Room 237 (2012)

Room 237 (2012)

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Some gubbins about crossfading symbolism.
Some gubbins about crossfading symbolism.

Twitter Plot Summary: The crackpot theories of five experts on the film The Shining.

Five Point Summary:

1. Crackpot theories abound.
2.Skier as a minotaur… rilly?
3. Faked moon landings? Come on!
4. So many twisty turny corridors.
5. Okay, so the layout of the carpet kind of makes sense.

Film critics often analyse a film from every possible angle, looking for symbolism and meaning in every scene, every placement or use of the camera, every choice made in production design. Of course, if everybody did this it would soon get very boring indeed, the possibility of over-analysing something to the point of tedium becoming an increasing concern. Therein lies the problem with Room 237, a documentary exploring the subtext and symbolism within Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, a film rife with symbolism, imagery all from the hands of a very precise and exacting director.

Featuring input from five experts on the film, they discuss their theories on Kubrick’s decision which vary from the vaguely plausible to the outright insane. Almost everything is analysed to a ridiculous level, from the colour and design of the carpets, to where characters have chosen to stand, and to the confusing layout of the hotel. There’s a lot more to it than this, but to go into any more detail would be an act of indirect support for their mad notions and also potentially ruin the original film, which itself adapts Stephen King’s source material wonderfully. Room 237 manages to take a running jump off the cliff into the ocean, taking it all far too seriously and nearly eating itself like an ouroboros of film analysis.

Room 237 resolutely fails to maintain interest for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the constant repetition of footage from The Shining and Kubrick’s other works. In truth there is perhaps too much focus on Kubrick’s earlier 2001: A Space Odyssey, which in itself is a film rife with symbolism, but to compare that with The Shining, simply because they were directed by the same guy, smacks of laziness.

...what are they pointing out here?
…what are they pointing out here?

Kubrick’s films are rife with symbolism, there’s no denying it, however it is very easy to fall into the trap of looking for symbolism where none was probably intended, more so when you have crackpot theories given airtime in Room 237 about Kubrick having some involvement in faking the moon landings (news flash, folks – they did land on the Moon). It really is bonkers, and scarier when you consider that these analysts really do believe what they’re saying – maybe it’s for the best that we don’t ever see them on camera. From a more positive perspective, it’s an example of how far it is possible to go when you analyse a film. Most of us will consider the basics but there’s a whole other level of thought demonstrated here. Perhaps it’s a proof of concept that it is entirely possible to think about this sort of thing a little too much. At least we know there are people out there who do this sort of thing so we don’t have to.

Rather tellingly, the opinions stated within the film are not endorsed by Kubrick’s estate, which makes this glorified audio commentary nothing more than the ramblings of an overly obsessed group of fans who really should get out a bit more. Coming from somebody who does tend to over-analyse films, that’s really saying something.

Score: 1/5

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