I caught a screening of the charmingly demented documentary Room 237 last night and wow, I have it a lot more together mentally than I’d always assumed. The film is built upon interviews with several obsessive Stanley Kubrick fans, all haunted in particular by his masterpiece of horror, The Shining. Note that I don’t use “obsessive” here in the way you might say, “I’m obsessed with cupcakes.”
No, the “Interviewees,” as they are identified from the outset, are like a cast of conspiracy theorists, each driven to the brink of madness by their idiosyncratic reading of the film. They’re never seen, but various Kubrick characters stand in for them in clever pastiche. They note every possible subtextual clue: the TV that Danny and Wendy watch has no wire connecting it to the wall. Objects disappear, a typewriter changes color, and potent symbols of everything from genocide to space exploration crop up. Oh, there’s discussion of a moon landing hoax, but really the only unforgivable thing was when one dude called Barry Lyndon “boring.” That and how another guy kept pronouncing it “Kyoo-brick.”
There’s an arresting few moments of the original film being projected backwards and forwards simultaneously, atop one another, establishing weird connections that the Interviewees insist are critical to the story’s idea of time and the past. By the end, when they’re discussing all the stuff Kubrick changed from the book just to put Stephen King in his place, including the addition of the hedge maze, you realize that The Shining doesn’t have a subliminal message—or rather, it has them all. Mainly, it’s an insidious trap designed to keep the viewer wandering the Overlook Hotel... forever.
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