Room 237 (2012) – Rodney Ascher

When I first heard about this documentary from Rodney Ascher, it was coming to TIFF, and I very much wanted to see it, I love the ideas of secrets and conspiracies hidden in movies.

Both the opportunities I had to see it fell through, and I was a little bummed.

Then I heard it was returning to the Lightbox as part of a theatrical run. YES! I thought. Now I just need to find time to get out and see it.

It got better, I entered a contest run by NOW Magazine here in Toronto, and I won passes and a DVD prize pack from Mongrel Media.

So today, on a rather moody weather day, Sue and I decided to take a look at what some people thought Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was all about.

We were ready to enter Room 237.

To say I was let down would be putting it lightly. These people seem to be looking for things they want to find, and will do anything to justify their beliefs.

dannyDon’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that Kubrick was a perfectionist in his films, that there are symbols and meanings in them. And while I admit there is a torrent of  possibilities in this film, perhaps that’s exactly what Kubrick wanted to do this time around. He just wanted to put a deluge of suggestive ideas into his film. I mean isn’t that how the best horror works anyway? It’s suggestive, it preys on your mind, it gets under your skin.

Well in the case of some of these folks, it did exactly that.

There are some pretty wacky theories presented, with some flimsy material used to support them.

I take exception to people who say the moon landings were faked. You’re belittling the hard work of hundreds of people who united under common cause to do something amazing, and one of the theories presented in this film is how Kubrick is supposedly apologizing for his part in faking them. Please. Nodding to things like Danny’s (Danny Lloyd) Apollo 11 sweater, the fact that the moon is 237,000 miles from Earth hence Room 237 (changed from 217 in the original Stephen King novel) or Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) tells little Danny that it’s not real, it’s like pictures in a book.

Come on.

There’s another theory about it being about the Holocaust.

I’m more inclined to believe that it’s about the American genocide of the Native Americans, at least that concept is even referred to in the script… The Overlook being built on a graveyard and all.

ullman office wideI did find the shifting layout, disappearing chair and the impossible window in Stuart Ullman’s (Barry Nelson) office kind of cool. That one seems like it could work, the whole Overlook is a maze, not just the hedge maze.

There’s also a theory suggesting that the movie be played the film forward, while simultaneously playing it backwards and superimposing the images, creating some haunting and disturbing imagery, especially centering around Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and Danny.

Well, you can do that with a number of things, syncing them up and saying it was meant to be like that. The most famous being Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.

I’m sorry. I’m not buying it.

There is no video interview footage (were these folks afraid to show their faces?) it’s all audio, overlaid to clips from The Shining, other Kubrick films, and anything that could be used to represent what the audio track was referring to.

And to be honest, this audio could have been done better, dropping the ums, dead air, and the stupid giggle one of the interviewees had. It not only passed the line of annoying it made me actively start disliking the documentary.

MM The ShiningI do believe that Kubrick was playing with his audience this time, messing with spaces and ideas, playing with continuity, letting them find parts of themselves in the film and as Sue mentioned to me after the film, what you find in the film says more about you than it does about the movie itself.

I think Ascher could have made a better documentary on this film, because I like a good conspiracy theory, but this one just didn’t work for me, and in the end, and I rarely say this, I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for it.

Room 237 is currently screening at the Lightbox.

Did you see it?


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