“Room 237” an examination of Kubrick masterpiece “The Shining”

By Jonathan Smith


As part of Amherst Cinema’s on-going “Books into Film” series, there will be a one-time showing of the horror classic “The Shining,” originally adapted from Stephen King’s best seller of the same name, on April 23 at 7 p.m.
In a timely conjunction, documentary “Room 237” – an exploration into some the conspiracy theories and hidden messages found in “The Shining, also opens this weekend at the cinema

“The Shining” is not only widely considered to be one of the greatest examples of modern horror, but it is also arguably the pinnacle of acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick’s career. Originally released in 1980, “The Shining” proved to be a triumphant return for Kubrick both critically and commercially, as it followed the disappointing box-office performance of his previous 1975 release, “Barry Lyndon.”

Praised for its haunting depiction of the isolated Overlook Hotel coupled with Jack Nicholson’s brilliant portrayal of frustrated writer Jack Torrance’s descent into madness, “The Shining” is now revered as one the greatest films ever made by many.

“In my eyes, ‘The Shining’ is a true masterpiece of American cinema,” Amherst Cinema manager George Myers said.
Myers has chosen the movie as an example of one “that has been as successful on screen as in print,” but also “due to its contentious history in its adaptation from film to screen.”

King has publicly condemned and disassociated himself from Kubrick’s adaptation, and his distaste for the film even led to him commissioning a television version in 1997 that, although more faithful to his novel, many consider inferior to the film representation.

In tandem with the showing of the film is the release of “Room 237.” Myers said that the documentary “begins to explore the deep history and mystery surrounding the meaning of the film, which speaks to the strengths of what Kubrick was able to do as a film maker with a text as compelling as King’s.”

“Room 237” interviews five different Shining-obsessed fanatics and aims to shed light on whether theories surrounding “The Shining” are sensationalist nonsense or actually truthful. Theories include hidden messages or links to the Holocaust, Apollo 11 moon landings and Native American genocides cleverly interwoven into the narrative and cinematography of the film.

The documentary has picked up much praise through its stint on the festival circuit, notching up nominations at Cannes and Chicago Film Festivals, while winning two awards from the International Documentary Association and Austin Fantastic Fest.

“Room 237” should be a fascinating journey into not only the film but the brain of one of cinema’s most intriguing characters, Kubrick, for those who are acquainted with “The Shining.” And those who have yet to see the original masterpiece should not turn down a chance to see this thrilling horror on the big screen again, if only to see a crazed Jack Nicholson poke his head through a door to mutter those famous immortal words.

Jonathan Smith can be reached at [email protected]