Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Todd Field
Plot: A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once cheated on him.
Movie Trivia: Due to Stanley Kubrick’s fear of travel virtually the entire film was shot in and near London (despite the movie’s New York setting). Elaborate street sets built at Pinewood Studios were used for all the scenes showing Tom Cruise walking around the city.
The music calls to mind a waltz as the credits fade in and out on black before showing a flash of a young Kidman from the back as she steps out of her black dress. We learn her name is Alice as Cruise (Bill, her husband) interacts with her about being late for a gathering they are both dressing for. The conversation with their daughter and the babysitter does not seem particularly noteworthy, though that seems to be a skill of Kubrick; drawing great meaning from the seemingly meaningless. The gala the are attending is lovely but as Bill and Alice dance, you are reminded of the reality of situations such as these. That is until Bill recognizes an old colleague of his that had dropped out of medical school playing the piano in the band. As the song end, Bill and Alice as Bill makes his way to reacquaint himself with the person he has recognized. They plan to meet later at the bar, but even though the exchange between Bill and Nick last for so short a time, Alice is left waiting at the bar for what seems like too long of a time. Time enough at least to get moderately tipsy and have a suave older gentleman begin to work her over. My first fear as he grabbed her glass was that she was about to have something slipped in it… that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we do not leave beverages out of eye sight while still consuming them.
We see a cut away to Bill as Alice is dancing and flirting with the older man. He has been somewhat sidetracked by a conversation between two women. The entire night seems to be taking a very odd turn as Bill and Alice are pulled farther and farther away from one another until Bill is finally called to the side of an overdosed naked woman in one of the upstairs bathrooms. As Alice emphatically says again and again that she is ready to leave that the tall stranger wont let her, I got very nervous about his character again. I am nervous for him to make a reappearance. The night ends with a passionately one sided sex scene as Nicole seems very bothered and distracted by the evenings events.
The following montage is beautiful not only in its display of the female form, but also in the music, and flow of the camera as it takes you through the individual days of Alice and Bill. The end the day half naked in bed together, smoking a joint, when Alice brings up the two girl she saw Bill speaking to at the party the previous evening. She plays it off playfully jealous but almost as if she wants an excuse for her own behavior the night before. He irrational response to him makes me believe that even more. Both have a disconnect in communication for sure. The camera dropping and raising with Alice as she succumbs to a laughing fit was stunning. Her monologue is so very well done. I feel every word she is speaking, and the small cutaways to Bill’s reaction is very poignant.
As her story ends, Bill gets a call on the phone about the death of Lou Nathanson. On his way to the scene, images of the night that never was between Alice and her sailor run through his mind like a movie reel, shown in a blue hued black and white, of her giving over to her fantasies. Marion seems a little odd and at this moment I am not sure if that is due to direction or acting ability. As she reveals that she is “in love” with Bill, I am still left wondering about her character and the ability of the actress portraying her. As Bill leaves, he is hounded by mental images of Alice and the sailor as well as a group of punks that lightly harass him. With the way he falls mindlessly into every situation makes it easy to believe that he will not walk out of this movie without first falling into a lot of trouble.
Cookies, milk, TV, and cigarettes… yeah, Alice and I would get along great. There is a noted lack of an “I love you” from Bill as he blows off his wife for the prostitute he has hired. Bill proves to be a better guy than first realized though as he decided to leave but pay the prostitute for her time nonetheless. It is a wonderful gesture and starts to make you wonder if he might love his wife as much as he claims to. Though as Bill passes a nightclub and sees Nick, his old friend, on the billboard, he makes the step through the doors and I come back to my opinion that he does not do too much thinking before he steps head first into a situation.
Every interaction between Nick and Bill starts to make me think that this could be a love story between these two. It seems apparent that the meat of the movie will be as Bill comes with Nick to this mysterious meetup. He is instructed to get a costume to gain entry to the party and the resulting scene is hilarious as Bill tries to convince the new shop owner to help him in a timely fashion despite it being the middle of the night. Once the shop owner stumbles upon his very young daughter with cross-dressing Asian men, the scene derails in a very fun way, reminding you to expect nothing and prepare for everything as the plot unfolds even further. Bill gets what he has come for and begins the journey by taxi to the secret meetup. The entire way more detailed pictures come to mind of Alice and her fantasy sailor.
The path Bill is taking by taxi is very wooded until suddenly a blue gate guarded by two men comes into view. Bill pays the driver and arranges for him to wait for him to return. He exits the taxi and talks with the guards, giving the password and then being escorted up to the house which is more of a mansion and surrounded by very nice vehicles. A red carpet treatment greets Bill as he enters the home. He dons his mask and steps into the forbidden world he as suddenly found himself in. The room he walks in to is filled with people in black robes, all wearing masks. In the center of the room in a circle knees a good handful of black robed people while a tall red robed man walks in a slow circle inside of the group, waving a bowl of incense attacked to a chain he is holding in his right hand. He carries a staff in his left hand, and everyone seems to be moving ritualistically. One of the participants is wearing a lovely black feathered headdress. The black figures rise and disrobe, revealing their half naked female bodies underneath before kneeling once more. Now as the red figure makes his way around the circle, he pauses in front of each woman and bangs the end of his staff on the ground to signal the woman to rise and choose a person standing in the room to lead off and one can only assume, have sex with them. The woman in the lovely headdress chooses Bill, which is no great surprise, but as she is leading him down the hallway following the others, she makes it known that she is aware that he does not belong and that he must leave quickly before something horrible happens. Before she is able to relay more warning than that to Bill, she is escorted off by another masked member and Bill is left on his own at the halfway point of the film, lost and confused in a place he knows nothing about.
Bill wanders room to room, witnessing orgy after orgy until the woman with the headdress finds him to give him one final warning, refusing to tell him why or how, but just to leave. As she slips away, the butler informs Bill that his driver is waiting for him at the door. Bill follows the butler but he is lead not to the door, but to a chamber that seems to be like a courtroom. The robes figures are present, the red one seated on a throne in the center flanked on either side by people in purple while the black robed individuals fill up the background in a sea of faces, all turned toward Bill. It seems judgement day has come.As he fails to give the second password and is forced to unmask and then asked undress, you feel the growing since of foreboding reach epic heights, broken at last by the voice of the woman in the headdress offering herself in place of Bill. Her requested is accepted on the condition that Bill never seek answers to the night or mention what he saw at the risk of his life and the life of his family.
The woman is led away by a man in a Plague Doctors mask and all requests to learn her fate are denied Bill. He returns home to find his daughter sleeping peacefully while Alice does not to be sleeping quite as soundly as Bill wakes her from what appears to be a laughing nightmare. She explains her nightmare to him after some prodding, saying that they were naked in a deserted city. In the dream, as Bill runs off to find clothes and Alice feels a sense of happiness and relief was over her, a sense of freedom. Then her fantasy sailor comes out of the woods near her in the dream, staring at her and then laughing. Bill pushes her further, knowing there is more. Alice reluctantly admits that the sailor began to kiss her and make love to her in front of an entire crowd of people all involved in a large orgy. She describes how she started having sex with multiple men, countless numbers, all while Bill could see, and all she wanted was to laugh in his face. Explaining the pealing laughter he woke her from. It is obvious that Bill is very bothered by this dream for even more obvious reasons.
The next day he goes to look for Nick but is not having much luck tracking him down. The story from the hotel clerk leaves a nasty taste in the mouth as the audience and Bill are both lead to believe without much doubt that Nick is most likely dead right now thanks to granting Bill access to the party the previous night. As he returns the costume to the shop he realizes that the mask is not in the bag with the rest of his items. We also learn that the father is now pimping his daughter out for extra money. It is as if the entire world has gone as sex crazed as him.
Bill shows back up at the gate of the mansion of the party, and the intro of simplistic piano music reminds you of the warning issued to him by Red Cloak as he departed. As a car slowly approaches the gate, you feel a shiver of apprehension. He is given an envelope and the car retreats as fast as it came. The crescendo of piano as he opens the letter makes for baited breath watching. Inside is another vague warning to not search for more answers. He goes home to his family, but with the plan to go out again, I am not thinking he plans to head the warning.
His evening out consist largely of retracing his steps with Domino and learning he dodged a major bullet by opting to not have sex with her the previous night. I do find it very telling that the headline on the paper he chose reads “Luck to be Alive”. A very fitting heading for his own day, for sure. In the paper he sees a report of a death that it seems he connects to his feather headdress wearing savior from the party. From hair color, it seems as if he is on the right track, though not much more can be positively identified from the corpse of the woman. His steps trace him even further as he is brought back to the man he aided with the overdosed prostitute at the party. He informs Bill that he knows what happened the previous night and what has happened since. This is a mind explosion for both Bill and the audience and I am very intrigued to see what will transpire from this conversation.
Through the explanation of Bill’s friend from the party, I am not sure if this is truth or cover up. Part of this feels very like “Rosemary’s Baby”, the true meaning and motive behind this cult seems so deviant and evil. The entire explanation seems like an appeasement, especially as we see his lost mask laying next to Alice in bed while she sleeps. As he notices it himself when he gets home, we see him break down at long last and tell Alice all he has been through the past 24 hours. We see the toll this takes on her and it is very easy to imagine her sense of betrayal and shock, especially with the holiday season to celebrate with their young daughter. As they are talking in the mall and coming to terms with this new found phase of marriage, the one constant thought I have… where is their daughter and who is watching her?
Over all, this was an… interesting movie. I am not sure I can judge it fully from one viewing, but unfortunately this year that is all I have the time for. On that note, I give the film a 3.5/4 with an invisible extra half point for the sheer creative confusion I now find myself in. Someone want to go into a discussion about this movie? It is one to be studied through multiple play-throughs and in depth discussions to decipher every movement.