Monday, February 22, 2021

On Eyes Wide Shut

warning: written hastily and poorly.

First a disclaimer: the rated vers. of this movie is an abomination. don't see it.

What stands out in Eyes Wide Shut, and seems to evade most, is the fantasy element in the movie. That it's based on a novel titled Dreamstory should give that away. It's not just fantasy in storytelling but about the subject of fantasy in its characters. Most get hung-up on wild theories and absurd extrapolations.

Still, it's a personal story and Kubrick's only love story. Its personal having recreated Kubrick's NY apartment home, with the walls adorned with his living wife's artwork. It's personal in that the intimacy shared on screen by its protagonists was real, being a then-married couple, and this choice seems to blend reality and fiction. They even slept together on set in their for-cinema bed, for the on-time during the longest movie shoot in history. The personal nature of the film and its dissection of intimate matters puts you in a strange sort of comfort, along with the theme of Christmas permeating most every aspect of the film. Despite its strangeness and often unnerving imagery, the main thing I take away from the movie is an overwhelming warmth. It did not surprise me, and I felt this beforehand, that many critics can now recognize Eyes Wide Shut as a surreal Christmas movie. It's a strange movie I will argue celebrates the normal.

All this is backed up by the nudity of the opening scene. The "realness" is made more real when the thumping movie score is turned off on screen via an on-set stereo. Sure it is about fantasy, but as with any Kubrick movie it's grounded in reality. The main arch of the movie is in the sexual hangups and issues of jealously that can keep couples apart, but also about the secrecy of individual desire and its ability as a potent source of drive, potentially inciting even Alice to leave her family behind. It's about the suppression of those desires, the suppression of lust that Dr. Bill experiences particularly. This is one reason why I believe the edited version of this film to be one of the greatest sins of all of cinema. The entire film is about dead-end sexual frustration and failed conquests, and the movie climaxes in the middle of the film with an orgy, but the sex while completely decadent counterpoints his quests with its complete lifelessness and emotional detachment. The entire movie is a case of blue balls and the one release is so graphic yet cold, the images of sex are as meaningless as everything else. In the crime against humanity that is the edited version, you are denied the feeling of seeing humanity stripped naked in a stunted release, essentially neutering the entire message of the movie.

Kubrick seemingly throws in so many subliminal messages into the movie it's impossible to spot them all. The most obvious ones come with the hooker, with the 'introducing sociology' book and the newspaper that reads, 'lucky to be alive.' This is something Kubrick seems to have added to movie the movie fun and add to the opacity which is in line with its theme. Kubrick seems to want to you to play into the crisis of mystery his characters are having. This leads to the basic interpretation I've always had of the movie.

While deliberately ambiguous, I believe the story is as follows: Alice talks about art, which Sandor mentions he can help with. Though Alice is faithful to Dr. Bill at least on paper and in his eyes, she gives away a bit early in the movie by answering Sandor with a vague "maybe" during his attempt at sexual conquest. The dream she tells to Dr. Bill is also oddly specific. I believe she was at the party and possibly participated. A nanny is established in the movie, as well as Helena's mention of a watchdog which means her mom could have left her frightened and alone. Dr. Bill is unique in his trusting nature where as Alice sees this is a point of contention and jealously. She does not believe he does not have the same fantasies she does. This could be why she is crying at the end when Bill comes clean, where his misadventures and fantasies are still relatively quaint. Alice's friendship with with Ziegler could also give a plausible explanation for the mask on the bed. Adding to the weight of this, the acting in the sacrificial scene is so over the top I don't think Kubrick would allow it.

The picture ends fittingly reiterating the theme that the totality of their relationship and life experience is not defined by a night but also that fantasy (or dreams) are not necessarily meaningless and can be indicative of a person's true character. If the theory is correct I think it strengthens the film, outside of fun ambiguity, because it undercuts the fantasy elements and you're left with the raw emotional drive of its characters, with the rest of the happenings as an interesting backdrop. It could be about removing the barriers, removing the mask and simply seeing things as they are. Of course, you never know for sure, whether its a high powered sex cult or your significant other's fidelity. But at the end of the movie it's well understood they're awake now. They're normal people but desire is strange motivator that leads you to the doorstep of a hooker with some crumbcake before the splash of water to the face that is hearing she has AIDS and seeing that maybe monogamy isn't the worst. And maybe the mysteriousness of the cult is curious enough without needing a murder story.


I love the woman with the recently-deceased father who attempts to throw herself at Bill, mainly for marrying a teacher who looks like a poorer, soap opera version of Tom Cruise. The scene is even lit like a soap except for Bill, who of course is only there to provide the perfect words and comfort to deal with loss that her boyfriend cannot.

269 address as Domino asks Dr. Bill to “come inside” with her. 

Some post on Reddit relating it to the 40 Masonic orders that's pretty interesting as a troll if I could ever find the link again. 

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