Room 237 (15)


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The Independent Culture

Some films are significant, some achieve significance, and some have significance thrust upon them. Stanley Kubrick's mystery horror film The Shining, first seen in 1980, has generated a cult of interpreters and clue-hunters who have extracted – or imposed – meanings unsuspected by the rest of us.

Where you saw a picture about a man who installs himself in a snowbound hotel, goes slowly mad and tries to murder his wife and child, they see a disguised Holocaust movie, or an apology for the Native American genocide, or a meditation on human evil.

Director Rodney Ascher has spliced together interviews with various Shining theorists, though in voice only, never in appearance – perhaps that would prejudice us against their outlandish (crackpot) readings. So, while one might agree that the patterning of the hotel carpet has been reversed, or that Jack Nicholson's typewriter does change colour, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. It might just be a continuity error.

And did Kubrick ever intend the film to be played backwards in superimposition? Some of the interviewees sound persuasive – one is a history professor, another an ABC news correspondent – and some sound like people who should get out more. It's pretty enthralling, all the same, and it will either ruin The Shining forever or else drag you into its obsessive web of conspiracies.