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Nordling On ROOM 237! Fantastic Fest 2012!

Nordling here.

I admire Stanley Kubrick immensely as a filmmaker.  But he’s not exactly the easiest director to embrace.  There’s very little touchy-feely in his movies, and even in a film as optimistic as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the only true character in the movie is a faceless machine.  That said, 2001 and DR. STRANGELOVE are among my very favorite films.

THE SHINING is not.  I’m likely going to take it on the chin here, and I have many friends and colleagues who adore the film, but it’s never been a favorite of mine.  For one thing, I vastly prefer the Stephen King novel.  I think it’s a pretty tough book, written by a man who was wrestling with some pretty harsh demons himself (namely drugs and alcohol), and the book is more of a tragedy than anything else.  Jack Torrance is one of King’s most tragic figures – a good husband and father, with some failings as a parent and as a man but trying his hardest to do the right thing.  Then the hotel breaks him and makes him into its puppet, but the whole thing is a metaphor for the crippling drive of addiction.  The fact that at the time King was struggling with those issues makes the book even more poignant.

Stanley Kubrick’s movie, on the other hand, tosses aside such emotion.  I can respect Kubrick’s intentions to make the movie that he wanted to make, even if I still feel that the end product is sterile and cold.  I admire what Kubrick did with it even if I don’t particularly enjoy the movie very much.  John Alcott’s amazing use of Steadicam and the stunning cinematography makes it feel like we are ghostly spectators to the horrors within, almost as if we’re culpable in the violence.  Jack Nicholson is very good, even though it’s practically predestined in the opening shots that this is a man who only needs the slightest push before taking axe to his loved ones.  The path of Jack in King’s book isn’t meant to be quite so obvious.

I’m happy to be wrong, however – it’s been a few years since I’ve sat down to THE SHINING, but I guarantee that if you see ROOM 237 you’ll want to put it in pretty damn quick.  ROOM 237 isn’t a documentary on THE SHINING so much as it is color commentary – it’s an obsessive’s look at the film, and it speculates widely on Kubrick’s intentions in making it.  Hardly any of the commenters – ABC reporter Bill Blakemore, Albion College’s Professor of History and Kubrick enthusiast Geoffrey Cocks, author Juli Kearns, fellow Kubrick obsessive John Fell Ryan, and documentarian Jay Weidner – really dive into the actual story of THE SHINING.  Instead, they look for the messages between the shots, of what Kubrick was really trying to say with his movie, and the hidden messages that permeate the film.

As it stands, though, ROOM 237 is a bit of a slog – the movie relies on testimony from these people and their ideas and theories sound like the ravings of eccentrics, to put it mildly.  One calls THE SHINING an allegory for the genocide of the American Indian.  Another sees a film about the Holocaust.  Some of their conclusions seem at best spurious, and then one particular segment in the middle of the movie definitely had me considering a piece of history that I frankly would have never given the time of day in my mind, until I saw how the commenter put the pieces together to say that THE SHINING is conclusive proof that Stanley Kubrick helped the United States government fake the moon landing.  Yes, you read that right, and what’s even crazier is that he’s almost convincing.

Much of ROOM 237 is like that, forcing even avowed fans of the movie to examine it in different lights.  ROOM 237 is dry and clinical – at times much like Kubrick himself – and I’d imagine he’d probably get a chuckle or two at some of the conclusions that these people come up with.  Or he might have said that they nailed it.  It did cause me to reexamine the movie in ways I’d never considered before.  When the onscreen gaffes are pointed out, I will say I was surprised – Kubrick is one of the most meticulous directors to have ever lived, and the idea of continuity errors and mistakes in a Kubrick movie seems outlandish.  Were those mistakes intended?  The commenters seem to think so, and I have to conclude that I do too.

ROOM 237 is probably only for die-hard SHINING fans – casual moviegoers will drop out after the first half-hour, I’d imagine – but those fans will enjoy the places that the movie goes even if they don’t agree with the conclusions.  I still think that THE SHINING is a lesser movie in Kubrick’s film catalog, but ROOM 237 tells us that even lesser Kubrick movies shouldn’t be arbitrarily dismissed.

Nordling, out.  Follow me on Twitter!

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 22, 2012, 6:34 p.m. CST

    This should get ugly!

    by chuckmoose

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 7:13 p.m. CST

    The Shining is Boooring

    by jah_kingdom

    It's as over-rated as Raging Bull

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 7:20 p.m. CST

    Don't forget the great SHINING parody trailer!

    by berserkrl

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 7:28 p.m. CST


    by MainMan2001

    your pathetic man. If you don't absolutely love the shinning with your very cinematic soul then I feel very sorry for you.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 7:33 p.m. CST


    by jasonzappa

    First off, how about a spoiler alert if you going to go into great detail about the film you revue? Second, why'll I would agree with your assessment about King while writing the book, I like many people I know think 'The Shining' stands as a testament to the awesome capabilities this late, great film maker had. Do you really have to crap on a dead man? More and more you are becoming less a writer, and more of a pompous ass.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 8:05 p.m. CST

    Why is there no talkback for Dredd?

    by Mr. Waturi

    Saw Dredd on Friday. One of the best comic book movies ever made. Why is AICN not supporting it more? Why is there not more reviews? Where is Harry? It's a shame that this movie will be reduced to cult classic when it is better than 95% of the comic book and videogame movies released by Hollywood. Finally somebody gets one right and nobody sees it.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 8:20 p.m. CST

    'The Shining' was a pretty awful movie.

    by Raptor Jesus

    A director who considers himself 'above' the horror genre only to end up proving he doesn't get it. At all. What are we left with? A beautifully filmed movie with Jack Nicholson doing a whole lotta scenery chewing. In short - a clusterfuck.

  • People diss The Shining now? Really?

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 9:07 p.m. CST


    by Kingoftheprawnmen

    Yeah, the support has been rubbish, get off ya arse and go see a great comic book movie that holds no punches.....

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 9:33 p.m. CST

    The problem with the movie was Nicholson

    by Smerdyakov

    He was crazy already at the beginning so you didn't care when he got crazier.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 9:45 p.m. CST


    by Mr. Waturi

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 9:47 p.m. CST

    Love the Shining...

    by Mr. Waturi

    But concede that another actor who seems more timid might have been a better choice. Maybe Pacino, or John Lithgow. Still, Nicholson was awesome.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 10:23 p.m. CST


    by Jeff

    Wow, a lot of trashing here of one of the scariest, most quotable horror films of all time. I'm amazed that people can be this banal. Then again, I guess I'm not. I'm also not really interested in "Room 237." Kubrick's film, and its amazingly sharp Blu-ray transfer, is what gets my attention. Not a bunch of know-it-all obsessives whose opinion I completely disagree with. I mean, honestly, who fucking cares? The story was what it was. Creepy, memorable, bloody, and iconic. Not fodder for misguided intellectual douchebags to cram down our throats. Just not interested in seeing this.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 10:40 p.m. CST

    The King approved mini series was SHITE...

    by MagicJesus

    worst kid actor since young Annakin...Kubrick and the Shining rules. Anyone, especially columnists, who say otherwise are just trying to be rebels. Like the minority who try to force themselves to be gay to just be different.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 10:44 p.m. CST

    I have never understood...

    by bdc777

    ... how people cannot separate the novel from the film. They share only the most cursory amount of DNA. They comPletely differ in tone and feel. Also, fuck anyone right in the ass who insults King or his fans. The man is our Dickens. A hundred years from now his books will still be read.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 10:45 p.m. CST

    For you, Younguns.

    by Nichole

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 10:46 p.m. CST

    By the way, Harry Seems Depressed.

    by Nichole

    That aint right.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 10:52 p.m. CST

    bdc777 - separating the works

    by HonestAbe

    Couldn't agree more. The Shining is one of my favorite movies of all time, and The Shining is one of my favorite books of all time, but for different reasons, as they are completely different from one another.

  • Sept. 22, 2012, 11:41 p.m. CST

    Hey Nord...

    by dcut75

    Is there any word on a release, DVD or otherwise? I know there are rights issues regarding all the film clips.

  • This is amazing. I don't know if I believe the theory, but the analysis is accurate in terms of symbolism. I believe the reality is something very slightly different., but close enough. Who knows for sure...

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 1:15 a.m. CST

    Eyes Wide Shut...

    by tonguestubble full of continuity problems, mainly down to it being set in New York and filmed in England. Tom Cruise walks down the same few streets, only with the shop fronts repainted, there are English road markings/signs visible on the way to the orgy and at one point the camera crew are clearly visible reflected in some shiny bathroom fittings! Livened up my first viewing spotting all them - wasn't really taken as a 20 year old, but maybe now it might make more sense (what with me now having a wife...)

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 1:59 a.m. CST

    Shared DNA needs to be retired. I hear that and think it's going to suck

    by Domi'sInnerChild

    Like you're one of two guys in a threesome and you draw the bottom. Nobody wants to share DNA like a oil pan under a Buick.

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 2:22 a.m. CST

    WATCH Dredd I meant obviously

    by FreeBeer

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 3:39 a.m. CST

    The Shining is about one mans evil obsession with perfection/symmetry


    the film is utter utter utter genius. note how Shelley Duvall's costume color scheme often matches the wallpaper of the room she's in. this makes Jack feel even more out of place. Woman are somehow able to just be at one with the world while he feels entirely out of place.

  • Which is way his movies were such great reprives. Kubrick replaced touchy-feeling crap for GENUINE EMOTION and GENUINE FELLINGS. Something few other filmmakers have yet to achieve.

  • "The Shining" is a rare occasion when the movie is far better then the book it was adapted from. The book is quite flawed and irritain in it's melodrama emotional manipulation. It has a great start, but turns to emotional mushiness soon enough. A core ideabadly executed. The movie, however, uses the core idea and milks t for all it's work and the result is a masterpiece of horror, i'd say, a materpiece of cinema. Anybody who claims to be a film lover and has quals or issues with "The Shining" is just suspect. Something is just not right. The movie is great almost beyond words.

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 3:05 p.m. CST


    by kwisatzhaderach

    You have COMPLETELY missed the point of Eyes Wide Shut. There are no 'continuity problems'. Do some reading on the film and then come back and apologise.

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 3:06 p.m. CST

    As for The Shining

    by kwisatzhaderach

    The book is great, the film is a masterpiece, the TV mini-series is an abortion and Nordling is talking out of his ass.

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 3:50 p.m. CST

    Well, to each his own.

    by Smerdyakov

    That's SO against the spirit of AICN.

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 7:36 p.m. CST

    The Shining is hypnotic.

    by ghoulstock

    This movie is one of my all time favorite horror movies. I can't think of another horror movie that has as much detail poured into every frame. There are so many incredible, memorable scenes. The first encounter with Lloyd the bartender; the ballroom scene, where Jack literally bumps into Grady which then gives way to the bathroom scene which manages to be chilling and creepy, even though all it is is too men talking; the blood from the elevators; the twin girls; "All Work and No Play..."; Jack throwing that tennis ball again and again; the woman in the bathtub; the man in the bear (dog?) costume going down on another man in one of the rooms; "Lovely party, isn't it?" I could go on and on. There are SO many iconic, amazing scenes in this movie that it really does confuse me when people say it "sucks" or that it's a "mess."

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 7:59 p.m. CST

    Gotta agree with Paul Atreides up there on this one.

    by FluffyUnbound

    There are no continuity errors in Eyes Wide Shut. Nor are there any in The Shining. I'd think it would be especially obvious in The Shining, where the hotel is supposed to be alive and is changing its environment ON PURPOSE to drive the characters crazy. How can you possibly tell what's a continuity error and what's supposed to be deliberate incongruity and madness?

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 9:36 p.m. CST

    The Shining is about accepting a special job

    by gaygoonie

    And eyes wide shut is about mixhe terrifying elite after doing said job. It's as plain as Danny's sweater. Apollo 11.

  • Sept. 23, 2012, 9:46 p.m. CST

    You know what would've made it better?

    by tatoosh

    3d, of course. All kidding aside, if Kubrick had never made the shining, you could cut the number of Kubrick fanboys in half.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 5:13 a.m. CST


    by WerePlatypus

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 5:13 a.m. CST


    by WerePlatypus

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 5:13 a.m. CST


    by WerePlatypus

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 5:13 a.m. CST


    by WerePlatypus

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 1:29 p.m. CST

    Really enjoyed both the book and the film of The Shining

    by in6087

    On the subject of the film, I certainly rate it as one of a mere clawful of the most psychologically scary films I've seen. Seems to operate on so many levels in its efforts to discombobulate. I remember watching it with my Spanish gf one time and just hearing her whisper in an intense, scared voice beside me: "...joder!..." The book is superb too, and very scary in its own right. The two complement one another really well.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 1:37 p.m. CST

    by in6087

    It was ball rolling toward the boy when he's playing with his toy truck that got the "joder" reaction...

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 5:19 p.m. CST

    I love the film but...

    by phifty2

    ...the main problem I have with it is the casting. It's supposed to be about a normal guy who cracks under the pressure and influence of the hotel and his fight with the bottle. From the first time we see him in the film Jack seems like he's quite capable of killing his family and wouldn't need much of a push to do it. And is anyone really rooting for Shelley Duvall's Wendy to survive? With a fully stocked bar and no ghosts I think most of us would still consider killing her after five months cooped up in that hotel. Nicholson's great in the film it's just there isn't much of a journey of him going from loving husband and father to ax wielding psycho. On the drive up you get a sense he'd like to drive the car off a cliff.