My interpretation of Eyes Wide Shut

When i started watching Stanly Kubricks movies, i knew i wanted to do something special on my blog when i finished. That time has finally come, and i’ve been trying to think of the best way to cover Kubrick, which for a filmmaker as prolific as he is was quite the challenge. After getting some advice from Ronan i’ve decided to do a personal take on the Kubrick movies i came to love most. And so i decided to begin with the Kubrick movie i love most, Eyes Wide Shut

At first i was going to try to do a straight review of this, but i decided i would instead present my specific interpretation of the movie, as the exact meaning is ambiguous(And i did a short review earlier). One of the reasons i love Eyes Wide Shut is because for me it managed to be ambiguous without being frustrating. I don’t need the exact point of a movie to be be spelled out for me, but i would like something to go on.

Because i am going to discuss my interpretation of the movie, i will have to use evidence from the film. if you haven’t seen Eyes Wide Shut, this may contain some spoilers. Just warning anyone who may want to see Eyes Wide Shut in the future. And now on to my interpretation of the movie.

I personally felt the movies focus was about the lengths people will sometimes go to hide there desires, and what can happen when hidden desires get revealed. The way the movie is filmed, with an emphasis on color and little use of shadow almost contradicts the dark subject matter of the movie. Most directors wouldn’t have chosen this type of look for a movie as dark as this one, but i believe Kubrick chose to film Eyes Wide Shut this way specifically to communicate the idea of appearances hiding/obscuring peoples darker natures.

One scene that i think personifies this idea best is when Bill enters a meeting place for a possible secret society. It appears to be a mansion, and Bill is welcomed by men in suits and masks. This creates the appearance of something classy, but as Bill goes further into the mansion he witnesses a large group of men in cloaks and masks, and the audience starts to feel something creepy may be going on here. After a while a group of women wearing only masks come in, who after a few minutes each pick presumably one of the men and take them to a separate room. As Bill is lead further into the mansion by one of the women, he sees that they are having an orgy, with some participating and some presumably watching.Some of them are naked, but everybody keeps there masks on. The exotic music that plays during this, combined with the use of tracking shots keeps the movies stylized feel.

I think one thing it is important to note here is the presence of masks. Since this is taking place in a mansion, and the masks they are wearing don’t look cheap either this would imply whoever these men are probably have very lucrative jobs. They could easily be doctors, lawyers, or politicians. People with these types of jobs are usually thought of as proper, classy, etc. But here the are participating in something most people would classy as vulgar at the very least.
Here they are fine with indulging there darker desires, as long as they are able to hide there identity, making sure there appearance in the outside world is kept clean.

Earlier in the movie, when Bills friend mentions that he has to play there blindfolded. When we see what goes on there, it becomes apparent these are people who don’t want there secret activities revealed to the world, which ties in to the theme of of people going to the extreme to keep there appearance untarnished by there own secret desires.And later in the movie a mask is left in Bill’s house with his wife, presumably as a warning from this society. The symbolism of masks, and how they can hide ones identity no matter what one is doing is made out to be a integral part of the the movie.

Further evidence of this idea is presented in the marriage between Bill and Alice. On the outside it seems to be perfect, and in fact both Alice and Bill rebuff potential advances. But this appearance of a perfect marriage is shattered when we learn about Alice’s recent desire for a certain officer. This revelation is a major plot point in the movie, as it caused Bill to try to seek out an affair of his own. This shows one possibility of what can happen when hidden desires are revealed. And later in the movie Alice has another dream involving the officer, this time far more extreme. as she tells Bill this, she expresses guilt over this. In essence, she has become ashamed of her own desire.

There is another pair of scenes that fits into this theme. When Bill goes to buy a costume, the shop owner finds catches his daughter with two Japanese men. In a later scene it is implied the father sold his daughter into prostitution. The daughters own desires gets her into deep trouble when they are revealed.

Obviously, this is all my own opinion, but this is pretty much the interpretation i had after watching the movie. I wold love to hear feedback on this

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26 Responses to My interpretation of Eyes Wide Shut

  1. DEZMOND says:

    Nice post, Dirty!
    I’ve personally never seen the film. Cruise and Kidman just never were a believable and appealing couple to me.

  2. le0pard13 says:

    Very interesting and thoughtful post, Julian. I think I’d like to re-watch EYES WIDE SHUT again before commenting. Thanks.

  3. Tyler says:

    I’ve seen this countless times, and love it. It’s among my fifteen favourite films of all time.

    Although my exact interpretation of the movie differs from yours slightly, I agree with the essence of what you had to say.

    The film is about desire, but I’ve always though it was about dreams, too. Almost every single scene had this dreamlike quality of everything looking normal but just ‘feeling’ slightly off-kilter.

    It’s definitely a movie that’s up for debate, and worthy of numerous rewatches and intense debate.

    • Glad we agree on the desire thing, and i could see how it could have a dreamlike quality. I think i just interpreted that to be some sort of contradiction to the dark subject matter. Or maybe i just wanted it to be :P

      But its definitely a movie that allows for multiple interpretations..

  4. Sir Phobos says:

    I’m with leopard13. I’m going to watch the movie again before saying anything. It’s been years since I’ve seen it. I’ll come back and give you my interpretation unless that’s like 3 years from now and I forget.

  5. haven’t seen it, didnt’ read much past your appreciated spoiler alert, but I can respect the fact and enjoy that you can write about your favorite film from a favorite director. I like Full Metal Jacket quite a bit!

    • Yeah, i honestly didn’t think Eyes Wide Shut would be to your tastes…although if you ever do watch it i would love to know your opinion on it. And Full metal jacket is one of the movies that i plan to do a post it, as it is one of my favorites from him.

  6. rtm says:

    I haven’t seen this one, J, but you surely already know this isn’t for me. But still, it’s great that you’re discussing a movie in such a great depth, I commend that. Perhaps I should do this with a film that I love, too.

  7. Castor says:

    Haven’t seen this flick either. I saw the trailer when it came out many years ago, I don’t even what know what it’s about to this day ahah

  8. MarkusWelby1 says:

    Pretty solid. Not only are we dealing with what happens when desires are revealed, but the consequences of acting on those desires. When Cruise finds out that one of the prostitutes he was almost going to sleep with is HIV positive…….pretty serious moment. Relationships as well as life gets put into jeopardy.

    • I forgot bout that, although i am not sure the movie was against all desire, as it does end on Kidman saying they need to have sex(something to that affect anyway) which i thin k was supposed to be seen as a positive moment

  9. Novroz says:

    Good interpretation. I haven’t seen it yet but you make me curious. I have heard so much about this movie but still have no time to see it yet

  10. Pingback: 7×7 Link Award | DWC

  11. Mark Hobin says:

    I absolutely adore this film. Nice to see I’m not alone because I have always felt like there was a lot of hate toward this film. This was one of the first reviews I did on my blog when hey were just a paragraph long. How things have changed!

    http://fastfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/eyes-wide-shut/

  12. Peter Theroux says:

    Moving on slightly off topic I happen to be a huge fan of Eyes Wide shut and I rank it as probably my favourite film of all time. I have looked at a huge range of analysis of the film and I have even written about it myself and for your benefit I have compiled for you the best analysis of the film I have found for you to have a look at if you are interested (trust me some of the stuff will blow your mind and will probably make EWS more of a masterpiece than ever before)

    1) Here is a link to collective forums where they discuss some basic visual themes: http://www.collativelearning.com/mybb_1401/Upload/showthread.php?tid=1252

    2) This is the big one a shot by shot analysis of the film by juli kearns and is probably the best on the Internet check it out: http://www.idyllopuspress.com/meanwhile/5311/eyes-wide-shut-1/

    3) Finally this analysis covers the conspiracy aspects of the film:

    http://kentroversypapers.blogspot.co.uk/2006/03/eyes-wide-shut-occult-symbolism.html?m=1

    4) Tim krieders brilliant short analysis:

    http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0096.html

    5) Finally this is a dedicated kubrick fan site covering some articles on Eyes Wide Shut: http://kubrickfilms.tripod.com/id56.html and

    http://www.jeffreyscottbernstein.com/kubrick/visualaids.html

  13. Stan says:

    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.

  14. I like your article. I came across this article that discusses the links between the costumes in the movie and the plague? Interesting read for fans of the movie.

    http://legomenon.com/eyes-wide-shut-movie-meaning-plague-doctor-masks.html

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