Starts September 19, 2013
Directed by: Rodney Ascher
Writing credits: Rodney Ascher
Cast: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner, Buffy Visick
Length: 102 minutes
Controversial films deserve revisiting, which is precisely what director Rodney Ascher does in his documentary Room 237. He investigates various hypotheses expounding on the crux of Stanley Kubrik’s divisive film, The Shining. Many deemed it a landmark horror film, whereas others thought it unworthy of Kubrik’s masterly talents.
Room 237 is broken down into nine parts, with five interviewees: each poses an intriguing premise for Kubrik’s thinking, i.e. execution while filming, opening vast areas for speculation and innuendo. One suggests that Barry Lyndon (1975), although wonderfully executed and acted, is boring because Kubrik was bored. A few of the intriguing explicates are: phallic symbols (in Kubrik’s staging and actors), Native American Indians, and numerology. To substantiate these multiple interpretations, Ascher intercuts clips from The Shining that spotlight the implied inherent hidden messages. Yet studying the details does tell a much larger, and more provocative story.
Behind-the-scenes anecdotes, sprinkled throughout, are equally attention-grabbing. An off-camera shot of Jack Nicholson getting into character is fascinating. As are background reproduction details that include learning about the months of research involved, how scrupulously the right hotel location was scouted, and Stephen King’s intense dislike of Kubrik’s 1980 adaptation. An aside: In 1997 King wrote his own teleplay, and supervised a TV Mini-series (USA) based on his novel—obviously less memorable than Kubrik’s version. Perhaps the eccentric suppositions presented do portend to the true horror The Shining imbues—a certain irresistible, underlying tenseness that clutches at our primal imagination. And yes, I confess, as Room 237 proposes, I would like to see The Shining running forward and backwards simultaneously. (Marinell H.)