We are used to seeing “making-of” documentaries that recount the birth of a film, its production and then its success. More rare are those that delve into a deep analysis of a piece of cinema, seeking to find its inner meaning and numerous interpretations. Clearly, in order to do this, we must look back on a film that is rich in history and metaphors and gather together the accounts of enthusiasts. By taking a closer interest in the meaning of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”, director Rodney Ascher is thereby sure of speaking both to fans who will bring their own interpretation as well as viewers who will react equally differently according to their feelings towards the original film.
In “Room 237”, Ascher interviews 5 people about their personal visions of the film, which can be taken or left. As such, in addition to the rather traditional interpretation of a family falling apart, we find theories that range from the most credible and thoughtful to the more far-fetched. As a result, ideas surrounding an Indian burial ground and the massacre of the Indians are shown alongside those involving the Nazis and also the rumor of there being references in the film to Kubrick’s involvement in the faking of the Apollo moon landing. Mentions are also made to strange facts such as the particular layout of the Overlook Hotel or the jump-cuts which are not technically jump-cuts at all, and which add to the strange atmosphere.
We get the sense that each of the contributors has a passion for the film, that they have dissected the film time and time again and have made it an integral part of their lives, like an obsession, eventually leading them to see some crazy things (like a minotaur in the place of a skier). And their enthusiasm results in some strange things too, such as the contributor who staged screenings of the film forwards and backwards, simultaneously, superimposed, which creates rather disturbing images which make the viewer interpret the film in a new way.
However, the director manages to keep his distance from these accounts shown in their unedited form. He alternates quite funny effects with extracts showing the characters seemingly reacting to the contributors’ interpretations. He therefore manages to maintain a certain distance from the analysis, which makes you laugh and also makes you want to watch The Shining once again to uncover the new clues for yourself and look at it in a different way. All we ask is that Ascher does the same thing for other cult films of this caliber to persuade us to re-examine those too.