Room 237

March 22, 2013

Cannes Film Fest 2012–Many movies, classic, cult, and midnight, lend themselves to repeated viewings and dramatic interpretations. But arguably few would be subjected to the kind of movie love, obsessive digging, and detailed analysis that Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” gets in Rodney Ascher’s intriguing documentary, “Room 237,” inspired by that 1980 horror film, starring Jack Nicholson in one of his most iconic performances.

Strictly made for aficionados, “Room 237” has played all the major festivals last year, Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, SXSW and many regional venues. IFC Midnight is releasing the picture theatrically March 22.

In the course of the docu, we hear from diverse viewers who have developed far-reaching theories and believe they have decoded the hidden

symbols and messages buried in the late director’s richly dense film, which has developed the status of a cult movie and beyond.

Carefully examining “The Shining” inside out, and forwards and backwards, “Room 237” is uneven and excessive, just like the movie that had inspired it. End result is a non-fictional work that’s equal parts captivating, provocative and pure pleasure.

Guided by a pragmatic and democratic ethos, the docu gives voice to the fans and scholars who espouse these theories, often stretching and reworking the film to the limit just in order to match their ideas.

Some intercut it with layers of dreamlike, surreal imagery to illustrate their streams of consciousness and personal as well as collective anxieties. Sometimes outrageous, sometimes mind-blowing, the words of the interviewees are given full-force by Ascher’s compelling vision.

Some of the theories are bizarre, other downright crazy and jaw-dropping, still other inane and silly—depends on your personal tastes, biases, and threshold of tolerance. But for the most part, “Room 237” sustains interest and is even sporadically entertaining.

I am not as strong a supporter of “Room 237”as some of my colleagues are, and I highly recommend that spectators should first view and experience for themselves “The Shining,” which is a very good movie on its own right, withstanding well the test of time.

Above all, “Room 237” is a testament to an extreme kind of movie love, embraced by a clan fanatics for whom there are no limits to human curiosity and deconstruction.


Running time: 104 Minutes