If you celebrate the Christmas holiday chances are that at some point this December you have watched A Christmas Story, Frosty The Snowman and Eyes Wide Shut. Over time these films have become as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Claus himself. But the latter of those three films may deserve more attention than you’re giving it.
When viewed through the trained, critical eye this seemingly innocuous Christmas classic is actually rife with commentary on class, politics, and even sex.
Not since his now infamous milk commercial A Clockwork Orange has Stanley Kubrick snuck so much adult subject matter into something so seemingly innocent. Under the guise of a family friendly holiday romp the master filmmaker subtly paraded marital distress, Illuminati symbolism and sexual taboo right past the untrained eye of a naive, Santa obsessed public.
By opening his film with a warm and familiar setting, the decadent penthouse holiday party of a wealthy New York socialite, Kubrick forces us into letting our guard down. Lulled by yuletide familiarity, the casual viewer will only register themes like Dr. Harford’s dizzying obsession with his wife’s graphic description of a fantasized infidelity on a subconscious level.
It takes a true student of film to watch Tom Cruise tend to an overdosed prostitute in the hosts bedroom and realize “This is building up to something. This is a serious motion picture.”
By the end of the film’s second act the common viewer is so dazzled by the kaleidoscope of Christmas lights and colors that they don’t even pick up on the fact that Tom Cruise’s character has stumbled onto a cryptic orgy populated by powerful and dangerous people.
Perhaps no scene in the film is more saturated with undertones than it’s finale. On the surface we see nothing more than a husband and wife taking their daughter to a busy holiday store to pick out a Christmas present, but look deeper. Look at Nicole Kidman. Look at the way she is looking at Tom Cruise, as if to say “we need to fuck.” Look at the way her lips mouth the words “We need to fuck” and listen to the way her voice says “We need to fuck.” Just re-watch that scene 20 or 30 times and you will see that there’s a lot more going on in Eyes Wide Shut than holiday cheer.
From all of us here at Hard Times, happy holidays. The Password is “Fidelio.”
Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment