Filmsite Movie Review
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
The Story (continued)

Bill and Alice Harford - Normal Routines

The next day, there was a montage of a regular workday for the married couple:

Harford entered his office, was greeted impersonally as "Doctor," spoke to a few female employees, and asked for coffee to be brought to him.

Alice was a stay-at-home, often bored and unfulfilled, unemployed mother. Wearing a blue robe, she was at the breakfast table drinking coffee, while Helena (in a cherry-decorated white robe) was watching the animated Looney-Tune TV cartoon The Fright Before Christmas (1979) on television (Bugs Bunny was reading: "Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse" at the 1:30 mark; the mouse referred to was Speedy Gonzales; the "Fright" was the Tasmanian Devil masquerading as Santa Claus in the cartoon). On the table lying face-down was the book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." A package of Wonder Bread (Wonderland, fake bread), Helena's posted drawings on the wall, an opened glass jar of Welch's grape jam, a bear-shaped bee-honey container, and a tub of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" (fake butter) were visible.

During a physical exam with a patient (and a nurse in attendance), he briefly examined the heartbeat of a beautiful, starkly, half-naked female patient with his stethoscope, and then passively instructed: "That's fine, you can put your gown on."

Back in the Harford home in Helena's bedroom, Alice brushed Helena's hair.

In his office, Bill asked a young boy: "Looking forward to Christmas?" - an eye chart (beginning with the letters OAT) was visible on the back wall. With another elderly patient as with this young boy, Dr. Harford discovered the sources of pain.

There was a quick reprised view of the sexy Alice from the back wearing knee-high black socks - and naked from behind. Now she was bending over and struggling to put on her black bra.

In the Harford's bathroom, Alice and Helena preened or groomed together in front of the mirror. Helena brushed her teeth.

Alice and Helena gift-wrapped Christmas presents on the dining room table, including a massive book-volume of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh.

Later that evening, Bill and Alice listened as Helena (in her bed) slowly read to them from a bedtime poem-book - Alice helped her to voice the words: "...before me, when I jumped into my bed" - a discrete illusion to the life of a prostitute jumping into bed. The book was identified as Robert Louis Stevenson's "My Shadow." The excerpt referred to a shadow preceding one's body getting into bed.

One of Dr. Harford's Semi-Nude Beautiful Patients
A Reprise of Alice's Opening Scene - Now Dressing, Not Disrobing

The Harfords' Pot-Smoking Conversation

After Helena was tucked in, Alice was in the living room where Bill was watching an NFL game, with the announcer aptly stating: "And here's the hand-off." Tired and yawning, Alice decided to use recreational drugs with Bill. In her bathroom before a mirror, reflecting a blue shower curtain behind her, she removed a plastic package of pot from a metal Band-Aid container (for medicinal purposes), and then rolled a joint.

After smoking dope in their bedroom while reclining on the bed (with a rose-emblazoned headboard and burgundy sheets), Bill and Alice (both in states of partial undress) discussed their separate encounters with their would-be seducers at Ziegler's Christmas party. When Alice - in slow-motion - asked for the truth about the two young models from the previous night's party and his fidelity ("Did you - by any chance - happen to - f--k - them?"), Bill vowed that he didn't sleep with them, but fibbed with his response: "What are you talking about?...I wasn't hitting on anybody." He added: "I didn't disappear with anybody," although he did admit to his diversionary trip to Ziegler's upstairs bedroom. But then, he dishonestly lied and stated it was because "Ziegler wasn't feeling too well."

She coldly admitted her own truth - that her older male Hungarian admirer ("a friend of the Zieglers") had wanted just one thing from her, and that she could have cheated: "Sex, upstairs. Then and there....Yeah, that was all." Bill concurred that because she was "a very, very beautiful woman," it was quite "understandable" that a typically sex-obsessed male would want her. Feeling unappreciated and devalued, Alice regarded Bill's comment as demeaning:

Because I'm a beautiful woman, the only reason any man ever wants to talk to me is because he wants to f--k me. Is that what you're saying?

Bill responded: "Well, I don't think it's quite that black and white," but agreed that most men were sex-oriented. When he asserted that he was an "exception" to the rule, and didn't sleep with the two models out of consideration for her, his marriage vows, and his love (and would never lie to her), even though he wanted to, Alice was disbelieving and turned accusatory:

Do you realize that what you're saying is that the only reason you wouldn't f--k those two models is out of consideration for me? Not because you really wouldn't want to.

She became a bit more hostile when he blamed her aggressive mood on the pot, and she thought that he was being vague and untruthful: "It's not the pot! It's you! Why can't you ever give me a straight f--king answer?...I'm not arguing. I'm just trying to find out where you're coming from." Alice then asked hypothetically about his pretty, often disrobed female patients - (something that recently happened to him with a voluptuous female patient):

Let's say, for example, you have some gorgeous woman standing in your office naked and you're feeling her f--king tits. Now, what I want to know, I want to know what are you really thinking about when you're squeezing them.

He claimed that his profession was "very impersonal," that he always remained "professional," that sex was the last thing on his mind, and that there was always a nurse present. She was annoyed and repulsed by her husband's obviously untruthful answer - that he was indifferent to the power of female nakedness and sexuality. She turned combative and pressed him on his claim of 'professionalism':

So when you're feeling tits, it's nothing more than just your professionalism, is that what you're saying?...Now, when she is having her little titties squeezed, do you think she ever has any little fantasies about what handsome Dr. Bill's dickie might be like?

He tried to dissuade her line of thinking, by stating that female patients didn't have sexual thoughts in his office: "I can assure you sex is the last thing on this f--king hypothetical woman patient's mind." He strongly asserted that women were very different from men, and did not fantasize about immoral deeds: "Women don't - they basically just don't think like that." But she retorted, with an oversimplified explanation, that there was a shadowy, dark side to women too who often thought about and fantasized about sexual intimacies just like men. She mocked his idea that only men, in contrast to women, had very base, sexual instincts after millions of years of evolution:

Men have to stick it in every place they can, but for women, it is just about security and commitment and whatever the f--k else!

She boldly asserted: "If you men only knew!"

Alice's Confession of an Imagined 'Affair' With a Naval Officer

Bill thought that her motivation to argue with him - while stoned - was to pick a fight and make him angry and jealous, but he vowed he wasn't the jealous type. She taunted him with the film's crucial question - why wasn't he jealous over her encounter with the Hungarian seducer?:

You've never been jealous about me, have you?...And why haven't you ever been jealous about me?

When he naively claimed that he thought that she would never be unfaithful to him as his loving wife and the mother of their seven-year-old daughter Helena ("I know you would never be unfaithful to me...I'm sure of you"), she mocked him for being so resolute and trusting:

You are very, very sure of yourself, aren't you?

And then she cruelly laughed at him for being so clueless - revealing her "shadow" side, and in her hysteria actually collapsed to the floor and doubled over. He was disgusted, calling it a "f--king laughing fit." She indirectly attacked and hurt Bill for his inattentive and misdirected interest (rather than discussing their marital problems head-on) - for never being jealous, and for trusting her faithfulness. She almost implied that she should have challenged his short-sightedness by sleeping with the Hungarian.

Bill's Naivete

The Imagined, Hidden Fantasy Affair - Revealed Before Blue Window
Alice's Mocking, Cruel Laugh

Assertively, she began to reveal that she had actually contemplated a faithless, immoral affair a year earlier - possibly to cause him to be jealous. She had fantasized sexually about someone other than him. He was ignorant of the fact of the temptation of her past sexual infidelity with a naval officer which she confessed to him as their conversation delved deeper. She expressed her feelings of rejecting and abandoning her husband and daughter for a young naval officer (Gary Goba) the previous summer during a family vacation-holiday at Cape Cod.

Do you remember last summer at Cape Cod?...Do you remember one night in the dining room, there was this young naval officer and he was sitting near our table with two other officers?...The waiter brought him a message, at which point he left. Nothing rings a bell?...

Well, I first saw him that morning in the lobby. He was, he was checking into the hotel and he was following the bellboy with his luggage to the elevator. He-he glanced at me as he walked past. Just a glance. Nothing more. But I could hardly move. That afternoon, Helena went to the movies with her friend, and you and I made love. And we made plans about our future and we talked about Helena. (hypnotically delivered slowly, almost word for word) And yet, at no time was he ever out of my mind. And I thought if he wanted me, even if it was only for one night, I was ready to give up everything. You. Helena. My whole f--king future. Everything.

And yet it was weird, 'cause at the same time, you were dearer to me than ever. And, and at that moment, my love for you was both tender and sad. I-I barely slept that night, and I woke up the next morning in a panic. I didn't know whether I was afraid that he had left or that he might still be there. But by dinner, I realized he was gone and - I - was - relieved.

She contemplated risking her domestic life and marriage by carrying through on the dalliance for just one night ("I was ready to give up everything"). At any moment, she could potentially betray and leave him. Her confession of unfaithfulness was shocking to him, a real wake-up call, since he believed women were generally more faithful than men.

Bill Called Away To Begin A Night-Time Journey of Temptations

Bill was interrupted by an emergency phone call from a patient, prompting him to embark on a long and dangerous journey, and separate himself from his wife. [Note: Bill would be repeatedly interrupted throughout the film, often just as he was about to be sexually satisfied.] He explained the purpose of his departure from Alice - a curious comment since he would soon be masked: "I have to go over there and show my face."

Essentially, for the remainder of the film, Bill's episodic trip was all in his mind as a dream. The phone call propelled him into his own prolonged, dark and risky night-long quest for sexual intimacy and revenge (also portrayed possibly as a waking dream or fantasy, or stag-porn film). He would experience a controversial masked ball orgy that concluded with a deadly but redemptive self-sacrifice of a nude masked female reveler.

During his taxi-cab ride to the home of a deceased patient at 1:22 am (a major continuity discrepancy), he experienced his first subliminal fantasy of bluish tinged black-and-white images. He became obsessed over his wife's story about her attraction to the white-suited naval officer. At any moment, he feared that Alice could betray him. His ever-present, conjured thoughts represented his imagined fears of his wife's infidelity with the uniformed male. Over and over in his jealous (and fearful) mind, he replayed views of their sexual coupling. Short clips of their erotic sexual affair were intercut throughout the film, progressively advancing in intensity - first clothed and then fully naked during copulation.

The Imagined Subliminal Sexual Orgasmic Affair With a Naval Officer in Bluish Light
- Interspersed Throughout the Film

Clothed Kissing: Alice Removing Her Own Panties

Alice Naked

Beginning of Sexual Intercourse

Orgasmic Ending

During Bill's long two-night wanderings and amorous odyssey (often marked by strings of 'rainbow' lights), he received numerous tempting offers of marital infidelity from many different women (including an engaged female and a prostitute) - something he had previously not thought possible. His encounters challenged his morals and threatened to ruin his monogamous marriage and his family. Every woman that he interacted with was a version of Alice. [In retrospect, none of his encounters led to actual sexual intimacy.] Were all his adventurous circumstances a dream or reality?, the film asked.

At the luxury apartment of his patient Lou Nathanson (Kevin Connealy), Harford entered the bedroom where the elderly man had died peacefully in his sleep. Next to the bed was an Aladdin-styled oil-burning lamp-stand. Bill was propositioned by casual female friend Miss Marion Nathanson (Marie Richardson) - Lou's grieving daughter who was engaged to marry a math professor named Carl Thomas (Thomas Gibson) and move away with him to his new teaching position at the University of Michigan. When she tried to betray her fiancee Carl and spend an immoral night with him (and destroy her future), Bill's conscience was able to prevail against her - he stressed to the despairing female: "We barely know each other." [Note: Alice had also not known the naval officer.] He rebuffed her advances after she impulsively kissed him, expressed her wish to live near him always, and vowed her love: "I love you, I love you, I love you. I don't want to go away with Carl!" A doorbell saved Harford from any further decision-making when Carl arrived - he resembled Harford, and was also a Dr. (professor) - another example of "twining" or doubling.

[Note: Marion's desires mirrored Alice's dream-fantasy wish to abandon herself (and her entire life) to the naval officer, and also confirmed Alice's statement that women fantasized about him - and had immoral sexual desires.]

Rainbow Christmas Lights in Patient's Bedroom

Patient's Death
(Blue Light Outside)

Tempted by Patient's Engaged Daughter Marion

Taunted by Rowdy Homophobes

Entering Hooker Domino's "Cozy Place"

Rainbow X-Mas Lights in Domino's Place
(Behind Blue Hallway Door)

Extreme Difference in Social Classes: Messy Kitchen and "Maid's Day Off"

Offered Services From Purple-Dressed Domino

Kiss Interrupted by Alice's Phone Call

Alice with "Devil's Food" Snacks and Blume in Love (1973) on TV

Two Books in Domino's Bedroom Bookcase

Masks on Domino's Wall, and "Tree of Life" Bedspread

Walking aimlessly in the street, Bill watched a couple passionately making out in front of 'Nipped in the Bud' - a green-tinted flower shop with Christmas lights in the window. The male was grabbing the female's buttocks through her red leggings. Directly behind them in the window was a St. Nick statue - a reminder of Nick Nightingale's gifted pairings of sexual partners, although Bill's luck in consummating his lust was always 'nipped in the bud.'

He was deliberately bumped into and rebuked by rowdy, homophobic Yale students who called him a "faggot" and a "macho man" - they derided him as they flashed their butts at him: "You want to take a ride in this fudge-tunnel, you stupid faggot?" - the allegations aroused Bill's feelings of sexual inadequacy and weakness (in the wake of Alice's confessions), and subconsciously urged him to find sexual satisfaction.

A little past midnight, he was invited into the "cozy" place (decorated with 'rainbow-colored' Christmas lights) by a street hooker in a black/white striped fur jacket who was named Domino (Vinessa Shaw). [Note: Domino did not offer her name to Bill - he only learned her name on his second visit from her roommate. Her name signified a type or style of mask used in ritualistic gatherings.] Domino propositioned Bill with a loaded double-entendre invitation: "How'd you like to have a little fun?...Would you like to come inside with me?" Bill was appalled by the cramped, low-class dirty apartment, its messy kitchen with stacks of unwashed dishes, two bras hanging above a bathtub filled with presents and one golden shoe, and posted Christmas cards (one was a winged cupid figure). After his awkward question about payment ("So, uhm, do you, do you suppose we should talk about money?"), he was very easily tempted to engage her sexual services for $150, but didn't explicitly specify what sex act he wanted - he left it up to her: "What do you recommend?"; she was reluctant to be clear about their transactional act and proposed a sexual surprise: "I'd rather not put it into words. How about you just leave it up to me?" He responded: "I'm in your hands!"

Meanwhile, Alice was watching director Paul Mazursky's Blume in Love (1973) on a small TV in her kitchen, a kiss-and-make-up comedic romance, while she was eating SnackWells "Devil's Food" Cookie Cakes with milk. In the brief scene, American divorce lawyer Stephen Blume (George Segal), who had separated from his wife Nina Blume (Susan Anspach) after she caught him cheating, engaged in a table-side conversation with a Venetian waiter: "Thank you." The waiter responded: "Prego, prego," to which he said: "Grazie" while the waiter answered in English: "You're welcome." Blume commented (in voice-over) about the translated double-meanings, expressing some disappointment: "If I was Italian, he would have answered me in Italian!"

After a few kisses in Domino's bedroom (with tribal masks hanging on the wall! and more Christmas lights), Bill was interrupted and 'saved' by a phone call from Alice who subliminally 'knew' that Bill was about to cheat. Her call caused him guilt and thwarted his consummation of sex with her ("Nipped in the Bud"). He again lied to Alice about his whereabouts - telling her that he was still at the Nathansons. Domino reclined next to a stuffed tiger doll (a significant object that tied her to Helena in the film's final sequence). Domino asked meaningfully: "Was that Mrs. Dr. Bill?" and before Bill answered ("Yes, Yes!"), a man outside was very faintly heard saying: "No, No!" When Bill answered his phone call from Alice, notice the two books prominently displayed on Domino's bookcase under her mirror: Introducing Sociology (was she a student at NYU?), and Shadows on a Mirror (about an unfaithful husband). The textbook underlined the fact that prostitution had formed the basis of societal interactions since the beginning of time. When leaving, Bill generously offered to pay Domino $150 for her platonic company.

At the Sonata Cafe

As Bill descended into a Greenwich Village jazz club (also with rainbow-colored lights) known as the Sonata Cafe, he passed a large sign reading: "ALL EXITS ARE FINAL." He ordered a beer and sat at one of the tables - with a white crystal ball centerpiece. Bill again met up with his friend Nick Nightingale. He was playing piano there with a "pick-up band," and then added a very significant sexual statement - that he was a player with "anybody, anywhere."

Nick described how he was no longer living in the city, but resided in Seattle with a wife and four boys, although he had a two-week engagement in NYC. Harford was told that Nick had another mysterious "gig" later that night at 2 am - he had been hired as a professional piano player to offer his services "blindfolded." Nick explained that he had been hired before for the same private event, but "it's in a different place every time." He bragged that previously when his blindfold slipped: "I have seen one or two things in my life, but never, never anything like this and never such women."

[Note: The significance of Nick's last name was now revealed. Nightingale birds are known to 'sing' at night. In this instance, Nick disclosed secret information that led Harford to attend and access a highly private nocturnal event. Nick also functioned as a Mephistophelean character.]

Enticement to Attend Masked Party Before Blue Background

Party Secret Password: Fidelio (a reference to Beethoven's Conjugal love opera Fidelio)

Nightingale's Devilish and Sinister Look

Before a blue light (again signifying danger closeby), Harford was enticed to attend. He demanded to accompany Nick, after his promise of beautiful and willing females: "You know there is no way on earth that you are gonna leave here without taking me with you." Nick agreed that he could attend, but only if he independently crashed the party (with the secret password to enter the exclusive event, the name of a Beethoven opera, Fidelio), and rented a costume and mask to wear.

[Note: Beethoven's opera Fidelio, literally meaning "faithfulness," was about a woman rescuing and sacrificing herself for her politically-imprisoned husband. The ritualistic orgy/party also concluded with the 'sacrifice' of one of the masked female revelers who redemptively offered herself to save one of the male guests.]

The Dream-Like Sequence in the Rainbow Fashions Costume Shop

A taxi delivered Bill to the outside of the Rainbow Fashions Costume Rental Shop. Through the outer gate, he spoke with the new bearded shop owner Mr. Milich (Rade Serbedzija) who was dressed in a robe. He had taken over for Peter Grenning (one of Bill's patients) after he moved to Chicago over a year earlier. Bill volunteered to pay $200 over the normal costume rental fee for the owner's inconvenience. Bill ordered "a tux, a cloak with a hood, and a mask." He specified that he preferred an uncolorful black cloak.

[Note: Behind Bill in the street, a red neon sign read: EROS. The same vertically-hanging white Christmas lights seen at Ziegler's party, and strings of 'rainbow' colored lights, were hanging inside the shop near the costumed life-like mannequins or wrapped around the columns. The interior of the shop was linked to the Ziegler party (and the subsequent orgy party) with its rows of masked mannequins and hanging white lights. Bill was still in the same frame of mind that he had been promised by the two models - to join them and venture to the 'end of the rainbow.']

At the Rainbow Costume Rental Shop:
Lighting Similarities to the Ziegler Party
Threesome Sexual Propositioning
(Two Males with One Female)

In addition, in one of the side glass-partitioned rooms, the proprietor discovered to his shock that his underaged, innocent, bra and panties-adorned, teenaged daughter (Leelee Sobieski) was entertaining (pimping herself out) to two thong-wearing Japanese men (Togo Igawa and Eiji Kusuhara) who were wearing a black and blonde female wig. The nymphet had invited them for a cross-dressing party with take-out food to consume before some sexual shenanigans.

[Note: The young girl represented Bill at Ziegler's party tempted by the two models, and in similar fashion, she was about to be corrupted by the hedonistic world of sexual contact. However, this was a reversal of the gender-threesome situation Bill experienced at the party - now the invitation to sexual exploration was between two men and one female, rather than one man with two females.]

Mr. Milich, who at first represented Bill's conscience, was outraged by the indecency of the two older men and reprimanded them: ("Gentlemen, have you no sense of decency?!"). He also disciplined his "deranged" daughter ("I promise I'll kiss you!...You little whore! I kill you for this!") - he called her a "depraved creature," and ordered her to curtail any further curiosity she had about sex. And he threatened to report the two pedophilic men to the police. The underaged, childlike daughter fled to protective safety behind Harford, grabbed him from behind, and whispered in his ear: "You should have a cloak lined in ermine."

[Note: Ermine, the white fur derived from a short-tailed weasel, was normally worn as a shoulder-cape by Catholic monarchs in the 15th century and by royalty. Its white color signified moral purity. Her hint was a statement of Bill's inner inclination to stop chasing sexual 'rainbow' adventures and instead become morally pure.]

However, Bill did not follow through, exercise caution and follow the path of purity - instead, he attended the masked party wearing a black cloak, not an ermine one.

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