Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Frequently Asked Questions
Because of the film's controversy, original NC-17 versions of the film have been released in the United States. Citing contractual obligations to deliver an R rating during the theatrical release, Warner Bros. digitally altered the orgy scene for the American release of Eyes Wide Shut, blocking out images of extremely graphic sexuality by inserting additional figures into the scene to obscure the view, thus avoiding an adults-only NC-17 rating that might have limited distribution of the film, as some large American theaters and video store operators have a policy that disallows films with that rating. This alteration of Kubrick's vision antagonized many cinephiles, as they argued that Kubrick had never been shy about ratings; A Clockwork Orange had an X-rating.
A complete, uncut version has been released by Warner Bros. Pictures, and is avaiaible on DVD. The film is also, interestingly enough, un-edited in all international versions. In the UK, upon the film's theatrical release, no alternations where made, and in Australia, the film has been released (theatrical, home video and DVD) in an unchanged form.
ALTERNATE VERSIONS OF THE FILM INCLUDE:
*All British prints are missing the recitation of a passage from the Bhagavad Gita (the holiest Hindu book) during an orgy scene. Warner Bros. cut this before release of the film due to protests from Hindu organizations due to a holy scripture's use during a lustful scene. It was also removed from all worldwide home video releases of the film.
*The original theatrical version included a goof in an early scene (a boom operator was reflected on a steel shower stall post in Victor Ziegler's bathroom) this has been digitally removed on the home video releases.
*In the DVD/Video version, when Nicole Kidman gives her monologue about yearning for the Naval Officer, she mouths the words "We made love." But the words "You and I made love," are heard. This was done to clear up the confusion about whom she actually made love to.
*Most non-English language versions translated copies of the letter Dr. Harford receives when returning to the front gate of the house with the "forbidden party" and of the newspaper article about the ex-Miss N.Y., Mandy, were shot and replaced the original English text.
*In the lengthy shot where Nicole Kidman dances naked in front of a mirror to Chris Isaak's "Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing," the second half of the shot, once Tom Cruise walks over, has been zoomed considerably for the DVD. The first half is as it was shown in theaters, with rear nudity from Kidman, but seconds before Cruise enters the frame, the image starts to zoom up and in rapidly, so that when Cruise enters, only a section from his elbow up is visible. In the theatrical version and the original unrated trailer, when Cruise enters, the frame goes well below his navel.
*The Region 3 release (Hong Kong) is uncut, but does NOT contain the passages from the Bhagavad Gita recited during the orgy scene. The verses, "paritranaya sadhunam, vinasaya ca duskritam, dharma-samstapanarthaya, sambhavami yuge yuge", are heard on the soundtrack (track 9), as well as the United States DVD releases.
Eyes Wide Shut is based on the novella "Traumnovelle", by Arthur Schnitzler. It deals with sexual obsession between two couples in Vienna, Austria. Kubrick has updated the story to present day New York City, with Cruise and Kidman playing Dr. William and Alice Harford, the two principals. Dr. Harford becomes shocked and almost ruined when he learns that Alice had an erotic fantasy about a man that she had seen during a family holiday in Cape Cod; as he wanders the street late at night, he grapples with his desire for revenge by sleeping with another woman. As many would have figured out, there is an infamous orgy Harford attends. He hears about it from Nick, an old friend from medical school who had dropped out and become a pianist. The movie follows Harford as he agonizes over both what his wife had told him and his feelings of jealousy, rage, and revenge. This whole issue takes on a deeper meaning, since, in real life Cruise and Kidman were actually married (from 1990 until 2001).
Some have stated they believe that Bill's sexual adventures (after the party) were part of a bizarre dream. Others have conjured deeper meanings, such as that the orgy was a Satanic cult, out to overthrow Bill. Nonetheless, Eyes Wide Shut is a very symbolic and metaphorical film. For example, the password for the orgy is "Fidelio," a word that points at the theme of marital fidelity, but does not indicate clearly that Bill's journey might be a dream. Fidelio is also the name of the only opera by Beethoven, which tells how Leonore, disguised as a prison guard named "Fidelio," rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison.
In addition, comprehensive websites such as http://www.jeffreyscottbernstein.com/kubrick/eyeswideshut.html provide deep analysis on the films hidden meaning. Also, any specific questions or comments can be directed to the IMDB message boards for the film.
Somewhat loosely translated, it means:
"We still pray for the mercy, the life, the peace, the health, the salvation, the scrutiny, neglection and forgiveness of the sins of God's servants, worshipers, almsgivers, benefactors of this holy site."
Another line of the chanting means: "God says to his followers: A new commandment I give to you" (The original in Romanian reads: "Zis-a Doamne catre ucenicii sai: Porunca noua dau voua"
There are two reasons for its incomprehensibility, as it is in a foreign language (Romanian) and the vocal track is run in reverse.
Yes. It is based on the novella "Traumnovelle" by Arthur Schnitzler literally meaning Dream Story. The movie is an update on the book which is set in Austria and deals with sexual obsession.
They may take turns, or they may simply enjoy watching and being watched. Either way, it's a very sexually-charged environment. As for the masks, Victor says "those weren't just ordinary people", implying that they may be politicians or other well-known people who can't have themselves discovered.
On the other hand, if this is a real cult, rather than a bunch of play actors, then we can't even speculate on their motives.
What's the deal with the costume shop owner's daughter? She was caught messing around with those two guys, and then the next day they were leaving like everything was okay? Also what was going on with the shop owner the next day, was he suggesting she was a hooker and he (Bill) could buy her company?
It is implied that the two Asian businessmen had paid off Mr. Milich not to report them to the police, and he had decided to pimp his daughter after that.
In the novella the doctor assumes that his wife found the mask. She may have discovered it lying around after it was accidentally misplaced by Bill. Realizing something was up, she left it on his pillow so that he'd find it. Knowing she knew, he'd have no choice but to tell her, or perhaps she felt it would make it easier for him to explain.
Within the context of the film, another possible interpretation is that there is no mask on the pillow. It's not really there. It is a purely symbolic way to show Bill's realization that he can never forget or leave behind his near-infidelity. It is something that will go to bed with him forever. Every night he lays his head down, there it will be.
A third interpretation is that the masked orgy-goers had sent someone to enter the apartment and left the mask there as a threat and a warning to Bill not to interfere with them again. Note: when Bill is forced to take off his mask at the masked party/orgy he holds onto it for the rest of the scene. But in the next scene when he arrives home, the mask is nowhere to be seen, and no explanation is ever given as to whether Bill took the mask home with him, or dropped it on his way out of the mansion.
Bill is under the impression that the woman who took an overdose in the bathroom at Victor Zeigler's party is the same woman who 'redeemed' him at the masked ball and is also the same woman whom he read about in the newspaper and whose corpse he visited at the morgue. Victor allows Bill to believe this because it is convenient and would prevent Bill from investigating further i.e. nothing happened to her after the masked ball and she subsequently took a second accidental overdose which this time killed her.
Mandy (the woman in the bathroom at Victor's party) and the woman that Bill reads about in the newspaper are indeed the same person. However, the woman who 'redeems' him at the masked ball is somebody else entirely. The clue is in the cast list; Mandy is played by Julienne Davis whereas the woman at the masked ball who 'redeems' Bill is played by Abigail Good. Therefore, it is likely that some kind of unfortunate ordeal awaited the woman from the masked ball.
Remember, Bill is actually quite gullible and never questions anything that he is told throughout the movie; he believes his wife when she tells him of a fantasy about a naval officer; he believes Sally when she tells him that Domino is HIV positive; and he believes Victor in the scene in the billiard room. But there is no evidence to back up anything that any of them have told Bill. All of them could be lying to him.
They were just random strangers. However, their calling him gay may have encouraged him even more so to have an affair as being called gay was a likely blow to his manhood and to heighten his sense of self-deprecation and self-consciousness because Bill is heartbroken of his wife's adulterous feelings. Both being cheated on and being gay are not one's own fault, yet are two things that people feel as if is their own fault.
It is also possible that the guys weren't really there, but were a symbol of Bill's own self-doubt and fear. This fits in with the theory that a majority of the film was actually a dream created within Bill's jealous mind.
Being called gay is not necessarily important. The incident with him being shoved aside and then mocked and taunted could simply illustrate that a guy like Bill shouldn't be out roaming the streets at that time of night and that he is out of his depth, so to speak.
Alternate Answer: This is indeed a good question. This seemingly out of place scene, what does it mean and how does it fit the jigsaw puzzle that is Eyes Wide Shut?
First, knowing Kubrick and his meticulousness in every object and every symbol in every frame of his films, it is a given that he intended on this scene to be in the film. But the answer is quiet simple really.
Schnitzler who wrote the original story of eyes wide shut was known to write about the Austrian middle class and its identity and sexual proclivity. And throughout the film, the struggle of classes is evident especially when Ziegler tells Dr. Harford that he is really out of his depth upon Harford's interaction with the super rich at their ritualistic orgy. This scene puts Dr. Harford's social class in context. In this scene we clearly see that Harford belongs to a class higher than these "normal" people who harassed him thus illuminating how up the food chain these ultra rich in there castles were.
The draft screenplay refers to her as being "maybe 14." Actress Leelee Sobieski was aged 16 at the time of the film's release.
The identity of the masked couple is never explained. It is implied that the masked man with the three-cornered hat might be Victor Ziegler, and the masked woman with him might be another one of his mistresses or escorts greeting the new arrival to the gathering; both of them unaware of who it really is until Bill is forced to take off his mask for the red-cloaked cult leader.
There is another theory that it may be Sandor Szavost with a mistress. However, it essentially doesn't really matter who the couple are; what is important is that they have spotted Bill. Of course, when they acknowledge him from the balcony they wouldn't know that it is Bill. It is likely that these masked balls are regular events and that each guest has a specific mask that they always wear. The couple on the balcony almost certainly did not recognize the mask that Bill is wearing and are therefore curious about him. When Bill senses that he is being watched and looks up, the masked man nods at him as if greeting him and Bill nods in return. After the opening ceremony is over, the masked man would probably then check on who this newcomer is which leads to Bill being tracked down and ultimately being led before the cult leader. Also of note, the masked man with the three-cornered hat is briefly seen again in another room of the house, where he appears with the now-nude masked woman in which he whispers something to her to approach Bill while he leaves the room.
Throughout the movie, Kubrick does make little references to his earlier body of work. Some notable ones include:
2001: A Space Odyssey: A sign on a building prominently displays the name "Bowman", a reference to David Bowman, a major character in the film. Also, in another scene, Harford mentions a patient named "Kaminsky", a name given to one of the three men in hibernation aboard Discovery.
Barry Lyndon: Bill's mask was modelled after Ryan O'Neal, who played the title character.
Full Metal Jacket In the scene where Alice leaves Bill's mask on his pillow, a stack of Kubrick's films can be seen on a table. Full Metal Jacket is on top.
The answer to who the mysterious 'Red Cloak' is left open to interpretation, or if the orgy scenes at the Somerton mansion (where these scenes were filmed) are merely a dream sequence. In this film, director Stanley Kubrick gives clues that are mostly visual rather than in straight dialogue. But there are quite a few hints that the Red Cloak leader of the cult is Victor Zeigler himself.
One interesting clue is the torn newspaper article that Bill gives to Zeigler which details about Maddy's death (which mirrors the story that the desk clerk told Bill earlier about two men returning Nick Nightingale to his hotel), the end of the article describes that the dead woman, who's body that Bill Harfort saw in the morgue, had an affair with a London fashion design editor named Leon Vitali. Leon Vitali was a long-term personal assistant to Stanley Kubrick on several of his films, including 'Eyes Wide Shut'. Plus, Vitali was the same actor who plays the masked Red Cloak. These details imply that Maddy had an affair with Red Cloak himself. Earlier in the film, the character of Maddy nearly dies from a drug overdose in Zeigler's bathroom. Clearly the two of them were engaged in a sexual act. Also to note: although Zeigler is also married, he clearly fusses over Bill's wife Alice when they arrive at his Christmas party at his house earlier in the film. Some viewers have speculated that he invited Bill and Alice to his party because Zeigler desired Alice.
There are several hints that Zeigler himself is Red Cloak, however, Red Cloak speaks with an English accent. Some viewers have also speculated that the gathering at the Somerton Mansion was symbolic rather than literal... a dream sequence of sorts influenced by Bill smoking pot with Alice earlier in the evening.
Red Cloak and Victor Zeigler are both hosts of their own party. Zeigler's Christmas party is a tinsel wrapped illusion of sophistication... disguising the presence of "models" (hookers), drugs, and people flirting with each others partners. The Somerton Mansion sequences are a symbolic revisit to the Ziegler party, minus the Christmas decorations, false smiles, fake personas, and "social graces" of high society. This is the base psychological reality of the Zeigler party laid bare.
But some of the strongest suggestions that Zeigler is Red Cloak happen late in the film at Zeigler's mansion during his discussion with Bill about the orgy gathering;
Note how Zeigler had a red-colored billiards table and he walks around the pool table during most of the scene. 'Red Cloak' also strolls in circles on a square red carpet and he twirls an incense ball in circles and he hits the floor twice with his staff rod to give commands. Although it is easy to miss upon a first viewing, note the parallels between Red Cloak's gestures with the incense ball and Ziegler's moves playing with the white cue ball at the billiards table, and later with the chalk how Zeigler hits the pool table twice while talking with Bill about the death of Maddy.
Zeigler also points at Bill in a threatening manner when Bill questions him about the death of Maddy, which is very similar in camera angle to Red Cloak's threat to Bill at the mansion.
Also, the scene with Bill and Zeigler ends with Bill stepping into a blue light emulating from outside a window. Both Bill and Red Cloak are also bathed in a overhead blue light at the mansion.