Room 237

allan tong for FILMbutton

Watching this documentary reminded me of those obsessive Beatles and Dylan fans of the sixties who used to pore through every lyric and album cover for clues. Clues to what? Well, that’s the point of Room 237.

Various experts (never on-screen) detail their theories about the hidden meanings behind Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film, The Shining. To most people, the movie is a good adaptation of a Stephen King novel where Jack Nicholson plays a winter caretaker of a resort secluded in the Americans who goes nuts and tries to kill his wife and young son.

Well, depending on the expert The Shining is really about the Holocaust, the extermination of the American Indians or the 1969 moon landings that Kubrick apparently fabricated.

For example, Jack types on an Adler typewriter. Adler is German for “eagle” and this bird was a symbol of the Nazis (and the United States of America, I add). The Nazis also used typewriters to methodically exterminate Europe’s Jews, Communists, Gypsies and homosexuals. The film excerpts the opening of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List to show Nazis processing Jewish families by typing their names. Elsewhere in the film, Jack’s son, Danny, wears a sports shirt bearing the number 42. In 1942, the Nazis began the Final Solution.

In the movie, The Overlook Hotel was built on a sacred Indian burial ground. There are framed portraits of Indians hanging around the Overlook. In the storage room, tins of Calumet baking soda bearing an Indian on the label are stacked. So naturally The Shining is about the extermination of the American Native.

As for the Apollo 11 moon landing, two clues lie in the room key, “ROOM No. 237.” Rearrange those letters are you get “moon room” while “237” refers to the 237,000 miles between Earth and the moon (actually it’s 238,857). Danny, by the way, approaches this room wearing an Apollo 11 sweater. Coincidence? (This expert fears retribution from the U.S. Government, because the I.R.S. has already audited him. Sounds like the feds are getting wise.)

Room 237 premiered at Sundance and critics have been raving about it, but not me. There’s nothing clever or insightful about these so-called theories. They failed to convince. Continuity gaffes happen in every film, but hear they are elevated to some Higher Meaning. Kubrick’s personal assistant on this film has publicly declared Room 237 to be “balderdash.”

Something like this would make a fun website, but as a 102-minute film it’s tiresome rubbish.

Allan is a Toronto filmmaker, co-directing Leone Stars, a documentary about child victims of the Sierra Leonean civil war.

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