Room 237 - Directed by Rodney Ascher, featuring theories from Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, and Juli Kearns - Rated R
I don't clamor for documentaries (I usually like to escape reality when I watch a film, not be confronted by it), but when I heard about Room 237 I was immediately interested. A film about a bunch of (sometimes) far out theories about The Shining? That is right up my alley.
I have loved Stanley Kubrick's films for as long as I can remember. For whatever reason, however, it wasn't until I re-watched Eyes Wide Shut that I developed an obsessive love of his films. That film made me look at every inch of the frame, like I was trying to solve some puzzle that may or may not have been there. Eyes Wide Shut was extremely mysterious, whereas I always found The Shining to be relatively straightforward, even though it features some baffling elements. Room 237 has opened my eyes...and made me really want to watch that classic Kubrick film again and again.
There isn't much to say about the plot of the film aside from the fact that it points out some very interesting details that you probably have not considered about The Shining. The highlight of the film is the idea that Kubrick had filmed a fake moon landing for the government and this film was his confession. There are some more obvious theories about Native Americans (in the actual film, a character mentions that the hotel was built on top of a Native American burial ground), and some less obvious theories about the Holocaust. They all seem plausible as you watch this documentary. My favorite moments were when mistakes in continuity were pointed out (the carpet design reversing and furniture disappearing). It's not that I love movie mistakes; it's that Kubrick doesn't make them. I had never noticed those before, which tells me I have not given this film the attention it deserves. Of course a movie about a haunted hotel features subtle changes that might go unnoticed. Room 237 made me realize just how interesting The Shining is.
It is quite possible that this film might completely annoy you, however. If you're not into applying theories to films, then you should obviously skip this. If you're the type to go with the simplest explanation, then this film will be lost on you. If you love Kubrick, though, then you probably like to apply theories...
As far as documentaries go, Room 237 features an interesting style. Rather than show the people making these claims, we instead only get their voices as we see clips from The Shining (and all other Kubrick films) and a multitude of other sources. It is essentially a long, entertaining youtube clip. I don't mean that in a negative way at all. I found Room 237 to be an entertaining and engaging film all around. I very much enjoyed the use of clips rather than traditional interview shots. It was quite amusing when they found a clip that perfectly matched up with what the subject was saying. My favorite moment was when they were talking about Stephen King's angry reaction to the film as a clip of King from his performance in Creepshow was shown. That one had me laughing aloud.
It feels odd to apply so much praise to a film that is essentially telling you to go watch another film. I guess that's what makes Room 237 so special. It makes both itself and The Shining rewatchable. I plan on watching The Shining again very soon, and I will most likely return to Room 237 in the future as well, to see if I have forgotten a few moments or theories (which is possible, as there is a lot of information given to the viewer). Most importantly, Room 237 left me wanting more and more theories, which means that I have to find some new ones on my own. If a film can reignite my obsession with a Kubrick film, then it is pretty special to me.