Film review: Room 237
PRODUCED BY P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes, Tim Kirk
DIRECTED BY Rodney Ascher
EDITED BY Rodney Ascher
MUSIC BY William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes
DISTRIBUTED BY IFC Midnight
“The Number 23(7)”
Only a few days ago I quite arbitrarily wound up on a few websites dedicated to the occult symbolism in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and naturally those pointed to similar YouTube videos: there’s the one about how Full Metal Jacket was positively infused with insinuations about the JFK assassination and the second gunman; the one detailing the Illuminati calling cards subliminally tucked into almost every shot of Eyes Wide Shut; the fatuous yarn which posits that Kubrick’s extensive research into the accuracy of 2001 led NASA to hire him to shoot the Apollo 11 moon landing footage at soundstage 237, and that The Shining is, among other things, Stanley’s left-handed indictment against those who engineered this deceit. Room 237 is, essentially, a YouTube video with abnormally high production values. We are only ever shown clips of The Shining and other works from Stan’s oeuvre, and from other relevant films, but never a single human face to put to the disembodied voices of five individuals who espouse their theories about the myriad hidden meanings and symbols seen (and imagined) in The Shining. Do these men have expertise beyond this esoteric topic?
Reporter Bill Blakemore published an article in 1987 about The Shining‘s genocidal undertones (the Overlook Hotel, of course), and there doesn’t seem to be anything controversial about these overt symbols. History professor Geoffrey Cocks believes The Shining is the Holocaust film Kubrick always wanted to make, and highlights Kubrick’s ‘focus’ on the number 42 (See: two times three times seven; the official year the Holocaust began; the name of the film seen on TV by Wendy and Danny; the number of pores on the tip of Kubrick’s nose; etc, et al, ad infinitum). It can be difficult to believe that Kubrick, so exacting a man, could miss certain glaring continuity errors showcased here – right? Is Jack the Minotaur at the center of the labyrinth? Is it a coincidence that Danny sports his Apollo 11 sweater as he walks to Room 237 when the moon just happens to be approximately 237,000 miles from the Earth? One commentator notes, “See, Jack left the key to Room 237 in the door. If you look closely at what’s on the key, the word ROOM is capitalized and No. is there for room number. What letter is capitalized there – the N? Now what two words can you make from those capital letters? Moon Room, maybe?” Maybe. Gleaning ‘moron’ from the letters is more sensible, ironically.
I was able to sit through Room 237 because The Shining is easily one of my all-time favorite films and Kubrick my all-time favorite filmmaker, and his now legendary cult status makes such a film, at least, endurable to the lay viewer. But it sure would’ve been nice to have some unifying thought or purpose. The film does not examine why humans develop abstruse, crackpot theories… it just sells them.
written by David Ashley