"I would not think of quarreling with your interpretation nor offering any other, as I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself."
--- Stanley Kubrick
Rodney Ascher's documentary "Room 237" (2012) says the Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King novel, "The Shining" is not just a horror film. One guy interprets it as commentary on the Holocaust. Other points out that it is about the massacre of Native Americans. Some other guy says that Kubrick is subtly letting out the fact that, the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked, and he made it. This inquiry of "Shining into 9 parts" is fascinating, critically astute and alternatively absurd. Director Ascher examines the divergent perspectives of five interpreters, who are obsessed with this film.
Stephen King's 1977 novel was about a haunted hotel. A family man who goes for a manager job gets homicidally attached to it. When we think about Kubrick's "Shining" the things immediately pop into our mind are: Jack Nicholson's iconic performance, Shelley Duvall's freezed face, geometric patterns in the hotel's rug, axe bursting through the bathroom door, Danny uttering the word "Redrum" and a young beautiful nude woman suddenly into a hag. The interpreters say that this movie is not just about that. They say, there is a big layer lurking in the dark or around the corner.
To prove each interpreter's theory, Ascher uses freeze-frame and slow motion and many of the details revealed would never really been noticed before. Bill Blakemore (journalist and a Native-American theorist), Geoffrey Cocks (history professor), John Fell Ryan (a recording artist), Jay Wiedner (an author and film-maker) and Julie Kearns (a playwright) are the ones, who provide us with these complex theories, even though we never see their faces.
In "Shining", the boy Danny is shown wearing a T-shirt with the number 42. History professor Geoffrey argues that this is reference to the year 1942, a key point in the holocaust. Nicholson's use of German-made typewriter is seen as a symbol of Nazi bureaucracy and argues that the multiplication of numbers "237" (the dreadful room) leads to 42. Blakemore points out that the blood flowing from the elevator is actually the blood of Native Americans. Early in the movie, it was referenced that the hotel was built on an Indian burial ground. He contends that the way the blood gushes out from lift is a metaphor for the repressed truth about the fate of Natives. However, the interpretations strains our trust, when it comes to an over-the-top notion that Kubrick was indeed involved in faking the moon landing.
The interpretation of dissolve shots and the conspiracy theories about moon landing seem ridiculous. We know that Danny's USA rocket-ship sweater was just a coincidence and so is the visually eerie superimposed images, but after watching this documentary, somewhere in the back of our mind, there will be a question ("is it just a coincidence?"). Among all these theories, director Ascher keeps his distance from the obsessive theorists. He neither endorses nor ridicules their views. He lets them narrate their fantastic as well as fantasy theories, while providing images from “The Shining,” other Kubrick classics, and random clips from the silent-era horror classics, Walt Disney’s 1933 “The Three Little Pigs."
"Room 237" is very important, since it's a rare documentary about devotion to cinema. It also firmly portrays the belief that movies are sometimes defined by our own beliefs and experiences dictate our interpretation of what we’ve seen and heard. The interpreters themselves say that in a postmodernist film analysis movies yield renditions far beyond the filmmaker’s artistic intentions. Stanley Kubrick has always encouraged viewers to see movies in interpretive latitude and so he would have been happy to see Ascher's documentary (however ridiculous it might seem).
"Room 237" makes us watch a widely seen film from a strange perspective. After watching this analytical documentary, you will never see "The Shining" as just a horror movie.
Room 237 -- IMDb