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Room 237

Room 237

Released 26 October 2012
Director Rodney Ascher

Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner, Buffy Visick
Producer(s) Tim Kirk
Origin United States
Running Time 102 minutes
Genre Documentary
Rating 15A

Overthinking the Overlook.

Room 237 begins with a disclaimer explaining that this film is in no way endorsed by the Kubrick estate. Rodney Ascher’s so called “subjective documentary” isn’t limiting itself by things like facts, it is all about interpretation. Namely the interpretation of one of the most discussed films ever made – Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

It is clear that The Shining was never just another horror film. And so Room 237 explores some of the wilder conspiracy theories behind the film – delving deeply into the subtext and drawing out suggestions that the film is possibly a metaphor for the genocide of the American Indians, or the Holocaust, or maybe it is a secret admission by Kubrick that he was responsible for faking the footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

For the most part Room 237 only asks questions, it doesn’t provide definite answers. It is at times very difficult to take some of the more crack-pot elements of the film seriously (did Kubrick superimpose an image of himself in the clouds in the opening helicopter shots? No, probably not). The tone comes across as totally serious, but it is hard to take some of the more outrageous elements in this way.

But that isn’t the point, not really. The best thing about Room 237 is the fact that it is composed almost entirely of footage from The Shining and other Kubrick films (and other contemporary films which may or may not have played an influence). At times it goes as far as playing scenes in slow motion or freezing them entirely in order to show you all the little details that you’ve never noticed. Regardless of the meaning of such details – and it is hard to agree with much of what is said in the documentary – it is very clear that The Shining deserves this kind of microscopic attention. It holds up as a masterpiece under such scrutiny. Kubrick’s lavish attention to detail was legendary, and it is doubtful that anybody else could have inspired this kind of documentary.

One thing that becomes clear after watching Room 237 is that Kubrick’s use of subliminal imagery is one of the reason’s The Shining is such a great horror. One of the reasons the film is so unsettling is because much of the background detail seems specially designed to drive the more observant members of the audience to the point of madness with bizarre details, dreamlike inconsistencies and optical illusions.

Even if nothing depicted in Room 237 has any basis in reality, it is still a fantastically enjoyable journey. Maybe the point of it all is that thinking too much about The Shining will drive you as crazy as Jack Torrance?

Okay, maybe I’ve started overthinking it now…

- Bernard O’Rourke