Room 237
IFC Films // Unrated // March 29, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted March 29, 2013
Highly Recommended
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Film theory and criticism can be utilized by any moviegoer. You don't have to obtain a degree in order to analyze the art of filmmaking. Some directors use their mise-en-scène to incorporate a deeper meaning, while others assimilate an effect because it looks cool. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a classic that will be loved by viewers for generations. While some fans of Stephen King's novel believe that the motion picture isn't a very good adaptation, others believe that Kubrick was delivering several messages throughout the running time of this unforgettable picture. Whether or not these theories are true doesn't necessarily matter, especially since they're so intriguing to listen to. If you enjoy Stanley Kurbrick's features, such as The Shining, then Rodney Ascher's new documentary will most certainly pique your interest.

Room 237 is a subjective documentary that explores multiple theories given by several sources about the hidden messages that they believe Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining is conveying. With each year that passes, more speculation and debate seem to emerge. Five different perspectives are displayed as voice overs to clips from the motion picture, as well as some representational drawings. With the use of slow-motion and freeze frames, director Rodney Ascher shows the viewers what subjects are speaking about in this interesting documentary.

Some of the theories cross over, but the people sharing them each have a different experience with the film. They have all seen the motion picture multiple times in order to reinforce the ideas that they have developed. Room 237 begins with the concept that Kubrick intended to incorporate aspects of the American Indian takeover. There isn't a large amount of evidence to support this one, but it's an amusing point-of-view. The next perspective is that The Shining might be about the Holocaust. The speakers most certainly appear to be passionate about this one, even when discussing the smallest bits of evidence. The connections between Kubrick's horror film and 2001: A Space Odyssey are astounding, especially since most of them went unnoticed. However, the theory that Stanley Kubrick was delivering commentary that he was involved in faking the moon landing is pretty ridiculous. The connections made between the two features are undeniable, but the speculations being made are absolutely ludicrous.

This documentary has a lot more to offer than theories about what Kubrick was trying to say with this movie. Room 237 teaches a little bit about how this filmmaker was behind the scenes and some of the visual aesthetics you might have been unaware of. Ascher handles this material very well and leaves audiences wanting more. However, the majority of the running time is filled with the perspectives of the subjects. It doesn't matter if you believe any of these ideas, since the extreme amount of interest they express is one of the reasons your eyes will be glued to the screen. Even when some of the most insane statements are expressed, at least they're enthusiastic about what is being said. They didn't all admire Kubrick's adaptation on the first viewing, but it clearly gave them all a lot to think about and discuss, which is what the art of filmmaking is meant to do.

Fortunately, Ascher never takes a specific side. He never claims that a particular theory is right or wrong, but simply presents them and allows the subjects to speak about their take on The Shining. He clearly realizes how absurd some of the comments become, but he doesn't shake his job of presenting us with the clips and drawings to be integrated with the conversation. The editing is displayed precisely as it needs to be, especially with the order in which the subjects speak in. The topic of an "impossible window" within the office is a memorable one that is discussed by more than one of the speakers. While watching The Shining, I never put that together, which made it incredibly intriguing to listen to. A map is displayed, which was created to replicate the layout of the building. A lot of work has clearly gone into how this would be put together, and it paid off.

This isn't the documentary to end all, but it's an incredibly engrossing picture that tells quite a bit about both the man behind numerous classics, as well as the possible meanings hidden within The Shining. The perspectives are all fascinating to listen to, even though some of them are laughable. Kubrick fans and casual moviegoers will find this to be a compelling piece of cinema that will keep you engrossed in every word being said. Room 237 is an outstanding documentary that explores cinematic commentary in a unique fashion. Highly recommended!

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