Netflix & Chill: 420 Edition – ‘Room 237’

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

If you appreciate bizarre documentaries, you need to check out “Room 237.” Directed by Rodney Ascher, the film is an intense examination of the potential “secret meanings” behind Stanley Kubrick’s horror-thriller “The Shining.” (Con: you have to love “The Shining” in order to find this interesting. Pro: you should already love “The Shining;” it’s a brilliant psychological classic about a bad marriage, plus it proves that you should never disturb your husband while he’s working).

“The Shining” is a mysterious film already, and a prime head-scratcher for discerning stoners. Does Jack descend into madness on his own, or is The Overlook Hotel actually haunted? Why has Jack seemingly been there before, and how come he shows up in the hotel’s photo from the ’20s? What’s with the creepy, blink-of-an-eye oral sex scene between a man in a bear suit and a butler? “Room 237” doesn’t answer these questions, per se; but it does take a deep dive into what Kubrick’s artistic intentions might have been.

The most unusual thing about the doc is the lack of talking heads. Several oddball characters get interviewed, but their voices are assembled on top of actual scenes from “The Shining.” You practically get to rewatch the entire film, while never glimpsing the faces of the cinematic theorists. If you’re high enough, you’ll definitely believe each and every conspiracy suggestion (which makes it more fun).

Two of the theories make definite sense: one guy says “The Shining” is about the Native American genocide and another says it’s a metaphor for the Holocaust. There is plenty of evidence for both claims. Three other readings of the film seem slightly less sensible (but nevertheless imaginative): one person thinks the whole thing is Kubrick’s confession that he contributed fake footage to the moon landing (because we didn’t actually go to the moon; or we did go, but the footage looked crummy, so the master filmmaker behind “2001: a Space Odyssey” supplied faux video proof). Another theorist believes images in the movie invoke the Greek myth of the Minotaur, and the last one alleges you can understand “The Shining” by watching it backward and forward simultaneously.

“Room 237” celebrates the film nerd. Kubrick may or may not have littered his horror flick with metaphorical bread crumbs for audiences to gather (though he was a genius with impeccable attention to detail, so I wouldn’t put it past him); what matters is “The Shining” has come alive in the minds of countless viewers. Once a piece of art is released into the world, it no longer belongs to the artist – it becomes open to an audience’s wild interpretations. WE create the meaning. Get stoned and think about THAT.

Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer

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