Overview: A documentary presenting the complex interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece The Shining. IFC Films; 2012; Unrated; 102 Minutes.
What Are We Looking At Here: We never see the talking heads or the director. With very little exception, the film is entirely constructed of scenes from Kubrick’s movies, with the obvious majority of screen-time assigned to images and scenes from The Shining. It creates the feel of an academic film-study. A scene by scene dissection of a singular piece of film history.
Hold on a Minute: The first indication of the absurdity in the theorists’ certainty comes when we are asked to take the logical leap that a fade-cut that moves from a mass of people in the Overlook lobby to a stack of piled luggage was an aesthetic analogy to the horrific Nazi practice of making suitcases out of human flesh. I think the earlier the viewer abandons the assumption that this film endorses or believes its presenters’ theories (it doesn’t), the more that he/she will take from the experience. Once I was able to distinguish the non-promotional motive of director director Rodney Ascher, my appreciation for this film blossomed. I followed these outlandish interpretations the way I follow any paranoid conspiracy theory: fascinated and eager to hear more with no intention of being converted.
Surreal Moments: Squinting to find Stanley Kubrick’s face in the clouds of the opening scene. Struggling to see a resemblance between Jack Nicholson’s face and that of the mythological Minotaur. Checking myself back into reality when I find myself nearly convinced that Kubrick faked the moon landing and confessed through the imagery of Danny’s sweater on the Overlook hall carpet. With all of that work and no concrete knowledge taken away, some might see this as a waste of two hours. However, as a film lover, I embraced every demand of my movie-going mental gymnastics.
Overall: Room 237 isn’t concerned with hard truths the way some may expect of documentaries, and in that sense, it may not be for everyone. But for lovers of film, and specifically lovers of Kubrick’s work, it’s a must see—a great portrait of film obsession fully realized and the single most fitting biography possible for Kubrick, a man who embraced mystery and reclusiveness while his perfectionist style of work demanded this measure of concentrated viewing.