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Movie Review: Room 237: Being An Inquiry Into The Shining In 9 Parts
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Room 237 Movie PosterRoom 237
Being An Inquiry Into The Shining In 9 Parts
Directed by Rodney Ascher
Release Date: March 29, 2013 (limited)
Available now On Demand

To reduce or repudiate any of Stanley Kubrick’s films would be indescribably mindless. To this day, each one harbors an enduring legacy, not only because of their content, but also for their impeccable craftsmanship. Some are lauded more than others. But the majority of his films have startling subtexts, as fictional as some may initially seem, that cause many avid cinephiles to ruminate for countless of hours, maybe even years.

For those of you who – and there must be many – mismanaged and minimized The Shining‘s potency, submit yourselves to Room 237: Being an Inquiry into The Shining in 9 Parts (or Room 237 for short). It seeks to unearth and unravel conspiracy theories and deeply concealed subtexts that Kubrick either deliberately or arbitrarily instilled in his horror epic The Shining. Kubrick’s version (premiered in 1980) is far removed from Stephen King’s bestselling novel, gutting the majority of the book’s themes in exchange for his own dark visions (Kubrick came up with the idea to have The Overlook Hotel be built on an Indian burial ground). That film opened up to mediocre reviews, not attracting the slightest scholarly knowledge, cult following, or accolades it would attain years later.

Room 237 reinvigorates one’s faith that cinema can provide ever-lasting art. Similar to that kind of art, a great film never ceases to please, revealing new aspects of its genius every time it is viewed. The indelible and unshakable impact a film can have on its viewers long after its initial release is a chief characteristic of a great work. With Room 237 we see the relentless impact a great film can have. Here is a maniacal documentary that is not only a love letter to Stanley Kubrick’s epic horror film but, maybe more so, a love-letter to cinema and its inextinguishable ability to craft films that resound years later.

Increasingly engaging, director Rodney Ascher‘s Room 237 does not possess a dull moment, uncannily displaying what a great, enigmatic film should do, and revels in the many surmises and hypothesizes that follow around that great film. Exploring the many feelings and theories a particular film can evoke can be trivially subjective. But Ascher does it in a way that avoids contamination, relying on the unseen commentators’ rapid and intense theories to keep us entertained. The narrative adheres to whatever is being discussed by these commentators who try to articulate specific theories they came up with, which range from the credulous (Native American genocide and staged Apollo moon landing) to the implausible (Nazi Holocaust?).

Room 237 is built on such theories with an intent to convince us that The Shining is not about its actual narrative. We see no talking heads, no actual interviews, or no news-reel footage. There aren’t any facts here. Instead, Ascher (this being his first feature-length film) gathers clips from a multitude of films, mostly consisting of Kubrick’s, and edits them together in a way that forms a logical narrative that charts what The Shining could be about.

Soon, the learned cinephiles’ theories transmute into something deeper, stronger than before. No longer are they theories, but haunted reminiscences coming from cinephiles who have been plagued by The Shining‘s abnormal ability to ceaselessly obsess. A main theory in that is in that movie and that is discussed in Room 237 is that the past perpetually haunts the present. Hearing the documentary’s commentators makes this even more evident, as they remain shaken after all of these years from initially seeing Kubrick’s film years ago.

The conventional rules a standard documentary abides by do not apply here. Room 237 creates its own world. It is hermetically sealed, as is a confessional booth, allowing in only the most devout to state their outrageous but yet potentially credible claims. And in this world all those involved aspire endlessly for some form of truth. They are confessing their obsessions that turned into burdens over the years.

Ascher reinvigorates one’s faith that cinema can provide ever-lasting art. Similar to that kind of art, a great film never ceases to please, revealing new aspects of its genius every time it is viewed. The indelible and unshakable impact a film can have on its viewers long after its initial release is a chief characteristic of a great work. With Room 237 we see the relentless impact a great film can have on posterity. It is a maniacal documentary that is not only a love letter to Stanley Kubrick’s epic horror film but, maybe more so, a love-letter to cinema and its inextinguishable ability to craft films that resound years later.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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