As a fan of master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, I’m naturally eager to see the new documentary Room 237 currently making the rounds on the festival circuit, and thus not readily available for review. Instead, I thought I’d look at some of the doc’s source material, and what I found was a troubling, fascinating document that in its own right is worth discussion and consideration.
The makers of The Shining Code 2.0 are one of five featured conspiracists in Room 237 who’ve all ascribed different meanings and markers and signifiers to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, in their case that the filmmaker’s ostensible horror movie is actually a coded confession regarding his participation in the faking of the Apollo moon landings. Yes—you read that correctly.
As a fan of King, at the time of the movie’s release my squiggling adolescent sensibilities could not wrap themselves around the various changes Kubrick made to King’s text, particularly the lack of special-effects equivalents for the creepy and terrifying hedge animals who come to life at the book’s exciting climax, which in interviews Kubrick owned up to changing to the maze because he couldn’t come up with a suitable special-effects equivalent. That, now, my fourteen year-old movie-nut brain could accept—he couldn’t make it look cool, so he changed it. I could live with that. The book was the book, and the movie the movie. Others, including the author of the original text, no, they didn’t much like it, and for their own reasons, but I more or less dugThe Shining. I guessed. It was the summer of The Blues Brothers and Empire Strikes Back. I dug those more, and moved on from the Kubrick with a resounding, meh.
For many people (including me), however, the film has grown into its proper reputation and place in the pantheon of perhaps the greatest of all filmmakers thus far, and one whose death just before his last movie was released at the turn of the millennium seemed far too soon, especially with his late-era output: only three films in twenty years. The Shining is appropriately weird and horrifying and seems to satisfy the director’s stated aims, which were simply to put his stamp on that particular genre of storytelling, and it’s simply a glorious movie in its attention to detail and elegance of framing and camera placement/movement. It’s also scary. As hell.
A master scenarist and filmmaker like Kubrick, however, known to obsess over details and make as many as 75 takes of Nicholson walking across the street in a shot that’d never be used in the movie, wouldn’t simply put assort random objects into the meticulously planned and staged frames of his movies—everything one sees in a film by an artist like this is intended to be seen . . . even if patterns and symbols aren’t noticed the first time around. None of this was left to production designers to figure out on their own—they had specific instructions from which to work, at every level of the film’s preparation and production.
What I did notice the first time around was the little sweater poor, psychologically plagued Danny Torrance wore in one sequence, the one in which he’s seduced into room 237 and abused by someone or something, the sweater that has a misspelled ‘Apolo’ rocket design. I remember during that first screening how much my eye was drawn to that sweater. How it was so ridiculously cute that it annoyed me. Sweet little Danny, with his Apolo rocket sweater. But it was just a little kid’s sweater with a cutesy design on it, right? Chosen by the costume designer.
“What sort of outfit would we like to have Danny wear for the room 237 sequence?” the CD might have asked the exacting and detail-oriented Kubrick.
“Anything you want him to wear. A sweater. I don’t care what’s on it.”
Go back and look how Danny is framed wearing that sweater. Kubrick wants us to see and think about the Apollo rocket program. But why? Why is that so important that he wants this character to feature the design so prominently and for so long? I didn’t know, didn’t care.
These questions obviously couldn’t be let go by the anonymous makers of The Shining Code 2.0, and they manage to outline an astounding and eerie series of amazing ‘coincidences’ of recurring motifs and objects that, yes, could be said to all point toward references to the Apollo missions, specifically Apollo 11, and all of which have been said by some to have been faked. Some of whom claim that Stanley Kubrick, fresh from his success with the special effects and artistry of 2001: A Space Odyssey, was pressed into service to aid and abet the government in perpetuating this supposed hoax upon the world (a movie that preceded The Shining by two years, Capricorn One, posited a similar scenario, with astronauts tricked into faking a Mars mission). The Shining, these filmmakers assert, is Kubrick’s confession to the world that the conspiracy is real and true, and that seen through the prism of this movie, seem to indicate that he suffered greatly for having contributed to this dreadful hoax on humanity. (I will leave it to others to explain the reasons for our government faking the moon landings.)
Other theorists apparently featured in the Room 237 doc claim that The Shining is code for the genocide of Native Americans, or somehow Holocaust-related, but I’ll have to wait to see that movie to find out more about these notions. For now, I’m looking back through Kubrick’s filmography, and struck how many of his films seem to possibly address or uncover conspiracies or perfidies committed by mad or or elitist or otherwise controlling entities; his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, seems to depict a society of elites having occult sex and death rituals, which of course any good conspiracy nut will tell you go on all the time at places like Bohemian Grove, in Northern California. I’ll stay out of Alex Jones territory, but safe to say that The Shining Code 2.0 makes a repetitive but provocatively argued case that among Kubrick’s cinematic gifts he left to the world were a stark confession haunting his unforgettable, beautifully crafted horror movie. Dying only days after delivering EWS to the suits at Warner Brothers (any of them go and party at the Grove?), perhaps now we’ll never know just how many other clues Kubrick intended to leave for us . . . if any. The Shining Code 2.0 may be screened in its 75-minute entirety below.