Reich and Role
Cracking the Code in ‘Heeere’s Johnny!’
New York Times
WHEN “The Shining” was released in 1980, many viewers, including the critic Pauline Kael, left theaters mystified by what they had just seen. Expecting a standard frightfest based on a Stephen King best seller, they got an unexplained river of blood surging out of hotel elevators, a vision of cobwebbed skeletons and a weird guy in a bear suit doing something untoward with a gentleman in a tuxedo.
Three decades on, scholars and fans are still trying to decipher this puzzle of a film directed by Stanley Kubrick. To them it’s only ostensibly about an alcoholic father, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) going more than stir crazy while his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son, Danny, try to cope in an isolated hotel, the Overlook. Mr. Kubrick was famously averse to offering explanations of his films — “I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself,” he once wrote — which has led to a mind-boggling array of theories about just what he was up to.
Of course, I believe that Jack Nicholson’s character had a perfectly normal reaction to being married to Shelley Duvall. The long and bewildering article mentioned that a number of critics feel that Kubrick’s film was his interpretation of the Holocaust. Really? I personally think that Marisa Berenson (the leading lady of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon) would have made a more plausible Anne Frank than Scatman Crowthers.
A more likely portrait of the Third Reich can be found in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Let’s consider the 1938 film based on a German story. A dark-haired androgynous figure with a shrill voice acquires a mesmerized following. And don’t overlook the individual dwarfs. Each has an obvious corelation to a leader of the Reich. Doc must be Doctor Goebbels, Happy is certainly Herman Goering, Grumpy has to be Himmler, Dopey is Rudolf Hess. Sleepy is likely von Hindenburg; he had been dead since 1934 but not had been notably conscious since 1918. Sneezy is probably Baldur von Schirach, the leader of the Hitler Youth; he likely had a constant cold from wearing lederhosen. As for Bashful, Martin Bormann was always camera-shy and elusive. The wicked queen had to be Ernst Rohm. Prince Charming was–and remains–the Duke of Windsor.
Unfortunately, knowing Walt Disney’s politics, this “Snow White” was meant to be a tribute.