I watched this movie and thought it was awful. This is because I’m very dumb at understanding esoteric symbols unless they’re explained to me outright, the exceptions being those few bits of culture that I’m fanatical about, like Final Fantasy games and Lord of the Rings. I can understand these in total because I’ve nearly memorized them from sheer autistic repetition.
Then I read this article explaining some of the themes in this movie, and my eyes were opened. It’s not even a particularly good article, so much as it revealed to me that this sort of analysis is possible.
I recommend reading the series of articles first, then returning for my comments.
I remember when I first watched Eyes Wide Shut, back in 1999. Boy, did I hate it. I hated how slow everything was, I hated how Nicole Kidman tried to sound drunk or high and I hated seeing Tom Cruise walk around New York looking concerned. I guess I reacted the same way critics did at the time the movie came out and thought: “This movie is boring and there is nothing hot about it.”
This is exactly what I thought after watching it, except I wasn’t expecting “steamy” so much as “revelatory”. I thought “So what, the big secret is that TPTB are omnipotent, omnipresent and are constantly having sex with highly attractive women? Surely this is pure gaslighting.”
Well, I was wrong, the problem is that I’m bad at esoteric symbolism.
Tom Cruise’s character is called Dr. Bill … as in dollar bill. Several times during the movie, Dr. Bill either waves his money or his “doctor badge” at people to get them to do what he wants. Bill is part of the upper class and his dealings with people of the lower class are often resolved with money.
More precisely upper middle class, in Paul Fussell’s taxonomy. Remember that in America, “success” = upper middle class, any sartorialist worth a damn will tell you this.
Read pages 33-36 if you’re interested to learn the details of what success means, if that’s something you’re into. This is what makes American parents proud of their kids.
Played by Nicole Kidman, Alice lost her job in the art world and is now fully supported by her husband’s salary. While she lives very comfortably, Alice appears to be extremely bored with her life as a stay at home mother. The name Alice is most likely a reference to the main character of Alice in Wonderland – a fairy tale about a privileged girl who is bored with her life and who goes “through the looking glass” to end up in Wonderland. In Eyes Wide Shut, Alice is often shown staring at the looking glass – grooming herself or … maybe looking for something more to life.
“Through the looking glass” (exoteric) = seeing through the facade (esoteric). Behind the appearance of normality, we unfailingly find a world that is weird and perilous and governed by a different set of rules.
Knowing Kubrick’s attention to detail, the inclusion of the star of Ishtar in this party is not an accident. Ishtar is the Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war and, mostly, sexuality. Her cult involved sacred prostitution and ritual acts – two elements we clearly see later in the movie.
Ishtar = Babalon (i.e. Babylon, Babel), as discussed in this Rune Soup episode. It’s very likely then that the omnipresent red-haired women represent Lilith. In esoteric terms, red-haired women seem to represent the “feminine principle”, especially with respect to sex magick rituals.
As an aside (because this doesn’t appear explicitly in the movie), another motif in the sex slavery and human sacrifice magick community is the owl (Lilith) and the minotaur demon Moloch (aka Ba’al, bull-man, horned god, Pan, Bacchus, Baphomet). Owls are “wise” in European folklore because they are the caretakers of hidden knowledge, or the eternal feminine mystique. In contrast, the horned god appears to represent man in his natural state, free of labels and inhibitions.
There are two kinds of perception-altering magic, best understood via analogy to the two sorts of jokes: those that create/reinforce taboos (white) and those that break/weaken taboos (black). Sex magic is about breaking down mental categories and boundaries, so it falls into the latter camp. It is thus represented by androgyny, a breakdown of the distinction between male and female.
Rainbows and multicolored lights appear throughout the movie, from the beginning to the end.
The name of the store where Bill rents his elite ritual costume: “Rainbow”. The name of the store under it: “Under the Rainbow”. The name of the store where Bill rents his costume is called “Rainbow”. The name of the store under it: “Under the Rainbow”. Kubrick is trying to tell us something…Something involving rainbows.
As if to emphasize the theme of multicolored rainbows, almost every scene in the movie contains multicolored Christmas lights, giving most sets a hazy, dreamy glow.
These lights tie together most scenes of the movie, making them part of the same reality. There are however a few select scenes where there are absolutely no Christmas lights. The main one is Somerton palace – the place where the secret society ritual takes place.
This is a really interesting point. I think the symbolic correspondence here is “rainbow” (exoteric) = visible spectrum = visible normie world (esoteric).
Then everything that exists on the edges of the “unseen” world is either red (infrared) or deep blue (ultraviolet) or enshrouded in shadow, and the analogy of red-shifting and blue-shifting the Overton window can be compared to higher and lower-frequency mental states in the overall population.
That’s all I’ve got to add for now.