If you’re up late tonight and looking for a movie to watch, Rodney Ascher‘s documentary Room 237 is the perfect thing to transition from Easter to April Fools’ Day. It’s about theories and analyses people have about Stanley Kubrick‘s movie The Shining (see our different reviews of the doc by Kevin Kelly, Brian Salisbury and Landon Palmer). Therefore it’s both about “Easter eggs,” as in things hidden in the movie and fools, pranks, hoaxes and all those kinds of things associated with the joker’s holiday on April 1st. I’d like to hope that IFC released the doc, which premiered over a year ago at Sundance, on this very weekend because of Easter and April Fools’ Day are back to back. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. But Room 237 makes us wonder if there’s such a thing.
Room 237 hit theaters on Friday and had a decent debut weekend showing on only two screens. But it was also released the same day on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and cable On Demand outlets to rent for a relatively low cost. There’s no reason not to be seeing this movie-lovers’ treat. And if you don’t even like or care about The Shining, it’s still very interesting and fun and worth the look, because it’s about more than The Shining. It’s about ways of seeing and thinking and believing, and taking things too seriously and not, and Kubrick is simply a very good aid for illustrating and exploring all of that.
And Ascher’s film is great at illustrating and exploring the Kubrick as an aid and employing The Shining and the many theories and analyses about The Shining. It’s not just a guide to the theories or a list of its own content. There’s a lot of style and wit and editorial craft involved. It’s not flat, dry and tedious like another feature-length video essay — call it a documentary if you like, too — titled The Shining Code 2.0. Made by Michael Wysmierski, it’s exclusively compelling for what it presents rather than how it presents it (how is: voiceover matching redundant onscreen text; repeated clues; overlong pauses; mostly stills with few clips; cheap editing gimmicks).
Yet there is some appeal after watching Room 237, which only gets a bit into the conspiracy theory that Kubrick helped NASA fake the Apollo 11 moon landing and has now made The Shining as a confession. The Shining Code 2.0 (like with other web-hosted docs that change or grow, the 2.0 indicates this is an updated version of The Shining Code) focuses specifically on the moon hoax theory and offers a whole lot more evidence in the form of “codes.” These include tons of instances where you can either see what looks like a number 11 or A for Apollo or count 11 objects or letters or spot reference to the sun god or astronauts, etc. Some seems like a stretch, but that’s always the case with conspiracy theories and often the case with analytic readings of films.
Much of what’s “revealed” in The Shining Code 2.0 is sure to be found easily around the web in straight text form. And it in turn gives away some of what you’d find in Room 237, of course, if you choose to watch this before that. Ascher’s doc is worth watching, as I said, for itself even more than the theories it highlights. This is less recommended but if all you’re looking for is the content on how The Shining allegedly gives away Kubrick’s role in faking Apollo 11 and contributes to the long-believed conspiracy theory itself, you’ll enjoy this all the same. Watch the full documentary/essay here: