”We all shine on” is the line from John Lennon’s ”Instant Karma!” that inspired Stephen King to call his novel The Shining. Another thing that apparently goes ”on and on and on, on, on” are theories about hidden messages in Stanley Kubrick’s film version. Among the most intriguing (if far-fetched): A fervent fan believes the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey helped the U.S. government stage the Apollo 11 moon landing, then planted clues about it in the 1980 Jack Nicholson horror movie. Other viewers speculate (more credibly) that the movie is an allegory for white pioneers taking Native American land. Room 237, a new documentary debuting Jan. 23 at the Sundance Film Festival, examines some of these enigmas.
Named after the hotel room that the movie’s psychic little boy is warned to avoid, the movie is an exploration of the ways fans have tried to uncover stealth meanings in The Shining, and is aimed at both film buffs and conspiracy theorists. ”Some of this stuff seems funny, because people are coming up with very big ideas based on incidental details,” says first-time feature director Rodney Ascher. ”But others might see it as a little scary.” Room 237 isn’t afraid to play up the idea that Kubrick, who died in 1999, was harboring deep, dark secrets — even if he wasn’t. ”I didn’t intend to answer the questions,” says Ascher, who purposely avoided consulting with Kubrick’s estate or collaborators. ”Now that I’m done, I’d be fascinated to find out what actually went down, but my interest was more about the effect [The Shining] had on the audience.” After all, if Kubrick had directed the moon landing, you can bet fans would quickly dissect that footage for hidden meanings, too.