Swathed In Patterns

“For it is possible to recognize the dominance in the unconscious mind of a ‘compulsion to repeat’ proceeding from the instinctual impulses and probably inherent in the very nature of the instincts — a compulsion powerful enough to overrule the pleasure principle, lending to certain aspects of the mind their daemonic character, and still very clearly expressed in the impulses of small children; a compulsion, too, which is responsible for a part of the course taken by the analyses of neurotic patients. All these considerations prepare us for the discovery that whatever reminds us of this inner ‘compulsion to repeat’ is perceived as uncanny.” – Freud

“Kubrick swathes his film in repeated numerical patterns. Wendy swings the bat at Jack 42 times. Tony says “Redrum” 42 times. Danny looks up and sees the door of room 237 at exactly :42 minutes into the movie and Wendy finds Jack’s novel at exactly 1:42, her fingers stopping at line 21 in the typewriter.

“Danny and Wendy watch “The Summer of 42” at exactly 1:21 minutes and the scene used by Kubrick is exactly :24 minutes into that movie. Likewise, “Redrum” is written on the door 2 separate times, combining a total of 24 lipstick strokes. The timecode in the last scene (2:21), corresponds to 21 pictures on the wall, the middle of which says 1921, a date which itself adds up to 24. Wendy also reveals 21 (or is it 12?) pages of Jack’s book and the staircase she lures him up is comprised of 42 steps.

“Similarly, Danny says “REDRUM!” 42 times (in Tony’s voice) and Wendy tugs at the pantry latch 24 times. The use of 42, 24, 21 and 12 in a movie already filled with doublings and mirrors seems odd and uncanny and this is exactly the intention Kubrick hoped to create.

“There are many people who document all these weird occurrences, but perhapsthey succumb to what Freud calls the “childish superstitious mentality”, ascribing “mystical meanings”  to the Uncanny in the hope of reasserting order, of resolving the mysteries of the film.

“But as Freud says, it is the “compulsion to repress and repeat” coupled with an “inability to be rational and reject the superstitious” which is horrific, and not Kubrick’s semiotic fabric, which aims instead to symbolically reinforce Freud’s themes…”

Text: Kubrick Corner: The Uncanny.

Image: This Is Uncanny: Number-play in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.: “In The Shining, Stanley Kubrick makes extensive use of number play, employing the same visual mirroring and doubling motif throughout the film. Specifically, there are several repetitions of the numbers 42, 24, 21, and 12. With the aid of some handy visual aids, here’s what we mean… In Room 237, the product of 2, 3 and 7 is 42. The sum of 2, 3 and 7 is 12.”


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