as found on: https://www.wired.com/2013/03/the-shining-theories/
DIRECTOR STANLEY KUBRICK’S The Shining is arguably the most cerebral horror film ever made. The film is studied at universities, chronicled in books, and has generally inspired levels of academic analysis rivaled only by the work of Talmudic scholars. But despite all the study, there are still few conclusive answers as to what Kubrick was actually trying to say with The Shining, opening the door for countless interpretations. Many of those fantastic – and fantastical – theories about the movie are chronicled in the documentary Room 237 by director Rodney Ascher, which premieres in selects theaters today.
“I have this nightmare of a spreadsheet that I’m afraid to look at that I put together at one point where I was trying to categorize every single theory that we found and cross-referenced them,” Room 237 producer Tim Kirk told Wired. “At some point we just had to give up on that.”
Much like its subject, Room 237 — which was funded almost two years ago via Kickstarter — isn’t a very conventional film. Its Kubrickian theorists (who are never shown on screen, only heard in voiceover) range from ABC New correspondent Bill Blakemore, who sees the film as an allegory of sorts for “the genocide of the American Indians” to Jay Weidner, who sees The Shining’s “ROOM No 237” key as a confession from Kubrick about faking footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
If it seems odd that a movie more than three decades old would now warrant a film documenting its most in-depth theories, consider this: There was no internet when The Shining was released and it would be a while after it played in theaters that VHS really took off, so the capacity for obsessive watching and re-watching, frame-by-frame analysis, and sharing of theories online is only something that’s been around in the latter part of the film’s history.
We are now in what writer Chuck Klosterman recently dubbed “Immersion Criticism”: the kind of in-depth interpretations of popular culture that can only come after watching a particular piece of media dozens of times. “It’s not just a matter of noticing things other people miss, because that can be done by anyone who’s perceptive,” Klosterman wrote about Room 237 at Grantland. “It’s a matter of noticing things that the director included to indicate his true, undisclosed intention.”
For more of interesting and outrageous theories about Kubrick’s perceived intentions, check out our gallery above; Room 237, hits select theaters today and will also be available on demand through IFC Films.
KUBRICK CHANGED THE MYSTERIOUS ROOM FROM 217 TO 237 — TO INDICATE KUBRICK’S MOON LANDING CONFESSION
In the Stephen King novel on which Kubrick’s film is based, the mysterious room is actually 217. Lore has it that Kubrick changed it so that people wouldn’t be afraid to stay in the real room 217 at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, which was used for hotel exteriors in the film. But Weidner says if you call the hotel, there is no room 217. He says, instead, that the number is a way for Kubrick to confess that he was involved with creating faked moon-landing footage for Apollo 11.
As evidence, he points to the Apollo sweater young Danny wears, the fact that the moon is about 237,000 miles from Earth (it’s 238,855 on average) and the inscription on the room’s key: ROOM No 237. “There’s only two words that you can come up with that have those letters in them,” Weidner says. “And that’s ‘moon’ and ‘room’ and so on the key, the tag, it says ‘moon room.'” (Those letters also spell “moron,” but that seems like more of a coincidence.)
ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK’S TYPEWRITER CHANGE COLOR
Throughout The Shining Jack’s Adler typewriter goes from a light tan color to a grey-blue with no real explanation. Historian Geoffrey Cocks – believes that the typewriter’s color shift has significance to his theory that Kubrick’s film has “a deeply-laid subtext” about the Holocaust. “That typewriter, that German typewriter – which by the way changes color in the course of the film, which typewriters don’t generally do – is terribly, terribly important as a referent to that particular historical event.”
STUART ULLMAN’S PAPER TRAY IS TRYING TO HAVE SEX WITH THE AUDIENCE
Top-notch conspiracy hunter Jay Weidner has many, many theories about the work of Kubrick (and other things) but some of the more eye-popping are his thoughts about how the director used the subliminal messaging of advertisers in his films. To wit: In the scene where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) meets Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson) in his office and, Weidner says in 237, his hips line-up perfectly with his paper try making it look like an erection. “Inside The Shining are hundreds of subliminal images and shot line-ups – and what these images are telling is a extremely disturbing story about sexuality and the subtext of the story – besides the other subtexts of the story – is the story of haunted phantoms and demons who are sexually attracted to humans and are feeding off of them.”
Image via Idyllopus Press
SPEAKING OF STUART ULLMAN’S OFFICE, THAT WINDOW CAN’T EXIST
A while back artist Juli Kearns took to making maps of the rooms and passages in the Outlook Hotel and made an interesting discovery: There’s no way Stuart Ullman’s office could have that big bright window with all of those trees outside of it. “You go from the lobby into the general manager’s office and then into Ullman’s office and there’s this window, and the window is a powerful window,” Kearns notes in 237. “It’s just such a forceful presence, this light that comes over everything. … There’s something wrong with it. This is an impossible window. It’s physically impossible. It cannot be there.”
THE SHINING IS BACKWARDS
Taking a cue from site MSTRMND’s brilliant analysis, which noted that “The Shining is a film meant to be seen both forwards and backwards,” Ryan wanted to see what would happen if it was projected simultaneously with one version being played the normal way and the other being superimposed and run backwards from end to beginning. The resulting images are eerie (see above, video NSFW). “There’s some fun jokes, but then there’s serious stuff where the hallucinations – the visions – that Danny has, you’ll see them over-layed on top of other situations. Like the twin girls are over-layed on top of Wendy,” Ryan says. “All the symbols in the movie overlap in the superimposition backwards-forwards. The murdered twins are over-layed across Jack’s face.”
THERE IS A DISAPPEARING CHAIR
When Jack is typing in the Colorado Room and unceremoniously interrupted by Wendy (Shelley Duvall), there is a chair that disappears during their ensuing conversation. It could just be a goof, but as Cocks notes, Kubrick rarely makes mistakes. “My students and I always have fun with that saying, ‘Well, continuity error?’ Could be,” he says. “Or it’s not and the answer if it’s not – or if it was originally and Kubrick saw it and decided to keep it – is that he’s parodying horror films in order to remind you that this isn’t just a horror film.”
JACK IS A MINOTAUR, THE OVERLOOK IS A LABYRINTH
One of Juli Kearns’ theories rests on the idea that in The Shining Jack is a Minotaur figure and that the hotel is the labyrinth in which the figure from Greek mythology resides. In her interpretation during the “Thursday” scene in which Jack is watching Wendy and Danny play in the show he has “an expression on his face that he gets progressively throughout the film that is very bull-like.”
THERE IS ALSO A DISAPPEARING DOPEY WITH A MORE NEFARIOUS MESSAGE
After Danny has his first vision of the elevator bank gushing blood he’s shown in his bathroom and the door outside has a sticker of Dopey from the Seven Dwarfs on it. A few beats later, it’s gone. “Continuity error?” Cocks asks. “I don’t think so. I think what Kubrick is saying is that before Kubrick had no idea about the world, and now he knows. He’s no longer a dope about things. He’s been enlightened.”
Image via Tumblr
THE MAGAZINE JACK IS READING IN THE LOBBY IS A PLAYGIRL
This is the hidden gem that Kirk “can’t unsee at this point.” In the film John Fell Ryan points out that if you look closely at what Jack is reading in the lobby of the Overlook at the beginning of the film, it’s a Playgirl. “The cover is like people getting ready for the New Year. There’s an article about incest. At the beginning of the film Danny’s been physically abused, but there’s a suggestion that he’s been sexually abused as well,” Ryan says. “Just in that one shot there’s all these, like, you know complex things going on in the background.”
Screengrab: Wired via AnyClip
ROOM 237 HAS PENISES ON THE FLOOR
If you look at the carpet in the documentary’s eponymous room, the carpet is more than just carpet. And, according to Bill Blakemore, the symbols in the carpet are telling us something about the continuation of humanity. “In the sex room, 237, where we see this beautiful sexual temptress who then becomes a rotting body, realistically depicted as a rotting body, the design on the rug shows basically – in geometric form with round curves – the act of intercourse itself, one after another after another after another,” Blakemore says. “Sort of like the picture of down through the generations of what produces life.”
Image via Idyllopus Press