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Plenty to dwell upon in "Room 237"

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Your humble correspondent was assigned a "room 237" this summer. Coincidence?
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OKLAHOMA CITY – On disc two of the just-released DVD of the 2012 Rodney Ascher-directed documentary Room 237, about the varying conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 cinematic masterpiece The Shining, there is a panel discussion at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado (the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write the novel the film is based on), where panelists include Kubrick enthusiasts Rodney Ascher (the director of Room 237), Mick Garris (director of The Shining miniseries), Leon Vitali (Kubrick’s assistant on The Shining), and Jay Weidner, the man who did the documentary Kubrick’s Odyssey.

I mention this first because it was very interesting, after watching Room 237, to hear what an insider like the arrogant, dismissive and obnoxious Vitali had to say (or didn’t say), particularly as he ridiculed the people who think Kubrick was saying far more in his enigmatic take on King’s novel, than we initially thought when it was released over three decades ago.

Vitali, when he spoke, was incoherent and offered inaccurate information about Kubrick’s film career. Next to him sat Jay Weidner, a man who admitted to not even liking The Shining all that much at the time it was released but who later admitted there were things in the Kubrick film that led him to believe it was Kubrick subtly revealing his role in the faking of NASA’s Apollo Moon landing.

It’s a stretch, right? Well, readers may recall that two years ago I reviewed Weidner’s film and said that he “makes a compelling argument that there was a serious and deep cover-up of the true nature of the Apollo Moon missions.” Essentially, Weidner argues, Kubrick “made a deal with the U.S. government to fake the Moon landings in exchange to get all the funding he could ever want to make films like 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Two years later I still lean in that direction. But I must admit, after watching Room 237 (Funny, my family and I checked into a Room 237 in a Michigan hotel this past summer … no phantoms or visions during that visit … that I remember) that I begin to wonder if perhaps Kubrick actually wove multiple themes into the film that takes place in the otherworldly, haunted Overlook Hotel.

In essentially nine parts (9? Hmmm…), Ascher breaks down The Shining. You have TV correspondent Bill Blakemore suggesting that the film is about white settlers mistreating and displacing Native Americans. Now, there are certainly plenty of Native American overtones in the film. Native artwork is all over the hotel. And then there’s the prominently placed Calumet (“peace pipe”) baking soda cans in the pantry. Perhaps …

And staying on that theme of genocide, another contributor, Geoffrey Cocks, offers the theory that Kubrick, who was Jewish, took the opportunity to create a film that incorporates his coming to terms with the Nazis and the Holocaust. This is where the number “42” (on Danny’s shirt) is noted. Then there is the “eagle” imagery. Nazis? Could be. And then 1942 was the year of the “Final Solution.” That’s a big one, undoubtedly.

The next theory, discussed by playwright and novelist Juli Kearns, is that The Shining is really embracing the myth of the Minotaur – the half man, half bull who is in the Cretan labyrinth to be later slain by Theseus.

As I was dwelling on this film, preparing to write this review, a song called “Sunken Sun” by the excellent Australian band The Church, came on – quite synchromystically, I might add. Sings Steve Kilbey on this song, from 2009: “I dreamed I saw the Minotaur / I dreamed I was his twin / It seemed I tore some kind of door / Because now he can get right back in.”

This, of course, was two years before Room 237 was even released. Steve Kilbey is not only a great singer-songwriter, he is also an intellectual and deeply spiritual person who is drawn to esoteric themes. Had Kilbey seen The Shining? Is there something to that? The song goes on to talk about a “girl in the underworld,” “Pluto,” and more. The sun, it should be noted, also plays a role in The Shining. After all, Jack Torrance’s yellow VW Beetle is traveling on Glacier National Park’s Going-To-The-Sun Road, something we just discussed in the sync post “Following the (sun) bear.” And since we delve into synchromysticism here at Red Dirt Report (read our “Dust Devil Dreams” page for more on that …)

Anyway, that’s a little off topic regarding the documentary. Kearns continues and notes the film’s critical feature – the hedge maze. And the hotel is almost like a labyrinth, with an “impossible window” in manager Stuart Ullman’s office (that’s Jung’s The Red Book on his desk) and Danny rolling around on a Big Wheel on different hotel levels. It’s a bit disorienting when you realize how Kubrick was filming this. I wonder what that wiseass Leon Vitali had to say about that? Probably nothing since he clearly pays no attention to detail. If Kubrick had a single flaw, it was his hiring that clown to begin with. Sheesh.

Anyway, there is another clue to the Minotaur theory. Posters featuring downhill skiers who really look like Minotaurs. We know Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance looked Minotaur-ish at various points, particularly when wielding that ax. To highlight that, recall when Torrance asks Ullman, during his interview, about skiing at the Overlook. It is too remote to get skiers to the site so skiing is not a sport there. Why highlight a sport that could not be enjoyed, particularly after the dialogue made a special point to note that?

And then we get to Jay Weidner’s theory, the one that has captivated me ever since it was suggested and I started digging into it several years ago. Weidner makes it clear that he thinks Kubrick was doing his best to come to terms with his alleged involvement with NASA and the U.S. government (Stuart Ullman is the face of the U.S. government – he looks like Space Age president John F. Kennedy, after all).

And what are the key clues, you may ask? Didn’t you notice Danny on the floor (the hexagonal floor pattern looks like a launchpad – 39A.) and when he stands up he is wearing an “APOLLO 11” knit sweater, with his standing up looking like a launch of a rocket! It’s striking, and it is a clue that dimwit Vitali dismisses out-of-hand as Weidner rolls his eyes.

And Room 237?? The title of the documentary? That is the room Dick Hallorann tells Danny not to go into . And the Room 237 means 237,000 miles to the Moon. And the tag on the room key is spelled out such to mean “MOON ROOM” so that the room is actually where the Apollo fakery was conducted by Kubrick and others. Kubrick was warned not to tell anyone about this and it ate away at him. Wendy Torrance’s horror is actually the horror that Kubrick’s wife experienced when she found out what her husband had done to deceive the world.

There’s so much more going on in Room 237. Do I believe it all? No. Do I believe Stanley Kubrick filmed The Shining to share an occulted story reflecting his own life experience? Yes, I do. But this mystery-wrapped-inside-a-riddle is a tough one to crack, which makes it so much fun to try and figure out – just like trying to find your way out of the hedge maze, particularly when the hot breath of the Minotaur is on your neck.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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