Is Stanley Kubrick’s haunted-hotel movie The Shining about a madman who repeatedly pounds out the same sentence on a typewriter and then tries to kill his wife and son with an ax? Or is it actually about the Holocaust? Or the genocide of Native Americans? Or is it really Kubrick’s confession that he directed what conspiracy theorists believe to be the fake footage of the Apollo moon landings? These are just some of the (outlandish) theories explored in the documentary Room 237, currently in select theaters for a one-week Oscar-qualifying run before opening nationwide in March 2013.
The feature debut of director Rodney Ascher, Room 237 is narrated by five unseen Shining fans — including ABC News journalist Bill Blakemore — who lay out their theories about the true meaning of the Jack Nicholson-starring film as footage from the movie unspools. (The title refers to the room in the hotel where Nicholson encounters a naked ghost.) Ascher was inspired to research the world of Shining subtexts after his friend and Room 237 producer Tim Kirk found a long analysis of the film and posted it on the director’s Facebook wall. ”We started to ask ourselves, ‘How many more [interpretations] are there?”’ he recalls. ”We were amazed how much was out there.” Ascher finds merit in all the theories featured in Room 237 and tells EW he has one of his own. ”I have a young son and I see the movie as a cautionary tale about fatherhood,” he says. ”[While making Room 237] I sat at my keyboard working on a project which may or may not have been incomprehensible gibberish. I see Jack Nicholson as the worst-possible-scenario version of myself.”