Saturday, November 23, 2013

What Lurks Inside Room 237?

Have you ever been deeply enthusiastic about a movie, album or book? Maybe you’ve talked about it over & over with fellow fans? Or perhaps kept looking for the true meanings of the images, words or music over & over in your mind? Well, you’ve got nothing on the people featured in the film Room 237 (2012). This documentary features a group of Über-fans discussing their theories on the subtext of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 version of Stephen King’s novel The Shining. While the film wasn’t a huge success on its original release, and King wasn’t pleased with the final result, it has since gained a reputation as one of the better horror films of the period. It's now considered a classic of the genre. The Kubrick devotees featured in Room 237 think there’s a lot more lurking behind the doors of The Overlook Hotel than ghosts, corridors of blood & creepy twin girls.

The movie features clips from The Shining & other Kubrick films, and is narrated by these admirers of the director, who remain off camera. They discuss their views & opinions on the true themes of the movie. The Kubrick aficionados include Bill Blakemore, Juli Kearns & John Fell Ryan, among others. The theories they put forth about what Kubrick is really discussing beneath the surface of the film include the massacre of Native Americans by the white man, the Holocaust and the possible faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Few filmmakers inspire as much intense debate & offbeat interpretation among their fans as Kubrick does, and this group is no exception. It’s fascinating to see what some viewers feel is the true message of this unsettling horror tale. 

To paraphrase one of the Kubrick admirers featured, “Even if my view isn’t what he intended to say with the film, does that make it any less valid?” And that’s a good point. We all bring our own histories, interests & feelings with us when we watch a movie, see a play, read a book, or listen to a new album. My take on a piece of art may be very different from yours, but that doesn’t make it invalid. While some of these ideas regarding the subtext of The Shining are pretty far out, there’s no doubt that these people are passionate about this movie, and Kubrick’s work as a whole. The film’s one drawback is that the same clips are used multiple times to illustrate the theories being discussed.

We’re all fans of something, be it the work of a director, the performances of a certain actor, the work of an author, a type of TV show or film genre, or the music of a band we love. While most people don’t espouse their theories as publicly as the people featured in Room 237, on some level, we’ve all been deeply affected by a piece of entertainment. This film celebrates movie fans, movie analysis & movie love, and that’s a good thing. Room 237 was produced by Tim Kirk and directed by Rodney Ascher. It’s currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital download & viewing. One final note that may be of interest to fans: In the original novel, the room number used by King was 217; Kubrick changed it to 237 for the film version. Here are links to the film’s trailers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOxukprEwjg & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHE5YUNkssQ.

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