Although the documentary feature "Room 237" has received largely favorable notices from the mainstream media, there seems to be a disconnect with regular movie-goers. I think that this breakdown comes in the form of expectations. "Room 237" is NOT about Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining." Not really. If you are looking for a critique about that movie, this is NOT it. Rather this is a study of obsessiveness and the art of amateur film theory. Each of the unseen subjects interviewed for the film have rather outlandish ideas about the hidden context of the 1980 horror endeavor. These aren't meant to be accepted at face value by the viewer. Some are quite preposterous, some are huge stretches, and some merely contradict the facts when necessary. What we see is how closely people relate to certain films and artists. As society has been consumed by the entertainment industry, these commentators all think they know the precise meaning of Kubrick's text regardless of how far-fetched it might appear to the rest of us. I, too, am a Kubrick scholar and have studied his work. But to dissect a movie in minute detail ascribing enormous significance to even the smallest bit of set dressing, it will boggle your mind!
"Room 237," therefore, is about this obsessive act of movie mania and not about the source film itself. "The Shining" just serves as the catalyst to examine this bizarre phenomenon. I didn't learn anything about the movie, but was instead pulled into the compulsive theorizing of the film's participants. There are some interesting individual points, to be sure, and amusing speculation, but I was more amused than enlightened. Was the film a commentary on the Holocaust or to the annihilation of the American Indian or Kubrick's confession to his role in the staged lunar landing? These are just three of the ideas presented within the film, just so you have an idea of the film's content. The movie will not sway you to taking any of these propositions to heart, but it is fun seeing how these conclusions came into fruition for the respective spectators. To their minds, there is no question about Kubrick's intention and this single-minded focus and left field read are fascinating to me as a film lover. I will confess, though, I did laugh at the theories with great frequency.
The movie is constructed with film clips from "The Shining," Kubrick's other films, and plenty of randomly selected moments from a variety of movies. We never see those that are postulating the bold new theories. Although I didn't believe anything at face value, I did appreciate the inconsistencies that were pointed out within the film. And some of these were probably intentional. Favorite clues: Danny on the hotel carpet playing with his trucks, his position changes as danger approaches. I also liked the mapping of the hotel as Danny drove his Big Wheel around. Biggest stretch: A ski poster is connected to a Minotaur? "Room 237" is an alternate look at obsessive fandom and, in that way, it succeeds greatly. No one is asking you to believe the far-fetched ideas, but to embrace the impact that films can have on their subjects. I really liked this movie and was amused by it, but it might not be for everyone. KGHarris, 9/13.