Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick (1999)
This commentary was not written by me, but by Craig Michael Johnson for his
Opening Eyes Wide Shut
A Study of Kubrick's Final Film
By Craig Michael Johnson
The Party. The Conversation.
White letters appear on the blackened screen: "WARNER BROTHERS Presents:"
A waltz, by Shoshtakovich (Shostakovich wrote a waltz?) begins to vibrate.
More words: A Film by Stanley Kubrick. Tom Cruise. Nicole Kidman. EYES WIDE SHUT.
Oh, the bliss! The final Kubrick has begun, as Nicole Kidman slithers out of her little black dress
before us, baring her white bottom and turning to glance at a sliding mirrored closet door.
Tom Cruise (Bill), tuxedoed, paces away from the blue light pounding out of his bathroom,
searching for his wallet. Nicole (this is Alice) sits on the toilet, asking if her hair looks alright.
"Yes," says Bill, preoccupied with his own reflection. "You're not even
looking at it," she says. He glances back at her through the mirror. "It looks
The couple gathers their things for a night out, and walk down the hallway of their lavish New York
apartment. "What's the babysitter's name?" "Roz." They enter the living room,
where Roz sits with their daughter Helena, dressed in angel wings. The lights of a large Christmas tree
create a blurry primary-color patina, and Helena asks if she can stay up to watch the Nutcracker.
After exchanging the usual goodbyes, the Harfords leave for the Zieglers' Christmas party.
These scenes appear to only set up the situation and introduce our characters. As the couple prepares
for the party, we see Bill being very submissive to Alice (though in a good way), helping with her coat,
trailing right behind like a puppy. It's interesting to note that they seem to have a comfortable relationship
with each other sexually, as we see Alice using the bathroom while Bill looks at himself in the mirror,
and basically it just seems like a normal married couple. Except they're pretty well off. Aside from
"realism," these scenes also set up some of our themes and images: Bill searches for
his wallet, Alice gazes in mirrors, and the couple interacts both sexually and asexually.
They go to the party and we're introduced to Ziegler, but this seems to be the only person Bill knows.
"Do you know anybody here?" says Alice. "Not a soul," Bill replies.
Not a soul, indeed. The other people at the party seem soulless and even faceless, as they all
wear the same clothes and do the same dance, and are basically just an uninteresting group.
They get more interesting much later, but their lack of diversity de moda doesn't seem to change.
Soon Bill makes a discovery – he knows the piano player; it's a guy who he went to med
school with, who dropped out. Bill approaches and Alice has to go to the bathroom.
"Nightingale. Nick Nightingale." "Bill! Bill Harford!" I've always hated
when movie characters do that. It's annoying, and unrealistic. "Johnson. Michael.
Craig Michael. Michael Johnson. Craig. Craig Michael Johnson. It's nice to meet you."
Well these two long-parted friends shoot the breeze, talking of old days and new things:
Bill's practice, Nick's piano playing. Nick is dressed in a nice white tux and initially stepped off
the bandstand, which was blood red and backed by mirrors. Already Nick sticks out and our
newest motif – red – has entered the picture, along with the mirrors, which start
to become noticeable. After a few minutes of smalltalk, one of Ziegler's people approaches Nick
and tells him that he is needed somewhere. Nick tells Bill that he'll be playing at a cafe in
Greenwich later, and to stop by, and then he walks away.
Meanwhile, Alice is on her way to the bathroom, or so she says, and Bill winds up flanked by models
as Alice downs a few glasses of champagne and has her inhibition tested by a rather slimy Hungarian
fellow named Szandor Savos. Szandor, by the way, is the middle name of the founder of the American
Church of Satan – Anton Szandor LaVey. Make of that what you will. Here we see our basic
theme – human sexuality and attraction in the face of commitment. Will Bill go off with the models?
Will Alice and Szandor's lips meet? (After all, he knows his Ovid.) It doesn't matter, really, because
the foundation has already been set. It's the thought that counts. (Ovid, incidentally, wrote the
"Art of Love," an instructional poem for sexual pursuit. Kinky.) Szandor isn't all bad,
though, because he puts into words what we will soon discover: "One of the charms of marriage
is that it makes deception a necessity for both parties."
The models and Bill seem to be having a nice time, too, flirting and being touchy-feely as Bill
toys around with his wedding ring. Unfortuately, the audience is severely disappointed when Bill
doesn't get to have gratuitous sex with these two slatterns – Mr. Ziegler needs him upstairs.
Upstairs Bill finds Ziegler worrying over the unconscious body of a hooker named Mandy,
who overdosed on a speedball. Two blue Chinese-style dragonheads adorn the sides of
the fireplace in Ziegler's WC (wow, I feel lucky with my space heater perched perilously
close to the edge of the tub!) There's a large painting of a naked woman on a red backgroud
above the fireplace, too. Interesting decor. "Mandy, open your eyes," says Bill.
We will soon learn that the old "log in your eye" proverb still applies, and well.
Cutting back to the dance below, Alice floats around in Szandor's preying arms, and he asks
about Ziegler's sculpture collection, which is upstairs. Are Bill and Ziegler and Mandy just
Bill's wonderful doctorship seems to have saved Mandy's life. He's very good at what he does:
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! All Bill does is say "Hey, can you hear me?"
Give me a break! This guy isn't even a real doctor, is he? That's not the point, though,
because he's miraculously pulled Mandy from the brink of death and covered her in a blanket,
and Ziegler thanks him, and Bill can now go home.
Downstairs, Alice shrugs Szandor off, and thus she and Bill eventually find their way back
to one another and go home.
That night, after bedding down Helena (who reads out loud from a book: "...before me when
I jump into my bed..."), Bill and Alice make love, and we see them begin to fondle each other
in front of the mirror. This famous scene is really striking in context and foreshadows the conversation
the next night. Bill is very passionate about the whole thing, but Alice seems to be... not
disinterested... but distracted by her own image. She looks into the mirror at herself, as if to say
"is this right?" It's a very haunting scene and I think I don't do it justice here.
The next day is filled with Christmassy joy: Bill watches football and drinks beer like a true man
while his lady slaves away wrapping presents. "We should thank the Zieglers for the party
last night." Yes, indeed.
That night they have a very heated argument after smoking a joint. It begins when Alice asks Bill
who the girls were. "Just some... models," replies Bill. Alice asks if he fucked them,
and he says that he didn't, he got called away (because Ziegler wasn't feeling well... here Bill breaks
some ground by lying to Alice, involving himself in Ziegler's world) and besides, he loves her and
he wouldn't do it. He asks about Szandor. "What did he want?" "Mmmm... sex,"
Alice says. "You mean he wanted to fuck my wife? Well, that's understandable."
Alice finds this hurtful. "Whoa, whoa!" she says. Alice yells at Bill: the only reason
any man would talk to me is because they want to fuck me? "Well, we all know how men
are," says Bill. Alice stabs at the air. "So, by that logic, you wanted to fuck those
girls?" Bill calls himself an exception, because he happens to be married, and he loves Alice,
and he would never lie to her. Ha. Alice asks about Dr. Bill's female patients; if they think about
sex while they're "getting their little titties squeezed." Bill says no, they aren't,
because they're afraid of what might be found. This is a pretty weird-sounding statement when
it's said, and it strikes me that it could be a metaphor for the theme of the movie –
masks and denial. "They're afraid of what I might find." Aren't we all?
Note the red, red sheets and blue, blue light emitting from the bathroom.
(A side note about miscellaneous things: look at the books on the desk. They're books by
Longford, Ian Foster, and Wilbur Smith. Hmm. Also, and this is adorable, there are some
VHS tapes by their TV. I think I see Taxi Driver! And is that One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest? Aww! The Koob is a sweet, sweet man.)
Anyway, Alice sort of contradicts Bill's notions that women don't think about sex the same way
men do by telling him about a Naval Officer she fantasized about, even during sex with Bill,
at Cape Cod the previous summer. She tells the story with great passion and detail,
and it really seems to tear Bill up, as he sits on the bed completely awestruck by what his wife
just told him: even though I love you, and making love with you is good, sometimes I really want
other men. I was willing to give myself to that man if he wanted.
The phone rings. Bill answers, and the news he gets sounds pretty dire.
Bill has to go to visit Marion Nathanson, as her father just died. Or, as he puts it, he has
"to go over there and show [his] face." I'll get back to the "face" thing,
but just remember that.
Bill crosses town in a cab, looking right disturbed by the previous scene. He enters an apartment,
where he is met by Marion, the shaky and tearful (not to mention kind of weird) daughter of one
of his patients. This is a very important scene, especially after Bill's conversation with Alice.
He walks into a room, where Lou Nathanson lays dead and still attached to his machines.
It's a rather odd setting; instead of taking care of the body, Marion has simply let it lay in bed
and rot, and it looks as though she's trying to preserve something. However, Lou doesn't even look
dead, he just looks asleep, and that's even what Marion thought when she found him dead.
This theme, seeming versus being, is prevalent throughout the movie (asleep vs. awake,
asleep vs. dead, mask vs. true face, etc.) and is presented in another way in this scene.
There's also a quick meditation on death that is remeniscent of the bayonet discussion in
Paths of Glory: Marion says "I was more afraid of the way [Lou's death] was
going to happen than death itself." Quite Joycean. Bill comforts her (beneath the glare
of African masks... oooooh! We'll talk more about this later, too.) After chatting about her future
with "Carl," Marion grabs Bill's head and starts kissing him passionately and intoning
"I love you I love you I love you," and etc. "Come away with me," she says.
Bill replies "Marion, we barely even know each other." This is actually rather ironic,
especially in reflection of the previous scene: Alice has enlightened Bill to things he never knew
about her, even though he professed to love her. Now he's showing his face. A liar (though he doesn't lie
in any great amount), a man who has a really hard time coming to terms with his shortcomings.
You'd think he would have learned something...
A moment later, Carl enters, and the housekeeper addresses him as "Doctor"
Somethingoranother. He's actually a math professor, but he's a professional with a doctorate,
just like Bill. He even resembles Bill enough for the situation to be strange. He enters the room,
where there is a very uncomfortable vibe. This is when we realize that the entire setup is a sort
of mockery of Bill and Alice's relationship, and of the entire movie. The characters could very well
be interchanged (Marion's hairstyle is the same sort of spindly curl that Alice has, with long pieces
hanging down, and blonde) and the whole "face" thing really begins to become a part
of the film here, especially with the first appearance of a mask. Who's really in love here?
Does it even matter? What does the dead man who witnesses all this symbolize? Is he the
embodiment of love? Bill calls death "unreal." Who knows? Dead men tell no tales...
A Game of Dominoes. Fidelio.
After leaving the apartment, Bill walks down the street and pounds his fist at the thought of
the Naval Officer having sexual contact with his wife. Soon his internal conflicts with his manhood
(i.e. "what kind of man loses his woman?") are manifested externally
by a group of hard-on fratboys who walk down the street gabbing about "Mexican lapdances,"
and then start taunting and shoving Bill, calling him "machoman" and "loverboy"
and basically calling him gay. Kubrick presents us with an interesting picture of two different ways
in which men handle their own sexual fears – self-abasement and ridicule of others.
However, the stupid display doesn't do Bill any good, as he almost immediately decides to accept
a (rather comely) hooker's offer to "come inside." (Red door!) He seems to want to use
this as some sort of proving ground or retribution, both against the claims made by the pricks
outside and as some sort of chest-puffing device against his wife's wandering mind, and what
he has now convinced himself was an actual event (with all the imagining Bill does, we are led
to believe the Naval Officer really slept with Alice.)
Bill enters Domino's apartment (a blue baby stroller waits outside) and seems very nervous,
talking about money right off hand. It's like he's never even seen a woman naked, and he won't even
tell her what he wants her to do to him, and asks what she "recommends."
Domino finds this kind of strange, but she thinks about it and says "Well, I'd rather not
put it into words." Then a fee is discussed ($150) and they "get to it."
The next scene is of Domino and Bill in Domino's room, where AFRICAN MASKS LINE THE WALLS.
Obviously, I think this is pretty important, especially in the next few hours, and upon seeing
these details I couldn't help but smile and think "Stanley, you magnificent bastard!"
They're of the same style that was found in Nathanson's house, but they're abundant here,
along with many mirrors, lights, and a Sociology textbook. (She's probably working as a hooker
to pay off a student loan!)
We can now see what Bill has in mind. After the episode with Marion, Bill has realized a way
to get back at his wife for her thoughts. He goes to Domino and puts on a mask –
a nameless mask, but a mask that he thinks makes him a man; that he thinks proves a point;
that he thinks will let him beat his true feelings. "You're in my hands," says Domino,
and Bill is truly losing his grip on reality, and we see his slackening control. Bill seems to be
the tool of the women in this film (not that there's anything wrong with that), but we really feel
that that's how Bill is supposed to be, and that's the only way he can really stay in control:
when Alice is in control of him. When he starts to go out alone, that's when he gets it in the
After a very sweet kiss that I think Bill both enjoyed and was terrified of, his phone rings
and Alice (poor woman, who sits at home in a blue nightgown, smoking, and eating Snackwell's
while watching a movie on tv) wonders to him when he will ever get home. He says he is still
visiting the grieving Nathansons... ah hah! He's still with the dead body? Perhaps he is...
perhaps the world of consumer sex is like death... sex with no love might as well be sex
with a corpse. Bill realizes this, in a Freudian manner (oy vey), and yet he still goes for it.
"Was that Mrs. Dr. Bill?" says Domino, lounging with her stuffed tiger
(keep that in mind.) "Yes." He stops the affair with Domino for that evening,
but he will continue in the future.
As much as we shouldn't like the hooker, who tears Bill away from his wife and daughter,
she's really really nice and innocent-seeming. Bad fashion sense, (though she is a hooker)
but least she gets her money.
Anyway, on his way home, Bill just "happens" to wind up in the freakin' Village,
and wanders into the Sonata Café, where his ol' pal Nick Nightingale is tickling the ivories
in a pretty banal jazz band. The door is opened for Bill by a stocky bald man –
the bouncer, apparently – and this is something that Bill learns to be wary of.
I think Bill's motto should be "never trust a bald man," as we will see.
Well the Sonata Café turns out to be the sort of lurking place of secrets in this film, and the place
is simply covered in RED RED RED, which, from now on, is the motif. Red=degradation in the world
of EYES WIDE SHUT, and the café and Somerton are drowning in it, but we'll go into that later.
Another thing: there are these little signs plastered all over the place – "ALL EXITS
ARE FINAL." Good lord. I really do think Stanley knew this was his last one.
Bill enters and is shown to a table, behind which sits a man that's caused a bit of controversy lately
on alt.movies.kubrick: he's a bit of a Kubrick look-alike, and I'd been pretty hasty to say it was,
indeed, Kubrick on this site. Recently, Katharina Kubrick Hobbs, Stanley's daughter (and a lovely,
good-humored lady), has given us the pleasure of both her company and commentary on our humble
newsgroup. She said that it is not Kubrick in the background, but in fact she herself and her son are
in the film (the mother and son in Bill's office) and Kubrick's assistant Emilio D'Alessandro plays
the man at the newsstand later in the film. So, this isn't Kubrick, and I'm kind of happy about that.
But that guy wasn't randomly picked, either! Kubrick knew we'd freak!
Regardless of all that, Bill and Nick shoot the breeze for a while, and then Nick starts flapping his jaw
about the "mysterious job" that he works every week. "I play blindfolded,"
Nick says, and I sort of expect Bill to shout "Hey! Me too!" but then we'd have no movie.
So then comes the word: fidelio. An opera by Beethoven, yes. But Bill knows it means "fidelity."
He's a doctor. You have to be smart to be a doctor. For the most part. And yet he says "WHAT
IS THAT?" Ha! Brilliant. Bill has no idea about fidelity. He doesn't know the difference between
his wife's cheating mind and his cheating hands. His eyes are wide shut. It's perfection.
Secrets of the Rainbow.
So after leaving the presence of Nick, Bill goes to the "Rainbow" costume shop
(actually on the same corner on which Bill met Domino), which I think isn't really that mysterious
of a reference ("Want to go where the rainbow ends?" ring a bell? Yeah.)
and rents out a costume, but not until after a really frigging bizarre scene involving a really
cute chick (the shop owner's daughter) in her drawers giving the ol' "Who's yer Father"
to two Japanese guys wearing nothing but speedos and wigs. It's actually pretty funny and rather
reminiscent of Lolita, as the girl whispers in Bill's ear "You should get a coat lined
with ermine." Weasel fur. The connotation seems to be that judges in the olden days
(you know, back then) were associated with the fur because it lined the insides of their robes.
Thus, I believe Schnitzler (it's directly from the book) wanted to stress the young vixen's ability
to see that Bill (or Fridolin, depending) is torn between pious doctoral legality and sultry smutwading.
Anyhow, the costume shop is blood red, and I don't need to say why. Another brick on Bill's
cobblestone road to misery. Interestingly, when Bill asks for a "black tux, a black cloak,
and a mask," Mr. Milich says "oh, wouldn't you rather be a clown, or a pirate,
or an officer?" I guess explaining that would be a bit condescending, don't you think?
Bill's taxi drives out to the countryside to the gates of Somerton, a really big and lavish pad
with all kinds of guards and valets. He pays the cabbie (who's wearing a RED shirt) the fare
and promises him $100 more if he waits at the gate for him. The cabbie concedes and
Bill steps out, delivers the password to the valets, and they take him to the house in a
RED SUV. Seemingly every man who guards a door around the place is bald, a point that
I will explore later, but I will explain quickly now. Baldness equals loss of morals, as we have
seen Milich complain that his hair is "falling down" and Bill tells him he can't help.
Somerton seems to have hired Lucifer himself to decorate the place, as there are red carpets
everywhere, and even the walls seem to emit a deep red glow. Bill straps on his mask and
the final cards have been laid. Now he's drifted far, far away from the sanctity (or, at least, trust)
of marriage. He's full of self-denial and doubt, and it's just a big metaphor for all the lies he tells
his wife. (Even when he told her "I've never lied to you..." well, we know how men are.)
Bill's then led into the ballroom or whatever it is, where the ritual takes place. I don't really want
to say much about it except that it's probably one of the coolest things ever filmed. Some people
have likened it to pagan ritual, others to groups like the Masons. I really don't know what it's
"like," I only know that it's very heavy and extremely important to the people involved.
The women in the circle seem to be wearing masks that (in at least some cases) reflect Egyptian
deities or motifs, and the music that plays throughout is a reversed track of some language I can't
discern, so it just makes for a real creepy scene. The red guy (referred to in the screenplay as
"Red Cloak") in the middle, of course, is the symbol of all that is destroying Bill.
Depravity dressed up like decadence. The true essence of the party isn't the sex, it's more
the incredible emptiness that lies within the sex. It's completely meaningless and is the kind of stuff
that is referred to as "fucking," and, to Bill's credit, when he gets kicked out I think
it's for a good reason: he cares too much about the passion of lovemaking to exist within the party.
(whoa... 1984!) Er... obviously, he's been hurt by his wife's admittance that she was thinking
of another man for complete physical reasons, and he goes seeking the same sort of attraction,
but never really finds it. Somehow he's always blocked from it (phones, other people, etc.)
Bill is recognized by someone at the party, a masked man on the balcony, who we never realize
the identity of (screenplay calls him "Tricorn," referring to his mask), and I suppose
could be Ziegler, but it's pretty nebulous. The man gives Bill a knowing nod that Bill returns,
and this is probably the most inexplicable part of the film. After a lot of deliberation, I've narrowed
this down to five possibilities:
1) This is nobody in particular, and this only establishes a sense of trepidation.
2) These people aren't real, and are, instead, a manifestation of Bill's fears of being recognized.
3) This is Dr. Carl and Marian – notice the tear on the cheek of the female mask.
(I highly doubt this is Ziegler.)
4) The couple is possibly Szandor and Alice.
5) This is a misstep, a throwaway that Kubrick would've removed if he had lived.
I'm not sure which of those answers this mystery, but... is an answer necessary?
Well, after the ritual, a woman with a big feathered mask picks Bill to come play some game with her,
tic tac toe, probably, and then she warns him of all the bad stuff that can happen to the both of them
if Bill doesn't skeedaddle, and quick. She's then pulled away by someone else, a man wearing
a Napoleon mask. Now, Kubrick used to idolize Napoleon because Napoleon had a Kubrick complex...
or maybe it was the other way around. And, anyway, Kubrick was going to make a film about Napoleon
but put the 86 on the project, for varied reasons. In Lobrutto's biography, it says that Kubrick and
an assistant used a grid system to actually count the number of infantry in Napoleon's army
(from a painting.) As you can see, Kubrick seemed quite devoted to the project at one time
and amassed a huge personal archive of Napoleon information, and yet the film was never made.
He actually contacted Anthony Burgess about writing a screenplay on Napoleon's life structured
around a Beethoven piece, which Burgess eventually wrote as his own novel. So, owing to the nature
of this never-completed gargantuan project (I believe it cost too much, actually), I guess this guy
is probably some impotent fella trying to give it another shot with the Feather Girl, whom I'm going
to refer to as Mandy because we all know it's the junkie girl from Ziegler's WC. Of course
that's just all creative speculation. Oh, also, Tom Cruise is pretty short, and perhaps Napoleon's
relationship with Josephine might be a little representative of our favorite couple in Kubrickland.
We constantly see Alice (and women in general) dominating over Bill.
Then Bill walks through the orgy scene, which is bleeding red, but I'm not going to talk about it
because I'm just so disappointed with the MPAA. For our European friends, the MPAA is a group
of very old, very conservative men with big hard-ons for ruining art. They don't understand film
and perhaps never will, and they disliked Stanley Kubrick so much that they decided to ruin one
of the most important scenes he ever filmed after he was dead, so he couldn't yell at them.
Thank you, MPAA, for all of your hard work and dedication in protecting America (and Canada, too!)
from itself! *applause!*
Another note: this scene has become sort of infamous lately for another reason. Jocelyn Pook,
who orchestrated the bizarre music linked to Somerton, included a phrase from the Baghavad-Gita
in the score to this part of the film. Some people representing factions of the Hindu community
became extremely riled about this and threatened to sue Warner, Kubrick's estate, and everyone else
because of this. Now, this is not an attack on Hinduism, which I respect with all my heart as
I respect any religion that is not used as a weapon, but I think that in this case the people
who took offense to this are completely out-of-line for threats of lawsuits. People tend to forget
that film is supposed to be art. Art is, sometimes, "offensive," but that is the nature
of art. Kubrick was an artist and made an artistic decision to use this song for the score, and
it includes a passage from the Baghavad-Gita, one of the world's most widely-read
pieces of literature. The fact that it is sacred gives these people no right to bring suit against
Warner and especially Kubrick's estate. It is a piece of literature in the public domain,
and anyone may use it as he or she sees fit. That goes for the Bible, for the Torah,
for the Koran, and for the Upanishads and
all parts of the Baghavad-Gita!
In a bit of settlement, Warner removed the speech track from that part of the score for release in India
and other Hindu countries, but that doesn't really address the problem of people trying to oppress art
in the twenty-first century. The Fatwa made the Muslims look bad, and this is beginning to make
the Hindus look bad to many people. Anyway, all of this goes far beyond that and yet it belongs in
its own essay, so now you can get back to Kubrick. Again, I have no qualms and deep respect
for anyone who practices Hinduism, Islam, and any religion with sensible acceptance of other cultures
and human nature, so please don't send me hate mail.
Back to the facts, Bill is met by another striking masked beauty (led in by Tricorn) who wants to play
tag with Bill, or something, and I think he's about to fall into her tempting arms when Mandy comes
back. She makes with more of the "you're in serious danger, you shouldn't be here" talk,
while "Strangers in the Night" wafts up from the party below and blue light seeps in
from the window behind them. He then asks Mandy, "Let me see your face." "No,"
she says, in some ways saying "I will always be a prostitute, I have no plans to do otherwise."
Soon Bill is lured away when another bald man (with the staff's trademark gold mask) asks if Bill
is the man with the taxi waiting, to which Bill says "yes." "Well, sir, your driver
is waiting at the door, he has an urgent message for you." Bill follows the man, who leads him
to the circle, where the rest of the guests surround the seated Red Cloak, who is flanked by two guards
wearing purple robes. You know, this is extremely impressive: those cloaks that looked so black before
seem to turn an eerie shade of... blue... when they are under the great lights that illuminate the place.
Then come the lonely notes of the 'Musica Ricercata II' by Ligeti, the important and yet underappreciated
Hungarian composer who provided "Atmospheres" for 2001. The notes bounce off
one another in a baroque and devastating dance of death, battling each other until they explode in
a succession of rolling octaves. This is a very important marker in the film. Much like Strauss'
'Also Sprach Zarathustra' in 2001, the theme music means something more than it does
in most films. Kubrick was more than a filmmaker; the man knew where and when to use exactly
the right kind of music. (Though some people chided his use of the too-familiar "Blue Danube"
"Please come forward," says Red Cloak, in a snide British accent. "What is
the password?" he asks.
"Fidelio," says Bill. There is a murmur amongst the crowd.
Red Cloak chuckles. "Yes, that is the password... for admittance. What is the password...
for the house?"
Bill ponders. "I... I seem to... to have forgotten it."
Murmur. The piano notes pound away.
"You will kindly remove your mask." Bill follows the instructions, bearing a face of shame.
He clutches his beloved mask tightly.
Bill is then asked to remove his clothes, and all sorts of possibilities fly through our minds –
any number of humiliating games or terrible tortures are imagined, though we are not surprised.
Truly, Bill is already naked before these people.
Suddenly, a voice, and the camera zeroes in on Mandy, standing on a balcony, blue light washing out
from behind her. "STOP! Leave him alone!" She goes on to "redeem"
Bill by offering herself in his stead, and she is taken away. Red Cloak agrees to release Bill,
but warns him: "If you reveal this, there will be dire consequences for you and your family.
Remember: when a promise has been made here, there is no turning back."
I'm not sure what to say about all this, but we'll start from the beginning of this complex scene.
Mandy warns Bill that he is in great danger of being exposed – perhaps Bill's greatest fear.
He fears the exposition that he, in some way, does not satisfy his wife's needs, and fears the exposition
of his great jealousy. "I'm not the jealous type," he says, but we all know he is. Then Bill
is taken away and his fidelity is questioned. This seems to say "fidelity is more than a word.
It is a concept which is more than simply a password. Just because you can say I will be faithful
does not give you access." This seems contradictory, in that fidelity seems the antithesis
of this place, but it is a piece of bitter irony that Bill must understand. The irony is that these people,
the whores and the backstabbers, teach Bill something about fidelity. Fidelity is not the password,
Bill. It's something that you can't gather yet. Then Bill removes his mask, as if to say, "Here I am.
I am weak. Strike me down." Yet, this strikingly (and I can hear Kubrick giggling below)
feministic film saves Bill via the "weaker" sex. This whore, this corpse, even,
will give herself over for a man who she doesn't even know. Perhaps that is love.
Then Red Cloak gives Bill a bit of advice, if not a pretty accurate horoscope: if you tell anyone about this,
it means hell for your family. Indeed we see that when he confesses his secrets to Alice, things turn
shaky and terrible. Red Cloak's note about promises is pretty weighty, too, as if to stress the
"till death do us part" thing. Stick-in-the-mud.
So now Bill is expelled from the dreamworld of meaningless screwing and excessive wealth,
and forced back into the real world where he has to deal with his real problems –
he has a wife who has confessed thoughts of another man, and a daughter in the betting pot.
Bill arrives home to his beloved blue-doored Apartment 5A, an eerily quiet and bright
(for four in the morning, at least) apartment, which makes you wonder if anybody really
sleeps around there, with all the streetlight that gets in due to the drawn curtains. Hmm.
Helena seems to sleep well in her blue room. Maybe the only man that is asleep is the one
who thinks he is awake. Wide awake. Bill hides his costume, locks it away, even, and goes
to the bedroom, where Alice makes little sex noises in her sleep, and then comes with more
of her insane, mocking laughter which she taunted Bill with in the pot scene. Bill wakes her up
and she calls the dream "the worst nightmare [she's] ever had. It was so weird."
She tells Bill that they were in a deserted city and they were naked. She was scared and
felt ashamed at her nudity. She was angry at Bill because she thought that it was his fault.
He ran away to find clothes for them, but when he left, Alice began to feel better that he was gone.
The next thing she knew, she was lying naked in a garden, when a man came out from the surrounding
woods. It was the Naval Officer. He began to stare at her and laugh. "It's only a dream,"
Bill says. The Naval Officer began kissing Alice and then they began "making love,"
as she put it, "and then there were people all around us, and they were all fucking."
Then she tells Bill that she "fucked so many men..." and she knew Bill could see her,
and she wanted to make fun of him, so she laughed as loud as she could. By this point Alice
is completely drained and puffy, and she grabs Bill and embraces him, though he has a completely
brooding and almost disgusted face on. It seems to be a reflection (yuk yuk) of the mirror scene
from the beginning, in which Alice was the one who wasn't feeling the passion her husband felt for her,
and she received his emotion as she glared at herself in the mirror.
Yeesh. This is thick. Here we go. The deserted city could be their marriage. The nudity is exposure
to each other, the conversation from the beginning, perhaps, in which they laid their souls bare.
But it was Bill's fault because he was the one who started the argument with her; he was the one
who was flirting with "those two girls," and he was the one who said that the only reason
men talked to her was because they wanted sex. Bill's obsequious nature made him run away for
clothes (to cover his emotion back up, denying that he is the jealous type) and as soon as he was gone,
as soon as his jealousy and duplicity and denial was gone, Alice felt a lot better. Thus she became
comfortable with her bared soul, in a world free of worry about the fidelity of marriage. She was worried
that people would laugh at her true sexual nature – craving sex like men do –
yet soon the Officer came around and understood her humanity. Thus they began to enjoy each other,
just like in Bill's visions. And then she imagined a world of people "fucking," ironically
the world Bill just escaped from, and then she laughs at Bill's simplicity and shame. The whole scene
is fraught with Edenic images: the garden, the nudity and the characters' awareness of it, shame, exile.
Yikes! That was really important and I hope I'm at least halfway right. Moving on. That ends Act 2.
Looking for Nightingales. The Return to the Rainbow.
Act three begins with Bill's new hobby, searching for the clues behind what happened the previous night.
He goes to the Sonata, which is closed, and then finds out (using his "doctor's privilege")
from a waitress at a greasy spoon next door, (the "Gillespie Café," if that
to anyone) that Nick had been staying at a hotel... the name of which I am uncertain. Anyway,
Bill travels to said hotel and approaches the desk, topped with a bouquet of RED flowers. Ahem.
The clerk is a pretty blatantly gay guy (great performance, I must say) who removes Bill's clothes
with his eyes and tells Bill that Nick left with two brutish looking fellows who must have roughed
him up, what with the big shiner on his mug, and they said all of his mail would be picked up
by someone "authorized to do so." This is a pretty good scene as Bill is oblivious
to the clerk's obvious come-ons, though I'm not sure what Kubrick was trying to say here.
Just more sexual confusion for your edification.
Bill returns to the Rainbow in an even weirder scene than the previous one there, (though there
wasn't a HuggyBear wig this time) and it's beautiful when Milich's daughter flutters out
of the blood red back room like Humbert's little nymph and sings "Hello!" to Bill,
innocent as can be. Our Japanese friends from last night enter and talk about the deal
they struck up with Milich, and Milich (who wears a dapper blue suit) offers his daughter
for Bill's needs. It's interesting to think of what Milich must assume about Bill: he knows
where Bill went the previous night; he knows Bill is willing to spend lots of money.
The idea of taking this very young girl from right in front of her very odd father is almost
titillating to Bill, but the scene ends before we really discover anything.
Another note – with all of his agreed fees, Bill pays a whopping $375 for one night's
rental of the costume, plus one "missing" mask. Which shows more of the relationship
money has to sex in this movie – the wealthy at their parties engaging in their festivities,
the fees Bill pays to get there. It's man's corruption of nature on a very subtle level. From the
hurled femur and nuclear devices and homicidal computers of 2001 to the mechanizing
process of the Marines in Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick has loved showing man's horrid
domination over nature, but never has it been this keen.
Back to Somerton. Home Sweet Home.
Next we find Bill returning to Somerton – in obvious disobedience of Red Cloak's instructions
and warnings. Ligeti comes pounding through again.
The camera soon seems transfixed on something that is almost bizarre – the security camera
that sits atop the gate. Ligeti's music is really stinging away here, and it seems that we should feel
some sort of trepidation from this scene. The security camera slowly fixes itself on... not on Bill...
but... holy shit... on us. The camera is on us. What's going on? Kubrick! Stop this!
The woman sitting behind me threw something very hard at my head at this point, so I sat down
and stopped yelling at the screen, but I realized that Kubrick was playing a dirty trick
on his audience. I could see his big bearded melon floating above the seats right then
and there, saying "Yoohoo, you pricks! It's playtime! This is you! This is real life!
This can happen anywhere, at any time, in any form. I'm talking about basic human emotion."
Kubrick, the man who created (or helped create) creative names like "Buck Turgidson"
and "Bat Guano" didn't name his characters Bill and Alice for no good reason.
How many Bills and Alices are there in the United States? Must be thousands.
And Kubrick sticks it to the common man right proper.
That was the beauty of Kubrick.
Anyway, now that I'm over that, back to the film: the Musica goes ding ding ding ding ding
as a Rolls rolls up, and an old man steps out, handing a letter through the (blue!) gate to Bill.
Or to us? It warns Bill to stay away from the house, to stop investigating the whole thing.
Or should we stop peering into Bill's soul like this? No way.
Bill goes home later that evening, where Alice and Helena do math problems together,
over Christmas break, for some reason. Alice plays "mommy" here, and
Bill sits and watches her act with the words "I was fucking so many men"
resounding in his head. She smiles a devilish grin. Oh no, viewer. No one is innocent
in Kubrickia. Not for one damn second.
A Gift for Domino. The Stalking. The Corpse.
Bill makes a late-night venture back to his office, where he sits in his chair desperately
searching for some method to what he saw the previous night. Who was the woman?
(Remember: at this point he didn't know it was Mandy, I guess I got ahead of myself.)
Where does he go now? How can he still prove he is a man? All the questions.
"I love you I love you I love you I love you."
A-ha! Bill picks up the receiver and punches a number slowly.
A phone rings in a familiar hallway. It is Marion's apartment. Dr. Carl comes around a corner
and answers it. "Hello?" Nothing. Bill is choked up and cannot say anything.
Why? This is a really strange scene and it goes back to the whole "real Bill/fake Bill"
thing from before. Is this the manifestation of Bill's confusion about his own identity? Bill seems
to have forgotten that Carl was ever in the picture. Who is the real man here?
All those routes exhausted, Bill decides to make a visit to Domino again, and enters her building
through its very RED doors. He rings Domino's doorbell, but her roommate, Sally, answers.
She refers to him as "Bill? Bill from last night?" who was "so nice to Domino."
Yeah, I guess I was, Bill seems to think. Bill is invited in, where he starts undoing Sally's shirt
in what seems to be his most proactive (and steamy) move yet. He's actually doing the work.
Sally stops him this time, to tell him that Domino tested HIV positive. This strikes Bill as disturbing
in the way that he's starting to see some reason to not cheat on his beloved – he could die.
He could have died if not for Alice's intervention. Ay yi yi. Kubrick is a cruel God indeed!
Upon leaving the apartment, something starts happening that fills the audience with that
old sense of anxiousness... two piano notes. Bill looks across the street as he walks
and a very large and completely bald (see?) man is shadowing him on the other side.
The man keeps following him and when Bill's attempts at hailing a cab are thwarted,
Bill goes to a newsstand. The man stops and stares at him from the streetcorner,
next to a sign that really IS a sign: "Stop." It has the letters CMB scrawled on it,
though I don't know what that means. This is a completely terrifying scene and I have no idea why.
Maybe bald people scare me. I don't know. Must be the Ligeti. Bill buys the New York Post,
of all things, and the bald man simply walks away.
Bill enters a cafe called Sharky's, where a Christmassy decorative light fixture hangs above
the doorway. We see this later, in Ziegler's house. It looks like a moustache made from
the same junk used to make artificial Xmas trees, with two candles on top. Strange.
In Sharky's, Mozart's 'Requiem' plays. I don't know if I've commented on Mozart here,
but I just noticed many similarities between this film and the excellent Amadeus,
which strikes me because of the cloak and mask Salieri wore in order to fool Mozart
into writing the aforementioned sonata (!). Seems odd that Kubrick would reference
another movie, especially one that is admittedly fictional like Amadeus.
Anyway, this is probably the funniest part of the movie. Kubrick placed a little joke in here
for all of his fans. What is it? Look hard. Look! Look at the headline on that paper.
LUCKY TO BE ALIVE! it says! As Kubrick would say, yeah right. In Kubrick's world,
life is probably the worst curse there is. With Gods like Kubrick, who needs Devils?
The man never ceases to ruin his characters. Know what "Kubrickian" means?
Sad ending. He's got a whopper in store.
Bill reads an article in this paper that talks about a beauty queen, Amanda Curran, who overdosed
on drugs and is in the hospital. Could it be? he thinks. He checks it out, only to find that she's dead.
He goes and sees her corpse in the morgue (in locker #10, the same as the Rainbow's address),
and the most interesting thing here is... well the man's a doctor, after all, and yet he seems
so torn up over this (he's reserved, though.) Could it be that he realizes that this woman saved
his life and he cost her hers? Probably. I could also hypothesize that the corpse he sees really
doesn't differ from the way he viewed her before, except of the paleness. (Of course, he could also
be afraid that he might soon be residing in locker #11.) He gets really close to planting one on her,
which seems like a pathetic last attempt to prove his point. However, I think there's a whole level
to this death thing that I haven't even touched on, but that's for another essay.
On his way out of the hospital, Bill gets a call from one of Ziegler's people who evidently asks him
to come to Ziegler's casa grande for a chat. Sure, Bill says, I'm on my way.
A Meeting With Ziegler.
Bill arrives and the house is strange... it seems that it doesn't look right without a big fake party
going on. Like Ziegler's life is based around the gathering of many, many rich people.
Kind of sad, in a Richard Cory sort of way.
Bill meets Victor in the billiards room (Napoleon is forever standing with hand in coat above
Ziegler's fireplace, and a blue light pulsates in through the window, in front of which is an incredibly
intricate model of a ship) and they make smalltalk for a second and soon the conversation digresses
to Victor's knowledge of Bill's activities the previous night and that day. Bill denies it.
"Please Bill, no games," replies Victor. Too late for that. He tells Bill that
he's in way over his head and that the whole thing was false, all the "woman as hero" act.
This discussion occurs, of course, above Ziegler's richly RED pool table.
Victor tells Bill that, in short, Mandy was just a hooker, not his savior, and that she wound up dead
only because she was a junkie, just like Bill said she was back in the bathroom two nights ago.
"It was all a charade," he says. Bill is for some reason very convinced of all this...
as if to say "Yes... no woman could save me!" and yet he doesn't want to believe
that he's been played as a fool. "People die all the time. Life goes on, it always does;
until it doesn't. But you know that, dontcha?" Sure he does. Victor tells Bill that
he had him followed, that Nick was sent back to Seattle "where he's probably banging
Mrs. Nick." Bill seems very distressed at all this, at all of his beliefs being broken.
He thought he was involved in a big, interesting conspiracy of murder, intrigue, and depravity.
Yet, Ziegler tells him, it was just a party that had been crashed, and then a big Broadway show
for a bit of flair. Just a dream. Of course, if Ziegler's so sure of himself and of his manhood,
where has his wife been since the first act? That's right, you forgot he had a wife, didn't you?
Hmm. He's not one to be trusted. And yet Bill breaks down at all this information.
So is Victor telling the truth?
Good question. I really don't know. There are a few possible answers, each with
their own ramifications.
1) Yes, Victor WAS telling the truth. If this is true, then A) this is an overlong, unnecessary scene
that probably would've been cut OR B) there is some deeper meaning to Victor's confession
and Bill's acceptance.
2) No, Victor was lying. If this is true, then A) this scene is more necessary to the plot,
and Bill's acceptance of this is yet another in his personal bad decisions AND B) we still don't know
who the Masked Woman ACTUALLY is and what happened to Mandy and Nick.
3) It doesn't matter. If this is true, A) this film is not a mystery; the obscure identities
of the Masked Woman, Mandy, Tricorn, and so forth are meant to be just that AND
B) instead of focusing on solving the mystery, we should focus on how it affects Bill.
To be honest, these are all plausible. 3) is inherently the most Kubrickian, but there's no evidence
that makes it any more valid than the other two.
Well, now, for the sort of post-climactic-pre-denouement-climax: Bill comes home again,
late in the dark hours, and, after turning off his Christmas tree and downing a brewski while gazing
into a huge painting of a garden, finds his wife sleeping on royal purple sheets, with her arm resting
on the figure next to her. It is a bodiless mask, lying where Bill's head should be, and yet Alice
seems perfectly content. This destroys Bill emotionally: he realizes what he's done, he realizes
all his errors, he realizes the difference between a dream and reality. His wife dreamed about
another man, but Bill actually sought out sex; he put on a mask and he lived beneath its perverted
skin and sacrificed a beautiful relationship. All the jealousy, the duplicity, the anger and spite
had ruined everything. You happy, Bill? You win, he seems to say. Alice has her "man"
now. Bill breaks into tears and, waking Alice up in an almost surreal scene (it's very realistic, though
– it really evokes those weird hallucinations that occur between eyes shut and eyes wide open)
tells her "I'll tell you everything, I'll tell you everything." By the way –
I don't know how the mask got there. I'm still looking for an explanation myself.
The best I've heard (and most Kubrickian, though it's almost Hawthornian) is that the mask
wasn't actually there, but instead it was symbolic of Bill's guilt; something all in his mind.
I think that's a beautiful theory, and I'm very interested to hear a better one.
The next shot is pretty interesting – one of those Kubrickian "hippie head shots"
and yet this time reserved for a woman – it's almost like Nicholson's in The Shining.
She looks pretty bad (for Nicole Kidman) – she's obviously been up all night crying,
and she's got plenty left – a shaky hand holds a flaking cigarette in classic style,
and she stares into the camera with a "How could you do this to me?" look.
She almost looks like Shelly Duvall in The Shining, being destroyed emotionally
by her husband's "lack of muscular coordination." She says that Helena will be up soon,
and that they had to take her Christmas shopping. "We promised her," she says.
In the final scene, Helena leads Alice through a melee of consumeristic glory, an FAO
Schwartz-type toy store with huge stuffed animals everywhere and bubbles floating through the air.
Bill trails meekly behind. Whenever Helena picks up a toy, Alice plasters on a fake smile
and says "Oh, boy" or "maybe Santa will bring you that" or such drivel,
and then turns to Bill and talks about what they will do. Interestingly, they pass a stack of
board games called "THE MAGIC CIRCLE"... do the math. Any "circles"
come to mind here? Bill seemed to enjoy his circle game, until he became the monkey in the middle.
They also walk by puppets and a baby carriage – "that's old-fashioned,"
says Alice, and then casts a poisonous look at Bill. There is much that might be implied
by this toy store – are Alice and Bill living in a childish world of lies and games?
Is their relationship only material? What the HELL is Kubrick saying? I don't know, though
I've heard it's a reference to his proposed follow up film, A.I., based on the Brian Aldiss
story Super Toys Last All Summer Long. That's a pretty speculative guess, though,
and pretty Lucas-like for Kubrick, but anything's possible. Could just be that Alice's final advice
here makes it all a big board game. Helena (whose name pops up in Freud – Helena
is the island Napoleon was banished to) finally picks up a toy and makes a decision of what
she really wants: a Barbie doll. The man's view of the perfect woman constructed of cheap plastics.
Just what Bill wants, right? Now it seems that Helena, who originally wore angel wings
and stood for innocence and sanity througout, now is growing up, too.
Another one bites the dust.
Bill and Alice separate themselves from Helena long enough to talk – Alice tells Bill
that they will go on (though "forever" frightens her) and that "the reality
of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, can't be the whole truth."
"And no dream... is just a dream," says Bill. Alice shrugs this off.
Notice what sits behind Alice as she utters this last line: the same stuffed tiger
that lounged on Domino's bed.
"...there's something we have to do as soon as possible," says Alice.
"What?" Bill says.
I love it. A brilliant Kubrickian ending. "We were in a world of shit, yes, but we were alive,
and we were not afraid." Reminds me a lot of that.
Simply put, they would have to consort to the lowest form of human interaction.
It would no longer be lovemaking or even sex, but just fucking. A duty, a game.
All Bill's fault.
Don't fool yourself! Nothing's ever all anybody's fault! Alice was to blame as well, as could be
evidenced by the tiger. This connection screams "whore!" But I think Kubrick
was just trying to say "These are humans fucking each other up really royal.
Just because there's no A-Bomb, no 'Singin' in the Rain', no firing squads, doesn't mean
that this isn't the same sort of tragedy. People are both the most evil thing on the planet
and the most beautiful, and it's our job to make a decision and hope we can stick it out."
* * *
A Final Note on Symbolism, Theme, and the Legacy of Kubrick.
Now that we're near the end, let's review some of the symbols and motifs that I picked up
on in this film, and see what they tell us.
MASKS: The first time we see a mask, it's in Domino's apartment, during Bill's first real attempt
at revenge or self-establishment. He straps one on really well here, changing from Dr. Meek
to Mr. Hyde, almost, a slobbering pervert looking for some action. But we know that's not the real Bill,
don't we? Of course the "orgy" scene is fraught with masks and it becomes an oblique vision
of the real world – an entire society built on masks. Is this Kubrick's view of the Hollywood
he so despises? Who knows? Whatever he means by it, it's a beautiful and elaborate image.
By the end, the film's references to masks have become so powerful that this seems to be
a very controlling image and idea. The most important, I think. Sort of Oedipal, even, but I'm avoiding
that as much as possible (ditto for Freud.) Anyway, if masks weren't the primary image,
Kubrick wouldn't have named the movie after them. Masks have eyes that are always wide open
– but they never see anything.
RED: The traditional color for the Devil (though some would say black, and I believe there's plenty
of that, too) and it is very prevalent throughout the film. It's especially present in those places
that lead to Bill's downfall – the Sonata, Somerton, Rainbow – and it is embodied
in the Leader, or Ringmaster, or whatever. Masque of the Red Death?
BLUE: There's lots of blue here, too. Blue seems to be the precursor to red, as in you always
see blue before something nasty happens. As Alice ruins Bill, the bathroom glows an eerie blue
behind her. The gates of Somerton are blue. It sort of dances around with red, almost its yang.
(Of course the real contrast of red on the color wheel is green.) I've also heard that blue in dreams
simply stands for "emotion." Note that Alice owns a blue nightgown –
perhaps Kubrick equates her to emotion and Bill to sensuality. I found another reference about
symbols at the library, and it said that blue is often used to stand for the female. Which makes sense
in this film, up until we see Milich wearing a blue suit. *shrug*
CIRCLES: The whole circle thing, well, I think I need to see the movie once more. I spent
so much time looking for red that I probably missed a few circles. The circle plays a big part
in the orgy scene, and we see it again in the toy store at the end, but otherwise I saw none.
Revolving doors at the hospital, too.
BALD MEN: It took me a while to get this one, but a good netizen out there pointed it out
– remember the first scene of Full Metal Jacket? The boys were getting
their heads shaved, losing their identities. The same thing goes here. Milich complains
that his hair is disappearing and all of the men at Somerton seem to be cueballs.
Ergo, Bill is pursued and helped along by men with depleting personalities, who will soon
be little more than masks themselves. I'm not sure what this says about Patrick Stewart
or Me'shell Ndege-Ocello, but it works. Freud (though I'm saving that for another essay)
said that dreams about hairloss were actually dreams about castration...
DEATH and CORPSES: This seems to be another controlling image, but the whole thing
is very mysterious. In both cases we know little about the corpses Bill comes into contact with,
but for some reason they both push Bill's swing and get him moving in some way. What is
the fascination? What does Kubrick equate death to? Prostitution? Infidelity? Perhaps these
corpses were the ultimate victims of their masks... Anyway, it all seems to follow Kubrick's idea
that reality is fake and that dreams are real. Perhaps Bill's fears of death and truth are the same...
TRUTH vs. LIES, ETC: There's a lot of dialectics that go on in this film. Good versus evil should exist,
but no one is truly good here, except for Helena, but only because she doesn't know about the evils
of the world. Even the heroes are hookers. But it goes beyond that. Kubrick puts forth a meditation
on the nature of the truth – everything's subjective, apparently, as Alice thinks that dreams
don't really mean anything and Bill thinks they do – but it's actually sort of vague as to who
believes what. There's simply, like in Hamlet, a theme of seeming versus being that runs throughout.
There are plenty of examples and they sort of run side-by-side with the death images and the masks
and costumes. It's another very complex idea.
CHRISTMAS TREES: Since so many people asked about this, I decided to note the symbolism
of all the Christmas trees in the film. Christmas itself sort of symbolizes perverted beliefs and fantasy
here, and the trees are another manifestation of it. They sit in corners everywhere, glowing away
menacingly, dazzling red, and we watch our man Bill get destroyed while in their presence.
And yet, before Bill finally breaks down, we see him do something new: he turns his own
Christmas tree off. Has Bill finally decided that it's time to confess his sins, or to throw his mask
to the ground? Perhaps he has. It could be chalked up to realism, but we all know the Kubrick cocktail
– realism mixed with symbolism. It's a beautiful thing.
THE BRITISH: Eh. You go with who's around. If Kubrick had something against the Britons,
I doubt he'd have holed himself up there for the past forty years.
Eyes Wide Shut refers back to many of the classic dramatic devices that have been lost
from the cinema – those of hubris, of the climactic pattern, of Aristotlean poetics.
Bill, in another way, is an Oedipus character (pre-Freudian sense) who pokes out his own eyes
when he sees what he's done... Like Tiresias, the blind prophet says, "your eyes are open
and you see not a thing."
So what in God's name is Eyes Wide Shut about? I'll leave that up to you, just like Kubrick
would have wanted. All this was was a little exploration, hardly enough. I just wanted to lay some things
out for myself this time. Personally I feel that Eyes Wide Shut is an enormous and powerful
statement about Kubrick's disdain for both marriage and sensuality, for hate and love, for anger and
passivity, for men and women. It's about the nature of reality and artifice – in the final scene
Bill and Alice agree that reality is not real and that dreams are not always just dreams.
"We're awake now," Alice says, but the concept of being awake forever frightens her.
There's way too much in this movie to condense into one paragraph, and I think that's probably
the most important thing about this film. Any way it falls, Kubrick has left us with a wondrous and
imaginative piece of artwork that serves as a fine finish line. Of course we would have all liked to see
Kubrick live forever, but to imagine what he could have done with films is only kidding ourselves.
A.I. would have been beautiful. It would have brought the world together.
Yet, I feel that whoever decides to put it into production is doing the wrong thing.
Especially if it's Mr. Spielberg.
Stanley Kubrick was a genius. He was the greatest director who ever lived, and perhaps who ever
shall live. He was more than a director – he was the last Renaissance man, a true devotee
to art. He was a philosopher with tremendous insight. I had dreams not of meeting Stanley,
or working with Stanley, but instead of impressing a man of his intellectual enormity. I can only hope
this site and the many other sites out there can help make Stanley's legend even greater,
and perhaps we can perpetuate his brilliance on into eternity, but I believe that the questions
that he lets run rampant in our mind – and the beautiful images he created –
are enough to keep him alive and well, tinkering away at the boundaries of imagination.
Thank you, Stanley. You are sorely missed.
For more Kubrick, visit the
Authorized Stanley Kubrick Site.