Cinema Review: Room 237

DIR: Rodney Ascher PRO: P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes ED: Rodney Ascher CAST: Jay Weidner, Geoffrey Cocks, Bill Blakemore

Stanley Kubrick had, according to Room 237‘s retinue of commentators, an IQ of over 200. As such, his arc of vision was far more wider than the average cinema punter. The argument set out by Room 237 is that The Shining – easily the finest horror film ever made – is riven with hidden codes, subliminal messages and esoteric meanings. Some of these are reasonably well by film buffs and Kubrick enthusiasts. It’s well documented that Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a film on the Holocaust and that The Shining was, according to some, a way of Kubrick making a film about it. However, this isn’t the only theory about The Shining. Each of the film’s commentators set out their own individual theories and use archive footage from the film to back up their arguments. Some, naturally, seem more plausible than others. For example, the constant use of Native American iconography suggests that the film was commenting on the genocide of Native Americans throughout history. Others are more outlandish. Jay Weidner, a noted conspiracy theorist, sets out a baffling theory of both The Shining‘s hidden meaning and Kubrick himself. Without revealing too much, the theory is out of this world and is, surprisingly, very well evidenced throughout the film.


It’s true, Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist. Nothing on the screen was happenstance. Everything was deliberate. And, as such, The Shining is scrutinised and dissected down to its very core. The film goes into massive detail about Kubrick’s earlier work and career, commenting on how Barry Lyndon – the film prior to The Shining – was ‘made by a bored genius’ and that he wanted to make something more subversive. A lot is made of how Kubrick used various subliminal messaging techniques adopted by advertising agencies throughout The Shining. However, the film doesn’t deal with the making of the film itself or the well-known difficulties that Jack Nicholson, Scatman Crothers or Shelley Duvall had with Kubrick. Little comment is made on the film’s reception or eventual cult status. This is a film for Kubrick enthusiasts and film historians. What’s more interesting is that the film, in a way, comments on how people can read into anything if it’s put under a strong enough microscope. Room 237 is an intriguing documentary that is worth seeing, both by fans of cinema and conspiracy theorists. However, given how the film makes extensive use of footage from The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut, it will be interesting to see if it gets a wide release as most of it was used under Fair Use legislation.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
102 mins

Room 237 is released on 26th October 2012

Room 237 –  Official Website


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