“Then again, he kind of exploits that weird (for a married couple) sort of emotional distance between Cruise and Kidman”
“that Kubrick makes Hartford seemingly a lot more naive and less self-aware in regard to his own emotional life as well as those of those around him (I always got the sense that this was tailored specifically to the shallowness of Cruise’s personality, but I can’t prove that of course).”
agree entirely. I remember when i first saw it at the time a friend of mine was like ‘i think Kubrick really used them and they seem to have no idea’ right after we walked out.
…Kubrick really used them …
That would be the point of having a public persona, wouldn’t it?
Not to spoil the party, but I thought I’d comment on Douglas Reese’s actual original analysis. I know it seems silly, but in a forum in which a film analysis is offered to elicit discussion of the analysis, I’d rather analyze the analysis than the act of Analysis. Oh, you postmodern rascals!
Douglas, I’m intrigued by your take on the ending, since I’ve always found it ambiguous. In particular, it’s the line about “fucking.” In some ways, I appreciate your assertion that this is the moment when they truly heal their marriage—a consummation, obviously. But using “that word” in that situation, in a public place with their child there, seems strange. Of course, even nice happily married couples say “fuck”—but it seems incongruous, even unsettling, a kind of a ghost of the rest of the film. In a movie that looks a lot like The Shining, I’m wondering if the last line isn’t a little bit like Jack in the snow/photo: a repeating loop of descent-revelation-shock-return. I dunno; maybe I, too, am resisting analysis and depending more on my “immediate experience” of the film, in which that line jarred me a little, like that (yes, cliched) movie moment when someone awakens from a dream—only to realize they’re still dreaming. But here, it’s me, not them, who knows this. In the end, they look OK, but I’m uneasy.
Alice’s character, from the beginning of the film, is more in tune with her emotions than Bill, even if she is supressing them often.One of a bunch of examples is that when they are making love in front of the mirror it is imlying falsity (as in all Kubrick films), a duel motive for continuing in the relationship the way they always have; a social motive (image) and a private motive (love/friendship). The point being made is that they have contentment only superficially in both areas. But Bill ignores the mirror and gropes Alice, and Alice’s deep stare at herself into it implies a dissatisfaction not only with her social situation, but also dissatisfaction with herself. The next night this dissatisfaction comes to the surface when she smokes weed, the repressed emotions come to the surface, and she lets it out on Bill by attempting to make him guilty and by trying to emasculate him. Her dream later on in the film when bill gets back from Somerton mansion is the smoking gun as to her subconscious desire to go on a journey of social and self-discovery. This also begins to get at why she superficially feels love and wants to “fuck” Bill at the end, since he has just done and confessed to going on this journey of realisations. There is much more to say regarding these things, but now’s not the time, so I’ll connect some of this to the ending, which is what I was initially posting about.
I kind of agree with your take in some ways. Unlike most I don’t see it as a wholly pessimistic or optomistic ending, I find it more complex than that. I do think the ending implies they will get along as a couple and perhaps build upon where they’ve arrived. However I see Alice’s need to fuck, her attraction to Bill (“but I do know, that I love you” the only time she says it in the film) and her acceptance of everything he said (I take the ommission of his confession as a fact that he has indeed told her everything) as coming from a newfound psychological attraction to her husband (which is a joke by Kubrick because in-fact Bill’s a pretty shallow if dissillusioned guy). The fact that he has gone on a journey of self-discovery and confessed it to Alice has strengthened the relationship; and further, Alice’s subconscious desire to “know”, to, “self-discover”, and her conscious knowledge of her husbands accomplishing this very thing, is forming a closeness in her towards him that will (I think) last beyond the film. Kubrick lets us know one of the main themes of the film here as well, which is the theme of understaning by experiencing something directly as opposed to seeing or hearing about a subject through another person’s direct experience (2nd hand as opposed to direct expericence); in fact he implies this thematic meaning slyly by omitting Bill’s entire telling of the story to Alice, since it is superficial in comparison to direct experience. Despite her hearing Bill’s story there are clear hints that she is fighting with insecurities. When Bill says they’ll live with a clear mind forever, she says “don’t say that word (forever). It frightens me”, another hint from Kubrick as to the world separating direct experience and secondary information. Her need to “fuck” implies she has moved to a superficial contentment (new confidence in her husband), which is satirical not only because it seems random and funny, but since it is the opposite of what Kubrick feels is necessary to change oneself and ones society; she has become more content with her love/friendship scenario, but she is still wrestling subconsciously with the idea of image and social reality.
Well, your take certainly supports the general low impression one can have of women in Kubrick’s movies—although that may be an oversimplification. Still, your notion of Alice’s insecurities and superficiality doesn’t say much for her—not that Bill fares any better. I wouldn’t say Kubrick is pessimistic; more like the God of the Old Testament, who looks down in cool appraisal, and frowns. And sometimes he glowers; then look out, puny mortals. (Don’t get me wrong: This frown is one of Kubrick’s great strengths, along with his precise eye.)
Actually I feel it’s not so much about Kubrick leading us to high or low impressions of sex and gender, and I don’t think my take supports this low impression. It’s more about the external circumstances that create inner turmoil regardless of sex and gender. Sex and gender are certainly important aspects of the film, I just don’t think we are meant to look down on either or, so much as find the inherant sadness and varied yearnings in particular situations pertaining to either sex or gender. In fact I think Kubrick highlights how feminine character is naturally more in-touch with emotions than masculine character, in general. But Kubrick’s point isn’t to instill low impressions of gender or sex of any kind. I believe any “low impressions” we get regarding any specific sex or gender are mirrored by some kind of causal or reactionary force or action by the opposite sex or gender; therefore it becomes more about human degredation and interaction in general than about raising one sex or gender above another, which seems a rather simple task if one were to undertake it. And remember, my argument was mainly pertaining to Alice because it is Alice who says the most important final words, and we were speaking about the ending. I could write as much or more pertaining to low impressions of male sex and gender in Eyes Wide Shut if we were to open up the disussion, but I was attempting to keep my paragraphs somewhat contained. And I wasn’t saying Alice was superficial so much as pointing out how information, regardless of its import, can be rendered superficial upon being recieved indirectly. In fact I point out in my paragraph that Alice is inherantly less superficial than Bill when I spoke briefly to her recognitions of self, something Bill struggles and ignores to a greater degree than her for most of the film. I was also relating their mind states to the function of “journey” and how the journey is fundemental to understanding, within the context of the film. Now there is a theme of female subservience throughout the film, but I believe Kubrick’s purpose here is miles away from simply giving us “low impressions of women”.
In fact I think Kubrick highlights how feminine character is naturally more in-touch with emotions than masculine character, in general.
Ugh. I really hate it when movies resort to messages like that, or highlights, or whatever you want to call it.
Things I know about men: they are not all out of touch with their emotions, it’s just that in their world they don’t necessarily articulate them except in certain circumstance — it’s a different code of conduct; they are as sensitive as women, it’s a question of character ultimately and not of gender. I know guys that are so sensitive as to be psychic. Seriously.
Again. Hate the resort to “gender” stereotypes.
Character refers to indivdual character, or should. Gender refers to social norms pertaining to sex, but which is separate from sex. You ignored my use of the words “in general”, I’m not speaking in absolutes. I did not say “Kubrick says woman are more in touch with emotions than men”. Can you see the difference between my statement and the one on the line above? The difference implied is that men can have feminine characteristics. Woman, likewise, can have masculine characteristics. Character is how the individual shapes ideas and beliefs, integrating them into the self. We can choose and shape our gender well beyond societal norms. We are born with a sex.
^ Ha ha! Wait, did you just totally revise your post, TheArshman? I could have sworn the original one was a lot shorter. Maybe I’m tripping… if not then I apologize for misreading your point!
^^ the passage of mine that you quoted is still well and alive in my post from 28 mins ago. I did add a couple sentances at the bottom, about 20 mins ago, regarding the nature of journey and oversimplifications made regarding a percieved “low impression of women” on Kubrick’s part, something I feel is a mistaken notion. If you misread though no worries, hey, it happens. I did it the other day, ha.
I do it all the time, and get reamed for it right here on the forum! Ain’t it fun? ;)
People just want to know exactly where other people are coming from I guess. This whole forum is just a big game of “Eyes Wide Shut”.
Ha ha ha! Yes! :D
TheArshman: “I was also relating their mind states to the function of ‘journey’ and how the journey is fundamental to understanding, within the context of the film.”
This is a good way of unlocking the issue. There is something distinctly “medieval” in the film’s narrative line—your discussion of “journey” reminds me of the shift in narrative structure we get with the old English allegories and The Canterbury Tales: life as a journey, rather than the Greek tragic model of inevitable causation, the notion that every choice leaves you with fewer—while that shift to journey-structure means that “way leads to way.” So OK, I’m willing to accept that “Kubrick’s films convey a low impression of women” oversimplifies Eyes Wide Shut, if only because you’re right that Alice moves forward—and I think Bill does too.
Also your line, “Character is how the individual shapes ideas and beliefs, integrating them into the self” makes sense for me because of the changes wrought by the journey. Here I’ll back up to the Greeks and Aristotle’s deceptively simple notion that actions reveal character. As Bill and Alice journey—bringing with them their “sex,” as you point out—they shape their “gender.” Nice—even if we’re not on the exact same page.
Still, that nagging voice in the back of my mind reminds me of all the women bashed and boffed and flung about in Kubrick. I’m willing to accept it’s a commentary on “maleness”—but it’s a squirmy business.
PMarasa" “Still, that nagging voice in the back of my mind reminds me of all the women bashed and boffed and flung about in Kubrick. I’m willing to accept it’s a commentary on “maleness”—but it’s a squirmy business.”
I don’t find this trait to be a simple commentary on “maleness”; more often this violence is used to serve a broader commentary on how men use woman (other people in general) to gain control; over money, humans, and natural and technological resources (including land). And how they wield power (ideology, money, military, self-serving bureaucracy, health industry, prison system, sexua/physical/psychological abuse) to create long term cycles of unconscious abuse and self-abuse, that enter mankind’s subconscious through various avenues, and then wreaks havoc in seemingly baseless and unsubstantiated ways. Kubrick’s filmography suggest this runs through history, and began (primitively) with the apes. Kubrick certainly recognized the essential need in his tapestry to include violence towards woman as a rather prominant aspect of human history. This may seem like “squirmy business” but only because it is obvious and on the surface. There are far more “squirmy” things that are not being shown to us so blatantly, but make us see the true horror and sadness in all of that surface ugliness. I’m fairly certain not many filmmakers have ever used violence towards woman with as broad an eye as Stanley Kubrick.
The line I wrote regarding character and integrating ideas in to the self isn’t necessarily specfic to the changes wrought by the journey. In fact the film is distinctly focused on what character already exists (at the film’s beginning and throughout) involving all the films characters (not only Bill and Alice); the film is involved with other characters and their place in relationship to the films overall puzzle, and is equally concerned with their charachter, always saying many things about a person at once. If anything there is, underlying the ending, a certain tenuous nature, a seeming uncertainty regarding the specifics of what direction this couple will take, ultimately. The idea of the journey as a wholly unique, personal, and most importantly mental experience lies in the visual structure of the film(not necessarily the protagonists conclusions) which contains visaul cues and connections intended for a given viewer in a way as to suggest a dream path inextricobaly linked with physical reality. No coincidence, Arthur Schnitzler’s novella was called “Dream Story”; and Kubricks film is filled with visual messages which are meant to grow in meaning for the viewer as the film progresses, much like dreams are meant to be deciphered for meaning day after day; and just to be sure we would figure the connection, Kubrick makes sure Alice has a frightening and very important dream at an integral point of the film, a dream that mirrors and in a sense counter-points events happening to Bill and happening in other situations. The New York on the screen seems to exist in a not quite realistic way (I do not believe it is a dream, it is the film itself that is the metaphor for a dream), and this is because the the visuals are not the real New York, but a New York mindscape (Bill’s, but more importantly, Kubrick’s) littered with visual cues directing the viewer towards the nature of Bill’s, and often society’s, dilemma.
TheArshman: “I don’t find this trait to be a simple commentary on ‘maleness’; more often this violence is used to serve a broader commentary on how men use woman (other people in general) to gain control; over money, humans, and natural and technological resources (including land).”
Well, yes, of course it’s not “simple”; but it certainly makes me squirm—I’ll admit in shamefaced recognition, sometimes. While “A Clockwork Orange” is his best film on adolescent “maleness,” “The Shining” hammers away at the adult male. You can take out the ghosts and the fire ax and you still get a brutal unpacking—vivisection?—of maleness: the scene on the stairs, in which Jack lectures Wendy on “responsibility,” is a prime example. I agree with what you say; Kubrick tells hard truths.
As far a “journeys” go, of course the characters “have” a character at the beginning—but we get to watch it not only interact but shift—or open up—as the movie goes on. And of course it’s mostly an inward journey that Kubrick externalizes as a series of dream-episodes (you made me grin when you pointed out the “Alice” connection; I have a tendency to overlook the obvious, even though that’s where the fun often begins). And thanks for pointing out the unrealistic NYC Kubrick builds; I was exasperated by more than one critic who complained about it—one pointed out the Euro-mailbox on a street corner!
To cop a fine observation from the BFI Modern Classics essay
EYES WIDE SHUT :: “Is my hair okay? / It’s great / You’re not even looking at it.”
All this talk – was a bit compelled to revisit the film. So here I go.
In this opening party scene, and though I’ve seen this film many times I never quite viewed Bill from the position I do now: you’ve got this party filled with rich, powerful and influential people, and where does Bill fit among them? He’s just a general practice doctor for the wealthy, and his function to those people (if this evening is any indication) is to clean up their messes, or to take care of people when they fail to take care of themselves. Bill does this because he cares – he is a moral and decent man who wants others to be happy. This is why he comes off as such a sap at times to the viewer, if one thinks “How could any man be so ignorant?” It’s because Bill has been so focused on virtue. At this point in his life he’s approaching idleness, and things need to be shaken up.
As for Alice, what I see most is that Bill lightly takes her for granted, and it is a bit baffling to think about how they can possibly spend so much time together – what they would possibly talk about, how they can still act romantic (act being the operative word). Poor Alice doesn’t get genuinely romanced very often, which is why she allows Sandor Szavost to be so utterly fresh with her – it’s something of a novelty, and clearly Alice doesn’t have enough excitement in her life – again, the Harfords are approaching idleness.
(I don’t expect these to come off as revelations to the forumgoers, it’s just what I’m thinking and I wanted to pen it somewhere)
But this notion of viewing Bill as almost blue-collar amongst the genuinely powerful partygoers is intriguing and new to me, and emphasizes Bill’s focus on virtue.
^^Great post Miasma, I agree with your thoughts. Although you may be going a step far by saying “Bill has been so focued on virtue.” His inherant virtue is apparant, but it has been run over and diluted by the function of his life and society and expectations, which you get at well in your post. He is certainly struggling with the nature of his inherant virtue, and much of the film revolves around him trying to preserve and recapture this pure virtue through different levels of disillusionment. Your comment on blue-collar is apt as well, and connected to the sense of the heirarchical displacement and social assertions of dominance that run through and are sprinkled throughout the film.
Miasma, I’d like to second TheArshman’s sentiment: I like seeing Bill as working-class, more or less—if only because this film is suddenly a companion to “Restoration,” in which R. Downey, Jr.’s doc has to go from amoral to moral.
Is “Eyes Wide Shut” actually a “doctor finds himself” melodrama, a weird re-imagining of all those Men in White pics, from Dr. Kildare to Red Beard? OK, I’m overreaching. Still, I think you’re right about idleness—moral, especially—and the need for him to be “shaken”—in both wakeup and the stunned/beaten down senses.