Posted April 19, 2013 by Jeff in Flicks

Room 237: Seeing doesn’t have to mean believing

Room 237, Rodney Ascher’s documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s horror film The Shining artfully explores the various theories of hidden meanings associated with the movie. An intriguing documentary that uses footage from a variety of Kubrick movies, Room 237 is as much a tribute to the late director as it is a documentary about one of the greatest horror movies of all time. Producer Tim Kirk recently answered some of our questions via email. Here’s what he had to say about the movie.

What was the initial article you sent over to Rodney that got the concept for this film rolling.
For a time in my daughter’s infancy, she would only sleep if she was resting in my arms.  During this time, I completed the Internet.  In the far reaches, I found an essay about how The Shining was Stanley Kubrick’s coded confession that he had faked the footage of the Apollo moon missions.  There was only one person I knew who loved Kubrick and The Shining as much as me and who would possible be up in the middle of the night, so I sent it to him.  I was right because Rodney called me about 10 minutes later and we started talking.  We basically haven’t stopped.

Rodney has said The Shining “has a stronger claim on our imagination than ever.” Why do you think that is?
The Shining is a heavy, heavy film.  The characters and the camera and the story all move like they are under water, pushing through the Overlook, accruing meaning.  It’s so mysterious.

What was your reaction to The Shining when you first saw it?
The Shining was the first Kubrick film I saw in the theater.  I had seen most of his other films by then but this was different; no one had written about it yet, or talked to me about it.  I saw it opening week at Grauman’s Chinese  Theatre in Hollywood.  No film could have lived up to the expectations I had.  Like a lot of the people we interviewed, I was disappointed the first time I saw it.  But it already had a hold of me.  When the credits started to roll, I just sat in my chair thinking “it’s not over” and searching the screen for clues.

I personally could listen to every one of these people talk for hours.  They are smart, engaged and passionate people and I like people like that.

Which of the “conspiracy theories” in the film do you find to be the most believable?
Believable was never a yard stick we used when making this film.  I personally could listen to every one of these people talk for hours.  They are smart, engaged and passionate people and I like people like that.

Talk about what informed the decision to use footage from other Kubrick films.
Rodney has an incredible editing style which allows films to talk about other films, and about themselves.  I think Kubrick’s films are all in dialogue with one another, just like our interviewees are in dialogue with The Shining.

Many documentaries have a chronological narrative. This film does not. What prompted the decision to organize it according to the nine different theories?
When we reached the point of constructing the structure of the film, we had about two dozen sequences of varying lengths.  We tried various orderings but we knew a straight “Beginning, Middle, End” structure was not going to work.  One of the things Room 237 is about is the many theories interacting – competing, complimenting, negating and building upon one another.  In the end, what we ended up with is what worked for me and Rodney.

How many theories about the film did you leave out?
I have a spreadsheet somewhere in which, midway through the research period, I tried to keep track of every theory and the various elements they shared.  I have dreams of that spreadsheet tracking me down.  Nightmares really.


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].