|Directed by||Rodney Ascher|
|Produced by||Tim Kirk|
John Fell Ryan
|Music by||Jonathan Snipes
|Edited by||Rodney Ascher|
|Distributed by||IFC Films
Room 237 is a 2012 American documentary film directed by Rodney Ascher about perceived meanings in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining. The film includes footage from The Shining, and other Kubrick films, along with discussions by a number of Kubrick enthusiasts. The film has nine segments, each segment focusing on different elements within the film which "may reveal hidden clues and hint at a bigger thematic oeuvre." The film was produced by Tim Kirk.
The film's distribution rights were acquired by IFC Midnight and was exhibited theatrically and on VOD on March 29, 2013.
The film is told entirely through voiceover by people with different theories about The Shining. According to one, The Shining is about the genocide of Native Americans, because there is imagery throughout the film associated with the American West. For instance, cans of Calumet Baking Powder are noticeable in the background of two important scenes. Because a calumet is a peace pipe, and the cans featured the image of a Native American, one analyst believed that American imperialism was the subtext of the film, and he is astonished that no one else saw the same thing.
Another theorist believed that Stanley Kubrick had directed the footage disseminated by NASA to publicize the Apollo 11 moon landing. He believed that there are telltale signs of the use of front projection in NASA's footage and that Kubrick was contracted to produce it. He points to the knitted Apollo 11 sweater that Danny wears, and the fact that a carpet pattern resembles the Apollo launching pad as evidence that the film is an elaborate apology of sorts for Kubrick's involvement. In particular, the analyst feels that the tirade Jack delivers to Wendy about how she does not understand the duty of work and honoring a contract with an employer portrays Kubrick's own sense of isolation from keeping so big a secret.
One analyst connects the Overlook's labyrinth with the mythic story of the Minotaur, believing that a skier in a poster is actually a minotaur. She bolsters her theory by pointing out that Kubrick's earlier film, Killer's Kiss, was made for Minotaur Productions.
Kubrick's unrealized project about the Holocaust, Aryan Papers, suggested to another analyst that The Shining is really about that genocide. He connects Jack's sinister recitation of the Big Bad Wolf's refrain to a Disney production where the wolf is an anti-Semitic caricature. The analyst also feels that Kubrick embeds a message of hope in Dick's advice to Danny about how to deal with his shining abilities. Dick explains that the images Danny sees are just pictures of the past, and they can be forgotten. The analyst feels Kubrick is trying to remind his audience of the Holocaust while at the same time helping them to let go of its horrors.
There is an extended sequence where the film is superimposed over itself in reverse. By running the film forwards and backwards at the same time, some astonishing parallels are created, such as Danny walking in on his father and the previous caretaker as they discuss Danny's murder.
The film makers do not attempt to promote any of the particular claims made by their interview subjects. Director Rodney Ascher offered his own interpretation in an interview for Complex magazine:
My personal take on it is, for one, I don’t think it's nearly as visionary as any one of these folks have found. I just see it as sort of a story about juggling the responsibilities of your career and family and as cautionary tale of what may happen if you make the wrong choice. And even maybe looking at the ghosts as these figures that represent fortune or prestige or things that you might be chasing at the expense of paying proper attention to your family.
The film features narration by Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan and Jay Weidner. Buffy Visick appears as the VHS enthusiast.
The film also contains archive footage featuring Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King, Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duval, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Joe Turkel, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Keir Dullea, Martin Potter, Tom Cruise, and Nicole Kidman.
Room 237 opened to general acclaim from critics. It currently holds a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 108 critic reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 80% based on 30 critics, considered to be "generally favorable reviews".
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times praised the movie as "an ode to movie love at its most deliriously unfettered" and wrote: "The doc positions The Shining as a comparably coiled, thematically overflowing microcosm—standing in for cinema, for history, for obsession, for postmodern theory buckling under the film's heft." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie an "A", writing: "Room 237 makes perfect sense of The Shining because, even more than The Shining itself, it places you right inside the logic of how an insane person thinks." Another positive review came from Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, who rated the movie 3.5 stars out of 4 and called the "unique and unforgettable film" a "tribute to movie love". Mary Pols of Time commented that the movie was "as fresh, crisp and strangely exciting as a new dollar bill." She commented on the theories of the movie: "Maybe they’re all right. Or wrong. It can’t be settled. What matters is that people are still crazy about the beauty of a beautiful movie about going crazy."
A negative review came from Kyle Smith of New York Post, who gave the movie 1.5 stars out of four and deemed the theories put forward in the movie "laughable" and further wrote that "you could do the same with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. But to be enlightening (or entertaining) the analysis has to persuade, or at least be clever."
In a March 27, 2013 article in The New York Times, Leon Vitali, who served as personal assistant to Kubrick on the film, stated "There are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash"; for example, the documentary's theory concerning a poster of a minotaur is in fact referencing a poster of a skier and the film's usage of a German typewriter, interpreted to be symbolic of the Holocaust, was chosen by Kubrick for pragmatic reasons. He concluded that "[Kubrick] didn’t tell an audience what to think or how to think and if everyone came out thinking something differently that was fine with him. That said, I’m certain that he wouldn’t have wanted to listen to about 70, or maybe 80 percent [of Room 237]... Because it’s pure gibberish."
In an October 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, Stephen King said that he had seen the film and that he "watched about half of it and got impatient with and turned it off" as he felt the filmmakers were "reaching for things that weren't there".
Awards and nominations
|Chicago International Film Festival||Gold Hugo||Best Documentary||Rodney Ascher||Nominated|
|Gotham Independent Film Awards||Gotham Award||Best Documentary||Rodney Ascher (director), Tim Kirk (producer)||Nominated|
|Hawaii International Film Festival||Halekulani Golden Orchid Award||Documentary Feature||Rodney Ascher||Nominated|
|International Documentary Association||Creative Recognition Award||Best Editing||Rodney Ascher||Won|
|IDA Award||Best Editing||Rodney Ascher||Won|
- "Room 237 – Being an Inquiry into The Shining in 9 Parts (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
- Room 237 at Box Office Mojo
- "The Shining theories explored in spooky new documentary". BBC News. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
- "Room 237 Sundance 2012 Review", Jan. 27, 2012
- Leffler, Rebecca (24 April 2012). "Cannes 2012: Michel Gondry’s 'The We & The I' to Open Director's Fortnight". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
- "2012 Selection". Directors' Fortnight. quinzaine-realisateurs.com. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
- Fowler, Tara. "'Room 237' poster exclusive | Inside Movies | EW.com". Insidemovies.ew.com. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
- Dargis, Manohla (28 March 2013). "Fans Possessed by ‘The Shining’". Movie Review (New York Times). Retrieved 6 September 2013.
- Semley, John. "Room 237 review". Article. Slant Magazine. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
- Barone, Matt. "Interview: "Room 237" Director Rodney Ascher Talks Getting Lost in "The Shining" and How to Get Back Out". article. Complex Magazine. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
- "Room 237 Reviews". Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- "Room 237 Metacritic Reviews". Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- Dargis, Manhola (28 March 2013). "Fans Possessed by ‘The Shining’". The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Gleiberman, Owen. "Room 237". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Travers, Peter. "Room 237". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Pols, Mary (28 March 2013). "Room 237: Deconstructing Stanley". Time. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Smith, Kyle. "Room 237". New York Post. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Segal, David (March 27, 2013). "It’s Back. But What Does It Mean? Aide to Kubrick on ‘Shining’ Scoffs at ‘Room 237’ Theories". The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
- Greene, Andy (October 31, 2014). "Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- Official website
- Room 237 at the Internet Movie Database
- Room 237 at AllMovie
- Room 237 at Rotten Tomatoes
- Room 237 at Metacritic