Directed by Rodney Ascher
I had envisioned that ROOM 237 was a behind-the-scenes documentary on the creation of probably the most popular film adaptation of a Stephen King novel ever made – THE SHINING. Unfortunately, what I found was an hour and a half of obsessive commentary set to repeated footage from the film and of club and cinema screening shots from movies Eyes Wide Shut and Demons.
From the offset, we are introduced to film enthusiasts and critics who’ve obviously watched The Shining so many times that they’ve lost count. They’ve also watched it that many times that it feels like they are seeing things that aren’t actually there with wild conspiracy theories that the entire film is a comment on the genocide of the native American Indians. The “examples” of this are from the reoccuring imagery of indian portraits, the ancient indian burial ground (though that was in the book too) and the use of Calumet baking soda who’s logo is the head of an Indian. The theory doesn’t stop there. A different fan expresses his thoughts how The Shining is actually a film about the Holocaust, with the use of the number 42, a nod to the start of the execution of the Jews in 1942, and the fact that Jack Torrence’s typewriter is by German brand Adler, who’s company uses an eagle similar to that of the Third Reich.
It often feels like they’re clutching at straws, especially when one of them mentions that there’s subliminal imagery contained in the film that represents sexual demons. An example of this wild theory is shown as when Stuart Ullman greets Jack in his office and leans over and against a paper-tray on the desk. At this precise moment, his groin is next to the paper-tray, almost touching if not directly, and apparently this symbolises a giant hard-on. Hmmm….
If anything, some of these crazy theories are laughable and make you question if these people have lives outside of The Shining as it appears too much thought has gone into them. Most of the theories feel conjured up from thin air whilst others suggest the critics are reading into it far too much. Wishful thinking? Possibly. One of the other conspiracy theories regards, The Shining director, Stanley Kubrick’s involvement with the staging and filming of the Apollo moon landing, with the main evidence being the Apollo 11 rocket jumper which the young Danny wears in the film…
Besides from these wild interpretations, there’s a handful of true gems that are pointed out to the viewer that might have been missed by film fans. I can certainly say I never spotted these, though I’ve only seen The Shining a handful of times. Not enough to warrant this indepth analysis given in ROOM 237, that’s for sure. Many of these little tidbits regard to items that appeared in a scene yet the next minute disappeared. One moment is when a chair, that is located behind a seated Jack Torrence, disappears after the camera points at Wendy then back to Jack. Another depicts a 7 Dwarves sticker of Dopey which is featured on Danny’s bedroom door but is then missing from the door in later scenes. The commentator suggests the disappearance of Dopey represents Danny’s loss of innocence as the movie progresssed. What really intrigued me though was that locations seemed to change. An example of this is when Dick Hallorann shows Wendy and Danny around the larder. Upon opening the door, the kitchen is visible behind them, but as they exit that kitchen has been replaced by a set of doors. To get an odd thing wrong, like the lack of an electricity cable connected to a switched-on television, is fair enough, but for a room to change locations completely rather suprised me and made me question what it could possible mean.
The visual shots of the film are used efficiently to highlight and represent the context in which is being commentated, with the frame by frame approached used for those extra notable points. However, the rest of the film doesn’t exactly inspire. It’s a theory based “documentary” and only if you believe in such fantasies will you probably enjoy this movie. I, however, for the most part did not.
Only suitable for hardcore ‘The Shining’ fans and critical theory students!