Copyright 2018 by Gary L. Pullman
While realistic storytelling may be a superior way “to dramatize argument and ideas,” Kubrick contends, “fantasy may deal best with themes which lie primarily in the unconscious.” He also believes ghosts may suggest the reality of an afterlife for those who are frightened by ghost stories, arguing that, if the audience did not believe in the possibility of ghosts, as the surviving souls of the dead, they would not find them frightening.
The sets of the interiors of the hotel in which much of the action takes place are based on photographs of a variety of American hotels. The goal in creating the sets, Kubrick says, was to use a “realistic” approach to make “the hotel . . . look authentic rather than like a traditionally spooky movie hotel.” Realism complements the fantastic, he suggests, citing the style of Franz Kafka who uses a “simple and straightforward” style that is “almost journalistic” to tell “stories [that] are fantastic and allegorical.” The same is true of the behavior of the characters; it must seem true to life, especially in fantastic drama (or fiction): “People should behave in the mundane way they normally do.”
Kubrick also remarks on the planning required to produce a good movie, comparing the design aspects of filmmaking to the military planning that great commanders—he uses Napoleon as his example—undertake to ensure battles are executed as well as possible.