Some experiences stay with you a life time.
Seeing the movie THE SHINING for the first time was definitely one of those occasions.
Back in 1980 I was fourteen years old and visiting my older brother Tony in Sydney. He took me along to a late afternoon session of the film on what was my very first trip to the southern city.
Back then for a kid from sleepy Brisbane, visiting Sydney was like taking in the bright lights and razzle dazzle of New York. By the time we emerged from the cinema after being subject to two straight hours of throat-closing, jaw-tightening primal terror it was dark. I remember walking through the city mall on the sort of clear night that made you feel like you could reach up and touch the stars. I’d never seen so many people in the one place before in all my life.
As my brother and I half walked/half staggered to the train station (ok, it was more me doing the staggering), coping with the effects of shell-shock brought on by the blood-curdling scenes and images that were still fresh in our minds, our path was suddenly accidentally blocked by a man whose entire face was covered by raised skin lesions. It appeared as if every last centimetre of his face had been infected with enormous, festering warts. The poor chap was definitely not in a good way and his appearance was non-intentionally shocking.
We moved around him, executing a ‘twinkle toes’ sidestep that would have made a State of Origin winger proud and continued on our way. Yet that chance, quite surreal encounter, lasting all of just a few seconds but coming on the back of two of the most terrifying hours I or anyone could ever spend in a movie theatre, all but guaranteed what I saw that night would be still clearly etched in my memory close to 40 years later.
While loitering recently in amongst the aisles of my local JB HI-FI store (Fun fact: Did you know the ‘JB’ in JB HI-FI are the initials of the original owners name John Barbuto, back when the franchise had just the one store in Melbourne) I stumbled upon a title in the documentary section called ROOM 237. I went ahead and bought it then watched it in utter fascination in its entirety later that same day.
I’m typically a person who skips the ‘Bonus Extra’s’ on DVD’s. You know the type I’m talking about – featurettes depicting the behind-the-scenes making of a film along with interviews with the director and/or cast members recalling stories from the set. The movie-purist in me has always disallowed this, believing it somehow strips the film you’ve just enjoyed of some of its magic.
The focus of ROOM 237 is more concerned with multi-layered analysis and discussion of the themes and symbolic meanings presumed to be on offer in the movie THE SHINING. The director of THE SHINING was filmmaker extraordinaire Stanley Kubrick (1928 -1999), a writer/producer/director frequently cited as one of the greatest and most influential film helmsmen of the 20th century and someone who was reputed to have an IQ of 200.
Kubrick had a reputation as a meticulously layering director who liked to insert hidden meanings and symbolic images into his films. If we’re to believe the makers of ROOM 237 (the title refers to the room number in the haunted Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING where a number of unusual incidents play out), THE SHINING is an overflowing smorgasboard in these departments, offering film buffs near endless Freudian and non-Freudian gold class nerdgasms.
Some theories put forward in ROOM 237 such as the suggestion clouds in the sky seen in the background of certain outdoor shots in THE SHINING contain hidden meanings that sync with the overlaying themes of the film had me scratching my head wondering “Did the director really intend that when he made the film?”
Yet if you accept the contention offered in ROOM 237 that those meanings are there regardless of whether the author/director was conscious of them, then just about anything becomes to at least some degree plausible. ROOM 237 holds fast to the notion that, largely because of who made it, nothing in THE SHINING is arbitrary and, like 3D chess, it may be viewed on many levels.
On the other hand when you consider that images which are shown on the screen for mere seconds have been paused, reviewed and analysed within an inch of their lives over and over again by the five principal creators behind ROOM 237, who each confess to having watched THE SHINING dozens (and in one person’s case more than a hundred viewings including a couple backwards) of times, in does make you question if all the next-level over-explaining of continuity errors and the like transforms the original movie into a somewhat enhanced, completely different commodity.
In the end it doesn’t matter.
ROOM 237 is an entertaining journey into the wormhole of insanely dedicated film buffery seen through the eyes of five film analysts who’ve watched THE SHINING closer than anyone ever has.
Enter the maze for yourself HERE
If you’re up for a really good laugh click HERE
If you insist upon throwing gasoline on to a by-now completely fried brain, then you may as well go ahead and click HERE
Ps. Your bonus read this week is someone you all know quite well discussing their favourite books over at Bridgetwhelan.com (6000 plus followers). Read it HERE
And one more thing…