I just saw a documentary that obliterated my cranium. It’s the best nonfiction film I’ve seen all year: Room 237, screened at the New York Film Festival. Directed by Rodney Ascher, Room 237 is an examination of five “secret meanings” within Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 psychological horror-thriller The Shining.
There are no talking heads or reenactments; it’s assembled as a collage of scenes from The Shining, other notable films by Kubrick, and a bunch of other not-so-random movies that reflect the cinematic investigation.
Still, the movie itself is fantastic. It approaches The Shining from the perspectives of five obsessive theorists (none of whom are ever shown onscreen — you only hear their voices). Two of the theories are really just deep critical readings of the film: One insists The Shining is about the Native American genocide and the other suggests The Shining is a metaphor for the Holocaust. The other three hypotheses are less reasonable, but more creative and inimitable: One person sees the entire film as Kubrick’s unspoken confession that he faked the moon landing. Another focuses on secret images in the movie that involve the Greek myth of the Minotaur; the third is built around the premise of subtextual synchronicities that hinge on watching the film backward and forward simultaneously. Here’s a long clip produced by Jay Weidner, the guy who thinks The Shining is about how the Apollo 11 mission was a hoax (note: This footage is not taken from Room 237 — it was made by Weidner himself.
What’s Behind Room 237?
The Shining, Immersion Criticism, and what might be the documentary of the year
Still, the movie itself is fantastic. It approaches The Shining from the perspectives of five obsessive theorists (none of whom are ever shown onscreen — you only hear their voices). Two of the theories are really just deep critical readings of the film: One insists The Shining is about the Native American genocide and the other suggests The Shining is a metaphor for the Holocaust. The other three hypotheses are less reasonable, but more creative and inimitable: One person sees the entire film as Kubrick’s unspoken confession that he faked the moon landing. Another focuses on secret images in the movie that involve the Greek myth of the Minotaur; the third is built around the premise of subtextual synchronicities that hinge on watching the film backward and forward simultaneously. Here’s a long clip produced by Jay Weidner, the guy who thinks The Shining is about how the Apollo 11 mission was a hoax (note: This footage is not taken from Room 237 — it was made by Weidner himself. However, much of what follows is interrogated in the film):
The principal reasons Room 237 is a good documentary are standard — it’s insightful about the topic, funny (without being cruel to the participants), and formally inventive. But it’s also a lucid illustration of something that’s been happening over the last 10 years (and that couldn’t really exist until the digital age): It introduces a new way to experience and consider movies. There has always been “criticism,” which is simply the analysis of what something is and what something means; in the mid–20th century, that process evolved into New Criticism, which suggests every art object should be viewed as an autonomous creation that can be interpreted without having to consider the artist’s intent or the audience reaction (in other words, the critic creates the meaning from a close reading of the text’s technical components). But what we see in Room 237 goes way beyond this, while also circling back to a question that is rarely asked by normal movie reviewers (and never asked by disciples of New Criticism): What was the director really trying to do? What are the secret clues hidden inside the plot, embedded within the background? What was the director trying to say without actively saying the words?
This is something I’ve decided to call “Immersion Criticism,” because it can’t really be done unless you watch a movie 10 or 100 or 1,000 times. It’s based on the belief that symbolic, ancillary details inside a film are infinitely more important than the surface dialogue or the superficial narrative. And it’s not just a matter of noticing things other people miss, because that can be done by anyone who’s perceptive; it’s a matter of noticing things that the director included to indicate his true, undisclosed intention. In other words, it’s not an interpretive reading — it’s an inflexible, clandestine reality that matters way more than anything else. And it’s usually insane.
Now, there’s a reason all these examples come from Kubrick films: Immersion Criticism only works if you believe the director really did have some type of secret objective. You have to operate from the position that the film’s creator is a genius who’s using the medium in a profound, personal, noncommercial manner; it also helps if the director is reclusive and refuses to answer questions about what his work means. Since the mysterious Kubrick was (in my opinion) the greatest director of the 20th century (and by a pretty wide margin), he remains the best candidate for this kind of scrutiny, particularly since all his films require multiple viewings for even a rudimentary appreciation of what they’re supposed to be about.
In other words, Immersion Criticism isn’t something that can be done to any film you stumble across. The movie I’ve watched the most times is Dazed and Confused, but it doesn’t work for these purposes; I don’t believe (and I can’t even pretend) Richard Linklater had any kind of dark ulterior motive when he made that film, except maybe to increase my appreciation of Black Oak Arkansas. Immersion Criticism is not a utilitarian concept and (generally) only applies to auteurs; it might work with The Master, but it won’t work with Pitch Perfect. You need to pre-assume that something deep and covert is hidden in the matrix.
Judging from the personal explanations in Room 237, the Immersion process worked like this: They all watched The Shining when it was released, without any preconceived notion of what it was supposed to be (beyond holding the belief that its director was a visionary). Something about the movie stayed with them, even though they weren’t necessarily sure what that was (or even if they necessarily liked the movie). They felt something before they knew anything … and then they just kept going. They kept watching and rewatching the movie (some more than others), studying the background as much as the foreground. That repetition spawned an internal domino effect; once the film’s “secret thesis” galvanized in their minds, everything else dovetailed into the same abyss. But here is the essential key: These people believe they are right. It’s not merely an intellectual exercise; they believe they understand Kubrick’s unspoken motives. And the intensity of that belief — regardless of its accuracy — is what makes their ideas meaningful. It’s a level of engagement that moves in two directions simultaneously: It bores deeper into the text (because the movie needs to be watched dozens of times, detached from the literal narrative) and catapults far outside of the celluloid itself (because the Immersion Critic has tapped into the private, interior world of the director’s consciousness, at least in theory). It’s like a conspiracy theory, except it isn’t remotely harmful — it’s simply a new way to make a complex film more important, highly secretive, and uncomfortably human.
I hope Room 237 prompts this phenomenon to continue. It’s sometimes illogical, but often amazing. I always want people to go further, even if their espoused destination does not exist.
Room 237The documentary Room 237 has been called a “DIY mashup” of the many theories put forward over the years as interpretations of Stanley Kubricks’s 1980 horror classic, The Shining. And there is good reason for viewers to puzzle over the film 33 years after its release: The Shining tends to be opaque, even though its corridors are well-lit. I recently found what is arguably the most exhaustive examination of how Kubrick adapted Stephen King’s novel into the script he wrote with Diane Johnson. Click below to read the post and see how Kubrick took King’s novel and made movie history!
Unlike Kubrick’s famously unrealized biography of Napoleon, The Shining got made. Stanley Kubrick wrote and directed The Shining with the intention of turning out a blockbuster, after the lush but relatively financially unsuccessful Barry Lyndon. The Shining, more than any other of his films, has inspired hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of words devoted to finding the meaning behind the film, even though, or, especially because, Kubrick himself was reluctant to discuss possible interpretations of his films, leaving it to the viewer to make up their own mind. (Allow me to say that I do not favor any of these theories over any other. I don’t want to get pilloried in the comments!) None of which stopped blogger Jonny53, whose epic post (it took me almost 12 hours to read) is certainly the most exhaustive Shining analysis on the internet. It will definitely, as Jack Torrance promised Wendy, ”Bash your brains in,” (With exacting attention to detail, of course). Prepare to go through the looking-glass, people.
Read, And Ye Shall Find
The problem with criticism of The Shining is that almost every interpretation tends to go off the rails at some point, i.e., the film is really about Native American Genocide, or Kubrick’s guilt over faking the moon landing:
This one is no different. Jonny53′s final conclusion seems to be that the numbers in the film point us towards 12/24/11, which apparently was the date of the Mayan Apocalypse back in the 70s, before cooler heads prevailed and it was moved to the far more accurate date of 12/21/12. He does make the excellent point that most of the people who have put forth interpretations of the film over the years have never actually read the novel, and that what Kubrick did with the novel, and what he did with all of the novels he adapted to the screen, was to alter the content so that the story would be cinematic rather than literary. This is a challenge facing all filmmakers who are adapting someone else’s work (or even their own, from a different format).
So while many have noted the mysteries of the moving furniture:
And “impossible window” behind Ullman’s office:
Jonny53 maintains that all of these puzzles and more can be solved by first reading the novel:
I can’t think of any other movie where reading the source novel was so enlightening…Many writers skim the surface when trying to compare the novel with the movie and then simply give up. You absolutely cannot have a thorough understanding of Stanley Kubrick’s Shining without looking at what he did to Stephen King’s story. Ignoring the novel is crazy…[He] didn’t randomly alter things from the novel as many readers think. He’s inverted them.
Here is an exhaustive list of all the changes between novel and film.
According to Jonny53:
In the novel they’re brought to The Overlook in a red VW and have a yellow snowmobile up at the hotel. In the movie they’re brought to The Overlook in a yellow VW and have a red Sno-cat up at the hotel. They’re also saved in a red Sno-cat. In the movie Jack throws his yellow ball and in the novel Danny plays with his red ball. Stanley Kubrick didn’t just change the colors, he inverted the colors Stephen King uses in the novel for these major props. Look once at the VW in the opening credits of the movie; you’ll never forget that yellow color. Ask anyone who’s seen the film, they will be able to tell you what color the VW is. Ask anyone who’s read the novel and they probably won’t.
Hiding in Plain Sight
In the novel, the scrapbook containing The Overlook’s sordid past is a major plot device, and Jack becomes obsessed with it and Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 9.03.27 PMpossessed by it. In the movie, it’s seen only in passing, but has the same effect. When Jack discovers the scrapbook, he loses interest in writing anything but that one phrase, and becomes obsessed with doing the “duty” of hotel caretaker, even if that means killing his wife and child. This is how, according to Jonny53, Jack “shines” the apparitions of Lloyd and Grady: he has seen them before, in the newspaper clippings in the scrapbooks. But we barely see the scrapbook, an element from the novel Kubrick made subtly cinematic and almost subliminal without the heavy exposition of the novel, in which the provenance of the scrapbook is related in exacting detail.
Even better for Kubrick, who was always playing games with the viewer, the first-time viewer will probably interpret Lloyd and Grady as ghosts, even though Kubrick has made his “ghost story” about anything but, at least according to Jonny53. To him, it’s a film about ESP and telekinesis (note the number of Calumet cans behind Jack and Halloran’s heads, respectively, while they are “shining.”) The first scene occurs precisely :27 minutes into the film, and the second precisely :27 minutes from the end of film, in the US version: the parallel edits Jonny53 finds in The Shining are remarkable. Jack Torrance has four more cans than Halloran, meaning he “shines” more, which is why Halloran isn’t able to predict his impending death at the hands of Jack:
Screen Shot 2013-05-27 at 5.29.26 PMScreen Shot 2013-05-27 at 5.24.17 PM 1
It goes on and on. In the novel, Wendy is a smart, independent blonde; in the film, she is Shelley Duvall’s mousey doormat; in the book, there is no hedge maze, but rather hedge animals which move constantly; in the novel, The Overlook hotel wants Danny for his power, but in the film, the hotel has no power at all, only a sort of “shining” which affects the whole Torrance family, even though Danny is the only one to know about it.
In the film, both Jack and Wendy have the power of “shining” (Jonny53′s basis for this is the line, delivered by Halloran, “But there are other folks, though mostly they don’t know it, or don’t believe it.”) Visually, Kubrick shows us this by subtly giving the characters telekinesis, even if they themselves aren’t aware of it. They can move furniture, and even make chairs appear and disappear at will (also note the scrapbook in the foreground):
Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 9.01.42 PMScrapbook
Who Opens The Door?
For many viewers, the question of whether or not we are dealing with the traditional cinematic supernatural is answered in the scene where Jack is released from the freezer, evidently by the ghost of Grady, the former caretaker. This is never made totally explicit (in the novel, we see that it is a ghostly Grady who leaves a drink and mallet for him outside the door, while in the film, the opening of the door is deliberately ambiguous):
But Jonny53 has an answer for that, too:
Jack and Dick Hallorann both have the same supernatural ability. It’s no stretch of the movie’s reality to see that Jack also “shines” when he’s locked in the storeroom. It’s obvious that his ability to supernaturally move things (telekinesis), and not the ghost of Delbert Grady, is what unlatches the storeroom door releasing him…this is what The Shining is about, people with an unusual ability. There’s no law that says Stanley Kubrick can’t change, or hide from the audience, which cast members have this special ability, and just exactly what that ability is.
In the novel, Halloran lies in order to get up to The Overlook. In the movie, he always tells the truth (which means, if we believe what he says to his friend Larry Durkin, that Ullman can “shine,” since he called Halloran and told him to get up to The Overlook.) This is a very out-there theory, but is actually somewhat confirmed by the deleted scene cut by Kubrick a week into the film’s U.K. run. For any Shining fanatic, or anyone interested in how a master filmmaker took a classic novel and adapted it into a classic film, this is required reading. I personally think Jonny53 goes off the rails at the end with his theory that Kubrick is subliminally encoding the date of the impending Mayan apocalypse (that’s called apophenia), but Jonny53 has done all fans of The Shining, and moviemaking, a great service with his incredible eye for detail.
“Space may be the final frontier
But it’s made in a Hollywood basement.” Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“Eyes Wide Shut” was promoted as a steamy, suspenseful movie starring the “It” couple of the day: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. While the actors were prominently featured in the movie, it is everything around them that told the true story of “Eyes Wide Shut”. Stanley Kubrick’s attention to detail and symbolism gave the movie an entire other dimension – one that cannot be seen by those who have their eyes wide shut. This multiple-part series will look at the hidden symbolism of Kubrick’s final film.
I remember when I first watched Eyes Wide Shut, back in 1999. Boy, did I hate it. I hated how slow everything was, I hated how Nicole Kidman tried to sound drunk or high and I hated seeing Tom Cruise walk around New York looking concerned. I guess I reacted the same way critics did at the time the movie came out and thought: “This movie is boring and there is nothing hot about it.” More than a decade later, equipped with a little more knowledge and patience, I re-watched the movie … and it blew my mind. In fact, like most Stanley Kubrick films, an entire book could be written about the movie and the concepts it addresses.
Eyes Wide Shut is indeed not simply about a relationship, it is about all of the outside forces and influences that define that relationship. It is about the eternal back-and-forth between the male and female principles in a confused and decadent modern world. Also, more importantly, it is about the group that rules this modern world – a secret elite that channels this struggle between the male and female principles in a specific and esoteric matter. The movie however does not spell out anything. Like all great art, messages are communicated through subtle symbols and mysterious riddles.
Conspiracy aficionados are enamored of Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut. They believe that Kubrick showed us an authentic Illuminati ritual, and exposed the evil nature of the group. However, while I’m not disputing the occult content of the movie, I assert that the net effect of the film on the millions who viewed it was to make the Illuminati look mostly harmless.
Kubrick’s Illuminati doesn’t do anything flagrantly evil. They hire hookers; they rough-up a piano player; they follow Dr. Bill on the street, and they threaten Dr. Bill in a politely written note hand delivered by a butler. You call that an Illuminati? Ha! In its heyday, Italy’s P2 lodge did more crime before breakfast! Compared to the Sopranos, Kubrick’s Illuminati are a bunch of choir boys. Kubrick would have us believe that the Illuminati is just a bunch of weirdo swingers. And he gives us no hint as to who the Grand Poobah in the red robe is. It’s got to be a banker, right?
Most. Boring. Orgy. Ever.
Even the orgy scene in EWS is tame. Yes, Warner Bros. blocked out some explicit content, but that doesn’t change the fact that it looked like somebody spiked the Illuminati punch bowl with sleeping pills.
In fact, the entire movie exhibited glacially slow pacing; almost as if Kubrick was trying to hypnotize us. I mean, here we have Tom Cruise being captured by a sinister secret society, and there is no action in the movie at all. And no laughs either – that might break the hypnotic spell. And it goes on and on and on for an incredible 159 minutes which feels like double that length. Eyes Wide Shut will literally put you to sleep – despite the fact that it is loaded with naked chicks!
“You’re getting sleepy, very sleepy. When you wake up from this boring movie you will believe the Illuminati is harmless.”
And it’s not a joke, because when a genius director like Kubrick makes a boring movie, it’s not an accident. Ladies and gentleman, I submit to you: EWS is a psy-op just like Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy.
Now, there is a character who pimps out his underage daughter (Milich at the costume shop) however he isn’t portrayed as a part of the Illuminati. And even there, the girl is game, so that makes it look less sinister. So Kubrick also whitewashes pedophilia, one of the Illuminati’s favorite pastimes.
Let’s look at a creepy subplot. In the frame below, we see two characters that we might call Square Head and Round Head at the 12:55 mark (click image to enlarge):
They are sitting at a table at the foot of the stairs, possibly as guards. The guy on the left has a square-ish head. The guy on the right has a rounded head. Perhaps Kubrick chose their distinctive head shapes so that we would recognize them more easily later in the movie. They have no lines. Their appearance here is significant because this is where Dr. Bill (far left) first learns that the Christmas party is less than wholesome. At the top of the stairs, he finds the host, Victor Ziegler, with a hooker who just overdosed.
The next time that we see Square Head and Round Head is at the end of the movie (2:30:35) in the toy store:
Kubrick puts them dead center to make sure that we get a good look. While Bill & Alice distract us with the boring, anti-climactic end of the film, we imagine their daughter Helena following the Illuminati operatives out to the creeper van. Now that’s alarming, but even here it’s not as sinister as it seems. First, Square Head and Round Head are not snatching the child. Second, before Helena follows them out of sight, she looks back at her parents, seemingly for approval:
Dr. Bill & Alice are not concerned at all. In fact, they dreaded the idea of taking her Christmas shopping, and acted indifferent as she enthusiastically picked out toys. For the remaining three minutes of the film, Bill & Alice don’t so much as glance in the direction of the last whereabouts of their child, displaying parental negligence. And finally, this sequence of events is so subtle that very few, if any, theater-goers probably noticed it at all. And so Kubrick softens the blow of the Illuminati’s acquisition of under-age sex slaves. He makes it look peaceful and voluntary, and perpetrated on parents who might deserve it.
As to the film’s title, I understand that the phrase is the Illuminati equivalent to the Mafia’s: “you didn’t see anything.” And we didn’t see Dr. Bill ever notify the authorities: he didn’t call 911 for the hooker who overdosed, he didn’t notify the police about Milich pimping out his underage daughter at the costume shop, etc. He kept his eyes wide shut, and the title of the film should be understood as a command from Kubrick to yourself. If you ever see any Illuminati crime, just dummy up like the great movie stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
So, the conspiracy community needs to calm down about EWS. Indeed, a complete re-evaluation of Kubrick’s body of work from a less-credulous perspective is in order. I submit to you: not only are Dr. Bill’s eyes wide shut, but so are Mr. Kubrick’s. Another example is the famous Ludovico Technique shown in Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange:
In the film, this form of torture is used to cure Alex, the violent psychopath. But in real life, the London Times reported that Lt. Commander Thomas Narut of the U.S. Navy used the technique to do the exact opposite: to train assassins.
The moral of the story is that when a member of the esoteric world makes a film for us out here in the real (exoteric) world, he’s probably not doing us a favor. Rather, he’s probably running a psy-op on us.
Note on the boring plot of Eyes Wide Shut: the conflict between Alice and Bill begins when Alice ditches Bill at the party, chugs down a glass of wine, and goes to flirt with a guy at the bar. So, she starts it. Bill makes it worse by telling Alice a white lie about where he disappeared to at the party, keeping his eyes wide shut even with his wife. Though Bill didn’t cheat on his wife at the party, Alice knows that he is lying about something, and proceeds to go berserk on him, torturing him with all kinds horrible tales of infidelity.
Stanley Kubrick’s movies are cultural icons. From the groundbreaking “2001 A Space Odyssey” to the dark comedy of “Dr. Strangelove” or the nightmare future world of “A Clockwork Orange” we see cinematic genius at work. His treatment of the Vietnam war in “Full Metal Jacket” captures the raw reality of Marine boot camp like no other film I have ever seen.
It is now being revealed that Kubrick’s portrayal of the interior of a B-52 nuclear bomber in “Dr. Strangelove” was so accurate, he ran the risk of being investigated by the FBI! Check out this article: http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/january2008/170108_strangelove.htm
However, the last movie he ever made, “Eyes Wide Shut” with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, initially struck me as a bizarre disappointment to an otherwise brilliant film oeuvre. The plot seemed weird and improbable, and the movie hinted at some deeper meaning but I had no idea what.
Well……fast forward to the present day. My understanding of esoteric knowledge is vastly improved and I can now recognize patterns and symbols that before completely escaped my untrained eye and un-tuned mind. And it hit me…..Stanley Kubrick is a GENIUS!
“Eyes Wide Shut” is a literal and symbolic depiction of the Illuminati. The people that REALLY run things in this world. Look, I know you have been culturally brain-washed to “poo-poo” the idea that the Illuminati exists (we all have) but they really do exist. Here is some background information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminati Also take a look here for a lot more information: http://www.conspiracyarchive.com/NWO/Illuminati.htm
Interestingly, Stanley Kubrick died mysteriously four days after completing “Eyes Wide Shut.” Another curious fact is that he died exactly 666 days before the date of his famous movie “2001″ (i.e Jan. 1, 2001). Officially, the seventy-year-old Kubrick died of a massive heart attack, despite having no history of heart disease and that his family reported him as feeling fine the day before his death. Perhaps he did die of natural causes. Perhaps he did not. See “How the Globalists Create Heart Attacks” here: http://www.rense.com/general67/govb.htm
But I digress, the reason for this lengthy post is to encourage you to go and read an amazing analysis of “Eyes Wide Shut” (complete with stills from the movie) that reveals the true symbolism and Illuminati theme of the movie. Seriously – READ THIS REVIEW:
In closing, many have commented on the Illuminati sex-orgy in the mansion that the Tom Cruise character finds himself in.
There is a practice known in the occult called “Sex Magick.” In general, this involves certain sexual practices combined with spells and incantations meant to capture and focus the creative/destructive force of the sex act. The most famous practitioner of this would be the “Great Beast” Aleister Crowley. Here is some additional information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_magic