Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Eyes Wide Shut (A 25 Days of Shitmas Post from Mass Graves Pictures' Manny Serrano)


From the opening frame, Kubrick is already messing with your head, starting the film off with a nude Nicole Kidman. He gets your attention, immediately. He delivers on the promises made in the trailer (granted, he had nothing to do with that because he was already dead at that point), which said you were about to see the sexiest film ever. But, as time went on, you realized that’s not what he gave you; they just didn’t know how else to market this story of infidelity, desire, obedience, classism, the occult, and of course, death. 


(Art via Kathryn Macnaughton)

Anyone who knows me, knows I am obsessed with Kubrick and his symbology, specifically like many Kubrick fans, The Shining. Many call Eyes Wide Shut Kubrick’s lesser film, some say it’s his worst, while others claim it the best. I believe The Shining is his best, with Eyes Wide Shut a VERY close second; 2001, Clockwork Orange and Lolita shifting regularly in line, depending on my mood. Full Metal Jacket... Much like Kubrick felt, I love the first half, but the second half is not what he intended and I feel it’s obvious the studio took the wind out from under his sails on it. But, I digress. I’m going to enter this, assuming you have seen the film. If not, beware there are many many spoilers ahead, and you may want to give it a watch before reading this, if that sort of thing bothers you.. So, onto our plot!

In Eyes Wide Shut, Bill (Cruise) and Alice (Kidman) Hartford lead a typical, upper class, New York yuppie lifestyle (Cruise is even wearing Uggs in 1999) which affords them plenty of luxury, but not much
interaction. They have other rich friends, who throw lavish parties in their ridiculously oversized Manhattan apartments. Bill and Alice are separated to socialize at Victor Zeiglers’ party, and Bill is hit on by two models who offer to take show him “where the rainbow ends.” 






Bill is then called upstairs during one of such parties to tend to an overdosed girl. He is escorted away from the ladies by a tall man in black, to Zeiglers private bathroom, where there is the naked overdose victim, along with a now-dressing Victor Zeigler. Bill is thanked, then asked to keep hush-hush about it, and sent on his way. That night, Bill and Alice, reeling from the sexual advances towards them both, go home together and have sex. This is now where we see how dull and boring their lives truly are. One night, they get high together in bed and end up in an argument. These scenes are the first moments where the Rainbows disappear. What Rainbows..? I’ll get back to that in a moment. 

After the fight, Bill reels throughout the streets of New York, quite upset from the argument. He crosses the paths of hookers, pedophiles, and a group of twenty-something’s who echo the public’s thoughts of the 90’s; that Cruise himself was gay, and married Kidman to hide it. Dr. Hartford comes across a friend of his playing at a night club (same pianist from Zeiglers party) and overhears his phone conversation of his next gig for the evening, at another party. So, Bill finds his way to this event, only to realize this one is a little different. 

There is a password to enter the home, and all of the attendees are men in black cloaks and masquerade masks and hookers, also in masks, literally fucking on top of everything from a pool table, to an ottoman, to a piano. They figure out he’s not supposed to be there, threaten him, and send him on his way. The rest of the film deals with Bill suffering the consequences (or perceived consequences) of his actions; he saw something he shouldn’t have, and no one is happy about it. 


Eyes Wide Shut, much like The Shining, is multi layered. Beyond the story you see, is the story you don’t see. From the beginning, we see Bill and Alice do not spend an extraordinary amount of time together, and while married, almost live two completely separate lives. Bill is a doctor (hes a Doctor Bill.. clever) and Alice is a house wife. While he cares for his patients during the day, she tends to their daughter, runs errands, shops, etc. At the end of the day, they spend an exhausted few moments together which accentuates the true distance between them, even when right next to each other. Life has become routine, and when they are forced to socialize, they put on their happy face masks, and pander to the society they are part of.



One of the major underlying plots of the movie is beauty, sex, and its perception. Many of Alices’ scenes are spent in some state of undress or in front of a mirror. The fight the beautiful power couple have stems from the models he was speaking to, and the older gentleman who was propositioning Alice at the party. They get on the subject of sex, and how men and women find their attractions in different ways, Bills opinion seemingly to be a very typical male opinion in saying “women just don’t think like that” which sets Alice off, detailing a time she lusted heavily after another man. This theme is explored further in the orgy scenes, and all of the women Bill comes across through his journey. His perception of them is also, typically male. All women are attracted to him, and he can have them at any point in time. It is his feeling of dominance, when the reality is that they control him with their sexuality. Sex dictates everything in this film, and it is shown as inherently something men strive for, and women are the gatekeepers of. 



With this as our opening subtext, Kubrick digs deeper with subconscious imagery hidden in plain sight: The Star of Ishtar (Ishtar being the embodiment of Venus) is seen all over the party, and finds its way behind many of the characters who drag Bill into the underworld, a Scientology book as Bill talks to a prostitute, a newspaper headline describing the truth of the situation he is in (prefacing exactly what Zeigler will say to him), even the women he encounters, all share similar feature to his wife, Alice, and each of them control him with sex in their own ways, as he struggles mentally to maintain control over his thoughts of Alice. But, one of the most significant symbols of the whole film has to be the Rainbows.

The film takes place during Christmas time, which easily allowed for many different types of lights to be strewn about the scenes. Rainbows, and rainbow colored lights specifically, are in almost every single scene throughout the film. The rainbows symbolize Bills safety. They symbolize the world he knows and lives within. They symbolize his personal bubble. The scenes where Bill is shown the seedy underbelly of the world he didn’t know existed, which would be where the rainbow ends, and the lights disappear. Specifically the dark ritual room, the overdose in the bathroom, and the moment of Bills second warning from the elite to stay away, among other places. 


These are the moments where Bills world is destroyed. Living in upper class society, he looks down on the middle and lower classes, evident by how whenever he wants something done, he tells them “it’s okay, I’m a Doctor” (as if that makes him more trustworthy than your average person) and throws money at the individual. Money is clearly no object to him, but he understands the power it holds over others, until he clashes with those who do not need his money. That is the point where Bill is treated the way he treats others; with suspicion and intimidation.


In one of my absolute favorite moments of cinematography, directing and editing genius, near the end of the film, Bill is called by Victor Zeigler to come by his apartment. This scene takes place immediately after he finds the woman, who saved his life from the masked men, dead in rainbowless the morgue. He arrives at
Zeiglers home. We pass a rainbow colored tree, rainbow archways, and figurative waterfalls of beautiful shimmering lights. Bill walks towards the camera, escorted by the same tall man in black as earlier. The man leads bill down a hallway, passing the camera, and we now follow them past all of the Stars of Ishtar we saw earlier, only they are suspiciously dark now. More rainbows are then seen up ahead of them, and the escort turns them left, directing Bill into Zeiglers’ billiard den. This room has no rainbows either; symbolically, Bill was tricked into entering it. The apartment was shrouded in rainbows, indicating safety, and then he is sent into this room, the door is closed on the rainbows behind him, and Zeiglers’ true colors show through, as one of the men who may be responsible for the death of the girl, and the intimidation he’s been experiencing. 



Zeigler tells him the men at the party are rich, powerful men who do not take his intrusion lightly. If he found out who was actually under those masks, his entire world would change. Victor ensures him that the whole display of the girl saving his life was for his benefit, a kind of show to scare him off. But seeing as she is dead now, Bill doesn’t buy it. Bill returns home after this confrontation, shaken and upset. He walks through his home, towards the rainbow lit tree, and turns the lights off. As if to say, the blinders are off and his bubble has burst. He thinks he finally sees the world for what it truly is, and that is when he given the final warning of the true power these men hold over him. He breaks down and decides to tell Alice everything, as they spend the night discussing his ordeal. 





The next day, they walk through a Toy Store, seemingly the most festive of places throughout the film, and yet it is seemingly absent of rainbow colored lights. They walk through the store, contemplating their next step, and they mutually decide to move on with their lives, now that their eyes are open andare awake to it all. But the truth is, they’re continuing to lie to themselves about reality, as the re-emergence of the rainbow lights indicate that the bubble is still intact. They move on with their lives, Eyes Wide Shut.
In the final line, Alice says to Bill “You know what we need to do? Fuck.” And with that line, you can start the movie over seamlessly, and watch it again as a loop, going straight to a nude Kidman, where we began. With their blinders on, it is only a matter of time before the veil is ripped off again.
If you are of the camp who never truly enjoyed this film, and felt there was something missing, or just didn’t enjoy it, try it again. And this time, look for the Rainbows. 


(Art via Sam Smith) 

- Manny Serrano 
Mass Grave Pictures

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