MRR Review: Room 237


MRR Review: Room 237

-- Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2012
Directed by: Rodney Ascher
Genre: Documentary

"The Shining" is largely considered to be one of the scariest movies of all time. When a film is gifted with such a lofty accolade, fans of that particular genre are sure to obsess over it. In "Room 237," fans of "The Shining" obsess so much that they begin to think that it's more than just director Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of the Stephen King novel. Instead, they think a far greater, yet hidden meaning lies within the movie.

It helps to have some context about the source film in order to understand what the fans, who are interviewed in "Room 237," are talking about. In "The Shining," Jack (Jack Nicholson) is a broken man with many problems who takes his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to the creepy Overlook Hotel for the winter. He will be the resident caretaker, which is a job that doesn't require much skill or work since the hotel will be closed. He spends his days pounding at a typewriter in isolation while his wife and son watch television and try to act like a normal family. The hotel may or may not be haunted by the spirits of a murderous rampage that happened in room 237, which is where director Rodney Ascher gets the name of his documentary.

Ascher presents nine different theses for the underlying meaning of "The Shining" from nine different people, none of whom are seen on the screen. Instead, each person gives a voiceover interpretation while the scenes they discuss are playing, sometimes in slow motion. Occasionally, pieces of other Kubrick films are also played to prove that it is not outside the realm of possibility that some particular device used in one of his other movies may have been applied to "The Shining." Some of the theses sound more like conspiracy theories, as in the case of one fan who thinks that "The Shining" is Kubrick's confession about helping the United States government fake the moon landing in the 1960s. It's hard to believe that Kubrick would help the US government with anything, especially considering he lived most of his adult life in England after becoming disenchanted with Hollywood. However, Ascher never mocks or makes light of any of the theories, no matter how implausible they might be.

Some of the theories are paper thin and don't really seem to be very plausible, so Ascher presents those theories and just moves on. Other interpretations have some evidence to back them up, such as one man's insistence that the film has something to do with the Holocaust. The number forty-two does come into play in a few places throughout the film, which could be a coincidence or could be representative of 1942, arguably the most important year for the allied forces in World War II.

Stanley Kubrick is one of the few directors who even casual filmgoers will recognize by name. He left a body of work that spans several decades and includes such classics as "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange," and "Full Metal Jacket." He is easily one of the most celebrated directors and screenwriters of all time. His films are always very detailed and are often interpreted as having a deeper meaning than just the narrative. With this knowledge of the legendary filmmaker in hand, it is easy to see why so many fans of "The Shining" would line up to give their interpretation of its greater meaning. In addition, it is common knowledge that "The Shining" was heavily edited from Kubrick's original vision before it was released in 1980. Could some of the deeper meaning that the famed director intended have been lost on the editing room floor? This question helps feed some of the theories presented in "Room 237," and it may make "The Shining" worth another look for those who haven't seen it for a while.

So, is "The Shining" an allegory for the Holocaust, or a confession regarding a faked lunar landing? Only Kubrick himself could really say for sure, but he passed away in 1999. If there are any great confessions regarding an alternate intent for the film, they went with Kubrick to his grave. Perhaps for this reason, Ascher never champions one theory over another or seems to take sides. Instead, "Room 237" seems to be a testament to the malleability of movies and art in general because myriad interpretations of the same piece of art are possible. It all really depends on the person who is observing the art, which is why Ascher leaves the judging of each theory up to the audience.

Rating 3 out of 5

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