INDIEWATCH: ‘Room 237’ A Glimpse Inside ‘The Shining’s’ Mixed Messages

I’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece, “The Shining,” but “Room 237” proves I’ve never really seen it.

This documentary, which came out last year, sheds light on the many interpretations of “The Shining,” its subliminal messages, its visual trickery and Kubrick’s motivations.
Writer/director Rodney Ascher begins “Room 237” with a disclaimer: What’s coming is not verified by The Kubrick 1981 Trust, Kubrick’s family — the list goes on. Ascher covers all of his bases, and viewing “Room 237” shows why that’s necessary.
Early on, viewers are directed to the typewriter Jack Nicholson uses in “The Shining.” It’s a German brand, and it has an eagle on it. The film explains: Typewriters are powerful tools for communication, the eagle is a symbol of the Nazi party, and this is Kubrick’s commentary on genocide.
Whether this interpretation is true or false, down the rabbit hole I went.

The heaviest sweater in film history. Allegedly.

The film continues with loose and firm connections through several clips, repeats and slow-mo’s, and only once does it show the face of the interpreter. From the hexagonal carpet to a poster on the wall, “Room 237” features viewers who have dedicated many hours poring over every detail of “The Shining.” And some of their observations are harder to disregard.
For example, the film shows that architecturally, the layout of the Overlook Hotel does not work.
At the beginning of “The Shining,” Jack Nicholson’s character is guided through the Overlook lobby. Through Kubrick’s sweeping shot of the interior, you see a large hallway to the right. As a viewer, you determine, subconsciously, that the hotel extends for several yards. Nicholson’s character steps inside of an office in what appears to be the middle of the hotel, and behind the desk is a picture window overlooking trees.
Structurally, this doesn’t make sense. Based on what Kubrick has shown of the hotel’s layout, the placement of this office would need to be several yards away to access the view before us.
The allure of “Room 237” is hard to deny. It takes us through a maze of interpretations, some flimsy and some thought-provoking. I expected it to be filled with conspiracy theories, red herrings and a lot of grasping at straws.
And it is — depending on your perception.

I didn’t agree with a lot of the perceptions in “Room 237,” but I was entertained and engaged nonetheless. It’s worth a watch.

Grade: B

“Room 237”
Writer, director: Rodney Ascher
Time: 1:42
Available: Netflix streaming

IndieWatch is a weekly review of independent film and documentaries.


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