April 12, 2013

Have you seen "Room 237" — the movie about what people think about the movie "The Shining"?

It was released for streaming — watch it here — at the same time that it opened in theaters. We watched last night. It will be quite fun for you, I think, if you've seen the movie "The Shining" — even if you're not obsessed with the movie — if you're interested in the way a work of art can draw people in and open up the doors of perception. With the revered genius director Kubrick cramming visual details in every shot, a viewer's mind can run wild with theories. The viewers' response to the movie parallels the Jack Nicholson character's response to the hotel. How crazy are these people? What do those cans of Calumet Baking Powder really mean?



Was Kubrick deliberately nudging you to think that the movie is really about the genocide of the Native Americans? Start looking for the other clues. It's amazing. It's a maze. You could get lost in there.

Was Kubrick trying to drive Stephen King crazy, like by making Jack's Volkswagen Beetle yellow instead of red and then later showing a crushed red Beetle under that semi in the snow?

Kubrick does these dissolves between scenes that have some interesting superimposed images — liked the peaked hotel roof and the ladder in the lobby — and the movie has several instances of characters walking backward — Shelley Duvall retreating up the stairs and swinging a baseball bat at Jack and the little boy retracing his steps in the snow to escape — and there's the backwards writing — "redrum" — so maybe Kubrick would like us to project the movie backwards and forwards simultaneously on one screen? Think what you could learn! All the secrets!

Well, I learned that Kubrick likes symmetry and puts things smack in the middle of the screen, which increases the likelihood of interesting combinations if you project backwards over forwards, but these people who obsess about the movie think Kubrick was trying to say something important. And what a coincidence! The message is about that person's central obsession — the slaughter of the Indians, the Holocaust, sex... 

38 comments:

madAsHell said...

I guess this beats trying to find meaning in rap lyrics.

Erika said...

From the reviews:

...one theory is that Stanley Kubrick did not make this movie as an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, he made it to let everyone know his part in the faked moon landing footage. Oh boy. One of the pieces of evidence provided is a door hanger that says "ROOM No 237". Please don't fool yourself into thinking that this means the hanger identifies Room Number 237. Oh no. Can't you see it? You can rearrange the capital letters to spell "MOON!" (they don't explain what the leftover R indicates. My theory is that if you add the "R" in the middle, you get "MORON" which is what you have to be if you buy into that nonsense)....I would have also liked to hear a sensible theory as to things like the carpet pattern switching when the ball rolls to Danny or why the other guy in the job interviews pants change. (hint: I doubt it involved faking a moon landing or Native American genocide).

Heh!

Colonel Angus said...

Sometimes a can of baking powder is just a can of baking powder.

Colonel Angus said...

I would have also liked to hear a sensible theory as to things like the carpet pattern switching when the ball rolls to Danny or why the other guy in the job interviews pants change.

In movie parlance that's called continuity. That occurs when scenes are shot out of sequence.

DADvocate said...

The Shining is a great movie. One of the few scary movies I've watched that is actually scary and not just violent and gory. I'll leave the analysis of Kubrick's details and unconscious to those who can't enjoy a movie for what it is. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

DADvocate said...

I see Col. Angus and I the same thought.

chickelit said...

Stuff like this drives pot smokers crazy, Althouse. Like cats to catnip.

Good on you.

Tim said...

It's a movie.

Don't over-think it.

That's how people talked themselves into thinking Obama was remotely qualified to be president.

Tim said...

chickelit said...

"Stuff like this drives pot smokers crazy, Althouse. Like cats to catnip.

Good on you."


Yeah, but the dopers are still in bed.

She needed to wait about six more hours...

Nomennovum said...

So ... then, it wasn't a scary movie?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"making Jack's Volkswagen Beetle yellow instead of red and then later showing a crushed red Beetle under that semi in the snow"

In movie parlance that's called continuity. That occurs when scenes are shot out of sequence.

Correctamundo. The little glitches that happen all the time in some good but mostly lesser quality movies. Things like: drinking from a glass that is almost empty and in the next sip...the glass is full again.

My husband is a pro at being able to spot these things. It is really amazing. We stop the show, go back a few frames and damn.... he is right!.

Big glitches like a different color car from the beginning of the movie to the end are not all that common, but it has happened. One time they were having a car chase and the bad guys somehow changed not only the color from a dark green to a dark green-blue....they changed the make of the car! In the "olden" days you might not have noticed because you didn't have rewind capabilities.

Sometimes it is best not to over analyze things, like playing the Beatles songs backwards. Fun....but stupid.

James said...

It's possible that Kubrick was referring to the fact that the hotel was supposed to have been built on an Indian burial ground (I think I recalled the manager telling Jack that at the beginning of the movie).

jr565 said...

Pretty much every conspiracy theory that exists out there, from the idea that 911 is an inside,job to the JFK assassination to Paul Mccartneyis dead are all fakes. Every single one. But , there occur natural coincidences that seem to feed these stories (if you take the word of those believing the conspiracy that such events occur) to the point where it almost seems plausible.

Then again, a lot of these facts are fake facts. For,example the idea that there was no wreckage found in flight 93 on 9/11. Or the idea that no one saw the plane hit the pentagon on 9/11.
The Truthers are adamant about their truth, which require such details to be true. But in nearly every case, they aren't.

Tibore said...

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Dante said...

Was Kubrick deliberately nudging you to think that the movie is really about the genocide of the Native Americans?


Is it your view that genocide of the Indians is a fact? You state it this way, but I don't think that's a universally held view by scholars.

Inga said...

Nomenovum reminds me of Jack, look at that machete.

Darrell said...

Seeing the same movie over and over again and expecting it to end differently is the definition of a Democrat.

BDNYC said...

What's the deal with the guy in the bear suit?

tiger said...

There was an article similiar to this on Fark in the past 18 months.

People were talking about the difficulty of following the floor plan of the hotel based on the individual scenes. Some people believe that Kubrick did this intentionally to cause psychological distress.

This is all well and good until the writer interviewed one of the set designers who called it all 'bullshiate' and said the shots were used because of the restrictions of the location and that Kubrick didn't give two hoots about setting up 'subconscious terror' with the viewers.

Some times a cigar is just a cigar...

chickelit said...

Inga said...
Nomenovum reminds me of Jack, look at that machete.

Actually, Jack had an ax and Shelly had the machete (and jet black hair too): link

Bwahaha!

Colonel Angus said...

Actually, Jack had an ax and Shelly had the machete (and jet black hair too)

Shelley had a butcher knife. She also presented the most authentic portrayal of a truly terrified woman I have ever seen in film.

Colonel Angus said...

Kubricks version isn't nearly as loyal to the book but is still a classic in its own right. The mini series remake is very good and very loyal to the book.

chickelit said...

I stand corrected Colonel.

Has United ever featured "The Shining" as an in flight movie?

Doubt it.

Inga said...

That's just the way I feel when I see Nomenovum on the same thread I'm on.....

Lem said...

The movie 42 is the opposite.

Lem said...

42 is The answer.

blackjellybean said...

We watched that documentary. I was disappointed in that it gave so much screen time to the more wacka-doo theorists. On the other hand, I don't think Kubrick set out to make JUST a horror movie; like all great art, it works on multiple levels. I found the genocide/holocaust interpretations plausible (why the line about the "white man's burden"?) And the fact that Jack was reading a Playgirl with articles on molestation certainly supports the theory that the movie's a metaphor for child abuse.

The screenwriter was the novelist Diane Johnson. She gives a good interview about writing The Shining at http://www.terrortrap.com/interviews/dianejohnson. She and Kubrick discussed Freud as part of the process.

Dante said...

Shelley had a butcher knife. She also presented the most authentic portrayal of a truly terrified woman I have ever seen in film.

I saw an interview with her, and apparently she WAS terrified, of Kubrick! The way she described it, it sounded like a lot of emotional abuse going on.

Ann Althouse said...

"In movie parlance that's called continuity. That occurs when scenes are shot out of sequence."

That possibility is, of course, acknowledged, but given that Kubrick was excruciatingly careful and a genius and knew people would look closely and see things, it is rejected. It's possible that he's making a joke about continuity, but not that it's a mere gaffe, these people think.

Seeing Red said...

Watched it, was bored, never watched it again.

Tibore said...

"Dante said...
I saw an interview with her, and apparently she WAS terrified, of Kubrick! The way she described it, it sounded like a lot of emotional abuse going on."


Yeah, no kidding. I've seen many actors who otherwise love, and even worship Kubrick talk about his directing in such terms. Apparently he occasionally went beyond Method (as in acting) into madness (pun intended).

From an interview with Nicole Kidman:

"Kidman does admit, though, that Kubrick’s film was provocative, that he intended to imply that the pair’s real life marriage was on the frits (sic)."

“Stanley wanted to use our marriage as a supposed reality,” she says. “That was Stanley: He used the movie as provocation, pretending it was our sex life -- which we weren't oblivious to, but obviously it wasn't us. We both decided to dedicate ourselves to a great filmmaker and artist."


Seems like lots of directors can be that way. Anyone remember Winona Ryder's revelations about Coppola during Bram Stoker's Dracula?

eddie willers said...

Many moons ago I was waiting for a flight when I spied a shining silver colored paperback in the spinner rack and read on the cover "Soon to be a major motion picture from Stanley Kubrick".

Good enough for me and I must say, "The Shining" scared the living BeJesus out of me. (and I have gone on to read probably 85% of King's output).

Took a first date to the premier of the film and absolutely hated it. Its gotten no better even if I go back to view it as a Kubrick film. (those that have read the novel know there is very little of it in the film).

The treatment of Scatman Crothers' character, Dick Hallorann, was indefensible and ludicrous.

When all is said and done, Kubrick made 2½ good films.

Crunchy Frog said...

Every time I watch The Shining, it pisses me off.

Shelly Duvall lives.

Unknown said...

The key to "The Shining," the Stanley Kubrick film, as opposed to "The Shining," the Stephen King novel:





Stanley Kubrick: "Mr. King. Do you believe in God?"



Stephen King: "Yes. Yes, I do."

Stanley Kubrick: "I don't."



(Taken from memory after reading "Danse Macabre" many years ago.)

Michael said...

Frederic Raphael (who worked on Eyes Wide Shut) said that all of Kubrick's films are about the Holocaust. Which is to say, a Jewish kid who grew up in the 40s was sufficiently impressed by that event to spend a lifetime making movies in which evil exists under a very thin veneer of civilization and manners-- you may be wearing foppish wigs, Barry Lyndon, or military uniforms (Roman, French, American) or masks of refinement, Humbert, but underneath it you quickly reveal the ape killing another ape with a bone.

So without getting into too crazy stuff, I think it's entirely reasonable to see The Shining as another reflection of that viewpoint-- the hotel is another thin layer of civilization atop a bloody history (built on an Indian burial ground), and ultimately, it's another big social organization which absorbs the morals-free and makes use of their innate talent for killing. Hmm, a failed artist turned murderer? Who does that remind us of?

Michael said...

"What's the deal with the guy in the bear suit?"

A guy named Rob Ager has an interesting site full of fascinating details. Some of it's whack, but some of it is clearly onto something-- there's no doubting that Danny's Teddy Bear has eyes that look exactly like the dials on the hotel elevator, for instance, or that Duvall is basically dressed to look like Goofy in much of the movie (which suggests it can't be an accident that she was cast after playing Olive Oyl in Popeye either).

Anyway, one interesting argument he makes is that the film is, to some extent, about childhood abuse being passed down generation to generation-- including perhaps sexual abuse, and that there's an identification between Danny and his Teddy Bear which that scene alludes to. He also suggests that that's why you can't make sense of the chronology in the film, which has multiple Mr. Gradys and so on-- to some extent that reflects the jumble in Jack's head, in which he's both abused child and abusing adult at the same time.

Is that right? Hell if I know. But it seems more directly onto something than the Indian genocide theory does.

John Lynch said...

Try 2001!

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

Though the movie is based on King's book, I wonder if it's closer in spirit to SILENCE by Bergman.