‘237’ explores ‘Shining’ theories October 5, 2013 • Patrick White
Enigmatic director Stanley Kubrick died in 1999, but still film scholars, critics and average viewers discuss the intricacies of Kubrick’s stunning filmography. A career that began with a racetrack robbery, “The Killing,” and later found Kubrick exploring deeper themes in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “A Clockwork Orange” has fascinated many for years. One film, however — his most conventional, some might say — has the biggest cult following of conspiracy theorists and interpreters.
“The Shining” has been interpreted, by many, as not simply an adaptation of Stephen King’s book of the same name, nor simply a horror film. Instead these theorists believe that it functions as an allegory for themes that break the boundaries of what cinema is and how a director/ writer can use it to tell a story not originally found on the screenplay’s pages. That is to say, the film you see is not about a father who goes mad in a massive hotel and attempts to kill his family, but is something much larger in nature. These conspiracy theories present evidence found in subtle and sometimes obvious hints of the true nature of the film.
In director Rodney Ascher’s documentary film “Room 237” these theories are explored through shots that have since become iconic and intricately mapped out plots of the film’s infamous Overlook Hotel. Where most might see problems with the layout and its impossible hallways, closer viewers find intentional diversion that Kubrick forces the viewer to look for. Even inconsistent props, set design, and editing is no longer viewed as a mistake, but an intentional deviation to be intricately inspected.
Ascher’s film is the first of its kind to in-depthly compile a variety of interpretations of a film as widely known as Kubrick’s “The Shining.” This documentary is one of a kind and whether you’ve seen “The Shining” once or you’re one who has it on constant repeat this documentary will no doubt fascinate. While I type this review I can’t help but think back on it and feel how palpable this documentary feature was only hours after watching it. “Room 237” will find viewers when they are least aware of it, the same way “The Shining” might find you in your nightmares. This repetition will come the same way Jack Torrance’s famous typed words do, over and over, but with slight changes with each passing line, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
The three interpretations that stand out amongst the others are “The Shining” as an allegory for the Native American slaughter, the Holocaust, and my personal favorite, Kubrick’s involvement in shooting the 1969 moon footage. The latter of the three is probably the most convincing interpretation presented in the documentary.They all, however, find a place in an audience’s mind to at least cause viewers to pause before completely dismissing or accepting said interpretation.
The way the film is presented is nearly as eerie as Kubrick’s original vision. The music that accompanies the voices of the interpreters will make viewers uneasy as if they are hearing a secret they shouldn’t be. The visuals presented by the director with assistance from his interviewees act as beautifully presented artifacts to give more power to a certain interpretation. Never does the film seem like a gimmick nor does it take itself too seriously. The end finds us either choosing to believe these interpretations, questioning them, creating our own, or like most, watching the film for its pure entertainment value.