A series of images, ideas, emotions and remembered sensations. Dreams are fleeting realities, momentarily lived in and unwillingly left. We interrogate them, reflect on them, searching for deeper meanings, analyzing thempiece by piece in order to discover explanations and cryptic truths. Our derived answers and conclusions serve to order the random, give meaning to meaninglessness, in turn situating our selves within the cosmos. Cinema looks like our dreams.
Rodney Ascher’s cinematic essay, Room 237, uses Stanley Kubrick’s hypnotic horror film – The Shining (1980) as basis for an exploration of interpretation and the act of viewing. The film casts light on The Shining’s addicts. People who haven’t just seen the film, but watch it obsessively, endlessly. Their mission is to find hidden ‘symbols’ and ‘clues’ that Kubrick has, either consciously or unconsciously, scattered throughout the celluloid.
Their theories flit from the seemingly plausible to the outright absurd. Often continuity errors act as seed for a conspiracy – rather than lack of money, time or a simple unrealized mistake sufficing for an answer, whole narratives are constructed, tangents divulged revealing hidden meanings and higher orders.
Conspiracy theories include; Nazis (a lot), proof that Kubrick staged the moon landing and Minotaurs, yes Minotaurs – it all makes sense if you consider The Overlook Hotel a Labyrinth. One man had a stroke of genius and decided simultaneous forward and reverse projection of the film, played on top of itself, would prove a revelatory experience. As if through watching the film in new ways he could unearth previously unknown secrets, perhaps in a sense he did.
Room 237 is a meditation on what it is to watch. Although conspiracists are consumed by their obsession for explanation, in a wider sense we continually seek to construct meaning from film, a meaning that either exists with intent or not. How and where do we assign validity? Where does the ‘real’ meaning lie? In flux? Ambiguously shifting through the lens of time and context? The film questions our capacity for interpretation. We continually decipher things as we wish, seeing what we want, assigning meaning even at a subconscious level – perhaps the only difference is that these people are looking harder.