Rodney Ascher's Room 237 examines some of the theories and hidden messages that may (or may not) exist in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, The Shining. It is a fascinating, if head spinning watch.
While we don’t see the documentary's contributors, we hear their voices and watch clips from The Shining and other Kubrick films. The clips illustrate their various theories, which range from interesting to outright bewildering (I muttered "what the what?" on more than one occasion).
For example, one fan believes The Shining is actually about the genocide of American Indians. Another thinks the film 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.
Meanwhile, we hear about Kubrick’s use of subliminal messages. We are offered an example: after the credits at the beginning of the film you can see Stanley Kubrick's face in the clouds. 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 pretty much sums up my experience with Room 237. I am interested in the theories, I'm happy to follow the evidence but, boy, do I struggle to join the contributors in their conclusions.
Yep, 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, of course, we measure it at 238,855 miles). Does this suggest that Kubrick faked the moon landing footage? For me, the answer is no - I’m going to need way 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, I was also fascinated by the fact that The Shining has inspired such obsessive thought and analysis. One woman has 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 I wonder?
Whatever the reason, I would be the last person to suggest that any of Room 237s's contributors are wrong in their beliefs. Not that they would even be slightly tempted to change their opinions. I don’t think 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.
Room 237 is proof that audiences take from a film what they wish and see what they want to see. And that is absolutely fine with me.