Director: Rodney Asher
Starring: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Julie Kearns, Jay Weidner
“The wave of terror that swept across American is HERE” is the description used on the poster.
I am sure any movie-goer can sit down and think of a few movies that have left a lasting impression on them. They may even go so far as to read articles and stories about the filming of it, listen to the director’s commentary, or watch interviews with the actors. Any new insight or glimmer of knowledge into your favorite film is always rewarding.
The legendary Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors of all-time. I am always transfixed and left with wild images flashing through my mind after watching any of his films. They may not always make sense and you may shake your head afterwards, but he leaves the audience with something to think about. For these fans, I mean theorists, they take their love of The Shining to the next level of movie probing. The six enthusiasts have watched the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the Stephen King novel countless times finding new meanings and hidden agendas Kubrick may be saying and hinting at throughout the film. They mention that no Kubrick directorial choice can be taken as arbitrary. While that is true about such accomplished directors, there is no end as they dig deeper into every nook and cranny of the Overlook Hotel.
The film requires an open mind as you listen to some theories that sound slightly possible to some that seem downright absurd and laughable. Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner, and Buffy Visick all give their insights via audio commentary. None of them are actually featured in the documentary so at times you may get lost on who is speaking and which opinion belongs to which fan. In the end, it does not really matter. There is a thought that he was potentially bored while making Barry Lyndon and was looking for the next thing. He was studying the idea behind subliminal messages and images in commercials before making The Shining. Blakemore starts off by claiming Kubrick used the story to voice a commentary on the genocide of the Indians. He mentions the use of Calumet brand Baking Powder cans found in the pantry and all of the framed artwork of Indian chiefs as proof. You may be thinking to yourself, that’s it? Cocks makes a bold statement that the film was Kubrick’s way of making a film about the Holocaust. He was known to be so moved by the Holocaust but he couldn’t figure out how to make an actual film about it. He states the abundant use of the number 42 and the German typewriter Jack Torrence uses as his evidence. The theory that made me audibly laugh is the belief Kubrick was involved in faking the Apollo moon landing footage. That theorist also believes Kubrick leaves hints in all of his movies regarding this claim. He gets so deep into his belief that he makes every line and image out to be a nod to the landing and Kubrick’s relationship with his wife. He mentions that the mean distance from the moon to earth is 237,000 miles. He points out that Danny is wearing an Apollo 11 sweater. Those are just a couple of the ways he tries to make his theory about Kubrick and the “faked” moon landing.
The focus is all about Kubrick and all of his artistic choices, but why do none of these theorists attribute any of these things to King since he is the original source material being the author of the book? It is no secret that Stephen King was very disappointed in the movie. Kubrick made many changes and took many liberties with King’s story. They do wonder if Kubrick was changing things just to piss him off and claim that The Shining was his territory now.
While the concept of reading into a director’s work can seem interesting, it has to make sense and be believable. Oftentimes, these loyal fans would seem to take two props and run with their conspiracy theories. They manifested an idea and went with it looking for any poster on the wall, design in the carpet, or layout of the hotel to support it. The further they seemed to reach and pull evidence to support their theory, the more skeptical I became. Shouldn't it be the opposite? Some of their ideas and thoughts seem so far-fetched and possibly made up in their head that they do not make sense. I tilted my head and laughed in amusement at times I was so confused by what point they were trying to make. When you delve so deep into a movie does it make you enjoy the movie even more or does it take away the mystery or intrigue it has on you? Can you still enjoy a movie if you have broken it so far down that you know everything about it?
Whether or not you believe anything they say about the film, you cannot deny that Kubrick was a visionary director that had a point of view. He may or may not have had any of these messages or hidden meanings in mind when he made it. We will never know. I do not think anyone will be converted to believe Kubrick faked the moon landing after watching Room 237, but you may watch The Shining under a different light the next time you pop it in. If you love Stanley Kubrick, The Shining, or consider yourself a cinephile who likes to dig a little deeper into movies, this film may pique your inquisitive mind. The more likely scenario is that you will feel like these six people have far too much time on their hands. During one observation someone states, “Perhaps I’m grasping at straws here.”
Yes, I think you are, but I still had fun hearing you pitch your theory.
RATIING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)