Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Room 237


Here’s an odd little movie. Too odd for me, actually. It’s a study of Stanley Kubrick’s controversial love-it-or-hate-it movie The Shining, and I can’t quite decide why it was made. It is in nine sections, wherein people discuss the movie and their personal reactions to it. We never see these people and they aren’t famous, and must have been selected with only one real criterion: They are fascinated, possibly even obsessed, with The Shining.

One man insists it is a parable about the genocide of the American Indian. He bases this on a can of Calumet baking powder seen in the store room where Jack Nicholson is briefly locked in. A Calumet is a peace pipe. Ooooookay.

Next we get a man who believes it is all concerned with the Holocaust. The reason he gives is that the number 42 appears here and there in the movie. Wha …? Well, 1942 was a year in the Holocaust, don’t you see? Um … yeah, and what about ’43, ’44, and ’45? No answer to that question. I can’t even recall what the next obsessive had to say about it, though there was much study of the slow dissolves within the Overlook Hotel, and a chair that was present in one shot and not in another. Continuity problem? Hah! That’s what they want you to think! You know, the men who are beaming low-frequency radio waves into my dental fillings, which is why I’m wearing this tinfoil hat …

I can agree with the proposition that very little appears in a Kubrick film that Stanley didn’t intend to be there. The paintings on the walls do show American Indian influence. There is a copy of Playgirl that Jack is reading, and it is an inappropriate magazine for a hotel lobby. (Could Jack have brought it himself? Repressed homosexual urges?) But to enlarge that magazine cover and speculate on the titles of the articles, which can never actually be seen in the movie? Bullshit.

There are incredibly elaborate spatial maps showing how Room A could not have connected with Room B, then computer-generated tracking of a character from one to another. These people have seen this movie a thousand times, and have gone through it frame by frame. Did they somehow miss that movie sets are thrown together by the designers in any way that is convenient? That in fact a character can leave one room at Shepperton Studios in London, and enter the next room in Culver City, California?

My bullshit capacity was exceeded at about the half-hour mark. There was still more than an hour of it to go, and I decided not to waste my time. It is this sort of horse manure that gives film and literary criticism a bad name. As well it should.