Interview with ‘The Shining’ doc filmmaker Rodney Ascher

By | April 4th, 2013 | No Comments
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Decades after a deranged Jack Nicholson channeled Ed McMahon — “Heeeere’s Johnny!” — The Shining captivates cinephiles and conspiracy theorists alike.

First things first: Learn how you can enter to win a pair of tickets to ‘Room 237′ on the Beached Miami Facebook page.

If whenever you see a pair of closed elevator doors at the end of a long, quiet corridor you brace for a tide of wine-dark blood, then you’re probably pumped for (or terrified in anticipation of) O Cinema’s Stanley Kubrick retrospective next week, which will comprise eight films (seven by Kubrick and a new documentary about the auteur’s terrifying masterpiece The Shining), several panel discussions about the man many consider the greatest filmmaker of last century, and even a remote Q&A with Full Metal Jacket star Matthew Modine.

The occasion for the retrospective is the acclaimed documentary Room 237, made by University of Miami alum Rodney Ascher. The film delves into various theories about The Shining, touching on everything from the Holocaust to the alleged hoax of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with the help of five Kubrick worshipers whose voices guide the film but whose faces you never see.

Ahead of the retrospective, I emailed a few questions to Ascher to learn more about his connection to Kubrick, The Shining, and the story behind Room 237.

Does your film reveal more about The Shining, Stanley Kubrick, or the five interviewees/theorists?

RA: That’s the question isn’t it? Whether The Shining is a puzzle or a projective test. I’m afraid I can’t answer it to definitively, but clearly most people’s relationship with The Shining is two-way.

Why did you choose not to ever show the interviewees faces?

RA: It’s a style I began with a short doc I did a little before 237 and I like the way it makes the film play in sort of a different part of your head than a straightforward documentary might. I like to think we’re not looking at the speakers, but through their eyes.

How and why did you end up making this film? What is your personal relationship with The Shining?

RA: Kubrick’s always been a personal favorite and a filmmaker whose work resonated with me in a personal way. When my friend producer Tim Kirk discovered a mind-blowingly complicated symbolic analysis of The Shining online there wasn’t anything either of us was much interested in talking about for the next three years other than the secrets of The Shining.

What is your favorite out-there theory about The Shining and Room 237?

RA: To pick one sort of randomly, I love the way John Fell Ryan talks about the conflict between what we see and what we hear and I, in turn, tried to play with that a little in 237 as well.

Do you have one of your own?

RA: I believe I found a link between Murnau’s silent version of Faust and The Shining that I haven’t found discussed elsewhere. I also suspect that some scenes have been edited out of sequence.

What projects are on the horizon for you?

RA: A comedy album (editing, not performing), and I’ve begun interviews for a dueling pair of docs vaguely in the same style as 237.

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For full details on O Cinema’s Kubrick retrospective, visit o-cinema.org/kubrick.

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