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Archive for April, 2013

‘Room 237’ Movie Review

Reviewing movies can be a subjective process. Either you like what you saw or you don’t. You’d think that analyzing movies would be similar. If Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) throws a tennis ball against a wall at the hotel, he must be bored and experiencing writer’s block, right? Perhaps, but what if that wall is covered in a Navajo tapestry. Could that mean Jack is actually meant to represent the “white” man’s slaughter of American Indians as they settled this country? That’s the type of questions this movie posts to viewers. The only problem, I’m not sure it succeeds on every level.

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My anticipation for this film was high. “The Shining” is definitely in my top ten films I could watch again and again. The fascinating thing is you typically catch something new on each viewing. The director of “Room 237”, Rodney Ascher has a similar outlook and lets five “Shining” enthusiasts spew exactly what they’ve picked up on since the film’s release in 1980.

**Warning spoilers ahead**

Here’s where I start to have a bit of an issue with this documentary and I will openly admit maybe my previous knowledge of “The Shining” impaired my enjoyment more than I expected. The theories are not that new and some a bit flimsy.

I’ll start with the aforementioned allegory for the genocide of American Indians. Theorist Bill Blakemore suggests that the use of the “Calumet” cans of foods inside the pantry and Danny Torrance’s subsequent mind-reading during one early scene are shown to illustrate this. Later, the hotel’s manager talks about it being built over an Indian burial ground. Makes sense. Blakemore also mentions the line when Jack first takes a sip of alcohol from his ghostly barkeep calling it the “white man’s burden” aka guilt over the massacre of thousands.  However, what bothered me is that Blakemore fails to talk about several other symbols that back up this theory. The previously mentioned throwing of the tennis ball at the tapestry or how Wendy’s apparel and hair are similar to that of an American Indian woman throughout much of the film. Really, this theory does hold some water, but it may have only been one of Kubrick’s intentions for the movie.

Other theories range from Kubrick using “The Shining” as a metaphor for the holocaust (heavily numerical-based) to Kubrick secretly telling the audience he helped to fake the Apollo moon-landing. The latter, while intriguing seems incredibly far-fetched. That comes from conspiracy theorist Jay Weidner. He contends Kubrick hid clues about the moon-landing in many of his films and not just “The Shining.”

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One of the biggest things I did not like about the film was the basic format. The theorists are introduced by text on screen, but we never see them. The voices then pop up again without any on-screen text as the film jumps around from theory to theory. I feel like Ascher could have benefited from a little more structure here.

Ascher also uses a lot of stock footage (often repeated several times) and clips from old movies. Many are not even referenced and the audience is left wondering why are we seeing a clip from “Eyes Wide Shut” altered to include a super-imposed poster of “The Shining?” If we are analyzing “The Shining”, show the “The Shining!”

And that leads me to my major gripe and disappointment of this documentary. While the theories are at times interesting and potentially intended, few have anything to do with the actual storyline of the movie. There is so much going on in this film, so many continuity errors and chances for inner meaning. Is the hotel actually haunted? Or is it all in Jack’s head? Or is it all in Wendy’s? Does the film jump around in time? That’s something I’ve theorized in the past which you can check out here.  One of the theorists in Ascher’s documentary Juli Kearns touches upon some of the inconsistencies, but is not heard from nearly as much as the others.

I applaud Ascher’s undertaking and devotion to “The Shining”, but after all the hype I expected his execution would have been better. Perhaps someone else will be inspired to make a more thorough documentary. After all this film always leaves “Room” for interpretations. Maybe even “237” of them.

posted by Seth Szilagyi in The Shining and have No Comments