We tend to project ourselves onto art. Movie nerds aren’t immune, and Rodney Ascher’s Room 237
stands as a monument to overthinking an artist’s work. For whatever reason, the theorists in this documentary were deeply affected by Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining
. Some view it as a masterpiece full of historic metaphors. Others see it as an intentionally flawed work by a master of detail seeking to use even his “mistakes” to toy with minds. No one involved, though, sees it as simply a mammoth horror film by a true master. This isn’t cinema. It’s obsession. At no point do we see the five interviewees whose theories deconstruct what The Shining
means. Instead, the film comprises voice-over interviews atop footage from The Shining
and other Kubrick films. There’s a trancelike effect to listening to these theories, which range from basic interpretations about the film’s use of ancient Greek imagery to wild conspiracy theories about the film functioning as a confessional for Kubrick to atone for faking the Apollo 11 moon landing. That may seem like listening to a bunch of particularly well-informed drunks pontificating at a bar, but the film amps up the intensity of the arguments by allowing the speakers to lay out, uninterrupted, every facet of their theories in exhaustive detail. Of course, much of it comes off as either total bullshit, a regurgitation of the obvious, or both. But in allowing its subjects to talk, Room 237
emerges as a triumphantly objective examination not only of The Shining
but of the human need to identify with art, even if it evolves into obsession.