- Fiction, Film, Nonfiction

The Completed Eyes Wide Shut?

When Stanley Kubrick died on March 7, 1999, there was still a little over four months until Eyes Wide Shut’s release date, July 16. There is no basis to argue Kubrick wouldn’t have altered the film right up to that date and possibly even beyond as he did with 2001 and The Shining, films most similar to Eyes Wide Shut. Michael Herr says, “…there was looping to be done and the music wasn’t finished, lots of small technical fixes on color and sound, but it wasn’t ready to show…”

With the exception of the three-hour Barry Lyndon, the two-and-a-half-hour Lolita, and the two-hour Full Metal Jacket (Spartacus is not a true Kubrick film and all the other films pre-dating 1960 were under 95 minutes), the others: 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining were all from 137 minutes to 146 minutes. Eyes Wide Shut is 158 minutes, but if Kubrick had lived it wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d lopped off another fifteen to twenty minutes, to bring it around 140 minutes and possibly to get another showing per day in the movie theatre, as he always had an eye toward the selling of his product, going so far as to check the size of ads in foreign newspapers.

The way it stands, Eyes Wide Shut is a rough cut and as to what he would have further edited, I think most of it would have been in the second half of the film, which after the long first half is really the last third of the film. Particularly in the longueurs of the scene with the hotel concierge, the second visit to Summerton in the daylight, the scene with Sally, and the problematic final scene with Ziegler of which Michael Herr says:

…no man could have wished it longer, and though it’s an incredibly interesting scene in some ways, I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be about, unless, as I suspect, it’s really about the red pool table. You could always count on Stanley every time to vote for Beauty over Content, since he didn’t think of them as two separate things.

Timing-wise, there is something off with these scenes. The first half includes long scenes: the party, the bedroom conversation, the conversation over the father’s dead body, scenes with Domino, Nightengale, and Millich, the orgy, and the second bedroom conversation, but they are carefully constructed so to establish a dream state. The second half is an attempt at explaining the first half, but these scenes get stretched out. In Barry Lyndon, the parade of events at the end, excluding the tense duel (the twin of Eyes Wide Shut’s pool table scene, without guns), happen with a rapidity ennobling the narrative’s reach. In the hotel concierge scene especially, the flaming being is afforded a lot of space, even though his over-the-top schtick is all too obvious from his first shot, though he wasn’t in the first half as Millich, or Domino’s other half, Sally, were. The reaction shot of him coming down after his flirt, outside of the perspective of Dr. Bill, who’s consciousness hangs over every scene, is out of keeping with the architecture of the film.

The final scene with Ziegler, a duel of words (the weapons of choice for a film about communication), goes on for fourteen minutes. As each piece of Ziegler’s information blows his mind, Cruise rubs his face raw, but it is a hard role to sell, as Sydney Pollack gets the good lines and how he lies (since some of what he says may be construed as such) is the more interesting part of the dialogue. The characters dance (and blocking) around the pool table recalls the circular motions of the generals in the grand drawing rooms at the chateau in Paths of Glory. When we first see Zeigler, he is playing pool. This table, a symbol of the old world, stands as the wall between the two for most of the scene. The glories here are the décor and the lighting, as well as the shot placement and editing. The primary red baize of the table and with six green circular fan lights above proudly stand out, emphasizing the Christmas setting and the extravagant lifestyle of Zeigler. When he tells Dr. Bill he wants to talk about what’s going on, Zeigler is shot from the side of the table so we only see half of his face. Like in Paths of Glory, the grandiose interior serves to make the lies believable. Power, built from money, is persuasive. Throughout there are many pauses and sighs by both characters during this power play between the old guard and the not so streetsmart WASP. Seemingly Kubrick thought he needed more time for the “explanation” a la the “explanation” at the end of Psycho, though that one is relatively short and from the cut presented, there was more emphasis on letting it “sink in.” While it is hard for Dr. Bill to grasp that the woman in the morgue was the woman at the orgy (and then was also the initial woman who overdosed at Ziegler’s), I don’t think the audience is that daft. The question really becomes (since two different actresses played each role, but look very similar), is this apparently accepted part of the explanation really true? Why else did Dr. Bill stare down the face at the morgue? Because he has certain doubts about her identity. There also, for identification sake, Kubrick adds the voiceover of the woman at the orgy saying, “Because it could cost me my life and probably yours,” to signal it is that woman. But if Kubrick, the director, clarified this with the voiceover, Kubrick, the editor, might have one day before the premiere thought better to let the audiences’ eyes solve the mystery. After all, what impels him to go to the hospital in the first place? The name Amanda in the newspaper article, from “Mandy,” the name he repeated when he brought her out of unconsciousness at Ziegler’s. As Craig Nelson suggests, the use of two different actresses may have been due to the long shooting schedule, but Kubrick knew what he was doing—and he had been infamous for throwing in little off-kilter items earlier, as The Shining’s details around Danny’s injury and how long Jack has been on the wagon, as these subjects are given different answers by Jack and Wendy.

The other voiceover of something previously said, this time of Alice describing her dream, “…Everyone was fucking…and I was fucking other men,” is used when Dr. Bill looks at her in the kitchen after he gets a beer. It is an effect Kubrick possibly would have thought better of. To have had a silent exchange of glances would have been more powerful and tangled the audience in their web a bit more as the viewer could easily see things were not right with them and the game of goody-good parenting in front of their daughter. Her close-up alone, with its possibly complicitous smile and a pinky to the chin, could have inched them deeper into the maze.

Essay on Barry Lyndon