An interesting documentary, Room 237 illustrates how differently art can affect different beholders. It chronicles six fans’ theories of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining’s (1980) subtext, symbolism and larger themes.
Having never been all that enamored by The Shining, I was curious to hear the thoughts of those who obsess over it. I re-watched Kubrick’s horror film and then sat down to view Room 237.
The documentary’s Director, Rodney Ascher, slowly builds the theories by interspersing them together after brief introductions to each subject.
Interestingly, Room 237 does not show us the six interview subjects, or the interviewer, for that matter. The interviewees’ voices are heard, of course, but Ascher cuts together images that support the topics about which his subjects speak rather than showing the subjects themselves. This is a mostly effective strategy, as it keeps the focus on the art, not on the people discussing it.
While I like that Room 237 avoids showing the interview subjects, I do not like the way the interviews are edited together. I would have preferred, I think, that each theory be treated individually, that each subject be given a ten to fifteen (or so) minute block wherein theirs is the only interpretation we are asked to consider. Obviously, that is not how Ascher wants to share the interviews, however, so I definitely wish he had flashed the speaker’s name on the screen each time the subject changes. As is, we see the names only once, at the beginning of the film, and I oft had to stop and think about whom I was listening to now. There were times I was a little confused. More visual cues would have made the film flow better.
I like the tone Ascher adopts. He remains mostly objective, trying not to present an opinion. It’s a wise choice given his content.
Ascher does a terrific job finding and cutting together images that support the audio.
All in all, Room 237 is entertaining. It also increases my appreciation for the famed symbolism in The Shining. Like I said, I’ve never liked Kubrick’s film all that much, so I’ve also never thought about it in any real detail. At the very least, Room 237 makes me consider a mostly new topic.
Even if I’m certain to forget everything in it sooner than later.