The truth is that the owners of the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, which stood in for the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in the movie, asked Kubrick to change the number because they have no room 237, so people couldnt request to stay there. But The Shining is screened in the hotels lobby every night, and guests still pop in to watch a bit of the film after a day of skiing a testament to the movies hypnotic power. When you come across The Shining, you cant help but stop and watch for a little while, no matter how many times youve seen it.
The Shining is far from my favorite Kubrick film, says James Naremore, a professor at Indiana University and author of the critical study On Kubrick. I didnt like it much when it first opened, but after seeing it many times, reading lots about it and writing about it, my respect for it has grown considerably. I think its far better than the King novel and one of the most intellectually interesting horror movies ever.
Kubrick was something of an art film director. His films arent junk food. Theyre complex: They ask for and repay repeated viewings, not because they have complicated meanings, but because theyre so artistically and intelligently made. They assume intelligence in the viewer.
Kubrick may be the only consistently good great director, Naremore says. He has no clinkers or movies destroyed by studio meddling. But Im not sure why The Shining has become such a cult movie to talk about it at [the level Room 237 does] is sociologically interesting but beyond me.
The theories floated in Room 237 have been debunked by Kubricks longtime assistant Leon Vitali, who told The New York Times, I was falling about laughing most of the time. There are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash.
Lisa Leone, vice president of artistic programs for the National YoungArts Foundation, spent four years working with Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut as set decorator and second-unit photographer, and she agrees people tend to find unintentional messages in his movies.
Stanley was all about detail, she says. He was completely in control of everything. He was obsessed with the look and content of his sets as he was with performances. But when I would ask him little things I had heard about symbols in his movies, he would look at me and say, What are you talking about?
Matthew Modine, who starred in Kubricks Full Metal Jacket and wrote a book about the experience titled Full Metal Jacket Diary, says people who describe Kubrick as obsessive are missing the point.
There is never an insignificant scene in a Kubrick movie, or even a frame of film, the actor says via email. Obsession always sounds like an extravagance when used to describe an artist. If I say a basketball player practiced obsessively to perfect his shooting, you imagine a person committed to his sport. When obsessive is used to describe artists and their desire to create something beautiful, remarkable and unimagined before, obsessive is tinged with a kind of lunacy or mania.
Stanley spoke to me about this at length, Modine says. He told me, No one would say to Beethoven, Hey Ludwig, how many notes in that song? How long did it take ya to write it? So why do they feel the hunger to ask me how many takes did it take to shoot a scene? Shouldnt the conversation be focused on how wonderful the scene is?
Aside from conspiracy theories, Room 237 points out small details that are a testament to the care Kubrick used in his movies, such as the pattern of the rug inside room 237, which is vaguely sexual in design, or the impossibility of the hotels structure (there are windows with outside views that couldnt exist there). Weirdest of all, when Nicholson is sitting in the lobby waiting to be taken on a tour of the hotel, he is reading a Playgirl (!) magazine.
I tracked down that magazine and found a copy of it, just to make sure, Ascher says. Maybe it was a joke on Jack Nicholsons part. Theres a ton of stuff that we dont talk about in the movie. The close-up of that photo at the end of the movie is presented as a challenge. Its supposed to be the Rosebud of the movie. Oh, now I understand! But instead, it presents us with a new puzzle. And the date on the photo in particular [July 4, 1921] is a challenge because it doesnt link up with anything thats discussed in the movie. What the subjects in Room 237 are analyzing are not random pictures in a cloud. Kubrick did everything for a reason.