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Room 237 (4 stars)

Compelling documentary about the hidden meanings in Kubrick's The Shining

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Room 237

This frighteningly engrossing documentary presents a series of (supposedly) hidden meanings to be found imbedded in Stanley Kubrick’s modern horror classic The Shining. The various readings of the film, which range from quite plausible to utterly balmy, are provided by five obsessive fans: a professor, a playwright, an author, a musician and a war reporter. Each of these individuals are interviewed at length by director Rodney Ascher, who keeps his eccentric-sounding subjects off-screen, presents their cases with an admirable lack of judgment (or ridicule), illustrates the readings with numerous clips from the film in question and provides some neat counterpoints to the arguments with clips from other of Kubrick’s films alongside everything from Walt Disney to Mario Bava.

It’s a terrifically imaginative and superbly executed examination of Kubrick’s masterpiece, and it’s an interesting comment on the nature of film appreciation in general. Given how well suited the psychological/supernatural puzzle box of a horror film is to endless alternative readings, and bearing in mind what an eccentric obsessive its maker was, Ascher’s is an inspired treatment of The Shining (one wonders why no one thought of trying this before now). Some of the readings are, in hindsight, more or less obvious (such as the film being a metaphor for the Native American genocide), while others are pure conspiracy theory fantasy (the film is Kubrick’s veiled admission that he was involved in faking the moon landings), while others still are maddeningly incomprehensible (it’s all about minotaurs, apparently).

However wild and wacky the arguments, they are never less than compelling. More worryingly, as the film progresses, they begin to make more and more sense. This leads one to suspect that, just as the five interviewees have been sucked into the world of The Overlook (and one of them notes, wryly, that he shares the same fate as that of Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrence, who disappears into the hotel’s history in the final shot), so, too, will any film fan who follows The Shining closely enough. You have been warned.

Selected release from Fri 26 Oct.

Room 237

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 102 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Rodney Ascher
  • Cast: Bill Blakemore, Juli Kearns, Geoffrey Cocks
  • UK release: 26 October 2012

Frighteningly engrossing documentary about some of the supposedly hidden meanings to be found in Kubrick’s classic movie The Shining, from the quite plausible to the utterly barmy. Terrifically imaginative and superbly executed, it's also an interesting comment on the nature of film appreciation in general.

Room 237 Trailer

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