Apollo 12 Connection

The fact that Danny wears a sweater with "Apollo 12" on the front means that Kubrick has the moon landing on his mind, according to Kubrick scholar Jay Weidner. Weidner, who believes Kubrick staged the Apollo lunar landing, sees another NASA connection in room number 237: The distance from the earth to the moon: 237,000 miles (conventional wisdom has it that it’s more like 238,00).

Indian Slaughter

Cans of Calumet brand baking powder seen in the background of Jack Torrance’s pantry scenes were not randomly placed there by a set dresser, according to Bill Blakemore. Instead, the Indian chief graphic symbolizes native American culture that got squashed by white settlers. Movie dialogue points out that the Overlook Hotel was built on top of Indian burial grounds.

Holocaust or Native American Carnage?

The gushing blood that leaks from closed elevator doors, envisioned by clairvoyant boy Danny comes from the Indian burial site that rests beneath the hotel, as television news reporter Bill Blakemore sees it. History professor Geoffrey Cocks has an alternative interpretation: The blood represents carnage from the Holocaust.

Horror Film in Wolf's Clothing

Author of "The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust," history professor Geoffrey Cocks argues that Kubrick uses the horror film genre as a vehicle for personalizing the horrors of mass annihilation. Kubrick considered making a Holocaust movie called Aryan Papers, but the project never came to fruition. Cocks believes the painting of a fairy-tale wolf seen in the background of one scene symbolizes the director’s interest in the Holocaust.

Minotaur and the Maze

Playwright and Shining expert Juli Kearns believes Nicholson’s furrowed brow represents the face of a Minotaur.

Minotaur Poster

Juli Kearns interprets the skiing poster in this shot as a subliminal represention of the Minotaur figure.

The Maze

In keeping with Kearns’s Minotaur theory, the hotel’s maze-shape hedges supports the notion that Kubrick modeled The Shining after the labyrinth-like riddles of Greek mythology.

Twin Symmetry

John Fell Ryan, editor of Shining blog KDK12, staged a screening in which the film reel was played from end to beginning, superimposed with a standard playing of the film, and concluded that the twins represented Shelly Duvall’s character Wendy. "Of course, doubling is a recurring visual motif in the film," says Room 237 director Rodney Ascher. "The strange thing is that the hotel manager describes them as girls of 8 and 10, and not twins at all!"

Mirror Image

After watching how images overlap when The Shining is played backwards and forward simultaneously, John Fell Ryan argued for "the idea that The Shining is the flip side of 2001, one being an evolution, the other a descent into savagery," says Ascher.

Message to Stephen King

Stephen King’s original novel featured a red Volkswagen. The movie version shows a snow storm car crash in which a red Volkswagen gets crushed. Analyst Jay Weidner believes Kubrick wanted to send author Stephen King a message, roughly translated as, "I’m doing my version of The Shining, not yours."

Co.Create

Stanley Kubrick Faked The Moon Landing And Other "Room 237" Secrets From "The Shining"

Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining" and the director himself have inspired unending admiration--and scrutiny. A new film looks at obsessive fans and uncovers their theories on what’s really going on at the Overlook Hotel.

The first time Rodney Ascher saw The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s cryptic horror classic proved too much to handle, and not simply because it scared the Hell out of him. "After 10 minutes, I had to slink out the back of the theater. I think I knew I’d met something more than I could put my head around," says Ascher, who was 11 years old at the time. Three decades and dozens of viewings later, Ascher returns to the scene of Kubrick’s immaculately staged crime story with Room 237.

The documentary, opening Friday in New York, uses scenes from the movie to illustrate commentary from five Kubrick obsessives, who point to background props, secondary characters, carpet patterns, wardrobe choices, and other on-screen minutiae to make their cases about what The Shining movie really means.

On one level, The Shining, adapted from Stephen King’s novel, is a ghost story: Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance character holes up as winter caretaker at the remote haunted hotel, loses his mind, and terrorizes wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) while his clairvoyant son Danny (Danny Lloyd) suffers an onslaught of blood-drenched visions. Nicholson’s ax-wielding "Here’s Johnny" moment achieved iconic status, but Room 237 makes a persuasive argument that there’s a lot more going besides plot-driven terror --if only the experts could agree on what it is.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

One Kubrick obsessive argues that The Shining serves as a metaphor for the Holocaust. Another believes the movie addresses the conquest of Native American culture. A third analyst argues that King’s source material functions as a Trojan horse enabling Kubrick to tell the world that he secretly staged the Apollo moon landing.

Ascher, who spent a year with producer Tim Kirk interviewing those who would decode The Shining, explains, "I did my best to get inside each viewpoint as deeply as I could and say, 'My job is now to sell theory A as hard as I can. And now my job is to sell theory B as hard as I can.' Some of these ideas might be mutually exclusive, but I kind of let them fight it out."

KUBRICK RESURGENCE

Room 237 contributes to a resurgent fascination with Kubrick, who died in 1999 at age 70 after putting a perfectionist burnish on an astonishing range of genres encompassing: film noir in (The Killing); sword and sandal spectacle in (Spartacus); science fiction in (2001: A Space Odysseyy); political satire in (Dr. Strangelove); ultraviolent distopia in (Clockwork Orange); and modern warfare in (Full Metal Jacket).

The überhip Upright Citizens Brigade recently produced The Shining! The Musical!. The Kubrick exhibition, showcasing artifacts from the auteur’s films, runs through June at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, complete with a Kubrick app and a Beyond the Infinite film series surveying his influence on other directors. The John Malkovich movie Color Me Kubrick in 2005 told the story of real-life Stanley Kubrick impersonator Alan Conway, who conned London film circles by pretending to be the reclusive filmmaker.

And Kubrick’s impeccable eye recently inspired cinemaphile "Kogonada" to compile a tribute video of perfectly composed shots, embedded below, that demonstrate Kubrick’s command of "One Point Perspective" throughout his career.

Why have The Shining, in particular, and Kubrick movies in general, aged so gracefully? Ascher says, "It may be that ambiguity plays better a few years down the road, which is a risk that not everybody wants to take. There’s something about all of Kubrick’s films: They land smack in the middle of art and entertainment. People choose to watch them because they look beautiful, they’re full of memorable characters and there’s always more there than meets the eye."

BLOODY PUZZLE PIECES

Kubrick’s reputation as a control freak who micromanaged every detail of a film’s production means, to his fans, that even the tiniest on-screen elements must have been deliberately chosen by the director for a reason. And yet, for Ascher, the director’s intent remains elusive.

"Movies like the Sixth Sense or Shutter Island answer the central mystery in the last act so you can leave the movie theater feeling that you have in some way mastered this thing," Ascher says. "But The Shining clearly is a puzzle that’s missing a few pieces even on the surface level. You never find out definitively what happens to Danny in Room 237. The black-and-white photograph with a date at the end is more of a puzzle than a solution. I’ve gone back to watch The Shining many times saying to myself: 'Okay this time, I’m going to watch very carefully, and I’m going to understand it once and for all. I won’t let it get away from me.' But it gets away from me every time."

Check out the slide show to learn the secret messages embedded in The Shining, as hypothesized by the deep-thinking theorists of Room 237.

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5 Comments

  • andyb79

    i just watched room 237 and found it quite interesting, definitely thought provoking, and i'd recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the film. As for the film itself being a "horrible adaption" of the novel, this documentary pretty much suggests that point is irrellevent, and suggests Kubrick is just using King's novel as a vehicle to tell, or "reveal" a much bigger story.Worth a watch, definitely.   

  • Fuckyou

    If you want to know what the "missing pieces" were, I suggest you buy a copy of Stephen King's novel. The movie was a horrible adaptation and served no justice to King's masterpiece.