The new documentary Room 237 explores the different interpretations of The Shining conjured up by devoted fans of the film since The Shining’s initial release. Each of the theories is equally compelling and fascinating yet totally whack-a-doodle, often saying as much about our cultural obsessions as Kubrick’s. Kubrick notoriously layered his films with images and visual puzzles, asking audiences to put together the clues. The Shining is Kubrick’s most notorious and elusive riddle.
What have audiences come up with? Let’s take a gander.
1. The film is Stanley Kubrick’s confession that he was involved in:
A. The Watergate Scandal. Stanley Kubrick was the real Deep Throat.
B. The faking of the war in Vietnam. The entire war was a lie used to cover up the U.S. government’s involvement in creating a new human-alien hybrid in South Asia. Where else do you think Kim Jong-Un came from?
C. The Bay of Pigs. Kubrick had a personal vendetta to settle against Castro when he turned e lthe role of the omnipotent starchild in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick thought he would look ravishing covered in celestial womb membrane. Castro impolitely declined. Kubrick began casting the film almost a decade before Arthur C. Clarke even wrote the source material, because Kubrick sees the future.
D. The faked Apollo 11 moon landing. It was all Hurley’s dream.
2. The film is a parable for:
B. Both the Holocaust and the Native American genocides. It’s a twofer!
C. The disintegration of the nuclear family.
D. Kubrick’s own boredom as a filmmaker.
3. The film is meant to be viewed:
A. Both forward and backward, or forward and backward at the same time.
B. On VHS or DVD, where you can freakishly obsess about every single frame.
C. 30 years after its original release date, where you can now swear it’s a masterpiece after initially dismissing it.
D. Apparently on lots of drugs.
4. The maze is a metaphor for:
A. Kubrick’s obsession with rats. The man had a fetish.
B. The catacombs of the Vatican, which Kubrick believed held the secrets of the universe.
C. The narrative itself, a mystery you can’t escape from.
D. The existential wonderment of life. Aren’t we all in a giant maze of the cosmos?
5. What’s up with the too-bright window in Stuart Allman’s office?
A. The lights of the hotel were too low, which proved shooting indoors difficult. Thus, Kubrick utilized natural to both illuminate the interior and cut down on lighting costs. He was a penny saver, that guy.
B. The window is impossible. It’s a window to nowhere. Like the movie. DAS A METAPHOR.
C. Kubrick was afraid of the dark. Who knew that the director of one of the cinema’s most terrifying experiences had his own phobias?
D. A window into his own soul.
6. The previous caretaker represents:
A. All subjugated peoples.
B. Kubrick’s own fear that the industry would eventually find him useless and replaceable and mad men would take his place. You didn’t have to be good; you just had to be there.
C. Kubrick’s xenophobia. Why were the people of color always in subservient roles?
D. A guy who needed to fill a role without many lines with an actor who needed work to pay his rent so Kubrick’s casting director picked someone to play a relatively thankless part with few lines. It represents a guy with a job.
7. The skiing poster in the games room scene isn’t a skier at all. The Monarch is supposed to be:
A. An Illuminati message. The movie is filled with them. Kubrick was a member of the Illuminati scene, and many believed him to be near the epicenter of power. He was their “Monarch.”
B. Stephen King, the “deposed monarch” of the text.” Kubrick and King feuded over Kubrick’s interpretation of the text, which was radically different than what King intended.
C. A vagina. Kubrick co-wrote the film with novelist Diane Johnson, although Kubrick’s version deviated from their original script as the story changed onscreen. Johnson was upset with Kubrick for violating their artistic contract, and Kubrick, a noted misogynist, wanted to send a message to Johnson about what he thought of her opinions.
D. A minotaur. The movie has multiple parallels with mythology, and the other cowboy poster on the wall gives credence to Kubrick’s fascination with the minotaur form. Also, Jack Nicholson and Vincent D’Onofrio have bull-like characteristics in their respective films.
8. The set is:
A. A fake. When you examine the layout, the architecture doesn’t add up.
B. Constructed on the moon, which is where the movie was actually shot.
C. A representation of humanity’s collective subconscious, including our deep seated fears and need for personal ghost bartenders.
D. Built and paid for by the Republican party, who financially buoyed the film’s production in secret. The phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” was a rebuke to the Communist Party’s ethos of collective work, and Kubrick, a noted right-wing activist, used his film as a tool of capitalist propaganda during a Cold War that needed to be won already.
9. In one scene, Jack Nicholson is holding:
A. A copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The film is replete with Biblical themes, such as the tension between fathers and sons and our tormented relationship to our ancestors.
B. A letter detailing the government cover up of Area 451. Scatman Crouthers is actually an alien and comes from the same planet Grace Jones does.
C. A Playgirl magazine. This shot is meant to play on the film’s themes of abuse, suggesting a pedophilic dimension to them.
D. A giant banana. Jack Nicholson was potassium deficient.
10. The number 42 appears numerous times in the film. Why?
A. Kubrick was a Jackie Robinson fan.
B. The film paid tribute to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, released a few years before The Shining came out. Kubrick was a noted Anglophile and a champion of Douglas Adams’ work. He initially planned an adaptation of the series as his final project before financing fell through and he took AI: Artificial Intelligence instead. He died during its filming, and the number remains an eerie reminder of his unfinished work.
C. It’s a numerology thing. 4 + 2 = 6, which is a third of the way to 666. As the film presents the lead’s descent into madness, Kubrick wanted to show was actually hell. It’s why many of the walls are red.
D. The Holocaust.
11. The television has no chord and the bathroom has no toilet paper. Not even a toilet paper holder. What’s the deal?
A. BECAUSE NOTHING IS REAL.
B. Shelley DuVall was a noted environmentalist and believed the film should send messages to its viewers about conservation. She now lives outside of Austin, Texas as a relative hermit.
C. Kubrick didn’t believe in toilet paper.
D. They forgot.
12. The opening sequence, of the Torrances driving to the hotel, is notable for its unsettling score. The music is meant to represent:
A. A battle cry against the filmmaking establishment, which Kubrick believed had become complacent after the renaissance of the 1970s. The movie was a rebirth of cinema, and a divorce from our cinematic fathers, just as 2001’s starchild was the birth of a new era. Kubrick had a bit of a messiah complex.
B. The collective demons of the past, and possibly something about banshees and witches.
C. The triumph of the will. Kubrick was a Hitler apologist and a secret Neo-Nazi. Third Reich propaganda is hidden throughout the film.
D. A symbol of Kubrick’s anger for not having his work recognized. Kubrick died without winning an Oscar for Best Director, and 2001 wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. I guess if he stuck around long enough to see his work so lionized and revered, he might have been less angry. Such is the artist’s curse.
1. D. (Except for the part about Hurley’s dream, of course.)
2. All of the above.
3. All of the above.
13. None of the above. THERE IS NO NUMBER 13. Spoooooky.