This film is a masterpiece of art. Kubrick's apotheosis. The real attains the symbolic by a mastery of means and a sure instinct for the essence of his tale. Dream and waking reality are interwoven. Sex, the unconscious, and the dark angels of black passions swoop down upon a meaningless Christmas sentimentality. The story is bigger than Kubrick. He does not interpret it. He tells it. The story tells of passion's blade turned in the guts of the possessive. Both Alice and Bill are complacently assured at the beginning of the story. The balance of power is tipped towards the male. The party precipitates an eruption of passionate and irrational forces. Under the influence of wine and music, a pagan dissolution of boundaries, a promiscuity, is unleashed. The female below the woman is touched into life. She asserts her freedom, authority, and power. Against the male, but for no reason. She provokes jealousy and the male finds himself in a "dark wood". He is like the archetypal hero the hubris of whom is representative and ordinary. The voluptuous image of his wife being willingly ravished transforms "his wife" into the Other woman, who has power over him. He is knocked off his perch by the rude forces of aggressive instinct which identify him as effeminate, non-male, as "faggot". Bill descends into the underworld, where the mask is the symbol of the type, the archetype. Not ideas, but beings. The paradox of the revealing mask following the double negative of the mask masking the mask of personality, - of the consciously controlled, social and personal being. With this descent comes the invasion of the dream dimension. The female does not (perhaps cannot) descend. She is the least conscious, and most effective. She is the dream incarnate, oracular, and absolute. By the end the story, the balance of power is entirely her way. Bill turns to her instinctively and submissively for the answer as to "what shall we do?" She says that "one night is not the whole truth." He says "that a dream is not only a dream." "But we are awake!" She replies. She balks at his insistence of the word "forever". Which means for him, an eternal restoration, of how it was, and a promise that the dream will never invade again. Alice holds him off from this illusion. She wants a living man, tensely alert. Bill was not really awakened by his descent into the underworld, he was merely awakened to the possibility of awakening. And he is marked for life. Perhaps fatally, for his relationship with Alice. But Bill's confession is pure. It has no further intention beyond its unburdening, cleansing, and healing. What has he betrayed? Has he betrayed anything more consciously, than she has unconsciously? Interestingly, Kubrick casts the wealthy Jewish Ziegler as the master of his ceremonies. Ziegler is carefully all seeing, and all knowing, master of both under and overworlds. Ziegler keeps a paternal eye over Bill who is not an initiate to things which would make him "sleep differently at night". Ziegler is the dark Jehovah in a world of infernal light.
An absolute triumph of the film is the interweaving of the dream world with the awake world, the world as culturally and socially presented, as the one with which we should alone identify; and the world as individually , intimately, and uniquely presented. In the former, the individual is a mere things amongst other things within a meaning which is only privately accessible. It is the knowledge, concept, and control over things which relieves it of its threat. This is the threat of the object as object only, threatening to negate the subject, except as subject-to, the indifference of the object Whereas, in the latter dream dimension it is the subject which presents its 'objectivity' as beings, as the actual other beings with whom it dreams, and is being dreamed. Here it is meaning which has reality status, with which all things are charged, and cannot be conceptualised, possessed, but only lived. The reality and ultimate meaning of the dream is referred to, and confirmed by the dreamer, and only through the dreamer to the knower. This "dreamer" may only express (or confess) his knowledge through the conduit of a story telling, imaging, mind. It is the mind in action with its body, and not reflective and referred to the personal possessive world-as-idea. Mentation has nothing here to hold on to, nothing to grasp, no rest, no weapon. In a world where dream, myth and religion are active, there is also the immanence of personal purpose, and a collective meaning, with a unity, a life, at stake. Rituals of descent are integrated with a waking world unsevered from its dream source. In 1999, the descent can only be destructive. Destructive of the hardening rind which encloses social units of consumption within a radical unconsciousness of neutralised meaning. Sex will always hold the meaning of death, and the renewal of life. And for those who do not know the difference, it is mostly death. Alice and Bill could be anyone, they live in a state of "sin", of confirmed egotism, completely unknowingly. They are broken into, and dispossessed of who they were, when their inner state meets its outer counterpart, and point of waking dream intersection. Even the quality of film Kubrick uses, with a large grain, and slightly off colour, intensifies the transparency of the medium, and sharpens its emotional impact as dream image rather than, but as well as, photographic image. Just as in dream even the most ordinarily insignificant is charged with meaning, so Kubrick by subtle intensifications and stylisations of dialogue and action charges his images. Kubrick films the unfilmable and attains to art. Ambiguity has perhaps never been filmed so unambiguously. Every character delivers a sureness of accomplished form and approaches a definition of "the real" as seamless illusion.