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Film / Eyes Wide Shut

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"No dream is ever just a dream."

Alice Harford: Millions of years of evolution, right? Right? Men have to stick it in every place they can, but for women... women it is just about security and commitment and whatever the fuck else!
Dr. Bill Harford: A little oversimplified, Alice, but yes, something like that.
Alice Harford: If you men only knew...

Eyes Wide Shut is Stanley Kubrick's last film, completed just days before his deathnote  and released sporadically from July to September, 1999. Based on Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), the story is transferred from early 20th century Vienna to 1990s New York City.

The film follows Dr. Bill Harford (played by Tom Cruise) as he spends two noirish, surreal nights on his sexually charged adventures wandering New York City when his wife Alice (played by Cruise's then wife Nicole Kidman) reveals that she had contemplated an affair a year earlier.

Sydney Pollack plays Bill's friend Victor, who knows more than he's letting on. Todd Field, later known for his own career as a director, plays Bill's friend Nick Nightingale. Leelee Sobieski appears briefly as the nymphet who tempts Bill at the costume shop.

No relation to Dies Wide Open.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: The costume shop owner "settles" his troubles by pimping out his daughter.
  • Actor Allusion: The VHS copy of Rain Man, another Tom Cruise movie, seen in Alice and Bill's bedroom on their entertainment stand during their big argument.
    • A second one that many people notice is with actor Todd Field, who plays Nick Nightingale. Bill tells Alice that Nick dropped out of medical school. Todd Field was in 1989 film Gross Anatomy and played David Schreiner, a medical student, and in that film, his character drops out of the medical program.
  • Adaptational Location Change: The film was set in contemporary New York City, while the book it was based off of (Traumnovelle) was set in turn-of-the-century Vienna.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Due to the location change, all the names are changed as well.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Most of the episodes in the original novella are adapted one to one, with some minor differences. Some larger changes exist though: In the film, the party is explicitly shown to be an orgy, whereas in the book this was just strongly hinted at. The scene with Bill and Victor towards the end is also an addition, as the "Traumnovelle" left the story fairly open.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The film's tagline: "Cruise. Kidman. Kubrick."
  • Advertised Extra: Nicole Kidman largely disappears from the film after the first half hour.
  • All Just a Dream / Schrödinger's Butterfly: Very subtle hints in the movie provide clues that this is so. For example, both answers in the specific and satisfaction in the abstract seem to elude Bill as the story goes on, with all his prospective sexual encounters fizzling out and nearly everyone who can provide answers disappearing offscreen. Many scenes also end abruptly much as in dreams, and logic seems absent in many regards. After all, the movie is called Eyes Wide Shut, and the novella is titled "Traumnovelle" ("Dream Novella").
  • All There in the Script: According to the screenplay published to tie in with the film, the girl at the Costume store whispers "You'll need an ermine lining for your cloak" to Dr Harford.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Pretty much the entire ordeal with the cult. Was the cult really going to hurt Bill, or was it all an act? Was Mandy actually killed in Bill's place, or did she just coincidentally OD on her own? Was Nick killed after being taken out of the hotel, or did the cult really just fire him and send him home? There's also the nature of the cult, which can either be an actual occult conspiracy, or just a glorified sex party for the world's elites. Ziegler tells Bill that the latter case is true for all of these questions, but can he really be trusted? He doesn't even bring up Mandy's fate until Bill points out that she coincidentally dies the day after, so he might just be making it all up on the spot.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Bill's conversation with Nick borders on the flirtatious.
  • Arc Symbol: The rainbow. The girls at the party tell Bill that they are going "where the rainbow ends", there are images of rainbows throughout the movie, including a costume shop with that name, and in the early versions of the script, the password was to be "Fidelio Rainbow". It symbolizes Bill's desire to chase after an impossible dream "at the end of the rainbow".
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Domino looks very beautiful for an ill, drug-addicted prostitute.
    • After just OD-ing at Ziegler's house, Mandy looks no different than a healthy person (and beautiful).
    • We also never see the death of the woman at the party, and while Mandy's corpse is pretty horrible, she never looks visibly injured.
  • Big Fancy House: The lavish countryside mansion where the orgy is held. Shot at Mentmore Towers.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: A group of homophobic teenagers assault Bill because they think he's gay, no one seems to want to help him find Nick, and he only traverses in the gritty, crowded sections of the city. The toy store scene at the end is especially claustrophobic.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Bill is found out when he doesn't know the "house password" for the mansion. There never was a "house password". Notably, the novella leaves it unclear whether the password existed or not.
  • Break-In Threat: Possibly. It's unclear if the cult broke in and left Bill's mask on his bed as a threat or if Alice simply found it and placed it there herself.
  • Camp Gay: The Hotel Desk Clerk, played by Alan Cumming.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A VHS copy of Rain Man, another Tom Cruise movie, is seen in Alice and Bill's bedroom on top of their entertainment stand during their marijuana-enhanced argument.
  • Central Theme: A few.
    • The issues of being committed to a monogamous relationship.
    • Hypocrisy and contradiction. The title is a contradiction itself, as "eyes wide" and "eyes shut" are combined despite being opposites.
    • Paranoia, whether it's about your wife having an affair, this sex stuff being more dangerous than just having the worry of getting AIDS, or a secret society being after your life and/or the lives of those around you.
    • The negative nature of dreams. Much of the film can be interpreted as a nightmare that affects Bill heavily.
  • The Conspiracy: Bill thinks he's stumbled onto a terrible one, but the ending leaves it unclear.
  • Cult: One possible interpretation of the ritualists.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Bill's curiosity about the secret party leads him into a really bizarre and seemingly dangerous situation, to say the least.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas??: It takes place around Christmas and the opening scene is at a holiday party, but overall it doesn't play into the story very much.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Heavily implied with Mandy, a hooker—according to Victor—who dies under mysterious circumstances, and halfway with Domino, who learns that she's HIV-positive and is never seen again right after Bill meets her.
  • The Faceless: The Mysterious Woman at the orgy where she’s only covered with a face mask.
  • Fan Disservice: The orgy scene is not exactly sexy. The extremely dramatic ritual and atmosphere around it give the whole scene a very uncomfortable feeling, which is only compounded by the audio being nothing but music.
  • Fille Fatale: Milich's young teenage daughter tries to seduce Bill, even after she gets attacked by her father for sleeping with two other men. Ends up getting reconstructed when we see them again, and Milich is now pimping her out.
  • The Film of the Book: Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler.
  • Gainax Ending: The conversation in the toy store that ends the film at first seems to be leading into a split in the relationship, but then Bill and Alice start talking about the nature of dreams and reality in a way that suddenly throws much more ambiguity on Bill's adventure, made no clearer by Bill's reply that "no dream is ever just a dream". Alice concludes that they're awake and will hopefully stay like that, though the question of fidelity remains up in the air as using the word 'forever' to describe their relationship scares her. And then, to close it out...
    Alice: "But, I do love you. And you know, there is something very important that we need to do as soon as possible."
    Bill: "What's that?"
    Alice: "Fuck."
  • He Knows Too Much: Bill and Nick after the orgy. It's stated that Nick got the crap beaten out of him by the wealthy men whose orgy he helped Bill crash, but no one can locate him. Furthermore, the man who tells this to Bill only does so as part of a hard sell to Bill to keep quiet about what he saw, with it being heavily implied that bad things will happen to Bill if he doesn't forget what he saw.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: "I am ready to redeem him."
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Almost every female character aside from Alice is either a deconstruction or a reconstruction.
    • Ziegler describes Mandy as a prostitute, and maybe she was the woman at the orgy who sacrificed herself for Bill. However, Bill barely knows anything about her and it's possible she just OD'd in despair, meaning that they only shared a very short conversation when Mandy was out of her mind.
    • Domino is perhaps the clearest example in the film, but Bill is visibly disappointed when he learns about the "hooker" part alongside her "heart of gold," and the possibility is left open that her warmth is just part of her act to snare Bill and other clients.
    • Milich's teenage daughter has sex willingly, and not for money, with guys much older than her. When Bill meets her again, though, her father is pimping her out. We, however, never hear her speak, and she is an adolescent.
    • The woman at the orgy may be, as she seems to sacrifice her life for Bill, whether she is Mandy, Domino, or possibly someone else. However, despite her Heroic Sacrifice, she's purely Creepy Good, and it's sexist to presume that every other woman at the orgy is also a prostitute.
  • The Illuminati: Someone is running the orgy.
  • Impossibly Mundane Explanation: Invoked in the film and Played for Drama, especially in Ziegler's explanation.
    • Mandy OD's. After all, she had already OD'd once that night alone, but again on a night when a woman apparently sacrifices herself to see Bill?
    • Domino gets diagnosed with AIDS right after seeing Bill.
    • The owners of the house send Bill away with a threatening note just so he'll leave them alone and not reveal the orgy. The apparent murder, however? Maybe just a ritual. Maybe not.
  • Inspired by…: A very rare case of inversion. The closing credits state that the film was "inspired by" the Arthur Schnitzler's novella, but it is in fact a rather faithful adaptation (down to the key pieces of dialogue).
  • In Vino Veritas: Bill and Alice can only get a bit more honest with each other after smoking a joint. This is an interesting deviation from the original novella, where no psychoactive substances are needed for the game-changing confessions.
  • Kubrick Stare:
    • Seeing how he's the main character in the last movie by the Trope Namer himself, Bill does the stare from time to time.
    • Alice also does it when describing the incident with the sailor.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: Bill is introduced like this at Ziegler's party.
  • Large Ham: Mr. Milich goes full ham when he catches his daughter with two transvestites in his store.
  • Left the Background Music On: At the very beginning, "Jazz Suite, Waltz 2" plays during the opening credits, until it's abruptly shut off.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Subverted with Mandy who rescues Bill at the party by offering to "sacrifice" herself and is later found dead from an overdose in her apartment. The police report says her door was locked from the inside and it's not questioned by anyone besides Bill that it really was just an accidental overdose that killed her and not foul play.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: A fair number of them are present at the "masked ball."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The film flirts with the events being evidence of some wider conspiracy, something supernatural, a bizarre but ultimately earthly series of events, or even that it never actually happened at all without giving clarification on any of them.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Maybe. There are many things worth noticing that aren't drawn attention to. Just one example is the rainbow-named costume store after the models tell Bill to follow them to 'where the rainbow ends'.
  • Mind Screw: The movie has both dream-like visuals and seems to operate in dream logic, with many threads going nowhere and characters disappearing in madly ambiguous ways. See All Just a Dream above.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Bill is bullied and hassled by a group of jocks who call him homophobic slurs. While they may just be out to give him trouble, the scene is played in a way that implies they're harassing him because they genuinely think he's gay.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Alice is lightly clothed or naked for most of the movie.
    • Once things get started, the orgy is full of fanservice extras.
    • Milich's daughter, who appears in little more than a sheer white bikini in both her scenes. May verge into Fan Disservice on account of her age.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: They did a bad bad thing? Well, if they do, it's offscreen! This famous political analysis of the film says, "a bunch of middle-school kids who'd snuck in to see it and slunk out three hours later feeling horny, frustrated, and ripped off." All the depicted sex is a bit on the unsexy side, if not censored.
  • Nice Guy: Bill has issues and frustrations but is quite balanced for a Kubrick protagonist. He's smooth, polite, generally well-adjusted, a good parent, treats working-class people with consideration, and eventually comes clean to his wife.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The whole film, especially the scenes during and after the masked ball, carry an overwhelming sense of dread. We know something sinister is going on with the cult and its actions, but we never find out what. Even more disturbing is thinking about what the cult might have done to the masked woman who sacrifices herself to save Bill, assuming Ziegler is lying. Seeing her led off into the dark makes one think it isn't pleasant.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The sinister chanting during the "mass," when Harford first enters the mansion, is in fact part of a Romanian Orthodox Divine Liturgy, played backwards as is usually done during black masses.
  • One Crazy Night: Well, two nights, but the crux of the story, when the protagonist infiltrates a mysterious masked orgy, takes place on a single night.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When Alice tells Bill about her dream of the orgy, her first "We were..." is pure Aussie, though the next time she says it, the correct accent returns.
  • Paranoid Thriller: After the protagonist infiltrates a mysterious masked orgy and gets exposed, he's feeling increasingly paranoid, believing that he's being pursued by the members of the conspiracy. The movie never clarifies whether or not this is the case. Furthermore, there are implications that the whole story is a dream.
  • Plague Doctor: One of the cultists.
  • Precision F-Strike: The last line of the story has Alice telling Bill what they need to do as soon as possible: "Fuck."
  • Production Throwback: Bill's mask was modelled after Ryan O'Neal's face. He played the title role in Barry Lyndon.
  • Quest for Sex: With his wife's fantasy of an affair haunting him, Bill Harford goes on a voyeuristic exploration to deal with his sexual frustration. Probably shouldn't have visited that mansion party, though, and in the end, he never gets it anyway.
  • Retargeted Lust: Alice seemed to be trying to generate this both by bringing up other women with her husband and telling him her fantasies about running off with a sailor, but instead it plunges him into turmoil and doubt, so she eventually just straight-up propositions him.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Is there any foul play in Mandy's death? Is she even the same woman as the one at the orgy, given that the latter is portrayed by a different actress?
  • Rule of Symbolism: The ceremony at the beginning of the "masked ball" is inspired from a Satanic ritual using reversed Orthodox liturgy, naked women as sex slaves, and Mason-like rituals to initiate an orgy, not to mention the use of passwords.
  • Scenery Censor: In order to bring the rating down from NC-17 to R for the theatrical release, extra people were digitally inserted into the orgy scene via CGI to cover up genitalia.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The orgy club.
  • Serious Business: Alice didn't even cheat on Bill; she once just fantasized about cheating on him. This revelation rocks Bill to his core and sends him off on his Quest for Sex.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Bill is encouraged to stop his "pointless investigation" on the secret society, or else.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The password is "Fidelio," an opera from Ludwig Van. Little Alex would be grinning somewhere.
    • "Don't you think one of the charms of marriage is that it makes deception a necessity for both parties?" is almost a direct quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray.
  • Spotting the Thread: It's rather telling to arrive at a fancy party in the middle of nowhere in a taxi when everybody else arrives in limousines, as well as wearing a different cloak than everyone else and not donning your mask until you've already entered the house.
  • Streetwalker: Domino, who's awfully good-looking for a streetwalker.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Victor reassuring Bill that Mandy's death was purely accidental can come off as this.
  • Symbol Motif Clothing: Bill's mask is a generic face mask with a golden, mask-like structure of its own resting atop the forehead and cheeks. Though probably not a conscious decision on Bill's part, it could be taken as a symbol that in the crowd of disguised faces, his disguise is that he's disguised as one of them.
  • Twisted Christmas: The story takes place around the Christmas holiday, and while things never get too gory or violent, Bill finds himself in a pretty disturbing corner of society before it's all said and done.
  • The Un-Reveal: Deconstructed: Victor says that Mandy died of an overdose after being gang-banged at the orgy, that Nick got the crap beaten out of him but is alive and well, and that the super-wealthy people at the orgy didn't have them killed, but we only have Victor's word on the subject, which is suspect since these answers come in the same breath that he's telling Bill to forget what he saw at the mansion. Because the people at the orgy are the super-rich and super-powerful and Bill should be grateful that Victor's effectively giving him all the answers he needs to hear, Victor says he has to move on and forget what happened that night.
  • Unknown Character: The only people confirmed to be at the ball are Bill and Ziegler. No one ever takes their mask off, so any number of characters that appear before could potentially be there. A popular theory is that Domino is actually the girl that sacrifices herself to save Bill instead of Mandy; other characters viewers guess to have been there include Milich's daughter, Sally, and even Alice.
    • Also up for debate is the identity of Red Cloak. Besides the guess that it's a separate character, contenders who tend to get brought up include Sandor, Mr. Milich, or Ziegler.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The ultimate fates of Nick and Domino are never revealed. Ziegler tells Bill that Nick's been taken back to Seattle to live with his family, and Bill apparently visits Domino's apartment on a day she's not there. However, there is plenty of evidence to discredit both of these claims. It just depends on whether or not you think Ziegler and Domino's roommate, respectively, are telling the truth.

"I do love you, and you know, there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible."
"What's that?"


Video Example(s):


Mr. Millich

When he notices his daughter having a threesome with two random men, Mr. Millich goes full ham

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / LargeHam

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