Director: Rodney Ascher
With: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, and Jay Weidner
Room 237 is proof positive that if you are looking for hidden meaning in something, you’ll find it even if it isn’t there. Room 237 is a documentary about people who are overly obsessed with the movie The Shining. In voiceover only we are introduced to the principal theorists: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, and Jay Weidner. With the use of film clips, animation, and dramatization, we are presented their suppositions.
One person believes the entire film is about the Native American genocide as Americans moved West. There are obvious Indian motifs in the film: the photos of chiefs on the wall, images of buffalo throughout the hotel. Another person believes the film represents Kubrick’s research of the Nazi’s and their final solution, which went into effect in 1942. He finds the number 42 everywhere. There are forty-two vehicles in the hotel parking lot; forty-two pieces of cutlery, utensils, and plates on the floor of the kitchen after they have been spilled; two times three times seven is forty-two. What about the hotel itself. It’s layout is impossible. How can the hotel manager’s office have a giant window with trees. What about the hotel manager during Jack’s interview? When he shakes Jack’s hand his crotch lines-up with his “in” tray and it symbolizes an erection. Still another person believes The Shining is infested with clues that the lunar landing footage was a hoax–just the footage not the landing–and the entire film he Kubrick’s guilt-trip about being the person who staged the landing for film. Jack’s tirade about his responsibilities to his employers is actually Kubrick’s tirade about why he filmed the staged landing.
Ascher’s, the director, decision not to show the theorists is a wise one. The style lends itself to a “Deep Throat” quality. Their anonymity adds weight to their testimony. It’s only after their views and ideas get more and more outlandish do we start to doubt their credibility. Can’t you see that “Ski” poster in the Game Room? From a distance doesn’t it look like an outline of the Minotaur. Obviously this foreshadows Jack in the Maze.
In the end this is a documentary about obsession. How left unchecked it can take over your life. One of the theorists believes he will be audited by the IRS next year and is being watched by the Federal Government. Another believes his life is now very similar to Jack’s.
Room 237 is best enjoyed if you have watched and are a fan of The Shining, and know how Stanley Kubrick operated. But as a stand-alone film without the required background information it cannot hold your attention.
Grade = C
PS I watched The Shining the following day, and I did look at it differently. I will admit I noticed something in story development I did not before. I’ll follow-up with that thread in my upcoming review in two weeks.