Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Room 237": a "critical theory" documentary about the symbolism in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" (Stephen King)


In recent years, studios have rewarded purchasers of BluRay DVD’s of high profile films with “making of” documentaries that may become feature-length documentaries of their own. 
  
The documentary “Room 237” accomplishes something like this as a “movie about movies” film concerning the 1980 classic,”The Shining”, Stanley Kubrick’s vision of Stephen King’s horror novel about a writer  (Jack Nicholson) to takes a job caretaking a Colorado hotel in winter, when his gifted son sees ghosts and evil in the patterns everywhere.  I saw the original film myself in Dallas in 1980 (at Northpark, I believe.)  
  
The documentary, kind of a recitation of comments by some other observers and writers like Bill Blakemore and Judy Kearns, advances a few core theories about the “meaning” of Kubrick’s film. One is to see it a metaphor for genocide, most of all of native Americans by European settlers (resulting in today’ s tribal reservation system with its casinos).  It adds to this metaphors based on the Holocaust, and even denial that Apollo really landed on the moon in 1969.  In the industry, this film is called a “critical theory” documentary. 
The documentary contains numerous clips from many of Kubrick’s other films, including “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “A Clockwork Orange”, and “Eyes Wide Shut”.  The documentary makes some comparisons between many of the images and even geometric patterns in the rooms of the hotel with the final “hotel on Jupiter” scene of 2001. 

The film also explains the significance of the choice of 237 as the critical room  number.
  
The layout of the Overlook hotel looks a little bit like a board game, reminding me not of “Clue” but of a less well known game “Mr. Ree” from the 1950s.  The documentary talks about the maze, which is not in the novel. 

The official site (IFC and Highland Park Films) is here

I saw the film today at the West End in Washington DC.  On a Sunday afternoon, a small auditorium nearly sold out.

  
Wikipedia attribution link for Mt. Hood picture, where some of the exteriors of “Shining” were filmed.
  I visited the area in July 1996.  

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