Interpretations of The Overlook's Gold Room
This is an examination of another of Kubrick's iconic scenic environments, the Gold Room, which is featured so prominently in his horror classic, The Shining. In particular, this article is a cataloging of 3D models constructed as fan art that are available on the internet - from Lego to Minecraft to more finely grained computer generated models. I will also include the newest version of this set on film, the reconstruction for Dr. Sleep. We will touch on Gold-Room-themed pop-up bars, and finally, take a look at the role the Gold Room plays in the various conspiracy theories floating around out there about what The Shining really means.
If you like this kind of thing, please check out The Bathroom in Room 237 for another exploration in a similar style into the creative expressions that particular scene has inspired.
As is my habit, I will be writing and publishing this as I go. Look for updates in the near future.
On a personal note, the Gold Room has a lot of resonance for me as a recovering alcoholic. The Overlook Hotel is the ultimate enabler; that toxicity is expressed through the Gold Room via bartender Lloyd to Jack in The Shining and by Jack to his adult son in Dr. Sleep. The response of each man to the offer is very different, with Jack embracing the corruption and Danny refusing it. As a guy in recovery, I identify with Danny over Jack (probably a good thing no matter what one's relationship to alcohol), something that improves the second film for me quite a bit.
It can be argued that the scene in which Jack meets Lloyd the bartender for the first time in the empty Gold Room is the most pivotal scene in the movie. Jack's fate is sealed and his turn to the dark side ensured the moment he takes that first drink of bourbon. It is canon in AA that relapses ("going out") tend to escalate rapidly and dramatically, leading to the complete annihilation of any progress in sobriety up to the moment of the first relapse drink. Often, the intensity of the relapse behaviour far exceeds the behaviour that required sobering up in the first place. This sentiment is reflected in the phrase, "One is too many and a thousand aren't enough." What is disheartening about Jack's character in the film is the ease with which that transformation is achieved and how much he delights in it. I suspect that this is one of the aspects of Kubrick's take on the novel that Stephen King despised the most. Recall that King is also an alcoholic, and that his treatment of Jack Torrence in the book is much more tortured and self-reflective. In King's conception (as I remember it, and it's been a while), Jack is a fundamentally salvageable man genuinely trying to overcome his addiction and save his role in his family, but who succumbs to the malignant power of The Overlook because of his weakness. Kubrick's Jack is fundamentally an asshole who is looking for an excuse to throw it all away.
I will have more to say about the following images in the near future, but for now here they are with comments as I write them.
IN THE SHINING
All of the stills below, except one, were lifted from the excellent, if unusual, website, Shining The Shining. This is likely the largest collection of stills from the film available on the internet, and clearly the largest collection of stills in sequence. That's what is so unusual about this website - all the stills are presented in sequential order with no galleries to browse. Instead, they are broken up into chunks as determined by the film's title cards, requiring you to either click ahead or back within each chunk. It's a little frustrating if you are looking for a specific still, but hats off regardless as the result is fairly fine-grained tour of the film from beginning to end. I've never encountered a website quite like it before.
Almost all of the stills are accompanied by commentary, detailing the author's ideas about what Kubrick is trying to accomplish in the film. I have only skimmed through some of these, but my impression is that there is a lot of attention paid to colour and form/shape. Definitely worth a visit.
Jack's first drink with Lloyd
Jack at the ball
The Gold Room's style is definitively Art Deco, particularly in its metallic tile finishes and the striking ceiling details. One of the most recognizable Art Deco stylistic motifs is that of searchlights and lines radiating outwards like cones of light. The architectural details that make up the ceiling of the Gold Room form a similar pattern when viewed from the ends of the room. Kubrick's choices in camera positioning seem to emphasize this, as all long shots of the room are taken from this perspective. The only exceptions to this are close-ups of the actors, some longer views of the bar, and the entrance to the Red Bathroom.
The Gold Room finds full Art Deco expression during Jack's third visit to the ballroom in the film, when the eternal party is in full swing. Kubrick deftly handles costume, hair, set, and music to create the ultimate period piece. When I think Art Deco, it's this scene that I think about first.
For some excellent behind-the-scenes production photos of the Gold Room scene, please see this Facebook post in the Stanley Kubrick Archives.
3D COMPUTER-GENERATED MODELS
Monica Schmit's model has the advantage of the above 360 degree viewer via YouTube. This allows the viewer to look around in directions the camera never used in the film, which is a handy way to get a feel for the size and proportions of the room.
Of the three models covered here that depict the interior of the Gold Room, I like Samantha Baqvel's treatment the most. It has a warmth and a softness that feels very analog. I've been in touch with her recently, and she is looking to see if she can't find some more views from that session. Hopefully soon I will be able to add a couple more shots. One thing she overlooked, though, are the tall, thin, shallow arches inset into to far end wall; it took me a while to realize they are missing.
By 2021 The Shining Sets - A Digital Reconstruction
If you are at all interested in the making of The Shining, I strongly encourage you to visit The Shining Sets - a digital reconstruction. The site's creator has meticulously recreated almost all of the sets from the film, and then placed them inside equally meticulous mock-ups of Elstree Studios where the actual sets were built. All of this work was constructed in SketchUp and rendered using Kerkythea and V-Ray. This is a mind-boggling amount of work, truly heroic, and represents an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to know more about the layout of these environments. Interestingly, there is absolutley no information at all about the creator on the site, not even their name. All I could find was that their user name when interacting with the comments is "deltabuilder," and the "nl" suffix in the url suggests they are from the Netherlands.
Special mention here of the work by Hayo Koekkoek on his ArtStation page. Their model of the Overlook's lobby using the Unreal engine is very impressive indeed. Above all, the lighting looks to me (an ignorant in such matters) top notch - subtle and realistic. I could walk around in there, maybe throw a ball against the wall.
There is probably no simpler litmus test as to whether or not a piece of intellectual property belongs in the halls of popular culture that its treatment by the Lego people. If they have reconstructed said scene or prop or whatever out of Lego, then it's in the zeitgeist - no question. In some cases this means an official kit with specialty pieces produced by the Lego company. I'm thinking of the Maltese Falcon and any number of Pirates of the Caribbean models, for example. In other cases, the fans just make do, creating the model out of pieces from other sets and, I suspect, handcrafting their own specialty pieces. It's a world I'm not very familiar with, but it sure blows my mind when some fanatic recreates a scene so well and lights it so cunningly that it is a passable representation of the reality.
Production photo from BuzzFeed
Production photos from SetDecor
More to come!