Review: Room 237 / Cert: 15 / Director: Rodney Ascher / Starring: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kerns / Release Date: March 11th
This is in no way a promotional film for The Shining. In fact, the disclaimer at the beginning (ensuring you know that this is not approved by anyone connected with The Shining or Kubrick) hangs around long enough for you to read it at least twice. Instead, this documentary is a fascinating exploration of the shadowy subtexts lurking within Kubrick’s controversial interpretation of Stephen King’s classic, using footage from it and other movies to illustrate the disembodied interviewees' comments.
It begins with one of the more widely touted interpretations: the parallel between Jack’s attempted murder of his family and the genocide of the American Indians. Found both in the script – The Overlook Hotel is built on a burial ground – and hidden in corners like the cans of Calumet baking powder (with their prominent Indian chief logo) stacked in the food-locker, there’s plenty to suggest that Kubrick was trying to make a statement. But it is by no means limited to that particular massacre. Further investigation finds elements pertaining to the holocaust, initiated in 1942 (Danny is seen wearing a football T-shirt with 42 on it), through items such as the Adler typewriter (Adler being German for eagle, itself used as a Nazi icon) and a stunning moment at the very end when a crossfade turns Jack Nicholson into Hitler.
But it doesn’t end there. Throughout this enormously gripping documentary, you discover several other themes potentially hidden amongst the frames of the film, but none is more eye-popping than the most controversial one of all: Kubrick's alleged involvement in the faking of the video footage for the moon landing.
The clues simply have to be seen to be believed. Everything from Danny’s Apollo 11 jumper to the carpet he sits on and the infamous room number (237) winks at you, revealing a secret that some of the commentators strongly believe Kubrick was contractually obliged never to reveal. While they’re anxious to make clear that they're only saying that the film was faked (not the mission), it’s still a staggering tick in the box of one of the biggest potential cover-ups of all time.
A few of the comments stretch credulity and have to be taken with a pinch of salt. But there’s no doubt that whether you like The Shining or not, this documentary will leave you wanting to see it (if not all of Kubrick’s films) again. It’s also a superbly crafted reminder that cinema can be about more than just CGI and explosions, something that Hollywood could do with remembering from time to time.