Rodney Ascher’s outstanding documentary Room 237 has come to home video, allowing viewers to comb over the film as the interview subjects did when they got their hands on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
In Room 237, we hear award-winning journalist Bill Blakemore, history professor Geoffrey Cocks, author and playwright Juli Kearns, musician John Fell Ryan, and author and filmmaker Jay Weidner make their case on what The Shining is about beyond Jack going crazy and trying to kill his family in the Overlook Hotel.
Ascher and his team use The Shining, running the film forwards and backwards, pausing it on frames and highlighting objects within them to show, for example, how it’s a story about the genocide of Native Americans, or the Holocaust, or Kubrick’s involvement with the moon landing. While the interpretations are interesting, none of them seem plausible as far as Kubrick’s intention. But that’s not really the point. Room 237 is not about The Shining but about the union of art and interpretation.
On the Disc 1, the film is accompanied by a commentary with Kevin McLeod, who goes by the name mstrmnd. He declined to appear in the film, but gives his thoughts on both The Shining and Room 237. He stops abruptly about 90 min in without saying goodbye. This disc also contains the film’s trailer.
The second disc contains more extras. Secrets of The Shining: Panel Discussion from the First Annual Stanley Film Festival (50 min) is a panel hosted by film blogger Devin Faraci featuring Mick Garris, director of The Shining miniseries; Room 237 director Rodney Asher; Jay Wagner, a Room 237 interviewee whose theory is the faked Moon landing; and Leon Vitali, former Kubrick assistant. They have an engaging discussion about Shining-related matters, including Stephen King’s book and both adaptations. Vitali is particularly feisty when talking about the fan theories.
There are 11 Deleted Scenes (25 min), which can be viewed individually or altogether, but it is audio only and the visuals are the editing software interface. The Making of the Music Featurette (3 min) contains clips of the soundtrack being performed and recorded. There is no interview or dialogue. Mondo Poster Design Discussion with Artist Aled Lewis (3 min) finds Aled breaking down his poster’s imagery, which incorporated ideas from the theories discussed in the film. There are also three alternate Trailers.
Just from the material used from The Shining and the director’s other films, Room 237 is wonderful visual mash-up that should delight Kubrick fans. For those intrigued by the human mind and the way it interprets the world, Room 237 is worth visiting.