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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The breaking point of literary interpretation
When it comes to literary interpretation, where is the breaking point? This is the question wordlessly posed by Rodney Ascher in his Room 237, a documentary examining some of the more vivid figurative interpretations you'll see of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining.

Whatever your view of Stanley Kubrick, this film wildly divides opinion: The Shining's...
Published 20 months ago by Olly Buxton

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped and flawed, but against all odds it's quite interesting
It's fair to say people will find the premise of this documentary alluring. The viewer is baited with the promise of meanings behind Kubrick's creative decisions. In practice, it doesn't quite work. Check those rave reviews on the front of the box - It doesn't live up to expectations and I was surprised Empire gave it 5/5. However, the film does manage to be...
Published 14 months ago by Arthur Askey's Legs


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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The breaking point of literary interpretation, 31 Oct 2012
This review is from: Room 237 [DVD] (DVD)
When it comes to literary interpretation, where is the breaking point? This is the question wordlessly posed by Rodney Ascher in his Room 237, a documentary examining some of the more vivid figurative interpretations you'll see of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining.

Whatever your view of Stanley Kubrick, this film wildly divides opinion: The Shining's author Stephen King himself famously hated it; on release it met with widespread public disappointment, but it does seem to be a "grower": Kubrick's obsession with the visual over plot or conventional narrative ensures that it will repay repeated viewing. Just how sizeable that dividend might be is a moot point; the five repeat viewers that Ascher has found here - harvested from the blogosphere, I daresay - would seek the kingdom of heaven amongst the tin cans arranged on a shelf behind Jack Nicholson's head. What another person might see as a coincidence they would construe deeply: for these people, there's no such thing as a continuity error.

We are invited to accompany the five as they explain their theories across nine aspects of the film. You won't be surprised to hear that, between them, their views are entirely incompatible. Yet neither are they brought together to debate the respective merits - getting at the "truth" is hardly the point. Instead the documentary proceeds as if accompanied by five interposed soundtracks, with no interrelation between them except the editor's.

Bill Blakemore, a serving ABC foreign correspondent, so no total whacko, sees an allegory for the white means brutal dominion over the native people of North America (his is the fixation with the tins of baking powder); Geoffrey Cocks sees this as the holocaust film Kubrick couldn't bring himself to make explicitly, studded with numerology and, of course, rivers of blood; Juli Kearns sees Greek myths and German fairy tales, including a wilfully construed Minotaur in an outwardly unassuming ski poster; John Fell Ryan, a DJ with a nervous chuckle, finds quite startling juxtapositions by screening the film superimposed with the whole thing running in reverse at the same time. Perhaps most empassioned is Jay Weidner, who is convinced that The Shining is Kubrick's embarrassed confession to the world that he faked NASA's images of moon landing.

We chuckle at these theories, particularly in their more extreme articulations, but Ascher never patronises his subjects, presenting each as a found object: we neither hear editorial interjection nor do we see any of our theorists: their theories are presented as unadorned audio tracks. While each interlocutor sometimes wildly oversteps credibility, each at other times makes insightful and credible observations: Ascher's sole concession to editorial neutrality is to playfully illustrate the wilder theories with footage from other Kubrick films, particularly Dr. Strangelove and Eyes Wide Shut.

We can pick and choose what we take: it was wishful thinking to suppose a ski poster was a Cretan Bull-man, but Ryan's superimposition of the reversed film - a liberty certainly never contemplated by Stanley Kubrick - does create some genuinely arresting and plausibly meaningful images. And there are some parts of the moon landings theory which - no, no, that would be silly. Pull yourself together man.
What this therefore amounts to is a wry improvisation on literary criticism itself. As an armchair critic, I love that kind of thing. It also provides some interesting context, however misconceived parts may be, to a film many people (including me) have been inclined to write off. Sometimes, good art does require imaginative work: I have battled gamely to make head or tail of 2001 - I get about half way through before my theory falls apart like a wet bus ticket, but as a result I understand the urge to place meaning to a carefully constructed set of images and applaud those who have the creative faculties to put some sort of frame together.

For sure, not all frames can bear the same weight. But that never hurt anyone.

Olly Buxton
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Often Misunderstood, 27 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Room 237 [DVD] (DVD)
The number of customer/amateur reviews rubbishing this film on Amazon and the IMDb is quite surprising. Coming from a background in film studies, Room 237 exposes the kind of over-the-top textual analysis seen in many an undergraduate essay. Ascher isn't arguing that any of the theories put forward in the film are 'true' or have any basis; instead the film entertains several trends which permeate semiotics and visual culture. Most pointedly, the film exposes the way we make personal associations based on the images put forward by film.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Batsh*t crazy!, 29 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Room 237 [DVD] (DVD)
This is one of the most mental films I have ever seen - I cant make out of the participants are serious or just seriously nutso!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped and flawed, but against all odds it's quite interesting, 11 May 2013
This review is from: Room 237 [DVD] (DVD)
It's fair to say people will find the premise of this documentary alluring. The viewer is baited with the promise of meanings behind Kubrick's creative decisions. In practice, it doesn't quite work. Check those rave reviews on the front of the box - It doesn't live up to expectations and I was surprised Empire gave it 5/5. However, the film does manage to be interesting.

The documentary features sourced footage from The Shining and other films. The footage is overdubbed with interviews conducted with fans of The Shining. They explain how they interpret the film's subtexts. We hear all manner of conspiracy theories and wild speculations. Some are remarkable whilst others are simply wrong. One fan claims he can see Kubrick's face in clouds and men's willies in paper trays - He is the sort of paranoid person who combs through Disney cartoons for phallic symbolism. Another fan mistakenly interprets continuity errors as intentional clues to hidden meanings.

There are a few things that provide enlightenment along the way - The story about the red Volkswagon is genuinely interesting and there is an effective experiment where two versions of the film are played at the same time - one forwards and one backwards. It's bonkers to suggest Kubrick intended this sort of thing to happen, but it creates some pleasing results.

As an insight into Kubrick, this film doesn't have enough substance. The links between the holocaust and The Shining are often very tenuous. Fans can rattle on about Kubrick's alleged involvement with the moon landings all they want, but without hard evidence their theories resonate much the same as someone seeing Jesus on a piece of toast.

However, the film is interesting as a snapshot of the obsessive nature of fans and conspiracy theorists in general. It's an entertaining sift through some wild theorizing and you will find at least something of interest, even if you come away laughing at the preposterous nature of it all. Room 237 also demonstrates how visually detailed and complex Kubrick's films are. Just don't expect a massive expose of the secret life of Stanley Kubrick and view everything with an objective mind.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Room 231, 7 Aug 2013
This review is from: Room 237 [DVD] (DVD)
Absolute drivel! I could not take anymore when the scene between Ullman and Torrence was frozen as they shook hands or the commentator to reveal that the top of the paper tray resembled Ullman's erect penis pointing at Torrence. Do not waste your time with this nonsense.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars From sexual imagery to moon landing conspiracy....this really does stretch film interpretation!, 12 July 2013
This review is from: Room 237 [DVD] (DVD)
I must admit, I had only heard about this film, and my impression was that it was a review of Kubrick and "The Shining" - I'm no film expert, just someone with a love for all things horror, so I was quite excited at this film. I thought it might explore Kubrick, his techniques and other controversy surrounding the film - I was not expecting 90 mins+ of really what can only be described as clutching at straws. It is less about the making and behind the scenes, and more about people stretching the imagery to the limits - I am not denying that Kubrick was a brilliant man, and quite possibly made many layers to his films - but come on, the carpet patterns - REALLY?!?! One claim is that they are similarly to the Apollo launch site therefore Kubrick is alluding the moon landings, and then another theory links them to minotaur mythology and the labyrinth.......I mean really!

Needless to say I was utterly gobsmacked at some of the point put across in this drivel - I did sit and watch to the end, but I was just in awe of the interpretation of the film, it's probably best just to re-watch "The Shining" and enjoy it for the great film it is, and take from it what you will!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Laughable, 10 July 2014
This review is from: Room 237 (Amazon Instant Video)
I had to stop watching this.The moment the narrator suggested Kubrick had deliberately filmed a scene to make it look like one actor was having an erection through the positioning of the desk trays on his desk whilst shaking Nicholson's hand it lost credibility.

The first 20 minutes was enough.

Some people see things when they really are not there.

Obsessive,
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Suggestion, 2 July 2014
This review is from: Room 237 (Amazon Instant Video)
A clear indication that people are strange. The weird thing is that I found myself temporarily believing along with them. Very thought provoking study of belief. Or is it??
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1.0 out of 5 stars Truly Awful, 26 May 2014
By 
JVS "JVS" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Room 237 [DVD] (DVD)
Seriously - If I could award it minus zero stars, I would. There is absolutely nothing in this production for anyone whose mental faculties are all intact. It's a pile of self-indulgent nonsense aimed at those who sit outside howling at the moon. If you're the sort who lives in a cupboard under the stairs and wears a tinfoil hat, jump right in. If you're a properly adjusted individual who simply wants to be entertained, educated or learn something new and interesting, avoid this one like the plague.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Watch this film but through a specific lens, 21 April 2014
By 
Mr. M. Lebor - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Room 237 (Amazon Instant Video)
This film is not about the 'actual' subtext of Kubrick's film, The Shining. It is a portrait of some interesting and imaginative theories that cropped up since its making. There could be some truth to some of the theories but the film is not about proving them right or wrong, it just presents them.

The contributors make lots of spurious claims and some are clearly ridiculous but for an extremely precise and controlling director as Kubrick was, there are some undeniably interesting points of "continuity" and messaging that could well be deliberate subtext.

Worth a watch but don't view it as a 'truth', more of a film about some colourful and interesting opinions.
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Room 237 [DVD]
Room 237 [DVD] by Rodney Ascher (DVD - 2013)
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