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In 1980 Stanley Kubrick released his masterpiece of modern horror, The Shining. Over 30 years later we re still struggling to understand its hidden meanings. Rodney Ascher s wry and provocative documentary ROOM 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with both fanatics and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick s still-controversial classic.
Special Features: The mstrmnd Speaks: Feature Commentary with Kevin McLeod, Secrets of The Shining: Panel Discussion from the First Annual Stanley Film Festival, 11 Deleted Scenes, The Making of the Music Featurette, Mondo Poster Design Discussion with Artist Aled Lewis, Trailers
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For example, one theory is that Stanley Kubrick did not make this movie as an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, he made it to let everyone know his part in the faked moon landing footage. Oh boy. One of the pieces of evidence provided is a door hanger that says "ROOM No 237". Please don't fool yourself into thinking that this means the hanger identifies Room Number 237. Oh no. Can't you see it? You can rearrange the capital letters to spell "MOON!" (they don't explain what the leftover R indicates. My theory is that if you add the "R" in the middle, you get "MORON" which is what you have to be if you buy into that nonsense)
I believe that the same conspiracy theorist describes how a shot of clouds has Stanley Kubrick's face superimposed in them. The film freezes this frame and there is no Stanley Kubrick superimposition there.
They hit a lot of the inane things people use to back up their bogus theories. Numerology, come on down! There's a woman who sees a poster of a skier who decides it looks like a minotaur and we go on a five minute ride to crazy town (spoiler alert: the hedge maze is a labyrinth). The contents of a kitchen pantry are important in not one but two different nutball theories.
All that said, the film is well done from a technical perspective and there are some nice moments. One commentator breaks down Danny's three big wheel rides and the movie provides a real time map to show how the pattern that the big wheel takes could represent levels or reality and character perspective. The section where the movie is superimposed forwards and backwards at the same time provided some neat and beautiful imagery. Totally accidental and meaningless but cool to look at. I would have also liked to hear a sensible theory as to things like the carpet pattern switching when the ball rolls to Danny or why the other guy in the job interviews pants change. (hint: I doubt it involved faking a moon landing or Native American genocide).
This movie is basically the finest YouTube conspiracy video ever made. Not high praise, by the way. I would have really enjoyed some well thought out theories about the hidden meaning behind some of the classic imagery in the Shining. Seems like you could pass on this until it is an option to stream for free on Amazon Prime Instant Video or that other one that rhymes with GetFlix.
If you like this kind of film, I recommend The Pervert's Guide To Cinema It is also next level crazy but the guy never brings up the Moon Landing or makes you start rearranging letters or adding up numbers and telling you what that means. I can't recall if it has minotaurs or skiing. It does get pretty sexually graphic but the first half hour or so almost broke my brain it had so many ideas. It looks like it's out of print but maybe you will get lucky and track down a copy for less than $60.
This film doesn't force you to agree with any of the theories presented here. It's a documentary that simply lets you know that these theories exist--nothing more. You will see that the documentary's main focus is really about how a film can consume a person. This documentary is really about the relationship between film and its viewer. The film "The Shining" is merely a vehicle to tell the bigger story here: a representation of the love of cinema and how people see different things in films. Films are up for interpretation just like poems or books. This documentary celebrates that.
I'm not here to review the legitimacy of the theories but rather the intent of the documentary. The theories presented here may not work but the documentary as a whole most definitely works. I never knew that there were people out there that had studied "The Shining" this intensely. I never noticed the clues and hints that were pointed out. This documentary celebrates Kubrick, it celebrates "The Shining" and it mainly celebrates us, the fans of that great film. If you want to know what a twisted movie like "The Shining" can do to its viewers--besides scare the hell out of them---this documentary let's you know how such a film can hold on to people long after they've seen it.