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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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • All Just a Dream / Schrödinger's Butterfly: Very subtle hints in the movie provide clues that this is so. 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.
  • Central Theme: A few.
    • The issues of being committed to a relationship.
    • Hypocrisy and contradiction. The title is a contradiction itself. Eyes Wide and Eyes Shut are combined even though they should cancel each other out due to be two different things.
    • Paranoia, whether it's about your wife having an affair or that this sex stuff is more dangerous than just having the worry of getting AIDS.
    • The negative nature of dreams. Much of the film can be seen as a nightmare that effects 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.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas??: It takes place around Christmas and the opening scene is at a holiday party but it overall 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 unhealthy ritual and atmosphere around it give the whole scene a very uncomfortable feeling.
  • Fille Fatale: Milich's young teenage daughter tries to seduce Bill, even after she gets attacked by her father for sleeping with (or doing something sexual with) two other guys. 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:
    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 Bill this only does so as part of a hard sell to Bill to keep quiet about what he saw, with it 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 besides 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 it seems, 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 a child.
    • 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 might be sexist to presume that every other woman at the orgy is a prostitute.
  • The Illuminati: Someone is behind the orgy.
  • Impossibly Mundane Explanation: Invoked in the film and Played for Drama, especially in Zigler's explanation.
    • Mandy OD'd. After all, she already OD'd once that night alone. But on a night when a woman apparently sacrificed herself to see Bill?
    • Domino gets diagnosed with AIDS right after seeing Bill.
    • The owners of the house sent Bill away with a threatening note just so he'd leave them alone and not reveal the orgy. But, the apparent murder? 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 were 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 he will meet them 'where the rainbow ends'.
  • Mind Screw: The movie has both dream-like visuals and consequently operates in dream logic. 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.
    • At a first glance, the orgy is full of fanservice extras.
    • Milich's daughter.
    • Domino, who is very kind to Bill, is very beautiful for a drug-addicted, dying prostitute.
    • At least the last three, however, border on deconstruction, as they seem aware of what men want from them, and their scenes may be Fan Disservice as a result.
  • 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 totally unsexy, if not censored.
  • Nice Guy: Bill has issues and frustrations but is quite balanced for a Kubrick protagonist; he's smooth, bland, 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, have 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 did to the masked woman who sacrificed herself to save Bill, assuming Ziegler was lying. Seeing her led off into the dark makes one think it wasn'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.
  • 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; besides, there are implications that the whole story was 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.
  • 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: Was there any foul play in Mandy's death? Was she even the same woman as one at the orgy, given that the latter was 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 Masonic-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, 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 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.
  • 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 a limousine, 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 holidays, and while things never get too gory or violent, Bill finds himself in a pretty disturbing corner of the world 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 and 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 and 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 that 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 was actually the girl that sacrificed herself to save Bill instead of Mandy; other characters viewers guessed 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 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 was 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 depends on if 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 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / LargeHam

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