"Room 237" (2012)  directed by Rodney Ascher.

"Room 237" (2012) directed by Rodney Ascher. Credit: IFC Midnight

The leap of faith one has to make before entering "Room 237," Rodney Ascher's singular documentary, is that Stanley Kubrick never did anything by accident. It's not much of a jump: Kubrick was the da Vinci of American movies, who engineered his art as much as he imagined it. And the five film theorists who weigh in on "The Shining" -- Kubrick's very liberal adaptation of the Stephen King thriller -- make a very good case that everything in the film is calculated to send a subliminal message.

But one of the wonderful things about "Room 237" is that all the perceived messages are different. One theory has it that "The Shining" is an allegory about the genocide of American Indians; another says it's about the Holocaust. A third claims that Room 237 is thus numbered because it's 237,000 miles to the moon and Kubrick staged the moon landing in 1969, having used the sets for "2001: A Space Odyssey" for practice. "The Shining," therefore, is an elaborate apology for having lied to his wife about staging an international media hoax.

Another wonderful thing: While the off-screen participants find absolutely captivating trails of evidence for their theories running through Kubrick's 1980 film, they also see things that are clearly not there. It seemed impossible to see Kubrick's bearded face in the clouds during the opening credit sequence of the 1980 film, even while the shot is on screen and we're being told the face is there. Barry Dennen, who played Bill Watson in "The Shining," is described as "dark," and thus representative of an oppressed minority, but the Dennen on screen looks almost anemically white. The passion with which the witnesses follow their theories seems to tip into hallucination. But at the same time there's enough real evidence supporting the theory that Kubrick was a genius, and that's pretty entertaining all by itself.

PLOT An exploration of the various hidden agendas allegedly contained within Stanley Kubrick's 1980 thriller, "The Shining."

Unrated (nudity, vulgarity, gore)


BOTTOM LINE A must for Kubrick fans, standard-issue film nuts and devotees of good ol' American obsession-compulsion.

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