Thanks to living in the future — and in spite of living in Kansas — I was able to rent Room 237 this weekend. My anticipation for this film speaks to my maturity, I guess — I longed for this like a teenager does for a blockbuster. Room 237 does not disappoint.
The film makes headlines for some of the weird and off-the-wall theories offered by its guests. But the filmmakers never stake out a position, or show favor to one particular interviewee or theory. The star of the film, then, is not any one idea but the conversation that the film builds. Some of my favorite moments occurred when guests began unknowingly speaking to one another — the guest talking about propaganda films and the guest theorizing about a faked moon landing didn’t know it at the time, but they were driving to similar ideas from different directions. They don’t hear each other, but we do.
Room 237 is many things. It’s certainly a testament to one of the greatest film directors of all-time, and to one of his most important and unusual films. In addition, the film’s structure alone — never filming its guests, and instead laying their audio over film clips, mostly from Kubrick’s films — makes its worth viewing. But most importantly, the film is a call for and defense of close reading — or close viewing, I suppose. The filmmakers don’t laugh at any one particular theory because they’re more interested in hearing out a carefully detailed reading from an involved viewer, no matter how outlandish it may seem on paper.
Room 237 is playing in several major cities. It is also available to rent through iTunes. I highly recommend it. You may also want to have a copy of The Shining handy too — you’ll likely be reaching for it soon after.