An odd side note here: the actor who played [Richard] Yates, Lawrence Tierney, was himself in the latter stages of a volatile life. While making his name playing tough guys from the ’40s (Born to Kill) to the ’90s (Reservoir Dogs), he also got into numerous drunken scrapes with the law, often involving violence. In 1975 he was questioned in connection with the apparent suicide of a woman he was visiting; he told police she “just went out the window.” (Tierney was also a regular, strangely, on “Hill Street Blues,” so David Milch knew both the troubled, alcoholic Yates and his troubled, alcoholic double.) During the “Seinfeld” shoot, Jerry Seinfeld discovered that Tierney had tucked a butcher knife from the set under his jacket, apparently planning to steal it. Jason Alexander, who played George, said in an interview, “Lawrence Tierney scared the living crap out of all of us.”
See also: the commentary for The Simpsons episode “Marge Be Not Proud.” Tierney did the voice of Don Brodka and the people on the commentary discuss Tierney as a frightening/intimidating person.
Loved it. Only problem I have with it is that due to it being the definitive The Shining fan theory documentary, anything I ever make about interpretations of that film will be inferior.
It may be the definitive “why are there fan theories about The Shining?” documentary, but I don’t actually think it’s the definitive Shining-fan-theory-explainer documentary.
For me, the theories that I wasn’t already familiar with were rather difficult to follow, and my first impression was that this was a weakness of the film, but on consideration, I would posit that explaining fan theories is not what Room 237 sets out to do. Instead, it intends to tell us WHY these theories come up with this film and why the theories are so wildly different.
Kubrick was known as a really deliberate and exacting filmmaker in terms of the performances he wanted from his actors and for very rich and carefully planned visuals. It’s easy to assume that means he was also trying to communicate a very specific metaphorical meaning, but since Kubrick was not one to comment extensively on what those specific metaphorical meanings were (if there were any), a vacuum is created and fans rush in to fill the void with their own highly varied interpretations. (see also: The Holy Bible and why there are eleventy billion variations on Christianity.)
Due to the incredible and deliberate visual richness of Kubrick’s films, there is a LOT of room to make all kinds of fun theories fit, if we assume there MUST be a deeper meaning. I don’t think The Shining as a film is diminished if, ultimately, what it does is tell an atmospheric horror story that takes full advantage of the visual medium that is film.