The deceptive maze themes of The Shining are reinforced through the use off mirrors. This is most prominent in scenes that take place in:

  • The Torrance apartment in the Overlook
  • Room 237
  • The Gold Room (including its red lavatory)
  • The mustard coloured halls leading to the Gold Room (mirrors on the wall left screen)
  • The bathroom at the start of the film (where Danny has his first psychic vision).

As mentioned in the previous chapter, a small door shaped mirror prop was also featured outside the freezer room, possibly informing us that the shifting room was deliberately mirrored in the set design.

This cross symbolism between mirrors and doors also occurs:

  • When Danny approaches room 237. Peaking into the open doorway we see two mirrors, which are also doors themselves, leading to the living room. Their slightly ajar positions are very similar to the actual doors in the forground.

  • Inside room 237 Jack’s viewpoint briefly pans left in the bedroom, where we see a door shaped mirror prop embedded in an alcove of identical dimensions. Then the shot pans to the bathroom door, again suggesting a connection between doors and mirrors.

  • In the shot of Jack having breakfast in bed, the mirror that we see him in overlaps the doorway to Danny’s bedroom.

  • As Wendy rushes to the small window in the bathroom to escape her axe-wielding husband, the camera passes across the cabinet mirror, which is conveniently positioned to reflect the door.

  • There is also a round mirror prop directly inside the Torrance apartment entrance that reflects the doors surface. Even when the door is open, a distant doorway in the hall remains reflected in this mirror.

  • And the most obvious example, Wendy’s viewing of the scribbled word “murder” is shown on a bathroom door, which we see in a mirror.

The Shining isn’t the first Kubrick film to feature a symbolic connection between doors and mirrors. In 2001, the monolith was frequently symbolized as a doorway between dimensions. Having travelled through the stargate, the astronaut Dave Bowman found himself looking into a bathroom mirror and when the shot was cut to a close up, the pipe and reflections of his helmet revealed that the camera had flipped over to the other side of the mirror. He was existing in two parallel dimensions at once (read the  2001: A Space Odyssey analysis for more).

In The Shining, mirrors are also conceptually hinted at by other kinds of reflective or "shiny" surfaces. The film’s opening shot instantly introduces the mirror theme by showing us mountain ranges reflected in surrounding lakes.

Polished floors and walls are also frequent, especially in the Colorado Lounge and room 237 hallways. When they’re more dimly lit this hall of mirrors effect is even more prominent.

But the most unconsciously powerful form of mirroring in the film is Kubrick’s use of visual symmetry. Some of the sets are designed so that when the camera is placed in a particular position the screen on which we are viewing the film is conceptually mirrored down the centre. Some examples of this include:

  • Jack writing at his desk, viewed from directly behind (see above).
  • The room 237 Hallway, which appears almost identical from either direction.

  • The twin girls stood at the end of a blue hallway.

  • Halloran’s viewpoint in his bedroom.
  • The red lavatory, which even features mirror props on one side.

  • Jack staring down the lobby (while hearing the distant ballroom music).

  • The wide shots of Jack’s interview.
  • The interior of the freezer room.
  • The low angle of Jack pleading with Wendy through the store room door.
  • The river of blood.

The most obvious use of mirror symbology occurs when shots zoom in or out of actual mirror props. This occurs when Danny speaks to his imaginary friend Tony in a bathroom mirror and when Wendy sees the word “murder” written backwards on the bathroom door.

The scene in which Jack is brought breakfast is one of the most interesting in this respect. We begin with a close up of Jack’s face, which zooms out to reveal that we are looking at his reflection in a mirror before zooming back in until the mirror surface fills up the whole screen again. Then we see a jarring visual cut. Jack’s image flips so that we are seeing him in his natural orientation, instead of viewing his reflection.

The assorted mirror concepts in The Shining aren’t just about disorientating us. They are essential to unravelling the hidden narratives of the film, through the concept of duality. This duality takes many forms – character duality, location duality, scene repetition, and of course, parallels between the film’s content and the audience’s reality – a standard Kubrick device. On that basis, conceptual mirroring will resurface repeatedly throughout the rest of this article.