WIDE SHUT AGAIN
Reflections On Stanley Kubrick
And The Pornography Of Corporate Life.
Francis Donald Grabau
Aside from being the title of a brilliant film, "Eyes Wide Shut" is a verbally succinct summation of 'reality' as lived by the celebrated 'Upwardly Mobile Achiever' in today's Modern Culture. It's a film that came and went in a hurry, a film that did "poorly" at the box office despite (or perhaps because of) the inordinate amount of advertising 'hype' that preceeded its release to movie houses. That advertising focused almost exclusively on the titillating idea of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise having sex on the 'big screen', but that's not what people saw when they went to the movie. They saw a very slow paced film which, far from being in any way sensational, seemed ominously pedestrian and even common place -except for its carefully polished artistry. That artistry revealed the pornographic reality of contemporary 'Western Life'. An elaborately technological life which, in fact, can no longer really be called 'Western' since it's spread to every corner of the Earth. The lifestyle the film portrays pivots around the 'artsy-fartsy' doings of a secret cabal of Masked Criminal Elitists. They are at the very causal center of everything that unfolds in the film. And this is what I want to talk about: Secret Circles & Sophisticated Rings of Power. Hence, Eyes Wide Shut Again. Or 'Contemporary Corporate Culture' as depicted in a film which takes place largely in Wealthy Party Circles.
Alice Dressing To Party
The very first image of the film is a medium long-range shot of the back of Nicole Kidman standing in black high heels and dropping some scrap of black negligee to the floor. She stands tall, slim, and naked with her back to the camera facing a nightime window covered by venetian blinds (not fully closed) and draped with deep red curtains. Four Greco-Roman Columns frame her announcing her role as a Venus de Milo or a Wingless Victory of Samothrace with both her arms intact. Her negligee pools at her feet forming a dark circle which she casually steps out from in her high, pointed heels. Screen goes to black.
Title appears: EYES WIDE SHUT as plain white letters on plain black screen. This is followed by a quick edit to images of night traffic moving on the lighted streets outside. Then we 'pop' back into a matching shot of the back of Tom Cruise formally and fully suited in black standing in front of his own blinded and red draped window with his hands searching his pockets (almost identical to the one in the opening shot of Nicole). He pivots around to face the camera. The man's looking for his wallet, moving through elegantly furnished and expensively decorated rooms while he hunts. Right away, these three sequential scenes establish an image-theme of the film as: Woman (Nicole), World (street traffic), and Man (Tom).
Then we hear the first words spoken in the film: "Honey, have you seen my wallet ?" The soundtrack for all this is a slightly jaded waltz tune, tilted to the tempo of a carnivalesque rhythm which creates a bizarre sort of 'danse macabre' ( "Waltz For Jazz Suite II"; Dimitri Shostakovich ). For the next two hours and thirty-nine minutes we're caught up in the waltz . We follow a few days in the life of the affluent couple, Doctor Bill Harford and his wife Alice, until she speaks the closing word of the film (in the context of Xmas shopping with their child, Helena -another classical Greco-Roman reference to the Ideal Beauty of Woman): "And you know, there is something very important that we need to do as soon as possible... (pause)..." -"What's that,"- asks Doctor Bill on cue, "FUCK." she responds.The entire film from beginning to end can be experienced as a kind of Honey-Money-Fuck. A sticky and slow-moving experience of life. A scripted, voyeuristic waltz to an apparently crude conclusion. Kubrick lures us as co-conspirators into the voyeuristic detective pacing of the film's overall mood when he 'winks' at us right away at the film's opening and again at its close. He 'winks' with the peculiar timing and style of certain quick edits which occur throughout the movie between almost still images and the suddenly black screen. The style and speed of these edits feels like a photo camera taking snap shots. When Nicole Kidman speaks the film's final word -" FUCK "- it rings abruptly in our ears because the screen edit goes to silent black once more (as it did in the beginning). Fuck ? Click. Wink. What was that all about ? In an instant the waltz starts up again and the plain credits roll white on black. From the first to the last edit we realize we're watching a stunning film. A deliberate and formally styled work of art. Elegantly bleak.
Between the opening and the conclusion we experience what it means to live life with eyes wide shut despite the fact that we may try very hard to keep them open. But the pacing of the film is frequently so slow and lulling that (despite the rich and artfully woven imagery) we can easily begin to fall asleep. Catching ourselves 'nodding-out', we may wonder -what the hell is Stanley Kubrick doing here? Why have we watched at least twenty minutes of film in which nothing at all seems to be happening ? We're caught in the conundrum of staring with eyes wide open at "Eyes Wide Shut". The irony of the situation certainly can't escape us though we each respond to it in our own ways. The title suggests that Kubrick offers the film as an exercise in seeing. Apparently, we see only what we're able to see, what we prefer to see, or perhaps what we've been conditioned to see with eyes wide shut. Blink, wink, click. To give to a film -a predominantly visual experience- the title "Eyes Wide Shut" is both ironic and provoking. We struggle hard to pay attention because we know he spent three years crafting it; we're watching something he sees and wants to communicate. But what's that ?
It's the dull pornography of everyday "civilized" life. He confronts us with the fact that we don't want to see this obscene reality -and so we live with Eyes Wide Shut. Secrecy and mutual masking are the tools that render us complicitous in our own numbing and manipulation. Kubrick unveils a select circle of society that operates as a collective of 'sentient programs' in an elite pantomime of life. These powerful 'simulacra' function seductively as programmers as well, seeking to lure others toward their own 'blind' condition. Wink, blink, click -it's a forbidden, alluring, and absolutely Taboo subject. Contagious trance.We meet the majority of the film's soulless creatures (humanoids) in full swing at the first of two parties dominating the film. Alice and Tom are dressing to attend this party as the film opens, and after a brief introduction to their seven year old daughter (when we first hear that Tom and Nicole are Mr. & Mrs. Harford) we go swiftly with them out the door. This is Victor's Xmas party, he and his wife greet Tom and Nicole in their marbled, high-ceilinged reception hall where both couples immediately indulge in the kind of slick and mutually insincere flattery which is the hallmark of glib society everywhere. It's so common place these days that no one even bothers to call attention to it. Kubrick does nothing to make the dialogue palatable or to infuse any sense of drama into it. It's simply exposed as the boring and routine falseness of 'social grace' indulged in by well-to-do people dressed to kill. In fact, they immediately comment on each others' fine clothes. But there's nothing unusual about that since Bill's already made just this kind of automatic-mindless chatter with Alice while they dressed at home. Alice remarked at the time that Bill "wasn't even looking" when he told her her hair looked good and she was 'beautiful'. That rejoinder from his wife just rolled off Bill the way water rolls off the proverbial duck's back. Neither one of them missed a beat in their hurriedly ongoing and rather narcissistic self-primping -Bill had already urged they "were running a little late". So when they reach Victor's party and the automatic banter continues we hardly raise an eyebrow. It's nothing out of the ordinary, just a youngish white Doctor and his youngish white wife joining others dressed and acting like themselves at a 'classy' party in a posh Manhattan Mansion where a small orchestra fills the rooms with bland, 'easy-listening' sounds.
Victor and Bill share quips about expensive doctors and their fees (bills) until Bill wonders off with Alice to dance in a vacuous blur of other couples. They chat together saying how neither of them knows any of the other people at the party [ Bill actually says he knows, "Not...a...Soul" -with pointed emphasis on the 'not' ] which prompts Alice to respond: "Why do you think the Zieglers invite us to these things every year ?" Bill suggests it comes with the territory, -being an upwardly mobile doctor who makes house calls for the wealthy. By this time we already realize that Bill and Alice are gliding blindfolded through their familiar marriage.But then Bill notices the only man at the Party dressed in a White jacket and points him out to Alice. He's some distance away across the room, part of the orchestra group. He's the Piano player, an old buddy of Bill's who dropped out of medical school. His name is "Nick Nightingale" -we hear this alliterative name with a certain amusement since it sounds so hoaky, as if he's a character in a paper-back detective story by Mickey Spillane. It's a deliberately symbolic name and we register that fact, particularly as the film takes place almost exclusively at Night and Nightingale becomes the key character whose actions will provoke most of what takes place in the rest of the film. A Nightingale, we reflect, is a kind of bird wherein only the Male of the species sings melodiously throughout the Night. Nick Nightingale is the man who provides the music, the man who will inadvertantly initiate the central actions which comprise the 'plot' of the film.
When I say Nick is the only man at the Party dressed in a White jacket I'm not being altogether honest. All the orchestra members are dressed in white jackets, and so are the waiters. It's the black and white world of the elite and their servants that's being visually emphasized in these party scenes. But Nick Nightingale, the drop-out from medical school, is the only lower class 'servant type' male present who will become a 'real' character with crucial lines to speak and thoughts to express. In fact, it's the sight of Nick that prompts Tom and Nicole to split-up at the party. They do so agreeably when Tom goes to talk with Nick just as the orchestra leader explains they're going to take a ten minute break from the music. Nicole, for whatever reasons, clearly chooses not to meet Nick. She says she's going to the ladies room. They agree to meet later at the bar. And I say Tom and Nicole because that's really who we're watching in this film advertised as:
EYES WIDE SHUT.
We're watching three artists working together on a carefully constructed and artfully crafted film. Just as Kubrick gives us a character alliteratively named NICK NIGHTINGALE he also gives us Kidman and Cruise as the upper class version of Alice and Ralph, the Honeymooners of 1950's Jackie Gleason fame. He's making a very Archetypal film and wants us to know it. All the characters are Carboard Cut-Outs, Symbolical Types acting out Typical Roles in a movie which blatantly forces us to understand that it's created from the point of view of 'high art'. It is, after all, the last film Stanley Kubrick completed, and it's common knowledge that Kubrick was a Deliberate Intentional Artist. Many reviewers have accused him of being didactical and moralistic in this film, but I think he's being no such thing. He simply remains the deliberate artist he is -a craftsman carefully constructing a Tale which he means us to take as 'Art' and certainly not as morality preaching or psychological drama. That's why the film is Brechtian in its approach forcing us to understand the director's intention that we should always be aware we're watching a performance by actors. It's Cruise and Kidman, the Archetypal Hollywood "Happy Couple" we're watching. They're merely 'play-acting' the cardboard characters of Bill and Alice. Kubrick intends that we should know that. They're 'Movie Stars' and we're sitting in the dark watching them. Voyeuristically. Attentive to their performances. He intends that we should become increasingly self-conscious. Edit. Click. Fuck. It's an awkward feeling. Creates a sense of distance and detachment from all the characters and their doings. But let's get back to the film proper.Immediately upon the parting of Alice and Bill there's a quick edit to Alice moving down a narrow hallway swilling the dregs of her drink, making a crooked head-to-shoulder posture, a kind of shrug announcing in body-language her intention to have a few more and get herself cozily plastered. She makes a woozy face, and holding her near empty glass like an unweildy prop, propels herself forward. Another quick edit to Bill entering a frame focused upon Nick perched (like the strange night bird he is) in the upper left hand screen beside the piano. He's thumbing through sheets of music. Bill's moving forward into the frame as he calls out "Nightingale, ....Nick Nightingale" from behind Nick. Nick turns and steps down off his platform saying, "O my god, Bill...Bill Harford! How the Hell are you, buddy". It's not really a question, and the two of them proceed to the sturdy 'handshake' stereotypically required of two such white men in such a situation. But there's a brief suggestion of real warmth between them as Tom Cruise keeps putting his arm on Nick's shoulder and pats him (in very manly style, of course) across his diaphragm. Nick reciprocates some gestures in kind [ though quickly and with less profusion ] before he plants both his hands in his pockets. Tom asks if he has time for a drink, and when Nick says " Yeah " they do a brief and mutual arm over shoulder walk together toward the camera.
Dialogue between the two establishes the fact that they haven't seen each other for ten years ..."it's (been) a couple". Nick asks Tom how he's doing and Tom responds with, "Not too bad, you know...not too bad." Tom as Bill then remarks to Nick (walking again with his hands buried in his pockets): "You haven't changed. A bit." To which Nick replies, "Well thanks, ...I think?" and the conversation shifts as Bill, answering to Nick's tone, says: "I see you've become a ...Pianist" with peculiar inflective emphasis on the word. This prompts Nick to say, sparringly and with dry sarcasm: "O yes, all my friends call me that." He giggles, a manly chuckle, but these two old friends have just had a few flashes of 'boyish' familiarity together. A slight tone of 'younger/bachelor days' has graced their chat. Tom 'confesses' that he never really understood why Nick dropped out of medical school, saying: "I never did understand why you walked away". The tone is superior and remonstrative, but Nick counters it with, "No? ... It's a nice feeling. I do it a lot." We've just been given the 'tags' for the two men, a quick understanding of their complimentary natures distilled in a nutshell: Tom doesn't like change, Nick likes to move on. This makes them polarized opposites, the Odd Couple. They clink their glasses together to "Cheers!" but are immediately interrupted by another black suited man who says he needs Nick for a minute. Thus Bill and Nick part ways with Nick informing Bill he'll be working 'down in the village' at a place called the Sonata Cafe. If they should not see each other again at the party, Bill should drop by the Sonata to see him... if he gets a chance. Bill says [with earnest resolve], "I'll be there." and we're carried away immediately through a slow fade-out/fade-in camera superimposition to Nicole, medium close up. There's a brief but highly significant 'instant' where Tom is left standing far left in the frame after Nick has exited right. Nicole gently fades up into Nick's vacated spot. Nic(k) is the affectionate diminutive form of Nicole. It feels suggestive..."it's (been) a couple".Nicole continues to come into full view while Tom fades out. The piano is heard playing a melodic line over the orchestra. It's a typical 'jazz' style rendition of the melody, 'It Had To Be You'. The question arises: is Nick playing this tune, and if so why now after just having left Tom ? Nicole is toying with her drink and turns her back to us to face the ballroom while reaching backward to set her glass down on the punch table behind. A tall, elderly man turns into the frame just as Nicole reveals her bare back (sensuously highlighted in its low-cut black gown) to the camera. He takes a few steps toward her but she pretends not to notice him. He deliberately hesitates for a moment before picking up her glass and drinking from it. We've already watched him as he's watched her put it down, and this creates a certain minor moment of drama. She turns to face him and stammers "Um,...I think that's my glass" to which he responds, "Oh, I'm absolutely certain of it." Who sees what, -click, edit, wink ? Party games.
Looking directly at her he drinks again from her glass while she stares at him. Putting the glass down very slowly he reaches out and picks up her arm (as if she were an object) raising the tips of her fingers to his lips. Then he offers, "My name is Sandor Szavast. I'm Hungarian". All his maneuvers are done with a svelt and insinuating ease which will continue throughout many minutes of the party as this 'Hungarian' unctuously gushes aristocratic blather at Alice in a pronounced effort to have her retire with him to another room for sexual purposes. He's the consumate suave 'player' who speaks of Ovid's 'Art Of Love'. Alice flirts with him elaborately but makes it clear that she's married, her husband's at the party, and she's very, very unlikely to go off with him for sex. His languid body movements together with his exaggerated speech quickly become strident (if subtle) reminders of that other infamously seductive Hungarian in the film world, -Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula. We hardly believe our eyes and ears, but Kubrick intends to have it no other way. It's the Vampire of Legend seducing his Lucy to the sounds of party 'jazz' in downtown Manhattan!
Our handsome (hair streaked with distinguisged grey locks) Hungarian Vampire, upon hearing that Alice is married confides to her, "Oh, how sad!" and inquires as to what she 'does'. She explains to him (us) that she used to run an Art Gallery but no longer does because it went broke. He responds, "I have some friends in the Art Game, perhaps I can be of some help".
[ Art is a game for wealthy socialites, and before this movie ends we'll see it employed everywhere as a tool frequently masking what's really going on right in front of our eyes.] Nicole begins to look away from her dancing partner and the camera switches to follow her line of sight across the room to Tom laughing with two young women.After this short 'insert' of Tom flirting at the dance, the camera returns to Lucy and her Vampire friend. We follow both of them again while they waltz and quip until Sandor comes up with the typically vulgar line, "Don't you think one of the charms of marriage is that it makes Deception a neccessity for both parties?" This idea soon leads the camera (and Alice's thoughts) back to Doctor Bill stylishly cavorting with his two female friends via the kind of verbal exchanges one might expect from social climbers tipsy on too much alcohol. A little fun is had with the name, Nuala, attached to one of these women as she spells it out letter by letter to Tom (spitting it in his face) while entwining one arm around her girl friend's shoulder. The two women are partly playing at being drunk. Doctor Tom is indulging them from an obviously 'superior' and far more sober stance. His tone is frequently 'arch' and his superior condescension is emphasized. Not too long ago he loaned his 'perfectly clean' white handkerchief to one of the girls while she was on a photo shoot as a Model at Rockafeller Plaza. She reminds him of this as her way of practicing the "Art Of Love" -a 'tongue-in-cheek' book Ovid wrote for the game-players in the Aristocratic Court of his day. It becomes increasingly apparent that both Tom and Nicole are speaking in parallel conversations concerned with sexual seduction as a social party favor. Both of them (Movie Stars) are out together in Public (masked as Bill and Alice) being seduced by others in search of sexual games. We're given the time to make such observations because of Kubrick's slow and deliberate pacing of the banal dialogue. He's setting up his story.
One of the charms of marriage is that it makes deception a neccessity for both parties ?
The film continues to unfold with a rhythmic editing back and forth between Nicole dancing/flirting with her Hungarian Vampire, and Tom increasingly entangled in the arms and verbal games of his two lady friends. A real feeling of boredom builds as we're 'forced' to witness the ongoing party scenes and coded social banter we already know from personal experience. Voices continuously speaking in the background blend into easy listening music and add to the boredom. We grow more and more uncomfortable and find ourselves wishing that something -anything- might happen to end all this lush triviality. But Kubrick keeps right on building it while we squirm in our seats. New heights of absurdity are reached as the tracking camera leadsTom parading arm-in-arm with his two female admirers down hallways with all three of them laboring to sustain their 'witty' innuendos. We're watching Tom 'cruise' as Bill. Once again it's the Movie Star Celebrity (Doctor) pestered at a social event. His 'charm' is wearing thin. His phony smile is cracking. He's had enough and asks these ladies just where "exactly" all this banter is headed. Where are they leading him ? With even more sexual innuendo they reply that they're taking him... "to where the Rainbow ends". Then, with a mixture of tones (both questioning and slightly thoughtful) he repeats the phrase highlighting it once again for us. They respond by taunting him: "Don't you want to go to where the Rainbow ends" ? By this time it's evolved into something of a vaguely sinister puzzle. We find ourselves wondering where does the Rainbow end ? On a bed in a dark room having sex ? On the ground ? In the air ? At the fabled pot of gold ? Who the hell cares where the Rainbow ends !
Once Kubrick has firmly planted this 'End of the Rainbow' theme in our heads he cuts-off the scene. It's curtailed by the smooth but sudden appearance of another male figure. This guy interrupts Tom's dialogue with the girls to say that the host, Mr. Ziegler, requires his presence immediately because "a matter has come up". So, this is where the rainbow ends ? Maybe, but it's not clear. What's clear is that it's the second time Tom's been interrupted at the party. First time around his talk with his old friend, Nick Nightingale, was cut short. That happened when a similar male figure informed Nick that he was needed for business elsewhere. Now we have the second interruption when Tom himself must be whisked away. These interruptions add to our sense of confusion as to where this film is headed, where Bill is headed, and why we feel so impatient. Doctor Bill is a character more acted upon than acting. He needs 'interruptions' to set him into motion just as he needs to know where "exactly" the rainbow ends. He's a rational, responsible Doctor unlike his friend Nick who 'dropped out' of medical school. But it will eventually become apparent that Nick, the night singing bird, is central to this Rainbow theme. It will repeat like a Wagnerian Leitmotif leading Tom and us to the next and very secret-exclusive party at the core of the film. Before we get to that party we must follow Tom in his role as Doctor Bill Harford led up the winding staircase (backlit with long vertical streams of Xmas lights) to the apparent place where the 'first' rainbow ends.Edit from long-shot of Tom and attendant ascending the staircase to a medium close-up of Ziegler, the party host, bare chested and pulling up his black pants while zipping closed his fly. He rises from a squatting position on the floor to the left of a naked female figure sprawled apparently unconscious over a maroon colored upholstered chair. He pulls his suspenders over his chest. A knock is heard at the door. He promptly answers: "Bill, thanks for coming," -as the camera (tracking him) passes for the second time a free-standing bathtub and follows both men moving toward the naked woman on the chair. "Had a...had a little accident here," he tells Bill. His tone is even and annoyed. The sprawled naked woman, he tells us, had been shooting up with a speedball of heroin-coke when she collapsed into this condition. Doctor Bill immediately attends to her with a hands-on examination. He crouches beside her chair asking Ziegler what happened. Ziegler claims that he doesn't know -they just had a couple of drinks and she 'shot up' and passed out like this. She's been this way for five to seven minutes and her name is... (Ziegler has to 'fish' for this) ....Mandy.
The scene which subsequently unfolds in this 'bathroom' is the first scene in the film where something unpleasantly out of the ordinary is happening. Mandy is in serious medical trouble -some state of shock or seizure. She can't open her eyes. She can't move at all. She's displayed before us throughout most of the scene as a limp, voluptuously nude female figure with ample breasts and large nipples. There's very little sense of a person here, but a strong sense of a sexual object. We view Mandy through the camera positioned below her feet and shooting up her belly, across her breasts to her face. Tom is on the right side of the screen fully clothed in formal black. Ziegler continues to get dressed as the scene unfolds. Mandy, alone, is naked and vulnerable except for her high heels. Kubrick, the filmaker, deliberately contrasts her body to that of another naked woman which hangs as a mural on a wall of the room. Twice the camera frames this mural while Ziegler stands in the foreground talking. It's a formal painting of a naked woman with tempting breasts and nipples reclining on a kind of oriental carpet. Her figure and nakedness mirror Mandy's. Then, in this film entitled Eyes Wide Shut, we witness an earnest but thoroughly professional Doctor Bill imploring a nude, almost unconscious woman to open her eyes. Repeatedly asking her if she can see and hear him. His frequent repition of her name, Mandy, drives home the point that this is the familiar diminutive of Amanda. Mandy is treated by both men as a child -in the sense of a smaller person who (because of her condition) must be 'talked down to' and scolded as a child. She's like Doctor Bill's own daughter, Helena, in that she's treated as a child while simultaneously seen as an 'ideal' figure of the perfect, sexual beauty of woman. Helena, we recall is the celebrated Grecian Beauty whose face 'launched a thousand ships' and caused the Trojan War. Woman as ideal, as child, as dangerous sexual prize. Those Greco-Roman columns framing Nicole as the film opened. Ovid's 'Art Of Love'. Antiquity. Art. Class.
Cutaway edit to Alice and Sandor dancing intimately together, their faces filling the screen. Sandor telling Alice that Ziegler has a great collection of ART " upstairs " -especially sculptures- does she want to go with him to see it ? All this, of course, in that ongoing unctuous sing-song of his most seductive Dracula voice. His head is higher than Alice's. He towers over her leaning his face down into hers. Their lips are often only an inch apart. The feeling is intimately oppressive. He wants to use her exactly as Ziegler has just finished using Mandy -though perhaps without the drugs. We have, after all, just moved by edit from full screen close-up of Doctor Bill and Mandy to full screen close-up of Sandor and Alice. 'ART ' is the shared visual/verbal thread. Art as seduction. The art of seduction. Alice tells Sandor the equivalent of 'maybe later'.
Return to Ziegler upstairs tucking in his shirt while the camera eyes him. He's behind the tub now. The screen is full of white surfaces with strong horizontal and vertical lines. Chrome fixtures about the tub, a brief hygienic and clinical moment foreshadowing the scene in the morgue where we'll meet Mandy again later on in the movie. Ziegler moves toward a no longer naked but blue-robed Mandy, while Doctor Bill lounges on a richly carved wooden table in the far center background. Victor Ziegler plants his feet squarely in front of seated Mandy and says, "That was one HELL of a scare you just gave us," -his tone is calm, firm, slightly paternalistic and wholly self-absorbed. Everything he says and does in this scene reveals not that he did anything reprehensible at all, but that Mandy has inconvenienced him. Mandy (meekly) replies, "I'm sorry." In contrast, Doctor Bill moves forward into the frame and kneels beside her. He reaches out and takes her arm. Speaks to her in the customary tones of the AMA Doctor, -professional, 'kind', condescending. Warns her that she's been lucky ("a lucky girl") this time, but the next might easily kill her. Tells her she's in need of "some rehab" -then pats her a few times on the hand 'smiling' his forced, professional smile. One's skin crawls watching this collusive scene of aloof, 'professional' compassion between two 'reasonable' men and a nearly unconscious woman who's in serious trouble.Then Doctor Bill turns and walks over to Ziegler, "Well, Victor," he says, "I think I can leave the rest up to you." But it turns out he can't. Victor asks 'permission' to send her home now so he can get back to his other guests and his ongoing party. Bill has to explain to him that he really must give Mandy an hour or so to recover further, that he should have someone drive her home. Victor, somewhat disappointed, seems to accept this judgement and walks Bill to the door. There the two share a 'manly' aside wherein Victor cautions Bill to keep all this to himself. 'Confidential', you know. The language in this scene is perfect, Victor turns to face Bill grabbing his arms and saying - "Bill, you've saved my ass.... Listen ... I probably, ...Oh I know I don't have to say it, but this is just between us. Okay?" "Of course," says Bill, arms folded defensively across his chest. A pact has just been sealed. Victor, who's really the winner in this exchange, pats Bill on the shoulder and back -good doggie. We sense that something uneasy has touched us in this 'gentlemen's agreement'. There's a familiar feeling of 'complicity' going on in the scene...a taboo, secret theme has been sounded. But before we can really register it a simple edit takes us back to Alice and Sandor.
They're still dancing and flirting. This time around Alice announces her immanent departure but Sandor protests he "must" see her again. Nicole Kidman now distills all of Alice's night-long flirtation, all her tones and gestures into the cat and mouse declaration that he can't see her again because (as she coyly and slowly says) "I'm M~A~R~R~I~E~D." She's holding up her marriage hand, flexing her ring finger as she tells him. Then, like a tipsy Tinker Bell waving her magic wand, she kisses another finger and, carrying it to his lips, turns and walks away. It's all really 'over the top' as they say. Kidman under Kubrick's direction is approaching (if not already up to her teeth in) what critics refer to as cultural 'camp'. The 'excuse' for her behaviour is that she's drunk. One wants to protest, or question, or just puke -but Stanley ends the scene right there !
Of course the film moves relentlessly forward, but we can pause a moment here to ask ourselves what's going on. Nicole Kidman is an accomplished actress aware of her craft. Kubrick is a director celebrated/condemned for his multiple retaking of scenes. We can certainly assume that Kidman's enacting of Alice's antics fulfilled the director's wishes. It's all deliberate. Just as Tom's enactments of Bill's role is a mutual work on the part of Kubrick and Cruise. And then there's the role of 'Dracula' or Sandor Szavast, a role that's highly stylized and 'generic', -the role of the suave older man on the prowl. All three of these characters get away with a lot of 'grand standing' because the scene is a party masquerade flowing with noxious music and copious alcohol. A kind of pinkish-purple haze haunts the camera in the dance scenes, and the occassion for the party is the festive Xmas Holidays. Everyone's elegantly dressed with all the dancing males in black bow ties. It's a time of social masking which 'permits' the exaggerated gestures and language. It allows for the theatrical teasing of the two women claiming they will take Tom to the place "where the Rainbow ends." Again the question arises, where's that ?
The Rainbow is (technically) just the colored spectrum of light, but poetically it's the play of light upon mist -a symbol of fairytale enchantment and hope of transformation. There's something magical about a Rainbow. Yet, no sooner is it mentioned than we're taken out of the party atmosphere into the sober bathroom of reality where sickness, drugs, and sex are the themes. We are let in on a dirty little secret, a 'backstage' event wherein 'Death' raises the stakes in the party games being played. At the same time, all these 'goings on' are common place among affluent city dwellers and Kubrick's deliberately using them to heighten our awareness, to lead us to the next, strictly Taboo Party Scene pivotal to the film. Alice leaves the Zieglers' abode afloat in questionable whimsy but with no committments. Her husband leaves having agreed to keep an unsavory secret with Victor and an "I'll be there" committment to Nick. We, the audience, leave the party glutted on rich visual imagery, uneasy and impatient as to where this movie might be heading.Cut to Alice in front of the metal framed, beveled mirror familiar from all the pre-release posters of Eyes Wide Shut. She's wearing her glasses but otherwise appearing nude while she fools with her ear-rings taking them off. Her back is to the camera (us) but her naked body from the navel up is visibly centered in the screen through the mirror. This is the 'hot' scene connected to all those rumors about naked sex between Kidman and Cruise which we were given to understand would fill the film. Our expectations are up. A loud and pulsing electric guitar abruptly pounds in our ears. Oh boy, this is gonna be IT! The heavy beat suddenly has words: "They did a bad, bad thing ... They did a bad, bad thing..." it's insistent, raunchy, and funny at the same time. As it continues, a naked Tom Cruise slides into the frame (right) but is first seen in the mirror. He insinuates himself into the picture under Kubrick's directorial intention. Frankly, the scene is hilarious -what with the corny song and the two Movie Stars carresingly viewing their own images (as directed) in the mirror. They watch themselves initiate a little mutual foreplay for sex. We never see it. Fade to black.
To watch Tom Cruise watch himself in the mirror before he turns his eyes away (reluctantly, one senses) to look at and kiss Nicole's neck is to understand the quintessential core of movies as voyeurism. What's deliberate here ? Who's doing what for whom ? We're watching Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as they watch themselves watching themselves in a movie they're making. A certain aspect of sex and self-conscious voyeurism merge here. We are, by extension, watching ourselves watching ourselves. Double layers everywhere, leading to images/thoughts of infinite regression. All of us in a hall of mirrors inside our minds. All of us caught and framed in the mirror of the movie in the movie. Yipes, let me outta here ! Meanwhile, that thumping guitar and those repeated words "...bad, bad thing" -it's all too crafted and self-conscious to allow us to rest in our 'typical' roles as movie-goers. The entire screen fills with their two heads merging. There's no place to go. We all implode. Slow wink. Eyes Wide Shut fades to black.
Next morning. Slow fade up to Cruise with brief case exiting elevator. Doctor's office. Return of the cockeyed waltz music heard at the film's opening. Life as usual for Doctor Bill and Alice. Alternating scenes of Bill with patients at work, and Alice with daughter at home. Back and forth go the edits until we're together with all three of them at home: Bill, Alice, and daughter Helena. The stilted, happy family. Casual. Automatic. Alice remarks to Bill, "We should call the Zieglers and thank them for the party." Bill, " I've taken care of that." [ Oh, we reflect, that's the explanation as to WHY they're invited every year! ] They agree NOT to finish wrapping presents. Tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. Edits come and go throughout till once again Alice is confronting a mirror. It swings open to reveal the band-aid box concealing her stash of dope. Just marijuana. She 'needs' to get 'high'.
And she does. The ensuing scene of Kidman on 'pot' is one of my favorites. I suppose her husband takes a hit or two as well, but if he does it just makes him more sober. Alice, on the other hand, giggles, guffaws, and struts about all-the-while in a skimpy bedroom outfit that emphasizes her stick-like arms (frequently all akimbo) and her stalky, long legs. Kidman manages some radical mood swings while relentlessly pursuing Alice's very spiralling and focused thoughts. She's like a frisky cat in heat. She wants to 'play' at fighting with Bill and does. Her 'little girl' primping flows effortlessly through her penetrating and intelligent speech as she willfully befuddles Tom with her (t)act. Meow. Purr. Claws. He crouches on the bed while she moves this way and that, -standing, posing, throwing herself to the floor. It's amusingly instructive to watch her perform.Alice, we discover, is royally pissed at Bill. The reason ? He sees no mystery in her. Finally we're back to that earlier scene before the party when she let him get away with his automatic praise of her beauty. He won't now. They're entwined together in their underwear on the bed when the pot-smoking Alice asks Bill if he... "by any chance" ...just "happened" (one of his favorite words) to... "FUCK" ...the two "girls" she saw him with at the party. Nicole's emphasis, her pronunciation of the sound "FUCK" in this scene foreshadows what she will say again at the film's end. She isolates the word so that it 'pops' in our ears like a cork exploding from a champaigne bottle. The sound is plosive. Mechanical. Accentuates the feel of primal physical movements the body makes in the act. Has little to do with love, sweetness, or romance ("not... a ...soul"). "What ?" yells Bill, outraged and amazed. She points out to him that he suspiciously disappeared for awhile from the party and he answers that, "Ziegler wasn't feeling well, and I got called upstairs to help him." This, of course, is a LIE...but it's one of those lies that "everybody" tells. Not really a LIE, just NOT the truth. And we (unlike Alice) are forced to recall his 'confidential' pact with Ziegler. But Bill, burning in his righteousness, counters Alice's query with one of his own -"What did that Hungarian want ?" "Sex," she tauntingly says.
At this point we enter into an extended dialogue between Alice and Bill meant to give us our first in-depth understanding of them as people and a married couple. It's a typical psychological exchange endlessly acted out in Hollywood Movies between white, upwardly mobile, surfacely civilized, and heterosexual couples everywhere. It's what we've come to understand as 'meaningful' communication in life. It's the kind of thing we're conditioned to see as high-spirited, bold and daring psycho-drama. But after all the wild, accusatory word slinging is finished (the juicy stuff actors love) we're led into the realm of dreams and fantasies which harkens back to the original novel, Romanza; A Traumnovelle, by one Arthur Schnitzler.
Although the German of that author's title translates to dream story or novel, the Greek root of the word, 'trauma,' equates to wound. Kubrick and his screenwriter/collaborator, Frederick Raphael, have created a script which highlights woundedness throughout the film. In this long extended scene between Alice and Bill mutual wounding is the theme. They wound each other with words flung back and forth impugning each other's emotional-sexual intentions, but they do this the way western, white, 'civilized' couples everywhere do it, ...with guilt-slinging repressions. They're unveiled as naive people acting like spiteful children sadly unaware of each other's inner lives. Their personalities and bodies have met and married, but their souls seem like mutual strangers. In this scene they traumatize each other, and their mutually shocking behaviour is really what sets things into high gear. It extends the film beyond the realm of 'realistic' character psychology and opens it (tentatively) onto the plane of symbolic spiritual Quest. How does this happen ?
Well, Doctor Bill responds to Alice's assertion that Dracula wanted "sex" from her with the kind of thinking that goes right back to the wallet he was looking for when we first met him: "Oh, he wanted to fuck MY wife. I suppose that's understandable." Another man envies his 'ownership' of his wife. Alice totally 'freaks' at this response. The first time I watched the film, Nicole's sudden, seemingly irrational, and utterly vituperative response to Bill's statement struck me as silly. "Oh, the only reason any man wants to talk with me is because he wants to fuck me! Is that what you're saying?" This seems like a strange response for her to give since we've just watched her dancing interminably with another man whose sole and transparent goal was to lure her into sexual activity with him. But he was "romantic" and he talked of Art and Ovid as he shamelessly pursued his attempted seduction. Bill, on the other hand, uses language in a puritanical, unromantic, and very practical way. He has no gift for eloquent verbiage. He's just a doctor. He can flirt, as he did with Nuala and her partner at the party, but his flirtation is self-consciously stilted and he finally (impatiently) just comes right out and asks them, "Ladies, where -exactly- are we going? Exactly..."
Understandably then, throughout his long scene with Alice he never allows himself to imagine what might be upsetting her. It's his flat reasonableness. It's the fact that he considers it "understanable" that Dracula "wanted to fuck my wife." He tells her "we both know what men are like" ...fuckers? She argues that if that's the case then Bill must have wanted to fuck those two women she saw him with. No, he says, "I happen to be an exception." Alice fires back at him, "What makes you an exception?" Continuing in his 'reasonable' role he tells her, "I happen to be in love with you....and because I would NEVER LIE TO YOU !" He's lying, of course, when he says this. But it can be argued that he truly has no idea he's lying. Most American viewers of this film would have no idea that he's lying either, I bet. Nor that the 'reason' Alice is instigating this 'fight' with Bill is that she feels she too has been lying ! Alice, who will shortly introduce all of us to her 'very focused spiralling thoughts' and to the realm of imagination must be allowed the tools of her trade. She yells (ironically) at Bill, "Why can't you ever give me a straight fucking answer." It's not a question, it's an accusation. Bill, despite all his puritanical-clinical speech can't navigate the waters of his inner life through language. He (apparently) has no notion why this is so, but Alice does. And she's determined to show him.There are moments throughout this bedroom scene between Kidman and Cruise when we suspect we're actually watching some kind of variation on Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. Just below their youngish and 'preppy' surfaces one catches the alcoholic stench of the older Taylor and Burton tearing each other's psyches to shreds in that Edward Albee play become film. Kidman's stoned ravings at Cruise are really well done, particularly her delivery of lines like, ..."Now, when she is having her little titties squeezed do you think she might have any little fantasies about what handsome Doctor Bill's dickie might be like?" This language can shrivel any man ('dickie' as the dimuntive of 'dick'). The gestures, inflections, and baby-talk intonations she employs are undercut with biting sarcasm and delivered in a mincing voice. Bill seems very uncomfortable as his wife indulges in this kind of language. In response, he insists: "Women don't think like that." Now we know he's in trouble, -a man telling a woman how women think! "If you men only knew," is Alice's reply to her husband. But when she tells him, "You are very sure of yourself, aren't you?" and he insists, "No, I'm sure of you." -that does it! Alice squeals with laughter. He's "sure" of her because she holds no mystery for him, because he thinks that as her husband he has her rightfully where he wants her. She's his unemployed and pure wife. He has her in his wallet. She grabs her guts and bends over ultimately sinking to the floor on her knees...and 'laughing' all the while. The moment has arrived when we're about to exit this psycho-drama and move on to the the quest for imagination and soul. But before we get to that, I think it wise to stop and consider again the conscious intentionality permeating this scene.
Specifically, it's my contention that there's no way we the viewers are intended to dismiss the 'Movie Stars' Cruise and Kidman from our consciousness during this long scene. Kubrick has guaranteed this by deliberately choosing one of the most famous of Hollywood married couples to play the roles of Bill and Alice. They fit the bill. Snugly. He lured the public to the film by combining their names with the gossip surrounding the 'shockingly explicit' sex the movie was said to contain. Mind you, this was 'shockingly explicit sex' to be depicted in a film by a 'Super Director' whose works are regarded as 'Masterpieces'. And this sex was to center about two of the most 'wholesome' stars in the business. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman presented to the public for nine years the image of the successful 'dream' couple. They're wealthy, and good looking (in wasp terms), they're intelligent and ambitious people, and they adopted two children with whom to live the 'proper' kind of 'family life'. All the world knows this as their married personae-masks. Yet they have no children through their sex life, a well-advertised fact. And insinuations of homosexuality have been whispered about both of them. Sometimes blatantly so in the tabloids. Highly publicized lawsuits have followed. All this is fodder for Kubrick and his film-making. By persuading these two high-profile movie stars whose marriage has been publicly and openly wondered about to play the troubled couple in his film, he's able to wed at once the fictitious with the real, the realm of the personal with the realm of Art, Bill and Alice with Cruise and Kidman. The resulting film entitled, Eyes Wide Shut, takes on a peculiar resonance. Tom and Nicole, after all, divorced within two years of the film's debut. But more of this later.
We've arrived at a really extraordinary moment in the film. After a loud and brash argument between an affluent and otherwise well-mannered couple, which builds up rhythmically into a kind of Bolero-like climax, we find release in Alice's collapse unto the floor gasping with giggles. As her laughter slowly subsides, she launches into the verbal equivalent of a long musical adagio in some evocative tone poem. Her calm, introspective voice 'confesses' to Bill something we can call 'The Tale Of The Sailor'. She begins, "Do you remember last summer at Cape Cod..." and unfolds before him a deeper layer of their life together than he's yet perceived. She tells him of her imagination and how, after only a passing glance between her and a sailor, and despite the fact that it occured in Bill's presence, that sailor remained for her as a numinous fantasy even while she and Bill were making love together. She confesses that at the time she was so moved by this sailor's mere glance that, "...I thought if he wanted me, even if only one night, I was ready to give up everything -you, Helena, my whole fucking future- everything." But, with a woman's ability to hold simultaneously many contradictory feelings, she says that at the same time she knew how much she loved him: "My love for you was both tender and sad." It's a long narrative, and as she delivers it an extended whisper of stringed instruments accompanies her. Lightly murmuring, their chords rise, fall, and shimmer in the background. They linger only a brief instant beyond her Tale, when -abruptly- there's a jarring phone call which Tom answers transitioning to the scenes that follow.
Cruise and Kidman perform this sequence together brilliantly. They mesmerize us if we let them, if we care at all about the craft of acting. Leading up to the Tale, Tom's dialogue with Nicole is done with the kind of frustrated voice and gesture which we'd expect from Doctor Bill Harford. He conveys the feelings of a man who's willing to 'indulge' his wife in her clearly 'hysterical' behaviour from the self-assured certainty that it's what a rational man should do. He feels frustration giving way to anger, but struggles hard to suppress that anger so as to avoid the inevitable 'scene'. When it comes anyway, when Nicole as Alice mocks his statement by telling him that he's not "sure" of himself, he's just "sure"of her....well, that's when Tom as Bill Harford sits still with set jaw ...intently staring from the bed. He's flat-out bewildred by Alice Harford who nests across the room near the window on the floor. That strangely intent woman over there is his literal wife. She's performing, being a character called Alice Harford. Telling her he was "sure" of her was his Trump card. It should have done the trick. It was the highest compliment he thought he could give a wife. Her faithfulness, her fidelity. And that's sent her laughing and gasping to where she rests now silently inscrutable on the floor. Bill's confused, angry, and hurt. He's feeling uncomfortably vulnerable, and the actor Tom Cruise conveys all this with a minimum of enviable craft. He's learning a lot about the depths of Nicole Kidman. She's not Mrs. Doctor Cruise. Kubrick's coaching them.While Alice tells her sailor's tale the camera remains mostly on her, though at varying distances. Like Tom's, Nicole's gestures become quietly minimal and have the ring of truth about them. Her voice is kept generally low and calm but she conveys a rich multitude of tones, inflections, and feelings within a subdued vocal range. It's a wonderful moment for any actress and Nicole knows it and bides her time. Her voice hesitates, pulls back, lurches forward again as she communicates an astonishing intricacy of tangled feelings. The narrative pacing she gives her lines is close to perfection. Her skill both vocally and through gesture calls to mind accounts of Maria Callas on stage as Amina (La Sonnambula - The Sleepwalker) singing "Ah, non credea mirarti." There's an hypnotic feeling resulting from her work which casts a spell over us: the way she leans foward to Tom as she explains how, though the sailor just glanced at her, "I could hardly move." The cadence and breathing in her speech lifts it (and us, too) to the level of pure, imaginative song. And Tom listening, leaning forward into the camera, framed by Kubrick from the shoulders up. Eyes unblinking, jaw set, lips mostly closed, stunned. The edits back and forth between the couple done with such exquisite timing. The way the whole mix of lighting, sets, acting and editing completely merge into the flow of Alice's narrative is artistry of the highest caliber. The theme of the 'Imaginative Quest' has been sounded. It's truly mesmeric. Tentative. And after all this, to have the phone ring, to finally see Tom as Bill blink his eyes and reach to answer it...why, we don't know whether to laugh or cry. It's another sudden shift into the ridiculous, the formulaic, the obvious. Kubrick's on the line saying the joke's universal. Ring, wink, hello. Wake up, pay attention, this isn't mere voyeurism -it's our life. It's meant to be conscious. Intentional. Seriously funny, even. It's also the Art of Film.
The film phone informs Bill Harford that one of his patients has just died. Rather than remain or respond in any way to the courage his wife has just shown by opening her imagination and soul to him, he chooses to use this call to end their time together. The potential note of 'Quest' degenerates from this point onward in the film. It becomes instead a confused journey to the place where the rainbow ends. Bill Harford gratuitously goes to see a dead man. He feels he must give comfort to the dead man's daughter. It's his convenient and safe way out of what could have been a breakthrough moment for a couple whose souls are estranged. Eyes Wide Shut. He tells Alice: "I have to go over there and show my face." That's Bill, -all face and facade. Comfortable with appearances. Afraid of the depths of imagination. Barred from contact with the spiritual faculty of his own imagination. Soul, for Bill, is a missing organ. It wasn't in his medical books. It must therefore be an ignorant and fearful phantasmagoria. Walpurgiscnacht !
Edit to Tom/Bill in car at night involved with his jealous fantasies of Nicole/Alice having sex with the sailor. Images in black and white are edited into the film as 'flashes'. They're tinted bluish. His car ride and the fantasy sex scenes end quickly. He arrives at his dead patient's home. Another posh apartment with polished floors and wealth everywhere in evidence. The maid lets him in. He launches into his AMA Persona again, -polished, polite, condescending, chronically shallow. But a surprise awaits him now. A surprise that Alice previously tried to make him aware of: Marian, his dead patient's daughter, suddenly lunges toward him full of sexual passion declaring, "I love you, I love you, I love you. I don't want to go away with Carl!" This moment comes as a jolt to us since not a moment before Marian was telling Doctor Bill all about her coming marriage to her fiancée Carl in May. He had congratulated her. Now he's abruptly confronted with a woman professing to be madly in love with him. Kissing him passionately. Crying. Kubrick is being 'goofy' again. The doorbell rings. It's Carl. Marian has just a moment to whisper to Tom/Bill, "Please don't despise me." Carl enters. "Darling!" -in best Hollywood style! He and Marian instantly bond, formally thank Doctor Bill for his assistance: "It means a lot to us." He's free now to leave, please.
These scenes are played with absolute, dead-pan seriousness. But we can't help gulping. Kubrick is rubbing our faces again in the sordidness of polite social pretensions. He's exposing us to what I'm calling the 'pornography' of Corporate Life. Life as lived in Societies where real human exchanges are determined by the daily grind of playing social roles while chasing after money. Everything is a question of role playing, everyone must 'kiss ass' to get ahead. No one calls it what it is -this game of mutual complicity. Death itself is something rendered ludicrous and obscene. There's no feeling, there's merely a desperate search for some kind of passion. Any kind of passion. Anything that will make these people feel 'alive'. And the director of "Doctor Strangelove" -a film brimming over with sarcastic, humorous, biting wit chooses to treat it all with the flat-out irony of seriousness. No escape through belly laughter this time. This time he's going to take us to a different place, the place where the rainbow ends. A taboo place.
Edit to Bill as Cruise walking the dark streets in his long black coat and gloves. He's just left the dead man, Marian, and Carl. More flashes from his blue toned, black and white mind -Alice as Nicole having sex with the sailor. Wet streets with lustrous sheens of lights. Reflections everywhere. Bill slaps his gloved hands together, walks distractedly through his mind. His carefully cultivated and sustained self-image is falling apart. He still doesn't seem to know it. Half a dozen 'street guys' come toward him. They're loud, roudy, crude. Actors in a different movie. They see Tom Cruise in shadow form. Can't recognize him. Call him a 'switch-hitter', knock him into a parked car, provoke him to fight back. He doesn't, he's not playing Top Gun now. He's absorbed in non-action, lost in the far more complex role of the doctor who's brain is a labyrinth. They pass on throwing the taunt "Faggot" over their shoulders at him. They're distracting him when he's trying to work. Maybe he should sue them. They scream "Merry Christmas" on their way to a different movie. More reflections on wet sidewalks. Glowing signs on storefronts. Dark rainbows everywhere. Despite his growing inner confusion, Tom Cruise as Doctor Bill pushes on down the street.Intersection. Traffic. A ridiculously costumed 'hooker' approaches him. Asks him for the time. Follows him, "How'd you like to have a little fun...". He's 'abstracted' -off somewhere in his numb shock -follows her through the red street door into her apartment. Cheap, cluttered, unwashed dishes on the table, another Xmas tree in the corner. Strings of Xmas lights around the doors and walls. A bra hanging over the kitchen sink. He glances around him, -upwardly mobile yuppie doctor goes slumming. He's noticeably uncomfortable in these surroundings but keeps the mask in place and mumbles that it's "Cozy". Her name is Domino, -they all fall down in rows- the Domino Effect. More Games. The Doctor negotiates his bill, "So, do you suppose we should talk about money?" Doctor Bill and his eternal wallet. They agree to a price of $150, go to the bedroom where they kiss to night club style piano music. Cutaway edit to Alice at home smoking, eating cookies, TV playing in the background. Back to Bill and Domino. False. Awkward. A book propped up on a table by the bed: "Introducing Sociology". The Logos of the Social. Their two faces fill the screen close up while they kiss. Careful, cautious, dry kisses. Stiff, but executed in the most beautiful and romantic of film's traditions. So, of course, Kubrick has the phone ring again! Guess who ? You wanna pull out your hair. Why am I watching this banal crap? Who knows; perhaps it's the stunning artistry of images and editing ? But another "deus-ex-machina" phone call, really ? Where is Gracie Allen now that we really need her?
Doctor Bill takes out his cell phone, moves across to the 'entertainment center', turns down the music and speaks. It's Alice/Nicole (quel surprise!) -quick edit to her at home again with TV still playing. She thinks he's at the dead man's apartment. Bill tells her "...it could be awhile...waiting for relatives to arrive...". More lying from Doctor Bill. More avoidance. Distance. There are masks hanging on the walls of the bedroom he's in, Domino's bedroom. Alice says she's going to bed. He hangs up to Domino's asking him, "Was that Mrs. Doctor Bill?" He's "afraid so" ...has to go, but (being the spotless Gentleman he fancies himself to be) insists, "I want to pay you anyway" and he does. Mister Wallet.
Back on the streets with Doctor Bill. It's the 'Village' in New York, -not really on location. It's one of the points causing critics to attack the film. This 'Village' is a 'set' in England constructed via Kubrick for the film. It's deliberately and beautifully 'stagey', designed to augment our understanding of the fact that Eyes Wide Shut is not a realistic movie but an 'Art' film. A philosophical meditation executed as a string of moving images. What else ? It's the 'movies' as Film. Bill arrives on the streets outside the neon entrance to the Sonata Cafe and enters. Another sign hangs above saying "Sonata Jazz". A sonata is a classical music form, a cafe is a 'boemian' hangout; the Sonata Cafe is like a Bohemian Movie called a Film. Classy loose jazz. Nick 'dropped out' of medical school. Bill didn't. Nick walks away, Bill walks into the Sonata Cafe to 'see a man about an opera'.
Immediately, (after descending stairs in an overwhelmingly red hallway) he's engaged by the 'host' who seats him at a table. Colorful strings of Christmas lights hang about the walls. Each table has a glowing, white sphere of light -a lamp resting on it. Intimate 'table lighting'. Very funny; they give the impression of opaque 'crystal balls' hovering everywhere -suggesting the reading of fortunes by turbaned 'gypsies' lurking about through the power of association, but nowhere evident. Nick and band are finishing their final 'set' for the night and we're treated to Nick Nightingale delivering tired closing lines to his public. Bill has heard only a few bars of the performance before it's done. Nick makes his way to Tom's table: "Nightingale" hails Tom (using Nick's last name as 'white men' often do) while Nick pointedly calls the Doctor by his first name, "Bill". These two just can't seem to hit the same note together at the same time! But they talk.
Does Bill even hint to his friend what's going on in his life ? Of course not, they launch into chat like 'dueling banjos' looking for "Deliverance". Exchange data: Bill's been married nine years, has a seven year old daughter, and lives in Central Park West. Nick has a wife and four boys living in Seattle but as he said earlier, he travels where the work is, does what Bill can't understand, he walks away: remember "...it's a nice feeling. I do it a lot." Two long lost friends chatting together by a glowing crystal ball (okay, it's a glowing-opaque-white ball!) in the Sonata Bar; one is a stable Doctor, the other a Bohemian artist. Soon Nick is apologizing that he'll have to leave Bill to play again tonight. Where ? Bars are closing. Well, Nick explains, he sometimes get's these deals where he plays at private parties: "I just play the piano. I play blind-folded...and the last time the blind-fold wasn't on so well!" The tone of their talking has changed. Slowly, a new mood of 'seduction' sets in. An atmosphere of intimate 'conspiracy' between two old friends. Nick heightens the mystery by saying that he never knows where he's expected to go until an hour or so beforehand. One time, through his loose-fitting blind-fold he saw women...naked women, never saw such women before... and ... "I've seen one or two things in my life, but never -never anything like this....Never such women ! " What's this, what's he talking about ?Would you believe it ? Right on cue the phone rings again ! Really. Oh well, Kubrick's known to be eccentric. What's the phone call about this time around ? Well, Nick grabs a napkin and tries to write on it using his free hand. It slips and slides until his buddy Bill reaches over to hold it for him. He writes a word on the napkin. The screen fills up with the napkin and the word. Nick hangs up the phone. Bill quickly slides the napkin over to his side of the table and reads the single word: "FIDELIO" ! What's gonna happen now, crashing chords of Beethoven's Fifth ? No, we get off lucky this time, Nick merely explains to Bill that Fidelio is the name of Beethoven's (only) opera. Pumped by Bill for more, he admits it's the "Password" to a highly secret party about to be held. A party at which he'll be playing blind-folded again! Now the scene really heats up; the two lean toward each other talking in 'hushed' tones about the secret party. Those opaque white balls come in handy as one then the other of the two alternately lean forward while the globed lighting from below casts dramatic shadows on their faces. 'Fortunes' and 'Destinies' are about to change.
Nick And Bill
"Nick, you know there's no way on Earth that you're going to leave here tonight without taking me with you." Thus speaketh Doctor Bill to Nick Nightingale. He needs to experience his 'bohemian,' 'artistic,' 'imaginative' self. He needs this 'date' with Nick. But Nick protests it's a bad idea and apologizes for having to leave. Bill can't accept this. He argues that he already has the 'password' -all he needs is the address. He insists he'll go alone, and nobody will ever know he's in any way connected to Nick. A strained urgency has just entered this conversation between the two friends causing Nick to relent somewhat and hesitantly postulate: "Listen,... let's just say...for one second...that I was prepared to do that. You couldn't get in anyway with those clothes because everyone is always costumed and masked. And where the Hell are you gonna get a costume at this hour of the morning ?"
Edit to long range shot of yellow cab turning corner and pulling up to curb. Doctor Bill gets out, turns and walks toward a storefront. Like the Sonata Cafe it has two signs: one reads "RAINBOW", -white letters all under a colored and illuminated rainbow arch; the sign below it reads "Under The Rainbow" and is seen through metal grill work. It's the Rainbow Costume Shop. This calls for a 'pause-still' which the film, of course, doesn't allow us. It keeps unreeling as the story moves forward. But we are not in the theatre now, so we can pause and speak. Things are happening fast here if only in our minds. Two HUGE events have just slapped up against each other: there's a secret costume party Tom/Bill intends to go to using "FIDELIO" as a "password"; and he's just arrived in the dark at the Rainbow Costume Shop with the phrase "Under The Rainbow" painted below it. We recall how the two girls at Ziegler's party the night before spoke of leading him to "...the place where the Rainbow ends," and some of us know that FIDELIO is an opera all about "conjugal love" because that's how it's subtitled by old Beethoven. Does the end of the Rainbow have something to do with Fidelio, with faith in love ? Faithful love ?
There's a legitimate kind of mental excitation possible now, and it's not just possible -it's actually happening. We know events are about to take a 'secret' turn due to an operatic password and a feeling of symbolism. We sense some threads coming together in a very slow-paced and otherwise 'hum-drum' story. We're actually desperate to see the 'story' in this film go somewhere, pick up energy, excite us. And it's beginning to now, because were viewing a mental-symbolical detective story and we know it. Clues are blatantly demanding our attention, or is it just Kubrick being 'pretentious' and cryptic again ? Wasn't the central character in FIDELIO a woman, and didn't she disguise herself as a man in order to penetrate a tyrant's dungeon to free her unjustly imprisoned husband ? All this despite the fact that he was publicly declared to be dead ? Yes, but these are fairly esoteric facts. What's going on here, symbolically ? Artistically ?
Well, as we rejoin the flow of the film, Bill is talking into a speaker box on a wall next to a glass door entrance into the Rainbow Costume Shop. The glass door is seen through locked and protective metal bars. They're black vertical bars calling to mind a prison cell or a gate. Believe it or not, Doctor Bill is petitioning to speak to someone he calls "PETER" as he stands before these locked gates ! Hilarious. The bars echo the Dungeon theme of Fidelio, only Bill is locked out not in. The 'Heavenly Gates' of popular christianity are guarded by Saint Peter. Bill tells the box on the wall that he wants to talk with Peter again, this time adding Peter's last name: Grenning. Peter used to own this shop, but Bill soon realizes the voice speaking back to him is not Peter's voice. He apologizes profusely as he grasps this fact. He petitions the unfamiliar voice from the box explaining that he's William Harford, Peter's doctor, and the voice tells him to wait "just a minute". Is the Rainbow Shop heaven, or prison, or just the Rainbow Shop? Will he gain entrance ?
Doctor Bill turns to face the glass door and so does the camera. It sees a long hall and a stairway inside. Everything it sees is spangled with reflections of multi-colored lights bouncing off all the glass. Rainbows. A side door in the hall opens and an older, bearded fellow with long hair steps out moving toward the camera (and the glass doors, and Bill) while tying the sash of his sleeping robe. He speaks through the barred glass door saying in flat, matter-of-fact tones: "You are looking for Peter Grenning. He moved to Chicago...(pause)...over a year ago." Obviously, Doctor Bill doesn't keep in close contact with this patient of his. It's nearly two o'clock in the morning and he's speaking with a total stranger under weird circumstances. We know he wants to get hold of the all-important costume for the secret party he intends to 'crash'. He has to convince this man to let him inside, but he wasn't prepared for a bearded stranger speaking in a flat voice with a distant, rather unsympathetic tone. Awkwardly, with the barred and locked glass door between them, the two men contimue to negotiate the situation until Bill's allowed inside. His wallet, once again, comes to the forefront of our consciousness as he pulls it out and pushes it against the glass to show his official doctor's credentials. Before the film ends he'll repeat this wallet-credentials 'proof' of his identity three more times: with the waitress in Gillespie's, with a hotel desk-clerk, and with a nurse in a hospital. Every time he uses it he gets what he wants. With the nurse it will get him inside the morgue. This time it gets him inside the Rainbow Costume Shop. Doctor Bill with his credentials in his wallet. Money talks.The entire vignette which subsequently unfolds in mini-scenes is one of the highlights of the film. Beginning with Bill's protestations that he must immediately have a costume we're caught up in bargaining. The new owner is Mr. Millich, and he won't accept payment of a hundred dollars over and beyond the cost of the rental. He holds out for two hundred before he opens the door. That bargain accepted, he lets Bill through the first set of locked doors and leads him to another. This second set opens into a literal metal cage on the inside of the Rainbow Costume Shop through which Millich continues to lead him. Once inside, he must disarm the alarm box on the wall and open the cage. An automated electronic tune briefly sounds as he does so. It's the secure sound of the contemporary corporate cuckoo clock.
The actor playing Millich, Rade Sherbedgia, does a great job creating the colorful character he plays. He adopts an arch, sardonic, bemused persona with Bill, calling him "the good doctor". He's the kind of shopkeeper who sees his place as a theatre with himself as wizened stage director, and everything that unfolds in the next five to six minutes bears that out. He leads Doctor Bill across a hallway past lighted glass cabinets filled with jackets on hangers to another closed wooden door. When he opens it the two of them are framed in a doorway filled with deep red light while the floor beneath them glows intensely blue. It's visually stunning. Dramatic. They take a few steps forward and the camera perspective shifts. Now, they're both standing in front of a row of varyingly costumed mannequins behind which hang vertical strands of white Xmas lights identical to those seen everywhere at Ziegler's party earlier. Millich gestures toward his costumed mannequins saying: "Looks like life, huh ?" And Bill responds with, "Yes, it's wonderful." Kubrick's just hit us with another drum roll of a 'clue' in that musical style he shares with the comic Rossini: this film is exploring a world of masked and costumed mannequins who only "look like" they're alive. A world of 'sentient programs', humanoids, simulacra. But the penultimate sequence which will most pointedly make that clear won't come until Doctor Bill gets his costume and 'crashes' his secret party. Meanwhile, we're treated to what are (arguably) the most animated and 'humorous' scenes in the film.
Looks Like Life, huh?
Millich rapidly shifts in and out of moods in these scenes. At one point he tries to get Doctor Bill to diagnose the problem he's having with the hair on his head that's suddenly falling out. He proffers his bald spot to Bill who immediately reaches out with his fingers touching it before he pulls back and (in annoyed and superior tones) informs Millich that he'll have to go see a " trichologist...that's a hair specialist ". Bill is impatient. Condescending. Suffering a fool because he needs the costume. Slumming again. Millich is miffed and snaps back at him but quickly drops that mood and begins to search for Bill's costume. Suddenly he stops, cocks his ear and asks: "Did you hear that ?" Bill is preoccupied as usual, but Millich begins stalking the faint sounds he heard and the camera follows him under an archway labelled with the word RAINBOW (again) into another room down the hall which has floor to ceiling glass walls and a wooden door. He peeks through the glass but can't see much, so he opens the door and enters turning on the lights.A coffee table is laden with what appear to be open 'take-out' boxes of food from a Chinese restaurant. He stares at them till there's a sound behind him coming from yet another rack of clothes. Turning with a flourish he sweeps open the clothes revealing a nearly naked China-man wearing a woman's wig and bright red underpants. Madly humorous dialogue ensues as he tears the wig off the man and beats him about the face with it while another China-man pops up from behind a couch in another wig which Millich also grabs as his young daughter rises next skimpily clad in bra and panties and he continues to harangue all three of them ! "Gentlemen, have you no sense of Decency ?" -he cries out theatrically! Rade Sherbedgia is delightful in all of this, playing the outraged father in a circus scene of well orchestrated mayhem. Kubrick is making quick and humorous references to the pranks played by his 'droogs' in A Clockwork Orange. Accusations and denials fill the air together with flailing arms and mock outrage. His daughter rapidly flees the room running out into the hallway where she stands behind Doctor Bill with an adolescent Mona Lisa smile on her face. The camera fills the screen with just her face and Bill's. His expression is impatiently blank, but the two of them bathed in blue tones look like surrealistically stunning mannequins. Dad locks the two men in the room and threatens to call the police. The mood calms down, and after one last denunciation and dismissal of his daughter still clinging to Bill from behind and whispering something into his ear, Millich returns to his search for Doctor Bill's requested items of a tux, a mask, and a long black cloak. His daughter backs away down the hall facing the camera all the way as she (apparently) follows her father's orders to go to bed immediately. She mimes her walk as she walks it, suggesting some mad scene from an opera. A porcelain and egg-shell image of Lucia Di Lammermoor? Her father has yelled out that she's "depraved". He instantly recalls himself to quiet composure. His attention is fully focused now on finding Bill's regalia. That established, there's an immediate and conclusive edit out of the shop.
Brooding Doctor Bill
Bill alone in the dark back seat of a cab. Camera moves in subtly to tighter close up of his face. Not a happy camper. Perturbed. Brooding. Pensively sulky. Looking within, but seeing only his jealous fantasies of Alice and the Sailor having passionate sex. These are the familiar edits in bluish, steel-toned, black and white. They're shot from unusual angles, usually occur in brief frames, and disappear as quickly as they arrive. They cut into the flow of the film like great shards of glass falling in slow motion. This time when they stop, the edit is back to the close up of Bill's face through which the traffic out the cab's front window begins to fade up slowly. Superimposition. The sense of his journeying through the night becomes a meditation conveyed by a lyrical succession of images rhythmically edited and leading him onward toward the restricted party he seeks to crash. Images of freeway city traffic give way to those of darker suburban roads. Doctor Bill is trying to look inward, trying to feel his fears, searching for his soul. Secrets. Phantasmagoria. Walpurgisnacht.He begins to stir in the back seat. The cab slows down, pulls alongside two men lit by film-noir streetlight standing beside a large stone and arched metal entrance gate. It comes to rest only a few yards beyond them. The camera switches to views from within the cab where Bill begins yet another financial negotiation, this time with the driver. His perpetual wallet in hand, he pays the fare of $74.50 and proposes that the driver wait for him with meter running. That way the driver will get not just the extra $50.00 promised him, but an additional $50.00 as well. He tears a hundred dollar bill in half and hands one half to the driver as he negotiates all this. Bill always tries hard to get whatever he needs with doctor's credentials and money. Curiously, as he does this we notice how he holds one half of the bill in a black gloved hand and the other half in his naked hand. Which half of Bill will pay the bill ? Kubrick keeps emphasizing the good Doctor's involvement with money, from the film's opening shot of him searching for his misplaced wallet, to its final shots when he's shopping with his wife and daughter. Bill knows that 'money talks' but has a harder time knowing his soul. Tonight, he's shelled out a lot of dough -what with cab fares, costume rentals, and bonuses- in the vaguely restless hope that somehow through this party he'll find what he's looking for...the restricted and mysterious 'inner circle'. "FIDELIO," says Bill, at the lower gates and a guard drives him up to the Mansion.
"The Doors Of Perception"
Somerton is unlike any other setting in the film. It's palatial; a very upscale dwelling suggesting a combination of Windsor Castle, the Alhambra, and Saint Peter's in Rome. Just before Bill walks under the impressive portico to enter its equally impressive double doors we see a distance shot of the vast stone building bathed in light. The impression is of enormous wealth and aristocracy. Bill enters walking over red carpet, placing his mask over his face, pulling his hood over his head while we hear deep chanting tones of the basso-profundo variety growing stronger. It sounds priestly, as if a Tibetan monk were chanting. Once inside, he's had to give the password again, and that word -Fidelio- coupled with the deep chanting music immediately invokes the atmosphere of Grand Opera. The chorus of monks chanting in the Auto-da-Fe scene out of Verdi's Don Carlos, the appearance of the Stone Guest in Mozart's Don Giovanni, or Sarastro with Chorus intoning Isis und Osiris in Die Zauberflote all come to mind. And when Bill passes through the next set of doors we see as he does a most extraordinary performance in progress. Eyes Wide Shut has shifted to a very distinct level of High Ceremonial Art (funding by Exon?).Everywhere there are marble columns and ornately embellished ogival arches . They contribute a sense of immensity to the room, the impression of being in the nave of a great Moorish-Gothic Cathedral open to improbable heights. Figures cloaked in black robes wearing elegant Venetian Carnival Masks stand or move slowly between the columns or under the balconies and archways enclosing the space. They're somewhat in shadow, but centered before us on a lush carpet of spot-lighted red a central character moves cloaked and hooded in more red carrying a staff in one hand and an incense burning thurible in the other. He's encircled by twelve masked figures in hooded black cloaks kneeling still as statues . In the distance beyond them, framed beneath an arch, we see Nick Nightingale seated. He's playing sustained synthesized organ chords shifting from major to minor keys, punctuated at intervals by the thud of the staff each time the red cloaked character stamps it on the rug. The celebrant of this cryptic rite moves slowly and ceremonially within the inner circle as clouds of incense rise up from his swaying censer. He pauses to tap his staff in the direction of each of the black hooded, masked, and caped figures as he moves. Meanwhile the basso-profundo chanting in some unrecognizable language continues. At times it sounds like the Aum of Tibetan Chant being sounded, or Latin, or Greek -but then the sound blooms into a string of melodic syllables weaving through the sustained organ chords now resonant with the sound of cellos and violas like sea birds diving in and out of ocean waves under moonlight.
The camera moves around the outermost circle of cloaked figures in an exquisite choreopgrahy of tracking. It transforms the essentially still composition of the scene into a deeply evocative ballet. There's really no way to describe the extraordinary filmic beauty of this scene to one who hasn't viewed it. But think of the best camera choreography of Kubrick, Brian di Palma, and Martin Scorsese and you might be able to imagine it. This extended scene is the crown jewel in the setting of the film. It ravishes the viewer with its faceted artistry and calls forth feelings impossible to name. Feelings of magical incantations, feelings of brooding depths and unnamed mysteries. It has about it the composite feel of a Masonic Ritual, a Roman Catholic Mass, and a Classical Greek Tragedy performed all at once and simultaneously merged into pure theatre. Bill, like all the others outside the spot-lighted red circle, stands masked and still as a curious viewer. All personal dialogue that might carry the story line of the film onward has ceased. While our aesthetic sensibilities are fully engaged with what amounts to a veritable orgy of feasting on camera work, lighting, costumes, choreography and music our rational brains begin to wonder what all this means. What's happened to the already confusing plot ? What's the point ?
Suddenly, and exactly as the celebrant's staff has tapped out the varying but repeated rhythm required, all the kneeling figures stand and drop their long capes to the floor in unison. They're stark naked, except for their masks, high-heels, and minimal g-strings covering their genitalia. They're all women. The effect is gripping as the camera resumes its tracking around them in counter-clockwise motion. Occultists, witches, and warlocks call this "Widdershins" (against the light) movement. It's associated with the dangers of "black magic". Like the so-called "left-handed" Tibetan swaztika used in Hitler's Germany. It symbolizes the intention to harness the flow of Nature's energies for manifestly pragmatic and specifically personal reasons. Curious. The tracking camera has previously employed both clockwise and counter-clockwise motion, but as soon as the figures are revealed as all-but-naked women the tracking immediately shifts into counter-clockwise motion. Occultists notice the significance of such things while virtually all of us sense a shift in the proceedings. Is this some kind of ritual "Black Mass" or does it merely signify the immanent onslaught of a sexual orgy ?Doctor Bill, like the rest of us, watches all this as the once again kneeling women ceremonially extend kisses counter-clockwise around their circle. Each woman extends her naked right arm to the left shoulder of the woman beside her, and leans forward to symbolically kiss her on the masked mouth. They do this sequentially, two at a time. The camera itself tracks these symbolical gestures following its own counter-clockwise motion in synch with them until there occurs a stunningly crafted switch to a medium long shot from floor level beside the kissing women to a view upward into a balcony. Framed in that balcony are two black-cloaked figures whose masks are distinguished by unusual Tri-Corne headresses extending over their hoods. A steady, slow zoom-up provides a better view of these masks, so much so that we can detect the movement of real eyes within them. The effect is eerie. Especially as they turn to look directly down into the camera.
The Tri-Corne Duo
Once the screen is totally filled with the two of them (very close-up) and we see their eyes moving inside their masks there's an edit to a full face close-up (slanted downward from above) of Bill whose eyes are also seen moving within his mask. He lifts his eyes upward to the camera and it smoothly switches back to the Tri-Corne couple. One of that couple wears a far more masculine looking mask while the other seems feminine and has bells suspended from the points of all three of her hat's "horns". It's her partner standing beside her who nods his head downward into the camera while we watch his eyes move. Immediately, Bill's masked face fills the screen and he returns the nod of 'recognition'. All this is most cryptic since we are led to believe that Bill knows no one at Sumerton Mansion other than the blind-folded Nick at the synthesizer. Has someone recognized him, and if so who ? Cryptic as it is, this sequence of shots doesn't last long and almost before we can puzzle over it the camera returns us to the circle proper where the tracking motion continues (widdershins) around the naked kneeling women. During all the preceeding moments of 'recognition' between masked characters conveyed by wonderful camera work and editing, the organ-cello chords as well as the Aum chanting voice of the basso-profundo are continuous. Together, they weave the curious 'aside' of this 'recognition' exchange back into the on-going ceremonial with a smooth feeling of ease and flow.
Smoke still rising from his swaying thurible, the red caped Celebrant approaches each kneeling woman and taps his staff on the rug in front of her. On cue, each woman then rises and turns away in slow ceremonial movement. She leaves the red carpeted circle walking toward one of the many masked and black caped viewers in the outer circle. The camera follows as she approaches a given figure in this peripheral circle and ceremonially brings the lips of her mask to the lips of the mask worn by the one she approaches. She offers her arm and the two walk out of the high-celinged room. All this is done with extreme formality and the odd sequence in which the naked kneeling women are chosen to leave the inner circle is quite pointedly irregular. It catches our attention. We wonder what particular significance lies behind the celebrant's movements as he traces out a pattern on the red carpet moving from one side of the circle of kneeling women to another choosing this one or that. We wonder where each masked woman is taking her chosen masked partner. The whole scene is so visually stunning, and we've become so engrossed in the proceedings that we vaguely question whether or not we haven't somehow dropped into the middle of a completely different movie from the one we thought we'd been watching. What has any of this got to do with our story ? Doctor Bill is merely another masked and caped figure caught up on the sidelines of the curious ritual.
Kubrick returns our full attention to Bill Harford, having him selected for a stroll out of the room by one of the women chosen from the celebrant's inner circle. A tall woman whose height is exaggerated by a vertical splay of black feathers above her mask approaches him. She places her hands on both his shoulders and leans down to kiss him. The camera moves into a tight shot of their two masks touching at the lips. It's anything but erotic. It's cold and symbolic ritual which, if not exactly freezing the blood in our veins, certainly leaves us feeling cerebral. This gesture is followed by the woman taking Bill by the hand and leading him away. Her gesture is equally weird in that she places her left hand over his right in such a way that she's grasping the back (rather than the palm) of his hand with hers. All of this is done in the extremely studied, almost slow-motion pace which has characterized all movements in these ritual scenes. Like posed statues moving on an automated airport walkway the two proceed out the door past two tuxedoed attendants down a hallway rich with artistic objects. Bronze figures standing four to five feet tall hold clusters of globed lights, the floor itself changes from plush red carpet to a mosaic of intricately inlaid colored marbles as they walk statuesquely holding hands (in that peculiar manner already commented upon) toward the camera tracking them. Another couple is seen in the distance performing a similar 'promenade'. The chanting accompanied by organ-viola chords continues subdued in the background."I'm not sure you know what you're doing," says this woman to Bill, "you don't belong here." This is the beginning of the very first dialogue of human voices heard in the film for at least seven minutes. It has the effect of bringing us back into touch with the story line. We wonder who 'belongs' here and how she knows Bill doesn't. Bill, turning his face toward her replies, "I'm sorry, but I think you've mistaken me for someone else." Looking back over her shoulder at the couple following behind she urgently whispers, "Don't be foolish. You must go now." The hallway opens into a larger foyer and a red carpeted staircase is seen behind them when they pause. "Who are you?" is Bill's response. She continues to urge him, "It doesn't matter who I am. You are in great danger and you must get away while there is still a chance." No sooner has she said this than a masked, tuxedoed attendant slides into the rear right of the frame placing his arm around her waist: "Would you be so good as to excuse us for a minute," says he and leads her away up the stairs (she turns once to look back over her shoulder at Doctor Bill). This kind of euphemistic language, formally polite but veiling palpable threat will increase in coming scenes and is important to note since everything we witness at this 'party' will later be called into question. It will all be dismissed as a 'charade'.
Left alone, Bill doesn't make a hasty retreat straight out the front door, but begins to aimlessly meander through room after exquisitely decorated room while the background music shifts to Hindu-Arabic sounds. Everywhere there are naked couples or threesomes engaged in erotic play in varying positions and postures and voyeuristically viewed by masked others fully attired in tuxedos or draped in their black cloaks. The camera carries us by way of extremely slow tracking in and out of doorways and rooms, and whenever we pause by way of edits and close-ups these are accomplished with such artistry that everything unfolds in a kind of dream-trance (Traumnovelle). The mood is incredibly enhanced by the lighting throughout these varying scenes so that with camera work, lighting, and music combined the effect is sinuous and sensuous. Surfeited with a kind of erotic langour. Very 'High-Brow'. It almost feels as if we're gliding on the wings of a great dark bird who has momentarilly swooped down into the civilized caves of a well-groomed opium den where select and naked humans entwine their limbs in a bizarre snake dance while others of their kind move or stand around them like black-sheeted ghosts feeding off their gestures. In fact, Doctor Bill has become such a dark bird so fascinated by what he's seeing that he ceases his movement from room to room and stands still in front of a particularly rigorous and exceptionally mechanical sexual activity taking place before him. A tuxedoed man is seen crouching down on hands and kness on the carpet; across his back a naked but masked woman reclines (somewhat precariously) facing the masked but naked man above her who's vigorously plowing away at her vagina. Doctor Bill is riveted to the spot and watching. Are we ?
Behind him, an interesting vignette begins to unfold. The man previously seen nodding to him from the balcony during the earlier ceremony enters the room. He's wearing his Tri-Corn Mask and accompanied not by his earlier matching partner with bells on her points, but by a naked woman in a far simpler face mask. They stand behind Bill. The Tri-Corn Man speaks something we don't hear to his new partner, turns, and leaves the room. His naked female partner comes forward, stands beside Bill and asks if he's been enjoying himself. Bill's reply is, "Well, I've had a very... interesting... look around." He says this in a flat tone of voice which is both non-judgemental and vacuous. But the lady inquires if he'd like to retire with her to some place a little more private. His response: "Private. (pause) That might be a good idea." But as he's giving this second response, we see the woman in the black feathered mask -who'd urged him earlier to get away while he still could- entering the frame and, once again, from behind him. She walks over and touches him familiarly with an arm laid lightly on his shoulder and her hand taking his, "Oh, there you are. I've been looking all over for you." And to the new woman she nods, "May I borrow him for a moment? I'll bring him right back." She waits for no answer, but instantly leads Bill out to a hallway and over to a window glowing with blue light.
They stand together while she once again urges him to leave saying he can't fool them for much longer, "You must get away NOW while you can." Bill says he wants to know who she is, but she (revealingly) tells him the truth: "You don't want to know. But you must go. Now." Bill remains, however, protesting too much. He tells her he wants her to come with him and reaches up trying to remove her mask. In exasperation she takes his hands away and tell's him that she can't come with him "because it could cost me my life, and possibly yours." He persists in his efforts to unmask her: "Let me see your face." Bingo! Shazzam! He's caught in the act and his shenannigans have endangered her as well. Just before he's 'caught' she pushes his hands away from her mask saying, "No. Go." She walks away from him and just where she exits the frame (far left) another masked, tuxedoed man enters it and comes swiftly down the hall from the opposite end calling out to him, "Excuse me, sir. Are you the gentleman with the taxi waiting for him ? Your driver's at the front door and would URGENTLY like a word with you."
It's that formally polite but veiled language again, and we know something's up. With a gesture of the hand, this man 'invites' Bill to follow him. While they move together down the gorgeous hallway (their backs to the camera) an instrumental version of 'Strangers In The Night' swells up from the soundtrack providing a sonic segway to the next scene.
It's Nick Nightingale, still blind-folded and being led across a huge room filled with dancing 'Stranger In The Night' couples (the tune is still playing) toward the camera and out through a hallway to where ? What ? We don't know. But it's clear things have changed, and we doubt that Nick and Bill will meet outside laughing over the whole affair. Somehow that doesn't seem too likely.
Edit to Doctor Bill in a matching shot moving down an equally well-lighted hallway with his male escort who's sporting a plain golden face mask while the lushly instrumental version of 'Strangers In The Night' slowly fades out. He's being led through a doorway back into the familiar room where the red-caped celebrant now sits enthroned (Celebrant Enthroned = Tarot Hierophant ) in a high-backed wooden chair the apex of which provides a carved 'Crown' above and behind his head. He's attended on all sides by the familiar circle of masked and caped figures except for the area before the doorway which he faces from his 'throne'. Bill appears there led by his male escort. (Aha, so much for the taxi driver !) But before we see the enthroned celebrant and his circle we simply watch as Bill and his attendant arrive at the doorway and pause. The attendant again waves Bill forward with a gesture of his hand before 'the good doctor' turns his masked face full into the camera. All has been quiet for a brief moment. We've heard the two men's quiet footsteps arrive and stop at the door, followed by silence. Abruptly, we hear loud single notes pounded on a piano. It's disturbing and continues as dissonant sonic overlay to our first site (camera switches to Bill's point of view) of the red caped, Enthroned Hierophant regally spotlighted on the red carpet. Throne, crown, and golden staff.
Doctor Bill is about to be literally called onto the carpet. Before his summons arrives, however, the piano continues its enharmonic succession of notes (E# -sharp to F# -sharp repeated twice, down to E# -sharp repeated twice back up to F# -sharp twice more then down to E# -sharp again before leaping onto G-natural -played 'tutta la forza') which provides a wonderful sonic tool for the insertion of full screen close-ups. Single masks appear in the forefront of consecutively edited still shots. Edit, (piano) click, (piano) wink. First among these is a screenfull of our familiar Tri-Corn fellow with the brim of his black hat looking especially ominous. We remember he's the character who nodded from the balcony to Bill below. We realize he's just stood behind Bill a few scenes back and sent forward a woman to proposition him. His mask is followed by a succession of several others all assuming 'scary' overtones as the pounding piano notes (scored as 'intenso' - 'agitato') switch intervals and bang against our ears putting our nerves on edge, heightening our attention. Most of the masks have cavernous eyes, and all are dramatically highlighted with shadows. Among them is a Crescent Moon Face and a Gaunt Green One. Then a Mouth-Open-Mask jolts us, frozen as it is ( à la Edvard Munch; 'The Scream' ) in an expression of shocked (F# -sharp!) disapproval.
We 'pop' out of these close-ups back to the wider screen view of the whole assembly. The red caped Hierophant speaks: "Please, ....come forward." His inflection on the word 'come', though it passes in an instant, has a 'coaxing' tone to it -the kind of tone one might employ to relax a frightened child or small animal. Once these words are uttered, the camera returns to Bill taking tentative steps forward until it, the camera itself, literally becomes Bill smoothly gliding onward (foreshadowing his immanent actual movement) over the spotlighted red carpet toward the speaker. It almost floats as it moves conveying a subtle but queasy feeling of disorientation and fear. The fear is steadily and subtly increased as the camera's forward movement stops precisely at the opening in the cloaked circle around the 'Heirophant'. It's movement has 'closed' the circle.
Immediately, we return to Bill continuing his own advancing movement onto the spotlighted edge of heightened color within the red carpet. He hears behind him the shuffle of feet on uncarpeted floor and slowly turns around to see the black cloaked participants closing the circle behind him. They're cutting off his possible exit through the doors. Doctor Bill is completely encircled. Surrounded. No choice but to "come forward" now.He comes to rest a few feet in front of the Hierophant. There he gives the answer, FIDELIO, to the Hierophant's request for the Password.
Now the camera begins tracking Bill counter-clockwise from within the outer cloaked circle. The heads of hooded figures seen from behind like silhouettes obtrude and block our view of him while the Hierophant toys with Doctor William Harford, "Yes, that is the Password for Admittance. But may I have the Password for the House?"
Those incisive piano notes plunk away more softly now (a sonic counting game) while the camera continues to move widdershins behind the throne of the Hierophant and onward to an opening through which we can see Bill once again. He's repeated the phrase about the "Password for the House" but with bowed head he's standing silent until he finally confesses -"I'm sorry, but I...I...I seem to have...forgotten it." His sense of mounting confusion is perfectly conveyed by the camera alternating still shots with movement. A single G-natural note strikes from the piano, -'with full force'. Mutterings and stirrings within the circle.
The Hierophant declares, "That's unfortunate, because here it doesn't matter whether you have forgotten it...or if you never knew it." The flat sarcasm heard in his intonation of the word 'forgotten' is chilling. The camera's counter-clockwise tracking has resumed and completed one full journey around the circle to a point between hooded heads where we glimpse the Hierophant's immobile figure on his throne. It leaps into profiled close-up through an edit while he firmly and formally states, "You will KINDLY remove your Mask." We watch Bill slowly reach up, slide off his hood, and remove his mask by way of the camera's resumed counter-clockwise tracking . We note that a CROSS surmounts the Crown carved in the high back-rest of the Hierophant's wooden throne. That detail, coupled with the arches and balconies of the cathedral-like space -not to mention all the monkish robes with hoods- gives rise to the uneasy feeling that Religious church rituals are being deliberately invoked in this scene. After all, Bill has just had to 'confess' (though indirectly) that his 'sin' lies in not knowing the Password for the House. His 'penance' begins with removing his mask. But that's not where it ends.
Accompanied by more of the camera's counter-clockwise tracking and the stark ' F-sharp to E-sharp ' notes of the piano (still moving in intervals of minor seconds) the unrelenting Hierophant demands, "Now, get undressed." Like us, Bill is incredulous.
He's being ordered to remove all his clothes and appear nakedly humiliated before a large circle of fully clothed, caped, hooded, and masked people. There are NO nude people in this room ! He nervously stammers, "Get undressed?" with uncomfortable and questioning disbelief. He's tapping his fingers all the while against his mask. It's clutched tightly across his third chakra, the solar plexus which occultists claim is the body's center relating to intuitive, personal, 'soul-to-soul' understanding of others. Bill has consistently displayed very little of such understanding. He's clearly afraid and perplexed, but trying hard to hold onto his rational, well-behaved persona. I
mpatiently, the Hierophant 'explains' what "get undressed" means by asserting in stronger tones, "REMOVE YOUR CLOTHES." Now the 'good doctor' is thoroughly cowed. He's scratching his forehead, alternately looking down at the carpet and lifting his head looking here and there among the surrounding masks for solace. Kubrick heightens the tension by adding to the camera's moving lens some alternate panning of the masked faces (close-up) surrounding Bill. The piano pounds on through enharmonic, non-resolved dissonance, and the look on the filmic face of Tom Cruise is certainly the most painfully serious expression I've ever seen there... suggesting some personal resonance he feels with this 'moment'. It grows deeper as the scene continues. But Bill is still hoping he can 'negotiate' a way out of his predicament.
"Gentlemen," he mutters low in a constrained voice, "...please...uh..." His penitential stammering is overridden by the commanding words of the Hierophant, "Remove your clothes, or would you like US to do it for you?"The camera is still on the Hierophant as he speaks, but hardly a second passes before we hear a woman's voice shout, "STOP." A very dramatic edit occurs; it's a long shot from the circle up to a balcony where a naked woman appears framed by the marble all around her, but especially the ornately inscribed ogival arch beneath which she stands. Swiftly, an even more dramatic and very 'clean' zoom of the camera's lens brings her into clearer focus. After a long, tense pause her voice rings out again, emphatically: "LET......HIM....GO!" All eyes are searching for her now as the camera reveals Bill and his 'trial' circle looking up.
Un Ballo In Maschera
Visually, all this is pure Grand Opera, but now the script threatens to overwhelm the camera.
The Mysterious Woman continues: "Take me, I am ready to Redeem him." Hushed sounds of gasps, confusion, surprise pass throughout the crowd below her. The sharp piano music has gone silent. All the voices we hear are coming through the masks worn by the speakers. The sonic affect is like a combination of Opera and Greek Theatre as the speakers' voices, amplified by their masks, take on the eerie qualities of echoes. The voice of the mysterious woman crying out from the balcony assumes an even greater resonance than the others since it reverberates high up in the vaulted ceiling. We recognize her from her black feathered mask; she's the woman who has been consistently warning Bill that he's in danger and must leave immediately. Though the camera work and all the details of the film continue to be brilliant throughout this sequence, it's the language that dominates. The theme of Woman As Redeemer has been sounded and it's an old theme running consistently throughout Western Culture from Sophocles to Courtly Love through Goethe's Faust to Beethoven's FIDELIO.
After the shock of the woman's words registers on the crowd below, the Hierophant enters into a dialogue with her. "You are ready to redeem him? Are you sure you understand what you're taking upon yourself in doing this ?" His question brings another brief round of murmurings and gasps. As they subside, the woman responds with a simple, straightforward "Yes."
A louder and longer wave of shocked murmerings ensues, and once it exhausts itself the Hierophant turns his attention to Bill: "You are free. But I warn you. If you make any further inquiries, or if you say a single word to anyone about what you have seen, there will be THE MOST DIRE CONSEQUENCES for both you, and your family. Do you understand ?" Doctor Bill registers the words on his face looking seriously and soberly concerned, but we can't be sure that he really grasps the nature of this situation, nor do we ourselves clearly understand what's implied. He doesn't verbally answer the question put to him, but nods his head while staring bewildered at the floor.
In the strained silence he looks back up to the balcony where his "Redeemer" stands and the camera shows her to us resplendantly framed amidst all that marble while György Ligeti's piano ("Musica Ricercata II") returns. It's quieter, the striking of the keys is almost hushed, and a cloaked figure enters the balcony to lead her away. He wears the mask of a strange bird with a pronounced curve to its beak. It looks outrageously phallic and feels predatory. The camera shows him lead the Mysterious Woman out of the clear light into a deep blue space before they both disappear.
Edit to Bill who's witnessed his redeemer being led away. Hesitantly, and almost inaudibly he begins to question, "But.....What's going to happen to that woman ?"
Brief close up of the golden masked Hierophant saying: "No one can change her FATE now. When a promise is made here there is no turning back. GO!"
The camera lingers for several 'beats' on Bill framed immobile from his solar plexus up, his cape glowing deep blue in the light, the expression on his face being utterly sober. He's reached the end of another rainbow.
An edit takes us out of Somerton and away from the party. What we leave behind is a sequence of scenes perhaps best described by Ligeti, the composer of that dissonant piano music (which really annoys a lot of viewers) when he described it as: "...hovering between gravity and caricature."
From the moment Bill stepped under the columned portico of the Mansion until this edit takes us out, we've spent nearly twenty minutes in a highly unusual reality. That fact alone justifies giving it some careful consideration before we return to the film's ongoing unfoldment. What was this all about ? I hasten to inform you that I'm sure I don't know, but there are a number of things we might reflect upon.It's the second of two extended party scenes in the movie and both parties are permeated with the scent of sex. Both parties take place in wealthy surroundings as well, but the Somerton environment is far more wealthy, aristocratic, and exotic than Ziegler's. Yet it was at Ziegler's that we first heard talk of the place "where the Rainbow ends" and Bill could not have come to Somerton had he not visited the "Rainbow Costume Shop" to obtain the proper attire. Nick Nightingale is present as the musical performer at both parties and had he and Bill not met there, Bill would not have learned of the FIDELIO password that got him into Somerton.
All these details, together with the fact that each 'party' lasts just short of twenty minutes urges us to see the two parties as two different 'octaves' of the same note. That note might be heard as Secrecy in F-sharp. Stanley Kubrick has just dramatized for us a secretive, masked 'orgy' in a representative INNER SANCTUM of wealthy, aristocratic, elite circles. It was an occult ceremony, a Black Mass, a modern and updated Walpurgisnacht celebrated by the Anglo-American Establishment.
Are such things real ? Is he being serious ? Yes, as the masked Royalty are historically fond of saying: "Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense".
When I say that the Occult Ceremony at the start of this long sequence is a "Black Mass" I don't mean that it's some kind of 'campy' or 'horror film' depiction of such a Mass, but that it's Kubrick's artistic evocation and execution of a comparable Ritual as the 'centerpiece' of his film.
Aside from his incorporating into The Eyes Wide Shut Ritual traditional counter-clockwise gestures and movements central to all forms of "Black Magic" -in both the motions of the inner circle of naked women kneeling as they 'embrace' and 'kiss,' and in his signifant use of counter-clockwise camera motion as they do so- he also introduces two very important and unusual musical compositions during these activities.The first of these compositions is Jocelyn Pook's piece which she entitled, "Backwards Priests" and which contains chanting by two actual Romanian Priests which she reverses and plays backwards. This is the chanting sound we hear as Bill first encounters the Red Hierophant moving counter-clockwise with his swaying thurible amidst the circle of twelve (eleven?) women; it's what I've called 'basso-profundo' chanting. Since Kubrick's selection of Pook's music for inclusion in his film, she's renamed it "Masked Ball".
I doubt that Jocelyn Pook was in any conscious way intending to perform "Black Magic" by reversing the Chanting Romanian Priests, but her original title certainly contains a play on the word 'backwards' which -if spelled 'backwords''- describes exactly what she did. Her initial title is an example of phonetic qabbala or 'word-sound-magic'.
Occultly speaking, a way to nullify a 'curse' is to repeat it backwards which 'erases' it -think of running a filmed action in reverse (instead of jumping forward out of a tree a figure jumps backwards into the tree). Priests who perform any kind of Religious Ritual are performing occultly because such Ritual is repetitive speech, action, or thought consciously done through esoteric ceremony. The purpose of such Ritual Repetition is to focus consciousness, and in the case of religion (from the Latin: religio, religere; to bind back) the ritual component is designed to bind the believer's consciousness inside the focused circle of belief by repeatedly reinforcing that belief. Both Religion and Ritual are occult binding techniques.
An Occultist is nothing more nor less than a person who consciously studies the hidden (in the sense of non-evident or 'invisible') components of evident and visible 'reality'. Hence, any Occultist is by definition a person who deliberately and consciously (scientifically) studies the very notion 'reality' to determine (as Doctor Bill would say) "exactly" what it consists of -both in word and action.
All words and actions are Rituals to an occultist; they differ only in kind and intention.
Since Kubrick creates in his film an elaborate ceremonial sequence involving a Celebrant-Hierophant-Priest, using masks and reversed chanting of words, together with backward moving camera motions, and carefully choreographed human movement (including counter-clockwise movement in a circle), it can be factually stated that he's deliberately intending to depict an Occult Ceremony of a counter-clockwise nature; a Ceremony of the 'Left Hand Path' (Swastika rotating counter-clockwise; Black Magic) as distinct from a Ceremony of the 'Right Hand Path' (Swastika rotating clockwise: White Magic).
Voila, a "Black Mass" intoned by two literal Romanian "Backwards Priests" sonically transposed through reversal by Jocelyn Pook.
The second musical composition employed in Kubrick's Ritual 'Orgy' Scenario is György Ligeti's composition entitled: "Musica Ricercata II; Mesto, Rigido E Ceremoniale " (1951-53). The whole score consists of eleven sections, but only the second section is used in the film. It's the piano piece we hear once Doctor Bill is brought before the Hierophant, and it continues (off and on) throughout his 'trial' and 'redemption' until he's dismissed from Somerton.
We hear it sporadically again throughout the second half of the film recurring as a leitmotif which can be called the Somerton or TRIAL theme. A grippingly stark series of notes, it pounds in our ears like an imperious metranome mechanically seeking its own seriousness. In fact, the word 'Ricercata' stems from the verb 'recercare' literally meaning: "To try out; to seek." And the phrase, "Mesto, Rigido E Ceremoniale" translates as Sadly, with Rigid Ceremony; or Slowly, and with Stiff Ceremonialism.
It occurs dramatically throughout Doctor Bill's 'trial' scenes which take place only after he's wandered through the dark rooms of Somerton experiencing the 'orgy'. He's 'crashed' a very private 'party' to which he wasn't invited. The atmosphere at this 'party' is mephitic; highly 'ritualized' sexual activities of a masked and 'debauched' nature are taking place. He's about to 'try out' these activities "somewhere a little more private" when he's urgently warned again that he should leave immediately. Failing to 'make a run for it' he's placed under 'house arrest' and brought before the Circle of the Hierophant where's he's confronted by stiff, formal, and ceremonial behaviour on the part of everyone. They encircle him threateningly while their Ceremonial Boss strips him of his mask and demands that he disrobe -"get undressed...remove your clothes." These stern orders are rigidly Authoritarian. They are Fascist. Plutocratic. Rigido. Ligeti's piano emphasizes all this.
Bill, the 'seeker', sees no way out for himself. Who knows what demands will follow once he's humiliatingly forced to strip naked before the fully clothed and masked group ? Kubrick's taking quite a risk here. He's built up so much visual and dramatic tension that we're uncomfortable with what's happening. Are we meant to take all this seriously ? Will Doctor Strangelove -with his spastic Nazi salute- suddenly appear as Peter Sellers shouting "Mein Führer, I can walk! " ?
Is the whole 'orgy' episode some kind of outrageously ironic joke ?
We don't know, as Ligeti said of his music, we're "hovering between gravity and caricature" at the climax of the entire episode when the Mysterious Woman suddenly shouts, "STOP!" ...and declares herself to be Bill's "redeemer". The moment resolves itself into a gravely ironic caricature of Redemption through the Eternal Feminine. Fidelio meets the sentient droids!
Indeed, Fidelio is the thematic password holding together the entire sequence of scenes at Somerton, just as the key of F-sharp is the tonal center of the piano's dissonant notes which rigidly plunk in slow, ceremonial fashion from E-sharp through intervals of minor seconds to F-sharp twice repeated and back to E-sharp before leaping non-harmonically up to G-natural. There's a triple play of enharmonic pitch going on here between F-sharp, Fidelio, and the film's final word Fuck.
What, three 'F's ?
Yes: F-sharp, F-idelio, F-uck.
Kubrick is being cryptic if not downright occult again. Let me try to explain.In this operatic orgy sequence Bill is twice defended by the Mysterious Woman (who turns out to be Mandy) until the Third time when she offers herself to the masked powers that be in order to redeem him. Fidelio, is the opera named after its Central Female Heroine, Leonore, who disguises herself as a man calling himself Fidelio in order to gain entrance to the fortress-dungeon where her husband, Florestan, is unjustly imprisoned and sentenced to execution for his POLITICAL ACTIVITIES by a tyrant named Pizarro.
In Act II, scene i of that opera she prevents the villain, Pizarro, from killing her husband on three separate occassions thereby making possible his release at the opera's conclusion. Fidelio is the only opera ever completed by the renowned Beethoven in his efforts to speak out (dramatically, on stage) against Political Despotism. Everyone agrees its theme is "Humanity versus Tyranny".
Fidelio is known to be based upon a true story about a woman who saved her imprisoned husband during the storming of the Bastille (Prison) at the time of the French Revolution (revolt against Aristocratic Despotism) and although the theme is serious, Beethoven introduces some 'humour' into the opera by having the bureaucratic jailer's daughter, Maryelline, fall in love with the Heroine, Leonore, believing her to be the man Fidelio. During Kubrick's 'orgy' scene we see several women having sex together and a few dressed as men.
The dark atmosphere of the rooms in Somerton echoes the dark cell in which Florestan is imprisoned, and he's described in the jailor's big aria as "He who is barely alive and who moves like a shadow".
Certainly, we observe Tom Cruise as Bill Harford moving like a barely alive shadow at Somerton, and on the many occassions in the film when he walks (or rides) the night-time streets of New York. He gets 'caught' (imprisoned) in the Somerton Mansion (fortress-jail) and is redeemed by Mandy-Fidelio. But he also gets a serious 'warning' (sonically heard in Liget's piano pounding repeatedly the F-sharp note) threatening both him and his family, "...if you make ANY further inquiries, or if you say A SINGLE WORD to ANYONE about what you have seen, there will be THE MOST DIRE CONSEQUENCES for both you and your family".
I believe it's clear that Kubrick is depicting the Hierophant-Celebrant and his inner circle as DESPOTS who rule others' lives through Masked Tyranny. But this theme is central to Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata" as well.
György Ligeti was born at Tirnaveni in Transylvania (classical Vampire country). His parents were Hungarian (Sandor Szavast-Dracula) and he composed the Musica Recercata while living in Stalinist Hungary between 1951-53 just before the aborted Hungarian Revolution of 1956. At the time he wrote the music used in Kubrick's film, 'Stalin Authorities' frowned upon dissonant, enharmonic music. Composing such stuff was illegal, -remember the Gulag?
Mesto, Rigido E Ceremoniale is one of a series of eleven pieces comprising the 'Musica' and the whole series deliberately posed the musical problem of working within the 'prison' confines of a very limited key-note range in each piece. Ligeti called the extract used in Eyes Wide Shut "... a knife in the heart of Stalin".
It's been called by others, "...a work of poisonous irony and a commentary on the scientific preoccupations, the single-minded, machine-tooled precision of the Dominant Culture."
It works that way in the film evoking the constrained feelings of Doctor Bill as the despotic and controlling Hierophant (Stalin-Dictator-Authority) becomes the voice of the elitist, masked, and wealthy crowd surrounding and threatening him with the "MOST DIRE" consequences. If 'Dire' be defined as, "calamitous, dreadful, and terrible" what is MOST calamitous, most dreadful etc. ? This is a DEATH THREAT.
Kubrick's use of Ligeti's disturbing piano score makes it FEEL clear to us (whether or not we know any of these historical facts) that a threatening knife hangs over the heart of Doctor Harford when he exits Somerton.William Harford has been censored, sworn to silence as he leaves the place called Somerton. Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata" was censored by Stalinist Hungary; and Stanley Kubrick's orgy scene was censored in America.
Censorship walks hand in hand with Secrecy and hidden techniques of social and individual mind control. It has done so throughout all of recorded history. Government walks hand in hand with Religion in their mutual efforts to control the consciousness of the masses. They say in unison that certain things must not be said, done, or even thought by the general populace they control. A certain bill of goods called "Morality" is sold to the masses. It's part of the "Ten Commandments" or the Dogma of all religions and governments. It's made into LAW. Notoriously, the makers of such LAWS (proclaimed as 'Natural' and 'Eternal' and 'Universal') do not abide by them, they simply use them to control others.
Governments and Religions do this through the SECRET OF SHARED POWER. The actual secret of their shared power is the daily inculcation of shame, guilt, and masochism amongst the common people. 'Sin' is the breaking of the unspoken LAW of the social contract and the wages of 'Sin' are death. You either do as you're ordered or you're killed. Orders come from the Authority of the Law and they are always a function of CENSORSHIP.
The Celebrant of the 'Black Mass' ritual in Eyes Wide Shut carries a thurible which is commonly called a Censer. More Phonetic qabbala.
Kubrick's military training camp -perfectly depicted in the first half of "Full Metal Jacket"- is a masterful explication of the manner in which Authority rams its Law down the throats of men violating their individual integrity and breaking their spirit thereby rendering them dysfunctional for the rest of their lives. "A Clockwork Orange" is his way of sharing with us a vision of Western Society, and its Religions and Arts as a mutually supportive business network of mind controls. Like Doctor Bill, Kubrick's life and the lives of his family were threatened because he dared to make that particular film. He knew full well the secret power hiding behind censorship as he knew and shared with us the hilarious hypocrisy inherent in the Government of "Doctor Strangelove".
But in "Eyes Wide Shut" he intends to show us how the personal sexual-financial component in our shared world of socio-religious-economic laws acts as an individual Taboo instilled in each of us urging us to walk cautiously in fear past the masked Circles Of Power with our eyes wide shut. That's what the Orgy at Somerton is all about: a symbolical view of the secret ceremonies sustaining the hierarchical network of Power among upper-class people masked by their mutual participation in the threatening business of death.
Kubrick's use of Fidelio as the password admitting Tom Cruise in the guise of Doctor Bill to the life threatening inner circles of Ceremonial Mind-Control, astutely highlights the themes of Redemption and 'Humanity versus Tyranny' implicit in that opera, and contrasts them dramatically with the unheroic and tawdry events of Bill's economically up-scale life. He's not saved at Somerton by his faithful wife, as Florestan is saved by his in Fidelio; nor is Doctor Bill the freedom fighter against Political Despotism whom Beethoven depicted in Florestan.
The subtle irony of having Nick, the Nightingale and Piano Player, inadvertantly give the F password to Bill whose Death Threat would come to him accompanied by dissonant Piano sounds continuously moving through the note of F-sharp in a deliberately enigmatic film concluding on the final word FUCK ...is Kubrick at his best.
But so is the unavoidable conclusion that Kubrick's casting of Tom Cruise as a would-be 'player' in the context of Somerton's Ceremonial 'Mind-Controllers', would cause attentive viewers to sense the parallel to the role the 'Church Of Scientology' plays in the real life of the Movie Star. Scientology is (arguably) nothing more nor less than a ceremonial system of techniques centered upon the notion ('revealed' by L.Ron Hubbard, student of self-proclaimed "Black Magician" Aleister Crowley by way of his disciple Jack -Jet Propulsion Laboratories- Parsons) of 'freeing' humans from the dominant control of 'implants' who are said by Scientologists to inhabit the bodies and psyches of all humans. If the process succeeds, the results are identical to those of Priests who 'exorcise' demons from people. The subject gets his life back and is full of the renewed vigour which comes from being 'self-controlled' and 'self-directed'.
Unfortunately, the process also works in reverse and is quite expensive. It smacks of the learning and use of mind-control techniques easily employed against the wills of others. Ordo Templi Orientis, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the LAW". 'Outsiders' don't count as real people, they're asleep and highly dispensable. Neuro-Linguistic Programming, channeled instructions from 'Ascended Masters', EST training, 'Remote Viewing' and a bevy of other such 'mind altering' techniques all inhabit this same realm suffused by the occult ambiance Kubrick evokes through the Ceremonial 'Black Mass' in Eyes Wide Shut. It's a veritable 'orgy of occult associations'.
As the Troubador, Bob Dylan, sang: "Something's going on, but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mister Jones ?"Now we're ready to follow the further adventures of Tom/Bill as he exits Somerton -but finds he can't quite just 'leave it behind him' in his cockeyed quest to discover his soul. Or, as Ligeti wrote on the score of the piano composition Kubrick uses for Doctor Bill's 'Trial Theme' ..."intenso...agitado...tremolo, senza tempo ...rapido...tutta la forza". We hover -CENSORED- somewhere "between gravity and caricature".
EYES WIDE SHUT AGAIN
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