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Jason Guerrasio

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I write about movies for numerous sites/publications including NextMovie, The A.V. Club, Village Voice, L.A. Weekly and Vanity Fair. Check me out: http://jasonguerrasio.tumblr.com/

‘Room 237′ and Four Other Films With Hidden Meanings

One of the many pleasures of watching movies is finding that gem you can’t get out of your head, which then inevitably leads to multiple viewings over the span of years to the point where you being to find meanings that may or may not have been intended by the filmmakers.

Few in the movie biz have inspired more obsessive viewing than Stanley Kubrick. “2001: A Space Odyssey,” ”A Clockwork Orange,” yes, even “Eyes Wide Shut” warrant multiple viewings and for many Kubrick fans the more layers you peel away the more hidden meanings you stumble upon—all of which are both completely legitimate and a litte bit nuts. (Contributing to this is the fact that Kubrick rarely went into great detail about his work in the few interviews he gave, effectively fueling the fire of crazed obsession .)

But out of the Kubrick filmography, the one film that seems to inspire the most (and most deranged) theories of meanings and subliminal messages is “The Shining.” This week sees the release of Rodney Asher’s “Room 237,” a documentary that highlights some of the most passionate of these “alternate” interpretations, the title referring to the room Dick Hallorann tells young Danny never to enter.

A visual essay of sorts, the film is almost entirely comprised of clips from “The Shining” with voiceovers done by the theorists explaining in great detail what they believe the film is about—ranging from the slaughter of the Native Americans to Kubrick’s admission that the Apollo 11 moon landing was a hoax and he was the one behind it.

But Kubrick films are hardly the only ones with “hidden meanings.” Here’s a few we came across that make us think about the movies a little deeper (and in some cases just scratch our heads).

Have you found a hidden meaning in a film? Put it in our comments section.

“2012″ (Roland Emmerich)

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Known for his talents to create CGI-heavy doom and gloom films (which earned him the nickname “The Master of Disaster”), Roland Emmerich’s most recent catastrophe-focused blockbuster “2012,” which plays off the legendary Mayan calendar’s prediction of the end of the world, caused some to look into the incidents shown in the film as a premonition of an overthrown by the powers that be. On YouTube, The Vigilant Christian spends over a half hour breaking down the subliminal messages he found in the film, including the catastrophic images portrayed as a soon-to-be end to Christianity and the survivors being the dawn of a new world order.

“Donnie Darko” (Richard Kelley)

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Richard Kelly’s debut feature become an overnight cult phenomenon as its thrilling story about a teen (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has apocalyptic visions (and is tormented by a deranged bunny-man) caught on quick with younger audiences. One fan was so enamored by the film he began digging for Kelly’s inspirations and found the manuscript, The Philosophy of Time Travel, which he believes outlines the weird occurrences throughout the film. The fan insists that the film’s protagonist is not a strange teen with weird visions, but actually a martyr.

“…the movie accounts a natural phenomenon, a wormhole and the formation of a parallel universe, through the eyes of the most significantly affected human figure involved, Donnie Darko. By virtue of some sort of cosmic law, Donnie is set into motion on a path to restore the extremely fragic, turbulent Tangent Universe back to the normal Primary Universe… Through the eyes of (an assumed) schizophrenic, we can never really know for sure what Donnie experienced during those 28 days. What we know with confidence is that during his tenure as the Living Receiver, Donnie finally overcame his fears of death and loneliness…”

“Mulholland Drive” (David Lynch)

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David Lynch has made a career creating highly interpretive films, and Mulholland Drive may be his magnum opus. Starring Naomi Watts as a perky aspiring actress who comes across a woman (Laura Harring) who has lost her memory, the two hunt throughout L.A. for clues to her identity. Alan Shaw‘s exhaustive look at the film has him believe that the film is Lynch’s homage to young wannabe starlets who travel to the bright lights of Hollywood only to have their dreams crushed.

“…it is important to view this film as an ode to those young women whose lives are destroyed during their pursuit of a Hollywood career. In fact, the film is explicitly dedicated to one such woman named Jennifer Syme, who had previously worked with David Lynch on some of his films. She was 29 when she was killed in a tragic car accident the same year the movie came out. Interestingly enough, I believe that the film is covertly dedicated to another young woman who also aspired to make it in Hollywood. That young woman died at the age of 22, at about a week from the day one year after David Lynch was born. The woman’s name was Elizabeth Short, although she was nicknamed Black Dahlia because of her arresting beauty and her stylish black hair. The real Elizabeth Short was called Betty by some as a shortened version of her name. I believe this is one of the many possible allusions which explains why there is a major character named Betty in Mulholland Drive… Betty, who is also Diane in Mulholland Drive, is not the only one with something in common with Black Dahlia. Rita, who is also Camilla in the movie, is also a very beautiful woman with an impressive mane of long black hair. Not only that, but like Black Dahlia, this second character’s life will also end with a murder.”

“Pink Floyd’s The Wall” (Alan Parker)

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The epic 1979 concept album by Pink Floyd sparked even more interpretations when it was adapted into a film in 1982. This spooky look inside the life of a rock star turned dictator (named Pink Floyd), is accompanied by tracks from the album and scenes inspired by band member Roger Waters. For Bret Urick’s site Pink Floyd’s The Wall: A Complete Analysis, he looks at the movie through examination of every song featured and comes to the conclusion that the film’s meaning is about the need to break down walls of oppression.

The Wall is about the golden mean and realizing that what you do affects others just as much as the things that are done to you; it’s about being an individual but not to the point of personal and social alienation; it’s about how a person can be so consumed with hatred that he becomes the very thing he hates; it’s about the danger of making gods of men; it’s about the importance of communication, the void of excess, the fullness of the little moments; and above all, it’s about personal, communal and social responsibility.”


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Tags: 2012, David lynch, Donnie darko, Jake gyllenhaal, Laura Harring, Mulhollad Drive, Naomi watts, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Richard Kelly, Rodney Ascher, Roger Waters, Roland emmerich, Room 237, Stanley Kubrick, The Shining