The All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy scene also known as The typewriter scene is a shocking and pivotal moment of the movie The Shinning by Stanley Kubrick that ignite Jack Torrance’s madness crisis and infamous axe sequence.
Released in 1980 and based on a book by Stephen King, The Shining is probably Stanley Kubrick’s movie that impact me the most especially the All work and no play scene which is an inspiration for some of my pop-culture oriented conceptual designs.
It’s a short sequence that mark anyone who watch it and during which a total of 45 seconds shows Jack Torrance’s novel on screen.
In this article we will get deeper into the secrets of that cult sequence by analyzing what we can catch of the manuscript during the movie and what it tells us.
Fact: this is not part of Stephen King’s book The Shinning.
It has been completely conceived and added by Kubrick’s creative mind. This is important for the following.
Thank you for reading.
Stanley Kubrick does not leave anything to chance. Ever.
Some declare Stanley Kubrick was an obsessive genius, others call him a maniac because of his very demanding behaviour around his cast and crew. Everything has been said about the peculiar personality of this director considered by many like one of the most influential filmmakers in history. Often they point out how picky he was about each picture of each scene of any of his movies.
To me Kubrick is first of all an amazing Director Of Photography with great designer instincts. When I watch his films and try to crack them, I keep in mind that every sign is a clue and every clue is a key.
His photographic direction is always neat, clean, well-composed and very balanced. Nothing never seems to be left to chance.
Focussing on what we catch on screen.
1:45:11 — In this cult scene, Jack Torrance’s wife Wendy discovers her husband’s manuscript and hold it for the first time. The tension is thick and camera is slow.
Instead of a novel he should have been working on, the stack of paper only contains one sentence written over and over again in all forms and shapes, the infamous All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy line.
Typing infinitely the same line on a typewriter creates typos and misspells, a perfect match to my series Altered echo a series that states every translation in an alteration and that focuses on how there is always a chaotic ingredient in any recipe that is supposed to stay identical within its iterations.
I needed to analyze this scene deeper searching for any clue.
Not in its whole but just the few seconds during which we actually see the novel on screen: from 1:42:16 to 1:43:48.
So I edited the All work and no play scene in order to keep only the frames including the manuscript and got 45 seconds of it.
Here’s my edited video:
Also I count 18 different sheets displayed on screen.
They all have unique layouts which adds an even darker dimension to Jack Torrance’s madness as he dedicated his writing time to design weird abstract calligrams layouts.
Focussing on the signifier instead of the signified.
I don’t think any lines of any of those 18 sheets of paper were typed randomly by a trainee or left to chance.
As usual for pictures directed by Stanley Kubrick every layout has been conceived, designed, reviewed and validated by him before being left on the final version.
Therefore they might hide a key that can help solving this movie’s secret.
So I made screenshots, merges, and photoshops distortions of this sequence frame by frame.
I rewrote letter by letter all of these 18 pages with a free typewriter font.
Every typo has been respected, every misspells, every line-height shrinking and every white space we see on screen in order to be as close to reality as possible.
Adult boy. All work and no play makes Jack adult boy, can not be a random error.
When we analyze each page and compare it the others the same misspells can be spotted over and over again:
- “dullboy” with no space, 30 times
- “Allwork” with no space, 13 times
- “Aol work” instead of All work, 5 times
- “poay” instead of “play”, 4 times etc.
These are all logical typos as the O is right under the L on QWERTY keyboards. But on the 17th sheet (out of 18) a meaningful misspell appears for the first time.
A mistake that transforms the meaning of the sentence for the first time:
All work and no play makes Jack adult boy.
The letter T is more than five keys left and one above from the L.
It looks like this was written on purpose.
This new meaning follows the theory that Jack Torrance is already dead as the last picture of the movie might point out.
Maybe he exists throughout his son’s body as an adult boy.
Jack Torrance’s manuscript can be considered an eighteen page novel.
The novel is the main purpose of the movie’s plot. It is the reason why the family moves to the Overlook Hotel in the first place.
These 18 pages shown on screen are all we know exists from that novel.
I like to think of them as the novel itself. As if those 18 pages were indeed a weird but finished novel written by an author called Jack Torrance.
I designed this other conceptual design down below using the same creative data to show how this book would look like if it was to be published as it is.