When Stanley Kubrick directed The Shining, he had other things on his mind than just directing a standard horror film.
This documentary suggests that the film had other connotations including many references to American Indians, the faked footage of the lunar landings and continuity errors that may have been intentional.
After its 5-star award in Empire, Room 237 cropped up on my radar for the 2012 BFI London Film Festival. I knew it was a documentary about hidden meanings behind The Shining and although I've never seen the film (shock! horror!), I figured it would give me something to look out for when I finally do watch it.
There are many reasons to watch Room 237, and equally plenty of reasons to steer clear. It does offer an insight into things that 99% of people who watched the film will have missed, but it does offer some truly ludicrous suggestions - even if you find yourself drawn in by the more realistic ones.
Because it doesn't really offer any of its own footage (it uses many scenes from The Shining, along with some of Stanley Kubrick's work), I wasn't sure whether to review Room 237 at all. It is a film that blurs the line between film and documentary, and I don't plan to review Animal Planet any time soon. I did see it at the cinema, though, so this is probably as good a reason as any to review it.
Some of the suggestions are very interesting. Bits about continuity errors in The Shining being done on purpose are certainly plausible. In the poster you see a scene where Danny Torrance plays with his cars, but in the film when the camera changes shot, the carpet is reversed and the brown stripe leading to Danny then points behind him, suggesting he is now trapped. Or then, perhaps it was an accident.
Other theories explained are the uncanny connections to American Indians (plausible) and a suggestion that Kubrick had filmed the lunar landings (ludicrous). The maze layout of the hotel is an interesting metaphor that many viewers will not have considered before watching Room 237.
Whether Room 237 is essential viewing for those that haven't seen it is questionable, but as I sat in the cinema, I began to realise that I was looking forward to watching The Shining. I did find some of Room 237's theories tiresome though and my mind wandered, wondering about things that seemed to be far more important at the time.
I do appreciate that it raises interesting questions about the real motives of filmmaking along with director's messages and it is undeniable that directors will want to stamp their own messages in films. Whether Kubrick did everything in Room 237 though, only he will know.
Out October 26th 2012