the Moon landings.
Filmmaker Jay Weidner was heavily featured in Room 237, a documentary that examines the various conspiracy theories that surround The Shining.
His theory, which he sets out in an essay called ‘Secrets of The Shining’, or ‘How Faking the Moon Landing Nearly Cost Stanley Kubrick his Marriage and His Life’, which is the most powerful force behind the ‘Kubrick faked Apollo’ belief.
Kubrick was the natural choice because of his 1968 film 2001, which looked more real than the actual Moon landing footage in 1969.
Weidner points out that Jack Nicholson, star of The Shining, is roughly the same age as Kubrick and comes to resemble the director over the course of the film. He smokes the same brand of cigarettes. He develops the same straggly beard and haunted expression seen in photos of the director during this period.
And Kubrick was haunted, Weidner claims, because he faked Apollo 11.
Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, accepts the job of looking after the Overlook Hotel at the beginning of the film.
The manager that gives him the job is vaguely reminiscent of John F Kennedy, the president that inspired the Moon missions. And he’s surrounded by patriotic symbols such as an eagle and a flag.
And the manager’s office is also decorated with symbols of Native Americans – a reminder that the hotel is sited on an ancient burial ground just as modern America was founded on the bones of the likes of the Sioux, the Cherokee, and the Pawnee.
It’s here, too, that Torrance has his first vision of the previous caretaker’s daughters – who in one of Kubrick’s departures from the novel are twins. A symbol, Weidner suggests, of the Gemini missions that preceded the Apollo program.
There are several other obscure symbols in The Shining, Weidner says, that can only be understood in the light of it being Kubrick’s confession: the snowstorm that surrounds the hotel represents the Cold War. It was America’s rivalry with Russia that caused the Space Race.
There are also several bears hiding in The Shining’s sets – more symbols of Russia.
In one memorable scene Torrance’s son, Danny, receives a message from whatever supernatural presence has possessed the hotel. As Danny stands up from playing with toy cars on the hotel’s carpet – with its hexagonal ‘launchpad’ pattern – the viewer can see that he’s wearing a jumper with a space rocket and ‘Apollo 11’ knitted into it.
“The audience watching the film literally sees the launch of Apollo 11, right before their eyes, as Danny rises from the floor,” says Weidner. “It isn’t the real launch of Apollo 11, it is, of course, the symbolic launching of Apollo 11. In other words – it isn’t real.”
Then Danny walks to the hotel’s most haunted room – Room 237.
The room that inspired the original story is Room 217 of the Stanley Hotel. Why change it to 237? Because, according to Weidner, it’s roughly 237,000 miles from the Earth to the Moon.
Meanwhile, Danny’s dad, Jack Torrance, is working away at a secret writing project that he won’t let his wife see. And when she does come finally across it she sees it’s just one sentence, repeated over and over again: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
Or, as Weidner asks, is it really A11 work…Apollo 11 work.
He says that this conflict and guilt over lying to the American police was what made Kubrick take The Shining away from King and shape it into a coded confession: “This also explains why Kubrick had to hide all of this crucial information inside the construct of the King novel,” says Weidner.
“Kubrick wanted the story to get out, but he was also afraid for his life. Kubrick had to fake the making of the Stephen King novel so that he could reveal that he was involved in the faking the moon landings!”
Far fetched, possibly. But it’s also an extraordinary coincidence that the sequel to The Shining comes just as NASA has announced their own sequel to Project Apollo – Project Artemis.
By email@example.com (Michael Moran)