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Digging deep into 'The Shining'

March 31, 2013|By Steve Appleford, steve.appleford@latimes.com
  • Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher examines startling obsessions of his "Room 237." The film is a vivid, layered exploration of the symbolism and conspiracies that certain fanatics insist can be found within Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film, "The Shining."
Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher examines startling… (Photo by Joseph…)

There is nothing especially frightening about Room 350 at the Standard Hotel on the Sunset Strip. It overlooks the pool, with colorful mod décor pleasantly bathed in bright window light. Inside, documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher is prepared to discuss the startling obsessions of his "Room 237."

The film is a vivid, layered exploration of the symbolism and conspiracies certain fanatics insist can be found within Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film, "The Shining," the story of a writer (played by Jack Nicholson) who grows murderously insane as the caretaker of the snowbound Overlook Hotel. In "Room 237," film clips elegantly pieced together are accompanied by the voices of superfans connecting "The Shining" to the Holocaust, the massacre of Native Americans, and Kubrick's secret role in the supposed faking of the Apollo moon landings, among other theories.

It is, as a paranoid Joe Pesci once railed in "JFK," a "mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma." A collaboration with producer Tim Kirk, the film opened this weekend at Laemmle's Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. Bearded and dressed in a dark suit and tie, Ascher did his best to translate in an interview with Marquee.

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Marquee: Kubrick is a filmmaker whose work invites close examination, but the fans in "Room 237" dig deeper than even he must have intended.

Ascher: We still haven't hit bottom. Most everyone who we interviewed in the film are continuing to study Kubrick and put up new things that they find. There's clear symbolic elements in almost every one of his movies. He's also a filmmaker who had such control over every element of the production. That gives us more reason to assume intentionality over all the little details.

Did you find any new clues at the Kubrick exhibition now at LACMA?

For me it was very exciting to see some of the relics from the original [films]. In the case of "A Clockwork Orange," it was very interesting to imagine yourself in the Korova Milk bar looking at the furniture. Reading the [Kubrick] letters helped you get into his personality, which was always sketched a little loosely because he wasn't the most public guy in the world.

Also at LACMA are the little dresses worn by the twins haunting the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining."

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