Like the cinematic adaptation of a late-night Reddit thread, Rodney Ascher's 2012 documentary Room 237 is a remarkably inclusive compilation of conspiracy theories. Picking apart Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, this doc offers no shortage of interpretations both fascinating and insane.
From the bizarre inconsistencies in Kubrick's famously exacting film (the impossible floor plans of Danny's famous tricycle rides alone are riveting), to spurious claims that the accompanying film clips simply don't support, Room 237 declines to overtly contradict its five colorful "experts." The fact that we never see any of them (Ascher illustrates every point with footage taken from The Shining and dozens of other films) almost lends a sort of Ken Burns-esque credibility to even the silliest concepts.
More is more when it comes to something as fussed-over as Kubrick's film, and bu documenting an extraordinary number of theories, Room 237 becomes a celebration of obsession. It also leaves us with the question: Is it even possible to over-interpret a work of art when the theories surrounding it are this entertaining?
The interpretations in Room 237 may not always be convincing, but that's what makes it all the more riveting as it rounds up all the bizarre, labyrinthine paths down which The Shining has led its viewers over the years. If that's not a celebration of the film's merits, then what is?
Possible Discussion Topics
1. Did any of these theories seem convincing to you?
2. Did the inclusion of straight-up insane theories undercut the credibility of the more convincing ones?
3. Describe the first time you saw The Shining. Were you traumatized?
4. At what point does a soundstage's illogical floor plan stop being a simple reality of filmmaking and start having deeper meanings?
5. Does such an in-depth interpretation ruin the mystique of a work for you? Will The Shining be quite as scary now that you've seen Room 237?
Now step away from the elevators and let's start this conversation.
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Price Peterson is a comedy writer and TV recapper from Los Angeles, California. His work currently appears on Vulture, TV.com, and The Atlantic Wire.