One way or another, Kubrick films generate obsession. As Room 237 amply illustrates, they act like Rorschach blots that receive viewers’ projections and reflect their fantasies back at them. My view is that they are able to do this because, like Rorschach blots, they are empty of meaning.
Kubrick films are enticing to intellects because they are like puzzles, games. They demand participation. The viewer must put his or her soul (psyche) into the movies because Kubrick has left his own out.
What makes Kubrick’s films fascinating is that they create cognitive dissonance. The skill and the precision of the lighting, set design, camerawork, and composition is juxtaposed with the barrenness of human emotion and of dramatic coherence, the often unnatural acting and stilted dialogue, and the fragmented and oddly lackluster storytelling. The mechanics of melodrama have broken down. There is no center to hold. This mysteriously missing center—the incoherence of Kubrick’s films—creates fascination in many viewers (especially the more intellectual ones) and a burning desire to somehow find that missing center, to crack the code and relieve the tension of not-knowing.
From Kubrickon: Stanley Kubrick & the Architecture of Immersion, a work-in-progress by Jasun Horsley, due in 2015