Analysis: Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”

When confronted by an unfathomable enigma, it is human nature to imagine a conspiracy exists in the shadows. This is true with Stanley Kubrick’s last and perhaps most profound film: Eyes Wide Shut, starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. Some creative thinkers attracted to this cinematic conundrum believe Kubrick was murdered for making the movie, his adaption of a book titled Dream Story, a tale they sense, or believe, is grounded in reality. Meanwhile the mystery of the movie’s message has remained unsolved and unreported. PluribusOne™ Consulting reveals, first of all, a key clue: There is a conspiratorial aspect of the story, and the undiscovered conspirator is the viewer. 

This story reveals an unsettling truth via an allegory based on the mythical “fall” of Adam and Eve, the archetypal tale that plays out on Earth in the perpetual rise and fall of sexual relationships, a fate sealed by a seed of desire shared by both sexes, a seed that contains the drive for both monogamy and promiscuity, a seed nurtured consciously (or unconsciously) through combinations of self-disclosure (or veiled threats) and intentional deception (or unwitting self-deception) on the part of both spouses—a balancing of safety and risky business. Like the seed of anything, the film’s impregnating “moment of truth” is shown and yet occulted in the very beginning where Nicole’s character sheds a dress with half-slip in favor of skimpy panties and a dress with a long split that allows glimpses of her thighs, revealing to the audience her conscious effort to push the boundaries of her allure at the Christmastime gathering with wealthy strangers (who seek attractive recruits for their sex club).

At the party, she flirts openly with one particular man, and not spontaneously; she and Tom have attended these parties before. Tom flirts with two young fashion models while Nicole, inebriated by champagne and hormones, dances in the arms of the tall and seductive Hungarian while indulging her inclination to fantasize, a fact she discloses to Tom after their return to the home lined with Garden of Eden-like paintings. Yet Tom misses the point of her disclosure and her mocking: She is warning him to pay better attention to her erotic needs if he hopes to preserve their marriage, a feat that can only be achieved by allowing himself to wear a mask of pretense that will allow her to imagine him as other men—a military officer, a domineering Hungarian, and others who are more sexually aggressive and authoritative—more reptilian—than naïve medical doctor Tom who understands the workings of the female body but not the female mind. Masks, as both a symbol and as artifacts of pagan sex rituals, are shown throughout the film, along with more symbols of Eden (including background music lyrics: “…baby did a bad, bad thing…”). 

Humanity is the most secretive “secret society,” and the secret is about a lie that “lies” within the darkness of the psyche, which is why film viewers—even professional critics—failed to understand what the story is really about: that neither men nor women are inherently monogamous, that marriage is a culturally-contrived fiction that two-become-one through a ceremony, even when both, garbed in vows as fragile as fig leaves, believe it can be permanent. Both Tom and Nicole’s eyes are “wide shut”—physically open, yet largely unaware—whereas members of the cult lodge/”house” have their eyes wide open, adherent to their own code of behavior based on concepts of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, concepts that serve as cornerstones of Freemasonry as well as the structure of charters of nations such as France and the United States. Although the film is fiction, not a documentary, Kubrick offered clues and added unmistakable visuals that allude to the Ordo Templi Orientis, an organization that follows a theology primarily based on the Thelemic writings of Aleister Crowley. 

This post is intended to be provocative, to further demonstrate the Noetitek™ meta-tools while stimulating questions and a dialogue about the film and matters it addresses.

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23 Responses to “Analysis: Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut””

  1. Mimzykl1 Says:

    Divorce statistics are admittedly very high and more women are choosing to have children outside of marriage. And I read that about 75% of married people, men as well as women, have had at least one affair. Yet I think most people dream of the one perfect soulmate, so maybe my eyes are wide shut. It’s something to think about. Is there any science to support this message that Kubrick was apparently sending?

  2. PluribusOne™ Says:

    The utopian idealist in me agrees with your soulmate thinking, and clearly there are many people who uphold their vows of fidelity, married or not, even against strong temptations. Yet it would be dishonest of anyone to say that temptations never arise, which is part of Kubrick’s point as we see it.

    I do not, however, think that Kubrick was promoting cynicism or discouraging marital commitments. I think he was trying to say that monetary wealth and social power tend to undermine adherence to cultural values such as monogamy and fidelity in marriage. We note that Tom and Nicole, although reportedly religious, are no longer married and wonder what effect making the movie may have had on that marriage.

    There actually is serious science to support what we see as Kubrick’s message about the promiscuous tendency of male and female human beings, as opposed to birds, which, some scientists say, are more monogamous than any mammals. We are not, however, experts in this area. We welcome authoritative comments from biologists, psychologists, and anthropologists who may shed more light on this provocative (if not taboo) topic.

  3. PeaceTrainer Says:

    It seems to me that you are indirectly condoning the activities of the secret club in Kubrick’s film. The truth is that I found the movie to be offensive and disappointing. I think that, as entertainment, it was his worst film since Clockwork Orange which was banned in Great Britain.

  4. PluribusOne™ Says:

    PluribusOne™’s analysis of anything in this blog, whether it relates to business, the economy, art, films, etcetera, has one overriding purpose: to demonstrate the efficacy of the Noetitek™ system as a set of meta-tools that enhances perception. This film by Kubrick was chosen because it remains enigmatic even ten years after its release and millions of viewings. It is not our mission to stand in judgment of Kubrick, or anyone else, nor is it our purpose to promote his work. The film is controversial because it focuses on taboos related to sexuality. As a result, it tends to trigger emotions that make objective analysis difficult. So, it is not surprising that many reviews of the movie say more about the reviewer than the film.

    “A Clockwork Orange” made statements about violence that were as unsettling as the statements about sexuality in “Eyes Wide Shut.” Both films make negative statements about drugs and alcohol, another fact that has been overlooked. Kubrick himself banned “A Clockwork Orange” in the UK, although he may have been under pressure to do so (according to his associates, he received some extremely negative feedback in Great Britain, including death threats). The bogus “ban” undoubtedly helped promote the film elsewhere.

  5. Sandi Says:

    What did she say that leads you to conclude that she expects him to wear a “mask of pretense” to preserve their marriage? She revealed her fantasy and the scene ends with her laughing uncontrollably. How do you know Tom’s character interpreted it that way?

  6. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Nicole’s subtle message to Tom is made later on, in the scene where he comes home to find the rented mask on his pillow.

    In an earlier scene he stashed the costume in his office room until he could return it to the rental shop. Obviously she found the whole costume and took the mask. Its placement on the pillow was an invitation to wear it—she showed no anger upon awakening. But because of his guilty feelings, he does not interpret her action as such, nor does he grasp her perspective, even to the end of the film where she expresses her immediate agenda in the bluntest possible way.

    Some would say—as his character, and most viewers, concluded—that she put the mask on the pillow as a way to let him know he had been caught. However, she would have assumed that he would realize that much when he would discover the mask had been taken from the bag. The mask could only have been missing because she had found it—he knew he had not left it at the party—yet he, with “eyes wide shut,” simply considered it “lost.”

    His total trusting of her apparently extended to believing that her trusting of him was so complete that she would never poke around in his office or search his pockets. The message of the mask on the pillow is missed by Tom because of his persistently erroneous assumptions about her. Viewers of the movie tend to miss the symbolism for essentially the same reason.

  7. Sandi Says:

    I still believe most people are monogamous at heart. Why would there be an inclination to promiscuity (other than mental disorder) as opposed to having and keeping one caring mate? Divorce, in my view, is caused by making a mistake in partner selection. Most divorcees remarry or seek remarriage. People joke about “serial monogamists” but the effort, as I see it, is still to partner with one person.

  8. PluribusOne™ Says:

    There are at least two reasons for a natural (not psychotic) inclination to “promiscuity,” a term that has a negative connotation in most societies and is further stigmatized by its perception as “casual sex.” The word “casual” implies uncaring superficiality and thoughtless spontaneity—the absence of premeditation or bonding, which is only true in some cases, including those representing mental disorders (extreme abnormality).

    First: the “eternal feminine energy,” for example, predisposed as it is to receive, finds no need to distinguish—no natural advantage in distinguishing—between Tom Cruise and Jack Flash. In its operation through the female biological vehicle, it is inclined to mate with any equal-and-opposite masculine energy of matching intensity. There are generally many neocortical “ground-level” options, and long-term monogamous behavior with one particular male is one choice, but the ever-present “default option” is promiscuity.

    Second: because humans are mortal and also combative, the life energy force operating through biological form must be adaptable to changing conditions with regard to a given mate: natural death, killing in combat, infertility, disability due to injury, disappearance (prolonged absence), or abandonment. If the female were to lose that adaptability, such loss would threaten perpetuation of the species because she can only produce about one child per year, and then only during the child-bearing phase of her life. If the male were to lose that adaptability, opportunities for propagation would be vastly limited, especially in a species that produces more females than males.

    Monogamy is to promiscuity as farming is to hunting. In the movie, Tom is more farmer than hunter (he repeatedly fails at hunting) and Nicole is more hunter than farmer (a fact that culturally-hypnotized viewers miss).

  9. Stan Q. Says:

    How is it. or where is it, that you see some allusion to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity? I’m not seeing the symbols.

  10. PluribusOne™ Says:

    It appears visually, through the proliferation of scenes drenched with the colors: blue (liberty), white (equality), and red (fraternity). Such scenes are found throughout the film, including the final scene where Tom is wearing red, white, and blue.

    See Image File #18 which shows the logo for France, reflected in the design of their flag. The same colors are used in the American flag and others.

    “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is also a Masonic motto. Whether there is a direct connection between Freemasonry and the OTO is uncertain; there is some similarity. The connection between France, Freemasonry, and the founding of the United States of America is a matter of historical fact.

  11. PeaceTrainer Says:

    One question that I think haunts everyone who has seen the movie is whether the woman who took the doctor’s place to spare him punishment for his intervention accidentally OD’d or was murdered by the group. Do you have a strong sense of what happened to her and, if so, is there something that evidences it? In the morgue he looks at her face very closely. Is that a clue?

  12. PluribusOne™ Says:

    When Tom looks at her face close up, he is also looking at her upside-down. Kubrick has the two bodies form a yin-yang pattern to symbolize the contrast between them: Tom saved her, then she saved him, and now he is alive whereas she is dead because she volunteered to take his place. By bowing over her, he indicates respect, reverence, remorse, and a sense of close connection.

    Yes, she was killed. We feel certain of that because the party was a celebration of the pagan Saturnalia, rites that, starting before ancient Rome, included orgies and human sacrifice. Had she not taken his place the group would have killed him. His client/“friend” lies to him when he says the whole encounter was staged, knowing Tom could never live with the truth. The fact that she died behind a locked door only shows she followed through with her promise to take Tom’s place. As a member of the group (she was not a prostitute) she knew the rules; she knew she would have to remove her mask (sacrifices were made with head uncovered), submit to sexually abusive humiliation, and die. Her drug-abusing suicidal tendency only aided her willingness.

    Saturnalia was a week-long pre-Christian winter solstice celebration, a time to unbind Saturn’s yoke during the shortest and darkest days of the year. Lights, gift-giving, drunkenness, and other forms of licentiousness were intended to cheer the carnal spirit in a manner polite society would call “barbaric.” Part of Kubrick’s message here is also central to his film, “A Clockwork Orange”: that civilization today is no more civilized than two thousand years ago, and there are no signs of change on the horizon. Several clues in the film point to the fact that the partying—in fact, the entire film—takes place in those days just before Christmas, the days corresponding to Saturnalia.

  13. Stark Raven Says:

    I think your finding an Adam and Eve connection is potent but how can you be sure that Kubrick had that in mind? Is there some further piece of evidence you’re willing to share?

  14. PluribusOne™ Says:

    In addition to evidence mentioned in the post, when Tom returns from the secret party, Nicole is sleeping, and she is laughing in her sleep. He awakens her and she recounts in detail a dream that reflects the story of Adam and Eve as recorded in ancient works outside of the Bible that relate a story of Eve having intercourse with a cold-blooded creature capable of impregnating her. In Nicole’s—“horrible,” as she says it—dream, which takes place in a garden, she is naked and feeling ashamed, and while Tom is away looking for clothes she is lying on the ground. The man she often fantasizes about (Devil/Pan archetype) laughs at her as he approaches, and she has intercourse with him. Suddenly she is surrounded by others who are doing the same, and she is having sex with the other men too, while laughing at Tom.

    We note that after the couple’s earlier return from the pre-Christmas cocktail party, she had mocked and laughed at him in revealing her fantasized affair; this “tempted him” to begin his quest to commit adultery—he also bit into the apple of temptation. When he returns from the secret party, she is laughing and mocking him again, this time in her dream as she submits herself to other men. Her persistent inclination to promiscuous thoughts is revealed throughout the film. The idea expressed by the elements of her dream is that she (in her oneness with the Eve archetype) was responsible for starting something that resulted in similar behavior among an enlarging group—humanity, in its proneness to following her “fallen” way. She feels simultaneously “wonderful” and “awful” about her promiscuous nature, which is comedic in a dark way.

    In the last scene of the movie, Nicole’s character says: “…we’re AWAKE now…,” which further evidences the connection to the Adam and Eve myth. As it says in the Bible, Genesis 3:4-7: “And the serpent said unto the woman, ‘Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then YOUR EYES SHALL BE OPENED, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.’ And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. AND THE EYES OF THEM BOTH WERE OPENED, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” The characters in Eyes Wide Shut effectively, in the end, express gratitude to the “devil” for opening their eyes, and yet their marriage is no longer “in the garden,” so how awake are they?

    To have “eyes wide shut” is to be innocent. By the end of the story, neither of them is entirely innocent any longer. Eyes Wide Shut is a story deserving a sequel that could be better than the original “morality play.” That is a project we would love to work on with the right screenwriter.

  15. The Donald Says:

    Film production has always intrigued me. I find it amazing that Kubrick could plan such an elaborate presentation as you appear to have detected in your analysis. I would almost think that you’re seeing more than he could have intended except that when I watched the film again recently the characters did seem unusually complex and believable. That the film sends an intentional message that involves more than a statement about marriage seems clear. How do you think he managed to achieve such amazing results?

  16. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Although I have yet to find a source of information that penetrates deeply below the surface of Stanley Kubrick and his films, what I have been able to gather tells me that he did not plan it all. I believe that, like any great artist, Kubrick was “called” to his work by something larger, what some have called “the muse,” some force that sought a worthy channel. My feeling is that he pursued projects that involved topics he was intensely desirous of exploring, but that the general direction was established intuitively as much as consciously, including the selection of actors and settings. I further believe that he directed a dynamic flow more than he engineered it. I think he played a dual-role of creator and voyeur—that he initiated the flow and then guided it along, that he was motivated to see his inner vision reveal itself while also being inspired by subsequent revelations that exceeded his intention and conscious imagination. A director is an artist, and Stanley Kubrick was a Raphael, a Rembrandt, a Goya, and a van Gogh. He chose actors of similar caliber and made transpersonal connections with some of them, to the point that sometimes he became the character he was filming; study carefully the image of the star-child in 2001—a Space Odyssey, for example, where at one point the image of the fetus-like star-child looks like a morphed blending of Dave’s and Stanley’s heads. I took that as a subtle message about collective consciousness, Oneness, and the regeneration of life across species. I doubt that the message was entirely Stanley’s intention; like all great artists, Kubrick was an instrument.

    Many years ago, I worked in summer stock theatres where I had the pleasure of spending time with gifted actors. Two have become famous. One starred in a television series and another won an Academy Award less than five years after my sharing picnic lunches and dressing room preparations with them. Although my on-stage role was too insignificant to deserve more than vague mention on playbills, I had the honor of sharing space on that barn-floor stage where, not unlike magicians, they carved realistic characters from out of thin air. Of course they worked from scripts, but in the course of numerous repetitive performances it was interesting to see subtle differences in the way a particular character would perform as that character took on a life of its own. The effect was sometimes humorous on a level that only a participant sharing the flow could see and appreciate. Often, the character portrayed would remain with the actor after the show ended, which made for some strange and memorable “real world” interactions.

    During my summer stock experience, during which time I lived among actors, directors, set designers, musicians, and others, I gained many insights into the overall craft, including some related to directing. Directors can be hard-nosed task-masters or warm and personable artists. The ones I met were under pressure to achieve near miracles, often overnight—literally. I recall one director who orchestrated a complex array of lighting configurations for each scene of My Fair Lady, a difficult task made harder by ancient roof rafters, less than state-of-the-art equipment, and dive-bombing bats. I volunteered to work with him through the night, after completing my usual eighteen- to twenty-hour work day. He needed someone to sit and stand at various points and in various positions so he could install the fixtures, focus the lights, and draft directions for the technician, and he could only make those settings properly by using a person.

    I share those experiences so you can see that my analysis is not merely speculative and not entirely the result of using the Noetitek™ system.

  17. Mogura Says:

    With all due respect to your system, my feeling is that Kubrick with this film went a bit too far in revealing the clandestine religious/magic activities of the dark brotherhood/illuminati/what have you, and was killed off for it. Payback and damage control; the half-ass end of the movie is hardly Kubrick quality and feels like a patcher-upper of some kind.

    BTW, how can you be so sure Bill didn’t loose the mask at the orgy? I don’t remember seeing it when he hides the outfit in his office-room. It sounds very elegant that she found it and placed it on the pillow as an invitation for him to wear it, I’ll admit, but could it not have been placed there by an intruder as a final warning? I think so.

  18. PluribusOne™ Says:

    M:

    When the doctor returns from the party, we see him walking through their apartment with the bag containing the costume. The costume has a certain bulk that creates a distinct top-to-bottom fullness to the bag’s appearance. Later, when we see him enter the café, on his way to return the costume, there is a camera shot of the bag from a similar angle. It now has slightly less fullness towards the top yet similar fullness towards the bottom, a difference attributable to the absent mask. In both shots the bag is completely closed at the top; the volume of space within is exactly the same.

    In addition, when the costume shop owner asks about the missing mask, he suggests that the doctor might have left it at the party. The doctor says: “I don’t think so” and his tone of voice and facial expression indicate certainty about that. We don’t think so either; consider that after he removed the mask at the party he had clung to it like a life preserver. Then, after telling the shop owner “I don’t think so,” he says, “I must have lost it.”

    Finally, when he comes home to find the mask on his pillow, he knows she has found it; he feels that she is subtly asking “what is going on,” that she has caught him even if she knows not what he has done, which is why he breaks down crying, “I’ll tell you everything.” Meanwhile she shows no sign of surprise or puzzlement; she has simply been waiting for his attention. She assumed that he got the outfit to spice things up with her after having told him the jealousy-provoking story about her fantasy. Now she is disappointed that he still does not “get it.”

    If he thought the mask had been placed there by some bedroom intruder who had managed to acquire it, or a duplicate, we think that when he saw that she had slept through the visitation he would have stashed the mask again until he could decide what to do. He might have confessed at some point, but not so spontaneously or awkwardly. The doctor is not without guile; he would have hidden it. But he sees the mask as evidence that she is confronting him with, so he breaks down in tears. Meanwhile, she was just hoping he would wear it because she has been aroused since dancing with the horny Hungarian—hence her later statement, the last line of the screenplay.

    We see the ending of “Eyes Wide Shut” to be comparable in quality to that of other Kubrick films, such as: “A Clockwork Orange,” and “2001.” He was, in our opinion, a movie-maker of the highest order, from beginning to end.

    —Alan

  19. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Interesting note: In a news article at Yahoo.com, October 24, 2012, Nicole Kidman was asked about her work with Stanley Kubrick, and she said, “People have asked me if Stanley ever told us what Eyes Wide Shut was about, and the answer is no.”

  20. Tigersprite Says:

    What do the two young women at the first party, one on each side of Dr. Hartford, mean when they say, “Don’t you want to go where the rainbow ends?”

  21. PluribusOne™ Says:

    First, it seems clear that Kubrick wanted to make an artful connection between the party in Manhattan and the later party on Long Island, via a rainbow (the Rainbow costume rental shop), appropriate symbolism for this screenplay version of a book titled Dream Story. The rainbow is a common and popular symbol that has been used in countless ways and in many mediums. In its most general interpretation, the rainbow means: full spectrum and unending (Nature’s rainbows have no ends).

    The rainbow is no more a darkly occult symbol than it is an exclusive sign for the gay community. Although, the idea that someone would hope to find a literal pot of gold at the end of one does fit with Dr. Hartford’s incredible naïveté and inevitable disappointment.

    Our interpretation of the scene you call attention to is simply that the two women—with whom Kubrick goes a bit overboard in making sure his viewer recognizes their seductive intention—represent the two ends of a rainbow of sexual delight that they have in mind for him. Kubrick appears to encourage allusion to the old song, Over the Rainbow, by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, which is about the search for satisfaction, perfection—paradise.

    The lyrics are:

    “Somewhere over the rainbow
    Way up high,
    There’s a land that I heard of
    Once in a lullaby.

    “Somewhere over the rainbow
    Skies are blue,
    And the dreams that you dare to dream
    Really do come true.

    “Someday I’ll wish upon a star
    And wake up where the clouds are far
    Behind me.
    Where troubles melt like lemon drops
    Away above the chimney tops
    That’s where you’ll find me.

    “Somewhere over the rainbow
    Bluebirds fly.
    Birds fly over the rainbow.
    Why then, oh why can’t I?

    “If happy little bluebirds fly
    Beyond the rainbow
    Why, oh why can’t I?”

    The two women obviously have no idea that Dr. Hartford will learn of or attend the Long Island party, assuming that they are to participate in that. And no one could know that he would go to the Rainbow costume and tuxedo rental shop. They are just steering the attractive young doctor towards the nearest coat closet for a taste of paradise.

  22. Tigersprite Says:

    So, do you dismiss the possibility that Kubrick was murdered as retribution for making films that seem to have been sending progressively stronger messages to the public about an Illuminati agenda?

  23. PluribusOne™ Says:

    It is not difficult to see why some people familiar with Kubrick and his many works can put certain pieces together and conclude that he was murdered. Is it possible? Yes, but although some films, especially 2001 and The Shining, contain elements that defy explanation based on synchronicity alone, we are not convinced that his apparent efforts to “leak” some secrets, and/or his own personal conspiracy-theory ideas, resulted in his death.

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