Room 237 (2012)

Ascher’s documentary about interpretations of The Shining is obscure, obsessive and essential. Room 237 is one of the best films about watching films ever made.

Some films stay with you forever and ever and ever, or so reads the tagline to this compulsive film about The Shining. Room 237 is entitled after the infamous room in the film. Many consider The Shining an evil movie and one of Stanley Kubrick’s most masterful films (well Stephen King – who wrote the source novel – doesn’t). Indeed the film is one of the most analysed films ever. So it’s only appropriate that, just as the corridors of the Overlook hotel twist and turn, so will your mind while watching Rodney Ascher’s under-the-microscope documentary. Ascher expertly orchestrates the events and gathers an array of people to discuss the film (consisting of film fans and professionals). We never see the interviewees, only ever hearing their voices planted over the clips from this film and others. Room 237 is a film with mystery, ambiguity and deep, deep meaning.

As these (some would say) obsessives argue their theories, Room 237 delves into the mad world of opinion. Be it them arguing impossible windows, paper holder erections or Kubrick admitting onscreen he faked the Apollo Moon landing, each theory is passionately argued. In many cases verdicts like this would almost seem too ridiculous but these people really believe what they preach and their dedication comes across loud and clear. If they are acting, they are bloody good. In fact their sense of conspiracy is infectious. Throughout the film, you yourself may find your eyes gazing at the clips from the film and constructing your own interpretations and /or theories. Room 237 may well come across like a night on hard drugs and David Icke videos but it’s a film that is every bit as weird, interpretative and shrouded in mystery as any look at a film like this should be.

There are not many films like Room 237 around and as a result it’s a resoundingly enjoyable experience. An experience with a story that some may well see as little more than coincidental bullshit but all the same this film allows you that belief. It is an open experience that invites you to discuss, although fans of conspiracy theory will find a film constructed directly for them. This is a film that is a triumphant celebration of cinema viewing and how audiences perceive onscreen events. All backed by energetic and atmospheric scoring that connects all the onscreen clips ranging from The Shining to Schindler’s List. This score by Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and The Caretaker, is not plentiful in quantity but when it hits, the music is tone-settingly creepy. It’s all a deeply weird and at times unsettling documentary and one that will top a few people’s favourite film lists.

Originally entitled Room 237: Being an Inquiry into The Shining in 9 Equal Parts, the proposed 9-parts of the film merge into each other a bit too much, making any structure a bit, well, unstructured. That said, it is hardly a problem because while these voices are picking apart the Hotel’s impossible architecture, bleeding hallways and patterned carpets, this becomes an involving experience regardless. Room 237 is resolutely argued, lovingly crafted and deeply enjoyable and celebrates how we all see and designate cinema and its meanings. Room 237 is lip-smackingly irresistible to cine-maniacs, like one big Kubrick cake.

Best Line: “That is an impossible window”

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