Distributor: Siren Visual
Year of Release: 2012
Run Time (minutes): 100
Audio Format: Dolby Digital 5.1 - English
Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
Number of Discs2
DVD Region 4
Video Format PAL
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Author: Tim Price
Siren Visual stick true to their ethos of releasing “dynamic, unequivocal and often unapologetically unique” content with a double-disc, bonus feature packed DVD release of the 2012 documentary Room 237.
Directed by Rodney Ascher Room 237 is a documentary that explores various interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s initially maligned but now widely celebrated 1980 psychological thriller The Shining. All of the narration is delivered by people entirely removed from Kubrick on a personal level, but who have an obvious love of his work. I also love The Shining, but was content enough with its stunning visuals and genuinely terrifying atmosphere to be drawn to it in a way that made me want to explore its subtexts. Due to his notable reclusiveness, Kubrick’s life and his motivations have always greatly intrigued me though, so I was excited to see this film after it was recommended by fellow DS Cast contributors John and James.
The most convincing interpretations presented about the film are those that explore themes of Native American genocide and ideas about how mankind should approach our collective and individual pasts. Other readings of The Shining in Room 237 veer from eccentric (Kubrick filmed the moon landing for the government and planted clues throughout the film) to completely batshit crazy (Minotaurs?). However it seems slightly besides the point of the film to dwell too deeply on the theories that it presents.
While Room 237 is ostensibly about the ‘meaning’ of The Shining, it never really attempts to nudge us towards any particular view of the film. It gradually reveals itself as a document of obsession, of fandom and of how we need art to make sense of our lives and the world around us. As the film progresses and we subtly become more familiar with the peculiarities and even the personal lives of our narrators, it becomes clearer that their interpretations tend to reveal more about themselves as individuals than they do about Kubrick and his oeuvre. While some might observe this as a weakness in a film that could focus more on the enigmatic Stanley Kubrick (I did still learn a bit more about him), I found it unexpectedly refreshing.
Through its weird and wonderful narration Room 237 acts as a reminder that film can be considered important not just for its societal commentary, but also for its deeply personal impacts. By the end of the documentary I felt envious that I didn’t have the kind of personal connection to The Shining that the narrators did, but it made me further consider my relationship to and personal interpretations about other films that I love.
It’s an unconventional, obsessively detailed and humanistic documentary. And with that in mind I think Kubrick would’ve enjoyed it. It almost goes without saying that this film should be seen by any Kubrick or The Shining fan, but anybody who has loved a piece of art to the point of obsession will find something of value here too.
The mastermind Speaks: Feature Commentary with Kevin McLeod
Secrets of The Shining: Panel Discussion from the First Annual Stanely Film Festival
11 Deleted Scenes
The Making of the Music Featurette
Mondo Poster Design Discussion with Artist Aled Lewis
The Seventh Art interview direction Rodney Ascher & producer Tim Kirk
Room 237 is available now from http://www.sirenvisual.com.au/Product/489.php and any good DVD retailer.