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Room 237

Posted by martinteller on March 16, 2013

Five people give their theories on what The Shining is really about.  The myth of the minotaur, sexuality, the genocide of Native Americans, the Nazi Holocaust, or Kubrick’s hidden confession to faking the moon landing footage.  These folks have obsessively studied the film and all of its details, finding the evidence to support their interpretations.

There is certainly some crackpottery involved in each of their readings.  None more crackpot than the moon landing guy.  At one point, he analyzes the capitalized letters on the room 237 key (“ROOM No. 237”).  He says “There’s only two words you can come up with that have those letters in them, and that’s moon and room.”  Well, no… actually, I can think of several more words.  And one of them is MORON.  And the bit where they run the film simultaneously backwards and forwards is absurd, especially when you consider that there are multiple cuts of the film.  Like playing Dark Side of the Moon over The Wizard of Oz, of course there will be moments when there appears to be some sort of incredible synchronicity.  What’s more telling are all the moments that don’t line up at all.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t think the sex guy is reaching all that far, and the minotaur lady really doesn’t get to expound on her ideas that much.  She’s more interested in the impossible layout of the Overlook Hotel, a subject that fascinates me.  There’s an excellent YouTube video that explains it at length, and once you’re aware of it, when you watch the film you can’t stop noticing things like doors that can’t possibly go anywhere.

I don’t think the two guys with genocidal readings are that far off the mark, either (although Nazi dude seems to be reaching with all that business about the numbers 7 and 42).  Kubrick was known to be interested in the Holocaust, and the set is steeped in Indian decor.  Whether these readings — including what might be merely continuity errors — are intentional or not is beside the point, as one of the participants rightfully points out.  Even if Kubrick didn’t mean for his film to be interpreted these ways, the meanings are still there for the viewer.  Art does not belong solely to the artist, and hearing these other takes on it is really interesting.

I’m not sure I’m in favor of the documentary’s structure, however.  While switching between the different participants allows director Rodney Ascher to build certain thematic blocks (I loved the bit about Bill Watson, Stuart Ullmann’s mysterious sidekick… I thought about this dude myself when I watched the film earlier tonight), I think I might have rather had a section devoted to each theorist.  Sex guy and minotaur lady in particular seem to get the short end of the stick, and their theories are kind of lost in the muddle.  I also gotta say the music is sometimes way too loud, drowning out their voices.

But there’s some really fun tidbits of information (the magazine Jack reads in the lobby is a hoot) and it’s interesting to see how far movie obsessiveness can go.  However, the documentary has the unfortunate side effect of making you really, really wish Kubrick had lived to record some DVD commentaries.  Rating: Good (77)


2 Responses to “Room 237”

  1. kevlarcardhouse said

    Yeah, the film kind of made me wish it went more in-depth on some portions and made me unsure of the point of the whole thing. For example: Is there a lot more to the minotaur theory? Did the director choose the cream of the crop of her ideas, or did he choose the ones that seemed the silliest? Hard to tell.

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