On March 29, Room 237 hits theaters. An award-winning documentary from director Rodney Ascher, Room 237 delves into fan theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick's film, The Shining.
Put Room 237 together with the current Kubrick exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art and it’s safe to say that Kubrick-mania is back. Or, better yet, fascination with the master’s films never really disappeared, even years after his passing.
Kubrick’s influence on film and television is vast. We could probably cobble together a blog post based solely on references to his movies in The Simpsons. But, the impact of Kubrick’s aesthetic extends far beyond the big and small screens. Google slang terms from A Clockwork Orange– Moloko, Horrorshow, Ludwig Van– and there’s a decent chance you’ll stumble on a band or DJ website. His movies have been sampled in song, most famously by 2 Live Crew in “Me So Horny.” Stylists have appropriated his characters’ style, like in Rihanna’s video for “You Da One.” Graphic designers have cited him as an influence. And, let’s talk about Apple and 2001: A Space Odyssey for a second. Remember the Macintosh commercial with HAL? That came years before Samsung argued that this Kubrick classic featured the original design of the tablet.
What is it about Kubrick’s work that has inspired so many? We asked Carlos Ramos, an L.A.-based artist who works in both the animation and gallery worlds. A few years ago, Ramos had a solo show called “Kubrick,” consisting of his reinterpretations of scenes from Kubrick films ranging from Lolita to Eyes Wide Shut. Ramos also contributed poster art and animation to Room 237.
A few years ago, you had a solo art show based on Kubrick’s films. Did that in any way lead to your work on Room 237? If yes, how so? If no, how did you become involved in the project?
Carlos Ramos: I got involved around the same time as the gallery show. I met Rodney Ascher through my buddy, funnyman Josh Fadem. I had a small part in their short film, ‘Visions or Terror’ and was a big fan of Rodney’s short, ‘The S from Hell.’ I remember Rodney coming to the gallery show and mentioning he was working on a personal project: a doc about the hidden meanings in The Shining. I was immediately hooked and became a cheerleader of the project. Anytime I saw him I would ask, ‘How’s the Kubrick doc coming?’
The great thing that came out of my Kubrick show was finding so many people globally who were also huge fans. And everybody seems to have a story of meeting him, knowing someone who had a correspondence with him or a personal story of how much his films meant to them. The odd question I kept being asked after the show was, “What director will you do next?” the answer is: nobody. There is no other director that inspires me this much. There’s only one Kubrick.
What was your own involvement in Room 237 and how did you incorporate your own admiration of Kubrick’s work into what you did on the film?
My first involvement was going to a small screening Rodney had after his first cut and giving a few notes. But admittedly my notes were awful. I was thinking of Room 237 as something where interviewees should be “official” people who worked on the film and was thinking way inside the box. Rodney’s vision was something beyond what traditional film docs of the past had done. It scared the hell out of me for sure.
Later Rodney asked me to do the poster and a short animated sequence for the film which I jumped at. Who knew at the time the film would go onto Sundance, Cannes fame and beyond? I’m just excited at this point for more people to see it finally.
How do you see the influence of Stanley Kubrick’s films extending beyond the movie world and into other media?
I think the short answer is empowering an artist. Like the Beatles writing their own music and having complete control of their vision which was unheard of at the time. I think of Kubrick the same way. Final cut on his pictures and always a plan for how the film would be sold to the public and even being able to pull the films from screens if he wanted. That purity of vision and power has never been seen before or since. And clearly Kubrick (and the Beatles) was right because new fans emerge everyday.
What are your own thoughts on The Shining? Do you remember the first time you saw it?
The Shining was just a film that’s always been around. Since childhood it was always the scariest film ever made. It wasn’t till 9th grade when I saw Clockwork Orange and realized this director was special. Years later in college I read an article online: ‘The Shining and How it Relates to American Society’ and it talked about alot of the issues addressed in 237. It blew my head off and I never looked at the film the same way again.
Cut to years later with Rodney and the gang who know more about the film than anybody should. We recently all went to the LACMA Kubrick exhibit together and let me tell you: nothing is funner than watching scenes with them as they rattle off fun facts. Honestly they probably have enough material for two more Shining docs.
Do you anticipate that things like Room 237 and the Kubrick retrospective at LACMA will bring the filmmaker’s work to a new audience?
Of course! The day we all went to the exhibit it was a holiday weekend and it was impossible to find parking LACMA was packed. Tourists, families and Kubrickafiles like me were there. I think a thousand years from now Kubrick and The Beatles might be the only art by humans that will still matter.
Watch the Room 237 trailer