The importance of an artist’s intent in the interpretation of a piece of art has always been hotly contested amongst critics. While some believe any interpretation is valid some believe the only meaningful interpretation is the one the artist had in mind while creating the artwork. Whichever side you stand on, I’m sure everyone can agree, any interpretation must be backed by solid evidence.
Stanley Kubrick was notoriously meticulous as a filmmaker, his films are unarguably rich and imaginative. Room 237, or to give its full title: Room 237: Being an Inquiry into The Shining in 9 Parts focusses on a group of people obsessed with The Shining and the mysteries behind it, offering nine different theories on possible readings, some more outrageous than others. The highlight being one interviewee convinced the film was filled with subtle hints confirmed Kubrick as a co-conspirator in the faking of the Apollo 11 moon-landings based almost solely on an Apollo 11 cardigan worn by Danny. Another believes it to be about the holocaust based solely on Jack’s use of a German made type-writer. One thing the majority of the “inquiries” had in common: I remained unconvinced.
As Room 237 I progressed I became less concerned about the theories and more for those claiming them, the interviewees seemed too close to look at it in a rational manner, I’m sure if you studied any film frame-by-frame you are going to see things, and give meaning to things that perhaps have no relevance, this again brings us back to the argument of artistic intent. A key example of this would be the scene in which Jack Torrence meets Ullman for the first time, as Ullman walks around his desk to shake Jack’s hand the paper tray on the desk lines up with Ullman’s crotch giving him the appearance of an erection, the interviewee then tried to convince us that this had a significant meaning. We all know Kubrick was a genius, but sometimes a paper tray, is just a paper tray.
That’s not to say Room 237 didn’t offer some interesting tidbits, some almost unmissable continuity errors that offer an added sense of unease, as well as the impossible geography of the Overlook Hotel; windows looking outside in rooms situated in the center of the hotel. Regardless of how ludicrous some ideas are, it did provide me with a greater understanding into way in which cinema can be interpreted in general.
The Shining is unarguably a classic of the genre by a master filmmaker, and if you’re a big fan you may find Room 237 offers you some great insights and new ways to look at it. However, if you’re like me, and prefer your film analysis to be a little more grounded in reality you might want to give it a miss. I certainly wont be watching Room 237 forwards and backwards at the same time in search of some great epiphany.