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The Geek Life: Checks out of Room 237
He Shot the Moon Landing?
By Robert T. Trate
October 10, 2013
Moon landing or genocide, you decide!
© IFC Films
The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week, the Geek Life checks out of Room 237.
Let’s start at some common ground first. We all love movies. Many of us wrap our friendships around other people that have the same taste in movies. The love of one movie or a particular genre can bring many people together. Long have the nights gone on after watching the latest blockbuster and it was the discussion that was far better than the coffee that kept us going. It’s those great discussions that keep us coming back and uniting like-minded people.
For myself, film school was a great place to meet those with different opinions and a great love of movies. Where I loved Star Wars, another had never seen it. That fact alone is still very shocking to me, but, nonetheless, let us move on. Recently, a documentary has surfaced that has sparked a great discussion. This particular documentary is known as Room 237. Its soul purpose is to debate whether or not the late, great Stanley Kubrick was trying to show the world something other than Stephen King’s novel.
Before I dove into Rodney Ascher’s documentary, I began to wonder what effect this piece would have on my appreciation of Kubrick’s The Shining. Personally, The Shining went from late night movie curiosity to film school delight. The film is riddled with questions that don’t have answers. I was told that it is a departure from the book, so I just took it has a scary tale crafted by the mind of a mad genius. The Shining is required viewing for all film aficionados who want to better understand Stanley Kubrick. The man directed only 16 films (some of them documentary shorts), but left us wanting more. Many directors would love to have one film such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or A Clockwork Orange in their filmography, to say nothing of Spartacus, Paths of Glory, or Full Metal Jacket. Yes, Kubrick has left us with an enduring legacy of films. Would Room 237 change the way I see The Shining? It did, but not in the way you would think.
The documentary is told in nine parts and narrated by six different people who are either Kubrick experts or enthusiasts of the film medium. We never actually see them on screen. In fact, the one artistic note of this documentary is its usage of Kubrick’s films and other movies to tell it’s outlandish theories of what is really going on in The Shining.
It all starts with the appearance of Calumet Can in the background of one shot and its over analyzation (see below). Calumet, which means peace pipe, then serves as the theory that Kubrick is using the film as an allegory for the genocide of the Native Americans. Yeah, right.
Later, Room 237 dives deep into the continuity mistakes that are apparently everywhere in the film. Now, I know that Alfred Hitchcock wanted to make Psycho just do something raw, fresh and give people his version of a horror movie. Did Kubrick go out of his way to put mistakes into a film because he thought horror movies were shoddily made? Today, in 2013, maybe (and just maybe) Stanley Kubrick would have done this. In 1980, no one was making movies bad on purpose, especially Stanley Kubrick.
Now, the picture above, besides its continuity issue, opens another up theory about The Shining. Notice Danny’s (Danny Lloyd) sweater. See the Apollo rocket? Take that image and all the deviations from King’s original story and one of the six theorists think that the film is Kubrick’s admittance to shooting the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The cans of Tang present, the hedge maze being added to the film, all of it lead someone to believe that this film is all about the Moon landing? I’m not even going to get into the Holocaust Theory or running the film forward and backward at the same time.
The great thing about conspiracy theories is the that they fuel their own fires. Our culture cannot believe anymore that one man just interpreted another man’s book and did his best to bring that vision to life. Instead, we have to start piecing together wild outlandish theories to entertain ourselves with a movie we have seen, perhaps one too many times. Room 237 is a great exercise in putting a bunch of like minded people together and recording a conversation that is better left forgotten like the grinds at the bottom of a coffee cup.
How did it change me? Damn if there aren’t a lot of continuity errors in The Shining. Rodney Ascher’s documentary never made me think that Kubrick shot the Moon landing or that the film was an allegory for the death of the American Indians. In fact, it showed me how very human the mad god-like film genius was. It’s a tad humbling and that was its biggest impact on this film aficionado. I recommend the documentary for its entertainment value. However, by its middle, you’ll probably be sick and screaming for someone to turn it off.