Wednesday, April 3

Room 237 Review

Room 237
Directed by: Rodney Ascher

Stanley Kubrick is one of the all time great filmmakers. His films, 2001: Space Odyssey and the subject of analysis here The Shining, regarded as works of art.  In Room 237 viewer interpretations are taken to such extremes that in reference to any other filmmaker besides Kubrick some of the theories passed in this film would be deemed preposterous without hesitation. However, because the focus is on such an esteemed auteur, you’ll find yourself for a moment nodding in concurrence as if the veil covering your eyes were suddenly pulled. Room 237 is an example of art being seen from the eye of the beholder.

Interpretation is an open book and the introduction of Room 237 displays those many chapters in the form of the proposed theories of explanation. Rodney Ashcer directs in the shadows, offering a stream of ideas without much interaction with the different speakers. Ashcer regards everything as fact and moves indulgently between ideas throughout the course of the documentary.  It’s an interesting perspective to watch the dissection of such an identifiable film from the askew analysis of someone else.  Whether it’s the posters in the background, editing transitions, product placement, sense of direction, and even numerology everything in The Shining is under magnified scrutiny.  All these viewpoints are composed from unseen voices and displayed through a mash-up of Kubrick’s filmography, as well as other films like Bava’s Demons 2, and archived news clips and behind the scenes footage. These all work in mingling theory atop coincidence and back and forth; it works as a codependency for the interviewee’s sometimes clever and other times outlandish concepts.

There is a notion that nearly every person interviewed maintains which is that when they first viewed the film much was disregarded. When The Shining was released numerous critics paned the film, most thinking that the journey to the genre of the horror was a mistake for the beloved Kubrick. The emergence of VHS serving as a catalyst for reanalysis brought viewers back to the film thus embedding the film in the honored pantheon of horror. The ability to rewind and rewatch the intricacies engrained in dialog, set design, and camera framing is partly the reason why a film like this even exists.  Ashcer understands that idea and paints a portrait of perspective by viewing scenes repeatedly and in slow motion. The frame-by-frame implementation is an adept method; it allows time for the proposed ideas to sell themselves without feeling overly forced. In one instance ABC news correspondent Bill Blakemore discusses how The Shining is actually about the genocide of the Native Americans. During a scene in which Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) is given the tour of the Overlook Hotel Ascher pauses and focuses on a framed picture of a Native American seen in the side frame for mere seconds, allowing Blakemore to discuss the implementations behind the subtle display. In another illustration Ascher presents musician John Fell Ryan’s overlapping of The Shining in which he staged the film with one print playing from the beginning and another playing in reverse from the end simultaneously. Seeing what Ryan most likely happened upon by curiosity exhibits how these media conspiracy theories, like The Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon syncing, garner an avid group of followers and believers.

Stanley Kubrick’s influence is still strongly felt amongst film fans today. The fact that audiences are still peering into his films with open eyes is a sincere measurement of Kubrick’s genius. Room 237 is filled with more twists and turns than the wandering hallways of the Overlook Hotel; and while the many theories proposed might not make new believers out of everyone it will make you look closer at Kubrick’s subtext motivations in The Shining.

Monte’s Rating
4.00 out 5.00

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