Everyone who views this movie wants to know what the final photo in “The Shining” represents. Unfortunately it’s a purposeful visual enigma placed there by Stanley Kubrick and it has no simple explanation. When you first view the movie you will leave with the impression that Jack Torrance has been in The Overlook before, but this is one of the most perplexing images in the history of cinema and it must be looked at carefully before what it actually represents is fully understood. I believe the photo depicts Jack Torrance’s future, not his past, and it's been “Shined” onto that spot on the wall at the end of the movie by someone else who also posses this special power. Someone that has the ability to move things by telekinesis (click here). “Shining” is precisely what Stanley Kubrick’s movie is about and someone uses this special power to make that picture appear at the end of the movie. The picture is a paradoxical enigma and there are several things that you must look at and address before you attempt any explanation of it.
1) The most intriguing fact about the final photo is that it simply doesn’t exist until after Jack’s death. Stanley Kubrick has it magically appearing on the wall only in the last shot of the movie. You can have any opinion you like but it must include why the photo is nowhere to be found either on that wall, or any other in The Overlook at any other time in the movie. Could Stanley Kubrick have just forgotten to hang the 1921 picture up? Many viewers have missed this. Every other time we see those 21 pictures in the movie they’re different and the July 4th 1921 picture simply isn’t there. It doesn’t exist until the end of the movie.
2) In the dialogue Delbert Grady says, “I'm sorry to differ with you, sir, but you are the caretaker. You have always been the caretaker, I should know, sir. [I've always been here.] ” If he’s "always been" there why is he not in the final photo? If he is real and not a product of Jack’s imagination, he must also be there with him in the final photo; but the fact is that he isn't there.
3) The ballroom depicted in the final picture is not The Overlook’s. It may say “Overlook Hotel July 4th Ball 1921” but the party depicted in the picture is quite simply somewhere else and this cannot be ignored. It isn’t in any room of The Overlook. We see all the big rooms in the hotel and there's absolutely no indication of another one either in the movie or the novel. There should be no confusion about this fact as even Stanley Kubrick states that it’s not The Overlook in his interview with Michel Ciment. In the photo Stanley Kubrick obviously has Jack standing somewhere else, other than The Overlook.
4) In the final shot we see Jack’s image in a picture that's dated 1921. Many believe Jack Torrance, the caretaker in the movie, is a reincarnation of the person in the photo. This cannot be for 2 very good reasons 1) the definition of the word is very precise; reincarnation - the rebirth of a soul in a [new] body. Jack is still the same person. 2) Stanley Kubrick makes it obvious that it’s not The Overlook. The photo is not proof that Jack has ever been there before because the place depicted isn’t The Overlook.
5) Jack Torrance is the winter caretaker and he would not be working in the summer and the person depicted in the photo is not the caretaker, he’s the manager. We must look at the the novel to understand this because in Chapter 48 (Page 261) we find out that Jack strives to become the manager of The Overlook, but he obviously doesn’t make it. The way in which Stanley Kubrick altered Stephen King’s novel (click here) becomes a tremendous help in understanding the final picture. In the movie we’re seeing a mirror image, an inversion, of what happens in the novel and after his death Jack does become the manager of The Overlook in the final picture. And it's, “for ever, and ever, and ever”.
6) Stanley Kubrick creates an obvious visual paradox for the audience in the picture. The date says it’s a summer party but the only item that can be picked out in it indicates it’s a New Years Eve party; the opposite time of year.
7) And this obvious question must be answered; what happened to all the other caretakers that had to have worked in between and before Jack and Grady? Who and where are they and why didn’t they try to kill their families? Have they been “reincarnated” also?
8) We should think about where Stanley Kubrick got the idea for the July 4th picture? The only black and white photo in Stephen King’s novel ends up being of tremendous importance in understanding Stanley Kubrick’s ending. It’s mentioned in Chapter 33 (page 191) of the novel. It tells us exactly what that enigmatic photo depicts at the end of his movie. Here is an excerpt from Stephen King’s novel; “In that instant, kneeling there, everything came clear to him… In those few seconds [Jack] understood everything. There was a certain black-and-white picture he remembered seeing as a child, in catechism class… a jumble of whites and blacks… Then one of the children in the third row had gasped, "It's Jesus!" …. "I see Him! I see Him!" … Everyone had seen the face of Jesus in the jumble of blacks and whites except Jacky… when everyone else had tumbled their way up from the church basement and out onto the street he had lingered behind… He hated it… It was a big fake… [But] as he turned to go he had seen the face of Jesus from the corner of his eye… He turned back, his heart in his throat. Everything had suddenly clicked into place and he had stared at the picture with fearful wonder, unable to believe he had missed it… Looking at Jack Torrance. What had only been a meaningless sprawl had suddenly been transformed into a stark black-and-white etching of the face of Christ Our Lord. Fearful wonder became terror. He had cussed in front of a picture of Jesus. He would be damned. He would be in hell with the sinners. The face of Christ had been in the picture all along. All along.”
Unless you’ve read Stephen King's novel you may not have realized what Stanley Kubrick has done to it. The picture is an exact and purposeful reversal of the novel. The black and white photo we all see at the end of “The Shining” is the mirror opposite of what only Jack sees in the novel. In one black and white photo we have the ultimate good that is inverted now becoming in the second black and white photo the ultimate evil. It’s the devil! Jack represents the devil! The Manager or Master of Ceremonies in hell.
9) You may not agree with what I’ve written but take one last look at this because Jack is obviously posed in that final shot as
Who do you think “Shined” Jack’s picture onto the wall? My explanation of the last shot in “The Shining” includes all of these facts and can be seen if you click here.
1) The final photo simply doesn’t exist until after Jack’s death. Stanley Kubrick has it magically appearing on the wall only in the last shot of the movie. It’s not there at any other time in the movie.
2) Delbert Grady must also be there with Jack in the final photo; but he isn't there.
3) In the photo Stanley Kubrick obviously has Jack standing somewhere else. It’s not The Overlook.
4) Jack Torrance is not a reincarnation of the person in the photo.
5) The image of Jack Torrance is not the caretaker in the picture, he’s the manager.
6) The picture is not a July 4th party. It’s a New Years Eve party.
^7) Where are all the other caretakers?
8) The black and white photo in Stephen King’s novel must be looked at.
9) Jack is posed in the final picture and it is an obvious clue as to what it represents.