This past weekend, I received a copy of Room 237, a documentary about the hidden meanings in The Shining from IFC Films. As a big fan of The Shining, I couldn’t wait to break the plastic and check this bad boy out.
Like any other person who has seen the film, I had my own questions and theories about The Shining and was very interested to hear what other people thought. I did not expect to hear the responses these people gave.
To start, I always thought that Danny, Jack Torrance’s son, always knew what was going to happen all along. Danny has the power to shine, which IMDb defines as “a psychic ability that allows people to communicate telepathically, as well as have clairvoyant experiences.” Dick Hallorann, the cook at the Overlook Hotel, tells Danny that this power can allow people to see the future. My theory is that Danny knew how it was going to end all along. He knew to learn the maze because he knew he would have to use that knowledge as a weapon against his dad. That’s why the pattern of the carpet is like a maze and we follow Danny around on his big wheels while he rides around the hotel like he is in a maze. But that’s just my theory.
Room 237 goes beyond that. In this documentary by Rodney Ascher, we hear from several fans about The Shining and their theories behind the film. To me, it was like sitting in a room and listening to several conspiracy theorists argue about mind controlling substances in the water, hidden meanings in Super Bowl half time shows, and the government staging 9/11.
Their theories were very out there and you could see that they were just stretching the evidence to prove their point. One guy kept saying that The Shining was about the Holocaust because Jack types with a German typewriter making lists, which the Nazi’s did. Then there is a shot of a pile of luggage, reminiscent of concentration camps. One guy said the film was about Kubrick staging the moon landing in 1969. There was even a lady who kept talking about a Minotaur theme and how the poster of the skier in the rec room was not actually a skier, but a Minotaur.
It was a skier. I don’t know what she was smoking, but that was most definitely a guy on skis.
The thing is that you could come up with random theories for any film. I could probably find ways to argue each of their theories with any film out there. You just need to find evidence to stretch to support your point. You just need to be convincing. I’m sure there are people out there that will agree with everything these people say and can see the hidden pictures they attempt to point out. I, however, did not. This being said, if even a fraction of what they say is actually true, Stanley Kubrick is an absolute genius.
Despite disagreeing with every outlandish theory thrown out in Room 237, I was entertained. The thing I really enjoyed about the film is that we never see the people who are trying to prove their theories. Instead, everything they say is acted out by scenes cut and pasted together from Stanley Kubrick’s films. That definitely helped me see what they were getting from the way Kubrick overlaps different shots, which had me saying “Whoa” Joey Lawrence style on more than one occasion.
The truth is, I really have no way of knowing these people are right or wrong any more than they do but the documentary did exactly what it was supposed to do, which was to make me think. Perhaps Kubrick’s motive for leaving some things so vague was to make us theorize. Maybe it was all just a lucky accident. Either way, Room 237 is worth a watch, if not just to get your mind going. Maybe you find something in The Shining that no one else has or maybe someone will confirm a theory you’ve had for years.