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Room 237

Room 237

USA 2012 - with Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner ...

The Frankfurt-Tipp rating:

Movie info

Original title:Room 237
Direction:Rodney Ascher
Cinema release:19.09.2013
Production country:USA 2012
Running time:Approx. 107 min.
Rated:Age 16+

Although the film has been met with great criticism, especially from fans of the novel, Stanley Kubrick's Stephen King adaptation The Shining is considered one of the very great milestones of the horror genre. On the surface, the film is a classic ghost story about a man who falls prey to creeping madness in a remote hotel. But if there was one thing Kubrick was known for, it was that his films only reveal their various layers of meaning when you look beneath the surface. And so there are quite a few treatises on The Shining, ranging from purely film-scientific arguments about visual language, symbolism or camera technique to absolutely absurd conspiracy theories.

In his documentary Room 237, director Rodney Ascher lets five of the director's admirers have their say, each with their own particular ideas about what Kubrick's version of The Shining is really about. Award-winning journalist Bill Blakemore, author and professor Geoffrey Cocks, playwright Juli Kearns, author/editor/radio host and former video librarian John Fell Ryan, and author and filmmaker Jay Weidner explain in detailed statements what messages, symbolism, psychological as well as cinematic levels they believe they have found in the horror classic. It's about the truth about the faked moon landing, which Kubrick allegedly directed himself, about the director's accusation against the American government regarding the treatment of Native Americans, it's about sexuality, about the Nazi regime of World War II, about oppression, and about the American people. World War II, about oppression and rebellion - and about a big fuck you in the direction of Stephen King, whose template has been significantly altered in several aspects by Kubrick.

For his documentary, Ascher has chosen a very unusual staging style. All of his interviewees remain hidden at all times. Their theories are laid over a collage of film clips from The Shining and other films, primarily the works of Kubrik, as voice over commentary. This has its charm, especially at the beginning, but since some sequences are constantly repeated during the course of the film, certain signs of fatigue soon appear, which no matter how passionately delivered statements by the five interviewees can do little to change.

The biggest problem with this documentary, however, lies in a fact that is not mentioned at any moment in the film. For many of the scenes referred to in the theories expressed here are from a version of the film Kubrik edited specifically for the American market. The international version is 23 minutes shorter. Now if, as the theorists here assume, every moment, every frame is of such significance and lies full of hidden symbolism, why did a perfectionist like Kubrik just cut them out like that? Why, in Kubrik's eyes, could the film happily do without these scenes? The fact that none of Ascher's interviewees address these two versions of the film takes away some of the credibility and persuasiveness. The second problem that arises from this is that viewers outside the U.S. are not at all familiar with many of the scenes that are analyzed in detail here, as probably few film fans are also familiar with the American long version.

And so then the suspicion that all of these passionately presented theories are pure spin, which are quite amusing, especially at the beginning, and to a certain extent understandable. But for nearly two hours, the production style and the yet rather hair-raising analyses are just too dry, too unwieldy and too boring to really captivate even passionate film theorists, Kubrick enthusiasts and great admirers of The Shining - like the writer of these lines.

An article by Frankfurt-Tipp


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Cinema trailer for the movie "Room 237 (USA 2012)"
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