Tuesday, February 10, 2015

room 237 — wheels within wheels

The documentary Room 237, dealing with possible hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining is sure to be fun for conspiracy theorists and film buffs — at least, at first. But as the 102-minute movie runs on, viewers may get more and more impatient as each theory is proposed, one more outlandish than the next.

Much is made of the pattern of the carpet in the Overlook Hotel

Kubrick's stylistic and chilly adaptation of Stephen King's novel centers around writer Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who agrees to take a job as the caretaker at the scenic but very isolated Overlook Hotel during the off-season. He moves there with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny can "shine" — he has psychic abilities, and can see ghosts and people and events from the past. As time passes Jack begins drinking again and gets more and more distant from his family and drawn closer and closer to the supernatural inhabitants of the hotel.

King couldn't even make it all the way through the documentary:

"Yeah. Well, let me put it this way – I watched about half of it and got sort of impatient with it and turned it off. ... These guys were reaching. I've never had much patience for academic bullshit. It's like Dylan says, 'You give people a lot of knives and forks, they've gotta cut something.' And that was what was going on in that movie."

There are quite a few different theories proposed, but the ones that seem to get the most airtime are:

  • The genocide of Native Americans (supported supposedly by the Western-themed decorations in the Overlook Hotel, and shots of cans of Calumet Baking Powder, which feature the head of a Native American.
  • That a travel poster may be referencing the myth of the Minotaur (although the skier in the poster doesn't even remotely resemble the half-man half-beast).
  • That the film is about the Holocaust (Jack is using a German typewriter).
  • That the film proves that the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked (Danny wears a sweater featuring the Apollo 11 rocket).

Can you spot the Calumet baking powder? But then what does the Sanka and Tang mean???

There is an interesting section towards the end of Room 237 that shows how similar some of the shots are in the film whether you run it forwards or backwards, with footage running the images together in both directions at the same time. That is the sort of thing that the biggest fans of Kubrick will love. Does it prove anything about The Shining? Not really, but it does point out how elegantly Kubrick framed his shots and mirrored his scenes.


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