Some details from within a film production serve to heighten the project’s legend overall: the genius of “Jaws” only increased when the film’s original gameplan — a fully functional shark — failed to manifest itself for Steven Spielberg and co. But the opposite has been true with Stanley Kubrick‘s “The Shining,” as now another crewmember has come to debunk the myriad theories and meanings behind the director’s film — starting with those featured in Rodney Ascher‘s upcoming documentary “Room 237.”
With the shadow in the opening credits to the horror classic already clarified by the film’s helicopter camera operator, now a source even closer to the production has come out to address the various conspiracy theory claims presented in “Room 237.” Leon Vitali, first glimpsed by Kubrick as an actor in “Barry Lyndon” and then brought up to be the director’s assistant, has called the majority of Ascher’s Sundance hit “pure gibberish.” And says he was “falling about laughing most of the time” while watching it, adding, “there are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash.”
At first glance, you can see the source of the humor. Ascher’s film hands the narrative reins over to “The Shining” obsessives for their hypotheses about Kubrick’s intent and message overall. From the film decrying the slaughter of American Indians to exposing Kubrick’s role in supposedly faking the moon landing, the arguments are certainly eccentric.
Vitali, though, is eager to set the record straight. What about Jack Nicholson’s recitation of “Three Little Pigs” as one of the many ties of the film’s apparent nods to the Holocaust? Vitali says the detail was an improv, and that Kubrick called up the mother of child actor Danny Lloyd (who plays Danny Torrance) for suggestions for “a few lines for Jack that would make him sound threatening and nasty,” and that “she had the words to ‘Three Little Pigs’ right there.” Danny’s sweater showing the Apollo 11 rocket? “It was just the sort of thing that a kid that age would have liked,” Vitali told The New York Times.
Each argument presented in “Room 237” carries a tough journey toward credibility anyway, but Vitali’s comments make that leap extra difficult indeed. Also, another voice has joined the melee, and this one is a bit more expected: critic Armond White reviewed the film (via NYFCC), calling it “another confirmation of the end of cinephilia,” and slamming the “Kubrick cult” that has sprung up around the filmmaker.
“Reverence for Stanley Kubrick overwhelms any understanding of ‘The Shining.’ It is symptomatic of today’s celebrity veneration—the flip-side of the feeling of nothingness that makes nerds bow down to the likes of Nolan, Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, Soderbergh and Kubrick. So they fantasize about ‘The Shining’‘s supposed profundity…,” White writes. “…they don’t know the difference between literary and cinematic erudition. These ‘Shining’ geeks don’t even know the hotel story of Alain Resnais’ ‘Last Year at Marienbad,’ a truly profound expression of memory and desire.”
Of course, all this is arguably beside the point. The film is not necessarily endorsing these conspiracy theories, but instead examining obsessives and their theories. Perhaps it’s just as much a movie about crackpots as it is about devotion to “The Shining.” Agree or disagree, you’ll finally have the chance to check out “Room 237” yourself when it hits select theaters this Friday.