Documentary Analysis: Room 237

Documentary Analysis: Room 237

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Documentary Analysis: Room 237

The documentary, Room 237, is an analysis of the cult classic film, The Shining, which was adapted from Stephen King’s book of the same name by Stanley Kubrick. Under the direction of Rodney Ascher, Room 237 attempts to provide an exploratory yet critical analysis of diverse elements that contributed to the success of the film in the 1980s as well as its popularity in the modern film context. Interestingly, Ascher’s documentary presents a multifaceted critique due to the way it incorporates a variety of perspectives from film theorists, and admirers of Kubrick’s production. In respect to the following discourse, the focus on Room 237 is based on the way it manages to satisfy the “triangle of communication” in accordance to Nichols’ conjectures on the appeal of documentaries. An analysis of some of the scenes from the film as well as the theories posited by persons that watched the film illustrates the documentary’s capacity to be persuasive and engaging.

Room 237 achieves its objectives to mirror the previous adaptation as a concise exploration of the meanings that some of the elements exhibited throughout the film in question. The feature is presented in respect to different theories provided by motion picture theorists and enthusiasts that gained considerable interest in the film’s bizarre plot. In addition to this, it manages to exhibit subject matter that would not have been incorporated into the film if it were assessed from a strictly academic perspective. For a considerable part of the documentary, perspectives from audience members with rather weird theories dominate Ascher’s film. For instance, some of the people interviewed in the documentary regarding their thoughts on the film assumed that The Shining is largely connected to American Indians. In one scene, one of the viewers posits that the logo on the Calumet baking powder constitutes a Native American symbol. This is due to its illustration of a “brown” man in a feathery headdress – attire that has been stereotypically connected to the Native American culture.

Room 237’s focus on integrating the viewpoints of enthusiasts of The Shining manages to capture Nichols’ position of the documentary as a medium that engages and persuades the audience towards a certain narrative or understanding. According to Nichols (2011), the documentary is responsible for encouraging discourse from the filmmaker’s perspective and the audience’s viewpoint. This is exhibited by the way Room 237 manages to teach the viewpoints of filmmakers as well. For instance, in one scene, audience members present other theories that may explain some of the ambiguities presented by Kubrick as far as the adaptation of King’s novel is concerned. In one of the scenes, a history academic draws elements in The Shining to events that occurred in 1942, specifically the annihilation of Jews. According to the individual in question, the number “42” is seen on a shirt worn by one of the key characters, specifically Danny. Other instances of the respective number are identified when the “Summer of ‘42” is played on the television, and Wendy’s 42 bat swings at the antagonist, Jack Torrance.

The documentary’s ability to interview and incorporate different theories from diverse viewers is an aspect that Nichols explores. According to Nichols (2011, p. 63), “every viewer comes to new experiences, such as watching a film, with perspective and motives based on previous experience.” This may illustrate why a section of the viewers attempts considerably to correlate The Shining to historical experiences. Aside from associating Kubrick’s film to occurrences such as Auschwitz or the mass murder of Native Americans, Room 237 criticizes the film for playing a part in distorting landmarks of American history, especially the Moon Landing. In one scene, a viewer asserts that The Shining allowed Kubrick to facilitate NASA in falsifying the Apollo’s excursions on the moon and simultaneously admitting his participation in the event’s success. Examples such as the logo “Apollo 11” on Danny’s sweater and the hexagonal blueprint on the carpet style during the hotel hallway scenes are used to bolster the viewer’s suppositions and draw the film’s comparisons to historical incidents.

The documentary, Room 237, by Rodney Ascher is a viewer-based documentary that analyzes Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. Rather than follow a specific underlying narrative, the film incorporates perspectives and viewpoints from diverse audiences comprised of Kubrick and The Shining’s enthusiasts. The inculcation of these different perspectives provides Ascher with the capacity to document a critical analysis of The Shining. For instance, the scenes explored in the discourse present various viewpoints that would be considered absurd if analyzed from an academic perspective. It is also interesting to note that the documentary’s capacity to do this supports Nichols’ assertion concerning the documentary’s role in engaging and persuading the viewer. Additionally, Room 237’s focus on the film’s connection to historical events supports another point raised by Nichols. The documentary film shapes new experiences for the viewer by allowing him or her to formulate novel experiences and perspectives that relate to past incidents. To this end, while Room 237 may not abide by traditional filmic norms, it fits Nichols’ understanding of the documentary medium based on the way it endorses the exploration of different perspectives while relating them to its focal social context.


Nichols, Bill. (2011). Introduction to documentary. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

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