Room 237 has a simple conceit. It takes the wild theories of five people who have seen The Shining too many times and puts them up on-screen for the audience to view with incredulity. We never see the five theorists and are instead shown clips from The Shining, among other films, over and over again to illustrate their crackpot theories.
It is always fascinating to see just how much people can read into a film (and a film other than Footloose for a change) and the theories they present are impressively complex. Who knew that The Shining was Stanley Kubrick’s way of confessing to faking the moon landing/making a film about the Holocaust/exploring the genocide of Native Americans? The film has a subtle sense of humour and with no overriding narration it allows the theorists to present their theories unhindered.
Where the film falls down is in its lack of any footage of those who are speaking. Their stories are illustrated using clips from various films and scenes from The Shining are used and reused ad nauseam. Spending too much time in the Overlook Hotel can send you a little loopy, or more accurately make
Jack the documentary a dull boy. It can also make it impossible to tell who is speaking as the five theories are intertwining with not all of the speakers sufficiently distinguished from one another.
Room 237 is a lot of fun and gives you plenty to think about the next time you see The Shining but can test your powers of concentration at times.
Sadly all the festival screenings have passed and I am not sure the film will ever get a UK release*. As I mentioned the documentary exclusively uses footage from other films and these are not films that the producers have rights to. I only know this because John Landis (legendary director of films including The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London) was in the same screening and made use of the Q&A session to ask whether the producer had the rights to the footage used and even accused the producer of stealing clips from his own films. An awkward moment that Landis’ compliments towards the film failed to alleviate.
*Turns out the film is out on limited release on 26th October 2012