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(This post has plenty of photos of the Shining: Forward and Backward experiment, to give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.)

The Shining's structure makes it a uniquely good candidate for this kind of treatment. The movie begins with a series of very calm scenes, with slightly uncomfortable people trying to convince each other that everything is going to be all right. When you reverse the ending of the movie and lay it over these scenes, you've got shadowy figures with axes and knives, howling in pain and anger as they stagger around, depicting all the frustration that lies just under the surface of the opening scenes. When Wendy talks about how Jack abused Danny, the scenes of Jack chasing Danny through the maze seem to be haunting Wendy as she speaks, like memories that can't be put to rest.

• The reversed scenes work best when the characters in them are restricted to the three family members at the center of the film. When the Torrances are happy, they're haunted by unhappy visions of the future. When they're unhappy, they're haunted by the happy moments of the past. It feels like some grandiose—or maybe just florid—statement about the American nuclear family. And the experiment falls apart when other characters enter the film. Just about every scene with Scatman Crothers doesn't really work in this format, for instance, because he's an outsider from this family unit.

• The one outsider character who really works as a superimposed spirit: The naked woman Jack embraces, at the exact same moment that Jack takes his first drink of liquor in five months. That scene is so literal it's almost too perfect.

• I thought The Shining played over The Shining would be more of a confusing mess, but it was pretty easy to follow. The reason for this was the soundtrack, which always played forward. Turns out, it's relatively easy pick the important signal out of a jumble of images if there is a clear audio message to guide you. I imagine the fact that I've seen The Shining before helped, too, not to mention the fact that humans are hard-wired for narrative pattern recognition: We want to find the story in something, to make sense of it for ourselves.

• The last twenty minutes of the movie are deflated by the experiment, if just because the last scenes of The Shining are so dimly lit that they're subsumed by the movie's bright early scenes. We've already seen these scenes haunted by the future, and there's not really much of a point in seeing the terrible present haunted by a stiff, mannered past.

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• So, was The Shining: Forward and Backward an essential experience? Of course not. But I do feel like I came away with a better understanding of The Shining, and of Kubrick's strong grasp of structure. I'd recommend a viewing to screenwriters, editors, and directors. If nothing else, it's proof of The Shining's quality: You know a film has a strong authorial voice behind it when you completely readjust the context of the movie and the will of its creator is still up there on the screen, plain as day.


Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival returns October 16 through November 8
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