Tuesday, December 3, 2013

3 short paragraphs: Room 237

2012, Rodney Ascher -- Netflix
(Countdown to the World's End, Day 3)

I've seen Kubrick's The Shining once... twice maybe?  Certainly once with plenty of exposure to various scenes from the film over the years.  I liked it, but, like the Exorcist or other critically revered "suspence/horror" films of the 1960's and 70's I wasn't really getting it on a deeper level than just what the story was presenting.  I think in large part these groundbreaking films become such a part of the zeitgeist, they get parodied and emulated ad nauseum to the point where it can really weaken and dilute the actual product, especially when you don't get around to watching it after you've watched the Simpson's parody of it a dozen times.  I've never doubted that Kubrick was a filmmaking genius, however, and that there's certainly something more to his films than most others... it's not just about telling a story... there's the script, there's the dialogue, there's, the scenery, the props, the blocking, the effects, the acting... everything is so very guided and precise to a degree that few other filmmakers before or since take it to.  But is The Shining really a parable about the white man's atrocities against the Native Americans or a morbid sex satire?

These are just two of the many questions that Room 237 poses, and the vocal progenitors of such bizarre theories, in voiceover only, attempt to make their case that Kubrick designed the film to be watched forward and backwards or that it's a holocaust allegory.  Director Ascher splices together the voiceovers in a bit of a mad jumble, further accentuating each eccentricity, at times losing the thread and blurring the line of whose Shining conspiracy is whose, but also largely still able to keep the threads separate without any real visual cues.  Of course every one of these theories sounds preposterous, more and more mad the deeper you get into them.  It's people seeing what they want to see, pulling out of the film whatever they want to connect it to their thesis, no matter how tenuous an idea it might be.

At the same time that I was continually balking at how absurd so many of these theories were, I still was drawn further and further in by the commitment of these people to their ideas.  The depth of thought and insight they have into the film is impressive, like the woman who makes maps of the interior of the Overlook Hotel or the step-by-step frame examinations or the thorough scouring of background details.  Out of all of the most interesting theory was that Kubrick used The Shining to covertly convey that he was in fact the directory of the moon landing footage.  It's a dumb theory, but it's the one that's has the best amount of evidence to back it up within the documentary, and my favourite moment of the entire film questions how and why the carpet seemingly reversed from one scene to the next, but provides no satisfactory answers.  My guess about so many of the film's ambiguities and visual inconsistencies are an attempt by the director to embed subtle, almost unnoticeable cues on the viewer to slightly disorient them and heighten the elements of madness in the film.  But that's just me.  Perhaps I need to watch it again.  This documentary, all told, is a waste of time, but still quite a curious and entertaining one, especially for cinephiles who like to think too much about their movies.