In occult circles, "eyes wide shut" means feigning blindness to the crimes of other secret society members.
Stanley Kubrick's last film is his masterpiece. The man who may be the most talented director who ever lived took a story so strange, scary and unsentimental and made more than a great film - he built a cinematic labyrinth of meanings and suggestions that strike so soundly into the human psyche and the human libido that it leaves the heart torn between both and haunted by the experience and not knowing what to believe about human morality. Kubrick tears down every false reality with a very real dreamworld fantasy. This ain't children's cinema here, people. But whats most impressive is that it has two separate stories, interpretations, for both typical film-goers and the Kubrick aficionados, with two radically different messages. Kubrick was associated with many conspiracy theories and rumors, from staging the moon landing footage to filling his films with Masonic imagery and messages. His last film plays with these ideas and leaves us with more questions than answers.
What some call "a Christmas film for adults", Eyes Wide Shut studies the same things that any Christmastime story would: dreams, impossible expectations, miraculous gifts, family bonds, the question of "Who's naughty and who's nice?" & the story of a perfect man with perfect morals... which is probably all bullshit. The characters are not aware that they are living out these heightened cliches because they are so swamped in their lonely, unsatisfied adult existences. Sex, career, marriage, ego, the battle of the sexes and the overwhelming world of power and corruption dictates their real world. Only in their dreams can the main characters find any deliverance, any true freedom from their lives. And they believe those dreams can be as adulterous and "dirty" as they wish because they are only dreams... or so they think.
Kubrick uses the narrative of Eyes Wide Shut to explore how dreams can fester in the mind and then supersede, control and wreck realities if they are not owned up to and shared with the world, especially with those closest to us. Our waking world can become a living nightmare filled with secrets and false selves. Tom Cruise's character is confronted with sexual temptations, taunts and traps until he is left literally weeping at the mask that he has created for himself. He's so cut off from his wife, from his world and from himself that he can't even recognize his own sexual fantasy.
This is the subtle masterstroke of the narrative. We, from Nicole Kidman's perspective, are told "the truth": that the mask was put there by a cult who is out to scare heroic Tom for rejecting and exposing their widespread sexual perversity throughout the city. But upon careful study, the film is actually an obvious dream sequence created by Tom Cruise; his subjective version of prior events, and the mask found next to his wife on his pillow was put there by himself and not the cult. The story of Tom/"Bill" turning down a woman who professed his love for him, hookers who sacrificed themselves, an orgy of masked men and women, homophobic thugs and a sexually willing underage girl is all a lie. And the lie revels his true sexual nature and possible sexual conquests. Whether they happened or not is the question we are left wondering along with Nicole. Is Tom/Bill the real deceiver? I would say that its quite obvious that his story is a lie with the "too good to be true" coincidental and accidental events that weave Bill/Tom through the story and his unbelievably unlucky and faithful behavior to each challenge in his Odyssey that should exonerate him from the guilt he is still left with. This is underlined by Kubrick's deliberately fake-looking New York City doubled by the streets of the U.K. and the bizarre, stunted line-reading by Kidman and Cruise when they are alone together in early parts of the film. If its all a huge cooked up lie to cover his affairs then Tom's inner conflict is a sham and the conflict is really whether we and Nicole can buy his story. If the audience can, certainly she can. The fun part is that some will and some won't.
Eyes Wide Shut concludes with Tom Cruise and his real wife at the time Nicole Kidman buying Christmas presents for their daughter and confronting Tom's (successful or unsuccessful) affair. They agree to believe the lie for the sake of their marriage. Tom is amazed that Nicole believes him (or pretends to) and Nicole hints that she's had her own escapades, will have more and that she's turned on by Tom's. And they agree that the simple answer to everything is to be honest about their open sexuality from this point on, not because their marriage is loveless, but for the sake of the future that their daughter will grow up in. They agree to cheat and be honest about it and to try to bring passion back to their lifeless relationship. The film led to Kidman & Cruise's marriage ending soon after. I think Kubrick saw the incredible mirror that this Hollywood couple had to all of the repressed, closeted issues he despised in modern romantic partnerships and used them as guinea pigs on film, making them unknowing "Method" actors. I think he was actually trying to save their marriage and ended up destroying it because Tom and Nicole's real marriage was actually steeped in real cult activity (Scientology), rivaling egoism (Hollywood) and closeted sexual behavior (both were rumored to have affairs and Tom is a rumored bisexual). Kubrick hit the lottery finding actors so perfect for their parts that they are actually playing themselves. Eyes Wide Shut transcends into something like a one-of-a-kind biographical semi-documentary with people playing themselves and not even knowing it while Kubrick laughs and revels in all of the ugly truth he exposed through the marriage of the narrative and a real relationship. What he put Shelley Duvall through in The Shining pales to his manipulative directing here. Eyes Wide Shut is a truly devious artistic achievement and takes filmmaking to another atmosphere than most filmmakers only dream of. Its the work of mad genius.
The viewer can choose from two very different stories presented in the same film at the same time. And which story you choose reveals what kind of voyeur you are. If you believe Tom's character is honest to his wife, you are accepting a sexless, unbelievable, traditional, commercial "Christmas" fantasy. But if you believe that Tom's character is lying to his wife, you are accepting an unseen, more logical tale of real, raw, explicit, guilt-ridden sexual escapade only revealed through symbols, obvious lies and clever innuendo. And the punchline is that both realities are valid depending on the philosophical outlook of the viewer. Kubrick is exposing your deepest moral leanings and how innocent, corrupted, enlightened and naive you are. Perhaps, as Christmas factors so much into the hidden meaning of Eyes Wide Shut, "being faithful" is the surface theme and "faith" itself is the underlying theme. Do you believe stories or don't you? Do you subscribe to conspiracy or the accepted truth? Do you go off of faith or what you see? There is not one reference to Christ, but many to Satanism. This shows his own agnosticism at war with itself. And most explicitly, Kubrick asks himself can a person cheat on a lover, even if its only in his mind, and still truly love that person? Kubrick is playing with the core moral dilemmas in his own heart. So close to his own death, we can assume that this film helped him figure out his own spiritual beliefs before he passed away 6 days after watching the final cut. The story is about whether or not someone should believe that which they cannot prove. This makes EWS the most personal, profound and purposeful work of art in the Stanley's canon. I think that it brought him the peace he needed to say goodbye to this world and his beloved film medium. Stanley Kubrick leaves us wondering if Tom is one of the cult or not, in a glaring parallel to the question of Jack's membership to the sexually depraved parties at The Overlook Hotel in Kubrick's version of "The Shining". What question does Kubrick leave us to ask? "Did he belong to a secret society or not?"? It seems as much a confession as a prank. Kubrick, Tom and "Bill" are one and the same. Like the story within the film, the film itself could be an elaborate hoax to scare and enlighten patrons... or it could be a dark confession of sins real and imagined. Or a little of both. Kubrick always gives us 3 choices: white, black and gray. I would say that gray is his moral code and indeed the code of anyone who honestly sees the real full spectrum of human nature. I think that Stanley scared the Hell out of Tom and Nicole and woke them up from a bad marriage and false worldview and captured it on celluloid. Whatever Tom learned from Stanley drove him to Scientology and Nicole to rearranging her face. Kubrick shows no respect for any marriage that isn't respected by its spouses. Ultimately, Eyes Wide Shut is both a realistic critique of marriage and a Romantic endorsement for adultery. Its a commercial for the moral philosophy of the oldest, highest and wealthiest order who rule the world with secrecy and fear but not meaningless violence, who destroy to build but never build to destroy. Kubrick all but confesses to being one of these people but always stops short of naming names. Many think Kubrick's death before the release of the Eyes Wide Shut was too coincidental, a punishment for exposing secrets. Whatever the truth may be, the effect made his death a polarizing mystery just like his last film. You almost want this to be part of Kubrick's grand scheme.
This is Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece. Its the masterpiece of masterpieces. He finally summarized his lifelong obsessions in daring storytelling with one last film and wrapped it in a stunning technical package that works as a simple late-night sex thriller and as a deep metaphysical mindfuck mystery for the most astute Kubrick followers, occult theorists and philosophical detectives. If any film exposes this man's (or any man's) layered genius as a storyteller and technical mastery of an artistic medium, its Eyes Wide Shut. And his everlasting message seems to be simply, enthusiastically and unapologetically, "Fuck!"