Starring: Historians, writer's, Kubrick fan-boys and intellects
Run-time: 102 minutes
IN SHORT: A documentary based entirely upon conjecture and delusions. Room 237 will really test your patience.
Room 237 is a documentary that puts Stanley Kubrick's psychological-horror The Shining under heavy critical, and psychoanalytical, spotlight. Unseen historians and film scholars narrate over clips of the film with their own unique take on Kubrick's Stephen King adaptation. They believe there's a deeper subtext to The Shining and the theories and analyses range from the half-convincing to the downright absurd. The moon landings, child abuse, the Holocaust and the genocide of Native Americans are just a small smattering of theories thrown up by these bumbling conspiracy theorists.
The daddy of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, once famously said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" and if he saw Room 237 and its downright crazy theorems he'd likely say something like, "yo guys, this is a load of bollocks!" Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist, he spent agonizing amounts of time upon the details of his films, which is why it makes no sense for The Shining to be about the Holocaust, the moon landings AND Native Americans all at once. Kubrick was too deliberate in his method and too great a story-teller to mix up such a widely conflicting mish-mash of themes. So either way you look at it, most of these theories are wrong before they even leave the person's mouth.
|Apparently that's a poster of a minotaur... A MINOTAUR?!|
What's worse is that director, Rodney Ascher, doesn't disprove or prove these wild, unfounded theories. Instead he spurs these people on, letting them waffle continuously and nonsensically over the film. The interviews themselves are of really poor quality. It seems most were recorded in one single take as many of the subjects pause for long periods, 'err', 'umm' and 'ahh' and one interviewee conducts his ridiculous analysis with a screaming baby in the background! The lack of professionalism and the fact that we can't put faces to voices during the entire doc, really undermines the authority and integrity of these critics. Seeing the same piece of footage circled, manipulated and spoken over also becomes tiresome real quick.
If Room 237 is in fact a covert faux-documentary mocking the delusions of pseudo-intellectuals and the warped logic of conspiracy theorists, then it's a resounding success. Unfortunately these people are real, they've actually wasted this much time and brain matter on these bogus theories. One, extremely patronising, female critic argues that the Monarch skiing poster (in the picture above) is in fact a poster depicting a minotaur. Through flawed logic and unsound reasoning, she then starts to reveal how The Shining is actually a modern-day retelling of the minotaur story. "BUT THAT ISN'T A GODDAMN MINOTAUR!", I found myself screaming at my television screen.
|"Room No 237 spells moon room". It also spells MORON, you moron!|
Another favourite moment of mine comes when a guy is midway through his 'Stanley Kubrick-faked-the-moon-landings' theory. He points to the Room 237 key-fob hanging from the door and argues that this is the 'moon room' because the only two words you can make from 'Room No. 237' are moon and room. Not only is this wrong, you can, ironically, form the word MORON, but how on Earth does this prove anything anyway?! That isn't the worst example of infantile 'critical analysis' though. That award falls to a man who believes there's an 'airbrushed image of Kubrick' in the clouds in the films title sequence. When the sequence ends (and nobody has seen this phantom image) he promises to 'show us in photoshop'. He never does.
Apophenia is the phenomenon of seeing 'unmotivated connections'. Humans are particularly gifted in this ability and Ascher has found the absolute best of the best for Room 237. The stubbornness of these crazy theorists is laughable and whilst there are some pertinent observations made, they drown in the sheer stupidity of the rest. I would strongly steer Kubrickians and film-lovers away from this documentary. It won't open your eyes to new deeper meanings of The Shining. If anything it'll ruin the experience by revealing continuity errors and goofs that you'd long ignored. And as far as film analysis goes, I've seen far better on Youtube!