Eyes Wide Shut Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Psychology of adultery in the film Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Meaning Of Eyes Wide Shut, What Is This Drama About, Plot Analysis, Ending Explanation.

Country: USA, UK

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Detective

Year of production: 1999

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Actors: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack

“Eyes Wide Shut” by Stanley Kubrick is a multicomponent film, full of symbols and allegories. It is characterized by a somewhat unnatural development of the plot, some illogicality, sacramentality and viscosity.

The point of the movie “Eyes Wide Shut” is that it is very important to be able to accept yourself completely. This is a movie about the complexities of relationships, about infidelity and marital fidelity.

What is the movie about

Summary of Kubrick’s film. William Harford is a successful New York physician. His wife Alice is a charming, soft, slightly relaxed woman. The marriage between the characters has been around for a long time, they have a seven-year-old daughter, and they are in their own “ecosystem”.

William and AliceTom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as William and Alice, a married couple. Frame from the film.

One day, William’s wealthy patient invites the couple to a Christmas party. This is where Eyes Wide Shut (1999) begins.

At this party, Alice watches all evening how her husband enjoys female attention. Two beautiful women are trying to seduce him, and he really likes it. Meanwhile, one of the guests is also trying to “hit” Alice.

Despite the fact that the heroine is in a rather languid state, she is closely watching how her husband behaves. But at one point, Bill disappears. She guesses what is happening, but nevertheless rejects the gentle invitation to “go upstairs” by the insistent suitor.

Some time after the party, Alice tries to find out if Bill ever cheated on her. He claims to have always been faithful to her. Then Alice goes on a provocation, and asks her husband: what does he think, has she ever cheated on him?

A little surprised, Bill nevertheless replies that he is confident in her. To this, Alice makes him remember a recent trip in which she met with an imposing officer. She confessed to her husband that he aroused a strong attraction in her.

Wanting to stop this strange conversation, Bill goes outside. Walking through New York at night, he cannot get rid of mental images: he clearly sees his wife in the arms of a handsome military man.

Quite by chance, Bill meets his musician friend who performs at events with his eyes closed, and who is well paid for it. Bill becomes interested in what this event is, he follows a friend, and finds himself in a phantasmagoric looking glass. From this moment on, the content of the film becomes more and more like a strange and terrible dream…

Psychological analysis

In many reviews and analyzes, viewers call “Eyes Wide Shut” a Masonic film. But Kubrick’s painting is not a revelation about the life of the elites. What is the movie really about? It is about relationships, and therefore it makes sense to make a psychological analysis of it.

The picture perfectly shows the phenomenology of adultery: it begins in the head, then it penetrates the heart, and then it is clothed in words. One step from word to deed.

The forbidden fruit will always be very tempting, and the subconscious craving for something vicious, probably, is in almost every person.

Once at the party, the heroes, somewhat tired of each other, carelessly flirt with people they like. But the next day, they arrange a night of revelations for each other without demanding an explanation. At this moment, the double bottom of each of them is revealed.

Kubrick brilliantly breaks down the quarrel between husband and wife, and shows how the desire to find out the truth turns into a phantom provocation. It’s scary to listen to what Alice says: and she’s telling the truth, even if it wasn’t…

The movie Eyes Wide Shut is based on a book by Arthur Schnitzler called A Novel of Dreams. What is happening in the book is not only real: there are hints and indications that everything that happened to the characters is a shaky line between dream and reality.

Let’s figure out what the meaning of the picture is, based on the fact that everything that happens happened in reality. And consider the opposite interpretation – that it was a dream.

Everything that happens is real

The plot of the film “Eyes Wide Shut” is built quite logically. There are causal relationships here, there are signs of a real place and time of action. In addition, there is a character system. And here you can see the internal and external conflicts of the characters.

That is, the picture has a clear, logical structure. The orgy in the mansion, despite the seeming surrealism, has prototypes in reality.

William with other womenFrame from the film.

Some viewers are sure that Kubrick’s main idea was to show the secret world of the elites in Eyes Wide Shut, and the hidden meaning of the picture should be sought here. Moreover, it is believed that here the director gave a clue to all the strange deaths of celebrities. In short, the meaning boils down to the fact that “Masons are to blame for everything.”

In the course of the plot, Bill (who is repeatedly persuaded to leave a dangerous place) is exposed by the “high priest”. Miraculously, he manages to escape, but each time he feels that he is under surveillance: one wrong step, and his name will add to the list of New York celebrities who died under strange circumstances.

It was just a dream

In some analysis of the film, it is said that Alice dreamed of all the events. But what if it was Bill’s dream?

We see the entire film through his eyes. During the course of the picture, almost all female characters are sexually attracted to him. These are beautiful models at a party, and the daughter of a deceased doctor’s patient, and a girl of easy virtue … Probably, Bill, being an adherent of traditional values, intensely suppressed his own libido. And in a dream, his unconscious sexual desires, of course, make themselves felt.

He tries to imagine that his wife may also be dissatisfied with a quiet family life, and secretly desire something more. This is where the officer’s story comes from.

Eyes Wide Shut is set on Christmas Eve, a time when a person should focus on the spiritual life. In a dream, the carnal beginning is opposed to the sacred: a terrible orgy is a symbol of this.

Alice, meanwhile, has a very similar dream. Could this be a coincidence? Most probably not.


The mask here is a symbolic image. Everyone wears masks at the orgy. On the one hand, the mask allows you to relax and allow yourself a lot without fear of being recognized. But it is also a symbol of falsehood, lies, duplicity.

It is interesting that Bill does not participate in the orgy, but watches the events from the sidelines. He becomes curious, but he does not cross the line …

Masonic ritualsFrame from the film.

Almost everyone wears masks. For example, under the guise of a respectable member of society, a connoisseur of perverse pleasures may be hiding. In Kubrick’s painting, the loving daughter of a seriously ill man is more interested in an attractive young doctor than in a father. And the mask of a drug addict and a prostitute hides the big heart of a person capable of doing a wonderful deed.

Bill and Alice, as it turns out, also wear masks. As the veil of night falls, they find themselves, in fact, completely unaware of each other.

Pulling off the mask entails the fear of discovering and exposing one’s own desires, and this is very dangerous. Therefore, at an orgy, Bill is told that he is in “mortal danger.” Treason and its discovery is akin to death for the hero. This entails the loss of a wife, a child, and possibly a career.

Almost at the very end, we see a mask that lies next to Alice. This does not mean that she was present at a terrible orgy. Most likely, the appearance of this mask is a signal for Bill: even after a terrible revelation, he must again become a successful doctor from the cover of a magazine.

The meaning of the ending

At the end of the film, Bill and Alice are talking in a supermarket and are trying to figure out how to live their lives. In the finale, Alice tries to analyze her own fantasies about the handsome officer and the adventures of her husband (according to her, it doesn’t matter if they were real or just a dream), and eventually invites him to return to his usual life.

The meaning of the film’s ending is that the couple realized that they should not go beyond their usual roles: this is fraught with immersion in a frightening, dangerous abyss.

She, under the influence of a nightmare, realizes that she loves only her husband. She also understands that her sexual instincts are terrible and will not lead to good. Bill also repents for his rash actions based on feelings of resentment, jealousy and a wounded ego.

sexy nicoleFrame from the film.

After a frank and sincere conversation, Bill and Alice found a way out (albeit not forever) of the crisis. The couple realize that the only thing they need at this stage is to have sex. For a dream imbued with this idea, such an ending seems quite obvious and logical.

In the end, they did not change each other. They walked along the thinnest edge, but did not cross the line. That is, the explanation of the ending is the simplest: they passed the test of this crisis, which every couple has sooner or later.

Kubrick’s film captures the deep psychology of betrayal. More precisely, he talks about how people try to avoid it. The point is that fidelity is a very complex process, which sometimes depends not only on the volitional decision made, but also on circumstances.

Alternative version

There is another interpretation of both the events of the film and its ending. After a terrible adventure, Bill destroys both the child who goes after the monsters, and Alice, who degrades to her subconscious chaotic beginnings, and himself, because he loses his face.

There is the following explanation for this: Bill rejects the experience and returns to the hypocritical puritan morality, refusing the process of further self-knowledge and acceptance of those hidden sexual desires that were revealed to him at night.

Thus, he abdicates responsibility for his own life and does not accept his true nature. That is, he destroys, first of all, that free and rebellious part of his soul, which earlier, until this night, was unknown to him.

masonic orgyFrame from the film.

The meaning of Eyes Wide Shut

If we return to the upper layer of the film, that is, to the Masonic version, then the meaning of the title is interpreted as follows: live under the mask and do not ask unnecessary questions, and then everything will be fine with you.

But if we interpret the plot more deeply, then a completely different meaning of the name of the picture opens up.

Bill had the opportunity to remain open-eyed, to fully accept himself and others. He could grow up, take responsibility for himself and start a conscious life. And then he would not have asked his wife what to do next – he would have known it himself.

However, he feels guilty for his dark side, does not want to accept it and take responsibility. Without recognizing yourself, you can lose yourself. He closed his eyes again. It no longer exists.

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