Room 237 is a hypnotic documentary that serves two important purposes. #1: The Shining is an insanely complex and ingenius piece of art. #2: Anyone can perceive a film radically different from someone else. The documentary presents six varying opinions on the secrets and imagery hidden within the confines of Kubrick’s horror masterpiece. However, we never see a single piece of newly recorded live action footage of a person speaking. Instead, we get images and footage from other films that overlap the dialog of the various opinions.
Room 237 is a documentary that feels so essential to The Shining, that it needs to be included with every copy of The Shining. Trying to summarize all of the opinions presented here in detail would be very difficult. They range from the film being an allegory about the mass genocide of Native Americans, to the reign of the Nazis, to the reveal that Kubrick himself fabricated the Apollo moon landing footage. That last one was the most convincing within the film, and should definitely stick in some people’s heads after the initial viewing. I say this because its the one idea that seems almost impossible to write off.
But, revealing all of the specifics and numerous theories would ruin the fun of Room 237. It’s really fun uncovering a lot of undeniably true visual motifs of the film as well. For example, one theorist who claims the film relates to the Nazi occupation makes note of Jack’s type writer as essential evidence. He then points out that the type writer changes color numerous times within the film. That is no continuity error no matter how you look at it. Therefore, it means and represents something. These small moments that are undeniably true help revise your opinion on The Shining entirely. I know that I can never view the film again without dwelling on some of the visual imagery and ideas that these theorists have come up with.
From a technical stand point, I really enjoy that Room 237 does not use newly produced footage. It only uses existing footage from almost all of Kubrick’s films and many others. A small example is when one of the film’s viewers talks about how he left his initial screening of The Shining down in a parking garage back in 1980. The documentary then shows footage of a Robert Redford film that shows his character walk down into a parking garage dazed and confused. These nice parallels really help give Room 237 a special and unique quality. A lot of great 3 dimensional maps are shown throughout the film as well. These help give the viewer a complete architectural overview of the hotel.
This documentary will probably serve best for those who love and enjoy The Shining. On the surface, The Shining is a hypnotic and artfully produced piece of psychological and unnerving horror. This documentary will reveal that numerous and numerous layers lie beneath that though. On a final note, all of the film’s theories are really to be taken with a grain of salt. Some have little convincing evidence, while others seem to blow the top off of a huge conspiracy. Then again, you could find something that I find convincing to be ridiculous and vice versa. This realization that viewers of the film will see something different in the documentary itself really drives home that any film can be perceived differently amongst various viewers. If you take nothing else away from the documentary, at least you will take that away.
Note: This documentary has just been released on Digital Video On Demand as of Friday, Mar. 29th. Therefore, that is your easiest way of viewing the film. You can see it through many sites, but I paid $7 to rent it through iTunes. As a small comment, I really enjoy these V.O.D. pre-theatrical releases because some films, like this, are very hard to find in theaters. Other V.O.D. films I have viewed before have been The Hunter, V/H/S, and my last review for the site, Wu Xia.
Room 237 (2012) directed by Rodney Ascher