“Room 237” – 3 STARS

room 327 POSTERI’m not the biggest fan of Stanley Kubrick. He has a couple of movies I really like and a couple that I hate. I recognize his talent and filmmaking skills but I’m not always blown away by this storytelling. “The Shining” is one of his films that I like although not near as much as the obsessives we find in the documentary “Room 237”. While I enjoy “The Shining”, I’m not as smitten with it as many are. But the five people we meet in “Room 237” are beyond smitten. They are consumed with the film.

I had read very little on this unsanctioned documentary prior to watching it. I just knew that it was a look at the deeper meanings of what is perhaps Kubrick’s most recognized film. In its own way that’s what “Room 237” is about. But the documentary doesn’t look at popular theories surrounding some of the film’s bigger questions. It more closely resembles far-fetched conspiracy theories thought up through obsessive analysis. I can’t say I left the picture with any new sense of revelation. To be honest I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t at all what I expected. On the flip side there were some unexpected elements in the movie that I found fascinating.

“Room 237” shows the incredible ability of cinema to open itself to a variety of interpretations. It also shows the amazing love that some people have for movies. That’s certainly the case with the enthusiasts we are introduced to here. Not only do each love “The Shining” but their interpretations wildly differ. It really drove home something I’ve always said – movies often speak to different people in different ways. I love the ability to discuss a film and present my interpretation to someone who sees it differently. Movies that give us that have done us a great service.

room 237

But there is a such thing as letting your obsession run wild and that’s what we get here. One person goes through detailed analysis of how the film is about the “white man’s” genocide of the American Indians. Another firmly believes that the entire film is about the Jewish Holocaust. Yet another believes that Kubrick uses the movie to expose his participation in the faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing video footage. Perhaps the funniest theory is that the film is loaded with subliminal messages that support a subtext involving haunted phantoms and demons who are sexually attracted to humans. Yes, someone actually believes that.

Their impassioned defenses of their theories can be interesting especially when they break the film down frame by frame to offer evidence. But honestly it’s hard to take a lot of their ideas seriously. Their entire argument may hinge on a typewriter, the number 42, or a carpet pattern. They often times point to interesting oversights found in the movie. But their relevance to the theories they’re purporting can be pretty flimsy. That’s where the movie falls a bit short. I can appreciate the passion and near fanaticism that the movie features. But the fact that none of these theories carry much weight makes the documentary feel lightweight. Yes I was entertained, but I was left wanting more.

Close to the end of “Room 237”, a gentleman speaks of his life becoming “The Shining”. He talks about his plans to move his family to a secluded part of the country where he can continue to study the film. What an example of a man’s creepy monomania. These infatuations and enthusiasms are what this documentary is really about. Some are intriguing, most are preposterous. Yet there is still something to be said about this kind of love for a movie. For some of us a movie can deeply stir us and a special love for that film can arise. I think “Room 237” shows that you can take that a tad too far. I just wish this documentary gave me a little more to chew on.

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23 thoughts on ““Room 237” – 3 STARS

  1. Great review Keith. I’m a big fan of The Shining and I was really looking forward to seeing this but I was also a little disappointed, primarily because it offered little that you can’t find elsewhere. I’ve read about most of those theories on the Internet before. I do think some of the theories carry a bit of weight, but others are utterly preposterous! Seeing Kubrick’s face in the clouds? Yeah, not so sure 🙂

  2. I’m very interested in seeing this. The Shining’s one of my favorite movies, though I’ve heard some of the theories are really unbelievable. Nice review.

    • Thanks man. This movie doesn’t offer much. I like The Shining but I don’t just adore it. I can’t imagine a huge fan of the film really loving this documentary. It’s most impressive elements are the obsessions and the way movies speak to people differently.

    • Kubrick in the clouds? Ummmm no! LOL!

      I really didn’t buy into any of the MAIN theories at all. Now were there references to some of the things they were talking about? Quite possibly. But some of the folks treated the entire film as though is was about their particular theory.

  3. Some crap I believed, others I didn’t. I guess it all depends on how much you actually see in these observations, and whether or not you can take them as true as yourself. Nice review Keith.

    • Thanks man. I did think they brought out some interesting cryptic themes that be in the film. But I don’t see any of the themes being the main focus of the film.

  4. Nice write up Keith. It was definitely a bit off the wall. If you watch or read anything enough times you will start to find all kinds of meanings. Much of these theories are pretty thin and I am sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle someplace but this documentary was pretty weak. It’s made worse by the fact that all the people sound the same making it hard to tell one nutter from the other. I did find the stuff about the Volkswagen beetle pretty interesting though and it wouldn’t surprise me if that was done by Kubrick on purpose.

    • The red Volkswagen was a cool one. I’m with ya, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if that ones legit. Still don’t think I’ll be watching this one again anytime soon.

    • Very nice write-up. Can’t argue with your points at all. It’s pretty telling that my favorite aspects of the documentary weren’t really dealing with “The SHining” directly.

  5. Interesting that you said you’re not Stanley Kubrick’s biggest fan, Keith. I’m not familiar w/ his work but from what I’ve seen and read, I don’t know that I *get* his style and his brand of violence certainly won’t sit well with me. I think I’d probably skip this one.

    • Yep, I like The Shining, Sparticus, and Full Metal Jacket. I love Dr. Strangelove. But there are other films of his that do nothing for me. For example I can’t stand A Clockwork Orange. But many others love him.

      As for this film, if you don’t like The Shining at all this wont appeal to you.

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  7. I had just seen The Shining, so it was interesting to check out this documentary. Like you say a lot of it is very flimsy and although I won’t look at The Shining the same way again because of it, there are really none of the theories which I found plausible, so the documentary ended up being a bit disappointing.

    • That’s really interesting. Sounds like it did have enough of an impact on you to change the way you look at The Shining. For me it did nothing like that. I just found it interesting how a movie can consume people and completely change their lives. For me that was the most fascinating part if the doc.

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