A waltz, by Shoshtakovich (Shostakovich wrote a waltz?) begins to vibrate.
More words: A Film by Stanley Kubrick. Tom Cruise. Nicole Kidman. EYES WIDE SHUT.
Oh, the bliss! The final Kubrick has begun, as Nicole Kidman slithers out of her little black dress before us, baring her white bottom and turning to glace at a sliding mirrored closet door. Tom Cruise (Bill), tuxedoed, paces away from the blue light pounding out of his bathroom, searching for his wallet. Nicole (this is Alice) sits on the toilet, asking if her hair looks alright. "Yes," says Bill, preoccupied with his own reflection. "You're not even looking at it," she says. He glances back at her through the mirror. "It looks beautiful."
The couple gathers their things for a night out, and walk down the hallway of their lavish New York apartment. "What's the babysitter's name?" "Roz." They enter the living room, where Roz sits with their daughter Helena, dressed in angel wings. The lights of a large Christmas tree create a blurry primary-color patina, and Helena asks if she can stay up to watch the Nutcracker. After exchanging the usual goodbyes, the Harfords leave for the Zieglers' Christmas party.
These scenes appear to only set up the situation and introduce our characters. As the couple prepares for the party, we see Bill being very submissive to Alice (though in a good way,) helping with her coat, trailing right behind like a puppy. It's interesting to note that they seem to have a comfortable relationship with each other sexually, as we see Alice using the bathroom while Bill looks at himself in the mirror, and basically it just seems like a normal married couple. Except they're pretty well off. Aside from "realism," these scenes also set up some of our themes and images: Bill searches for his wallet, Alice gazes in mirrors, and the couple interacts both sexually and asexually.
They go to the party and we're introduced to Ziegler, but this seems to be the only person Bill knows. "Do you know anybody here?" says Alice. "Not a soul," Bill replies. Not a soul, indeed. The other people at the party seem soulless and even faceless, as they all wear the same clothes and do the same dance, and are basically just an uninteresting group. They get more interesting much later, but their lack of diversity de moda doesn't seem to change. Wink wink.
Soon Bill makes a discovery - he knows the piano player; it's a guy who he went to med school with, who dropped out. Bill approaches and Alice has to go to the bathroom.
"Nightingale. Nick Nightingale." "Bill! Bill Harford!" I've always hated when movie characters do that. It's annoying, and unrealistic. "Johnson. Michael. Craig Michael. Michael Johnson. Craig. Craig Michael Johnson. It's nice to meet you."
Well these two long-parted friends shoot the breeze, talking of old days and new things: Bill's practice, Nick's piano playing. Nick is dressed in a nice white tux and initially stepped off the bandstand, which was blood red and backed by mirrors. Already Nick sticks out and our newest motif - red - has entered the picture, along with the mirrors, which start to become noticeable. After a few minutes of smalltalk, one of Ziegler's people approaches Nick and tells him that he is needed somewhere. Nick tells Bill that he'll be playing at a cafe in Greenwich later, and to stop by, and then he walks away.
Meanwhile, Alice is on her way to the bathroom, or so she says, and Bill winds up flanked by models as Alice downs a few glasses of champagne and has her inhibition tested by a rather slimy Hungarian fellow named Szandor Savos. Szandor, by the way, is the middle name of the founder of the American Church of Satan -- Anton Szandor LaVey. Make of that what you will. Here we see our basic theme -- human sexuality and attraction in the face of commitment. Will Bill go off with the models? Will Alice and Szandor's lips meet? (After all, he knows his Ovid.) It doesn't matter, really, because the foundation has already been set. It's the thought that counts. (Ovid, incidentally, wrote the "Art of Love," an instructional poem for sexual persuit. Kinky.) Szandor isn't all bad, though, because he puts into words what we will soon discover: "One of the charms of marriage is that it makes deception a necessity for both parties."
The models and Bill seem to be having a nice time, too, flirting and being touchy-feely as Bill toys around with his wedding ring. Unfortuately, the audience is severely disappointed when Bill doesn't get to have gratuitous sex with these two slatterns - Mr. Ziegler needs him upstairs.
Upstairs Bill finds Ziegler worrying over the unconscious body of a hooker named Mandy, who overdosed on a speedball. Two blue Chinese-style dragonheads adorn the sides of the fireplace in Ziegler's WC (wow, I feel lucky with my space heater perched perilously close to the edge of the tub!) There's a large painting of a naked woman on a red backgroud above the fireplace, too. Interesting decor. "Mandy, open your eyes," says Bill. We will soon learn that the old "log in your eye" proverb still applies, and well.
Cutting back to the dance below, Alice floats around in Szandor's preying arms, and he asks about Ziegler's sculpture collection, which is upstairs. Are Bill and Ziegler and Mandy just sculptures? Hmm. . .
Bill's wonderful doctorship seems to have save Mandy's life. He's very good at what he does: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! All Bill does is say "Hey, can you hear me?" Give me a break! This guy isn't even a real doctor, is he? That's not the point, though, because he's miraculously pulled Mandy from the brink of death and covered her in a blanket, and Ziegler thanks him, and Bill can now go home.
Downstairs, Alice shrugs Szandor off, and thus she and Bill eventually find their way back to one another and go home.
That night, after bedding down Helena (who reads out loud from a book: ". . .before me when I jump into my bed. . .") Bill and Alice make love, and we see them begin to fondle each other in front of the mirror. This famous scene is really striking in context and foreshadows the conversation the next night. Bill is very passionate about the whole thing, but Alice seems to be. . .not disinterested. . .but distracted by her own image. She looks into the mirror at herself, as if to say "is this right?" It's a very haunting scene and I think I don't do it justice here.
The next day is filled with Christmassy joy: Bill watches football and drinks beer like a true man while his lady slaves away wrapping presents. "We should thank the Zieglers for the party last night." Yes, indeed.
That night they have a very heated argument after smoking a joint. It begins when Alice asks Bill who the girls were. "Just some. . .models," replies Bill. Alice asks if he fucked them, and he says that he didn't, he got called away (because Ziegler wasn't feeling well. . .here Bill breaks some ground by lying to Alice, involving himself in Ziegler's world) and besides, he loves her and he wouldn't do it. He asks about Szandor. "What did he want?" "Mmmm. . .sex," Alice says. "You mean he wanted to fuck my wife? Well, that's understandable." Alice finds this hurtful. "Whoa, whoa!" she says. Alice yells at Bill: the only reason any man would talk to me is because they want to fuck me? "Well, we all know how men are," says Bill. Alice stabs at the air. "So, by that logic, you wanted to fuck those girls?" Bill calls himself an exception, because he happens to be married, and he loves Alice, and he would never lie to her. Ha. Alice asks about Dr. Bill's female patients; if they think about sex while they're "getting their little titties squeezed." Bill says no, they aren't, because they're afraid of what might be found. This is a pretty weird-sounding statement when it's said, and it strikes me that it could be a metaphor for the theme of the movie -- masks and denial. "They're afraid of what I might find." Aren't we all? Note the red, red sheets and blue, blue light emitting from the bathroom.
(A side note about miscellaneous things: look at the books on the desk: They're books by Longford, Ian Foster, and Wilbur Smith. Hmm. Also, and this is adorable, there are some VHS tapes by their TV. I think I see Taxi Driver! And is that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? Aww! The Koob is a sweet, sweet man.)
Anyway, Alice sort of contradicts Bill's notions that women don't think about sex the same way men do by telling him about a Naval Officer she fantasized about, even during sex with Bill, at Cape Cod the previous summer. She tells the story with great passion and detail, and it really seems to tear Bill up, as he sits on the bed completely awestruck by what his wife just told him: even though I love you, and making love with you is good, sometimes I really want other men. I was willing to give myself to that man if he wanted.
The phone rings. Bill answers, and the news he gets sounds pretty dire.
Bill has to go to visit Marion Nathanson, as her father just died. Or, as he puts it, he has "to go over there and show [his] face." I'll get back to the "face" thing, but just remember that.