Stanley Kubrick is arguably the greatest film maker of all time. His work, The Shining, is considered by many to be the worst of his 10 feature length productions. Even still it has a powerful following, a group of deep thinking individuals that obsess over every minor detail. Rodney Ascher’s documentary Room 237 is a unique and profound look at these impassioned cinephiles and their interesting and often eccentric take on this horror classic. There have been several documentaries that showcase the intense fandom movies and TV shows can have. Trekkies, Jedi Junkies, and Done the Impossible, which is about the fans of Firefly, a TV series that only lasted a single season, are just a few examples. Room 237 is unique among these however, because it does not focus on the fans themselves, but rather their radical views on the meaning behind the film.
One thing that immediately sticks out in Room 237 is the way that it’s composed. There are no straight talking head interviews, which are a staple of almost all documentaries. In fact we never actually see the fans that provide Room 237’s narrative. Instead the visuals of the film consist almost entirely of footage from The Shining, occasionally broken up with b-roll of movie theaters and scenes from other Kubrick films. This is divided into segments in which individual fans use voiceover to explain what they take the film to mean. One fan claims The Shining is about the holocaust, another makes a case that it’s about the slaughter of Native Americans in the early days of the United States. One particularly eccentric fan even believes that The Shining was Kubrick’s way of telling the public he was involved in faking the moon landing.
This a must see for any fan of The Shining or Stanley Kubrick, but even if you’ve never seen a Kubrick film Room 237 is interesting. It’s the equivalent of a college level film course. It cements cinema as an art form that can create as much analysis and interpretation as any painting or novel.