Friday, 5 October 2012

LFF: Room 237 Review

Director: Rodney Ascher

Cast: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner, Buffy Visick

Plot: A documentary detailing various theories on Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

For those who are not fans of The Shining, Room 237 may not appear to be your kind of film, but look past the subject of its analysis and you still have an interesting and subversive documentary. Rodney Ascher’s adoration and enchantment of Kubrick’s classic horror film led him to find out more about the film and through that journey he stumbled upon a realm of exhaustive, subjective theories relating to it. In this new documentary several of these ideas are analysed in great depth and with tremendous vivacity thanks to Ascher’s direction.

Some of the theories seem relatively crack-pot when first spoken about but as the film etches through each hypothesis and every point of reference, they begin to take illustrious shape. Whether or not you agree with beliefs that The Shining pointed to notions such as Kubrick filming the 1969 Moon landing, the genocide of the Native Americans or the machinations of Hitler’s exterminations of the Jews, the theorists always give an interesting lecture on why they believe it to be so.

For film students, critics and fanatics, this is a ground-breaking documentary about the debates and discussions of film. Especially for the film studies faction, Room 237 proves the worth of analysis in a director, star or genre. Not many know of the degrees of detail in which people read into films and Room 237 is an expert example of showing some cinema-goers’ unique perceptions. As dense at it may be at points, the film runs through the bunch of theories, always with more than one astounding examination. Furthermore, Ascher uses snippets from various horror films to envision some of the interviewee’s stories (many clips of people in cinemas corresponding with theorist X talking about their first experience of The Shining, for example), thus alleviating some of the blandness that comes from only hearing the voices of the Shining enthusiasts.

It will not be to everyone’s taste and its commercial-fate may not be up to par with the regular Hollywood releases, but even with the slightest bit of success (no doubt it will surpass what might be expected of it) it could easily become the start of a new trend in film-orientated documentary filmmaking. Ascher and producer Tim Kirk have already noted in interviews the wealth of study with the films of David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky (to which any film fan could add on an array of other directorial names) and so the opportunity to do what Ascher and Kirk have done is excitingly open. Room 237 is an eye-opening film, not only for The Shining, but for what it means to perceive film; easily one of the finest celebrations of cinema – and with only exploring one example in the plethora of movie history.


By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

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