Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 is an interesting journey into different interpretations of analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece, The Shining. At 102 minutes, the film takes five, distinct interpretations and runs back and forth from them, while only showing clips from Kubrick’s filmography, found footage and several reenactments that serve the various narratives that these people are representing. From Native Americans, to Nazi’s and even the Apollo 11 moon landing make their way into the subtext of The Shining from these different people. While some of the interpretations are grasping at straws, all of them are interesting and engaging enough for people to really look into Room 237.
Clearly, the best one out of the bunch comes from Bill Blakemore, the person that has come to the conclusion that the film is about the genocide of Native American’s and the consequences that follow this. All of the evidence that he points out in the various imagery throughout The Shining, makes for a real substantial argument and an important point of Ascher including as the very first point that we hear. While he never shows us any talking heads in the documentary, hearing this first point gives Ascher the upper hand by giving the audience a point of validity, a solid reason to buy into the notion that all of these view points are legitimate. I’m sure the reason why Ascher never includes any talking head footage either is because he doesn’t want for people to dismiss them automatically. When some of the theories are played against some of the other Kubrick films, with either a reaction or some sort of commentary, the film provides some solid laughs and pokes some fun at the ongoing dialogs these people have. Some are certainly due for dismissal, with them nitpicking at minute continuity errors as some sort of insight to a larger meaning of The Shining but many of them provide a few substantial looks into a horror movie that has enamored generations of filmmakers and audiences alike.
I don’t think that Room 237 has changed my perceptions on Kubrick’s film, but it’s most certainly entertained the notion of how film analysis and films can effect people. This is what probably drew Ascher to combine these and to that effect, he’s succeeded at creating an engaging piece of film, from another film entirely. If you’re a fan of The Shining, you’ll certainly be delighted at the presentation and wealth of content that Room 237 provides. Highly Recommended!
Room 237 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Midnight. Bonus features include commentary by Kevin McLeod, the mstrmnd whose essay is referenced in the film; an hour-long discussion of the film by a panel which includes the likes of Mick Garris; 11 deleted scenes; a discussion of the symbols found in the Mondo poster designed by Aled Lewis; a featurette about the music; and the trailer.