Why do some films inspire passionate theorists and others don’t? There are few people in a better position to answer that than Rodney Ascher, who spent years delving into the intricately constructed theories people have come up with describing subtexts in Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING. It was one of the questions I had for Ascher when I spoke to him about his documentary, ROOM 237, by phone on March 25, 2013. It was right after I confirmed with him that he had, in fact, fled a screening of THE SHINING as a kid. He did. His musings on why he was so affected, as well as why this film, and not, say 2001, is the subject of so much debate showed the same insight and pithy wit that ROOM 237 itself shows. And he was just as enigmatic when I asked about a certain coincidence, or was it synchronicity, or was it deliberate, that occurs in his documentary.
ROOM 237 is Ascher’s documentary that explores the intricately constructed theories about the subtexts and hidden messages in Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING. From a metaphor for the Holocaust, to an admission from Kubrick that the film we’ve seen of the Apollo 11 moon landing is fake, and that he himself shot the iconic footage, the theories are as individual as the people who champion them. Ultimately, though, ROOM 237 is about more than second-guessing Kubrick, but is instead a striking consideration of the impact that art has on its audience, its ability to provoke responses that are as deeply rooted in the viewer’s psyche and experience as they are in the artist’s intention, conscious or not. Ascher’s previous work includes the tantalizing short, THE S FROM HELL, in which he gauges people’s negative, even fearful, reactions to the Screen Gems logo.