Saturday, June 8, 2013

Room 237 (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Room 237

On the patterned surface of things, "Room 237," a documentary  about the supposed symbolism found in "The Shining" (1980) might seem much ado about some  postmodern poppycock, or at the very least needless nitpicking from  a group of far out and freaky Kubrick-heads who find symbolism in the brand and color of Jack Torrance's typewriter.

That it is.

Even so, the documentary provokes and makes for some interesting viewing, despite the theories being a bit far fetched and unsubstantiated.

Rodney Ascher directs ABC news correspondent Bill Blakemore, Jay Weidner and others in a monologue that covers a wide range of The Shining's "hidden" meanings from Native American genocide, and The Holocaust to the "moon landing hoax." More interesting from my subjective view, is the hypothesis that Kubrick was bored by his virtuosic legacy from "Clockwork Orange" to "Barry Lyndon" and that he yearned to find new ideas. "Room 237" ultimately offers that Kubrick used the work of Stephen King as a cover to assert his personal agenda regarding government control, subliminal imagery and the failure of human communication to unite the world.

Bill Blakemore proposes that "The Shining" is a thinly veiled social commentary on the massacre and domination of the Native Americans. He points out the wardrobe of the Torrance Family as well as the frequent use of Calumet Baking Powder in the film with an iconic Indian Chief logo. Geoffrey Cocks asserts that the film is full of Holocaust imagery and the universal guilt we all share. As exhibit A, he presents Torrance's typewriter, an Adler, a German brand. He also points out Mr. Torrance's shirt which has an eagle on it. If that is not enough, there is also the repeated use of the number 42, as in 1942, the year that the nazis made their extermination plan to fruition.  Juli Kearns,  in one of the more intriguing parts of the film, believes that The Overlook Hotel used in the film is essentially an unending trap which is impossible to spatially define or fix on a floor plan. Jay Weidner cites the ubiquity of moon icons throughout the film as evidence that Kubrick was hired by the government to shoot a fake moon landing, but I have to say that of all the theories presented, this one appears the most outrageous. John Fell Ryan, poetically suggests, finally, that Kubrick intended for the film to be seen projected backwards. I will admit that this makes for some very striking imagery with Jack Nicholson seen as a murdering clown ala John Wayne Gacy as well as Nicholson transforming into Hitler at Shining's end.

The most entertaining segment for me though, is the assumption that Kubrick had a personal vendetta against Stephen King who is represented in this documentary as a red Volkswagen. In one shot, the car is smashed under a semi. This concept is easy to entertain, given the much reported story that the author hated the adaptation from the start, nixing Nicholson as being too crazy and typecast and also saying that Kubrick was too intellectual in his treatment.

My one bite about this film is that it is quite hard to follow. The theorists are never shown on camera and they all speak at once without pause (or so it appears). This makes the voiceover very confusing and try as I might, I couldn't easily tell just who said what about a certain aspect. All ideas seemed to mash  and mix into a somewhat soapy soup.

But like it or hate it, "Room 237" has some arresting proposals and offers plenty of blood for thought.

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