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Whether or not you are a fanatical lover of The Shining, simply enjoyed it for its Kubrickian moody terror, or perhaps found it trite and sophomoric, it is difficult not to be mesmerized by director Rodney Ascher’s Room 237. Equal parts love letter to and scholarly dissection of one of the most polarizing films among the legendary canon of Stanley Kubrick, Room 237 is informative, wacky, and at times chillingly revealing. It’s a must-see for for film lovers and Kubrick devotees, if a bit too esoteric to be a universal sell.

From the infamous opening shot of the Torrance family’s VW bug weaving its way through a vast and ominous alpine landscape to the lugubrious sounds of “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath), it is clear that The Shining is not your average horror film. But then again, Kubrick wasn’t exactly your average director. A noted genius, possessed of an IQ of at least 200, his skill at the art of filmmaking, not to mention his beyond-OCD obsession with every detail in his expansive work, is practically unrivaled.

Naturally, this shunning of the haphazard, combined with a penchant for the singular depth of field shots that populate his films, has bequeathed rabid intellectuals and serious students of cinema an infinite amount of fodder for analysis. Yet no film seems to have struck a chord quite like The Shining, a “horror movie” that has seen fans deciphering hidden messages among its strikingly rich mis en scene since the very first day it was released.

It is with this thought in mind that filmmaker Rodney Ascher sets out to examine the initial reception to and ultimate devotion inspired by Kubrick’s controversial “genre” film, in his quasi-documentary, Room 237. Enlisting the help of five notable intellectuals — yes, some are proud internet conspiracy theorists, but one man is NBC’s former Rome News Bureau Chief and one woman is a well-respected playwright — each with their own personal connection as a viewer and fan to the beloved film. Ascher dissects The Shining frame by frame, detailing the various conspiracy theories that have sprung up around it.

Aside from being devotees of the film, Ascher’s five subjects/scholars believe without a shadow of a doubt that Kubrick embedded subliminal clues among the film’s visual syntax that he intended sophisticated audiences to decipher. Each dutifully (and to various degrees of success) make their specific arguments, and though it’s easy to write them off as fanatics at first, I challenge you to watch the film and not feel yourself being slightly persuaded by the clearly well though-out cases.

Of course, which specific theory, if any, one subscribes to isn’t really the point. Every individual, equipped with his or her own personal biases and specified knowledge, brings that information with them when interpreting and experiencing great art like The Shining, even if it’s just subconsciously. Whether you believe that the film is an allegory for the plight of the American Indian, or feel that it was a tool for Stanley Kubrick to let the world know about his classified involvement in the US Government’s alleged staging of the Apollo Moon Landing,  all depends on the internal faculties you use to perceive art and how you allow yourself to be affected by it.

This idea represents the genius of Ascher’s approach. He avoids turning this film into a biography of the famously idiosyncratic director, or a chronicle of The Shining’s notoriously difficult production in the late 70’s — he doesn’t even interview anyone involved in its conception. Instead, he focuses on the reaction of the passionate viewers, whose love and or fascination with the film goes way beyond Stendhal Syndrome.

Unfortunately, with this in mind, Ascher makes quite a puzzling choice. Opting out of utilizing the common documentary practice of confessional on-camera interviews with his quirky subjects, he instead uses only audio recordings. This stylistic decision becomes quite bothersome though considering Ascher makes it a point to include and arguably highlight such subtle personal details from his commentators as vocal cadence, sweetly dorky laughs, profuse usage of “like’ and even a theorist’s distraction at the hands of a baby crying in the background.

An intellectual world like this, while certainly erudite, is no more specialized then the micro-universes explored in huge fan-favorite documentaries like Spellbound or The King of Kong. Those filmmakers understood that their subjects were as integral to the story as the medium with which they were involved. We didn’t need biographies of his commentators, but Ascher could have employed some visual recognition, if for nothing else than to make various overlapping theories easier to distinguish, and thus the documentary as a whole, more accessible to the masses.

The Shining is a universal masterpiece because Kubrick made sure to leave a simple trail of breadcrumbs for those incapable or uninterested in following the more arduous ones. Yes, Mensa Members could interpret master clues and a deep-seeded personal ideology in the film, but high school kids could also inadvertently absorb some of the same principals while enjoying a scary movie after school. Room 237 is in fact entertaining and eye-opening, but by breaking from typical documentary structure, Ascher has in essence built a gorgeous and well-crafted topiary maze that unfortunately, most of the public won’t even be able to enter, never mind get lost in.