Room 237 is an odd duck of a documentary. There are many movies about the “making of” movies – Lost in La Mancha and George Hickenlooper’s Heart Of Darkness doc come to mind – yet Room 237 is the first movie I’ve seen that is entirely about the aftermath of a film.
The film in question is Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece The Shining. For those of you unfamiliar with this quasi-landmark of horror movies I’ll spare you the plot and just simply suggest you go to a place where movies are sold immediately – it’s the kind of daunting, creepy film that will stay with you well after you watch it. Obviously. Actually, The Shining should be required viewing. It’s about a guy and his family in a hotel. Just go and see it already.
Having the movie stick with you, though, is precisely what happened to the five people interviewed in this documentary. Each of them have their own ideas about just what the film means to not just themselves, but to Kubrick and society as a whole. To one, it clearly explains that Kubrick was involved in faking the moon landing footage. To another, it’s about genocide committed by European settlers on the Native Americans. To another still, the movie has to be (bear with me) played with a projection of the movie played over it in reverse to make key scenes sync up. To him, that is the only way the movie can be seen.
Some of the ideas are downright laughable at first, but once director Rodney Ascher sheds light onto them they become entirely plausible. For example, the idea of The Shining being a giant allegory for Kubrick’s involvement in the faking of the moon landing had the screening I attended laughing out loud. Until, of course, you see young Danny (the child and, some would say, prophet of the movie) wearing – without explanation – an Apollo 11 sweater in vital scenes. And Jack Nicholson’s brief monologue in the movie about his wife “not knowing what a contract is” makes more sense when taken into that context.
While Room 237 may be a hit amongst movie critics, and, if we’re being honest, myself (I love this sort of thing), this isn’t a date movie. Nor one for the masses. Room 237 could be taken as a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream – if you’re not a fan of the “Aha! Maybe this really means this!” mentality, this is most certainly not for you.
Room 237 is a very niche movie but a very good movie within it’s own genre, one which it may occupy solely for a little while… at least until my “Point Break: Illuminati Conspiracy?” documentary gets funding.