Title: Room 237
Director: Rodney Ascher
Reviewed by @Rudie_Obias
Stanley Kubrick is known as, arguably, the greatest filmmaker of all-time. Each one of his films is so rich that it feels like 10 films from any other filmmaker. His most ambiguous film is his 1980 release of “The Shining.” The adaptation of Stephen King’s widely-popular novel was critically and commercially disappointing. It was even nominated for a few Razzie Awards including worst movie and worst director of 1980. How could, arguably, the greatest filmmaker of all-time have such a magnificent failure in his body of work? The new documentary from Rodney Ascher explores many conspiracy theories behind “The Shining’s” content and Kubrick’s intentions with making this film. As a display of editing and storytelling, “Room 237” is a triumph of film criticism.
“Room 237” is an examination of Stanley Kurbrick’s “The Shining” in nine parts. It takes the view point of several cinephiles who are passionate and obsessive about “The Shining” and Stanley Kubrick. “The Shining” is a story of a family taking up the duties of caretaker of a ski resort in Colorado during the off season. During this long, off season, the patriarch of the family, Jack (Jack Nicholson), slowly descends into madness while his son, Danny (Danny Llyod) experiences paranormal strangeness in the hotel resort.
A pretty cut and dry story evolves into something more in Kubrick’s hands. Many people argue why this is a minor film from Stanley Kubrick is because it doesn’t play on the horror genre the book “The Shining” is part of. The horror elements are somewhat cheesy and flat and what is the end result is an exercise in subversion, which to many doesn’t work with “The Shining.” This is why some believe there is more going on in “The Shining” then what is on the screen. “Room 237” explores theories like “The Shining” is really about the massacre of the Native American Indians, or as Kubrick’s confession of faking the moon landing in 1969, or the holocaust during World War II. Stating at which, at this time in Kubrick’s career, he became bored with filmmaking and so as a challenge, Kubrick made “The Shining” as an exercise in fun filmmaking.
Believe what you will, but what is impressive about “Room 237” is not the theories behind it, it’s the way it’s presented through editing. About 90% of “Room 237” is told through interviews with these theorist, but are actually told on screen through Stanley Kubrick’s work. Blending together elements of all of Stanley Kubrick’s films into “Room 237” is simply the best way to illustrate the filmmaker’s greater point of film criticism in a post-modern landscape. The idea that a filmmaker’s work is no longer their own once the film is completed and released. This idea makes the film wide open for interpretation. So even as out there some of these theories are, everything in this documentary makes sense because the filmmaker puts everything into this brand of film criticism by showing examples of other Stanley Kubrick’s work and showing frame by frame the reasoning behind them.
“Room 237” is a fantastic film and a perfect example of why film is an art form. I would recommend it for anyone who is a cinephile or a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s work. After seeing this film, I would automatically make it part of the curriculum for any Film 101 course in college or film school. It’s that important to understanding why film is art and should be seen and discussed as such.