Go to Table of Contents of the analysis (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).
The most important thing which must be kept in mind with Kubrick's films is there is the surface or principle story and then the internal or sub-story. In many of his films, if we're really paying attention, set elements pretty much immediately destroy the surface naturalism. One may not notice this destruction the first, second or third time one watches the film. Through constructive disorientation and disconnectedness, and sleight of hand as to where our eye focuses, Kubrick, the magician, intentionally obfuscates these elements that destroy the overt and naturalistic story line. The surface story lines are the principle ones, and this is maintained and supported by the intentional obfuscation of the deconstructive elements which keep them sub rosa. At the same time, these deconstructive elements are plainly there, alongside his tremendous effort to make things look real and believable, and once we bypass the disorientation and his purposeful refocusing they become a puzzle, annihilating the sense of reality. This destruction of the film's naturalistic story line is difficult enough to conceive of and accept that most people stop at this point and decide these puzzling aspects of Kubrick's films are errors when they are not. They are part of the art of a director cleverly designing the overt story line to be unimpeded by an internal story that tears it apart. Indeed, the sub rosa elements of the internal story may be discreet but they are enough in evidence to complicate the surface story with an aura of attractive, indefinable mystery, which is one of the reasons viewers return to Kubrick again and again. To work with the "reason" and "why of the internal story line is to try to settle into Kubrick's sensibility, examining how these internal stories form a dialogue in his oeuvre with repeating themes and ideas, elaborated upon from film to film. The internal stories haven't a "plot"; they aren't that kind of story. Instead, you have to be willing to deal with comprehending the themes and ideas represented in them as instead ultimately forming a different terrain for the setting of the surface story, guiding and interacting with the overt story and giving it a new form.
The Impossible Relationship of the Harford Bedroom to the Apartment, and Why it Matters
The first time we see the Harford's exit their bedroom (shot 8), toward the beginning of the film, we are given a shot of the hall outside as they exit it, then we have a cut-away to the next shot.
In shot 9 we then have the Harford's entering the long hall of their entryway.
Kubrick thus establishes for us that the Harford bedroom is to the right in the hall at the end of the entry, and that it would be at the rear of the hall as in shot 8 Bill and Alice exited the bedroom to screen right, then in shot 9 entered the entry from screen left. If the bedroom was not to the rear of the hall, they would have exited it to screen left.
We do not encounter this hall again until Bill returns home from Somerton. He approaches it and does not look to the right, toward where we have been led to believe is the door to his bedroom (and I don't mean that closed door in front of him in the shot below, which leads to an unknown area and is never used). He does not so much as glance in the direction of screen right. Instead, he turns left in the hall and checks on Helena in her bedroom, its position in relationship to the rest of the apartment now revealed.
Again, when Bill leaves Helena's bedroom, he does not so much as glance up toward the end of the hall were Kubrick had led us to believe the bedroom was located. He turns back into the entry.
Bill continues down the entry to the living room, and upon reaching the hall which separates the entry from the living room, he glances left. The clear message is that he is checking to make sure that he will not be seen by Alice when he goes into the office to hide the Rainbow bag with its mask.
However, after having hidden the mask, when Bill is shown entering the bedroom it is through the same door as he had first exited it with Alice, the door next the bed. This is the door that is consistently used in the film.
The next time we encounter this hall is when Bill returns home from his billiard room meeting with Victor. Again, entering the apartment, he does not look toward the hall where Kubrick first instructed us the bedroom should be. Instead, Bill approaches the living room and glances left again as he passes by the hall that separates the entry from the living room. Again, he is checking to see if a door is open, to make sure that Alice is asleep and he is unobserved.
Assured that Alice is asleep, he goes into the kitchen, pops open a beer, and gets a bit sloshed. Guy's had a hard night.
Indeed, if one gives some thought to the apartment, how the master bedroom, the dressing room and master bath fit in, the suite is impossible to place.
First off, we have been shown what we are supposed to imagine is the exterior of the Harford's apartment building, in which they reside on the fifth floor.
It is a massive building. However, as we shall see, the Harford apartment has windows facing north, south, east and west, all directions, which is impossible for such a large building. Now, to examine the layout of the apartment and the two possible and both absolutely impossible relationships of the Harford bedroom to it.
The gray areas of my diagram are guesses, and there are other areas as well which are never seen or are difficult to lay out, but much can be plotted with certainty.
As we observe, the layout of the apartment demands exposure on three sides, not even including the Harford bedroom in the plot, and when we include the bedroom it must have exposure on four sides.
The first diagram shows where the bedroom would be if it is in the position that Kubrick first shows it to be at the film's beginning--down the right to the hall and at its rear. What makes this plotting absolutely impossible, even not taking into consideration that it must occupy an entire floor, is the fact the dressing room has a window on a wall that is interior to the apartment rather than being exterior.
The second diagram shows the relationship of the apartment to the bedroom if we move it so that the bedroom's primary entrance is instead off the hall between the living room and the entry. This goes against what we were shown at the film's beginning, but I am showing that relationship anyway as twice Bill looks toward that hall, making sure Alice in their bedroom is unaware of his arrival home. Again, we see that this positioning of the bedroom is impossible in relationship to the rest of the apartment. Again, the dressing room's window is on an interior wall rather than an exterior one.
Even if we go back up to the first diagram and turn the bedroom 90 degrees counter-clockwise so that its primary door opens on yet another unseen hall, that is still an untenable arrangement. The apartment requires exposure, again, on all four sides, doesn't fit into a rectangular layout, we have a huge blank/zero area behind the entry foyer, off the hall between the living room and entry, and to the rear of the office.
And, besides, and most importantly, our gut extinct at the beginning is not that the Harfords leave the bedroom and turn a corner into Helena's hall, then go into the foyer. Our gut instinct, what Kubrick tells us at the beginning, is that their bedroom is off the same hall as Helena's.
What if the viewer says, "Well, there is a door that leads off the dressing room, and I thought that he was checking the dressing room door"?
If we position the dressing room door so that it is the one that is off the hall between the entry foyer and the living room, the bedroom suite ends up occupying the entry foyer, as well as parts of the kitchen and living room.
In an interview, Nicole Kidman said that not only did Kubrick design the Harford home so that it was an "exact duplication" of his apartment before he left New York for England, even the furniture, but after its decoration he had told her to add things from her own home to the bedroom to make it feel to be her own. I would imagine this supposed "exact duplication" was of the apartment the Kubricks were living in at 84th and West Central Avenue when filming of 2001 was begun, as by the time it opened they were in a mansion (I read) and then they moved forever to England after some years of a transition that had begun even before 2001, during Lolita.
It seems a stretch to say the apartment would have been decorated as one in the 60s had been, down to the furnishings, but perhaps to the degree that the 90s permitted and wouldn't look odd. As a legend though, maybe with some element of truth, Kubrick's giving the bedroom no fixed place and encouraging Kidman to personalize it is interesting. If Nicole and Tom believed this story to be absolutely true then their characters were effectively, for them, living in a former apartment of Kubrick's, via the duplication, and one wonders what affect that would have on their performances. And for Kubrick, if this is partly true, he would have been returned to a very personal geography and perhaps memories of 2001. Also, this would have mixed with childhood memories, as his father was a physician, as is Bill.
If the apartment is based on the one in which they still lived while filming 2001, they were in a penthouse at the time, so the fact that there are windows north, south, east and west makes sense, but the number of windows doesn't make sense according to the logic of the building in which the Harford's are living, as observed in shot 7. That building is massive, they are on the 5th floor and would not be occupying its entirety.
Why does it at all matter, even the slightest bit, that it seems impossible to orient the Harford's bedroom in relationship to the rest of the apartment? Well, it matters because first Kubrick indirectly says where it should be. It matters because every other room we are shown of the apartment--the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the halls, the office, Helena's bedroom--are all explicitly placed, we are shown the Harfords entering or exiting these rooms without cut-away shots so we know exactly how these rooms are positioned in relationship to each other.
Yet the Harford's bedroom, arguably the most important area of their apartment, where most of the action in the Harford apartment takes place, the domestic heart of the film, is never given that same explicit orientation. The camera never follows them from another area of the apartment into the bedroom. Instead, there is always a cut-away, and then we are shown only a tiny bit of hall outside their bedroom door when the bedroom is exited or entered.
It matters because Kubrick seems to place the bedroom in one place (never mind how impossible an arrangement that may be) and then changes it so that when Bill returns home he never checks the bedroom suite's entrance that is supposed to be on Helena's hall. He instead checks a door off the hall between the entry and the living room.
Kubrick purposefully disorients the viewer, even if we're unconscious of it, even if we accept what we are shown, what we are supposed to believe, because the Harfords are at ease with their apartment, just as the Torrance family is at ease with the Overlook Hotel which abounds with impossible geographical relationships. Indeed, the viewer is intended to believe what is suggested as being real (no matter how irrational), and then Kubrick tosses in irritants that grate the flesh of the snail in its shell. If the viewer is not at all consciously aware of some disorientation, Kubrick makes certain to show us we should be questioning what's going on with the bedroom by having Bill check on the door off the hall between the entry and the living room, something Kubrick need never have had him do, and he has him do it not just once but twice.
Eyes Wide Shut, as with The Shining has its share of peculiar and impossible spatial relationships. The viewer struggles over the big mysteries of the film, often ignoring others which are not simple continuity errors, nor are they simple obligations for suspensions of disbelief. Kubrick would not had us question the position of the Harford's bedroom in relationship to the apartment by having Bill twice check the door off the hall between the entry and the living room if we were supposed to be simply accepting whatever Kubrick threw at us via the agreement between the film and the viewer to allow simple suspension of disbelief. Instead, he is instructing the viewer on how to watch his films, to examine and re-examine them, to question once, twice, what is there on the surface and look beneath. And also displaying the skill of Kubrick as not only a director but a magician.
When, at the end of the film, we are in the toy store, Bill and Alice pass by the display of a game called "The Magic Circle". There are many ways to read this, and one not to be ignored is Kubrick as the magician, who constructs what many assume to be a simple dreamlike tale of a couple struggling to reorient their relationship, or a peculiar mystery concerning a too theatrical "orgy", artfully mounting these stories in settings that are patently impossible, and pulling it off so that many don't question the foundational mysteries. Which, however, he wants us to question. Or such is my belief, that he wants us to be briefly taken in, then realize we have been taken in, and double back and question not just how the rabbit trick was managed, but the meaning of it and the relationship of the rabbit and the hat to the entire stage.
Bill's not looking at all down the hall in the direction of where his bedroom supposedly is, not even giving it so much as a glance, is much like the scene in The Shining when Danny, entranced by Room 237, dismounts his Big Wheel to try the door, then getting back on his trike and cycling down the hall stubbornly keeps his eyes down and averted from the plainly open door across the hall.
If he looked, he would only find there's no room there. In Danny's circuit of the second floor, just shown, Kubrick plainly showed there were no rooms, no space for them, to go with the doors on the right side of this hallway, that there is only air on the other side, the spacious upper reaches of the Colorado Lounge.
What that open door might mean for the character of Danny, who doesn't see it, is one thing. What that open door means for the audience, who doesn't see it, is entirely different. The open door is obviously there, and yet through Kubrick's sleight-of-hand magic the audience overlooks it. The audience, not seeing the open door, can't question what meaning that open door may have for the character of Danny, as they themselves don't know it's there though it is open in plain sight. Upon realizing the door is open then not only is the question of what that open door means to Danny to be asked, but what it means for the audience, who were plainly shown the door and didn't see it.
Which is why it's important to question these fundamental and peculiar mysteries in Kubrick's films, such as the Harford's bedroom not belonging to the apartment and the apartment not belonging to the apartment building, and why Bill doesn't notice this and why the audience doesn't notice it though they are plainly shown but may not observe for a while what's in front of their eyes.
When you finally see what's been there all along right in front of your eyes, you realize there's much more to the film than what's in front of your eyes. Kubrick's films are littered with many such opportunities to bring attention to this fact.