500 Days Of Film Reviews Room 237 And Finds The Many Weird And (Sometimes) Wonderful Interpretations Of Kubrick’s The Shining
Room 237 is a documentary examining some of the theories and hidden messages that may or may not exist in Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining.
The film questions whether Kubrick’s film is a mystery that needs to be solved or if people are just seeing what they want to see.
Is It Any Good?
First some context.
The Shining was the subject of my dissertation for my film course (which formed part of my BA English degree). My dissertation was called “Monsters, Mirrors and Mazes In Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining”. Catchy huh?!
Part of my research involved going through this film frame by frame. It took forever but it was necessary for me to find the evidence I needed for my thesis. The point is that I watched The Shining back then and saw what I needed to see.
To my mind, this is exactly what the contributors to Rodney Ascher's documentary have done - but (I hasten to add) at a much greater and far more obsessive level.
Room 237 is an interesting watch. We don’t see the contributors, we only hear their voices and see clips from The Shining and other Kubrick films. These clips recreate the experiences they have had while watching The Shining and also illustrate their various theories.
The theories themselves are not so interesting. None of them prompted a OMG moment from me. To be honest, I was mostly experiencing a series of “what the what?” moments.
One contributor believes that The Shining is actually about the genocide of American Indians, another that it is about the Holocaust. A third believes The Shining is Kubrick’s cryptic way of telling the world that he faked the Apollo moon landing footage.
At one point, a contributor talks about Kubrick’s use of subliminal messages. He gives an example - in the clouds after the credits at the beginning of the film you can see Stanely Kubrick's face.
Now, I have watched this part of the film carefully and I still can’t see Kubrick. Admittedly, I was always terrible at those 3D picture puzzles but I am pretty sure there are just clouds there.
This example sums up my experience with this film. I am interested in the theories, I'm happy to follow the evidence but then I struggle to join the contributors in their conclusions.
Yes, there are some cans with an American Indian logo. Does this mean The Shining is about genocide? Probably not.
Yes that is a German typewriter that Jack is using. Does this mean that The Shining is about The Holocaust? I’m not too sure.
Yes Danny is wearing a knitted Apollo 11 jumper. Okay, Kubrick changed the haunted room’s number to room 237 and yes we did think that the earth was approx 237,000 miles away from the moon (today we measure it at 238,855 miles).
Does this suggest that Kubrick faked the moon landing footage? For me, no - I’m going to need more evidence than that.
By the end of the film, I had almost run out of patience. I was tired of looking at carpet patterns and my head was beginning to hurt.
However, what I did find most interesting about Room 237 was how one film had inspired such obsessive thought and analysis.
One woman had pretty much mapped out the entire Overlook Hotel based on the character’s movements alone. What about The Shining inspired her to spend such time?
Whatever the reason, I would be the last person to suggest that they are wrong in their beliefs.
Not that they would even be slightly tempted to change their own opinions. I don’t think that even the late Stanley Kubrick could have persuaded them. They would simply point to the fact that author intent is only one part of a film’s true nature.
No, I believe that you often get out of a film what you, yourself want - you see what you want to see. And that is absolutely fine with me.
Have you seen Room 237?
What did you think of this documentary? Do you believe that you take from a film what you bring to it?
I’d love to know - leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!