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

Revisiting Places From His Previous Wanderings: Night-time


The Nathanson Residence
Bill phoned the Nathanson residence, but hung up without saying a word when Carl answered the phone.

Domino's Place

At Domino's place (with a blue entry door), Bill arrived with a small white cake box tied with a ribbon. Her roommate Sally (Fay Masterson) answered the door and led him into the kitchen. She began to inform him that Domino might never come back ("She may not even be coming back"). She allowed herself to be seduced and let Bill touch her breast under her blue denim shirt, but they stopped when she mentioned the results of Domino's blood test that morning, revealing that Domino was HIV-positive. Sally assumed that they had slept together and that he was possibly infected.

Bill realized that he would have contracted HIV if he had actually dangerously engaged in sexual relations with Domino the night before. It shocked him to know that he had just barely dodged a life-threatening situation.

Domino mysteriously disappeared for the remainder of the film - a seeming casualty of Bill's adventure. One must ask: Did Domino attend the orgy-party? Was she represented by the red-headed, completely nude female who was offered to Bill to tempt him?

In the background, note the illusion to the Garden of Eden myth. On the back kitchen wall was a small hanging of a green apple with a single, vaginal slice cut out of it.

On the Rain-Slick Night Streets
Bill was immediately followed by danger. A bald-headed stranger (Phil Davies) stalked him on the street, significantly stopping in front of a store labeled: "A Hint of Lace" (with hanging-white Christmas lights in the window). Afterwards across the street, the strange man paused in front of a prominent red STOP sign - and then disappeared around a corner.


He purchased a New York Post newspaper - the headline metaphorically emphasized his life-saving luck: "LUCKY TO BE ALIVE." He entered Sharky's restaurant where he ordered a cappuccino from the counter girl (Cindy Dolenc). The name 'Sharky's' signified that Bill was a small-fish in a vast world of hungry sharks.

He sat down to read his newspaper.

[Note: The front-page headline article actually referred to a rescue incident: "Hero Dog Saves Bronx Family of Six From Deadly Inferno."]

Harford was shocked by one of the newspaper articles, titled: "Ex-beauty queen in hotel drugs overdose" (by-lined Larry Celona, the actual real-life journalistic advisor for the film). 30 year-old ex-beauty queen Amanda "Mandy" Curran, a former Miss New York, was found unconscious in her Florence Hotel room by security personnel. She was last seen when she came into the hotel at 4 am, unstable, giggling and held upright as two large men brought her into the posh hotel. Her agent had been unable to reach her and had notified police. Allegedly, there was no evidence of foul play. She was rushed in her unconscious state to New York Hospital where she later died.

[Note: The two men were presumably the same men who then proceeded to take a bruised Nick Nightingale to his hotel at 4:30 am before driving off with him at 5 am.]

The article also stated that Mandy was "emotionally troubled as a teenager" and had "undergone treatment for depression in her teens." She had hoped to turn her beauty pageant success into an acting gig, although "things hadn't gone as well as she expected." She had been considering several television offers:

"She has many important friends in the fashion and entertainment worlds, and also believed she'd break through in the end. It was just a matter of time. After being hired for a series of magazine ads for London fashion designer Leon Vitali, rumors began circulating of an affair between the two. Soon after her hiring, Vitali empire insiders were reporting that their boss adored Curran - not for how she wore her stunning clothes in public, but for how she wowed him by taking them off in private, seductive solo performances."

[Note: In real life, Leon Vitali was director Stanley Kubrick's personal assistant during the film shoot, and he was listed in the credits as the red-cloaked Master of Ceremonies. He was the one who had warned interloper Bill Harford not to speak publically about what he had witnessed in the secret society's orgy. In the later scene of a bald stalker pursuing Bill on the streets of NYC, there was a Vitali real estate sign hidden in the background. In the film, it was hinted that the Master was having an affair with Mandy, and that she was also involved in an ongoing affair with Ziegler. This was one of many clues that Ziegler and the Master were the same individual.]

Mandy was the self-sacrificing masked reveler (and the OD'd hooker at Ziegler's) who met an ill-fated demise in the hotel, probably with Ziegler present.

The Hospital Morgue

Harford visited the city's major hospital where he was told by the receptionist (Clark Hayes) that patient "Amanda Curran" had died that afternoon at 3:45 pm.

He was led down a corridor by an orderly (Treva Etienne) to the morgue and ushered in to see her corpse in the brightly-lit, sanitized room.

Her prone, lifeless, pale and motionless naked body was pulled out of a stainless steel cabinet-drawer on a pallet, with a label attached to one of her toes. In voice-over, he was reminded of the Mysterious Woman's warning to him in the mansion: "Because it could cost me my life - and possibly yours." She was viewed in a top-view full-frontal shot. Harford undoubtedly was wondering whether she was the Mysterious Woman - who had appeared to him at the orgy.

When Harford moved around to look down at her face on the cold steel table, and stared intently at her, he had an urge to bend down and kiss her - her death mask - but he refrained.

Was her death the end result of saving him at the orgy, if she was the same person as the Mysterious Woman?

Had she died of a drug overdose (simply an accident or suicide), or had she been sacrificed as punishment (foul play)?

Another Visit with Victor Ziegler

Harford was summoned by phone to meet again with Victor. After entering, Bill was escorted by Ziegler's secretary down the winding corridors of the materialistically-expansive, and exhibitionistic luxury apartment. Ziegler (wearing a blue shirt) was in his wood-lined library/pool-room with a strikingly bright, blood-red game table taking up most of the space as a centerpiece - Christmas lights were noticeably absent. To accentuate their class differences even though both were wealthy and elite, Bill refused Ziegler's generous offer of a case of 25 year-old Scotch (and was seen afterwards with his real drink preference in his own kitchen - a cold Budweiser beer consumed from the can).

Tapping and Threatening Gestures of Master of Ceremonies and Ziegler:
At Pool Table and At Masked Party

Tapping with Cue Ball on Red Velvet Pool Table

Tapping With Hand

Threatening Gesture

Bathed in Blue Light - Tapping with Staff on Red Carpet

Pointing Gesture

[Note: Ziegler threw a cue ball back and forth in his hands, and he tapped the surface of the red pool table with the cue ball, with his hand, and with a cube of cue chalk. This repeated the same rhythmic tapping pattern that the Master of Ceremonies (who strolled in a circle on the masked party-orgy's square red carpet, and twirled an incense ball in a circle), had performed with his staff rod on the red-carpet. Here was another direct indication that Ziegler was indeed the amoral Master - the pool table and the cue ball were apt symbols of his manipulation of various socially-inferior participants at the orgy. There were 15 pool balls on the table - and 11 semi-nude females in the "Magic Circle" around the Master.]

During the sequence, Bill again had an opportunity to re-examine his nocturnal experiences that had led to lethal consequences. Ziegler authoritatively stated that their "extremely frank" conversation would be "awkward," but denied it was a "medical problem."

Actually, it concerns you. Bill, I know what happened last night. And I know what's been going on since then. And I think you just might have the wrong idea about one or two things.

Ziegler warned him about attending the masked orgy without authorization, where he had experienced threats to his life, and had been so inquisitive. Ziegler stressed that Bill probably had many misconceptions.

Please, Bill, no games. I was there. At the house. I saw everything that went on. Bill - what the hell did you think you were doing? I couldn't even begin to imagine how you'd heard about it, let alone got yourself through the door.

Then, he placed most of the blame on piano-player Nick for getting Bill involved, and for causing him to enter into the depths of hedonism:

Then I remembered seeing you with that prick piano player Nick whatever the f--k his name was, at my party. And it didn't take much to figure out the rest....Of course it was Nick's fault. If he hadn't mentioned it to you in the first place, none of this would've happened. I recommended that little cocksucker to those people and he's made me look like a complete asshole.

[Note: Nick was the reason that Bill had walked away from Alice at Ziegler's party. It should also be recalled that Nightingale had expressed his desire to often 'walk away' from his responsibilities, that he played with "anybody, anywhere" - and that he might have introduced Bill to the two models for a hedonistic night of pleasure at Ziegler's own party.]

Bill confessed that he had "no idea" that Ziegler was involved in the masked orgy. Victor admitted he had sent a stalker to follow Bill's wanderings (for his own good, he stressed) - including to the hotel to question the clerk where Nick was staying. Ziegler also admitted that two men (the same men who had accompanied Mandy to her hotel) had forcibly escorted Nick (with a bruised face) from his hotel at 4:30 am and put him on a plane to Seattle to return to his family. And then he cautioned Bill about the dangerous situation that he had put himself in with supremely powerful and influential people, and delivered a veil threat about not sleeping so well. He reminded Bill how he had been 'unmasked' at the orgy where he wasn't allowed - when he did not know that there was "no second password."

I don't think you realize what kind of trouble you were in last night. Who do you think those people were? Those were not just ordinary people there. If I told you their names - I'm not gonna tell you their names - but if I did, I don't think you'd sleep so well.... It's because there was no second password. Of course, it didn't help a whole lot that those people arrive in limos and you showed up in a taxi. Or that when they took your coat they found the receipt from the rental house in your pocket made out to you-know-who.

The conversation became more intense when Harford brought up the topic of the female at the masked orgy who tried to warn him. When Bill asked about her, Ziegler callously dismissed her as just a hooker, and claimed the whole thing was just a charade. He had no sympathy for her: "She was a hooker. Sorry, but that's what she was. A hooker. Bill, suppose I told you that everything that happened to you there, the threats, the girl's warnings, her last-minute intervention, suppose I said that all of that was staged. That it was a kind of charade. That it was fake." And then Ziegler explained their real objective - to silence Harford about reporting Ziegler's own social transgressions: "In plain words, to scare the living s--t out of you. To keep you quiet about where you'd been and what you'd seen."

Bill pulled out the newspaper article from his pocket about Mandy's overdose death in the hospital and handed it to Ziegler to read. The masked female at the party who had warned Bill was also the prostitute who was in Ziegler's bedroom and had OD'd during the Christmas party. She was now dead of an overdose and lying in the morgue. Incredulous about Ziegler's account, Bill asked the crucial question about the mystery of her death: how could the "fake" act or "charade" end up with her in the morgue? ("Do you mind telling me what kind of f--king charade ends with somebody turning up dead?").

Ziegler, who appeared to be lying and covering up the circumstances surrounding Mandy's death, turned aggressive and intimidating as he tried to reassure Bill that Mandy's death had nothing to do with the masked party. He asserted himself over Bill as a 'Master' by claiming that he had been out of his "depth" for over a day. He made pointing, threatening gestures, replicating the threat delivered by the Master of Ceremonies at the orgy after Bill was unmasked. Ziegler implicated himself in Mandy's death by his suspicious statement that after the masked orgy, she was taken to the Florence Hotel (by the two men) and OD'd in her locked room (a private and privileged fact not reported in the article) - where he had probably witnessed her death (was he her agent?):

You've been way out of your depth for the last 24 hours. You want to know what kind of charade? I'll tell you exactly what kind. That whole play-acted, 'take me' phony sacrifice that you've been jerking yourself off with had absolutely nothing to do with her real death. Nothing happened to her after you left that party that hadn't happened to her before. She got her brains f--ked out. Period. When they took her home, she was just fine and the rest is right there in the paper. She was a junkie. She OD'd. There was nothing suspicious. Her door was locked from the inside. The police are happy. End of story. Come on. It was always gonna be just a matter of time with her. Remember, you told her so yourself. You remember, the one with the great tits who OD'd in my bathroom? (pause)

[Note: It was very conceivable that Ziegler was involved and present with Mandy during her OD in the hotel when the police arrived, and had offered a bribe to cover up his involvement and complicity. Ziegler used the words: "just a matter of time" - the exact same words quoted in the newspaper article (in a different context) about Mandy's death. Ziegler's assertion that Bill had said the same words was false ("Remember, you told her so yourself").]

Listen, Bill, nobody killed anybody. Someone died. It happens all the time. But life goes on. It always does until it doesn't. But you know that, don't ya?

He approached Bill from behind and semi-threateningly but patronizingly clasped his hands down on his shoulders, after trying to provide Bill with face-saving, expository explanations for all the strange circumstances - Harford's embarrassing unmasking, Nick's bruised beating, and Mandy's death. His last few words masked a death threat: "Life goes on - it always does, until it doesn't."

Ziegler's Threatening-Dangerous Words
Delivered in Blue Light

[Note: There were three different appearances regarding the elusive female character known as "Mandy," the "Mysterious Woman," and the female in the morgue. There had varying body shapes and patterns (statuesque/tall, breast shapes, pubic hair patterns, skin tone) and each played different roles, adding obvious ambiguity to the film. See below for further commentary on these characters.]

Amanda "Mandy" Curran
(Julienne Davis)

Druggie Prostitute
at Ziegler's Party

The "Mysterious Woman"
(Abigail Good)

Masked Female at Orgy
Amanda "Mandy" Curran
(Julienne Davis)

At the Morgue

  1. Was the 'Mysterious Woman' one and the same as Mandy?
    The two characters were played by a different actress because the orgy party was Bill's dream sequence (it was his re-interpretation of the Ziegler party), and she represented an archetype. However, Victor Ziegler confirmed Bill's wish to believe - and his statement - that they were one and the same ("The woman lying dead in the morgue was the woman at the party"). [Note: Some have said that this reference to the "party" was ambiguous and Harford may have misunderstood - was the statement referring to the woman at the Ziegler party or to the female at the masked orgy party?]

  2. Was there foul play in the death of the 'Mysterious Woman'?
    The Mysterious Woman was allegedly punished for melodramatically redeeming Harford and sacrificing herself. According to Ziegler, there was no foul play. The Mysterious Woman's redemptive sacrifice at the orgy party wasn't noble at all, just a charade and 'phony' sacrifice, and she wasn't harmed. And according to the newspaper article and morgue report, Mandy passed away from an inevitable drug OD, and she was the dead woman in the morgue (Ziegler: "She was a junkie. She OD'd. There was nothing suspicious.")

  3. If there was foul play in Mandy's death, what would be the reason?
    Mandy was presumably killed to protect Ziegler's reputation following the embarrassing incident in his bathroom, and to keep her from talking. It was very possible that Nick (a professional pimp) had procured Mandy for Ziegler's pleasure at his Christmas party - and he also had brought the most sexually-tempting nude, masked female to Harford's side at the orgy - and therefore he suffered consequences afterwards.
The Dream Journey's Orgy Party - A Doubling of Ziegler's Party
The Orgy Was a Metaphoric Reimagining and Symbolic Reinterpretation
of Some of the Main Individuals at the Ziegler Party and Elsewhere

Seductive Female:

Mysterious Woman:

Gray-Masked Reveler:
Nick Nightingale
(Viewed on Piano Pedestal
and on Orgy Balcony)

The Red-Cloaked Master of Ceremonies: Ziegler

The Truth-Telling Resolution

The next image was Harford's misplaced rental mask, now resting on his pillow next to Alice, who was sleeping in their blue-tinted bedroom. Who had placed the mask there? (Did Alice put it there as an accusatory gesture toward Bill's hidden lies and deceit? Or did Ziegler's two brutes put it there to serve as a death-threat warning?)

Harford took the advice of Victor and others to stop being so inquisitive and naive, and to avoid further danger by returning home. He entered his living room and turned off his Christmas tree lights - symbolically extinguishing his search to satisfy his desires at the 'end of the rainbow.' After drinking a can of beer in the kitchen, he then entered the bedroom, where he saw his rented mask on the pillow next to her. The mask represented his own self-deception and lost individuality during his two-night search. Now chastened, he realized the damage that he had potentially caused for his relationship and marriage with Alice. His sobbing awakened Alice, who embraced him in her arms - as he admitted his guilt and confessed everything that had happened to him ("I'll tell you everything") - that he had almost cheated on her.

By early morning, both Bill and Alice appeared exhausted and emotionally-spent after their late-night confessional. In particular, Alice's eyes were red and swollen, reflecting her continued worry about the endangerment Bill's indiscretions had caused the Harford family.

The Concluding Christmas Shopping Trip

During a Christmas shopping trip the next day with their seven year-old daughter Helena, the family threesome wandered through the crowded aisles of a toy store.

[Note: in the background, the store was brimming with occult imagery and other meaningful and unusual objects - floating soap bubbles (ephemeral dreams and hopes?), a wreath with stars, and lots of other star decorations on the upper crown molding. There were prominent, propped-up stacks of the red board-game box labeled "MAGIC CIRCLE" - recalling the circle of masked nude prostitutes at the ritualistic orgy. Helena was attracted to a blackish-bluish, old-fashioned baby carriage (similar to the one in Rosemary's Baby). The baby carriage/stroller connected young Helena with Domino - who was in the 'prostitution business' and was possibly groomed from a very young age. Helena also picked up an enlarged teddy bear, and a 'fairy princess' BARBIE doll - fake and perfect. Recall the fairy-angel winged costume Helena wore in the opening scene. Stuffed tigers in a display surrounding Alice resembled the stuffed feline on the bed of hooker Domino - again connecting the two.]

The three basic consumer products that Helena touched, stopped to admire, and wanted as Christmas gifts, were items related to some of the females that had come into contact with her father during his destructive journey:

  • Blue Baby Carriage ("I could put Sabrina in here....It's really pretty") -----> The Stroller outside Domino's Apartment
  • An Oversized Teddy Bear ("I hope Santa Claus gets me one of these for Christmas") and other Stuffed Tigers -----> The Stuffed Tiger on Domino's Bed
  • Diaphanous "Fairy Angel" Barbie Doll -----------> Mr. Milich's Young Lolita-esque Daughter
Unusual Store Objects and Connections to Other Items

"Magic Circle" Game and Stars

Helena's Attraction to a Blackish-Bluish Baby Carriage

Stuffed Tigers in Store Surrounding Alice

Helena's Attraction to a "Fairy Angel" Barbie Doll - A Reference to Milich's Young Daughter

Baby Stroller Outside Domino's Apartment

Stuffed Tiger on Hooker Domino's Bedspread With a "Tree of Life" Design

Although shaken to the core, Bill and Alice continued their conversation as they wandered into the stuffed pet aisle, and Helena ran off ahead (and was never seen again). They both seemed to have safely emerged from their dangerous adventures of infidelity - reconciled and now both valuing marital fidelity, but they still faced an uncertain future. The fact still remained that Mandy was dead - and possibly murdered. Bill asked Alice: "What do you think we should do?" but she only parroted his question and then replied: "I don't know." Were they referring to their future as a couple, or their complicity in covering up Mandy's murder? Were they truly freed from the dark powers inside and out? At the same time, they seemed oblivious to Helena's wanderings about the store to pick out items for herself, while possibly attracted to two older men/customers in the store. Would Helena be the next female victim of the hedonistic, consumer-oriented society?

[Note: They were the same two men seated at a table at the foot of Ziegler's sweeping staircase in the opening party scene when Bill was ushered upstairs.]

Same Two Men at Ziegler Party, in front of statue of Cupid and Psyche
Two Strange Men in Toy Store, Who Disappeared Around a Corner (With Helena Following Them!)

They had survived traumatic, deceptive, baffling 'dream' encounters in the shadowy night to return 'redeemed' to each other - grateful to be alive, although there was still a realization that they must continue to grow together, be aware, and remain "awake":

Alice: Maybe I think we should be grateful. Grateful that we've managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream.
Bill: Are you sure of that?
Alice: Am I sure? Uhm. (She shook her head 'no'.) Oh. Only, only as sure as I am that the reality of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, can ever be the whole truth.
Bill: And no dream is ever just a dream.
Alice: Hmm. The important thing is - we're awake now - and hopefully, for a long time to come.
Bill: Forever.
Alice: Forever?
Bill: Forever.

Alice was very wary of the word "forever" - she urged instead: "Let's not use that word. You know? It frightens me." However, she expressed to him a solution to their marital problems in the present-day real world - her blunt, uncensored desire was to resume their sexual lives together, and make love without their deceptive masks, with real 'eyes wide open' intimacy. However, her proposed feel-good orgasmic solution - to f--k - would only serve as a momentary distraction from their real-world problems, both in their marriage and social lives:

Alice: But I do love you, and you know, there is something very important that we need to do as soon as possible.
Bill: What's that?
Alice: F--k.

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