Updated: Oct 10, 2021
The bathroom in The Shining's room 237 is one of the most iconic environments in film history. The fame of this room is due as much to the cold and antiseptic Art Deco styling as the slow suspense and visceral horror that takes place there in the film. I've always been a huge fan of The Shining, starting with the novel when I was about 12 and then continuing with the film later on VHS. This scene was certainly one of the more impactful ones in the film for me, due at least in part to its featuring a nude woman turning into a rotting corpse in the arms of Jack Nicholson. I was probably around 15 when I first saw The Shining, and that (admittedly, a little heavy-handed) pairing of sex and death made an impression on my developing brain.
All of which should have absolutely nothing to do with shopping carts, but I'm a strange man and so for me, it does. I have yet to write a definitive article about my preoccupation with shopping carts over the last decade or so, although it's been simmering for a while and will likely reach a rolling boil soon. In the meantime, there is this little stub to check out that announces my creation of a group on Facebook, "a shopping cart saved my life." I'm not alone in thinking that the mundane shopping cart carries a lot of symbolic and cultural weight, and I've thinking a lot lately about how the cart has been incorporated into art and also about how I can employ the cart in my own digital endeavours.
For inspiration, I looked to Banksy (as I often do), and had to look no further than Show Me the Monet, which recently sold at auction for 7.5 million pounds. Shopping carts cunningly inserted into famous media - I can do that. Banksy's example here carries a strong message about consumerism and the despoiling of beauty, but when the message is the shopping cart, that opens the door to pasting it into almost anything. I decided to start with movie stills, and the bathroom in room 237 seemed like a great place to start. I love the film, the static and balanced image of the bathroom is iconic and very well known, and for an extra bonus the peekaboo nature of the shower curtain allows the replacing of the actor (Lia Beldam) with a shopping cart for (I hope) humourous effect.
Here is the finished version, and afterwards we will take a look at some of the other media interpretations that putting this image together revealed:
I'm quite happy with how this one turned out. From a technical perspective it's pretty good, although that aspect is helped a lot by the Curvature Blend/Cartoon filter combination that I put on almost everything. Probably not surprisingly, the trickiest part was finding the right level of translucence and fuzziness in the shower curtain. By all rights the cart should be a bit more indistinct if I am trying to match the spirit of the original still, but it was important to this image that we be able to tell what's behind there. Speaking of the original still, here are a few taken from The Shining's IMDB page:
There are many other versions of this room on the internet, however. There are at least four computer-generated 3D models of varying levels of sophistication, a screen print, and Lego versions (of course). Here are a few of the computer-generated models:
I chose the last of these for Cart 237 because I liked the darker tones and the crispness of the model. There a part of me, though, that wants to try this edit again using a still from the film, and that may happen.
While I was putting this write up together and confirming the links to the various graphics, I discovered that this model is part of a YouTube atmospheric piece by someone going by the name Nemo Dreamscapes. The camera pans across different static views of the model, while muffled ballroom jazz from the 1920s plays in the background for over three hours. It's very effective, although I can't decide if it is spoiled or enhanced by the sound of random water drips laid over top. Definitely worth checking out:
Here's a screen-printed poster you can buy for $55, "by JC Richard. 36"x24" screenprint. Hand numbered. Edition of 300. Printed by Delicious Design." I can't tell if it was airbrushed by hand or by computer, but I think it's safe to say that it was generated like a traditional painting rather than a computer-generated 3D model. What's a little weird about this one is that, if you look in the lower left corner, you will see that the corner of the bidet is square and not round. The only other image I have seen with a squared bidet is the aforementioned model featured in the Nemo Dreamscapes clip. So that's odd.
This Lego interpretation is particularly good:
The following series made me laugh out loud, as in actually laugh out loud. Click on the last photo, the close-up of the corpse in the tub, to be taken to the artist's page on Eurobricks:
Up next, the recreation of room 237 for the 2019 film, Dr. Sleep:
As a scenic painter and artist who has painted hundreds of sets over the years and who particularly loves breakdown/distress/patina, I have many thoughts about the sets that reproduce the Overlook Hotel in Dr. Sleep. I think, though, that I have to re-watch that section of the film a few more times before I am confident in my assessment. I definitely respect the craft, effort and expense. I really love photos like the one above that show a set coming together.
More evidence of room 237 being planted firmly in the zeitgeist comes from the dubiously received film, Ready Player One, in which the Overlook Hotel plays a significant role:
Whatever one's opinion on the film, Ready Player One was nothing if not an exercise is cherry picking the most popular media from the youth of the Boomers. The prominence of The Overlook in the movie, and the further focus on the bathroom in room 237, underlines just how large this scene looms in the nostalgia of a generation.
The more I search, the more examples I find of people inspired to make art based on this iconic scene. It really is a testament to the strength of Kubrick's vision that it has inspired so much creativity.
A recent discovery (as in, a couple minutes ago) is this visual meditation, The Shining Without Anyone, well executed by Hsien Lun Su at Behance. These are just a few of the renderings, and each of them has a version that is minimally animated:
Some other links to check out while I continue my research:
Room 237, the perfume - Blog post by The Silver Fox. Scent by Bruno Fazzolari. Interesting blog article about it that may or may not be fictional; my brief skim suggests that this might be creative non-fiction. I am intrigued enough to return to this later for a deeper look.
Room 237 - The documentary about The Shining and it's various interpretations by the conspiracy minded. This is a well made and thoughtful film, if a little fragmented and unlikely. I think I will be watching it again very soon.
Room 237, the game - A short, indie, fan-fic type of game.
One last thing. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining is based on The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. I don't have time to get into it now, but there's a fair bit of info available about Stephen King's visit there and the inspiration it provided. All of which prompts the question, What Happened to Jim Carrey in Room 237?
It appears that "The Majestic" is actually "The Ahwahnee." A quick tour around their website doesn't reveal any references to room 237. Check out their lobby, though. The influence on the design of the Overlook's interior is pretty obvious: