Doctor Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) attend a Christmas party hosted by a wealthy patient in New York during which she is seduced by an older man and he by two young girls. The following evening, they have a talk about the party in the film directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Of all the films directed by Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut might be the most hated. Some say the sudden death of Kubrick prevented him from fully finishing the film as he intended. Both Warner Bros. and the Kubrick family reportedly insisted that he had turned over his final cut to the studio before he died. Did the studio make further changes to the cut? We’ll never know. They did, however, add CG people at the masked ball to cover most of the sexual imagery for the American audience. This resulted in a less impactful film, but rest assured that the “European” or “Uncensored” cut is available everywhere today.
I don’t consider myself to be a fan of Kubrick’s cinema. Most of his film simply bored me. That’s why I don’t quite understand the hate this one is receiving. Of all the Kubrick’s, it is, in my opinion, among the bests. Certainly the most fascinating to look at. Because behind its thin plot lies a reflexion on fidelity in a relationship. During the talk Bill and Alice have after the party, Alice reveals having a fantasy about a sailor, but didn’t engage in an intercourse. This profoundly disturb Bill, who goes on a journey in the night in his quest of having sex with another person. He fails twice and finishes his night at the infamous masked ball. Whilst most viewers will simply see this journey as the plot of the average erotic thriller, I see this as a reimagining of the Christmas party Bill attend with his wife. In fact, the entire second act that starts with Bill leaving his apartment and end with him leaving the masked ball could be interpreted as a dream. I need to go into spoilers as of now, so if you haven’t seen Eyes Wide Shut, please do and come back later.
Of all the Kubrick’s, it is, in my opinion, among the bests.
At the party, Bill was seduced by two girls before being interrupted by the host who asked for his help. The host was having sex with a hooker named Mandy who overdosed. Bill saves her. If you think about it for a second, the fact that Mandy overdosed saved Bill from being unfaithful to his wife. At the masked ball, a girl wearing a mask (who we learn later is Mandy) saves Bill from public humiliation, when he is asked to remove all his clothes, by offering herself as a sacrifice. Lots of the dialogue between the two girls and Bill also ring a bell during his journey into the night. Incapable of expressing his feelings, he is reinterpreting them. And we only get to see Bill’s side of the dream, but Alice dreamt too: when Bill comes home he finds his wife fast asleep and laughing. He asks her about the dream. She tells him that she dreamt they were in a deserted city, naked, and she was angry because she felt it was Bill’s fault and that he ran away. At the party, Bill leaves her wife alone to meet with a friend and therefore she fell into the older man’s arms.
The last act of the film can also be interpreted as the awakening. You half remember your dream and try to find all of the details. Some of them makes no sense, some of them may feel altered. Lots of what Bill experiences during his journey into the night had a different outcome. When he meets with the party host, he learns that him too was present at the masked ball and that all of that was an act. All of that was staged. Nothing happened. Yet, Bill keeps finding proof that it did happen. But when he really wakes up, he goes to a store with his wife and they have a talk. She says that they’re awake now. For good. And hopefully for a long time. They have put their feelings away and can fully live their sexuality now.