Full disclosure – I have never been a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining; I have never managed to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey all the way through; Full Metal Jacket, apart from the Private Pyle scenes, has no place in my memory from watching it years ago; and Clockwork Orange has aged terribly. So no, not a fan of Kubrick’s films.
Still, I used to be a fan as a teenager of Stephen King’s work, including The Shining. I even went so far as to collect first editions of many of his books (including a gorgeous near mint condition, first American edition of The Shining which is probably worth a few quid now) and still have a sizeable collection, even though I haven’t read anything by him for some time.
So even though I dislike Kubrick’s adaptation, I thought I’d watch Room 237, expecting a documentary about the making of the film.
Boy, was I disappointed.
It’s an hour and a half of narration by five or six . . . fans? Fanatics? Obsessives? All of whom have their own competing vision of what the film is about. According to them, The Shining is about the genocide of the Native Americans; or the Nazis and the Holocaust; or it’s Kubrick’s apology for faking the moon landing footage; or something to do with minotaurs; or can be watched both forward and backward simultaneously . . .
Each of the narrators (we never see them on screen) is firmly convinced of their own particular theory of what the film is about and I managed to sit through it all, despite pausing it to shout at the screen on more than one occasion. (In my defence, I was at home . . . and had drunk a couple of beers.)
The amount of utter bollocks spoken in all seriousness by these people baffles the crap out of me – they take what in any other film would be simple continuity errors and spin some elaborate reason that supports their theory. They take the fact that the film was shot on a set rather than a genuine hotel and discover impossible windows and hallways, that couldn’t exist in real life. One of them mentions the appearances of the number 42 (though only two are shown on screen) and then talks about the significance of multiples of 7 using the final photo as an example:
Mention is made of July (the seventh month!) and obviously 21 is a multiple of 7 . . . but they ignore the 4th, and the 19, and even 1921, none of which are multiples of 7. Classic conspiracy thinking – if it doesn’t fit your theory, just ignore it.
Another commentator makes much of the changes Kubrick made when adapting the original novel, mentioning that there’s no maze in the original book. They’re right, there isn’t – instead, there’s a large topiary with animals that attack (if I remember rightly) both Jack and Danny Torrance. Try filming that with special effects in 1980; a maze was so much easier.
Kubrick’s The Shining is held in high regard by many people and I’m not saying it’s a bad film – I’m saying I’ve never liked it.
I would still rather watch Kubrick’s film than Room 237 again.