Tom Wiscombe welcomes the audience to the inaugural screening of the SCI-Arc Cinema Series, featuring Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), and introduces special guest Jan Harlan, executive producer of Kubrick’s films from Barry Lyndon (1975) to Eyes Wide Shut (1999). He explains that Harlan and Michael Stock will discuss his work with Kubrick before the film, and after the screening Harlan will take questions from the audience.
Harlan begins the pre-screening talk by quoting his brother-in-law Kubrick, “Never introduce the film!” In response to Michael Stock’s questions, Harlan describes assisting Kubrick in the late Sixties and early Seventies with projects that never were filmed (a Napoleon biography, a film about the Holocaust), and acquiring the rights to Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle, filmed decades later.
Harlan describes his musical background—both parents were opera singers—and his suggesting to Kubrick Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” and negotiating with Wendy Carlos for Clockwork Orange and the Shining. He notes that the spaceship docking sequence in 2001 was not originally cut to Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz”, but once Kubrick selected it, the whole sequence had to be recut.
Harlan isn’t sure “obsessive” is the word to characterize Kubrick’s method. “It’s like being in love. Your priorities change. It’s how it has to be if you make a film.” He stresses the stamina and focus required to see films to completion, over many years.
Harlan recalls that Kubrick’s contract with Stephen King stipulated that Kubrick had free hand to edit, add and change anything in the original book. He recalls Kubrick entering the project as an experiment—something radically unlike his other movies, a “horror puppet show.” When someone in the crew objected to an incongruity, Kubrick responded, “It’s a ghost film!”
After the screening of The Shining, Harlan responds to comments from the audience regarding connecting themes between Kubrick’s movies, the commentary that the Shining has been subjected to, the film’s initial failure, the deliberate over-acting. He argues that the reason the script for the Shining never stopped getting revised was that with a serious film, the script is easier to figure out, but when the film doesn’t make any sense, it’s harder to make.