EYES WIDE SHUT AGAIN
One moment we're looking at Bill Harford in Somerton, blue light glowing on his costumed cape, hearing the Hierophant speak the single word, "Go". Emphatically. Next moment we're looking down a narrow hallway with a table lamp glowing at one end and a door on the left. Sound of lock clicking. Door opens tentatively -just a crack. Doctor Bill's coming home. He picks up the bag containing his party costume which he'd had to put on the floor in order to open the lock. Holding the doorknob, he swings the door open and hesitates 'sniffing the air' -looking to see if anyone's awake. Satisfied that no one is, he steps fully into the hallway, closes and locks the door. He places the familiar chain latch across it and moves down the hall into the doorway of daughter Helena's room looking in on her quietly asleep. Pensive looks and body postures. We can almost here again the warning, "...there will be the most Dire consequences for you, and your Family."He proceeds to an office room and hides his bagged costume in a low cabinet before exhaustedly ambling into his bedroom where Alice sleeps. It's a fade-out / fade-in superimposition to Bill standing in the bedroom doorway with the warm light of the hallway behind him, and the cool bedroom light before him. He steps forward into it loosening his tie, and wades through deep blue hues patterned with darker tones from the shadows. Sleepy sounds emerge from Alice, low groans gradually rising to louder laughter. Bill sits on the bed removing his tie with one hand while the other unlaces a shoe. Alice's laughter is punctuated with giggles and increasing when he reaches over shaking her blanketed shoulder and calling her name. She quickly props herself up with one arm into a sitting position and gasps. Bill apologizes for waking her saying he thought she was having a nightmare. Her hands and arms begin moving in a jumble of gestures, one hand wandering about her face, the other touching her left shoulder. "I just had such a horrible dream," she tells him and asks what time it is. A little after four o'clock he tells her..."...it took longer...longer, ...than I thought." We remember, at that point, that Alice has no idea what's been going on in Bill's nocturnal wanderings, but naively believes he's been with his dead patient, Nathan, and the grieving daughter Marian. "You must be exhausted," she offers him. Quite sympathetically.
Doctor William Harford, clearly confused and mentally preoccupied with the earlier events at Somerton, curls up in semi-foetal position fully clothed except for tie and shoes beside his wife. She reaches over stroking his hair and forehead while he folds his left hand comfortingly into his crotch, -"What we're you dreaming ?" He's not even looking her in the eye when he asks this question. Alice stops grooming him and pulls away making a painful sound in response,"...just weird, ...weird things." Still in his foetal position, hugging his hand and forearm in his crotch with the pressure of his thighs he says: "Tell me." We see his face turned toward the camera as he speaks; we see Alice sitting up and beginning to seriously wake up. There's no enthusiasm, no real interest in the Doctor's voice when he asks his wife to 'tell him' her weird dream. Cruise delivers the line automatically, the way doctors routinely mouth to their patients, 'how do you feel?'. Then, to our amazement (we're like Bill, still preoccupied by the ritual symbolism we've just witnessed at Somerton, trying to digest it -exhausted in the process) she takes him at his word and begins a long narration of her traumatic nightmare-dream. Alice's 'Dream Orgy'.
It's worth noting that throughout this sequence there's no soundtrack other than the natural sounds Bill makes as he opens, shuts, latches the door; the sound of his shoes walking the hallway; the barely audible sound of his hand when he grabs hold of the door to his sleeping daughter's room -as if he needs something to lean on. (Turning his gaze away from her face on the white pillow where it floats in blue light.) Again the sound of his shoes walking toward his bedroom where his partner sleeps. This sort of 'film silence' always heightens the senses as we watch, and it's this exaggerated filmic silence that's broken by Alice's mumbles, by the laughter she emits in her sleep when Bill enters their bedroom. Once he wakes her, the sounds we hear are merely those of cloth against cloth, clothes moving over sheets, the 'whoosh' of Bill's shoe as he pulls it off his foot. These are subtle sounds heard in the lush blu light. Soft, blue sounds. They become the intimate sonic background highlighting the voices of Bill and Alice when they speak, at first slowly and familiarly. But just before Alice sits up in response to Bill's request to tell her dream, just as she tries to dismiss it by saying, "It was...just weird...weird things," a quick inflection of sharp fear and pain enters her voice. And now, for the second time within twenty-four hours, Alice trustingly and openly enters into an account of her inner life to her husband in stark contrast to his repressed and ongoing secrecy.
How does one describe the few moments that follow ? They're the soul of nuance and poetry, they're filmmaking at its best. Tom Cruise as Bill Harford receeds into the vocal background becoming the silent ground of support. His acting is mostly defined as mute gesture, his character role is the repressed Doctor, his only voice -aside from a phrase or two- is his body and the camera. Nicole Kidman as Alice Harford launches a second sustained narrative complimenting her earlier 'Tale of the Sailor'. No theatrics here, she wrenches from her being an honest enactment of the reality she allows herself to live: camera on Alice profiled from the waist up, blue tones flooding her body, right hand pressing her brow. She's conncentrating, remembering, entering into the memory of her dream. She's in the foreground of the camera's view, behind her are two distinct areas of light; the left side and foreground in blues, the right side and background in pale ivories pouring in from the open door to the hallway. She begins:
"We were ... we were in a deserted city...and [ almost inaudibly music begins to hover down from invisible aethers -strings momentarilly calling to mind Wagner's descent of the Grail ] and our clothes were gone. And...and I was terrified...[ her hands and arms are conveying scattered, incomplete movements here and there like gusts of wind scattering dead leaves ] and I...and [ edit to Bill close-up, lying with eyes closed on the purple sheet ] I felt ashamed, [ partial silhouette of Nicole's head, loose strand of hair, appears on the sheet next to Bill's face; camera returns to Nicole alone ] ...O god, ...and I was angry because I thought it was your fault. But you, -you rushed away to go and find clothes for us. Soon as you were gone it was completely different. I ... I felt wonderful [ but her tone of voice is plaintive, sad, a little 'guilty' ] ...
Then I was lying in a beautiful garden, stretched out naked in the sunlight [ she's sobbing ]...And a man walked out of the woods [ here she's distressed, covers her face completely with her hands ] ...he was...he was the man from the hotel, the one I told you about...the Naval Officer....he, -he stared at me- and he just laughed [ the warm ivory-gold light of the doorway has been in the background framing Alice, covered in blue light, while she's been narrating her dream, but now she flops down face-first into the purple pillowed sheets of the bed, and the camera follows her. We see Bill in the forground as she sobs into the pillow ] he just laughed at me."[ Bill sits up while Alice keeps her face in the purple pillow. Now he's the one framed in the ivory-gold light of the doorway when he speaks ] "But that's not the end. Is it." "No," says Alice into the pillow. Gently, and with a doctor's cold analytical curiosity he urges her, "Why don't you tell me the rest of it." "It's ... it's too aweful," she tells him. "It's only a dream," is Bill's response. [ She sits up again and holds Bill -her back to camera, his face over her shoulder facing camera. We see he's deep inside himself, eyes staring inward, mouth just slightly open. Only the lips are parted. Alice continues.] "He was kissing me ... and then ...then we were making love. Then there were all these other people around us. Hundreds of them -everywhere- everyone was fucking and [ Camera cuts to Bill's face, bathed in blue light with only blue background -more space between his lips.] and then I ... I was fucking other men ... so many, I ... I don't know how many I was with. And I knew you could see me [ Camera shifts perspective again; Bill bathed in blue, full face in camera, back of Alice's head. Bill's lips have opened just a bit more, enough for us to see the edges of his bottom teeth.] in the arms of all these men ... just kissing-fucking all these men. And I wanted to make fun of you -to laugh in your face, ... and so I laughed ... as loud as I could. That must have been when you woke me up."
This deftly beautiful but brief scene ends with Alice reaching for Bill again, grooming him, affectionately moving her fingers through his hair, sobbing. They are framed once more, as the scene ends, in the blue tones of the bedroom with the warm ivory light of the doorway behind them, their faces looking out of the frame in opposite directions. We leave them there as they fade down into black while the next scene fades up. It will be Bill exiting a cab on a busy street next morning. But again, I want to stop the narrative unfolding of the film-story to point out a few things.
The team of Cruise, Kidman, and Kubrick -not to mention all the rest of the film's crew- achieve something quite remarkable in this scene. The French have a phrase, 'mise-en-scène' referring to the coming together of lighting, acting, camera work, set design, all the elements that comprise a production in the theatre. And while Kidman and Cruise both excel as performers, there's a lot more going on. It's a 'language' of context, framing, colors that extends the meaning, the revelation of their acting skills into a deeper level of communication. The organizing intelligence behind all this -including the technical post-production editing- is the deliberate intentionality of Stanley Kubrick, the director. What's he doing with this scene ?
I think he's using it to 'frame' Bill's night-time wanderings, his Walpurgisnacht Journey. He's using it as the compliment and completion of the earlier scene in which Alice narrates to Bill her 'Tale of the Sailor'. It was that 'moment' that was INTERRUPTED by the phone call announcing the death of Marian's father which then led in sequence to Bill's visit with Marian, his walking the streets, his episode with Domino, his Sonata Cafe exchange with Nick, his visit to the Rainbow Costume Shop, his cab ride to Somerton, his experience with Fidelio, orgy, secret ceremonies, and redemption. We never see Doctor Bill exit Somerton, the camera simply edits to his entrance at the door of his home. This is followed by his standing in the doorway of his sleeping daughter's room, leaning on the door for emotional support, and after a quick hiding of his costume entering the doorway of his bedroom. Throughout the scene that follows, both he and Alice are deliberately and most gorgeously framed in the ivory light of that doorway which dramatically contrasts with the blue light bathing them and their bedroom. It's in this context that Alice 'completes' her revelations to her husband concerning her and their inner lives. The remaining scenes in the film will be characterized by Bill's 'detective' search to understand all that's happened to him between Alice's first Tale and her narration of her nightmare 'orgy'. Doors and doorways are emphasized in this scene, and I'll return to them shortly. But first, some comments on the 'psychology' of Alice's two narratives and Bill's reactions to them.
Each of Alice's narratives are accompanied by Jocelyn Pook's music written specifically for their contexts in the film. They're predominantly scored for stringed instruments and are of a delicate, subtle, 'romantic-mystical' nature. They serve their purpose beautifully in that they support and enhance Alice's attempts to communicate to Bill something of the importance of the realm of the non-verbal, the realm of imagination and Soul. While the violins serve to 'remind' us of the omnipresence of such 'romantic' scores in the (programming) love scenes of Hollywood Films, Pook's music is continuously suffused with undertones of other than beautiful realms. It's ominous, containing a veiled threat of darkness during its adagio-like plunges through descending chords while it often shimmers and floats in the traditional stringed 'heaven' of lyrical sentiment. Alice's words do the same. Her romantic and genuinely Soulfull love for Bill gives her the courage to speak to him of her dreams, aspirations, fears -her imagination. She pours her heart and mind out to her husband in both these narratives, she shares with him both her yearnings and her shame as well as her confusion. This is in marked contrast to Doctor Bill whose insensitivity literally boggles the mind. We never hear him respond, in either of these narrative scenes, to what Alice shares with him. Bill simply doesn't get it.Not even when his wife's 'nightmare' mirrors the orgy at Somerton he's just witnessed. The very first words of her 'nightmare' -"We were in a deserted city and our clothes were gone," resoundingly reverberates with Bill's night-time street stalking and all the nude sex at the mansion, but he says not a word. Not even when she relates, "Then there were all these people around us. Hundreds of them, everywhere, everyone was fucking...". Bill Harford's just been 'redeemed' by a Mysterious Woman from a life threatening scenario marked by multiple groupings of naked people fucking. A secret scenario to which his knowledge of the word, Fidelio, gained him admittance. But he only knows the word -not its implications or meaning. His wife, brimming over with Soul and feeling, attempts to find with him the key to the realm of Fidelio but he doesn't comprehend. Fidelio is the story of Soul Love, in-depth sharing by two married people in love with each other, yes -but also with the dream of freedom, liberty, and the unmasking of deceit. It's an idealistic, heroic story attaining Mythical-Archetypal status through its presentation on stage as opera, and it contrasts vividly with Bill and Alice Harford living ho-hum lives in their up-scale apartment at Central Park West. Kubrick deliberately invokes this Archetypal realm of Heroic Love through endless references within the film, including his use of Fidelio, his placement of the Cupid & Psyche statue by the staircase in the Zieglers' home, and his decision to have the entire film unfold during Christmastime, the Mythical Season of Love. All those Christmas Trees and decorations found everywhere in the film (except -pointedly- at Somerton) glowing with the full Rainbow spectrum of multi-colored lights keep the Season in the forefront of our consciousness throughout the movie. The Rainbow is populary seen in Western Culture as a symbol of hope, redemption, and love mirroring the message of the Christmas Season itself. But Bill is embarked on a journey to "where the Rainbow ends," and we are going with him as voyeurs -so is Alice; they're a couple.
Two-Faced Guardian Of Doors
( Roman Coin.)
What's this Christmas Season in Eyes Wide Shut ? It's a dark time, the season surrounding the shortest day and longest night of the year (for the Northern Latitudes in which the film unfolds). Winter Solstice, the time of the Saturnalia in the old Greco-Roman cultures whose Art saturates the film. A primal, pagan season invoking the Rebirth of the Light as the Sun 'stands still' at the point which marks its Southernmost journey in the skies, before it turns around and heads back North. It's the time of the ending of one year and the beginning of another, a pivotal time. The Saturnalia invokes the Roman Gods, Saturn and Janus -but Janus is the God of portals, of beginnings and endings, of doorways, of all entrances and exits. Janus proclaimed the Law of the Inviolability of the House -"Yes, that is the password for admittance. But may I have the Password for the House?" In Greco-Roman Religion, Janus is the Divine Gatekeeper, as well as the Guide for journeys on the road. The 'Orgy' at Somerton is a reference to the Roman Saturnalia when the 'masters' were intended to serve the 'slaves' and the whole of the Saturn-Law was turned on it's head in preparation for the coming New Year. That New Year begins with January in honor of Janus. Janus, the two-faced God; one face looking right, the other left. Points of view: from one point of view, we have the closing of the Old Year; from the other, the opening of the New Year. Janus, who looks at once in both 'directions': back toward the past, and forward to the future.
Similarly, Kubrick uses the scene at Somerton in combination with Alice's 'Nightmare Orgy' as the combined, pivotal turning point in his film. The two scenarios are deeply related, one HINGES on the other, and together they create the context in which an epiphany might occur for this couple, a rebirth of light in and on their relationship might take place. Can they, are they willing to "connect the dots" ... "put the pieces together" ... they are at a psychological-spiritual turning point which corresponds to the turning point in the year -Winter Solstice- when the Sun hesitates for that 'instant' while it makes up its mind whether or not to turn around and head North. I repeat: In the Ancient Times, everything HINGED on this instant: would the Sun go down further into the darkness, or would it return ? This is the natural beginning of the New Year for which indigenous peoples all over the globe devised varying festive ceremonies designed to bring the people together in deeper personal and collective relationship with the Cosmos. It was felt that folks had to cry out to the Sun, to bring the Sun back to life, to support the Sun in its effort to return North and shine brightly again. The fires of the Saturnalia, the lighted Christmas Tree, the rebirth of the Light signalling the New Year all refer to this low point, this shortest day and longest night of the year. Our Pagan, animistic ancestors knew that people must feel with the Sun, talk to it, urge the Sun to renew itself as they had to renew themselves in order for a New Year (New Cycle) to begin again. Epiphanies. Can Alice and Bill Harford communicate, can they integrate their differing points of view to revitalize their relationship as their future unfolds ?
All this may seem esoteric again, may seem like very specialized knowledge which no director in his right mind would ever expect his audience to grasp. But is it ? Do we have to consciously, intellectually know something for it to deeply affect us ? Obviously not. Images operate on more than (other than) simple verbal-mental levels. And Kubrick gives us images; he edits out of Somerton where Bill has been unable to give the "Password For The HOUSE", to the shot of Bill's hallway at home where much fuss is made of his opening the door. He shows us Bill clutching the door to his daughter's room, he shows us Bill framed in the doorway to his bedroom. All these doors follow the Saturnalia Orgy at Somerton where the Authority figure of the red caped Heirophant holds the keys of Power as Saturn-Law. He's contrasting the doors and gate of Somerton where the secret group-power reigns supreme with the doors of Bill's private Home to which the Doctor posseses not the 'secret password' but the personal key. Individual personal life versus collective social life. Janus, the God of portals, doorways, entrances into and exits out from the INVIOLABILITY OF THE HOUSE.Now we're ready to see Bill and Alice within the framework of the film's doors. We can return to their scene together in the bedroom where they are bathed in blue light while the frame of the warm, ivory-lighted doorway glows behind them. Kubrick alternately frames one then the other in the foreground of this warm doorway; he choreographs a wonderful diversity of shots wherein they are seen embracing together bathed in the blue light of their bedroom. Alice facing in one direction and Bill in the other. Always, the warmly lit doorway appears behind them when they embrace. Each looks away over the other's shoulder. Rarely, -if at all- do they make eye contact. Their embracing figures framed by the doorway evokes the image of Janus as the turning point in the year. It underscores the importance of this scene as the pivotal 'moment' in their marriage. The images convey all this wordlessly.
Everything hinges on whether or not this couple -individually possessed of differing but complimentary viewpoints- can share and integrate their vision, their experiences. Bill seeks to understand through acting-out in the public world; he goes on an all night binge in search of answers following physical clues he's given by others, finding a written password on a napkin which gains him entrance into the public circle of secrets. Alice seeks to understand through turning inward to her own numinous imagination and dreams. She shares these imaginings and dreams, even her fearful nightmares of shame with Bill, but we never hear Bill respond to her, talk to her about the meaning of it all, or tell her of his hidden-secret journeys. Bill is a literalist; Alice a symbolist. Together, they seek to find the glue that binds them, the Soul of their marriage which is in trouble, if not totally lost to them.
The integrity with which Cruise and Kidman collaborate with Kubrick, the incredibly subtle but highly stylized manner in which all three artists work together to share this vision in the story of the film spilled over into their personal lives giving Eyes Wide Shut an unique 'spin' as a movie. Yes, Bill and Alice are people whom Tom and Nicole bring to life with Kubrick's direction, but that direction is not primarily focused on their subjective psyches so much as it's focused on their Archetypal Characters in the public and Archetypal statement that we call Marriage. Fidelio. Conjugal love and faith within marriage. How fares it in our culture ? What forces impinge on it ? Mandy, the Mysterious Woman, literally saves Bill at Somerton, but can Alice save Bill at home ? Can they both save their marriage ? Can they, in fact, find and 'save' their souls ? Will they follow the example of Fidelio and Florestan fighting against Hidden Tyranny in the World ? Can they grasp together how the financial, political, social milieu in which they live confines them, hems them in on all sides, literally dictates the direction of their shared lives ?
Bill has witnessed something of how these hidden social forces secretly shape sexual-emotional mores at Somerton. He's 'crashed' the Inner Sanctum of powerful and rich people, and whether in Ziegler's bathroom or at Somerton's 'Orgy' he's been sworn to secrecy. It binds him to them. One must not reveal the hidden activities of the powerful taking place behind their mannered social masks. To do so is life threatening. Taboo. He hasn't even told his wife. Secrets separate people from one another, they undermine trust and faith, give birth to the fearful paranoia which is the most effective tool of the criminally wealthy. Alice has a presentiment of these facts which she shares with Bill, "We were in a deserted city and our clothes were gone. And ... and I was terrified, and I ... and I felt ashamed, and I was angry because I thought it was your fault. But you, you rushed away to go and find clothes for us." What is the naked truth ? Must Doctor Harford mask it with clothes and proper manners ? Can Bill and Alice, or Cruise and Kidman, or you and I (for that matter ) dare to face it ?
Concluding the narrative of her 'Dream Orgy' Alice tells Bill she wanted to laugh in his face and so she laughed as loud as she could. But she's sobbing with shame as she tells him; she's holding onto him for dear life, showering him with affectionate touches, grooming him. Bill, throughout the whole scene only holds her mechanically; no grooming, no affectionate touches from him. He's mutely staring inward. Jaw set; the white line of his lower teeth barely visible through thinly parted lips. Masterful work. The Janus couple facing in opposite directions as the New Year approaches heralding the time for the close of the old cycle and the beginning of the new. Bathed in cold blue, framed in the warmly lit doorway. An Archetypal Couple in an Archetypal Marriage within a Culture at a crossroads. Fade down to black with Alice sobbing and Bill stoically staring into space.Fade up. Out of their private, nightime bedroom into the daylight world, the busy streets of New York. Doctor William Harford exits a cab carrying his white costume bag with the word -'RAINBOW'- conspicuously displayed on it in large gold letters against a black background. He climbs the steps to the Rainbow Costume Shop only to find it's still closed. He meanders on to the Sonata Cafe, likewise closed. Mildly frustrated, he enters Gillespie's Cafe for a coffee. It's not an elegant place, just a funky local 'greasy spoon' reminiscent of Domino's apartment. The folks inside are not elegantly clothed, but Doctor Harford is fully costumed in his social image: suit, vest, and tie. The place is 'laid back', but Doctor Harford isn't. He's chomping at the bit, a professional man with a schedule. He eyes the waitress pouring his coffee and presses her with his agenda, "Excuse me, would you HAPPEN (again!) to know when they get in next door at the Sonata Cafe ?" He's beaming his best phony smile, asks if she knows Nick Nightingale. She does. He wants to know where Nick stays. She tells him she knows, but doesn't think Nick would appreciate her giving out his address to strangers. Bill explains that he's got to get hold of Nick. His tone wreaks of urgent condescension. He catches that, tries to sound earnest. Laughs. Embarrassed. The waitress feels his tone, tries to put him off but he'll have none of that. Quickly, he whips out his wallet-cum-credentials: I'M A DOCTOR! And then he does what always comes so naturally to him, he lies again: "Listen, to be perfectly honest (wow!) it's a medical matter." He gives her to understand he has important tests results concerning Nick's health which Nick needs to know about as soon as possible. She hesitates, but decides to tell him. Nick stays in the Hotel right next door. The camera follows Bill out onto the streets and into the hotel's lobby.
The scene that unfolds at this point is darkly humorous, Kafka-esque as the literary folks among us say. The clerk at the desk (Alan Cumming) is portrayed as a 'gay' man. He's busy putting letters in slots as Bill approaches his desk. He turns to face Bill and at the sight of him tries to compose his fluttering hands. To Bill's dry question, he responds that Nick has checked out. Yet again Bill Harford flashes his wallet and Doctor Credentials. A polished gentleman to be reckoned with, to be confided in and trusted. The two men lean toward each other over the counter. The clerk (Bill never asks his name), seeing the handsome Doctor 'up close and personal' likes what he sees. Tentatively, and with blushing eyes he offers, "Well, ...uh... Bill ?" With a nod Bill gives him 'permission' for this lapse into 'familiarity' and the clerk offers that actually he did find something a little strange about Nick's exit. Seems he came in with "...two BIG Men... well dressed... well behaved...But they weren't the kind of men you'd like to fool around with...". Embarrassed by the possible interpretation of that last phrase that's just escaped his lips, the clerk giggles, adding "...if you know what I mean." More nervous gestures of his hands and eyes. Doctor Harford stands back clasping his black gloved hands, detachedly sizing up the situation before pressing onward (with his distinct advantage over the clerk) to get further information. He's serious and concerned, but forces his 'winning' smile. It's so stressed and phony, that one half-expects his face to crack. The clerk picks up on that fact. Alan Cumming, the actor portraying this character, immediately stops the clerk's nervous mannerisms and has him decide to take the matter more seriously. It's as if in telling 'Bill' what he saw transpire around Nick's sudden departure he realizes for himself a brief moment of real concern conveyed with unmannered sincerity. He confides now in Doctor William Harford and admits to himself (he's no longer 'eyeing' handsome 'Bill' when he recollects these events) that he noticed a bruise on Nick's face and, " ...to be perfectly honest (echoing Bill's language with the waitress next door) ...he looked a little scared." He tried to pass an envelope to the clerk, but the men saw it and took it away. They informed the clerk that any further mail arriving for Nick would be collected by someone "properly authorized" to do so, and with that they took him with them out the door. All this happened around five in the morning. Pausing before he leaves, Doctor William Harford manages to formally say, "Well, anyway, I certainly appreciate your help." "Anytime Bill," responds the clerk -with just a touch of his earlier 'flightiness' and a hint of regret. Those of us who emote as voyeurs watching the film naturally feel concern. What's happened to Nick ?Well, if we expect Bill to rush immediately to the nearest phone trying to track down his lost buddy we are in for a fuller revelation of "the good doctor's" character. He doesn't. Resolutely, he continues checking off the items on his agenda. It's time to take his costume back. I'll forego comment on the camera and editing details and take us straightaway to the Rainbow Costume Shop where Bill's greeted by Millich proclaiming, "Oh, the Good Doctor!" He calls Bill's attention to the fact that the mask he rented for the night is missing. Maybe he left it at the party. Bill's response, "I don't think so (he silently reflects for a moment). I must have lost it. Could you just put it on the bill please?" His words highlight his ever present (if unconscious) assumption that money and manners take care of most things. This assumption is what connects him to Ziegler as well as the 'Masked Mansion'. Bill's bill adds up to the sum of $ 375.00 which apparently makes no great 'dent' in the Good Doctors wallet once again on display. When what to his wondering eyes should appear but the pubescent China Doll with her Mona Lisa grin! She shakes Bill's hand as her father suggests. But following right behind her, strutting through the same door from which she just made her entrance come the Chinamen familiar from the night before. Properly dressed with coats and ties at this juncture, they exit the shop (one blows a kiss to Mona Lisa) with Millich calling out to them, "Goodbye, Gentlemen. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." Bill stands surprised.
"Mr. Millich, last night you were going to call the Police...". "Well, uh ... things change. We have come to another arrangement. And by the way, If the Good Doctor himself should EVER want ANYTHING again ( he puts his arm around his grinning Mona Lisa ) ... ANYTHING AT ALL ... it needn't be a costume." Doctor Harford appears to be shocked. But we are treated to an instant edit. Yellow cabs and busy street traffic. The camera focused on a long range shot down the Canyons of Manhattan. The 'Wall Street' look of towering Skyscrapers. Impressively menacing. The busy business of the World in which Bill and Alice dwell. The city as Elegant Corporate Ghetto. We can get it for you wholesale: orgies, masks, abductions, and daughters -all for sale to the highest, or fastest, or richest bidder. The shock market. Blunt edit to Doctor Bill's office.
Left profile shot of him in his pure white doctor's smock, brooding on his fantasy: Alice fucking her Sailor, which conveniently edits into view on cue. When it runs its course, we're back with Bill still in his chair pressing his clenched fingers to his lips. Receptionist enters. He has her reschedule his remaining appointments. Do this, do that, and tell them to have my car ready for me etc. -all delivered in that socially mannered brand of oppressively polite speech. The character is grinning his mask of a smile throughout. The Boss speaketh. His tone is cold, 'professional', totally condescending and superior. A most unlikeable and solipsistically reflective fellow. The Good Doctor; he's got important 'affairs' on his mind.Cut to shiny, clean SUV crossing bridge. Inside, a perfectly quaffed Bill Harford; his seat belt politically in place, his fashionable black gloves on the steering wheel. Looking fiercely ahead. Determined. The Yuppie version of "On The Road". Detective doctor seeking Buddha of Reasonable Explanation. Pulls up to the stone-metal gates of Somerton. Full daylight. Whoa there big fella. Dismounts his mechanical steed.
Before his feet even touch the ground, we realize our lone, unmasked hero is accompanied by his faithful musical companion. Ligeti's piano sounds its plaintive sequence of notes, that rigid and ceremonial sequence from E-sharp to F-sharp and back. Bill approaches the Gates of Somerton. The notes count-off his slow pacing back and forth before the locked blue-metal gates. We see him from the inside through the decorative blue bars. He's on the outside looking in. The camera's panning his pacing. We see a winding road ahead through the bars, but no Mansion. It disappears in the tall and stately pine trees receeding into the distance before us. A mild scowl marks Bill's expression as he peers through the bars into the camera at us viewing him from inside the gates. We watch him turn his face casually upward into the left corner of the screen. He sees something.
Birds are chirping, the piano notes are counting. The camera follows his upward glance. Mounted atop a stone column another camera swivels pointing down at us. It must be equipped with a motion detector since it follows Bill's movement. Kubrick's camera carries us toward it with a slow zoom upward. Above the mounted mechanical eye is a large ornamental sphere capping the stone column. The globe of Earth remotely viewed through the prying eyes of satellite cameras; Big Brother's watching. Bill pauses and gives the eye his eye: I'm here, and I'm not going away without an explanation. Cruise briefly resurrects Maverick from Top Gun for the determined occassion. Having made his point to the surveillance camera he stares up the winding road through the bars. Silence, counted off by chirping birds interspersed with those enharmonic piano notes.
An expensive car moves leisurely down the road toward the Gates. It stops. An elderly aristocrat steps out wearing spectacles, black bow tie, a long black overcoat. He approaches the Gates. The piano has dropped an octave. Pedals muffle its tone. With his one, black-gloved thumb visible on its rectangular surface, the Elder offers a white envelope extended through the bars. Bill hesitates before he moves forward taking it with his own black-gloved hand. Antiseptic communication; not a word is uttered. The envelope is passed through a curious pattern of metal work running horizontally across the gate. It's a row of wrought-iron hearts turned on their sides; each heart penetrated by the fleur-de-lis heraldry of the former Royal Family of France. The two men face each other from opposite sides of the gate. Kubrick's camera explores both views. Janus, God of Portals. On each side we see large metal rings affixed to the lock. Decorative metal rings that once served a purpose. Fidelio, the password through the secret Gates of Aristocratic Power. Florestan, chained to such rings embedded in the walls of the Tyrant's Fortress. Despotic power. The Bastille, Wall Street, the Pentagon. Humanity versus Tyranny.
The Elder turns his back on Bill and us moving toward his car. G-natural strikes on the piano with full force. Heavy. It repeats at faster and faster intervals mounting to a gradual crescendo of rapidly fired notes. Ligeti's 'Ricercata' -music composed to test the limits imposed by "... scientific pre-occupations, the single-minded, machine-tooled precision of the Dominant Culture." Doctor Harford watches the Elder walk away; gazes down at his name typed in black on the envelope. He opens it to a full screen close-up: " GIVE UP YOUR INQUIRIES WHICH ARE COMPLETELY USELESS, AND CONSIDER THESE WORDS A SECOND WARNING. WE HOPE, FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, THAT THIS WILL BE SUFFICIENT." A gloved message received through the Janus Gates of Somerton. Merry Christmas ? Not at all; the Somerton Saturnalia, Ceremony of Saturn -ringed planet of political-economic Authority. Focus. Close-up. Motion detecting cameras. Surveillance. Big Brother's watching you. The Hierophant is Law. The velvet glove masking the hand of power. That hand extended through wrought-iron hearts arraigned in a row and pierced by the fleur-de-lis. Aristocratic Heraldry, the Divine Right of Kings, of Cardinals, of Chief Executive Officers. Stalin. Dictatorship. Ligeti's piano: "...a knife in the heart...". Bill stands pondering; so do we. Fidelio.
Edit to busy nightime traffic on the streets of Manhattan. Brief glimpse at the ghost of an Island allegedly bought with a handfull of glass beads, scientifically transformed by the dominant culture into a new precision-tooled machine, a global center of Corporate Power. It's Xmas Shopping Time, and Santa Claus is coming to town. Blink. Wink. Another quick edit out.Doctor Harford enters (again) the door of his Central Park West abode. Wife and daughter call out greetings to him. His phony voice responds in kind with "Hi!". Not convincing. He's preoccupied as usual. Strolls up to the two of them seated at the dining room table doing homework. All those gorgeous paintings on the walls. Lighted Christmas tree. Helena, an unusually well-trained child, says -"Look, Daddy, I got all of these RIGHT!" Doctor Daddy can't mask his phony (talk down to the child) voice, "You did? You got all of them right, every single one ?" It comes across like lead. Bill quickly informs Alice he's not very hungry, that he must return to his office tonight for "some appointments". Lying again. Alice expresses her concern (is she catching on to somehing here?) about his having to go out again tonight. Helena protests she wants a puppy for Christmas. She pitches her selling point -it can be a Watch Dog. Bill walks on, past the two of them into the kitchen. But we stay behind for a moment with the camera focused on Alice and daughter Helena. Mommy's wearing her wire-rimmed glasses explaing how Joe has $2.50 while Mike has $1.75, can Helena tell Mommy how much more money Joe has than Mike? Gotta get 'em when their young, teach 'em what's really important. Upwardly mobile achievers entraining their young.
Camera switches to rear view of Bill/Tom opening the fridge. He cock's his ear listening to Mommy give the money lesson about who has more than whom. He turns into the camera popping the beer can in his hand; looks out to the dining room where Nicole/Alice continues talking of additions and subtractions. The camera adopts his point of view beginning a very slow zoom-in to Alice. Once her face begins to fill the screen we hear her last words in 'real time' as she explains to Helena, "...so you're going to be taking...right." Then the camera shifts back in beautifully choreograped and continuous motion to a matchingly slow zoom-in of Tom's/Bill's face. While it brings his face (with its stern gaze at her) into closer focus, we hear a voice-over of Nicole/Alice saying: "Then there were all these other people around us. Hundreds of them ...everywhere... everyone was fucking and...and then I...I was fucking other men...so many, I ...I don't know how many I was with...". The Kubrick technical team does some brilliant editing here creating a most complex interface between sounds and images. Tom/Bill is hearing the voice-over in his mind, and it's full of Nicole/Alice's sobs and confusions while the camera is showing us her full-screen face, -her eyes primly peering over her spectacles in the wholesome mode of Mommy-Teacher. It's precisely when she looks up 'smiling' at Tom/Bill over her glasses (and straight into the camera) that we hear him running the tape of her voice: "... I was fucking other men, so many." Kubrick, nevertheless, has him return her smile. It's grotesque, robotic, they're rapidly becoming humanoids, automatic sentient programs. It's one of the most telling moments of this couple's relationship to be found in the film. They're mutually and radically out of sync with each other. Dissimulation. Hypocrisy. All stunningly realized through the accomplished artistry and successful collaboration of the 'Happy Hollywood Couple' whose marriage would begin to crumble within the coming year. Edit. Blink. Wink. The deep irony of Stanley Kubrick. Fidelio ?
"I was fucking other men ...so many"
An unusual edit takes us away from Alice's face and completely out of the scene to a dimly lit white wall in Doctor Bill's office. Faces as blank walls. The camera's doing a slow meditative pan across the wall, down a hallway, and over to the curved wooden panel of a receptionist's desk. The panning doesn't stop there, but the motion's so slow we can take in the business sign on the wall saying, "Payment is expected at the time of treatment unless other arrangements have been previously made." Christmas cards hang everywhere and the panning camera finally comes to rest pointing down another long hallway (waiting-room) where a lighted tree stands all alone. A forlorn and restless feeling is evoked all the while by Jocelyn Pook's score which we recognize as the theme accompanying Bill's sexual fantasies concerning his wife. Sure enough, after a pause on the shot of the solitary tree we 'pop' into Bill. He sits at a desk looking fretful, fingers of his right hand pressed against his mouth. The music grows louder until the infamous, blue-toned, black and white footage of Alice-cum-Sailor takes over the screen. The sailor's thrusting motion is faster and more intense now; Alice's head hangs over the bed's edge, both of them have their eyes closed. Soon, Doctor Bill's back before us with his fountain pen laying on the blotter in front of him. A phone's there, too. He reaches for it and dials. Cut to hallway at Marian's with phone ringing; Carl appears walking toward the camera to answer. Back and forth shots of Bill listening and Carl speaking: "Hello. Hello." Bill is mute,hangs up on him, shakes his head with a shrug. We assume he hoped for Marian's voice on the other end of the line. Bill's always running away from himself. Can't find his imagination. His mind only feeds him secret, cheap, second-hand fantasies. But he's trying, he's painfully 'working on it', we cut him some slack.
Edit. We're back out on the 'mean streets' of nightime New York. Wet. Bill exits cab: "Keep the change. Merry Christmas." It's the red doorway leading to Domino's place. He goes in and down the hallway to her door. Rings the bell. We stand with him in the tawdry space staring at the puke-green wall, the flat gray door, notice the box (cake? cookies?) he carries and fiddles with, feel the contrast between this place and Bill's clean office, between this cheap tenament and the expensive luxury of the hallway where Carl just stood talking into the phone. Time passes, and there's still no answer to his ring. Bill wouldn't answer Carl's "Hello", will Domino answer her door ?
A disembodied voice unenthusiastically speaks, "Who is it?". "Domino?", Bill inquires. "No, she's not in." says the disembodied voice flatly. "Are you expecting her back soon?" "No. I'm not", offers the voice with finalizing tone. The message clearly feels like GO AWAY, but Bill persists. He tells the female voice that he's brought something for Domino and asks to leave it with the person behind the voice. She opens the door just a crack (with the chain still latched on the inside) and peeks out. Seeing the handsome, well-groomed, upwardly mobile Doctor Bill she swings the door fully open and invites him in exclaiming about his being "THE BILL". It seems Domino praised Bill's 'niceness' to her room mate. We've been listening to Sally, she's the body who comes with the voice. Deciding he's 'harmless' she suggests he come in 'for a second'. This, for some reason, causes Bill to make a weird sound that I suppose we might call a 'snicker'. He goes inside.Now we know what the snicker was all about. Bill's been learning about life in these past few days and seems to succomb to the notion that he's just visiting whores. His feelings of superiority exude from every pore of his thoroughly covered skin. No doubt at Kubrick's suggestion, Tom Cruise has Doctor Bill suddenly shift into a mixture of the kind of cocky self-assuredness he displayed in 'Risky Business' and 'Top Gun'. He clenches his teeth and starts to swagger, right past the Christmas tree and into the kitchen leaning back against the kitchen sink. Sally sniffs the change and saunters in behind him moving to the tight spot right in front of him between the sink and the kitchen table. She squeezes through the tight opening facing him, heaving her shirted breasts up against him and coyly stating, "I'm Sally." Cruise shows us Doctor Harford's obviously contemplated new self-image; he croons in response, "Helloooooooo Sally!". They do a come-on dance briefly as Bill removes his gloves and then his coat laying it over the side of the bathtub (yes, a bathtub, right there in the kitchen; it's another one of those details critics fault regarding the verisimilitude within the film claiming only lower class Europeans have bathtubs in their kitchens!). They mutually maneuver their bodies back into extreme proximity and Bill's tentatively newborn persona daringly unbottons and unties Sally's shirt -she wears it tied up in a knot in front. He begins to cup her breasts in his hands (we think, her shirt covers his hands and we view them in profile) and she murmurs with pleasure. But all the while the dialogue between the two has focused on Domino's absence; Sally tells Bill that Domino may NEVER be coming back. He's not really listening, he just keeps repeating phrases from what she tells him. We watch Sally as she continues to invoke and succomb to Bill's charm, his new-found sexual license. But increasingly we sense that she's trying to make a decision. When she finally does, she suggests to Bill that maybe the two of them should sit down because she's got something to say to him. Tom drops 'Risky Business' and 'Top Gun' and Bill's new, tentative mask gets shattered.
Domino has just this morning been diagnosed as HIV+positive. Doctor William Harford steps forward and zips Bill's flirting, cocksure tone. HIV+positive -his brain clicks soberly back in place. "Well, I am very, very sorry to hear that." -is what he selfishly says. Sally offers, with the same disappointed tone, "Yeah, I mean it's absolutely devastating." Doctor Harford (perhaps unfortunately) isn't a character in a Capra Film and "Eyes Wide Shut" sure ain't no "It's A Wonderful Life" -the whole mood of the film drops to a realistic flatness at this turn of events. Extremely awkward silences ensue. It seems Kubrick would have us understand that Bill actually is the phony and shallow Doctor Harford. He shows us the flex of jaw and lip muscle Bill automatically offers as a 'smile'. It's the Grin of the soulless humanoid. Sally doesn't seem too shocked, we're not even sure she notices. She offers him a cup of coffee. This causes the ugly grin on 'the good doctor's' face to merge with the smirk he gave at the door. He's suddenly transformed before our eyes into something palpably hideous. I don't know quite how Tom Cruise does it, but he gives us the distinct feeling Doctor Harford wants nothing so much as to instantly bolt out the door. All his rigid superiority, the subtle repugnance he always shows when he's 'slumming' coagulates in these few moments. He appears more bloodless, stiffer, formally repressed than ever before. He's not offered to us as a character we can warmly relate to and care about. He's a severe disappointment. "I think, ...ugh... maybe I better be going," says the professionally heartless Doctor, and he exits. This time, there's no gracious 'tip' for the golden 'whore'.
What kind of Doctor is William Harford ? We never witness him doing serious work with a patient. The closest he comes to that is the little bit of natural human sympathy he shows to the drugged Mandy in Ziegler's bathroom. There, his eye-to-eye contact provided a bridge for the conscious personality of a drugged and abused woman to cross back over and re-enter her stunned body. Considering what little we know of the circumstances that brought her to that state, and the callousness of Ziegler's behaviour toward her Bill's actions-demeanor seemed praiseworthy at the time. True, he agreed to cover up the whole affair for his paying customer/patient, Ziegler, but he did offer some real help and honest concern. Contrasted so dramatically with the Ziegler personality, Harford's seemed warmer. But who are his daily patients? They appear to be confined to the wealthy class. What's his understanding of the implications of being a Doctor? Is he a healer or a cloned professional? What's his understanding of the human immuno-deficiency virus? Kubrick does not allow this character to offer one word of human or medical advice to Sally concerning her room mate's diagnosis. No one speaks of Aids. The entire web of political-medical issues surrounding the nature and origin of that disease isn't even mentioned. This is peculiar from the director of "A Clockwork Orange" wherein the social-political nature of 'doctors', pastors, and parents is one of the central issues explored. It's only natural that we come away from this scene in "Eyes Wide Shut" with the distinct feeling that Stanley Kubrick means us to reflect deeply on the implications of the existence of Doctors like William Harford, and their Wives like Alice Harford, and their Children like Helena Harford as well as the nature of the Society in which they live. Yet we read the fashionable 'film critics' who berate this scene calling Kubrick's reference to HIV another instance of the outdated, outmoded, lack of 'realism' and 'contemporary relevance' which renders "Eyes Wide Shut" and its director a source of major disappointment. I think not; I see in this scene concerning HIV and the 'fate' of Domino a triggering event which serves to clarify the theme of the film and accelerate it toward its challenging conclusion.
No sooner has Doctor Harford mentioned that 'maybe' he ought to be going then he's in fact gone. He's outside on the wet streets walking. We see him initially from above and behind walking a street engulphed in brownish tones. Far in the distance, centered in the camera's illusion of spacial depth is a lighted building of the skyscraper variety; I mention it because the combination of the camera's view from above and behind Doctor Harford with the lighted building terminating the depth perspective gives a feeling of disembodied entrapment to the scene. Bill's caught in a maze. The Ligeti piano returns dominating the soundtrack and bringing the 'Trial' theme of Somerton back to our consciousness. Bill walks this way and that down streets and gradually begins to suspect he's being followed. We see his stalker behind him in what increasingly becomes a kind of parody of film-noir. Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Veronica Lake all come to mind. Stalker of the dark city streets threatens protagonist! Murder is in the air. Bill becomes increasingly alarmed until he finally makes a dash toward a yellow cab just discharging its passenger. Bill lunges for the door handle yelling "Taxi" but the driver pulls away with the curt response, "Off Duty." So was "the good doctor"; he too was "off duty" when he heard from Sally of Domino's HIV positive 'death sentence'. Oh, well, what goes around, comes around. No escape; it's a cold, indifferent world on the nightime streets in the Big City (that never sleeps). Everyman's on his own. Luckily, there's a small lighted news stand nearby and Bill finds solace in another human presence (a man ironically wearing earphones) from whom he buys a newspaper. Its headline reads, "Lucky To Be Alive".There's a brief moment when he visually 'confronts' his stalker as the baldish guy pointedly pauses on the sidewalk at the corner intersection not far away. Bill and he exchange looks; it's nothing 'personal', we never clearly see the man's face and neither does Bill. It's just that odd sort of thing where the stalker makes his physical presence known, a silent way of saying, "Yes, I'm here." He obviously wants Bill to know that fact. The piano music 'causes' us to associate his presence with the warnings Bill was given at Somerton. He's to know he's being 'watched'. He registers that fact with some anxiety and escapes off the streets into another small cafe (it's not Gillespie's greasy spoon). Ligeti's piano is left behind; now we hear Mozart's Requiem coming out of the cafe's speaker system. Bill orders a Capuccino and retires to a table with his paper.
"Rex Tremendae Majestatis"
(Fallen Cherubim With A Touch Of Dracula)
A camera pan of the Cafe establishes it as a kind of non-generic 'Starbucks' for the artistic and cultured middle class into the 'up-scale' swing of things. The people are tastefully well-dressed and the classical music is comforting, if you like that sort of thing. We're provided with a few moment's respite from the garbage cans and wet streets, not to mention the 'Stalker'. Comfortable safety. Reassuring Culture. But why the Mass for the Dead ? Is it honoring Domino who may well die of HIV problems becoming full-blown AIDS ? The repetition of the phrase, "Rex Tremendae Majestatis" registers in our ears: "Tremendous King Of Majesty," usually translated as "King Of Aweful Majesty". It's Mozart's musical scoring to the liturgical verses of the Roman Requiem Mass which continue with the words: "...qui salvandos salvas gratis, salva me, fons pietatis." In plain English, we're being musically bathed in the idea, "King of Aweful Majesty, you who freely saves those worthy of salvation, save me, fount of pity."
I confess that as I watched the scene hearing this music the first time, the thought occured to me that if any body was going to be a 'fountain of pity' or save anybody else in this movie, she was likely to be a woman, a Regina and not a Rex. Both Domino and the Mysterious Woman from Somerton were on my mind. I wasn't finding the 'father figures' in the film at all appealing. I was reflecting on Mozart's father and the strange circumstances surrounding the composition of this Requiem Mass effectively dramatized in the movie "Amadeus" -a very popular film released several years before this one. "Who's died?" was the question on my mind, coupled with a chuckle at Kubrick for defying again the questionable notion of verisimilitude in film; I mean what New York Cafe is going to play Mozart's Requiem at Xmas time? Well, it's the 'Village', isn't it?
There sits Tom Cruise before us with the collar of his black overcoat artfully turned up around his throat, a touch of his white shirt collar and tie peeking out, an incredibly interesting black and white sketch framed on the wall beside his head, and Mozart's Requiem sounding in our ears. The sheer beauty of color, light, and composition in this scene calls to mind paintings of the celebrated 'old masters' like Rembrandt and Reubens. Chiaroscuro, salva me! Tom, Bill, and Doctor Harford most surely are the candidates for 'Rex Tremendae Majestatis' in this framework, no? And then comes that sensuously slow zoom-in totally capturing the eye. The opened newspaper with all its whiteness evokes the wings of unseen Angels and Doctor Harford's head assumes a kind of severely Cherubic quality; yes, a fallen Cherubim with a touch of Dracula. But this actor, this 'good doctor' is gazing down out of that frame at words in his opened newspaper/wings which rivet him. Ah, thank you Stanley -the camera zooms into those words and there she is, the woman for whom this Requiem is playing: "Ex-Beauty Queen In Hotel Drugs Overdose" ! But Mozart is gone from our ears and Ligeti's E-sharp to F-sharp to G-natural piano notes are pounding there once again. Gasp! It's Somerton and the "...salva me, fons pietatis." Has Fidelio died: "Take me, I am ready to Redeem him" ? These are, indeed, my thoughts when I see this scene, but each of us has our own unique neural associative patterns and I certainly would'nt want to impose mine here. The scene simply ends with a tight close-up of the full face of Doctor Harford pensively brooding. I seriously doubt the darkly cherubic face of actor Tom Cruise will ever appear again on celluloid so artfully composed; the image is masterfully rendered as a cultural Icon fit to be archived. Edit out: wink, blink, what's on his mind ?Full view of Hospital lit up at night -the exterior. Cut to full-screen close up of revolving glass doors. These are the main entrance doors and we are inside looking out them through the camera. Curious red markings on them; they're turning counter-clockwise. What magic here ? Ah, Doctor Bill approaches us through the glass, clears the counter-clockwise circle, walks straight up to the receptionist at the front desk. "Good evening. I'm Doctor Harford (quick flash of wallet-credentials), one of my patients was admitted early this morning: Miss Amanda Curran. Would you please give me her room number." There's no question mark because there's no question; Bill delivers his words as unquestionable instructions. "Certainly, Doctor" is the receptionist's reply. Through the exchange of socially formal protocal we learn with Bill that the receptionist is sorry, "Miss Curran died this afternoon," the time was 3:45 PM. Yes, Mozart's Requiem was for Amanda. Is she THE Amanda? Mandy, whom we met with Bill at Ziegler's party? Didn't she have a drug problem? Was she the Ex-Beauty Queen?
Edit: Doctor Harford walking with blue smocked attendant down long, narrow corridor. They're backs are to the camera which follows them as steadicam tracking creating that odd feel of an horizontal escalator. Here it communicates a sense of the two men being 'pushed' or 'moved' from behind down the hall rather than walking of their own volition. There's a good deal of this kind of use of the steadicam motion throughout "Eyes Wide Shut" ...is it intended to create the feeling of characters being 'pushed along' and 'led onward' and 'encircled' rather than actively taking charge of their lives at such times? What forces might be pushing, leading, and encircling them?
The two men enter the morgue -fluorescent lighting, sterility. Grays and steel predominate as in 'real life' creating the cold, impersonal mood. The attendant is a black man wearing one of those flat blue hospital gowns. He's the first, last, and only black person we see at all closely in the film. That fact registers, though whether or not it's meant to have any signifance I can't say -except to point out that he's there in the role of blue-collar worker. He walks the Doctor over to a console of steel drawers and pulls one open. Out slides the body of a dead woman. This is initially a distant camera view, and once the attendant has pulled out the body he moves off a distance allowing Bill some private space with it. The camera's perspective shifts so that we see Bill standing behind the steel slab with the womans body laid on it. A soft, hazy piano sound emerges; it's Franz Liszt, a few simple chords moving primarily up then down a sequence of three notes (identified as a composition entitled, "Grey Clouds"). The camera jumps closer keeping the same angle/perspective while Bill wordlessly stares down at the body. Suddenly, through an edit we're looking down from above over the dead corpse. This produces a voice over: "Because it could cost me my life, and possibly yours." The dead Amanda Curran is seemingly thereby identified as the woman who spoke these words to Bill at Somerton, the 'Mysterious Woman'. Bill moves very slowly around the steel slab from the feet of the corpse to the head. Once he stands there, he very briefly raises his hands to rest them on the slab. His gold wedding ring becomes visible. The attendant is briefly seen behind and to the left of him before he begins very, very slowly to lean his head forward over the dead woman's face gradually lowering his face towards hers (the piano keys play a muffled tremolo). It's a strange gesture giving simultaneously the impression that he might kiss her forehead or that he's feeling medically clinical and wants to examine details of her face. But he stops his movement about six inches short of head-to-head contact, and just as slowly as he bent over he begins to straighten up. Once he's fully erect, an edit takes him out of there. Fidelio is dead?
But this provides us with another clue as to what Kubrick is 'saying' in the film wholly through imagery; specifically, we are seeing a fully clothed Male staring down at a completely naked Female who has functioned as his 'redeemer'. The women in this film are frequently shown utterly naked while the men who use them as sexual release are frequently clothed. The women's nakedness indicates their inability or choice NOT to employ clothing to mask their vulnerability; the naked women seem to embody the idea of Naked Truth. The men 'buy' this nakedness to which they're attracted and which they wish desperately to exploit, they are seeking contact (whether consciously or not) with the natural, fertile state of the open spirit, the realm of creative imagination and soul. Bill's fully protected state of formal dress, including his black overcoat as he stands above the naked corpse of Mandy echoes the fully clothed and caped red Celebrant-Hierophant before the circle of nude women (which included Mandy) at Somerton. Attributing to WOMAN the role of REDEEMER via Fidelio is Kubrick's way of commenting upon the Society in this film which expects of WOMEN that they shall function for Men as redeemers of their Souls, as vehicles through which the men can be 'saved' or empowered through contact with the Naked Truth of the Spirit. But none of the men in this film ever seem to understand this fact; the ritual sex depicted at Somerton highlights the peculiarly male agenda of employing RITUAL FORM to access the raw power of Life without respecting it or even understanding the open flow which is that naked power of Life. Ceremonial Ritual seeks to control and direct that open flow. Kubrick is depicting for us a Culture in which Naked Truth is mechanically exploited through Ritual Masking.In the American version of this film, the few scenes at Somerton wherein men could be briefly seen with their genitalia visible have been digitally masked from sight. Why are naked women allowed on screen, but not naked men? Simple, Men are in control of the Culture and they see nakedness and openness as commodities to be exploited. Women cannot 'redeem' men in Eyes Wide Shut because no matter how open and naked they are with these men the men cannot SEE the value of such naked openness. Power, as the men define it, derives from controlling, masking, and using all aspects of the Naked Spirit. The Women's nakedness-openness is exploited as subservient, paid for 'weakness'. Vulnerability and Naked Truth are not characteristics of the Male dominated Corporate World View, and that's precisely what Kubrick keeps showing us in Eyes Wide Shut. Men like Doctor Harford want their wives to put them in touch with the freedom of their imagination and Soul, while men like Ziegler merely want to fuck the Naked Spirit...that's how money is 'earned' in Corporate Society and that's why all the Ritual Clothing, Manners, and Ceremonies are so important. By the film's end we will witness a fully worn-down Alice Harford wanting merely what she can get from her husband, the FUCK of sex which simply cannot open him to the realm of creative imagination which is the Soul Bond shared between Fidelio and Florestan. Bill is staring down at his Mandy-Fidelio with the Naked Truth laid out in front of him. Dead. He cannot see it: Eyes Wide Shut. Alice will not find a Soul Partner in Bill; his control fetish will make that impossible. She will have to settle for a 'man' dependent on her for contact with his own feelings-soul. Edit out of morgue.
Bill is walking toward us down another long hallway, but this time there are bright abstract paintings in primary colors within black frames on the white walls to our right. Another, stranger set of two abstract paintings appear lower on the floor to the left as a sort of folded panel or space divider. Odd. Bill keeps moving toward us, but the steadicam is tracking him -leading him toward us, pulling him forward so that he never seems to get anywhere much. It's that mechanical, automated escalator mood again. Whirring sound of his cell phone ringing in the pocket of his black overcoat. He pulls it out and speaks briefly into it, he'll be there in twenty minutes. His walk down the hallway has brought him past three more seated hospital workers at least one of whom is a black man.
Quick edit establishing place: nightime view of outside of Ziegler's Downtown Mansion, traffic moving through the intersection. Edit to steadicam tracking (leading) Bill and much taller male attendant down the hall and across the foyer with the staircase where we saw Bill and his wife greeted by Ziegler and his wife earlier at their Xmas party. Camera switches perspectives here rapidly so that we see a sideview of Bill and attendant as they cross in front of the large (marble?) sculpture of Cupid and Psyche. The male attendant is a 'Big' man who walks in his suit with a mechanical gait and holds his hands loosely curled into fists at his side. Big, impersonal, formal -think of the hotel deskman's description of the guys who took Nick away. Bill and attendant arrive at a closed double door. Echo of the tapping sound as the attendant lightly knocks on the door. Screen shifts to full image of Ziegler inside at his pool table with cue stick in his hands. He puts it down calling out "Come in" with upbeat voice as he strides toward the door opening it. Shakes hands with Bill; attendant closes door behind them. They're alone together in the Billiard Room (shades of Colonel Mustard, did it with the knife, in the Billiard room of the child's game called, CLUE).
When this long and important scene concludes we'll be very close to the film's ending. It's been praised and condemned for its expository nature; lots of charges, counter-charges, accusations, intrigues, motivations, and symbols mark the scene as one of the most important in the movie. I'm not sure how I'll be writing about it, but before we plunge into the many complex lines of dialogue it contains I think it's important to begin by commenting on the room itself -as well as the two actors who 'dance' before they finally 'lock horns' inside it. It's all about Victor Ziegler and Bill Harford, Sidney Pollack and Tom Cruise ...and, of course, the Room.
It's a large, high-ceilinged, and wood-paneled room rectangular in shape. The floor is paneled wood as well, partly covered by a large, expensive, oriental-style carpet. The pool-table dominates the room resting as it does just about dead center in the space. It's an unusual pool table in that its playing surface is red rather than the traditional green. But hanging just above it, and echoing its space in the air is a rectangular, brass lighting ficture containing six green glass lamps flooding it with light. This room is a rich man's private gaming room, a space surrounded with the traditionally male color of brown. There are a few richly upholstered chairs, a couch, and a number of well-stocked book cases. There's a large set of expensively curtained windows at one end of the room and a smaller window along the adjoining but far longer wall. One of the most interesting features of the wooden walls is the repeated pattern of square panels, which contain innumerable portraits in equally square frames. They hang in their frames within the square panels very high up on the walls looking down on those who might look up to them. A rogues Gallery of Ancestors ? Here and there, for instance on the doors, are some circular patterns as well, but the overall feel of the room is one of brown, masculine angularity centered upon the red pool table spotlighted by its green lamps. There is also the matter of a rather large, intricate model of a ship having an entire table devoted to itself -Alice's sailor, Bill's masochistic fantasies about her and that Sailor. This is the room Ziegler has chosen for what amounts to his 'man-to-man' or Captain to Billy Budd talk with Bill.
Sidney Pollack plays the role of Ziegler, and before him Harvey Keitel worked on the role. Both these actors as people have that combination of qualities and demeanor our Culture celebrates as indicative of 'the man's man'. John Houston oozed this quality from every pore; John Wayne is its American stereotype, Earnest Hemingway and Norman Mailer are its eccentric, tragic members, and the young Robert Redford was its 'sensitive' side. Victor Ziegler, as his character unfolds through the forthcoming scene in his game room is a member in good standing of what we may call, 'The Men's Club'. These are the tough realists, the grin and bear it white guys who cultivate a certain civilized 'swagger' as their 'charm' but know how to get down to brass tacks, how to call a spade a spade, how to dominate a situation. Sidney Pollack plays Ziegler's role with absolute perfection. He's the Older Man, the Father Figure and 'Guide' for the younger Doctor Harford. (He shares this role with Stanley Kubrick himself.)Tom Cruise, like Robert Redford, is a short guy but unlike Redford has no hair on his chest. He began his Hollywood career most notably as the pubescent teenager in 'Risky Business' playing an insecure male with a lot of narcissistic bravado who dances and poses with his own image in a mirror; naked, except for his white jockey shorts. In 'Top Gun' his personal qualities of hard-work and determined, aggressive drive transfigured him allowing membership status comparable to the younger Redford's in 'The Men's Club'. 'Born On The Fourth Of July' and 'Magnolia' developed his actor's persona further for the consumer public indicating his ability for greater emotional depth in male roles. But it's the Tom Cruise of 'A Few Good Men' -playing the young buck to Jack Nicolson's older stag- who will show up in Ziegler's pool room. The younger man seeking admittance, challenging while desperately coveting the 'Authority' he believes the older man already has as the seasoned member of 'The Club'. To use the 'casual jargon' with which these guys often mask themselves, the scene between Pollack/Victor and Cruise/Bill is just a coupla guys gittin down together. Just shootin the shit, or as Ziegler will say of himself, "...just knocking a few balls around." These balls will include Bill's before the scene is ended. Victor and Bill will play out this strictly male drama as sophisticated, Manhattan Cowboys in Ziegler's billiard room -they're both too 'classy' to be in a public pool room. 'The Color Of Money' is hovering associatively somewhere in the vicinity. Now we're ready to watch it unfold.
After their handshake, the mood is all 'hearty fellowship' for a few minutes. Bill congratulates Victor on his Xmas party (the same one he and Alice had privately commented on with a good deal less than excited approval): "It was a terrific party the other night. Alice and I had a wonderful time." Victor robustly replies with a double, "Good. Good." He's pouring some Scotch (de rigeur) for the two of them when he asks Bill, "How you take it? Neat?" Bill nods his acquiescence. But I wanna puke; it's all in the way Pollack delivers these lines. Casual, tough, no nonsense. Victor seems to think "How you take it?" is a mere question concerning Scotch -but the phrase, coming from his lips resounds with sexual implications concerning a 'player's' prowess in performance (we watched him earlier with Mandy). And the pun on the word 'Neat' when applied to Bill Harford, immediately reminds us of his personal, constantly reenacted, anal-retentive traits. Indeed, he takes it neat. But this quick exchange is merely the opening gambit in a game which Pollack, Cruise, and Kubrick put before us in a man-to-man 'fight club' scene with a style so casual and natural that when its sinister purpose finally stares us in the face we want to dismiss it with Eyes Wide Shut. It's just as they complete this quick 'Scotch' exchange that Bill asks Victor if he's playing (billiards) and Victor comments no, "...just knockin a few balls around".
Victor has a definite agenda on his mind, but before he begins to reveal it -layer after layer- he notes Bill's (automatically polite) complimenting of the Scotch. It's twenty-five years old or something and the point is -it's expensive. Victor immediately proposes sending Bill a case which Bill rejects and Victor repeats and Bill rejects again with emphatic resolution. No expensive gift from Victor will come to Doctor Harford's house. Payoffs. This is really the first and only time we experience Bill attempting to extricate himself from the web of his wealthy 'doctor-patient' circle. He shows signs of beginning to realize what masks itself behind Victor Ziegler's friendly facade. Victor registers this and cuts to the chase: "Listen...uh...Bill. The reason I asked you to come over is ... I ... I need to talk to you about something." "Sure," -is Bill's preppy response. ( Victor exhales a sigh, at Bill's answer and immediately drops his voice lower assuming a more fatherly, confidential-serious tone.) "It's a little bit awkward and I have to be completely frank." (pause) Bill, glass in hand, gestures with it saying, "What kind of problem are you having?" Victor, who'd clearly hoped for a different response exhales deeply. His hands tap the table, he gathers himself tighter and gently says, "It isn't a medical problem. Actually ... it concerns you. Bill, I ...I know what happened last night, and I know what's been going on since then. And I think you just might (pause) have the wrong idea about one or two things." Victor says this from one side of the pool table across to Bill on the other; he says it seriously and with a tone of sad resignation. There's a moment of silence and the camera switches to Bill standing alone who finally manages to respond with tell-tale 'composure': "I'm sorry, Victor ...I uh ... what in the Hell are you talking about?" Bill is not at all convincing, and he says this with forced smiles on his face concluding it with an aborted laugh. This response doesn't set at all well with Victor. He quietly reconsiders his strategy.Victor to Bill: "Please ... Bill, no games (shaking his head, he means -no games that aren't my games). I was there ... at the house ... I saw ...everything that went on (he turns away from Bill ...paces...looks into the thin air, drink in hand ..emits another sigh and in a stronger, mildly but seriously agitated tone continues) Bill ... what the HELL did you THINK ...you were doing? I couldn't ...I couldn't even begin to imagine how you even heard about it ...let alone how you got yourself through the door. Then I remembered seeing you with that ...that PRICK piano player, Nick -whatever the FUCK his name was ... at the party and it didn't take much to figure out the rest." Bill's been caught with his pants down and Big Daddy's about to give him a spanking. Tom Cruise has Bill bend his head and look down repeatedly now (and for the next few minutes) as Doctor William Harford is scolded temporarily out of existence and little Billy Boy guiltfully dodges Daddy's anger, sheepishly keeping his head down. But first, like the good Boy Scout he is, he defends his buddy Nick saying it wasn't Nick's fault "It was mine". Oh, but that kinda posing doesn't cut it when Big Daddy's pissed-off. Victor hammers back with, "Of course, it was Nick's fault. I recommended that little COCK-SUCKER to those people and he's made ME look like a complete ASS-HOLE."
Kubrick is giving us Victor Ziegler as he really is beneath his polite social facade of manners, wealth, and art. He's a foul-mouth bully and a sleaze ball, he's an angry, aggressive guy who's used to getting what he wants. He's a member in good standing of 'The Men's Club' and he's giving his younger associate a severe 'dressing-down' -it's a 'Boot Camp' kinda thing. Victor, as his name announces, is not only a 'player', he's a WINNER. In this longish scene with Bill he's gonna continue to 'lay down the law', to spell-out for Billy Boy (shades of Melville's Billy Budd) just how the REAL WORLD works. Watching Sidney Pollack create this character is nothing short of astonishing as he has Victor enact the role of the 'velvet glove masking the iron hand of power'. Victor, at one moment thundering obscenities at Bill, in the next urgently insisting on how power works, then suddenly shifting into the consoling tones of the older man taking the younger under his protective wing becomes the stereotype of the CEO, the Father, the Priest, the Drill Sargeant -one of the important fixtures in the secret hierarchy of 'The Club'.
Pollack's fine performance combined with Kubrick's mise-en-scene suggests the dark side of Daddy God as Santa Claus. It's that outrageously red pool table the two men 'dance' around; it's the green lamps hanging overhead; it's the Xmas season and the time of Saturnalia all wrapped up into one blazing moment of tough-ass 'truth'. Victor is going to lay out for Bill the accepted version of REALITY, the AUTHORITATIVE version of just what's gone down in the last forty-eight hours of Billy Budd's hitherto innocent life. Billy's being strung-up on deck on the receiving end of the Captain's sadist-whip. Our eye keeps noticing that huge model of a sailing ship past which Victor prances. He's the Captain of that ship and Bill's a lowly member of the crew. That's the result of Bill's secret shame, his voyeuristic fantasies of the Sailor in Alice's imaginings which have become his own darkest thoughts. It's the underbelly of the social game-playing Doctor Harford indulges in as the definition of the reality of his life. He's entrapped in his own worse Nightmare; Victor's gonna 'explain' to him what it all means. Victor's piss and vinegar 'Santa Claus' is gonna tell Bill just what's important in this world and exactly how Bill is to view the events of the last forty-eight hours. Nobody gets to make Big Daddy look like an "ASS-HOLE".
"Victor, what can I say? I had absolutely no idea you were involved in any way." Bill's being apologetic, he's bowing his head and holding onto his side of the pool table. Victor, opposite him, is framed above a large red triangular swath of the pool table's surface (the advertising industry knows the psychological value of red; it's signifying his Mars-like aggression in the situation?). He tells Bill, in a most calm, composed, and 'in charge' tone of voice, "I know you didn't Bill. But I also know that you went to Nick's hotel this morning and talked to the desk clerk." When Bill asks Victor how he knows that, Victor asserts: "Because I had you followed." This revelation ties Bill into tighter knots. He goes through a series of hand-to-face movements wiping his brow before he emits a repressed sob cut short by his desperate self-control. With matter-of-fact tone he repeats Victor's assertion: "You had me followed." He's staring downward, eyes closed, hands covering his face in that ongoing series of gestures. Hiding. Trying not to show his face. The Powers that be know everything you do; the surveillance camera at Somerton, Victor's having Bill followed. Big Brother's watching you -and programming you, too. Bill seems dimly, dully outraged.Victor, seeing Bill's condition, backs off just a little: "Okay ... I'm sorry. All right? I owe you an apology." Pollack uses very 'manly' hand gestures here which add volumes to the meaning of his words; he shapes the apology on the air before him with block-like emphasis, holding his hands widely apart and turned vertically on their sides... as if he's putting a box down on the table of the playing field between them. He continues in the father-parent role: "This was for your own good, believe me. Now look, I know what the desk clerk told ya. But what he didn't tell you is ... all they did was put Nick on a plane to Seattle ..." At this point, Pollack has Victor throw his arms open wide in a gesture of overt openness and complete honesty. Then he raises them into the air in a series of explicative gestures and with loose wrists twirls his hands convincing Bill/us he's not uptight at all, just a friendly fella with everybody's best interest at heart: "By now he's ... he's probably back with his family ... you know ...bangin Mrs.Nick." Easy-going guy talk. ( Echoes of Domino's, "Was that Mrs.Doctor Bill? ) But Bill isn't sure he wants to buy into it, he's rocking back and forth slightly while pressing his hands down on his side of the table: "The clerk said he had a bruise on his face." Simple declarative sentence; no accusation, just reported fact. He's not going to accept the story as it stands; he's pushing Victor and Victor reacts.
"Where The Rainbow Ends"
Carrying his Scotch, he leaves his side of the pool table and crosses around the end moving toward Bill. Casually, he half-sits the right cheek of his ass on the table supporting himself with his outstrecthed left foot. The situation calls for emphasis, and with a combination of venom, mockery, and earnest threat he says, "Okay. He had a bruuuuze (exagerrated emphasis on the word) on his face. (sissy, can't take a liittle hit) That's a whole lot less than he deserves! Listen, Bill, I don't think you REALIZE what kind of trouble you were in last night. Who do you think those people were? They were not ...just... Ordinary People there...". At this point, he gets up and moves toward the liquor table, begins to refill their drinks. "If I told you their names I DON'T THINK YOU'D SLEEP SO WELL." He's talking about the Somerton crowd, and his threatening words echo the warnings given to Bill at Somerton by the red caped figure I've called not just the Celebrant, but the Hierophant. Kubrick leaves it up to us to imagine who these 'not just ordinary people' might actually be, but Victor's tone and language go a long way toward suggesting that these are rich and powerful people, the kind of people Victor and even William Harford envy. The BIG PLAYERS who keep their sordid games secret, who use themselves and others in mock rituals and pursue sex as an impersonal, mechanical 'orgy'. Victor clearly feels he's playing a trump card by hinting at all this to Bill. This should shut him up and render him receptive to the controlling 'advice' that's clearly Victor's reason for having this manly Father to Son (Boss to employee) talk.
"Was it the second password, was that what gave me away?" Victor turns around carrying the refilled drinks and put's Bill's glass down on the pool table's wooden edge in front of him, pivots and begins to resume his pacing; he answers, "Yes ...(long pause)... but not because you didn't know it ... because there was no second password. ( Think a minute about that one: no second password. It's a whole lot more than disingenuous. ) Of course, it didn't help a lot that those people ride in limos and you showed up in a taxi. Or that when they took your coat they found the receipt from the rental in your pocket made out to ... you know who." By the conclusion of this sentence Victor is seated in a chair down one end of the room with Bill before the camera at the other. The long, rectangular, red pool table stands between them. Bill stands still with his arms folded across his chest looking concerned.
Bill : "There was a woman there who tried to warn me. Do you know who she was?"
Victor: "Yes. She was ... she was a hooker. Sorry, but that's what she was." ( What? Fidelio, a hooker? )
Bill: "A hooker."
It's evident that Bill's disappointed by Ziegler's response. He asked "WHO" the woman was, but Victor answered with "WHAT" she was, and that from Victor's own callous viewpoint. The silence that follows seems to alert Victor that he must again recast his approach. He comes up with a whopper.
Victor: "Bill ... Suppose ... I told you that ... that everything that happened to you there ... the threats, the girl's warnings her 'last minute' (withering mockery in his tone) intervention. Suppose I said that all that was STAGED ... that it was a kind of CHARADE ...that it was FAKE?"
Victor: "Yes, FAKE."
Bill: "Why would they do that?"
Victor: "Why? In plain words, to scare the living shit out of you. To keep you quiet about where you'd been and what you'd seen."
Throughout this dialogue Victor has moved out of his chair and slowly down the length of the pool table drawing closer to Bill. When Bill asks who the woman at Somerton was, Victor chooses the word 'hooker' deliberately. She's nobody, an item for sale, a thing to be used, not a 'clean' wealthy person but a whore...she can be dismissed. We see him do this but Bill doesn't because he's too busy looking inside himself and wringing his hands. Camera placement and perspective is important throughout and it frequently affords us a view of the body language each character uses, while often making it equally clear that one character cannot see the actions of the other who may be off to the side or behind him. This is usually the case with Bill as befits his character; he's frequently far too preoccupied with himself to notice what others are doing. Sometimes, it's clear that he hasn't even heard what they said. Kubrick shows us this condition of Bill's throughout the film and it's part of what's implied in the title.Bill sits himself down on a couch still wringing his hands (actually, what Tom Cruise is doing with his gestures here is far more complex then a simple 'wringing of hands' and very carefully thought out). He leans forward and over a highly polished coffee table's surface. There's a longish pause and silence between the two men, long enough for us to notice something pointedly intended by the filmmaker. The low coffee table is of similar rectangular dimensions as the much larger pool table in the background. We see perfectly reflected on its surface the green lamps depending over the real pool table. Ziegler stands in the background with his hand resting on the corner of the actual pool table, Bill sits staring down at the smaller, 'reflected' playing field that is his own. The two have reached a seeming impasse. Ziegler wants Bill and us to buy his story, the whole thing at Somerton was fake. Bill's thinking it over. Still sitting at his smaller version of the pool table -the gaming surface- he fumbles a hand into his pocket and pulls out a torn news clipping. It's the account of the ex-beauty queen. He offers it to Ziegler who steps forward to receive it.
Bill: "Have you seen this?"
Victor: "Yes, I have." (He's standing beside Bill who's sitting, he's also blocking part of the reflections on the coffee table. He holds the clipping while the camera shows it close-up.)
Bill: "I saw her body in the morgue. Was she ...(Bill is vulnerable in tone; he catches himself and repeats his phrasing with sober, factual emphasis.) ... WAS she the woman at the party?"
Ziegler: "Yes, she was." (His hands are folded over his diaphragm in an uncharacteristic gesture of defensiveness. Ziegler realizes that Bill is not just meekly going to accept his "Suppose" theory and he puts on a serious, resolved facial expression.)
Bill begins to possess himself firmly. He raises a now firm hand to the side of his jaw while the camera shows him in profile looking over to Victor. He's changing before our eyes from Bill to Doctor William Harford. Rising from the couch he reengages the 'dance' with Victor. Cruise begins to use the gestures and tone comparable to the lawyer he played confronting Nicolson in 'A Few Good Men'; he's actually better than all that in this scene. To attempt to describe all the subtlety and crafted nuance he employs as body language adding untold layers of meaning to the lines he speaks is, at this point, beyond my abilities as a writer, and would distract us from the story. But not so in the film; there they fill out the script which I'll continue to reproduce here.
Bill: "Victor, the woman lying dead in the morgue ... was the woman at the party."
Victor: "Yes." (For the first time in their exchange he appears on the defensive.)
Bill: "Well, Victor, ... maybe I'm missing something here. You called it a fake, a charade. Do you mind telling me what kind of fucking 'charade' ends with somebody turning up DEAD."
We are finally and very briefly witnessing Bill Harford in anger and speaking with direct clarity. The moment proves to be his last. Ziegler, recognizing the problem he's got on his hands, unleashes all his considerable bile, a mixture of rage, sarcasm, superiority, and pure macho 'realism'. Once he's knocked Bill around with that for awhile, our 'tough guy' eases back into his gracious, fatherly, 'Santa Claus' and Bill's 'audience' with Victor Ziegler is finished.
Victor: "Okay Bill, let's ... let's ... let's cut the crap! You've been way out of your depth for the last twenty-four hours. You wanna know what kind of Charade, I'll tell you EXACTLY what kind. That whole, 'play-acted' TAKE ME phony sacrifice that you been jerking yourself off with had absolutely nothing to do with her real death. Nothing happened to her at that party that hadn't happened to her before. SHE GOT HER BRAINS FUCKED OUT. PERIOD. When they took her home she was just fine. And the rest of it is right there in the paper. She was a JUNKIE. She od'd (overdosed). There was nothing suspicious. He door was locked from the inside. The police are happy. End of story, phhht! (Now the big switcheroo to Father Christmas; genuine, real, a kind man just needing to speak of hard, cruel facts.) Come on, it was always gonna be just a matter of time with her. Remember? You told her so yourself. You remember, the one with the great tits who od'd in my bathroom. Listen Bill, nobody killed anybody. Some one died. It happens all the time. (Paul Wellstone; JFK; Martin Luther King; etc.) Life goes on. It always does. Until it doesn't. (Here he stands behind Bill, then drops both his hands down with solid force on Bill's shoulders.) But you know that, don't cha."
END OF SCENE.
What rings truest about Ziegler as a human being is that he's an ugly brute. His treatment of Mandy in shock in his bathroom, his utter lack of respect for her as anything but a sex object he can freely use is clear in that scene, and in this -his final one. He's a user, a wheeler-dealer. Beneath his big display of wealth and manners is a cut-throat materialist with a vulgar mouth to match his utilitarian mind. We learn here as the movie rushes toward its conclusion that he was present at the Somerton-Saturnalia-Orgy, that his only regard for Nick is to dismiss him as a 'cock-sucking prick'. Nick, he claims, made him look like an 'ass-hole' in front of his non-ordinary associates. His swagger, as he states they are people whose names would shock Bill is loaded with political-social implications. They are present as the anonymous faces staring down from their portraits all around the room. They are what we refer to as "The Establishment". Everything relating to Victor's character is suddenly exposed, and anyone with the least bit of awareness realizes he's being presented here as an Archetypal Cut-Out Personality. He's a 'type' and he symbolizes all the types operating through Somerton, but especially the red caped Hierophant who also threatened Bill's life as well as his family's. As he did in 'A Clockwork Orange' and in 'Paths Of Glory' Kubrick is casting a dark eye on the world of Art and Manners, highlighting its use as a masking tool in the hands of aristocratic wealth. We saw the theme explored in 'Barry Lyndon' too. Art and Ceremonial Manners decadently draping the corpse of Western Culture exposed as being nothing so much as a pure, cut-throat technique for control and domination of others. 'Eyes Wide Shut' unfolds within a world every bit as sadistic and psychotic as the world of the droogs in Kubrick's earlier film, 'A Clockwork Orange'.
Victor Ziegler stands revealed as a soulless, greedy, 'player'...a mere 'footman' for the higher hidden rung of manipulators who use him. That hierarchical ring and their political-economic activities are symbolized by the Hierophant and his Ceremony at Somerton. Counter-clockwise motions, actions moving against the flow of Nature, finally just demonic activities laying waste to the humanity 'beneath' them. Players, Ceremonialists, the Chief Executive Officers pocketing the profits of their unreal Corporations. Tyranny versus Humanity. Ziegler as the Pizzaro tyrant from Beethoven's Fidelio. Obscenity on the highest levels of Western Corporate Culture. Hey, I'll send you over a case of Scotch, just keep your mouth shut. The 'trickle down' technique of corporate global corruption. Bill, by the close of this scene can never again claim he doesn't know who his clients are, what circles he's allowed to run in, and just who and what defines the parameters of his reality. The playing field of his life is a pool table, he and others are merely balls knocked around on its surface. The cue is in the hands of people like Ziegler and his Bosses. What will Bill do with this reaization ?Kubrick takes us directly out of Ziegler's personal pool hall with a sharp edit. It's a close-up of Bill's Somerton mask resting against the purple pillow case on his bed. The image is riveting, and immediately accompanied by the final sounding of Ligeti's piano notes; E-sharp to F-sharp, back to E-Sharp to F-sharp mechanical, metronomic, and forbidding. It slides out of view as the camera pans over to Alice's face on her purple pillow. Sleeping. Edit to long shot down the lighted hallway, the door on the left again, and Bill opening it. This shot is almost identical to the earlier one shown directly after Bill returns from Somerton; thematic connection, both times Bill is coming home after running directly up against threatening and masked social forces. It's his own self-masking that draws him into these masked circles. We've just moved sequentially on a visual basis from Bill and Ziegler together, to full screen close-ups of his mask, then Alice, and finally to him returning home. All the major image themes are succinctly connected for us. Bill walks down the hallway through the living room and pauses to turn off the multi-colored Christmas Tree lights. He's at the place where the Rainbow has ended. We've never seen Bill or anyone else turn off Christmas Tree lights before in this film. He goes on to the kitchen, opens a beer, sits at the table and sips it. Dissolve into blue-white bedroom door. It slowly opens and Bill walks through the Janus Portal, tired, head drooping, loosening his tie. He looks over and down and stops his motion. His hand holds his tie over his heart.
"Bill at Janus Portal Seeing Mask On Bed"
Piano again, this time the repeated sequence of clear G-flat notes rapidly accelerating. He sees his mask face on his pillow and Alice's face on hers; we do too. Alice has been sleeping with a mask. She's found that out.
"Alice Sleeping With Mask"
Bill sits on the bed looking from the mask to Alice -hand still over his heart, piano still pounding. It stops, he begins to sob involuntarily. This wakes Alice. Her eyes are tiny slits and she looks colder and more aloof than at any other moment in the film. There is none of Nicole Kidman's movie star beauty here as she allows her face to be shot in unflattering light from an unflattering angle. Tom has literally dropped down into the frame clutching his heart. Bill/Tom tumbles over to rest his head on Alice/Nicole's breast; an incredible triangulation is formed between his face, her face, and the mask. Through his sobs, Bill cries: "I'll tell you everything. I'll tell you everything." Who's saying this, Tom or Bill or both?
Edit to morning and a full screen close-up of Alice's face, red eyed and trying to compose itself. She's holding a cigarette. Bill becomes visible sitting across the room, head drooped, staring down at the floor. A couple of edits back and forth between them. Bill looks up and presses his fingers hard against his eyes near the base of his nose. His only sound is a sort of snort as he drags air up his nostrils. Alice is flinching, still struggling to compose her face/mask back to 'normal'. She stubs out her cigarette and manages to say -distantly, calmly -as if in a Stepford trance- "Helena's going to be up soon. She's ...uh ...she's expecting us to take her Christmas shopping today." This response is comparable to Bill's leaving her after her 'Tale Of The Sailor' -arbitrarily going off to visit a dead man. As she says this we see Bill looking at her, but until that point in this briefest of scenes neither of them has looked at the other. They use their child to deflect them, to diffuse the situation.
Edit. Crowded, up-scale department store. Children's department. Well-dressed people everywhere milling about. Bubbles in the air. Signs, toys, products. The well-off consumer's delight in commercial xmas. Helena all handsomely decked out runs ahead of Bill and Alice and grabs hold of a huge teddy bear which she lugs over to Mom saying, "I hope Santa Claus gets me one of these." Bill stands silently alongside Alice -who's wearing her glasses again. "You do? (says Alice to Helena) well you're gonna have to wait and see," she bleats in that horribly condescending voice so many adults use when speaking to children. Helena's next desperate ploy for attention is to hold up a Barbie Doll dressed like some kind of Angel for an xmas tree. But Alice and Bill are too caught up in their adult shenannigans to give this daughter anything but dismissing grunts and nods. Kubrick is showing us a seriously dysfunctional family unit. Helena is rarely seen in the film because she's merely a fixture in their false lives. She's anything but an attractive child. She's well-behaved, utterly subdued, given lessons in addition and subtraction, and otherwise shunted aside. Like the party at the Zieglers' she just comes with the territory called 'Life In Upwardly Mobile America' -a pervasive world peopled by humanoids living a masked pantomime of life. Cold, narrow, isolated people who carefully plan their every move based wholly on economic considerations. Xmas shopping with Helena, the artful child who gets to watch the Nutcracker Ballet with her babysitter, -the child with the role of the Greek Semi-Goddess, 'the face that launched a thousand ships'. Everywhere, art and artifice; nowhere, earth and feeling. Feelings, for those who people this charade, are primarily confined to psychological neurosis and self-absorbed drama.
Have Alice and Bill been changed by their run-in with the Secret Powers that run their lives ? Well, consumer shopping for a joyless xmas is one of the tools of those Secret Powers, and here we are with them shopping 'for the sake of the child'. Mommy and Daddy are robots, and so is little Helena, too. Kubrick's next project was to be the work on Artificial Intelligence. What is he saying about these people? He let's them speak for themselves. Everything they say is accompanied by background, muzak versions of non-religious xmas songs...jingle bells...lots of tin bells jangling...dashing through the snow...they walk by a stack of red boxes reading: Magic Circle...
Bill: "Alice, what do you think we should do?" (This is a little boy and not a man speaking to his wife. She's expected to make the important emotional, ethical, spiritual decision for both of them.)
Alice: "What do I think we should do? Let's see. I don't know. I mean maybe ... I ...hey ...Maybe I think we should be grateful. Grateful that we've managed to survive through all our (deep sigh, ennui) 'adventures' ... whether they were real or only a dream."
Bill: "Are you ... are you Sure of that?"
Alice: "Am I sure? (Her face involuntarilly twitches; she adjusts her glasses on her nose; quick flash of pain, frustration.) Um ... oh ...Only as sure as I am that the reality of one night, let alone that (reality) of a whole lifetime can ever be the whole truth." (Think about the triteness of that for a moment.)
Bill: "And no dream is ever just a dream." (Getting in his little dig: Alice is unfaithful in her dreams!)
Alice: "The important thing is, we're awake now and hopefully for a long time to come." (Can this 'insight' be anything but willfull delusion?)
Alice: "Let's not use that word. It frightens me. But I do love you. (She's looking directly into his eyes.)
And you know, there is something very important that we need to do as soon as possible."
Bill: "What's that?"
Alice: "FUCK." (Flatly, with no exclamation other than sober fact.)
Camera blinks to black; the Magic Circle closes and they seem 'destined' to go around and around within it. The Shostakovich Waltz gets to play through its full circus length becoming a sonic carousel ride into a funny oompah-oompah up and down series of sounds. We feel jolted; 'Eyes Wide Shut' isn't just a movie, it's a challenge directly aimed at us, provoking us to understand that if we live simply as voyeurs watching pre-digested experiences of others we are trapped inside the Magic Circle, the Magic Lantern of illuminated images which is the precursor of film. Movies may be entertainment, but they're a good deal more than that; they're images transfixed by the light of spirit. They require our emotional, spiritual, and mental involvement in order to work their 'magic'. We have to view them with open eyes. The old aphorism has it that 'the eyes are the windows into the soul'.
We're left amazed that Alice and Bill can pretend to themselves that they're awake. What evidence do we have that supports their conclusion ? None; they've simply had their first real conversation in the film, and we've been excluded from the privacy of that conversation. It took place between the time Bill began sobbing on his wife's breast saying he'd tell her everything, and the time Alice -all red-faced and anxious- tells him they've promised to take Helena shopping. We learn that Alice feels they should consider themselves "grateful" to have survived their "adventures", while Bill has extracted from her agreement that "no dream is ever just a dream". We know what Bill means by his statement; he literalizes dreams, and he feels that Alice was unfaithful to him in her imaginings which he sees as dreams. It appears that Alice hasn't been able to lead Bill through the portal into the spiritual realm of imagination with which she seemed to have some familiarity. Dreams, fantasies, and wide-awake imaginings are deeply related; but they're also importantly -if subtly- distinct. Dreams, by definition, occurr in sleep; fantasies and wide-awake imaginings occurr while in altered states of awakened consciousness.
Doctor William Harford shows no signs of change, he's a "Forever" kind of guy. He still craves stability and fears change. When he told his lost buddy Nick, "You haven't changed. A bit." his friend responded with, "Well thanks. I think." Nick walked away from medical school, but Bill couldn't understand why he did that because Bill is afraid of the changes and flow of life. That's why he wants things to last, "Forever." He may have awakened to a few shocking realities, but does he understand that remaining awake is a full-time job? Just what kind of awakeness have Alice and Bill achieved? We aren't at all sure, the film leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions.
What happened to Nick? Is he, indeed, at home in Seattle "bangin Mrs. Nick"? Will Victor Ziegler continue to have Bill followed? Will Bill agree never to say a word or tell a single person about the things he witnessed at Somerton? Did Ziegler have Bill followed simply out of friendly concern, or is he merely acting within the extended policing arm of the Somerton circle? Is he in their hire for just such activities? Did Bill tell Alice EVERYTHING that went on at Somerton, including the "dire consequences" in store for his family should he spill the beans? Will Bill and Alice be living from this point on under the watchfull eye of the Occult Hierarchical Circle Bill blundred into, or will they avoid all such problems by keeping their mouths shut ...subsequently being drawn further and further into the circles of secret power? Few, if any, people ever leave 'The Company', the CIA, 'Scientology', or any other powerful closed-circuit cult of corruption, graft, murder, or "National Security" secrets. If they've reached the Janus Doorway within their relationship, will they move forward or remain chained to the past? Disturbing, but valid questions to which Kubrick refuses to give us obvious answers so that we can think for ourselves.
Thinking for myself, I find it disturbing that Bill shows no sign of seeking to discover what happened to his friend Nick Nightingale. Does he want to know, or has Victor Ziegler together with the Somerton Hierophant convinced him that only deeper dangers await him if he moves in that direction. Will he then live with "Eyes Wide Shut" concerning Nick's fate? Will he succomb as victim to that form of Tyranny? In his urge to tell Alice 'everything' has he told her about Nick ? And in the face of that information does she really think that the... "something very important we need to do" ...is to "fuck" and not to immediately find out if Nick is alive? Is the personal pleasure of fucking so important? Or is getting at the truth ?
This is precisely the point that Fidelio focuses upon, and that's why it's a "password". Fidelio-Leonore fought to free her lover-husband Florestan from the tyrannous imprisonment imposed on him precisely because he was a 'freedom fighter'. Their love extended beyond their personal 'fucking' to embrace larger social issues in the world because they knew that personal love can't flourish in an environment of power, and secret Tyranny. Alice and Bill show no signs of such awareness. We take our leave of them while they're shopping in a public department store (owned and controlled by the "not ordinary people" Ziegler threatened Bill with) and all that's on Alice's mind is that the "important" thing they must do is "Fuck". That word concluding the film is, I think, deliberately meant to shock us awake. Alice as Fidelio has become (by this point) plain worn-out and crass. The woman who redeemed Bill, Mandy-Fidelio, is dead. Was she murdered? And if she was, does this mean the end of the Fidelio theme of love and liberty in Bill's life? Alice's 'advice' has revealed her to be a desperate and collusive partner, but certainly not a Fidelio.Mandy, who literally redeemed Bill at Somerton also warned him that if he didn't leave while he could he'd put both their lives in danger. Bill recalls this fact in the voice-over while staring at her dead body in the morgue: "Because it could cost me my life, and possibly yours." She's dead at the movie's end, and we have available to us a limited number of explanations as to why this is so. Chief among these 'explanations' are Mandy's, Bill's, and Ziegler's. We listened at Somerton as Mandy publicly acknowledged that she knew what the consequences would be if she redeemed Billl: " ...are you sure you understand what you are taking upon yourself in doing this?" She's already told Bill the consequences could be death. Bill takes that seriously when he confronts Ziegler with: "Well, Victor, ... maybe I'm missing something here. You called it a fake, a charade. Do you mind telling me what kind of fucking 'charade' ends with somebody turning up DEAD." But Ziegler affably presents Bill and us with the easiest way out: Mandy was just a Hooker as Nick was just a Prick, and she died perfectly naturally because of her drug overdose. Whom shall we believe ? Bill may be a confused, passive, and security oriented doctor, Mandy may be a hooker with a drug problem, but I'd be inclined to take their viewpoints seriously before I could ever trust a word coming from the mouth of a character like Ziegler.
Many critics discussing the film get around this and other related issues by going back to Arthur Schnitzler's original novel, Romanza; A Traumnovelle wherein they find explanations for the movie's plot -for example, in the novel the wife finds the husband's party mask and puts it on his pillow, hence Alice does the same. Following such tactics, they claim that we can't be sure what's real and what's dream in 'Eyes Wide Shut' because the novel deliberately works that way. But I see no evidence within Kubrick's film to suggest that Bill's activities are anything but real. It's Alice's waking-imaginative vision of herself falling into a sailor's arms that causes Bill to fantasize, and when he does so it's always obviously rendered as black & white footage dropping into the film. There's no question at all that the Somerton-Saturnalia-Orgy is meant to be taken as real. Mandy's death is real, Nick's bruised face and forced disappearance is real, and the warnings issued by Ziegler and his masked circle of powerful, NOT "ordinary people" are real. But claiming it's all an artistic haze of dreams (they say that's why the lighting is obscure, why the filmstock is grainy etc.) let's us all off the hook too conveniently. I repeat, this film 'Eyes Wide Shut' is not primarilly a movie about the adventures and psychology of a married couple; it's Kubrick's warning vision of a Culture and a Society seen through the lives of a couple. They're eyes are wide shut because they think everything is all about them, they fail to come to grips with the Society that modeled and sustains them.
Schnitzler's novel was published in 1926. I haven't read it. Yet I recognize the milieu; Vienna, the German-Viennese 'fin-de-siecle', the aftermath of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Much of the art of the times was suffused by the mood of what appeared to be the decadent aristocratic manners of an 'old world'. Artists wrote, filmed, and painted depicting the grotesque and gruesome evils hitherto hidden away from polite society by that polite society itself. A year after Schnitzler published the novel upon which Eyes Wide Shut is loosely based, Gustav Meyrink, another German writer published his last novel, Der Engel Vom Westlichen Fenster. I have read all of Meyrink's works in English translation, and one of them, Walpurgisnacht, has inspired me enough that I've peppered its title throughout these reflections. In that novel Meyrink openly explores, in the great German-Romantic-Occult Tradition of literature, the vision of Western European Society decadently falling into the chaotic First World War.
What's wonderful about his book is that in it he depicts the demonic supernatural forces secretly molding the form of things in the lives of people too incredulous to grasp them. Events in life are not simply literal; they are imaginative and symbolic as well. It 'pays' to pay attention to that fact. Think 'Patriot Act', 'DARPA', 'Homeland Security'. Eyes wide shut is not a new notion; Society has always been guided from behind the scenes by people of power who employ their imaginations through secrecy and ceremonial rituals to obtain and sustain their social power. The effectiveness of this hidden technique of social-political-economic control depends upon keeping the general populace in a state of blind trance. The secrecy, rituals, and ceremonies are the active techniques used to create such unthinking blindness among the populace. Our parents and teachers pass on to us the old sustaining aphorisms such as, "What you don't know, can't hurt you." A blatant endorsement to keep your eyes closed, one that Hoffman, Goethe, and Meyrink all explored. Kubrick does too, not just in this film but in the entire body of his work. What's so different about 'Eyes Wide Shut' is that he explores this theme utilizing a modern married couple living in the technologically advanced environment of Manhattan's social climbers. A couple who prefer, like many of ourselves, to close their eyes to the implications of what's going on within them and how that's related to the larger framework in which they live and experience their being. He demonstrates how they never have time for their own inner lives, their dreams and fantasies because they're always too busy "playing the game". Events carry them along on the surface of a Society and Culture whose values we never see them question. Sonnambulists. Automatons. Efficient, upwardly-mobile machines who work, eat, play, shit and fuck. Terrified of their inner lives, never discussing soul or spirit, behaving like perfectly content consumers of whatever is offered them. They want to make 'quality' choices from the 'quality' selections available and buffer themselves from contact with Nature as well as the poor. Elegantly oppressed. Oppression and tyranny come by way of an almost infinite number of small events each seeming minor in and of itself. Censorship masks itself in a variety of multi-colored packages all containing the same pre-selected choices. Kubrick prods us to carefully examine the packaging; that's why he places so many 'details' in his films. Alice and Bill are two people who aren't paying attention to the bill of goods they've been sold. They're even passing it on to their daughter: Alice to Helena: "...you're going to be TAKING."I decided to write about this movie as the Imperial United States, festering with an ignorant citizenry who don't care to know what's taking place in their own Society righteously championed an immoral, illegal, and aggressive WAR of INVASION against the people of Iraq. That War is only the tip of an iceberg which has struck our 'Ship Of State'. Consciousness is the only life-raft we have. The illegal, immoral, and ignorant Bush administration is merely the visible aspect of an insidious conglomerate of greedy, corporate, black magicians who operate through media controlled rituals in an orgy of terror secretly aimed at shaping the hearts and minds of global humanity. Too many of us prefer to pretend it's all a bad dream, prefer to protect our allotted little niche within the hierarchical structure of consumer-producer society, prefer to live with eyes wide shut while we fuck. Most movies I see and the filmmakers who produce them give us varying degrees of violent or romantic pornography to gawk at as entertainment. Occassionally, they offer up a pseudo soul-searching piece of crap like "American Beauty" as an example of serious consciousness.
But Kubrick is hitting us over the head with the true nature of pornography, the business of secret games masked by polite manners in the Inner Sanctum of social-political-economic power. It's not about sex, naked bodies, and crude language that we need to be worried. Pornography is the masking of raw, dictatorial Power -the kind that kills anybody who gets in its way. How clever to program people to be 'shocked' at the very language their controllers use to force them into submission. People say fuck, piss, cock, cunt, prick, ass hole, shit and screw everyday but the FCC bans such language from public media. This gives Society the illusion of graciousness, but it's actually a blatant expression of censorship, cover-up, lying. Why is it that only in censorship-relishing America the perfectly artistic, deeply symbolic and political scenes from 'Eyes Wide Shut' had to be masked from the public? The digitally masked images at the Somerton Saturnalia cannot compare with the raw brutality of people whose limbs have been ripped from their bodies by the soldiers ( see "Full Metal Jacket" ) brutalized in their training to do so. Iraq and Afghanistan are full of such mutilated bodies created on the orders of Ziegler's 'non-ordinary' people. War is pornographic; the corporate businesses that engineer wars are pornographic.
Why was Mandy murdered? Who distributes and profits from the drugs on the streets? When will we look for Nick Nightingale? Did the Imperial Eagle swoop down and carry him away? Or must all such thought be censored, as in the plain white envelope from Somerton reading:
"GIVE UP YOUR INQUIRIES WHICH ARE COMPLETELY USELESS ...?"If we're going to 'Pledge Allegiance' to something, we might feel better if we pledge allegiance to keeping our Eyes Wide Open. Otherwise, as Millich said of his costumed mannequins to Bill, what we're living only "looks like life, huh?". Thank you, Stanley Kubrick.
Reflections On Stanley Kubrick
And The Pornography Of Corporate Life