Stanley Kubrick was not the most prolific of movie makers, yet his efforts often create striking impressions. I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at a young age, and it has remained one of my favorite films ever since. Although I’ve watched horror movies since my college years, I shied away from The Shining until about five years ago. By that point I’d seen enough clips and parodies to kind of know what to expect. Since finally viewing the original, it has become one of my most admired movies as well. Kubrick films may not be easily slotted into a genre, and The Shining is not a typical horror movie. There always seems to be something more going on in addition to the growing menace of Jack Torrance’s insanity. I’ve been hearing about Room 237 for a few months now, and I’m eager to see it. Room 237 is admittedly a movie about a movie, an exploration of how The Shining has inspired multiple interpretations of what most consider to be one of the scariest movies of all time.
An article by Jay Kirk in the June edition of Harper’s Magazine examines this movie of a movie. Kirk is the cousin of Tim Kirk, the producer of Room 237, and offers a personal introspective of a mind under the spell of Kubrickian influence. The article, “The Shining Path: Room 237 and the Kubrick cult,” not surprisingly, keeps turning back to religion. It may be fallout from the Kirk cousins both being children of clergy, or it may be that effective horror films are, as I’ve maintained before, inherently religious. Even the meeting of the Kirk cousins takes place at Gaudi’s Sacred Family cathedral in Barcelona. It seems that there’s no way to get at The Shining without involving religion. Not that it’s a religious movie, but it may take some religion to understand it.
No doubt Stanley Kubrick was a deep man. Even those who try to interpret his movies end up adding a kind of hidden message of their own to the plethora of ideas he eloquently shot. I know nothing of Kubrick’s religious convictions, if any. Any film with the gravitas to inspire continuing hermeneutics over three decades after its release, however, will surely open itself to a kind of sanctification. The penultimate section of Kirk’s introspective focuses on Proverbs 3.5-8, a passage underlined in his grandmother’s Bible. To understand the genius behind The Shining, it seems, religion will have to be part of the discussion.