Eyes Wide Shut Revisited
20 years later, Stanley Kubrick's misunderstood masterpiece is making a lot more sense
Eyes Wide Shut, released in 1999, was our first official movie date. I remember it vividly because it led to our first official argument. I was 19, obsessed with pop culture musings so I’d read all about the scandal plaguing the set of Kubrick’s latest film and the fight to keep it under an NC-17 rating. I had anticipated steamy sex scenes, counting down to its debut. We were newly dating. Mike was 23, part of a traveling country band, and not the least bit interested in celebrity-related anything. Not much in that way has changed. But, he was happy to appease me so together we sat through a grueling, perplexing, highly disturbing two-and-a-half hours of masked nudity and stiffly fragmented character commentary drowned in a flood of blue light that neither of us understood.
When he dropped me off, he was noticeably irritated. It was the first time I’d seen him bothered. He wanted to discuss how bad it was. “Just admit, it was terrible,” he said. I refused. I didn’t get it, but I didn’t hate it. I told him I actually liked how it haunted my brain with such dramatic effect. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The disconnect led to our first official disagreement. A late-night argument on my mother’s front porch which, looking back, obviously I won. Because 20 years later, the film translates on a sharper vibration. In a post-Epstein era, it feels almost documentarian.
More concerning is what Nicole Kidman revealed recently about the things Stanley Kubrick told her during the filming. “He showed me how the world works and who is really in control behind the scenes,” Kidman said while promoting HBO’s Big Little Lies, in Los Angeles.
“Stanley told me the world is run by pedophiles. He studied secret societies his whole life, he was fascinated by them, and he said the elite, the top secret societies, they are full of men with a certain predilection. They are tied together, sort of bonded, by pedophilia. And they all know each other’s dark secrets. There is no way out for any of them. It’s a lifetime bond. Even if one of them wanted to go straight, and repent, so to speak, he can’t. His peers will bring him down. They are in it until death, driving the world to ruin. That’s kind of how Stanley explained it but it was all very complex. I’m probably not doing it justice.”
The comments, repeated in interviews by Kidman, hardly raised headlines, but with everything we’ve seen coming to light over the past few years, the reveal Kubrick was offering two decades ago feels like one frightfully overdue whistleblow. What was viewed as an awkward cinematic flop then, is now considered one of the most thrilling movies for art students to examine and dissect because of its many-layered meanings.
Below are notes collected from various sources around the internet, including a video that highlights all of the hidden/overlooked meanings woven into the film. What is obvious today is that Kubrick had a clear message in ‘99. It only took us two decades to get it.