directed by Rodney Ascher
Seeing minotaurs within innocuous skiing posters. Calumet cans that represent Native American subjugation. The impossible geography of the Overlook Hotel. Theories, speculation and curios abound to varying degrees of success in Rodney Ascher’s Room 237, a documentary about our (by our, I mean fellow cinephiles) obsession with Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. At times, Ascher’s subjects seem like completely off the rail crackpots expounding on delusional excerpts from their manifestos, at others they seem able to part the curtain of thematic and intellectual mystery to show us the extent of Kubrick’s maddening meticulousness. To watch this documentary is to be aware of The Shining’s designs to an almost unnatural degree, and Ascher’s ploy of using editing and CGI to blend Kubrick’s works into a dreamlike web of false memories and unconscious connections is entertainingly effective. I found it fascinating, but I really wish Ascher had opted for a few second takes on some of his interview tracks, particularly to clean up the arguments and reduce the amount of mumbling/nervous laughter. Trying to follow wending trains of thought, as if his interviewees are discovering their ideas as they speak, can range from frustrating to infuriating, but that quibble aside, the film is disarmingly well made in its effort to entangle you in The Shining’s web. After it ends, you may still find yourself wondering if there’s anything else you have overlooked.