A few years ago, I went to Glacier National Park, Montana on a vacation. Though, at that point, it was 25+ years after the film had been released, one of the topics that kept coming up was Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film The Shining. “Did you know this is the hallway that was used in The Shining? You know, with the little girls?” one excited bellboy said at one of the park’s classic lodges. “No, it wasn’t here… I think it was in Colorado somewhere…” countered the man behind the check-in desk. Someone else jumped in and offered the rumor they heard about how maybe parts of the movie were filmed at their lodge, and other parts were from across the lake. Needless to say, I’m quite sure that the opening credits—the famed helicopter shot following a lone VW Beetle along a snakey, lakeside mountain road—were for sure filmed at Glacier, because that road gave me a chilling feeling of déjà vu.
Room 237 deconstructs The Shining with obsessive details through the eyes of a handful of fans (whom we never meet, and only hear in voice-over). After seeing this intriguing and odd documentary, I now notice things in the movie that I never would have before. For instance, the reconstructed Overlook Hotel (the original is at Mt. Hood, Oregon, and was copied for the set in England) had a notably changing exterior throughout the film. And what about Danny’s serpentine Big Wheel races through the hallway? One fan literally mapped out the hotel based on visual clues that Kubrick (supposedly?) consciously inserted, like the “impossible window” (which I can totally see, as soon as it was pointed out), to hallways and floors that don’t make sense as they are presented on celluloid (OK, got a little lost there).
Is The Shining a metaphor to the genocide of the American Indians, as one fan claims? Or does it symbolize the Holocaust? One of the more bizarre, but intriguing theories presented is that Stanley Kubrick helped fake the Apollo moon landing (he apparenlty was hired for this task because of his impressive space footage in 2001: A Space Odyssey). See? The fan claims that clues are all over the place, from Danny’s Apollo sweater in one scene, to the room number of 237, which multiplied is 42, which means… wait a minute. I might be confusing various theories here.
Needless to say, there is a lot of food for thought in these multiple dissections of a movie classic. A lot of it will make you scratch your head and say, “Whaaaaaaa?” (like Stanley’s visage as a single subliminal frame in the clouds of the opening shot…. sorry, I just couldn’t see it), and other stretch credibility (that a skiing poster is obviously a minotaur?). But I have to admit this documentary was always entertaining. Room 237 almost dares you to watch The Shining again immediately. You may not believe any of these theories behind the symbolism and the clues in the movie, but you will certainly be watching it a little closer next time.