Room 237 film review

Room 237, exposing the hidden meanings of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, is in cinemas from 26 October 2012

Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landings, and buried his confession to his wife within the furniture of his 1980 supernatural chiller The Shining.

Or maybe it was about the extermination of the Jews in 1942 – Kubrick had wanted to make a Holocaust movie but kept putting it off, unable to wrap his head around the sheer scale of the horror.

Or maybe its a retelling of the mythological Cretan Labyrinth, and Jack Nicholson‘s leery Jack Torrance is the minotaur at its heart.

All of these and more are entertained in Rodney Ascher’s wry documentary Room 237, largely made up of what sound like Skype calls – interviewees ramble off to talk to their children or about how the government are keeping tabs on them – as a diverse array of equally intense armchair theorists talk us through maps that prove Danny’s tricycle ride is actually taking place within his father and mother’s heads, or scenes of the movie being played backwards and forwards simultaneously to project an incriminating Hitler moustache over Nicholson’s demented caretaker.

The presentation is all fairly straight-faced and largely without comment (although you’re perfectly welcome to chuckle along or bury your head in your hands), with only mischievous uses of accompanying footage serving as a deadpan riposte to some of the more obviously insane theories – most of which seem to hinge on the idea that Stanley Kubrick never made continuity errors and every missing chair or colour change has profound significance, despite the infamously titanic number of takes he’d insist on. It’s not all tenuous tinfoil-hat stuf,f though, and the Native American genocide angle – the use of triangular, teepee shapes in the movie, the burial ground, the wall patterns and animals, the Calumet cans – is explored just as thoroughly as it deserves (considering it’s the most obvious subtext). Even that Kubrick-faked-the-moon-landings thing does have a surprisingly impressive case in itself, that he hid a confession in The Shining… not so much, mind.

As if the immense running time that really seems to drag as the minutiae of some of this silliness is pulled under the cracked microscope was indigestible enough, Room 237 relies on the bizarre use of other Kubrick movies, along with newsreel footage and The Shining itself, to try to create an in-frame narrative in the absence of filmed interviews. This montage of images results in a bizarre patchwork quilt of meaning that ranges from the baffling – fitting giving the subject matter – to the dubious as Tom Cruise, circa Eyes Wide Shut, smirks in approval as the voiceover recounts the dizzying toll of the Holocaust.