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London Film Festival Preview: Room 237
Manish Agarwal , October 8th, 2012 03:01

Hidden meanings doc about The Shining screens at the 56th London Film Festival, ahead of its nationwide theatrical release on October 26

Earlier in the year we ran a gently humorous article by John Fell Ryan, one of the five interviewees in Room 237, illustrating his obsession with The Shining. The musician and WFMU blogger's freeze frame approach to studying Stanley Kubrick's 1980 supra-horror - playing the movie forwards and backwards, searching for eerie mirror images and slow dissolve juxtaposition - focuses on arcane minutiae (some would say mere continuity errors). His fellow fans extrapolate these motifs and meta-clues, be they minotaurs, recurring numbers or shapes on the hotel carpet, into overarching (some would say overreaching) analyses. Could it be that Kubrick's loose adaptation of a Stephen King novel houses subtextual allusions to the Holocaust? Is the film an allegory for the genocide of the Native Americans? Or was this the iconic auteur's veiled, decade-late confession for faking the moon landing footage on behalf of NASA?

Never less than intriguing and occasionally ludicrous - the contributors realise they sound a tad crazy, but can't help trying to crack a supposed code - these abundant claims are complemented by Rodney Ascher's visual flair. His talking heads are heard in voice-over but not shown. Instead, the 'subjective documentary' maker fills the screen with an immersive tapestry woven from The Shining clips, alongside relevant scenes from its director's dozen other features (including 1953's rarely seen debut Fear And Desire, to be finally issued on DVD in January 2013 as part of Eureka's Masters of Cinema series); choice selections from the wider cinematic canon; explicatory maps, animation and diagrams; plus a deadpan recreation of an early '80s trip to the pictures. While some of the conspiracy theories are outlandish, a crucial point gets made that authorial intent (which in this case we'll never know) shouldn't preclude multifaceted interpretations. It's better to read too much into a work of art, than take nothing away at all. Ascher's investigation entertains on the surface while providing plenty to discuss after viewing - much like its source material, the extended US cut of which is being reissued in UK cinemas for Halloween.