If you’re obsessed with Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece, The Shining, you owe it to yourself to see this riveting, strange, and frustrating documentary, entitled Room 237, which chronicles the many conspiracy theories and interpretations surrounding the film. I am probably the biggest Kubrick fanatic who ever lived, so when I found out that this documentary existed, it immediately found a place in the number one spot of my “must-see” list for the year. When I finally got around to viewing it, I found myself with mixed feelings. Not that this had anything to do with the documentary as a singular work of art. It is superbly crafted. It draws you in from the very first moment until the very end – and the film score is excellent.
Your enjoyment of the film will probably depend on your tolerance for some of the admittedly insane theories which are presented here. Some of them are fascinating in an odd sort of way. There exists an entire cult of people who genuinely believe that the entirety of The Shining is actually a confession from Stanley Kubrick — a symbolically rich, subtle acknowledgement that he was the mastermind behind an elaborate staging of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I found this to be entirely intriguing – even though I didn’t believe one word of it. I’m pretty set in my ways when it comes to my personal interpretation of The Shining. I’ve yet to be swayed. In viewing this film, nothing has changed.
Other claims – that the film is actually a commentary on the genocide of Native Americans and the Holocaust, that there are many benefits from watching the film both forwards and backwards simultaneously, and that there may actually be a Minotaur living within the hedge maze – don’t hold up as well. In fact, they’re downright silly. I mean, they’re still fun to listen to, but you will wonder where these people come up with this stuff. Then again, if this documentary is capable of introducing The Shining to a new audience, I’m all for it.
Room 237 arrives on Blu-ray from MPI Media Group and IFC Midnight and contains many special features, including a commentary, “Secrets from The Shining: Panel Discussion from the First Annual Stanley Film Festival, eleven deleted scenes, The Making of the Music featurette, a Mondo poster design discussion with artist Aled Lewis, a trailer, and alternate trailers.
The panel discussion, featuring Kubrick’s long-time collaborator and friend, Leon Vitali, is worth the purchase of the Blu-ray alone. Vitali offers many wonderful and hilarious counter arguments to some of the theories surrounding The Shining – a must-see for fans of the film.