ROOM 237 is a curious documentary. If you haven’t figured it out from the poster, it’s a companion piece in essence to Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece THE SHINING. A collection of THE SHINING “scholars” (or more appropriately “fanatics”) dissect the movie down to the tiniest details. We never see them in the flesh. We only hear their voices as footage from the film, footage from other Kubrick films or thematically suggestive footage from a random assortment of films play over them.
It’s an odd experience. At times I felt like I was back in film school at a lecture, but the ideas presented are so wild that at times you wonder how mentally stable some of the narrators are. These theories about the true meaning of THE SHINING range from topics as diverse as the Indian Genocide, the Holocaust, and even the faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which one of the narrators claim Kubrick had a hand in.
These theories are not just presented, they are meticulously laid out and accompanied by specific details in the movie that they feel support their claims. I would be lying if I didn’t start buying into some of them after a while, even the more ludicrous ones. The narrators can be quite convincing in their analysis.
Take what you will from the documentary. I believe Kubrick is a master craftsman, but I honestly find it hard to believe that he was THIS obsessive with the amount of subtext that they are purporting. I highly doubt the movie would have ever been completed if Kubrick spent as much time as they think he did on these details.
If you are a fan of THE SHINING (which I am) or simply like film analysis, then I highly recommend this film. It’s unusual and bizarre but it held my interest and made me further appreciate Kubick’s vision, even if none of these suggested theories have any merit.