Room 237 (2012) – A Review
Stanley Kubrick made less than twenty films in his 50-year career. Hey, it’s not about quantity, but quality right? Many of those films have made him one of the most revered directors in the history of cinema.
Fans continue to re-watch, discuss and debate the meaning in his movies. The care, the details, the artistry and the symbolism that filter throughout Kubrick’s films have made them an endless source for fans to contemplate.
His films will undoubtedly be discovered by new young movie fans as long as people still watch movies. Probably a hundred years from now a gawky thirteen-year-old blossoming movie fan will download Dr. Strangelove into his brain and fall in love with it.
In the documentary Room 237 some passionate Kubrick fans share their theories on what Kubrick secretly meant to convey with his 1980 horror film The Shining.
According to them it isn’t just an ordinary film. There’s more to The Shining than just being a film adaptation of a Stephen King novel.
Casual moviegoers might view it as simply a scary movie set in a huge hotel with Jack Nicholson running around with an ax yelling “Here’s Johnny!”
Oh, if you’re only seeing that you’re missing the bigger picture. Look closer. Carefully scrutinize each frame and Kubrick’s hidden agenda with The Shining and its subliminal messages will slowly reveal themselves to you.
Don’t strain yourself.
Room 237 features a collection of Kubrick enthusiasts who describe their various theories and what they take away from The Shining. They never appear on-camera, they each offer their analysis over clips of the film with various other Kubrick movies and random clips to illustrate their points.
The interpretations range from Native American genocide, the Holocaust, Kubrick’s secret confession of helping fake the Apollo moon landing. minotaur symbolism, even viewing the film forward and backwards simultaneously over one another will reveal cloaked messages.
I had been interested in checking out Room 237 since I first heard about it. Typically any kind of documentary about Kubrick can offer up some insight into him and I love hearing theories and opinions about his films.
I think I actually enjoy hearing people talk and discuss 2001: A Space Odyssey and learning various opinions about the meaning of it than actually watching the movie. Hey, what can I say – it’s not my favorite Kubrick film.
With Room 237 it’s not so much a critical analysis, but more like picking up one or two things here and there, attaching some significance to them and running with that idea throughout The Shining. From there you’re looking for anything in the background, dialogue, props, numbers, set design that will further support it.
While one might want to explain some seemingly insignificant thing away as a continuity error or some kind of limitations of set construction or artistic decisions to create a dramatic mood or just plain coincidence – that doesn’t exist in the eyes of this doc and with these die hard Shining fans.
Every movement, every detail in every frame in The Shining was strategically staged a specific way by Kubrick’s precise calculations and has a purpose. They are really giving him a great deal of credit.
And it’s fun for awhile. I especially enjoyed the segment about the movie being a disguised admission of Kubrick faking the moon landing. I always got a kick out of that idea. After awhile though the theories and examples of evidence gets shakier and shakier. Everyone begins to really grasp at straws and things start to run out of steam.
Whether you personally want to subscribe to any of these theories is up to you. The film doesn’t favor any one particular one nor does it try to argue against them. It simply allows these Kubrick fans to talk about their own interpretations of what they see in the film uninterrupted.
Actually they might have been talking over the phone for this doc. At one point one guy has to quiet down his crying baby in the background. That was unexpected to hear.
It held my attention in the beginning and I wasn’t bored. Hearing how obsessed and enthusiastic some people have become with The Shining is kind of unsettling, but I guess there are worst films to be watching over and over again. It would be a fruitless effort to find any deeper layers in something Michael Bay directed. Then you’d really have to get creative.
There really aren’t many film directors that could spawn this much scrutiny with his work as Kubrick has. In a way Room 237 represents the high regard he’s held by movie fans, the enthusiasm he generates and the way his films are so rich that they could offer up countless ways to interpret them by individuals – much like great art.
Here, that’s taken to the extreme. If it was any other director who goofed up continuity and forgot to include a chair in the background of a shot it would be chalked up as a ‘movie mistake’.
With Kubrick that one missing chair is the beginning of a thesis. It’s pretty stunning. Kubrick’s old assistant shared his thoughts about the doc saying it’s “total balderdash” and was “falling about laughing most of the time” while watching it.
Who knows. It’s entertaining for awhile to see The Shining through these hardcore Kubrick fans eyes and listen to their interpretations, but I didn’t take any of it seriously. If you’re hoping for a straight-up ‘making of’ doc or a more of a thesis of the film, I don’t think this will be up your alley. This is more about the obsessiveness and analytical nature from these Shining fans than anything really legitimate with Kubrick’s 1980 horror film.
By the way, no one came up with any hidden meaning with that moment of Nicholson yelling “Here’s Johnny!’ There must be something behind that remark. Maybe it’s a reference to John F. Kennedy’s declaration of landing on the moon by the end of the 60’s? He has Kubrick to thank for that I guess.