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by Eric Kohn
January 26, 2012 12:13 PM
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The Top 5 Wacky Theories About 'The Shining' in New Frontiers Doc 'Room 237'

"Room 237."
Stanley Kubrick's 1980 Stephen King adaptation "The Shining" endures for many reasons -- from its supremely horrific mood to the technical feats used to create it. However, the lively voices in "Room 237" take that admiration to an entirely new plane of awareness. A search for deeper meanings in Kubrick's movie, Rodney Ascher's film is a brilliant collage of interviews with academics and other experts in the art of textual analysis.

Jazzing up a process usually reserved for scholarly pursuits, Ascher combines reasonable interpretations of "The Shining" with hilariously extreme conclusions -- but in every case, the narrator's authority over their own ideas makes even the battiest theories sound credible.

The takeaway isn't just that "The Shining" is a rich text, but that it can be as rich as you want to make it. Here are some of the most amusingly outlandish theories presented in the film, which is currently screening to great acclaim in Sundance's New Frontiers section.

Kubrick in the Clouds
In the opening shot, a car zooms down the road toward the Overlook Hotel, viewed from above in an apparent helicopter shot. As the credits scroll by, they lead your eyes straight into the clouds at the top of the frame. According to one observer, Kubrick has embedded an image of himself into a single frame within the clouds; if you look closely enough, you can see the outline of his beard.

Dopey Is Missing
When the camera slowly crawls into young Danny's bedroom, it passes by a few stickers adorned to his door, including one of Dopey from the Seven Dwarves. A later shot, after poor Danny has endured many of the frightening things lurking in the Overlook Hotel, reveals that Dopey has vanished from the door. Explains the narrator who discovered the disconnect: "Continuity error? I don't think so. He's no longer a dope; he has been enlightened."

Shining the Holocaust
The prospects of "The Shining" as a Holocaust allegory start to make sense when one devotee explains in voiceover that the movie dedicates itself to showing "how not to be a victim of history." Terrible events happened at the Overlook, but Danny learns that they go away if he closes his eyes. There are reasons to believe that Kubrick felt uncomfortable confronting the Holocaust head-on, and may have found a method to embed it in unlikely places. This theory is close cousin of the interpretation that the whole movie revolves around the systematic destruction of the American Indian.

Blue Moon
One of the more spectacular theories in the movie: That Kubrick was hired by the American government to fake the Apollo moon landing, and "The Shining" is his way of explaining himself. An interviewee says that owning "The Shining" on Blu-ray allows one to see enough detail to reach this conclusion. Jack Torrance's constant bickering with his wife about his job responsibilities voice Kubrick's own justification for why he had to comply with government orders. Other pertinent details: At one point Danny wears a sweater with images of the Apollo 11 on it, and the infamous Room 237 contains a key with the label "Room No 237" -- letters that could be rearranged to spell "moon room."

Beware the Number 42
There are 42 vehicles visible in the Overlook parking lot. Danny and his mother watch "Summer of '42" on TV. The hotel was built in 1907, and 42 is… a multiple of seven! And the final shot of the movie features a photograph taken in July… the seventh month of the year! The movie uses Thomas Mann's novel as a constant reference point, and Mann uses the number seven as a means of indicating danger. Taking that belief for granted, Kubrick has burrowed into our minds with numerical specificity.

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8 Comments

  • Lena | July 17, 2013 9:23 AMReply

    someone actually counted the cars in the movie?? the room no. thing...come on, that's stretching. if they had somehow had ALL the letter there maybe. but the whole thing about him filming the moon landings is BS anyway - there's one point people made where they say one of the "rocks" was marked with a letter c. it was, in reality, a hair on the photo. but anyway, why would they use fake rocks, and number them? if they wanted to film a "moon landing" and make it realistic, wouldn't it make more sense to use REAL rocks rather than prop rocks (ha prop rocks)? People are so into this faked moon thing. I don't know why people think they're smarter than scientists, but they're not, and we def landed on the moon. every single point the doubters make has been explained. - and yeah at least like tad said, moron is actually there. with moon room you have to repeat some letters. maybe kubrick thought it was funny people thought he had staged the moon landing, and knew people were going to be looking for clues, so he put moron in there knowing what people who want to see conspiracies everywhere were going to think. i mean...ok 42 is a multiple of 7, but it's 7 times 6. if they wanted to make a point about #7, y not make it 49? they could have been watching a show about the 49ers, or something. that might have added to the native american theme as well, since the 49ers were settling their land. you can find things like that anywhere (like the stupid movie the number 23) like...237...2x3=6, and 6x7=42. OR 2x3=6, and theres one number left, so add the 1, it becomes 7. it's all nonsense. i know kubrick does put easter eggs in his movies, but i don't think "moonroom" or the fact that there are 42 cars means anything at all.

  • Tad | April 21, 2013 5:29 AMReply

    More meaningfully, the letters in "ROOM No 237" can be rearranged to spell, "o MORON"

  • elburto | April 25, 2013 5:37 PM

    Yep, I got O Moron too. A message to me for watching this dross!

  • Norwegian Blue | October 9, 2012 1:51 PMReply

    Two questions:
    - how "Room No 237" letters can be rearranged to spell "moon room"?
    - which is the Thomas Mann's novel used as a "constant reference point"?

  • Lena | July 17, 2013 9:24 AM

    the magic mountain. i've never read it, but i looked it up after reading this article.

  • Frances Willington | January 27, 2012 5:13 AMReply

    You've given me a great excuse yo watch my favourite film yet again to look for Kubrick in the clouds opening shot!

  • Frank | January 26, 2012 3:29 PMReply

    I kinda want to see the film, but Room 237 only exists because the Hotel asked Kurbrick to swap numbers with the room in King's Book that was Room 217.

  • Eric | January 26, 2012 7:42 PM

    This is actually "refuted" by one of the interviewees in the film.