Room 237 & The Allure Of The Conspiracy

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At its core, Room 237–the recent documentary that aims to present the different hypothesis of what Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was all about–is a film about the mind and how it works. It’s about how people take in information and interpret it to fit their worldview. It’s not just about conspiracy theories for a 30 year old movie but about why conspiracy theories are so attractive in the first place. Directed by Rodney Ascher, Room 237 takes on a number of The Shining’s perceived meanings as presented by different Kubrick enthusiasts, meanings that connect the film to things like: The Native American genocide, The Holocaust and “faking” the moon landing to name a few. A lot of it is contrived and flawed but all of it is interesting which, again, speaks to the power of a conspiracy. There’s a need for things to be more that a shallow surface. I love The Shining but I didn’t need to read into it too much to do so, for others (such as those in the movie) there had to be more to it than what was on screen for them to find it worthwhile. By 1980, Stanley Kubrick was already a revered figure in cinema; an almost movie-diety, who lurked in the shadows writing, researching and obsessing over each project he worked on. Even before his death he was more myth than man–a legend whose work begged to be dissected and deconstructed. That’s exactly what the talking heads of Room 237 do: break the movie apart and look at all the pieces. Even if you think (or just KNOW) that all of these theories are silly or coincidental, you can’t help but get sucked into it. The great thing about conspiracies is there’s always just enough given to you to make your argument sound right in your head. In other words: you can always find what you’re looking for–especially if you look hard enough. The magic of the conspiracy is it gives your inner paranoia traction, it feeds your personal sense of superiority for being ahead of the foolish “sheep” and, most important of all, it feeds into your own outlook of the world. There are a lot of things in The Shining that I think are deliberate and there are other things that are just there. I don’t think I’m right and they’re wrong, if anything I think we’re both in the general area. Room 237 refers to the room where Charles Grady, in the midst of severe cabin fever, had his wife corrected, it’s the room that Dick Halloran warns Danny not to go into and, as one Kubrick enthusiast proclaims, it’s the number of the lot where Kubrick filmed the space landing (allegedly). That’s part of the fun really, rewatching scenes in the movie while each theorist narrates what it all means; seeing people point out the inconsistencies of different scenes and different aspects of the movie and trying to argue why they’re there on purpose. It’s all great to sit through and, in a lot of ways, makes the documentary more sinister than the movie itself for the simple fact that it all makes sense to some level. My favorite theory is the Native American genocide on: it holds the most weight and is the most interesting. But the eeriest one had to be the idea that the film was meant to be seen forwards and backwards, not because the idea was eerie but because, one commenter super-imposed the films together and watched it and began pointing out moments thast seemed to match up perfectly. It’s equal parts chilling and awesome. If you watch it enough, all the conspiracy theories attached to The Shining make some sort of logical sense–hell, when I rewatched it I came up with my own conspiracies just to do it and found that it made sense–and that’s what beautiful about a conspiracy, no matter how batshit it may be, if you commit your mind to it enough they puzzle pieces will fall to place. The idea that nothing’s going on is a boring one; there’s always something going on. All you have to do is think outside the box; or in this case, the mythical window to nowhere.

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