Title: Room 237
Director(s): Rodney Ascher
Release Year: 2012
For years, people have been going through their favorite films and trying to understand the logic behind them. What makes this character tick? Does this plot twist fit in with the rest of the film? The culture of breaking down the myth in our favorite media has been around since we witnessed our first movie and listened to the song that we couldn’t get out of our head. Room 237 brings us the ultimate thesis statement of the obsessions that we grow for the movies that inspire or mystify us. From the guilt of having faked the footage of the moon landing to the idea that the film deals with the holocaust, various subtexts (with varying degrees of ridiculousness) are exposed by five individuals whom who do not see throughout the picture. All we are left to see are the visuals of Kubrick’s work and other re-enactments. This is what we are given as viewers with no predisposed ideas on the type of people whose opinions we are listening to. For a film that seems to focus on the little things, it’s interesting to notice that we don’t have much to think about aside from the film. The people we hear are never exposed to us and we listen to their voices and while we may want to see who they are as actual people, Ascher shows great responsibility in only bringing the footage from The Shining and having narration of the people. Photos of map layouts of the Overlook hotel are on display to suggest certain theories and little red circles to outline certain things from frames of the movie. Then again, this may just be the sign of a great yet uneven documentary.
Stanley Kubrick’s filmography has always been surrounded by mystery with his unmade epic based on Napoleon’s life and then with the other movies that he actually made (Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange, Spartacus) but audiences seemed to always be interested in his movies even during his arguably lesser works (Eyes Wide Shut, Barry Lyndon). Kubrick’s attention to detail has been astronomical and quite inspiring to other directors, most notably David Fincher who, taken from Kubrick’s film process, will film a scene almost 100 times just to get it right. Naturally the fanbase will be just as dedicated into finding the hidden layers of art within each and every frame or piece of artwork to the movies Kubrick put his blood, sweat and tears into.
Ascher’s subjects are surrounded by the same sense of mystery as the subject of Room 237 is. People walked out of the theatre after watching The Shining and wondered what they had seen. There’s no way that Kubrick could have made a bad film or made something as simple as just a plain old Horror film so people had to look for its hidden meaning. These people are brought forward to us, rather their opinions are, to persuade or possibly get our mind rolling as to what could have happened. This is what confuses me and ultimately seems to be why I can’t completely recommend this film. While these ideas and theories are incredibly intriguing, preposterous or both; they don’t seem to be enough to carry an entire film on the subject, especially when I really want to learn more about the people behind these ideas. While the documentary is adamant at not letting us judge these people, maybe it would have taken up more time and let us witness some humanity behind the voices of our narrators. As entertaining as it is to hear about one of the most mysterious films out their and the whacked out theories that come with it, as part of the audience I needed more.
While immediately negative, I do think there are positive things to take away from the movie. These stories are always strange, funny, head-scratching and most definitely entertaining. I couldn’t help but think back to my memory of watching The Shining for the first time and feeling like there was a connection to the movie that I had but couldn’t quite describe; these people bring that notion to a completely different level. While I’d rather not spoil any of the theories, I can’t help but laugh every time I hear about the movie has resonance to the rumor of how Kubrick faked the moon landing. And the laughs don’t stop there.
Documentaries are meant to enlighten us on aspects of reality or in this case, possibilities of reality. In that case, this film succeeds on a whole other level than any documentary I have seen. This film doesn’t give us a heart wrenching story in a manipulative fashion or try to mislead us. We’re given the immediate details of the theories with no bullshit. Funny and frightening on the same level, I felt as if I was witnessing a filmmaker on the rise who doesn’t quite have as masterful a focus as a director like Kubrick but with another film or two, I’m sure we’ll see something just as mysterious and entertaining. I’ll be waiting to see his next feature that’s hopefully even more hilarious, thought provoking and thrilling.