The title of the new documentary Room 237 — which opens in New York this weekend, and expands nationwide through April — refers to the menacing, mysterious hotel room at the center of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, a film that has inspired perhaps more deep analysis, explication, and theorizing than pretty much any other major feature film of the last 40 years. In the doc, director Rodney Ascher and producer Tim Kirk interview five people who have dedicated a rather alarming amount of their lives to attempting to understand the multiple meanings packed inside Kubrick's adaptation of the Stephen King best-seller. Overtop a hypnotic collage of imagery, these five people — veteran journalist Bill Blakemore, history professor Geoffrey Cocks, playwright Juli Kearns, musician John Fell Ryan, and filmmaker Jay Weidner — unspool their always fascinating theories, ranging from keen observations about Kubrick's disorientating filmmaking to, say, how the film is really Kubrick confessing his involvement in faking the footage of the Apollo moon landing.
That last theory was what first inspired Ascher and Kirk to collaborate on a film assembling as many different theories about The Shining as they could find. "It seemed like the most interesting exercise," says Ascher, "would be to explore all of the symbolic analyses and let them collide in a demolition derby of ideas and pictures."
Well, not all of them. "We were going to do a comprehensive overview of every theory of The Shining," says Kirk, "and that's just impossible. Room 237 is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg."
So I asked them what theories didn't make the film — and here are the five most intriguing ones.