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Room 237

When Volkwagen came up with their cinema campaign phrase ‘See Film Differently’ they obviously just talked to Rodney Ascher, whose latest conspiracy documentary Room 237 offers us a bizarre new set of ideas about Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film The Shining.

Different interpretations of any film are inevitable, however, The Shining has spawned a myriad of interpretations, ideas, hidden meanings, and enigmatic messages. In Room 237 some of these theories are explored through a clever use of interviews, archival footage, and footage from The Shining itself, showcasing what is perhaps the biggest compliment a filmmaker can receive; captivating peoples minds for long after they have left the cinema.

For some of his fans, nothing that Kubrick has done in his films can be considered arbitrary, and therefore even the slightest detail in the film can have an important meaning and message. Read: “can”. His film is examined inside out, backwards, and even by some people backwards and forwards at the same time while super imposed over each other.

There are a range of different theories explored throughout the film including naziism, genocide, and the conspiracy that Kubrick faked the moon landings. An argument is made stating that there are many subliminal messages regarding the genocide of American Indians throughout the film. Evidence for this, so we are told, is the referencing of cans in the food store, the images on the wall and the blood gushing out of the lift.

And if you think that is a bit far fetched, how about this? The idea that the Apollo moon landing was faked by Kubrick via front screen projection stems from minescule details, such as Danny’s jumper which features Apollo 11 on the front of it – clearly evidence enough if you ask me…

The list is long and includes a mystery window that, according to a viewer who has gone as far as creating a blue print of the hotel, can simply not be there. Another imposibility occurs when Danny and Wendy are watching a television that is clearly not plugged in.

By using the sound from the interviews over images and clips from the film it is possible to get fully engrossed in the theories and what they are describing. Although the theorists are never seen and some may question their credentials for critiquing The Shining, this is not important for our viewing experience; people should be encouraged to form their own ideas and opinions about a film, including what they believe the imagery to be symbolic of.

It is clear that these are subjective views and offer a platform to consider the theories that they are putting forward. The use of archival clips from certain events works well to illustrate the points being made as well as showing the interconnectedness of parts of The Shining to other events, times and places. What is being said is matched up to footage that illustrates this, not necessarily The Shining but also of other Kubrick films as well as films of other directors.

Room 237 invites the audience to look at The Shining in a completly different way, turning the film on its head. The documentary highlights just how rewatchable The Shining is and how, on each viewing, it is possible to notice something you didn’t notice before.

You can catch Room 237 in UK cinemas from 26 October. 


Written by

Nicola graduated from Brunel University with a BSc in Sociology and Media and is now currently studying for a MSc at LSE in Society and Culture, while working in the UK film industry. The Up Series (beginning with 7up) sparked her interest in documentaries, particularly those with a social and cultural themes. She is enthusiastic about documentaries because of their capacity to inform and incite change, as seen from The Thin Blue Line and, more recently, Josh Fox’s Gasland.

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