Room 237 Reviews
From purely a subject matter point of view, Room 237 is heaven for me. I, like the interviewees, always find myself going back and looking at all the little details of The Shining. Every time I re-watch it, I end up surfing the Internet on different theories, so seeing that a documentary was actually made on this subject really sucked me in.
While I enjoyed Room 237 based on my personal love for The Shining and all of Stanley Kubrick's complicated works, it could have been better. I didn't really care for the style of it. We didn't get to see any of the interviewees, as their voices were just voiceovers of endless scenes of movies. A lot of the scenes were obviously from The Shining, but there were other Kubrick movies, as well as just other movies shown for the whole runtime. I didn't really care for that aspect of it at all.
Overall, this is an okay movie, but you have to be really interested in the movie to get anything out of it. A lot of the theories seem kind of crazy and a lot of the details they get into don't seem all that important, but as a starting point for making your own opinions about what all the below the surface details of the Shining mean, this is a cool little film.
With his next movie "The Shining," those same background details would end up tripping up any number of over-attentive viewers. This phenomenon is explored in the documentary "Room 237" which also serves as a cautionary tale about seeing a movie at least 50 times.
Whereas the viewers interviewed provide occasionally valid insights, especially along the lines of the Overlook Hotel actually being alive, there are other theories that are to be polite just out there.
Take for instance the one who saw "The Shining" as proof that Kubrick faked the moon landing, mostly in a random sweater and cans of Tang. Actually, he kind of hedges his bets when he says that we probably did reach the moon but that is not the real footage. In any case, I did not watch the bonus footage of "Room 237" on the DVD, so alas I don't know if he ever got audited by the IRS.
And then there is numerology which is shaky at the best of times, which in this case involves the number 42.(2 X 3 X 7 = 42) Admittedly, that is also the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' which was first produced two years before "The Shining" was released. Or maybe Kubrick was just a huge Jackie Robinson fan.
As the riduculata start to pile up, the film takes on a different meaning. It's not about THE SHINING at all, but about the people with WAY too much time on their hands. I was brought back to my days at UCLA Film School. Friends would always tell me that it would ruin me as an audience member because I would, from that point forward, notice things the casual viewer wouldn't, thus deadening the entertainment value of any film. Instead, I would roll my eyes in certain classes, because I somehow knew that not every filmmaker would intentionally play with iconography, and that the "red wall" in a scene had nothing to do with blood and had everything to do with the fact that it was the only color the Production Designer could find on that particular day. Movies are often a series of happy accidents.
Of course, Stanley Kubrick was a notorious perfectionist who would ask for hundreds of takes from a performer, He was known to pore over every details, so who knows? Maybe these nutjobs are onto something. It really doesn't matter, since nobody from the Kubrick estate is endorsing ROOM 237. Better to just listen to the insane musings presented here and delight in their awkward"I know this sounds crazy" laughter.
That Kubrick's work spawns so many theories is a testament to the greatness of the man and his work. To be sure, there are some fascinating aspects to his career, and the symbolism of many of his films seems to be undeniable. Some of the theories regarding what Stanley was trying to convey are quite compelling, and I was hoping for a thoughtful exploration of these theories.
What Room 237 does, however, is really present more of a mash up of theories. We never see the interviewee's faces; we are simply given their narration against film rolls of Kubrick's different films. There are too many voices and too little delineation between them. Trains of thought wonder and never seem to be honed in. There's interesting things said, but little exploration of it. Points are never contrasted, and instead the viewer is left to try and sort this all out themselves.
Dull analysis is mixed in with rather fascinating analysis, such as Kubrick's alleged collaboration in regards to the moon landing. Instead of capitalizing on this and providing opposing viewpoints, and perhaps challenging some of the points presented, the film simply goes on to the next talking-head, with no real sense of direction. This leads to a frustrating and inaccessible experience, we want to learn, but instead become bored and disinterested.
Simply put, it's a documentary without a rudder.
The film was screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and I could imagine how much critics enjoyed it. One of the most intelligent men on the planet, a man passionate about his work, showed us a great sense of humour in some of the hidden clues and messages in The Shining, and brilliance in the rest. This documentary positions The Shining as a comparably coiled, thematically overflowing microcosm-standing in for cinema, for history, for obsession, for postmodern theory buckling under the film's heft... and much, much more.
Even if the theories are not true, it is an enjoyable piece of art.