Comments on an Analysis of Eyes Wide Shut – Part Six

Part Six is here.

Having moved the body of the post to html, am restoring for the comments on the section.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

11 thoughts on “Comments on an Analysis of Eyes Wide Shut – Part Six”

  1. I very much appreciate your blog for pointing out many things I likely would never have noticed even despite having seen the film dozens of times over the years. One I especially enjoyed in this section was that the all the tags on the the suits had changed and the cabinets had been opened (the doors on the right remain open in the second shot) since Bill’s first visit perhaps implying they’d eerily and inexplicably been used by people that previous night. I suppose these observations could simply be written off as continuity errors easily by someone more cynical, especially given the length of production, and I’m usually one that believes Stanley Kubrick’s film can be slavishly over analysed sometimes, but it would be interesting to hear some interviews with the various set dressers and continuity department from Eyes Wide Shut about what their directions were. For most of the part, it just adds to the dreamy tone of the film encouraging your brain to allow certain scenes to merge and reflect one another without out always being entirely conscious of it.

  2. Arthur, I can’t speak for the analysis of others but to me Kubrick’s films are each like big gardens stuffed with Easter eggs dressed up to dazzle. The films are rich enough without the Easter eggs, but it’s the eggs that make the viewer reach for myth, not just within the film but in themselves and their environment.

  3. “399 Exterior The Rainbow. (1:44:53)
    A cab pulls up before the Rainbow shop and lets Bill out. He again appears to be in the 7M96 cab”

    Is it just me or do you think the two guys leaning on the blue postbox are waiting for Bill ( i.e following him for Ziegler). When Bill steps out of the cab they look at him and then abruptly just stop their conversation and then move out just as Bill is about to go and visit Milich again. My friend is a security guard and he says that they were definatly on a stake out as he could tell from their body language and how they just left the scene as soon as Bill turned up. Kubrick was using the tagged blue box to catch the viewers attention to this.

  4. Also we never see Bill exchange or pay money to Milich as they are interupted by the two asian men. After Bill just leaves the shop without having paid anything while yet still reciving the reciept from Milich.

  5. Philanthropy, you’re right, the impression, I too have always felt, is that the two men at the mailbox seem to have been waiting for Bill and leave as if on cue. Whether they really are or not, that’s the feeling one is given by their behavior and timings of things. (And then one is wearing a camouflage jacket.) Tagging is seen elsewhere on the mailboxes so I don’t know about the tagging being intended to attract the eye here.

    I’d always thought they were completing a credit card transaction, but this too is ambiguous. Bill takes out his wallet, opens it, then closes it and places it down when the mask is found to not be in the bag. The wallet remains closed and on the counter throughout the rest of the scene. He is simply given his receipt and the deposit is torn up.

  6. I’m not sure the Batua mask is supposed to be Ziegler. The man who interrupts Bill and The Feathered Girl is wearing a Columbus mask. In the scene where Bill is talking to Ziegler about what happened that night Ziegler is standing in front of a wooden ship, which is displayed by the window. Columbus is going up the stairs with The Feathered Girl (Mandy), maybe giving her instructions on what to do next. To me, it seems obvious that his interrupting them is not a random act, it’s related to Bill. I don’t think it’s a normal custom for that context. I have a question regarding the last room through which Nick passes, being escorted out, before the sacrifice scene. There is a woman in a red dress dancing with a naked man, one in a green dress with a naked woman, a woman in a tux with a naked woman. Also in the masked crowd we see womanly features, including the harlequin standing next to the Batua in the initial ceremony scene. How do you explain this ? At first, I thought it was black and white: the women are there for the men and they are in a position of subordination. That may still be the case, I’m just wondering if you have a nuanced explanation related to the dancing couples. I’ve been enjoying your analysis for the last few months. It’s very well written and researched.Thank you !

    1. Nicoleta, as you likely know, the Hierophant is Leon Vitalli. I had wondered if he, too, is Columbus. At least, if he might have played Columbus. There’s a picture of Columbus, partly unmasked, on an Italian Kubrick site (some interviews for EWS and production pics) and though it’s difficult to tell, the lower face of the person in the Columbus mask appears to look like him.

      But…then I realized, no, Columbus is shown to be the same height as Bill, whereas Vitalli is taller. The hierophant is shown standing next to the black feathered woman and he’s about her height, whereas she is shown by Kubrick to be both taller than Bill and the Columbus figure (who does intentionally interrupt Bill and the black feather woman), as Kubrick does have them standing all together and the Columbus figure looks sleight beside her, appearing about the same size as Bill. Aside from this problem, the guess of it being Ziegler is a reasonable one, taking the ship as a cue. But I don’t think he is, due the height issue.

      But I’m not confident we don’t have two men in the Batua mask. Sidney Pollack is a good deal taller than Cruise and his upper body is larger than Cruise’s, it’s more overbearing. This seems to be the case with the Batua figure on the second floor, though we only view him from a distance. However…when the Batua is on the ground floor with the woman who will ask Bill is he wants to go some place more private (the black feather woman then returning and interrupting them), he is shown to be the same height as the woman who interrupts Bill, and she is about Bill’s height. Plus, this Batua figure’s upper body doesn’t seem as overbearing as Pollack’s. Plus he seems younger than Pollack as we do get a good look at his neck and it’s not very slack and not as weighty as Pollack’s. The neck of the Columbus figure also looks younger than Pollack’s.

      The problem is, who is who? That’s the issue with the party. We have the woman who enters with the Batua figure (ground floor), who interrupts Bill, changing identity mid-stream. Which fits in with the identity confusion concerning Amanda. The film is full of this. We have it elsewhere at the party, too, such as with the Batua figure.

      I don’t think of the party as being a story about women who are there for the men and in a subordinate position, though the film does offer that implication with the idea of the black feather woman as a prostitute who Victor seems to see as easily dispensable, and who he says is Amanda. But the black feather woman is played by a different woman than who played Amanda. All this purposeful identity confusion. So, it’s difficult to talk about this on a realistic level. There’s rationality to it all, but it’s not realism.

      As for Bill being interrupted, these interruptions also replay the interruptions that go on at Victor’s party. Bill is interrupted when he’s talking to Nick ((Nick says he walks away from things a lot), and he is again interrupted when he is with the two women who invite him to the end of the rainbow. And then he continues to be interrupted. He is interrupted when he is with Domino, this time by Alice. Then he is interrupted, again, when he is with Nick. He’s continually interrupted.

      I’m still processing the film. I’m still learning about it. I can’t offer you a satisfactory answer. All I can say is this isn’t realism. Though Kubrick gives realistic cues that suggest things that are “not”, he gives plenty of cues that present conflicts that stump assumptions in favor of more difficult mind-benders which work against a realistic reading.

      Thanks for your comment. And you got me looking at the people in the masks again.

      1. Do a Google search for Columbus, Eyes Wide Shut, and masks. You’ll find an article and video on the mask maker who sold Kubrick several masks, one of them being this one, which he identifies as Columbus.

  7. Thank you for your reply. I agree with you, there is no telling who is who. We can’t even be sure of the identity of the “unmasked”. And I don’t think it matters all that much specifically. And you are right about the physical constitution of the Batua and Columbus. So there are no direct correspondents, but I like to think that the ship-Columbus-Ziegler association is not random, it may just reinforce the idea that Bill is not the master of his own faith. And speaking of masks, when Bill enters the ceremony, on the balcony, center figure, is a sun-like mask, standing at the top of the light pyramid shun on Nick, but I’m not sure that it’s the same sun mask we see to the right of Bill in the sacrifice scene. Anyway, this sun like mask is circulating in a half-circle of sorts throughout the party scene.

    I brought up the subject of subordination because the movie is discussing male and female relationship, from a sociological perspective. It certainly isn’t the main subject of the party, but it’s relevant throughout the film. “Introduction to Sociology” is a title we see in Domino’s bedroom when Bill is standing by the mirror, talking to Alice. Every male-female relationship is driven by money, power and sex. So it stood out to me, (the dancing couples) being the only instance where we see a lightly different situation. Maybe I’m over thinking it.

    And speaking of interruptions, every potential sexual or love encounter of Bill’s is doubled by death. Nuala and Gayle – Mandy’s overdose and her lingering death, Marion – the death of her father, Domino – Alice interrupting reminding us of where he’s supposed to be and also we know by now that death is imminent due to her diagnosis, Mandy – interruption leads to death (of course, they were not meant to have sex, but it’s implied by the ritual), Sally – news of death interrupts again.

    To conclude, the logic of correspondents and associations has a certain dreamlike quality (you empirically know what you’re seeing, but can’t quite articulate it. Maybe we’re meant to understand what Bill is feeling, although I think he’s more clueless than we are:)
    I haven’t gotten around to all the biblical and mythological references that you pointed out, but I certainly will.

    P.S. I finally found the uncensored version. I was shocked to see… why it was censored.

    1. No, I don’t believe any of it to be random. Just as the places of the women in the circle change position in the circle a number of times, which gives the appearance of no thought to continuity (yet this is intentional), and the sun mask appears in one balcony and then another. Nor do I believe it is the same sun mask we are always seeing, for the corona is different in the balcony from the sun mask at the end of this sequence, the one appearing when Bill enters at the end having individually articulated rays that are unconnected. We also have a Pacific Northwest indigenous styled sun mask at Domino’s, on her wall.

      I didn’t mean to suggest that there was anything random in the final association of Victor with the ship–I do think there are different opportunities for connections that Kubrick establishes. He also then makes the effort to discount certain literal interpretations, for instance, such as if one associates Columbus with the ship with Victor, by ensuring we see Columbus next to Bill and that Columbus has a similar physical build to Bill’s. But Columbus is a pointed choice for the individual who leads the black feathered woman away, for we have the sailor theme throughout with Alice and her story and the lover with whom Bill imagines her. Not to mention the ship associated with the story of the flood (raised via the rainbow) and Deucalion, the Greek hero of the flood story, as the new wine sailor. The choice of Columbus also brings in the dove (columba) of the two alternate versions of the biblical flood myth which have been combined so that we have as one story the raven which does not return and the dove which does. So, the nautical theme runs throughout and maybe even be seen in the choice of Seattle though a sea pun, and though the indigenous meaning of the Salish chief’s name is likely unrelated, he does appear to have taken the baptismal name of Noah. A labyrinth of associations is formed with Nicholas being from Seattle, while he is also connected with Victor through the meaning of their names. The threads all twine about, weaving elements and different layers of the story together. Finally, toward the film’s end, we have the ship in Victor’s billiard room prominently lording over the scene.

      The dancing couples stand out, yes, also in the style of presentation, in much the same way as does the couple seen outside the library when the black feather woman leads Bill into the hall and then flees. Everything has been very highly choreographed up this point, and it remains choreographed, but the style is different, a little more natural (though the dancers seem stilted) and the music makes an abrupt change to pop with “Strangers in the Night”. We had women with women previously but now there is more gender mixing. However, much has changed. We suddenly have masked individuals in suits without their cloaks, and a cloaked individual with no shoes or pants. A shift in music and mood. The scene does stand out from the rest for a variety of reasons.

      A reason I’ve steered away from the subordination of women is because I think that choice of story line has been emphasized too much over other layers, and Bill is himself in a decidedly subordinate position if we look at the class layer.

      Death does run throughout but then Bill’s old paradigm is dying, how he viewed the world, his relationship to it. We even have a mortuary shown in the film. (I’ve been updating the analysis but haven’t reached this portion yet.) It had always seemed to me that one of the buildings seen on the highway, when Bill is traveling to the party, is a mortuary, and I was able to pin down that it is the Oyster Bay Funeral Home. Which I think rather puts Bill in the realm of the dead as he makes his way to Somerton. As soon as we see the funeral home, the film makes an abrupt shift in scenery to a predominance of evergreens that wouldn’t be had in this area of New York (I don’t believe). Though some have placed the area of Somerton specifically at Glen Cove, playing up the Gold Coast, and Oyster Bay suggests this area, but when he returns the following day the interstate signs discount this. To me, what most strongly stands out is Somerton as Troy/Jericho. And in the labyrinth (Troy and Jericho both associated with it) we have the classical descent to the land of the dead and re-emergence. There, we have a confrontation with all of life’s dualities.

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