director Rodney Ascher
Cinema obsessions take many forms. Apparently cinema obsessions about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining take many forms themselves. There were enough of them for director Rodney Ascher to conceive of the documentary Room 237, which explores five different obsessionists’ interpretations of the film.
Ascher doesn’t ever show the faces of the people whose voices who detail their analyses, but illustrates their ideas in elegant detail, providing visual clarity for the points taken. It’s a clever approach, allowing the theorists’ ideas to play out clearly, without putting too much focus on the individual delivering the particular perspective.
Because these theories range from the relatively rich close reading of the film’s text and strong evidence that support such a theory (such as the idea that the film is really about the genocide of Native Americans) to the highly far-fetched (that the film is an apology for helping the fake the moon landing film). Some ideas are more grounded in viable evidence than others that feel particularly kooky.
As a result, the film is far more a tribute to close reading and interpretation than it is a total freakshow of obsessive nuts.
Because post-modern or not, close analysis of a film offers opportunity for a lot of interpretations. The evidence cited to support a theory doesn’t necessarily prove any “intended” meanings, but can certainly support the reading’s viability.
Kubrick is an apt center of focus for such a reading, notably such a perfectionist and obsessively controlling of his work. Intentionality exists within the work for sure. But to understand his meaning could only be fully informed by the man himself. But that is by no means the only set of meanings available, as this film very entertainingly evidences.