Documentary review: Room 237
Room 237 is the first feature-length documentary from director Rodney Ascher. The documentary playfully showcases a number of different theories on the hidden meanings of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, The Shining.
Technically, Room 237 is nothing special: a mixture of talking heads inter-spliced with footage from The Shining in order to act as “evidence” for some of the theories. While the techniques may not be ground breaking, Ascher shows a masterful eye for this type of documentary. Editing is used to hilariously punctuate some of the more outlandish theories without being cruel to the subject. One of the best examples of this is an audio clip of one theorist claiming that Kubrick inserted his own face into the clouds in one particular shot, while said shot is being shown and is clearly bereft of Mr Kubrick’s face.
Ascher has assembled a glorious group of experts for Room 237; theories range from The Shining being an allegory for the Holocaust to the slightly more out there belief that it serves as an apology for Kubrick’s involvement with faking the moon landing. Room 237 may poke fun at its commentators, but some of the theories do almost manage to convince you that they may be right.
At the heart of Room 237, the film is not so much about The Shining, but about obsession with film. The people featured in the film have watched The Shining so many times it’s frightening. They have produced literature, films and even delved into cartography, not for money, but merely to explore the film that seems to hold them entranced.
This is one of the best movies ever about cinema audiences. Room 237 may sound like some people’s worst nightmare, but anyone with an interest in Kubrick, insane theories or obsessive fandom should watch this movie.
Room 237 will be screened at the BFI London Film Festival.
For more information visit the Room 237 website.
Watch an interview with director Rodney Ascher and producer Tim Kirk here