2007-01-05 02:54:39 UTC
that I really don't want to do: spend some time discussing
the "Jungian" content of "Eyes Wide Shut". I hate to do this
because the movie is ultimately so boring that Alex in
"A Clockwork Orange" would have fallen asleep watching it
during re-conditioning even with his "Eyes Propped Open".
But rational intellectual exploration, not to mention
"anal-retentive" completionism, compels me to cover
it more detail than the previous installment.
In some ways, it does seem to serve somewhat as a seque
into the broader issue of Kubrick's conscious or "unconscious"
presentation of images, debatedly "Jungian symbols", in his movies,
and what we might say about Kubrick himself by his selection of
certain specific images or "symbols".
In the last installment, I posed the idea that Kubrick may
have in some way "integrated" his own personal life with a
positive image of a woman (Jungian "anima") in "Paths of Glory",
and that a scene this simple yet so elementally powerful
involving a woman would never be seen in another Kubrick
movie. This is true, but certainly Kubrick's last movie,
"Eyes Wide Shut", was an almost three-hour snoozefest that
didactically presented powerful emotional reactions from a
man when confronted with differing images of women, basically
the dichotomy between whore and mother.
But the movie has a more subtle and intriguing possible
connection to Jung, with perhaps startling implications
about Kubrick's choices of material in the movie and throughtout
his career. This is because it was derived from a novel by a
Vienese contemporary of Sigmund Freud who ostensibly inculcated
his work with Freud's theories of the "subconscious", dream
interpretation, personality development, and "neurosis".
I've previously described that Jung was originally an
acolyte of Freud who eventually developed his own differing
theories on virtually all of the topics that Freud covered.
Freud tended to focus on specific events in early childhood
involving basic biological functions such as eating,
elimination, and "juvenile sexuality" as being the primary
development factor of what he called the "subconscious"
(which of course is basically the same thing as the "unconscious"
of Jung). He thought this "subconscious" would then drive
personality development, and possible "neurosis", throughout
adult life. He also thought that dreams could be "interpreted"
to reveal clues as to the early childhood events that shaped
the "subconscious" before the ability of adult memory, as
part of the process of "psychoanalysis", where a presumably
"neurotic" patient spoke at length about their dreams
and emotions while the "psychoanalyst" guided them to
the most pertinent types of emotions and memories as
theorized by Freud.
I've also described in other threads that Jung has been
sometimes seen as an anti-Semite as evidenced by some of his
writings and comments, and some have speculated that this was
perhaps the true reason for his split with Freud (Freud of
course came from a "Jewish background", while Jung's parents
were from a "Christian background", and in fact his father
was a Christian pastor). Jung sometimes referred to Freudian
psychology as "Jewish psychology" in ostensible "joshing" with
his "colleague" Freud (interestingly, Freud fired back that Jung
practiced "Chinese psychology", as a reference to the many elements
of Eastern mysticism that Jung incorporated into his work, as
well as deriding Jung's writings as being as difficult to
comprehend as the Chinese language!).
So it should be an interesting exercise to explore the
development, ideas, and images in "Eyes Wide Shut", Kubrick's
last movie, to try to come to some definitive conclusions
about Kubrick's overall thematic concepts and film technique
as evidenced by his choices in material and images, in this
specific case a split of ideas between the "Jew" Freud and the
"Christian" Jung, and how they were respectively expressed by
the self-described "atheist" (with a "Jewish background")
There can be no doubt that Kubrick changed a great deal
of the specific content of the novel "Dream World". He
changed the turn-of-the-last-century Vienna locale to modern-day
Manhattan, of course, but more interestingly he changed the
protagonist from Jewish to Christian, and had the events
take place during the "Christmas" holiday, with incessant images
of Christmas trees, and people constantly wishing each other
"Merry Christmas"! This is even more remarkable that the novel
also incorporated some specific plot elements of anti-Semitism,
in addition to its underlying themes derived from what Jung
called the "Jewish psychology" of Freud. Kubrick clearly and
"consciously" eliminated all references to "Semitism" in his
movie; was this a tacit rejection of Freud in favor of Jung?
Of course, some might speculate that Kubrick just "petered out"
when considering the "Semitism" of the original material, and
even perhaps the profusion of Christian images might be some type
of "ironic" or "sarcastic" comment by Kubrick about the split
between Freud and Jung and the related allegations of anti-Semitism
against Jung. In any event, a great deal of the original source
material has been changed for whatever reason; for example,
the relative disparity of wealth and social status of the
key players is also tremendously exagerated compared to the novel,
and this too should be taken into account when analyzing Kubrick's
concepts as expressed by his choices.
I've expressed my opinion that most relevant thing to filmmakers
as "artists" about Jung is the idea that certain images have
emotional resonance as "symbols" of "archetypes". Kubrick not
only acknowledged this explicitly in the case of the monolith
in "2001", but repeatedly made comments about the more powerful
"emotional truth" of non-verbal images and music that almost
exactly mirrored statements by Jung. I've also described that
Jung felt that these images tended to spring naturally from
the "unconscious" rather than as a product of conscious thought,
even for "artists".
But in the case of "Eyes Wide Shut", with it's very significant
changes from the source material, I think we finally have to conclude
that Kubrick's "conscious" mind was at work to make these changes.
So if we see clear-cut "Jungian symbols" in "Eyes Wide Shut" that
absolutely did not appear in the original novel, it's because
Kubrick put them there "consciously".
And there can be no doubt many of the images in "Eyes Wide Shut"
were specifically discussed by Jung. The "Christmas tree" was
described by Jung as a powerful specific cultural "symbol" of
motherhood, with trees generally representing the creation of
new life, and so is a positive feminine "anima" in Jungian terms.
Indeed, the actual cultural tradition of the "Christmas tree"
was started by Martin Luther (a truly notable actual anti-Semite)
for just these symbolic reasons: the evergreen tree represents
the ongoing recreation of life or "motherhood", the "lights"
represent "divinity" (Jung noted that "points of light", such
as stars, have just such a cross-cultural symbolism), so
the "Christmas tree" literally represents the holy "virgin
birth" of Jesus by Mary.
Now if you were to play a "drinking game" where you took
a drink every time a "Christmas tree" appeared in "Eyes Wide
Shut", you'd mercifully be dead long before the movie inevitably
bored you death without ingestion of toxic substances. This is
just as true even if you restrict the drink-taking to only those
times that Kubrick presents an image of a "Christmas tree" (the
"holy" mother "symbol") combined with an image of a "whore" in
the same frame. This can be seen as similar to the combining the
images of "whore" and "mother" in "A Clockwork Orange" as previously
described to create the "unconscious" unsettling sensation of an
infinitely perverted society. But "Eyes Wide Shut" seems to be more
focused on the specific "integration" of one man's emotional
reactions to these "anima" images, somewhat more like
"The Shining" was perhaps the story of a man's failure
to integrate his "shadow" feminine traits leading to
Now of course Freud also covered the topic of "mother vs. whore",
but in a somewhat different way. Freud's theories of male sexual
development involved what he called the "Oedipal conflict", an
early stage in a boy's life in which his first sexual longings
would be directed towards his mother, creating a life-long confusion
in his mind as to the relationship between motherhood and sexual desire.
Now, at this point, I must editorialize just a bit that as
far-fetched as Jung's whacky theories are, they cannot seem more
nutzo than Freud's "Oedipal conflict" theories to the many men who
grew up with your typical cankled pot-bellied gray-haired middle-aged
"moms". However, just one look at a picture of Freud's mother, and
perhaps you can understand the genesis of his "theory" that boys have
a "natural" sexual desire for their mothers, because in Stiflerian
terms SHE WAS A TOTAL MILF, DUDES!!! (Jung's mother was not a
bad-looking woman, but not TOTALLY SMOKIN' HOT like Freud's.)
And just as "another county heard from", something else
that Kubrick might have considered when making the movie,
modern evolutionary theory would tend to see a man's relative
level of sexual attraction to a woman as a function of her
apparent ability to conceive, bear, and raise new children,
as determined by a visual evaluation of her age, health, and
apparent previous childbirth. Men find young, healthy women
without the burden of existing children to be more "attractive"
sexually, as an instinctual imperative. Women, on the
other hand, should only accept sexual advances from the
healthiest and most "powerful" of males, to ensure that
only the fittest genes are perpetuated.
Note that all of these concepts come into play in explicit
dialog references in the key scene in the movie that triggers
"Bill Harford"'s seeking then finally rejecting prostitutes
in the movie, the scene in which Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman
argue after smoking marijuana.
In the scene, they "argue" about the specific nature
of male and female sexuality, and their personal thoughts
on the subject as it relates to their own marriage.
Nicole first becomes enraged that Tom appears to only
value her for her sexual and reproductive qualities, because
he says he's not surprised that men talk to her "because
you're a very beautiful woman". She then becomes even more
agitated when he tells her he has no doubts that she would
ever cheat on him, "if only because you are the mother of
my child", which is also the same reason he gives that
he would never cheat on her "because I respect you too
much". She then brings up the evolutionary imperative
theory, which he agrees with, that women are not "programmed"
by species survival instincts to cheat after child-birth
because they must devote their energy to raising children.
Then she does it, she confronts Tom with the startling
admission that she not only WOULD cheat on him, she had
been strongly impelled to do so once just by the sight
of a "Naval officer". This causes Tom to exhibit the
classic "Kubrick stare", a wordless seemingly primitive
unblinking facial expression that we see in many Kubrick
movies at crucial times, indicating that he is confounded
beyond words by her revelation. And this is how Kubrick
depicts this crucial turning point in the movie. The
remainder of the movie is clearly nothing more than
a series of events and images that dramatize and symbolize
Cruise's attempt to "resolve" his mental state and
his "relationship" with his "significant other".
So the question is: was Kubrick explicitly expressing
the "Freudian" theories inherent in the original source
material, or explicating some version of the anthropological
evolutionary imperative theory, or rejecting both in favor
of a Jungian analysis, or perhaps "artistically" melding
together some combination of all the ideas, perhaps
using his previously-stated knowledge of Jungian "archetypes"
to lend "emotional resonance" to his movie as in "2001"?
From a "Freudian" standpoint, Cruise is apparently
"faithfully" attracted sexually to his self-described
"mother figure", in this case, his wife. His emotional
reaction to her partial rejection of his devotion can be
seen as a representation of the kind of childhood trama
that Freud theorized occurs when a boy's sexual longings
for his mother must naturally be thwarted. In her
admission of lust, she even expresses almost a "mother's
love" for him, saying that her love for him was never
greater, but that it was "tender and sad". But Tom
still feels the loss of a mother's unconditional love
at that point, which according to Freud's theories is
a devestating blow.
From the evolutionary instinctive standpoint, he also
reacts as if rejected, but it is his instinctive "male ego"
that has been wounded by a rejection of his sexual advances,
which lowers his overall "breeding rights" status as an
"alpha male". However, we see he is soon is "back on the hunt"
for sexual conquests as an attempt to regain his former
"pack position". Her statements about her "tender and
sad" love for him are in this case even MORE of a challenge to
his view of his position as a "powerful man" in "society".
From a Jungian standpoint, he just got the shock of his
life, to his previously "well-integrated" personality. His
comfortable acceptance of his positive feminine "anima", as
evidenced by a loving mother image for his wife, was replaced
with a new "obsessive" image of his wife as a "whore". He is
completely confounded as to how to "integrate" this new "symbol"
of his wife as BOTH a "whore" AND a "mother".
Note that there is another pivotal scene later in the
movie, where Cruise again exhibits the "Kubrick stare"
while watching his wife nuture her child by helping her
with her homework. In this case, Kubrick (or perhaps
somebody at Warner Brother's after his death) provides
a voice-over of his "thoughts" as he recalls her words
describing a dream she had about having sex with multiple
men. This sets Cruise off again in search of the same
prostitute he had seen the night before. It is an explicit
scene depicting the "whore-mother" dichotomy that runs
throughout the movie. Since all three theories of the
possible theme of the movie seem to conincide on that
dichotomy, we can't really determine from this whether
Kubrick tacitly endorses any particular one. However,
we still must note that Kubrick DID choose to use the
"Christian" symbol of the "Christmas tree" in conjunction
with prostitutes as a much more subtle, perhaps
emotionally-resonant "Jungian" image throughout the
movie. So does Kubrick seem to be "tipping the
scales" in favor of Jung in at least some sense, if
only "symbolic" ("artistic")?
So aside from conceptually-ambiguous images of "mother"
("Christmas trees"?) and "whore" (sexually attractive and
receptive women, but without the required evolutionary
imperative of raising the chilluns?), are there any other
specific Jungian "symbols" that we can find in "Eyes Wide Shut"?
Well, the mask that Tom Cruise wears appears to be a
derivation of the "mandala" symbol that I've described before,
which Jung found in Eastern cultures that corresponded to the
"labyrinth" symbol in other cultures, which represents the
"unconscious self-discovery archetype". The mask is that of
a man's emotionless face, but with an ornate intricate golden
"arabesque" featuring a maze-like pattern that extends from
the forehead down to the mouth (the pattern also looks
somewhat like the "folds" of the physical human brain).
In shape and general pattern it does look like the circular
"mandala" with a human face breaking through the maze pattern
at the center of "verbal" communication, the mouth.
Notably, we see Tom Cruise wearing this mask as he "explores"
the "labyrinth" of the mansion orgy, which Kubrick
even more notably accompanies with Eastern mystical
Now this seems to tip the scales even more so in favor
of Kubrick using Jung, which Freud derided as "Chinese
psychology", for at least his "emotionally resonant"
presentation of his subject. The use of the music also
conjures up a feeling of "primitive prehistory", positing
the theme that Kubrick is exploring as being rooted in
earliest beginnings of human existence. This is true
of the evolutionary imperative theory, and Jung's theories,
but have MUCH less to do with Freud's theories that
tended to limit themselves to the development of the
In relation to the mouth of Cruise's mask not being
covered by the "labyrinth", we can note that there was
another mask in the orgy scene that had no mouth at all.
That was the mask that we assume covered the face of
Ziegler. This was part of a constant theme of verbal vs.
non-verbal communication that ran throughout the movie.
The initial argument began when Nicole taunted Tom
by saying, "If you only knew what women really feel...",
and then proceeds to TELL him, with disasterous results.
Later at the orgy, Tom is threatened to "never speak of
what you saw here". Tom is also driven back to the "whores"
of the night before by unwisely asking his wife to
describe her dream of group sex. But the situation is
only apparently resolved when Tom sees the "mandala"
mask on the marital bed next to his "whore-mother" wife.
He then breaks down weeping and says, "I'll tell you
everything", apparently leading to an unseen reconciliation
with his wife.
Of course, a theme of verbal vs. non-verbal communication
fits both Jungian and Freudian theories, but seems to fit
Jung just a little better. Freud pioneered the practice of
"psychoanalysis" that involved long sessions of directed
communication between an analyst and a "patient", eventually
hopefully leading to a "cathartic" emotional breakthrough and
resolution. And Jung thought that the key to non-neurotic
behavior was to "integrate" the verbal conscious rational
portions of our lives with the non-verbal "unconscious"
irrational portions, to not "supress" our "shadow"
unconscious traits. The final resolution of the movie
seems to less about "psychoanalysis", and more about
the Cruise character successfully "integrating" his conflicting
negative and positive feminine "shadow" traits after a
potentially deadly journey through the "labyrinth" of
his "unconscious mind". The final key to his success was
the acceptance of his feminine traits, as opposed to the
disaster depicted in "The Shining".
Of course, for the evolutionary imperative theorists, Tom
had nowhere else to go after the clear evidence of the mask
on the bed "brought home" that he was dealing with much,
much more "powerful" men than he, men that could easily carry
through with their threats against him, men whose power included
not only wealth but secrecy and subversion in the modern age. He
HAD to accept a position of lesser "breeding rights" in "society",
or face certain death at the hands of the true "alpha males".
He elected, as do most subordinate mammal males when
challenged, to survive to "breed" another day. This has
literally been true for millions of years, right to the
In any event, I think we can clearly conclude that Kubrick's
last movie, though I thought it a failure, represented the sum
of all he had learned over the years. And by choosing certain
Jungian "symbols", despite their apparent conflict with the
actual source material for "Eyes Wide Shut", he demonstrated
that he was again trying to provide an "artistic" depiction
of the "essence" of his theme, trying to provide non-verbal
images and music that have "emotional resonance" with audiences,
just as had learned so long ago when making "2001", when he
"Sometimes the truth of a thing is not so much the think
of it, but the feel of it."
- Stanley Kubrick
Now for the next installment, I really WILL try to tie up
this whole exercise with an actual end, if not a conclusion...
William Ernest "Alphabet She-Male" Reid