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Thread: 'Room 237'- What's The Shining Really About?

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default 'Room 237'- What's The Shining Really About?

    Cracking the Code in ‘Heeere’s Johnny!’










    WHEN “The Shining” was released in 1980, many viewers, including the critic Pauline Kael, left theaters mystified by what they had just seen. Expecting a standard frightfest based on a Stephen King best seller, they got an unexplained river of blood surging out of hotel elevators, a vision of cobwebbed skeletons and a weird guy in a bear suit doing something untoward with a gentleman in a tuxedo.

    Three decades on, scholars and fans are still trying to decipher this puzzle of a film directed by Stanley Kubrick. To them it’s only ostensibly about an alcoholic father, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) going more than stir crazy while his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son, Danny, try to cope in an isolated hotel, the Overlook. Mr. Kubrick was famously averse to offering explanations of his films — “I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself,” he once wrote — which has led to a mind-boggling array of theories about just what he was up to.

    The hotel’s hedge maze, many Kubrick authorities agree, is a reference to the myth of the Minotaur; others have drawn convincing connections between the Overlook’s well-stocked pantry and the confectionery cottage in Hansel and Gretel. The more one views the film — and many of these scholars admit to viewing it hundreds of times — the more symbols and connections appear.

    “Room 237,” the first full-length documentary by the director Rodney Ascher, examines several of the most intriguing of these theories. It’s really about the Holocaust, one interviewee says, and Mr. Kubrick’s inability to address the horrors of the Final Solution on film. No, it’s about a different genocide, that of American Indians, another says, pointing to all the tribal-theme items adorning the Overlook Hotel’s walls. A third claims it’s really Kubrick’s veiled confession that he helped NASA fake the Apollo Moon landings.

    When Mr. Ascher first began discussing the project with his friend Tim Kirk, who would later become the film’s producer, the two were simply hoping to find enough fans and theories to flesh out a series of short films, maybe something to post on YouTube. “On paper it seems like a very specific niche,” Mr. Ascher said, speaking at the oldest standing Bob’s Big Boy, in Burbank, not far from a campus of the New York Film Academy, where he teaches a class in editing. “The Secret Meanings of ‘The Shining’ — we should be able to wrap that up pretty quick. But the thing kept growing and growing.” By the time the two were done, “Room 237,” which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, was nearly two hours long.

    What they had stumbled upon was a subculture of Kubrick fans that has been expanding over the last several years. The group includes professors and historians, fanboys and artists, many of whom have posted their theories online accompanied by maps, videos, and pages-long explications pleading their cases. The Liverpudlian filmmaker Rob Ager’s video analyses of “The Shining” have garnered hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits; the voluminous online essays of Kevin McLeod, a k a “mstrmnd,” range from the film’s marketing materials to its many uses of artificial light.

    “The initial reception by journalists of most of Kubrick’s films was negative,” said the film scholar Julian Rice, author of “Kubrick’s Hope: Discovering Optimism from ‘2001’ to ‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ ” “But as time went on, his films were taken more and more seriously, and now people are redefining him in terms of all of the contemporary postmodern theories. Many of the current critics think in different terms than Kubrick thought when he was making those films. They think in a different vocabulary, and they have different concerns.”

    Among the topics of discussion are the many liberties, large and small, that Kubrick took with the original novel. Mr. King, who declined to comment for this article, has never concealed his dislike for the film and the way the director changed and discarded scenes, themes and details. In the book Jack’s Volkswagen is red; in the film it’s yellow. No big thing, until one discovers that King’s red VW actually did make it into the film, crushed underneath an overturned semi.

    But that’s not the only kind of symbolic moment “Shining” buffs are interested in; they have much bigger themes in mind. To one of the subjects of “Room 237,” Geoffrey Cocks, a history professor at Albion College in Michigan and author of “The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust,” the film is full of references, some subtle, some less so, to the Final Solution. There are the film’s many references to 1942, the year the Nazis began their extermination of Jews at Auschwitz: a 42 appears on a shirt worn by Danny; “Summer of ’42” is playing on the Torrances’ television; Wendy takes 42 swings with a bat at Jack. And then there’s that gusher of blood. “That’s as good a visual metonym for the horror of the 20th century that has ever been filmed,” Mr. Cocks said in an interview.

    When Bill Blakemore, a veteran ABC News correspondent and another “Shining” theorist in the documentary, noticed cans of Calumet baking powder emblazoned with an Indian chief logo in “The Shining,” he knew immediately what Kubrick had in mind. “I told my friends, ‘That movie was about the genocide of the American Indians.’ ”

    In 1987 Mr. Blakemore wrote an article for The Washington Post, noting the film’s use of Indian decorative elements (in one scene Mr. Nicholson hurls a tennis ball repeatedly against an Indian wall hanging), the Calumet cans and the Overlook’s location on an old Indian burial ground. “It’s about ghosts and memories and how we put together our sense of what has happened in the past,” Mr. Blakemore said in an interview. “ ‘I think a lot of things happened right here in this particular hotel over the years, and not all of ’em was good.’ He’s talking about the way the human race does it, and has done it over and over again.”

    The documentary’s biggest leap of faith comes with Jay Weidner, who posits that Mr. Kubrick helped NASA fake the Apollo Moon landings, then used “The Shining” to both confess his involvement — and brag about it. Mr. Weidner is at work on a DVD about the Kubrick-Apollo connection, his second, and cites as evidence a sweater worn by Danny with “Apollo 11” on it, and the hexagonal design on the hotel hallway carpet pattern, which he argues is a dead ringer for the aerial view of the Apollo launching pad. “The entire substory of ‘The Shining,’ ” Mr. Weidner said in an interview, “is the story of Kubrick making the Apollo footage and then trying to hide it from his wife, and then her finding out about it.”

    Despite the scope of the film, which uses scenes from the 1940 “Thief of Bagdad,” “Spellbound,” Creepshow” and F. W. Murnau’s silent “Faust” to illustrate different hypotheses, Mr. Ascher said he only scratched the surface of the vast number of “Shining” theories. Why so many? The film “is a compelling work of art that acts as a kind of mirror, especially for thoughtful people, who see aspects of themselves that are among the most precious things they have experienced,” Mr. Rice said. “That’s in the best sense. In some cases it might also be a paranoia that they want to expurgate in some way.”

    “Room 237” — the title is a reference to a haunted room in the hotel — ends with no clear consensus on just what “The Shining” actually means. How could it? But there’s no denying the filmmakers had a pretty serious, cerebral bunch to work with.

    “This isn’t ‘Trekkies,’ ” said Mr. Kirk, referring to the 1997 documentary about the glorious excesses of “Star Trek” fandom. “We don’t have guys having ‘Shining’ weddings, or driving around in yellow VWs with ‘ROOM 237’ license plates. There were no conventions to go to.”



    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/mo...e-shining.html
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    Elite Member greysfang's Avatar
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    As a huge fan of the book (Stephen King was fantastic in the early days, he sucks now), I absolutely HATED this movie. I still hate it, though I watch it now anad again. I don't think there's any great mystery or purpose behind Kubrick's version, just a crazy old man who did too much acid thinking he was an artsy genius. Just full of himself.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    It spawned a lot of memorable lines, though:

    "Here's Johnny!"

    "Wendy, give me the bat."

    "Like my work?"

    "You've had your whole F*CKING LIFE to think things over, what good's a few minutes more gonna do you now? "

    "Stop swingin' the bat. Put the bat down, Wendy. Wendy? Give me the bat.." [Crack!]

    "redrum redrum redrum"

    "Come play with us, Danny. For ever, and ever, and ever."

    "Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in. Not by the hair of your chiny-chin-chin? Well then I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in. "

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    It’s about the US returning to the gold standard. Wait, that was ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

    But REDRUM was clearly a reference to Castro.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    It was about the tension between the Thatcher Government, the civil servants, and the populace of 1980's Britain. Wait, that was "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover."

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    It was about the Irish people's centuries long fight against the Brits, with Ireland being symbolized by a large white whale....shit, that was Moby Dick.
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


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    Elite Member hustle4alivin's Avatar
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    What, no illuminati or Masonic symbolism references? WOOGIE-BOOGIE!!!!

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hustle4alivin View Post
    What, no illuminati or Masonic symbolism references? WOOGIE-BOOGIE!!!!
    I like that idea, but I think the Overlook was mostly a wooden structure.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Whatever it meant it was a racist film. The only one that gets murdered on screen is Dick, and he survives in the book. The only black character. Coincidence? I think not.
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I think it was misogynistic, too. The recurring flooding scene in the elevator lobby expresses a horror of monthly flows, the nubile woman who turns into a hag represents the horror of spousal aging, and Dick's subsequent death in the overlook maze represents a fear of big bushes.

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    Wendy? Darling? Light of my life... I'm not not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your brains in.

    Loved it.

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    Elite Member Brookie's Avatar
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    With all the bat references, I think it's a movie about the hidden symbolic meaning of baseball.
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    Elite Member Air Quotes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    Dick's subsequent death in the overlook maze represents a fear of big bushes.
    Love this so much.
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    None of Kubrick's movies make much sense to me (especially 2001 A Space Odyssey; what the FUCK is all that about?). I like The Shining, especially the Overlook hotel (Timberline hotel, Oregon IRL) and the idea of being locked away there over a long, hard winter which would drive anyone mad. The 1970s decor would make Grimm moist. Bollox to hidden meanings, it's a ghost/possession story in a creepy hotel built on dead First Nation people.
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    Elite Member OrangeSlice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greysfang View Post
    As a huge fan of the book (Stephen King was fantastic in the early days, he sucks now), I absolutely HATED this movie. I still hate it, though I watch it now anad again. I don't think there's any great mystery or purpose behind Kubrick's version, just a crazy old man who did too much acid thinking he was an artsy genius. Just full of himself.

    I'm the exact same way. I love the book and he butchered it in the movie. The miniseries is much more true to the book, but still isn't great. And I agree, Kubrick is full of it.
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