Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Room 237 (2012)

Documentary by Rodney Ascher about the supposed hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.  This has audio interviews with the films enthusiasts while clips from the film are shown, sometimes frame by frame.  Now, Kubrick, for me, is not someone I worship.  To me, he produced two masterpieces: Dr. Strangelove and The Shining.  The Shining is an endlessly fascinating film and to my mind Kubrick's greatest achievement, so I was excited to have some of the film's secrets revealed to me.  To my disappointment, these theories are presented as a joke, and the interview subjects (some of whom are serious scholars) come off as crackpots.

For instance, in a scene between Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, a chair behind Nicholson disappears.  The narrators read a lot into this.  Knowing what I know about Kubrick, the real reason is that the scene is composed of two shots filmed a fucking year apart!  A simple continuity error.  If Kubrick wanted to give us a sense of unease, he'd already gone further by making the geography of the hotel completely nonsensical (elevator shafts that weren't there before, windows placed in impossible locations), I don't think he'd simply remove a chair, something that might be perceived as a mistake.

Some theories ring true, like the genocide of Native Americans, something even a casual viewer of the film would pick up.  In the opening scenes, the manager states the hotel is built on an Indian burial ground and that many Indians had to be "fought off" during its construction (this gives heft to the stunning image of blood gushing from the elevator doors...don't take that elevator to the basement, lots of Indian blood down there!).  Also, the Jack Torrence character as a minotaur (the monster of the hotel and hedge maze, plus Kubrick's first production company was called "Minotaur").

Through most of the film, Danny's gift aside, the set-up is that this was all in Jack's mind (whenever he sees a ghost, he's looking in a mirror, therefore he's talking to himself). Then near the end, Kubrick has that chilling scene when you hear the latch of the storage room door being opened from the other side by Grady.  This completely shifts the implications that the sinister hotel and its ghostly inhabitants are at work.  The one thing the narrators cannot explain (or agree on) is Jack Torrence's presence in the photograph in the final shot, dated "July 4, 1921" (who, or what, was he?).

Directors like Kubrick, or even David Lynch, who leave things vague or open to interpretation never own up to these theories, why would they?  The thing I took away from this is the folly of overanalyzing films.  It's enough to make you as crazy as Jack Torrence.

1 comment:

  1. Im really looking forward to seeing this film!