Welcome to our Colossus Movie Guide for Eyes Wide Shut. This guide contains everything you need to understand the film. Dive into our detailed library of content, covering key aspects of the movie. We encourage your comments to help us create the best possible guide. Thank you!
What is Eyes Wide Shut about?
Eyes Wide Shut is about the rehabilitation of a marriage, and the mentality required to do so. Bill thinks he completely understands his relationship with his wife Alice, and believes is just as faithfully obedient as himself. But as he learns, neither he nor Alice are strong enough to push away every urge. After Alice confesses she once dreamt of sleeping with a naval office, Bill embarks on an Odyssean journey through New York City. Out of jealousy, he is desperate to live out what Alice only dreamed of.
This is a key in-road to understanding Eyes Wide Shut: it’s all a dream. Well, maybe not literally a dream. But in the symbolic movie sense, Bill’s entire adventure is laden with outrageous, otherworldly moments that force him to pretend to be someone he isn’t. As somebody who held an absurd illusion about his marriage, he understandably employs a radical approach in the opposite direction. Instead of being eternally faithful to his wife, he intends to cheat. But much like his idyllic view of marriage, his cynical one is full of lies and mirages.
Going from one extreme to the other, Bill must understand how empty these radically opposing ends are. He must experience a sort of personal hell upon hearing his wife’s story, as he must understand that his wife is more complicated than the cookie-cutter mold he’s envisioned; and he must experience an outwardly hell in the form of secret societies that hold orgies, as he must see how people like Ziegler have no passion for sex. Bill must come back to the middle where his wife is waiting, desperate to form a deeper connection that allows them to see one another for who they truly are.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Tom Cruise – Dr. William “Bill” Harford
- Nicole Kidman – Alice Harford
- Sydney Pollack – Victor Ziegler
- Todd Field – Nick Nightingale
- Marie Richardson – Marion Nathanson
- Sky du Mont – Sandor Szavost
- Rade Šerbedžija – Mr. Milich
- Thomas Gibson – Carl
- Vinessa Shaw – Domino
- Fay Masterson – Sally
- Alan Cumming – Hotel Desk Clerk
- Leelee Sobieski – Milich’s daughter
- Leon Vitali – Red Cloak
- Julienne Davis – Amanda “Mandy” Curran
- Madison Eginton – Helena Harford
- Abigail Good – Mysterious Woman
- Gary Goba – Naval Officer
The ending of Eyes Wide Shut explained
Eyes Wide Shut was famously Stanley Kubrick’s last film, as he died weeks before the film’s release—which was a strange pill to swallow for many. Critics trashed the film as indulgent and passive, while casual moviegoers found the movie’s dream-like style and apathetic tone elusive. Even fans who were used to seeming impersonality of Kubrick’s films may have been taken aback by the movie’s cold, almost observational approach to Bill Harford’s mental torture. Film critic James Naremore put it perfectly when he said that Kubrick’s unique style gives “a sense of authorial understanding without immersion, as if volcanic, almost infantile feelings were being observed in a lucid, rational manner.” This approach reached its apex in Eyes Wide Shut.
Especially through the final word of the film—a truly jarring moment that leaves you wondering what the movie’s about. The movie ends with Bill and Alice walking through a department store with their daughter Helena while Christmas shopping. They are fresh from a night of no sleep, during which Bill confessed all his transgressions—from the orgy to the hooker to his potential involvement with a woman’s murder. The energy is awkward between them, as they force smiles while Helena excitedly runs around picking up toys. Finally, Bill stops them to ask what they should do next, what Alice is thinking about everything that happened.
Here’s the conversation that follows:
Alice: “Maybe, I think, we should be grateful. Grateful that we’ve managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream.”
Bill: “Are you sure of that?”
Alice: “Am I sure? Only as sure as I am that the reality of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, can ever be the whole truth.”
Bill: “And no dream is ever just a dream.”
Alice: The important thing is, we’re awake now. And hopefully…for a long time to come.
Alice: Let’s not use that word, you know? It frightens me. But I do love you. And, you know, there’s something very important that we need to do as soon as possible.
Bill: What’s that?
There’s a lot to unpack in that dialogue. But as we go through it line by line, we can understand what exactly the ending of Eyes Wide Shut is trying to say, and how it brings clarity and catharsis to the movie’s themes and motifs.
Notice how Bill isn’t the one to begin the conversation—this lines up with everything we’ve learned about him. After everything he has laid upon Alice the previous night, he finds himself in a comatose state. Alice may have confessed her desire to commit infidelity, but it was only a fantasy and never acted upon. Bill, on the other hand, very much desired to commit adultery and went through the steps of doing so. But his impotence is key here. Bill asserts authority at every turn, flashing his doctor’s license, believing he should have access to anything (say, information about where Nick Nightingale is staying) or anyone (say, hookers at a mass orgy). But Bill is repeatedly thwarted and denied sex. He is constantly at the expense of others; a pawn in powerful men’s elaborate game. When brought before the man in the red cloak, Bill isn’t heroic, but frozen. He is, through and through, a passive person who lives a privileged life. He believes his is important because he’s a wealthy doctor—he isn’t. And he believes his marriage is thriving because both he and his wife are eternally devoted to one another—they aren’t.
Alice is truly the strong foundation of the relationship. She loves Bill for his tenderness, but she also feels sad about Bill’s undying adoration. He is not someone, as we see in the movie, who commands or dictates or influences. He is, sadly, a small man surrounded by powerful ones, a husband who views his marriage as black and white unlike his wife. Perhaps the one act that would assuredly give Bill some machismo is sleeping with another woman, and even there he fails and is emasculated.
So, it makes sense that Alice must start this conversation. She’s able to make sense of their dramatic situation, to put all their feelings into words in a manner Bill could not. And she’s able to recognize something very simple and truthful about Bill’s sins: sex never came to fruition. Bill wanted to have sex, and perhaps would have been able to do it if he were a stronger man. But, in the end, his adventure had the same air as Alice’s fantasies: it was nothing more than a dream.
This explains the ghostly tone throughout the film: the dead air, the long pauses, the parrot-like repetition of thoughts; the washes of red and blues, the masks concealing people’s faces, the constant lack of understanding. This feeling is most unmistakable during the scene where the man in the red cloak demands that Bill strip down. Bill’s reaction is one of utter bewilderment, and his face constantly suggests, “What the hell have I gotten myself into? Who are these people?” Yet, like a dream, he’s pulled right back into the world, compelled to decipher its every element.
In this sense, you can view Bill’s Odyssean adventure as just that: a dream. Movies often serve as allegories for the universal truths of life, with the situations serving as the infrastructure for life’s most common dilemmas, with the characters accentuating certain fears and desires, with the aesthetic adding color and commentary to it all. So, we can think of Bill’s crazy journey as a purely internal one that reflects his desire to gain a sense of authority, to even the playing field with his wife. It’s all very childish and not very well thought out—a knee-jerk reaction that sends him down an absurd road with dire consequences.
Perhaps Alice is able to recognize this. Perhaps she’s able to look past the reality of her husband’s sins and look deeper to his imperfections, to the pure sadness within.
Her sexual fantasy sent Bill into a pit of despair—much further than she ever dreamed. She knew she needed to express her sexual desires to wake Bill up, to open his eyes, to make him see her for who she truly is. As we discussed in the themes section, marriages thrive on honesty and understanding. This means being accepting of your partner’s flaws and their susceptibility to change. And she knew that Bill’s idyllic vision of her and their marriage wasn’t an honest one—it was a facade. An idea. A dream of a better life.
And what else would a disillusioned man do but radically push his disillusion in the opposite direction? To deal with the destruction of his idyllic marriage, he went on an adulterous voyage out of pure jealousy. It’s exactly what a broken man would do. He is nothing without Alice, and it seems she recognizes that in these moments.
In this light, that first line makes a lot of sense: “Maybe, I think, we should be grateful. Grateful that we’ve managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream.” Is she sure of that? Sort of. “Only as sure as I am that the reality of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, can ever be the whole truth.”
Here, we see Alice respecting the mystery of life. She was ready to have sex with the naval officer, even if it meant ending her marriage and losing her daughter. It would have been completely self-destructive and stupid—yet, she was ready to do it. Bill’s adventure was every bit as self-destructive and stupid. But Alice recognizes the undeniable allure that pulled him in. Is it OK that he tried to cheat on her? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe it’s better to recognize that this awkward feeling grips us all, that it’s really fucking hard to be faithful in a marriage, that making a relationship work for years on end requires you to accept that some wishes and desires just don’t really make much sense.
Alice stands as a heroic figure alongside Ziegler, who tries to explain away Bill’s odyssey with simple facts: Mandy wasn’t murdered, and in fact “got her brains fucked out” after Bill left; and Nick wasn’t killed, but instead put on a plane to Seattle where he is currently “banging Mrs. Nick.” Ziegler wishes to remove all mystery and wonder from sex; to open Bill’s eyes to the reality of his sad situation, to reveal that he was never in control.
But Alice says just the opposite. In a movie where sex is both the most desired thing in the world and painstakingly absent and barren, she gives sex the intensity it deserves. These thoughts, these fantasies consume men and women who are trying to make marriages work, and it’s upon them to draw distinctions. Bill may have tried to cheat on Alice, but he didn’t necessarily want to cheat on Alice. He was compelled by a force greater than himself, drawn into a farcical night that very well could have played out as a comedy of errors in any other film. (A note here: Kubrick did envision Eyes Wide Shut as a comedy for many years, envisioning someone like Steve Martin or Bill Murray in the lead role.)
This helps us understand Bill’s next line: “And no dream is ever just a dream.” This isn’t a question, but a realization. Ziegler may have opened Bill’s eyes to his small status, but Alice opened his eyes—opened his mind—to the beauties and complexities of marriage. Where Ziegler wishes to simplify, Alice strives to rebuild; to bring clarity to their relationship, to their shared love. In this moment, as we discussed in the title section, Bill’s eyes are wide open.
And it’s important that his eyes stay open. There’s no talk about “forever,” because forever isn’t realistic. But it is realistic to try as hard as you can, to recognize and accept the flaws in your partner, to form an undeniable connection with your partner that cannot be replicated with anyone else. And what better way to do that than to…well.
The themes and meaning of Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick’s personal connection to Eyes Wide Shut
For all of the wild and fantastical places that Kubrick’s movies go, Eyes Wide Shut is his most ordinary in its depiction of married life. While at times the colors and speech patterns feel dream-like, the story at the film’s core is a very personal one that Kubrick had envisioned telling for years. Understanding some of these facts about his life will aid our analysis of the film.
Kubrick first read the movie’s source material, “Dream Story” (the German translation was “Traumnovelle”) by Arthur Schnitzler, back in the early 1960s. The novella focuses on a couple, Fridolin and Albertine, with a young daughter in 20th-century Vienna. The couple exchanges stories about their sexual fantasies, which strikes Fridolin with jealousy. In rebellion, he makes it his mission to have sex with a younger woman. Much like the movie, he repeatedly fails in doing so: after a number of near-sexual encounters, including a visit to a masked orgy, he returns home from this “senseless night with its stupid unresolved adventures.” The book ends with Fridolin apologetically confessing his crazy night to Albertine. Just as the couple reaffirms their love in the wee hours of the morning, they hear their daughter’s laughter as she wakes up in the next room.
This material sparked both interest and fear in Kubrick, who struggled for several years to find the right partner. Kubrick was married three times, and his marriage to his second wife, Ruth Sobotka, was especially troubling and trying—which undoubtedly drove his interest in the film. His third, however, to Christiane Harlan, was lovely and brought catharsis to his life—which is what likely kept him from making the movie for so many years. Back in 1962 when Kubrick wanted to make “Dream Story” after Lolita, Kubrick said (this is according to Tom Cruise) Christiane begged him not to. “Don’t…oh, please don’t…not now. We’re so young. Let’s not go through this right now.”
Over the years, Kubrick wanted to make the movie several more times, but never found the right moment. Towards the end of his life, however (Kubrick would die mere weeks before Eyes Wide Shut‘s release), he must have felt confident enough in his marriage, in he and Christiane’s love, to finally find the humanism within the darkness that is Eyes Wide Shut‘s story. We see that humanity, the promise of a better future, in the final moments of the film.
But in order to achieve the ending’s beautiful life-affirming catharsis, Kubrick first had to explore the complications of marriage that haunted him for years through Bill’s Odyssean journey in Eyes Wide Shut. It helps that he enlisted a real-life celebrity couple—Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who themselves were overexposed and experienced turmoil at the hands of the press—to play Bill and Alice.
As Kubrick often did, he psychologically evaluated his actors—but much more so than he ever had before. He became incredibly intimate with Cruise and Kidman over the course of Eyes Wide Shut‘s insanely long 16-month shooting schedule. “[Kubrick] knew us and our relationship as no one else does,” said Kidman, and that, he got to know her “better even than [my] parents.”
This connection between director and actors was crucial, as Eyes Wide Shut became intimately attached to Kubrick’s personal life. As David Mikics wrote in the biography “Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker“:
This intensity declares the crucial role that Eyes Wide Shut played in Kubrick’s psyche, as if the movie were the enfolded meaning of his life. Kubrick’s identification of himself with Bill was clear. Young Stanley had imagined becoming a doctor like his father. Like Bill, Kubrick was polite rather than flirtatious with women, but driven to sexual fantasy. The Harfords’ apartment was modeled on the Kubricks’ own on the Upper West Side in the early sixties, when Kubrick first wanted to make Dream Story. Eyes Wide Shut, a slow ritual of a movie, was designed to free Kubrick from the obsession with control that it also embodies, to provide a release into renewed relationship with the wife who had been at his side for four decades, with Tom and Nicole standing in for Stanley and Christiane.David Mikics, “Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker”
The strength required to make marriage flourish
The result of Kubrick’s obsession with the themes of “Dream Work” and his close relationship with Kidman and Cruise is a film that takes a deep look into the troubles people face in marriage—and the resulting beauty that’s found on the other side of such trauma. Take Bill, who is completely naive about his wife’s sexual inclinations and unwavering faith. When Alice asks Bill if he had sex with the two models at Ziegler’s party, Bill is indignant and defensive, claiming he is eternally loyal to his wife. And then he makes the mistake of stating that women are not ruled by desire like men, who which she responds with “If you men only knew…”
She then tells, in excruciating detail, of her fantasy with the naval officer. “I thought that if he wanted me, even if it was for only one night, I was ready to give up everything. You, Helena, my whole fucking future.” Bill has envisioned a cookie-cutter version of his life where faithfulness is never questioned. But, as anyone who has experience with long-term relationships would know, that is simply not a reality. on set, Kubrick even toyed with Cruise by shooting Kidman’s sex scenes with the naval officer on days when Cruise was absent, firmly placing the actor in Bill’s shoes. The entire dynamic between director and his actors informs the film’s entire mood, feel, aesthetic.
Alice, on the other hand, only purports strength regarding her sexual urges and condescension towards Bill’s naivete. When recounting her fantasy with the naval officer, she sounds so sure of herself and her sexual inclinations. However, it becomes clear she is troubled by her flirtation with martial destruction, which causes her to cry in Bill’s arms after she wakes up from a vivid dream about an orgy.
As Mikics notes, “Kidman’s acting here is full of expert grace notes that conceal as much as they reveal. She is by turns absorbed, defiant, charged with mockery, and, as she puts it, tender and sad.” Alice pushes Bill to recognize her as a complicated human being with flaws and jagged edges, and not simply as the idyllic, eternally faithful wife. Yet, as we learn in the end, she finds immense power in lifelong love and friendship.
This pushes Bill to live out the sexual encounter that Alice only dreamed about, which in turn gives Eyes Wide Shut an ethereal feel. He descends into unknown territory; a realm that attempts to become a realized version of Alice’s mere fantasies. Yet, despite his efforts, Bill never actually has sex with anyone else—it all remains a dream; a vision of what turmoil could potentially befall this married couple. Their fantasies about extramarital affairs present dire consequences, such as the cloaked men who about to strip Bill bare and possibly kill him, or the dozens of men who cause Alice’s fit of laughter during a dream.
It’s a symbolic representation of Bill and Alice’s disconnect, or their inability to communicate and deepen their love this far into their marriage. With Christmas around the corner, with their daughter growing older, the pressure to form a deeper connection is palpable. This tension reaches its breaking point when Bill confesses his transgressions to Alice, which triggers the movie’s cathartic end when Alice makes a commitment to improving their marriage.
Viewing Eyes Wide Shut as a comedy
There is a famous trope in Hollywood called “the comedy of remarriage,” which usually focuses on a couple whose relationship is on the rocks. It was a classic formula used in such movies as The Philadelphia Story and The Awful Truth, and is even utilized these days by films like It’s Complicated. Outrageous, slapstick scenarios consume couples who are trying to fix (or end) their relationship. Witty, rapid-fire dialogue consumes their hectic lives as they march away from each other, only to find each other in the end and realize why they got married in the first place. Believe it or not, Kubrick had a version of this sub-genre in mind when considering actors back in the 1980s, as he heavily sought out comedians like Steve Martin.
As you can see, Eyes Wide Shut became something very different. The movie very much uses the structure of a comedy of remarriage, but carries an entirely different tone. The situations Bill finds himself in are just as crazy, but the energy practically zapped away. There is a cold, dense atmosphere to the chilling settings that surround Bill and Alice as they go through a rough patch in their marriage. In truth, you could very well view Eyes Wide Shut as a comedy—a much more biting, tenacious one than either Howard Hawks or Preston Sturges would ever muster.
So how does this help us understand the meaning of the film? Well, think of it more as a way to watch the movie. Pretend everything you see is supposed to be…funny. It’s black comedy, sure. But it’s funny. Perhaps even funny in the way that Dr. Strangelove is funny, as it’s supposed to serve as commentary for a grander societal problem. Where Dr. Strangelove tacked the stupidity of war, Eyes Wide Shut is much more humanistic in its depiction of the human struggle in marriage. None of this is supposed to be funny…but it is pretty funny in movies like His Girl Friday or The Palm Beach Story. Through the lens of “comedy,” we can view Bill’s night out as a ridiculous cavalcade of nonsense that forces him to understand the importance of connecting with his wife.
Why is the movie called Eyes Wide Shut?
Frederic Raphael, who helped Kubrick write the screenplay for Eyes Wide Shut, did not like the title of the film. In his memoir about working with Kubrick, he revealed he had pitched the “much better” title The Female Subject—which, when you consider the enigmatic and visuals-focused Kubrick, who was first and foremost concerned with poetically capturing the human condition, this on-the-nose title likely did not appeal to him.
Kubrick instead opted for metaphorical title that’s a play on words. The common phrase is “eyes wide open,” meaning you are aware of your surroundings. But adding “shut” implies that you couldn’t be more unaware of your surroundings. The “eyes wide” part implies you are very confident in your views, but the irony is that you don’t understand anything at all.
This echoes the scene when Bill implies that women are not ruled by their desire like men are—which causes Alice to have a laughing fit. “If you men only knew…” she start before telling Bill of her sexual fantasies about the naval officer. Bill believes that his marriage is sound, that he and Alice are unflinchingly devoted to one another. But Alice was ready to give up her entire life—her marriage, her financial security, her daughter—for a one night stand.
And as Bill will soon find out, he’s more that willing to become adulterous purely out of jealousy. His wife never even cheated on him, but the fact that she thought about it is enough for him to go against his seeming virtues. Bill thought he saw he and his wife a certain way—until Alice forced his eyes open. And in a way, Bill has opened Alice’s eyes as well, as she sees how her candidness about her sexual fantasies drives Bill to horrifying lengths.
As David Mikics notes in his biography “Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker,” the director likely sought to echo Ben Franklin’s famous quote with the title Eyes Wide Shut: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.” This statement implies that people are always changing. You, of course, want to be sure about the person you’re marrying; you want to see them for who they are and what they can add to your life. But you must also understand that everybody goes both minimal and monumental changes. Humans are complicated creatures, and our path towards fulfillment and catharsis is ever-changing. To make a marriage last, to extract as much as you can from your partner, you need to be accepting of your partner’s ebbs and flows—all their whims, all their flaws.
After Bill’s eyes have been opened to the emptiness of sexual escapades, and after Alice’s eyes have been open to what pain she caused her husband, they’re able to see one another for who they truly are. Bill, a successful and rich doctor who thinks of himself as an important figure, is emasculated by both his wife and the people in power, destroying his perception of both his personal life and the larger world around him; and Alice is able to recognize that Bill’s tenderness brings comfort that a one-night stand could never fulfill, that his undying devotion can become fragile without love in return. After they open their eyes and see themselves in a new light, they’re able to recognize the next step their relationship desperately require to move forward, to gain new meaning and clarity after years of marriage.
Important motifs in Eyes Wide Shut
Bill Harford is a man who thinks he’s much bigger than he is. A large part of this movie deals with his emasculation, at the hands of both his wife and the powerful men at the orgy. Bill, who flashes his doctor’s license like it’s a police badge, constantly tries to prop his ego and imply importance. But it’s all a facade. He might as well be wearing a costume, a mask—which is exactly what he wears at the orgy to convey that he belongs with this crowd.
As we’ve discussed throughout this guide, much of Bill’s Odyssean adventure has a dream-like feel. And that’s because the movie explores the fantasies and desires we often reflect upon during a marriage, but rarely ever act upon. In this strange world, Bill is never himself. He’s trying to be someone he’s not—someone vengeful, someone commanding. But the powerful men at the orgy hold the true power when they threaten to strip him naked. And Alice holds the true power when she reveals herself after Bill casts an idyllic obedient-wife persona upon her. In both cases, Bill is trying to cast a specific image, to be in control of his surroundings. But, sadly, that isn’t him. He’s merely posing as someone else( which helps explain the symbolic shot of Bill’s mask resting on the pillow next to Alice). And the entire movie serves to unveil his mask and open his eyes—wide open.
An important theme in Eyes Wide Shut is the futility of rebellion. A common trope in Kubrick’s movies, including A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, and Lolita, a character’s “master plan” almost always fails, or is sidetracked by the greater powers that be. An inverse of the typical hero’s journey, Kubrick’s films aim to reveal the cold, stark reality of living. We often feel like we’re in control, would like to believe we’re in control, but deep down know that we have no control over what happens to us. The universe is too random, too cruel to allow for a carefree existence.
In Eyes Wide Shut, Bill learns this the hard way through the powerful men who run an orgy. Bill, who believes himself to be a rich and important man, shows up to the orgy with the password “fidelio” like he belongs there. But he is instantly spotted. He showed up in a taxi while everyone else came in a limo. His energy is awkward, and his responses are forced. Immediately, these powerful men—who are much more rich and important than Bill will probably every be—can suss him out.
Essentially, these powerful men, who for the most part remain nameless and hidden, serve as powerful forces in the universe. Bill’s night has dream-like qualities and never quite feels like reality. He wants to believe he’s part of this crowd…but really, he doesn’t belong here at all. These are the men who make decisions, who decide your fate. They are pulling the strings behind the curtain. And you’re just a pawn in their game.
Questions & answers about Eyes Wide Shut
Who is the man in the red cloak?
Seemingly, the answer to this one lies in the credits: the actor Leon Vitali is listed as the man in the read cloak. This is somebody we never see in the movie. Which means we never know who the man in the red cloak actually is.
As Rob Ager points out in his video, we see Vitali’s name in the newspaper article about the prostitute that died of a drug overdose that Zeigler shows to Bill at his mansion. At the end of the article about the dead hooker, it details that the hooker had an affair with a London fashion designed named Leon Vitali. So, essentially, Vitali—who was Kubrick’s personal assistant for years—is playing a much more powerful version of himself (this could be viewed as a bit of an inside joke on Kubrick’s part). This implies that the woman who saved Bill had an intimate relationship with the man in the red cloak, which may have been why Bill was singled out in the first place.
So, question answered. Right?
Well, as with any Kubrick film, the answer may not be that simple. Vitali the actor may have very well been the physical presence underneath the cloak, which is why he’d get the credit. But that doesn’t mean his character was underneath the cloak. Many believe that all signs, in fact, point to Ziegler.
One point in this theory’s favor is Mandy, the woman who almost overdosed in the bathroom at Ziegler’s house. While this woman is played by a different actress (Julienne Davis) than the one credited to the masked prostitute (Abigail Good), the woman in the mask who saves Bill, that doesn’t necessarily mean—as would have been the case with Ziegler/Vitali—that it’s the same character. But, in my opinion, that requires you to do too much stretching to make this theory work.
The other points of this theory are in this vein. For instance, people believe Ziegler’s red pool table is meant to convey he’s the man in the read cloak—which, if you ask me, feels too simplistic for someone like Kubrick. The man in the red cloak had an English accent, while Ziegler does not. Perhaps he was concealing his voice, but once again, this requires you to invent reasons to make a theory work.
Basically, I think Leon Vitali is the fashion designer. Ziegler tells Bill that if he “knew half the people who were there, he wouldn’t sleep so good,” which means these are powerful men with intense connections. Give how famous Vitali is as a fashion designer in the world of Eyes Wide Shut, it signals that this society of men is very powerful and well established. It would be in Kubrick’s best interest to just let us know Vitali was the man in the red cloak because it helps clarify the themes and motifs of the movie. To me, it’s that simple.
Who is the masked girl that saved Bill?
Many people theorize that Mandy, the prostitute who almost overdosed in Ziegler’s bathroom, is actually the woman in the mask. This is conflicting, because the actress credited as the woman in the mask, Abigail Good, is different than the actress who played Mandy, Julienne Davis. As we discussed in the red cloak section, this theory requires us to believe that different actresses could be playing the same woman just to throw us off.
I personally don’t buy this theory. It’s fun to play detective with Eyes Wide Shut, a movie that has so much going on. People do the same thing with movies like The Shining. But as a big Kubrick fan who’s read a lot about him, he’s never struck me as someone who hides a bunch of clues and misleads an audience. His movies are more visual-heavy, yes, and don’t rely upon dialogue to convey ideas. So I don’t think it’s much worth reading into this one.
I think it’s more prudent to consider the masked woman’s symbolic presence, as she represents Bill’s inner-conscious during his night out. Out of spite and jealousy, Bill is desperate to turn his wife’s fantasy about the naval officer into a reality. Bill weasels his way into the orgy and pretends that he belongs here—but we all know he doesn’t. He is a small man trying to re-masculate himself after hearing his wife’s fantasy. The masked woman only temporarily satisfies his ego, only to once again emasculate him and send Bill back home where the real work needs to be done.
What does Milich’s daughter whisper to Bill?
If you turn the subtitles on, you can actually find the answer to this question. At the Rainbow costume shop, Milich’s daughter whispers, “You should have a cloak lined with ermine.” Ermine fur comes from a weasel, and that statement has a double meaning.
On a literal plot level, it’s a fancy material for coats, which would help Bill blend in at the orgy scene filled with powerful men (since he himself is not a very powerful man). But on a symbolic level, this labels Bill as a weasel—an impostor who sly sneaks into an event in order to prop up his ego.
Well done, Kubrick. Well done.
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about Eyes Wide Shut? Are there themes or motifs we missed? Is there more to explain about the ending? Please post your questions and thoughts in the comments section! We’ll do our best to address every one of them. If we like what you have to say, you could become part of our movie guide!