39 Replies to “Comments for An Analysis of Eyes Wide Shut – Part One”

  1. I am myself a self-described “Kubrick Heavy” yet I still found your analysis of the film to be refreshing, honest, and quite frankly Good! I have read a few other reviews and an analysis from a European by the name of Rob Ager who does very good film analysis himself. Although yours is somewhat different I enjoyed the read and take it as someone else’s interpretation that doesn’t always have to parallel with your own and if taken for what it is can allow one to see things differently. I learned a few things here that I didn’t from others nor from my own observations such as Vitali being the Hierophant, I just hadn’t pieced that one together yet.This is my favorite Kubrik film with Full Metal Jacket a close 2nd, thanks for your amazing review!!

  2. Thank you, Dax. I appreciate your taking the time to comment. If I had to pick a favorite, I would think “Eyes Wide Shut” would be it. Though nearly all the Kubrick films are great. And in that respect it would be difficult to pick a second up in line. Still, if I had to do it, “Clockwork Orange” may be that one for me. The ones I personally return to again and again are “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Clockwork Orange” and “The Shining”. Though I love nearly all the others, it’s those three that seem to have most demanded my attention over the years. “Full Metal Jacket” is a film I’ve felt I needed to take a closer look at. It just hasn’t clicked for me yet. It’s weird that way. I feel like the click is in there somewhere but it hasn’t coalesced for me yet.

  3. Notice how there are TWO places, “the Party” and “the House”.
    Also, how Bill mixes them up in the end, much to Ziegler’s frustration.
    And if you wikipedia “Freemasonry” and look at the bottom, you’ll find the blue Forget-me-not flower that Sandor Szavost has in the pocket on his jacket..

  4. Here’s another note, from a fellow Swedish Kubrickian: There are actually TWO SETS of tennis rackets (or one set in two shapes). When Bill asks Alice about his wallet – in the remarkably messy apartment – the tennis rackets are up against the wall in between the table and the chest of drawers only now covered in their proper sheets. All dressed up, so to speak. I ended up here after trying to google on this find, but it seems noone else has noticed it.

  5. Yes, remarkable in comparison to all the other upper class interiors we see and in contrast to what seems to be the standard. There’s stuff spread all over nearly every table in sight and, when you think about it, who moves around a set of tennis rackets (or a golf bag) and puts them in corners. Bill and Alice seem to be stackers, with poor sense of organisation. “Honey, have you seen my wallet?” These are not tidy people. I believe the apartment indicates this subliminally.

  6. You do realize that this is a movie and Stanley Kubrick intentionally staged the rooms accordingly for a reason and doubt highly it was just to display untidy New Yorkers. Have you never laid something down and then without remembering moved your keys or wallet and then in haste went back to the same original spot only to forget you moved it? How could you confuse Bill with a poor sense of organisation or Kubrick for that matter? Just curious as to why you think that, not that you’re wrong even Kubrick wouldn’t argue with you and he made the film.

  7. Ha! (You ought to see our apartment. Talk about stackers. All the way up to the ceiling. It’s what happens when you have 3 creative types sharing a small space.)

    Just approaching this from a psychological level, the dressing area changes radically, though not overtly, from when it is shown with Alice to when it is shown with Bill. With Alice, it is all her shoes, and I would imagine the rackets are hers. Then with Bill we have all of Alice’s shoes gone and it is instead all his shoes, and a rug thrown in and different pics on the sill and rackets of a different type. The psychology of it presents, in a non-literal way, a married couple sharing the same space but at the same time a little blind to each other and each others effects. This is a way of communicating it visually for the viewer. Then we move out of the more intimate dressing area into the apartment proper, and with that move we have the reversion to a communal space as expressed in Bill looking for his wallet, and the scene where Alice asks how she looks and Bill comments on it without, as she complains, really looking at her. Alice is experiencing some alienation, but Bill is even further removed, as shown with his dressing in the dark and staring out the window. He’s unaware of his own “blindness”. I don’t even think of this as a marital relationship movie, but that relationship is one of the layers and vehicles of the story and comments especially on Bill’s state-of-being in general.

  8. There is some misunderstanding here. I’m talking about Kubrick’s subliminal communication with the viewer. Kubrick staged the rooms intentionally, yes, and that’s my whole point. One can only speculate as to why, but Kubrick apparently wanted stuff placed on every table in their apartment. Who knows why, exactly. Maybe it was just a design choice, creating a lived-in-feel for Bill and Alice’s home. Personally I think Kubrick sees at least Bill as not only naive but also un-organised, a bad chess player if you will. Having read as much about Kubrick as I have, and I’m sure you have as well, its not far-fetched at all to imagine Kubrick seeing a lost wallet as a suitable example of general slopiness. I’m not saying that you’re an idiot if you misplace your wallet, or that Kubrick thought so, I’m saying it fits Bill character. Notice also that he asks about the babysitter’s name even though Alice mentions her as Roz just prior to that. He’s not paying attention, and this I believe is a character trait that is presented to the viewer in every possible way. I’m also of the belief that Kubrick was perhaps more than any other film maker, interested in the audience perception, the idea of spectatorship, and his visuals are therefore intertwined with the subject matter, the characters, etc. In this case, Bill can’t find his wallet in his first scene. He hasn’t payed attention to who the babysitter is. He’s “not even looking” at his wife. They’re also running late. All of this is essential in our understanding of Bill as a relatively dim-witted guy, eventually not at all with the odds on his side in the Kafkaesque circumstance he will find himself in. The wallet is just one of many details telling us this. Though one should always be rational, very little is coincidental with Kubrick. After all, if the apartment would be shiny and flawlessly tidy, as the Nathanson apartment or Ziegler’s house, Bill wouldn’t be looking for the wallet, would he? For that matter, we wouldn’t have any set of tennis rackets or the golf bag. And Bill would feel like a less helpless character as well. I happen to believe Kubrick’s visual strategies work according to this kind of logic.

  9. JMK: Agreed. The changes between certain objects, and also the lighting of the dressing room, are metaphorical in relation to the characters. But I also think the piles of books, CDs, and mess of notes and whatnot on every table, though familiar to you and me, seems to relate to Bill’s lost-and-found wallet.

    DAX, I see you have mentioned Rob Ager so I’m sure we’re on the same wavelength here. Though Ager’s conclusions are too definite and grandiose for my taste, many of his discoveries are impressive.

  10. Exactly. Bill has a certain “blindness” going in his every day life. I don’t think he’s intended to be portrayed as dim-witted, instead he is fairly cocky, has stopped examining and paying attention to many things (probably feeling he doesn’t have much to learn any longer, primed with confidence), and during the course of the movie he’s forced to confront just how switched off he has been. As with the old story of having to remove the beam from one’s own eye before removing the mote from the eye of another, which is the brunt of the episode with the two women at the party who speak of taking him beyond the rainbow, after reminding him he had removed dust from the eye of one of the models. He works so hard and possesses so much knowledge, as they say–and yet he is blind.

  11. re: “stacking”
    You see similar sloppy ad hoc object organization in The Shining with stacks of books on every available surface in the Torrence’s apartment(s). I also noticed that Ziegler keeps a stack of books next to the red chair in his green bathroom. I would bet the Kubricks’ home was similarly organized … I know mine is!

  12. 7 LS NY Street and Residential Highrise (00:50) http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-cPcVyiUbUnw/T6RWgisS-UI/AAAAAAAABO0/XotOXzVCbyk/s400/remo.png

    The shot is interesting for another reason, because it is used again near the end of the movie. One can see it is the same image as the first because a man sits, slouching on a street side bench (screen left). The message seems to be a playful reference to the movies source material, Traumnovelle, which means dream-book. and such is the normal assessment of this apparent editing redundancy, that Kubrick implies the entirety of Bill’s misadventure is only a bad dream, and that he has not even ventured outside the walls of his own home.

  13. The two tennis rackets in the intro could that be a link to Bills vision of the navel officer scenes where in the backround (in first and second vision) you can see a tennis ball.

  14. This film also is a dream nightmare for Tom cruise as well as Bill. It seems to be a nightmare for Tom cruise in which he’s worst fears come true/confront him:

    1) Fear of people questinoning of Tom cruises sexualtiy (recall the teenage kids who call him gay and at the time there were fierce rumors of Tom crusie being gay by the media)

    2) Fear of his wife (Nicole Kidman) cheating on him ( Navel officer scene implies connection to Scientology “Sea orgs” who have almost identical unifrom as the navel officer *see google images for “sea orgs”*) also rumors in media back then that Nicole Kidman had affair.

    So what you have is a parrallel in the film of both Tom cruise and the charactor he potrays both going through their own personal nightmares in the dream imagery. Art imitating life and vice versa.

  15. HAL9001, the shot is the same but not. In section 7 I note,”431 LS Exterior of the Harford’s residential building. (1:51:58) This is almost a repeat of shot 7 only a few moments further along. In shot 7, the cut away is made when a man in a white jacket is crossing the street to the right and a taxi approaching. This shot begins with that taxi passing before the camera and the man finishing crossing the street.”

    Have you read “Tramnovelle”? I’ve read it and maybe something was lost in the translation but though the protagonist’s wife dreams, there is nothing I see to indicate that his experience was a dream. He experiences things that seem dream-like to him but are never revealed as having been dreams and the book’s closure doesn’t indicate that we are to interpret the entire novel as having been a dream. At the same time, as with “The Shining”, there are so many things in the movie that are not realistic, that only appear to be realistic but change, though the movie has the appearance of realism, it’s got an allegorical and surreal edge.

    There’s a tennis ball? OK, interesting. Later in the film the tennis rackets appear again in the dressing room and are sitting with the black enclothed objects.

  16. Yeah, my thoughts have been that Kubrick made his choices re actors based also on factors that hadn’t only to do with acting and box office draw. It’s also funny to hear Cruise in interviews speaking about the experiences he had with Kubrick and calling his wife “Nic” when we have Nick Nightingale as being the mysterious character who assists in drawing him into this alternate, hidden world, and who seems also to be linked with Victor at least etymologically. In “Traumnovelle”, I’m not even sure the character is even referred to as a naval officer. I’d have to look at it again but he’s spoken of as having been in the company of two naval officers. If I remember correctly he’s identified as being the person with the yellow suitcase. So, I’m not even sure that he was a naval officer in the book. But he is one here, I believe for several reasons, and could be that Sea Org/Hubbard’s taking to the ocean in his ships was one.

    I know a lot of people don’t like what Tom Cruise did with this role but I’d no problems with his performance.

  17. The part where Bill is being led by the two women to “where the rainbow ends…” is kind of a parallel to the scene in Lolita (Kubricks film) where Lolita in the play with another girl drags the Horned boy and says “ Look, Semiramis, look! Yes, the goat removeth his horns.Let us take him to the Dark Kingdom. Yes. To the Dark Kingdom, away, away!” ===“Why, good evening, Dr. Humbert! Miss Starch! Good evening!- Did you enjoy the performance? – Very much. I enjoyed every minute of it.I wondered if the symbolism wasn’t heavy-handed at times.” http://i43.tinypic.com/534a35.jpg and http://i43.tinypic.com/14tbk28.jpg

    A nice little Easter egg by Stanley Kubrick to parralelel those two scenes and movies particularly as both lolita and eyes wide shut both share the same themes in terms of sexual exploits (also nice nod to Milichs daughter).

  18. I agree, there is a parallel.

    What wonderful stills, as well. Have not watched that scene in “Lolita” in a while.

  19. I just recently saw a original 35mm print screening of Eyes wide shut in london and was amazed to see how different it looked from the DVD/Blu ray . The orginal 35mm is so grainy and the colours are very supersaturated especially the blacks,blues and oranges and too add to the Christmas lights are smudged onto the canvas. The whole point I think is that the orginal 35mm print that Kubrick intended was supposed to look dream like and hence all the grain and saturation which unfortunately did not transfer well onto the DVD/blu ray which seems to have digitally removed the grain and some of the colour which is a shame.

  20. Re: The film image, I have a DVD from the Kubrick Collection, which I watch on a PS2. Every 10 seconds or so, the image switches between digital smooth and analogue grain. It’s like a constant battle for supremacy, the digital always trying to assert itself, with the natural analogue still down there somewhere, awaiting me to “take another look.”

    As to the silver haired man, may I suggest Ted Kennedy? He was married twice. The film’s first lady disappears just as Alice’s drinking problem is revealed.

  21. The woman who plays Gayle (Louise Taylor) who says ‘To where the rainbow ends’ had a single tv movie role before eyes wide shut in the 1998 film. It was called ” Alice thought the looking glass”. Take a look at the films poster here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167758/

    Can you see the connection? Rainbows and Alice? Knowing Kubrick he probably purposefully chose her say the “where the rainbow ends ” line.

  22. Hi Juli,

    great work! I was just wondering if you’ve been able to find out the title of some of the books placed on the desk by the mirror in picture 51, the picture where Alice looks at herself naked in the picture. I can see there is a biography of Lord Longford, a book entitle “by desire”, another book from Wilbur smith entitled “Rage”. thanks. can you read the title of the other books, cause I cant.

  23. Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall (1977) has many similarities and can be seen almost as a spiritual prequel to Eyes wide shut. I know Stanley Kubrick was a big fan of the film when it came out and used it as a basis for EWS. One line that particularly stands out in Annie Hall is: “You are using the Conspiracy Theory as an excuse for not having sex with me!”. This basically summarises what eyes wide shut is all about in which bill Hartford is getting caught up in his own fantasy involving fantastical conspiracies (look at the sommerton orgy/paranoid beauty queen killed/getting followed by Ziegler henchman) which he is making up just so he does not have to go face his wife alice and have sex with her (until at the end of the film in which alice forces him to when she says “something important we have to do…FUCK”).

    Here are some more interesting facts that point to the Annie Hall/ eyes wide shut connection:

    1) Woody Allen was supposed to play bill Hartford originally but Kubrick was not able to get him so he turned to Tom crushes instead. http://www.imdb.com/news/ni0068416/

    2) In Annie Hall there is a scene involving smoking pot almost exactly like eyes wide shut and wearing same clothing type as well.

    3) Diana Keaton in the film resembles the character of alice played by Nicole Kidman in not only appearance but also in profession in which she used to work in a art gallery (showed the first date on the roof).

    4) Interestingly Shelly Duvall (Wendy in the shining ) is in the film playing one of the girlfriends. (This was her role before the shining) which Kubrick saw the film and got the idea to use her in the shining.

    5) Woody Allen just like Tom Cruise had his own personal marriage problems. If you remember the huge scandal in the 90s in which Woody Allen split with his wife because he was having an affair with his adopted 18 year old Asian stepdaughter (maybe a nod to Milich and his daughter with the Japanese men which Kubrick slyly wrote in the script which he kept even after Tom cruise came aboard). Either way its obvious that Kubrick wanted the role of Bill Hartford to be played with someone who was having real life marriage problems (either woody Allen or Tom cruise would have done).

    Anyone who has not watched Annie Hall should go do so it really is almost like a companion piece to Eyes wide shut.

  24. Really nice analysis. I liked your attention paid to the cross fades. I am curious to know if it is possible to figure out all those items that are deliberately out of focus in many of his films.

  25. Hello,
    The shot 31 (Bill between Gayle and Nuala) remind me the shot 527 of Clockwork Orange, it seems an inverted parallel here. The two characters (Bill/Alex) are drive by two uniforms (model/police). The difference is in the direction, Bill is frontside, Alex is backside. We know Alex will have the head in the water, and then will walk under the rain, Alex go to the rainbow (he lived for violence, Bill will live/think for sex).
    The tandems (models or police) remind me also the twins sisters.

    1. The tandem echo between those two shots hasn’t stood out strongly to me, but I think you’re right. If you go back and look at the analysis for CO again you’ll see I’ve made some changes (I put up a revision, with screen-grabs for all shots) and 527 is now 531. In support of what you’re saying, you’ll see I added in an extra shot of a rainbow flare effect that occurs a couple times when Alex is being led toward the trough by his two old droogs. With another director it would be a fluke possibly, but with Kubrick there is the rainbow in every film.

  26. you write “Occupying center stage status is a framed photo of Alice in wedding white and veil”. are you sure it’s a picture of Alice? it looks like a framed postcard of a painting. I thought it could be a painting from Chagall (he Painted a famous painting of a bride entitled “La Mariee” which looks like it).

    1. No, it’s not the Chagall painting, though her figure is reminiscent of it. As best as I can tell it’s intended to be a wedding photo of a bride, presumably Alice.

  27. in the scene where we see Alice dancing naked in front of the mirror there´s a pile of books. have you been able to find out the title of those books? it looks like one of them is entitled “Lord Longford”. but it’s difficult to read the titles of the other books.

    1. A reader by the name of David wrote me that the books are:

      “Rage” by Wilbur Smith
      “Lord Longford” by Peter Stanford
      “By Desire” by Sam North
      “In a Glass House” by Nino Ricci

      He said there was also one other that he couldn’t make out.

  28. Re: shot 52…

    Mandy’s ring appears to be a crystal-topped snuff ring. Similar to this:


    On the Blu-Ray version of Eyes Wide Shut, one can clearly see the hinge line where the top of the ring opens up. This ring would be an excellent place for Mandy to keep her powdered narcotics… Seems like an appropriate Kubrick detail.

  29. As to your question about the mirror in shot 54, you can see the black coat on the chair and the white rug next to it. Tom Cruise’s legs can also be seen in the mirror. The mirror must be angled downward so the shape at the bottom is just the edge of the desk. In the mirror you can see the shadows of one of their heads when they are making arrangements to bring Mandy home. Interestingly, this shadow is not really clear in actuality on the desk, but the mirror perhaps is not reflecting the shadow but the dark reflection of an actor’s head in the shiny wood.

  30. The mirror is angled down, but there is no white rug? At least I don’t see a white rug? Can see the lower figures of Sidney and Tom and what appears to be the black jacket on the chair but am still clueless about the white. Just baffled by that part of the reflection. Which is not a big point. I’m just baffled.

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