Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a paragon in the horror film genre, recognized and influential worldwide. Despite being loathed by Stephen King, who penned the original novel, the adaptation is cherished by audiences globally, including debut director Clarke Wolfe.
With her first directorial endeavor, A Shining Example, the former Collider member pays homage to Kubrick’s masterpiece while introducing fresh themes such as maternity and harmful familial relationships. Through a lens akin to Kubrick’s, Wolfe explores these narratives while ensuring distinct connections to the iconic director’s work, at times even surpassing the acclaimed filmmaker in some aspects.
During the 2023 Fantastic Fest, Perri Nemiroff of Collider engaged Wolfe in a discussion revealing the ties between A Shining Example and the classic by Kubrick. Wolfe shared insights on her attempt to infuse heightened emotional depth into her film through the protagonist, Aiden.
The visual aesthetics of Wolfe’s short film draw significant inspiration from The Shining, particularly Kubrick’s unique approach to unfolding visions in the 1980 film. However, the character exploration sets the two films apart, especially in the depiction of Aiden in contrast to Jack Torrance, portrayed by Jack Nicholson.
Aiden, unlike Jack, who is a writer spiraling into insanity and aggression while grappling with writer’s block at the sinister Overlook Hotel, is depicted as a mother and TV scriptwriter. After pausing her writing career for her child, Aiden gets an opportunity to reengage with the TV series that catapulted her to prominence.
Nonetheless, the stringent project deadline, coupled with a strained relationship with her unreliable husband, played by Andy Cohen, pushes her to the edge.
A Shining Example is set to offer audiences an in-depth exploration of Aiden’s mental state, her feelings towards her family, and her professional life. She commented:
“Yes. It was great. We found a lot of that in post. But in terms of the visions and getting inside Aiden’s head, a lot of that is through visual style. And of course, we replicated a lot, you know, a throwback to Stanley Kubrick’s imagery, which you will see when you see the short, and so on. So we knew that that was going to be a part of it. We were directly nodding at Stanley Kubrick’s film and the way he lets you inside of what’s going on. But then, of course, I think that there are moments that are more emotional, that hopefully you go a little deeper with Aiden versus maybe Jack.”
A Shining Example Serves as an Ode to Both Kubrick and King
With A Shining Example, Wolfe ardently tips her hat to Kubrick while simultaneously unfolding her distinct narrative vision. The reverence extends beyond the screen, with nods to King’s celebrated novel as well, evident in the inclusion of a croquet mallet—Jack’s weapon in the book’s gripping finale, rather than the film’s notorious axe.
Production designer Alora Cholette and V/H/S/99 editor Thom Newell receive substantial acknowledgment from Wolfe for their pivotal roles in synthesizing elements onscreen, thereby saluting both the cinematic and literary renditions of the story.
A Shining Example showcases Wolfe in the role of Aiden, sharing the screen with Cohen, Marnie McKendry, and collaborator in writing, Dylan Guerra. The film was unveiled to the world at Fantastic Fest during its run from September 21 to 28. For a comprehensive discussion with Wolfe, see the interview below: