Room 237 (15)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/10/2012

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 102 mins

Enjoyably obsessive and entertainingly illustrated documentary that plays like a collection of fascinating film essays – you may not be won over by any of the arguments but you'll never watch The Shining quite the same way again.

What's it all about?
Directed by Rodney Ascher, Room 237 (or Room 237: Being an Inquiry into The Shining in 9 Parts, to give it its full title) is a documentary in which five off-camera interviewees (foreign correspondent Bill Blakemore, history professor Geoffrey Cocks, playwright Juli Kearns, musician John Fell Ryan and conspiracy theorist Jay Weidner) explore various hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror classic The Shining.

Visually, the film is illustrated with a multitude of accompanying clips from The Shining, alongside snippets from various other films used either for comic effect (e.g. an ominous sequence of patrons in a cinema from 1985's Demons; an amusing shot of Stephen King in Creepshow) or for comparison's sake (clips from Kubrick's other films; relevant other movies such as Capricorn One).

The Good
Some of the theories are decidedly more convincing than others, particularly Bill Blakemore's, which explores the idea that the film is about the genocide of American Indians and finds a multitude of prominently placed Native American imagery to back up its claims.

Other theories are less plausible, but even Weidner's joyous ramble about the film being Kubrick's confession to his part in helping fake the moon landings pulls off a moment that makes you stop and think, when it's revealed that one of the characters is wearing an Apollo 11 jumper.

The film is bursting with ideas that will make you desperate to watch the film again immediately – handily, you'll get your chance, as it's being re-released in time for Halloween. It's also full of very funny moments, particularly a section that dwells on deliberate (or is it?) sexual imagery, the comic effect of which is heightened when the same clip comes up again in a different context later on.

The Great
However, perhaps the most fascinating element of the film is the digging up and meticulous rehashing of various continuity errors, particularly in light of the fact that Kubrick was a notoriously obsessive perfectionist. Highlights include an examination of the logic-defying floor plan of the Overlook Hotel and a chair that mysteriously appears and disappears between shots in the same scene – is it possible that Kubrick simply didn't notice it? Or ignored his continuity person? Or was it done deliberately to subliminally create the impression that the hotel is haunted?

Worth seeing?
A must-see for Kubrick fans, Room 237 is a fascinating documentary that will have you rushing to rewatch The Shining, regardless of how many times you've seen it. Recommended.

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Content updated: 29/10/2012 07:53

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