Starring: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns
Director: Rodney Ascher
Running Time: 102 mins
Room 237 is an American documentary that looks at the wide range of interpretations and conspiracy theory’s surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s horror, The Shining.
Conspiracy theories are always huge fun for film fans, and this movie takes that to a whole new level, handing the mic over to some of the most intense and deep interpretations of a legendary movie. The great thing about Room 237 is that it’s not there to convince you that the theories are true, but rather to give you an idea about how many different interpretations can come about from the same film, even the very same scene.
But before we start, you need to have seen The Shining before watching this movie. Apart from the fact that there are heavy spoilers in there, you don’t get the full punch of having watched something and taken it all on face value, and then being told all these things that completely turn the movie on its head at times. As mad as it sounds, this film has made me really want to go back and rewatch The Shining, just to be able to see it through the views of some of the theorists here.
We’ll start with what the film’s major attraction is: the interpretations and conspiracy theories. On the whole, the insane range and depth that some people go into analysing this movie makes for a hugely fun watch, and although the majority of the theories are totally ridiculous, the documentary does a great job at bringing them across as if they are cold, hard facts, and that really makes it fascinating to watch them be explained.
From the age-old story about Stanley Kubrick faking the moon landings, to the revelation that if you play the film both backwards and forwards at the same time it creates an entirely (deliberate) new meaning, some of the ideas presented here are utterly preposterous, and it’s best to go into the film knowing that you should be taking them not with a pinch, but a bucket of salt.
That said, there are some compelling arguments here. Whether I really believe anything that comes up in this movie is another matter, but you can’t deny that, through the intense analysis that some people have put into the film, there are some very convincing ideas with a lot of evidence to back them up, which wasn’t only fascinating here, but should make my next rewatch of The Shining even more exciting.
On the whole, don’t go into this film expecting to be educated and forced to believe the theories surrounding The Shining. In truth, this is almost an anti-documentary, in that it’s not there to convince you of its own content, but rather to show you how various interpretations spring up, and the idea that subjectivity in criticism and analysis is almost unavoidable, even when it seems that all the parties have the same degree of evidence and facts on their side.
However, if we move away from the fun of the wild theories, there’s actually a lot to praise about how this film goes about presenting all the ideas. What impressed me most about Room 237 is that you don’t ever get to see the faces of the people explaining their theories and interpretations.
That’s a stroke of genius by director Rodney Ascher, as it cancels out the unfortunately inevitable possibility of judging the people, many of whom are just people in their bedrooms with blogs like me, and counting them out before they even begin. In this case, everybody has an equal footing, and it means that you’ve got a completely level and fair playing field for them to explain their ideas.
It’s also great that the film doesn’t present these people as mad, crazy obsessives. All the interviewees are intelligent and normal people, and many of them laugh at how intense their analysis of The Shining is. That’s really refreshing to see, and it allows you to feel comfortable as a viewer getting into these ideas, as if you’re listening to a university lecturer rather than the sort of person you would previously have thought would be into this sort of thing.
Wonderfully scored and edited throughout, evoking the essence of The Shining, Room 237 is a very atmospheric film, something that also really helps you to get into the mood of analysing the deepest and smallest details of the movie.
Overall, Room 237 is a really fun movie. It’s not a documentary in the traditional sense, rather a demonstration of how different interpretations can come about from the same scenarios, but it’s still hugely entertaining to get into all the deepest and craziest theories about The Shining. It’s not a YouTube video that’s there to convince you, but throughout, there are a good few ideas that really engrossed me, and that’s why I’m giving this an 8.0.