Stanley Kubrick in my opinion was a cinematic genius, and also very much an enigma. The man remained a mystery to us all, up until his sudden passing (RIP) in 1999. At that time he had completed Eyes Wide Shut, in fact he had submitted his final cut to WB four days prior (WB since cut around I believe 20 minutes from the film) and the world was stunned by his passing. This actually became his biggest Box Office hit despite the negative and mixed reviews. I saw that film when I was around 13 or 14 and while I understood the story on the surface I knew there was far more to it and I liked the film a lot. Even at that age I understood why there was a negative reaction, it had been mismarketed and Kubrick certainly had many layers to uncover and still to this day I am discovering more and more about the film. This actually brings me to the documentary analysis of Kubrick’s The Shining called Room 237, much like Eyes Wide Shut was a mystery to me; The Shining was a mystery to others. Kubrick’s films are mysterious though, and you could have in-depth dissection and analysis of them all if you wanted to. However each film of his impacts fans more than the others, and for those who are interviewed in Room 237 The Shining was that one.
Like Eyes Wide Shut I first saw The Shining when I was younger, probably around 11 or 12. My mother actually bought me the VHS, as I had expressed interest in wanting to finally sit down and watch the entire thing. You may be some what concerned that my mother bought me such a terrifying film at that age, however I was not an ordinary young person, and from the age of about 9 and 10 I started reading Stephen King, with my R.L. Stine ‘Fear Street’ books just not cutting it. So at that young age I sat down to watch the film, and I really liked it. I liked the psychological elements and the supernatural elements and it was just such a grand and wonderful film to look at. However I never really noticed anything unusual, I had found out that Kubrick had made a lot of changes from the novel, which isn’t anything new. It wasn’t till I was a bit older, and my detective senses were more in tune that I noticed how layered this film was. There is so much going on, and so many little things, they seem weird but with Kubrick being the perfectionist I knew they meant something. I hadn’t thought too much about it until stories started to come up that The Shining had a conspiracy theory behind it, it was actually Kubrick’s way of admitting he faked the moon landing. I must admit I laughed at that notion, but then I found out there was a documentary in the works about that very theory as well as some other theories on The Shining.
Sitting down to see a collection of theories and dissections on The Shining sounded very intriguing and I was very happy that yes the Melbourne International Film Festival was showing it. I went with my podcast co-host Bede to perhaps discover the truth, and uncover those layers that Kubrick planted. I had my own ideas and theories and I had researched others (check out Rob Ager on YouTube) so I was ready. The film is presented in different parts, with a group of interviewees giving their own stories on how they first saw the film and how they felt about it then and their discoveries upon further viewing. The theories do range, and we are given a number of them and each theory gets a dissection, which is helped by showing certain scenes, slowing them down, pointing out things and so forth. The film itself doesn’t actually ever show our speakers; instead visually it is made up of clips from The Shining to show theories or clips from other Kubrick films and general films. They actually work to the advantage because it is something different and it adds this very fun and humorous edge to it. I love the use of clips of Tom Cruise from Eyes Wide Shut, his reactions carefully played to the voice-overs was just spot on fantastic.
Some ideas about The Shining will make you just say, “I think you are reading too much into that dude” and others will have you mesmerised and intrigued. I certainly thought the moon landing stuff was farfetched and that someone had seen what they wanted to see, but he provides some very interesting arguments for his theory and I thought twice about it being ‘silly’. I also felt that way about the holocaust evidence, it seemed to really reach but again the evidence presented seemed pretty interesting. There was even one about the films sexual nature and one scene was slowed down to reveal an apparent phallic moment, the entire audience laughed and when we saw the scene again for something different we all saw that phallic moment again and laughed. The theory about the film being about the Native American genocide is the one I actually leaned towards before seeing this and to me the evidence presented is the one that makes the most sense. I found this portion to be the most interesting and I actually wanted more. One section of the film that really caught my eye and it contained something I never thought of, was how The Shining mirrors 2001: A Space Odyssey in certain ways. The beginning of 2001 mirrors the ending of The Shining and other such things. It is a stretch but it seems like a Kubrick move, so much so that one fan actually decided to super impose the film with itself, one playing forward and one playing backward. The results with some scenes were very interesting, seeing the very first moments of the film super imposed with the very last made for a postcard worthy picture. It really is something you just need to see; I think you will be surprised by the results.
Kubrick certainly made a great film with The Shining, and even to this day it remains as interesting as ever on what messages he had hidden in there. I am sure he did this purposely with his films because he wanted us to think deeper and not simply see what was on the surface. I actually think he would have been impressed with this film and the theories presented. Films are such an amazing art medium, and it is no wonder we have such wild opinions on them. Each person will see and feel different things with a film, Kubrick knew this and he made sure his films had different and interesting things to say for us to uncover. Room 237 certainly puts this point across, and by the end you’ll be wanting to re-watch The Shining and try and find your own conclusions to it as well as with Kubrick’s other works. This was a great experience in a packed theatre, everyone had reactions to the different theories and we all left talking about it.
I have to say the screening wasn’t without it’s issues, the disc apparently had scratches on it and several times the film stopped and then played. It was distracting but it added to the character of what we were seeing and one could say it was done on purpose so we wouldn’t learn the truth.