Coded confessions and conspiracy theories collide in Room 237

One day while browsing websites while his infant daughter slept, producer Tim Kirk stumbled across an article about how The Shining was Stanley Kubrick’s coded confession that he had faked the footage of the Apollo moon missions. He knew one guy who would appreciate that theory: director Rodney Ashcher.

“[He] was the only one person I knew who loved Kubrick and The Shining as much as me and who would possibly be up in the middle of the night so I sent it to him,” Kirk recalls in an email interview. “I was right because Rodney called me about 10 minutes later and we started talking. We basically haven’t stopped.”

That discussion led the two to explore the wide range of conspiracy theories surrounding The Shining. The resulting documentary, Room 237, opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre and is also currently available at SundanceNow.

“Believable was never a yardstick which we used in making this film,” says Kirk when asked which of the nine theories in the film has the most credence. “I personally could listen to every one of these people talk for hours. They are smart, engaged and passionate people and I like people like that.”

Kirk refers to The Shining as a “heavy, heavy film” and clearly remembers the first time he saw it.

The Shining was the first Kubrick film I saw in the theater,” he says. “I had seen most of his other films by then but this was different, no one had written about it yet, or talked to me about it. I saw it opening week at Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood. No film could have lived up to the expectations I had. Like a lot of the people we interviewed, I was disappointed the first time I saw it. But it already had a hold of me. When the credits started to roll, I just sat in my chair thinking, ‘it’s not over’ and searching the screen for clues.”

Ascher compiles a range of Kubrick footage in Room 237, turning the film into a tribute of sorts to the late director. Kirk admits Ascher had to whittle down the footage he had — there just wasn’t room to include all the various interpretations of Kubick’s opus.

“When we reached the point of constructing the structure of the film, we had about 2 dozen sequences of varying lengths,” he explains. “We tried various orderings but we knew a straight Beginning, Middle, End structure was not going to work. One of the things Room 237 is about is the many theories interacting – competing, complimenting, negating, building upon one another. In the end, what we ended up with is what worked for me and Rodney. I have a spreadsheet somewhere in which, mid-way through the research period, I tried to keep track of every theory and the various elements they shared. I have dreams of that spreadsheet tracking me down. Nightmares really.”

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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