Shugendō and The Shining: Liminal Space and Religious Experience in the Work of Stanley Kubrick

Caterina Fugazzola, Christopher Moreman


This paper examines Stanley Kubrick’s, The Shining, in the light of the Japanese religious tradition of Shugendō. Kubrick’s work has consistently and purposefully explored themes of spiritual transformation, and has consistently forcefully urged viewers to transcend day-to-day modes of thought. The Shining has commonly been viewed as among the greatest horror films ever produced, but this accolade fails to acknowledge the deep spiritual elements embedded within the film. Many aspects of the film readily avail themselves to a spiritual reading, especially in its use of liminal space, enchantment, and the sensations of the uncanny and the numinous. Shugendō, an ascetic path to enlightenment through mountain retreats and communication with spirits, finds particular relationship with this film. Placing the film and religion into dialogue with each other elucidates both Kubrick’s work and the religious tradition itself.

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