‘There ain’t nothing in Room 237…’
According to a number of film theorists, Stanley Kubrick littered his films with hidden messages and cryptic clues that allude to the true meaning of his various masterworks. For reasons unknown, The Shining seems to be the film that most attracts conspiracy theorists and cineastes alike. Writer-director Rodney Ascher explores this strange corner of cinema theory in his film Room 237 and boy is it a wild ride…
The Shining isn’t about an evil hotel or addiction or the cyclical nature of abuse. No, it’s really about the cultural assimilation of Native Americans. Or it’s a veiled confession that the moon landings were fake and the footage that was beamed across the world was actually created by Kubrick using a sound stage. Wait, it could be about the legend of the Minotaur. Or the holocaust. Ascher produces what amounts to a feature-length video essay that provides a platform for all of these theories. And it’s utterly fascinating.
Ascher presents all of these theories without comment, allowing the proponents of said thesis to explain themselves using voiceover and some clever editing. Some of it is obviously absolute nonsense (albeit entertaining nonsense) but some of it addresses moments that do appear to hint at some kind of wider message. Why does Danny wear an Apollo 11 sweater? Why does the furniture move, change or disappear entirely? Knowing Kubrick’s meticulous nature, it seems unlikely that anything was left to chance. Or maybe we are giving the old master too much credit. The beauty is that we’ll never know.
Room 237 works on two levels. It’s a fascinating deep dive into one of the greatest films ever made, but it’s also a comment on fanaticism and conspiracy theories and the phenomenon that dictates that anyone could find anything anywhere if they just look hard enough. A truism that has never been more poignant. Or more dangerous.