The best recent film that nobody saw was Jon Foy’s Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. Room 237, an upcoming documentary that seems to rake strikingly familiar terrain to Foy’s masterpiece, has just gotten a nice write-up by Chuck Klosterman over at Grantland. Klosterman focuses primarily on the movie’s take on what he calls “Immersion Criticism,” which is basically a respectful way of saying “Obsession- That-Borders-On-Insanity.”
This is something I’ve decided to call “Immersion Criticism,” because it can’t really be done unless you watch a movie 10 or 100 or 1,000 times. It’s based on the belief that symbolic, ancillary details inside a film are infinitely more important than the surface dialogue or the superficial narrative. And it’s not just a matter of noticing things other people miss, because that can be done by anyone who’s perceptive; it’s a matter of noticing things that the director included to indicate his true, undisclosed intention. In other words, it’s not an interpretive reading — it’s an inflexible, clandestine reality that matters way more than anything else. And it’s usually insane.
The concept of obsession is used in Resurrect Dead, as I suspect it may be in Room 237, to create a mysterious narrative. Mysterious partially due to the unraveling of the peculiar plot, but also due to the probing of many unexplainable intricacies inside the human psyche. The tile-placer, along with the seeker, are both trying to find his own little place in the world. Like everything from Live Twitter Updates to Fantasy Baseball, these types of explorations (or immersions) seem to about people absorbing themselves into the fabric of something bigger than who they are. It’s a way to fill a void and define a purpose. In Resurrect Dead, Justin Doerr basically channels his addictive personality into solving the mystery of the tiles. He kicks his drug habit, the film implies, because of his “healthier” obsession.
Beyond the ideas of obsession, mystery, and criticism (though Doerr’s criticism goes beyond textual), there’s also the Stanley Kubrick connection as Room 237 revolves around Shining-mania. I’m yet to see Room 237, so I can’t say that these similarities are anything more than mere superficial coincidences. Regardless, this new documentary has me thinking.
Room 237 will hopefully get a wider release than Resurrect Dead. Perhaps if there are enough similarities, more people will be compelled to seek out the latter (which BTW, is available on iTunes for $14.99).