Is “Eyes Wide Shut” a Requiem for Stanley Kubrick’s Estranged Scientologist Daughter?

Is “Eyes Wide Shut” a Requiem for Stanley Kubrick’s Estranged Scientologist Daughter?
Tom Cruise, as Dr. William Harford, in "Eyes Wide Shut"
(Warner Bros.)

In “The Secret of the Pyramid,” which appeared in the January 2013 issue of the film journal Positif, critic and screenwriter Laurent Vachaud offered a new interpretation of “Eyes Wide Shut,” Stanley Kubrick’s last film, which came out in 1999 and was based on Arthur Schnitzler’s “Dream Story” (1926). After analyzing the omnipresence of triangle patterns in the film’s sets, Vachaud (interviewed this week by ARTINFO) concluded that “Eyes Wide Shut” is much more than a simple story of spousal jealousy. He theorizes that it is about mind control exerted by the secret society to which Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) belongs. Her husband, Bill Harford (Tom Cruise), with “big closed eyes,” is blind to the fact that his wife is part of a cult that provides sex slaves to wealthy elites. This use of women echoes Doctor Strangelove’s final speech, in which he says that “with the right genetic policy, a ratio of 10 females per male, the population could return to its current level within 20 years.”           

In his article, Vachaud wrote that the theme of abused children is at the heart of all Kubrick’s movies since “Lolita,” and that the Harfords’ child would also become, under the control of her mother, a slave of the secret society. Uncovering “barely veiled allusions” to Scientology in “Eyes Wide Shut” (among them the fact that Tom Cruise is himself a zealous Scientologist), the article claimed to discover a parallel between the movie and Kubrick’s personal life. His daughter Vivian Kubrick, who acted in several of her father’s movies, directed a film about the making of “The Shining,” and wrote the music for “Full Metal Jacket” (under the pseudonym Abigail Mead), joined the Scientologists during the preparation for “Eyes Wide Shut” and was no longer speaking to her family as of 1998.

Revealed by Kubrick’s widow in 2010, the disappearance of Vivian into the hands of Scientologists takes on a special resonance after viewing “Eyes Wide Shut,” a film with a deeply lethal atmosphere. Vachaud mentions the disturbing scene where Bill Harford, shocked and upset, learns from a newspaper of the brutal death of Mandy, a young woman whom he was unable to save, while Mozart’s “Requiem” plays. Vachaud concludes that “after this moment, it is hard not to see all of ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ as a father’s requiem for his lost daughter.”

A Kidnapping in the Last Scene of “Eyes Wide Shut”?

Vivian Kubrick’s membership in Scientology was in the news again at the end of July when a 29-minute video created by the site Gasface and titled “Kubrick & The Illuminati” appeared on the web (see below). With images showing most of Vachaud’s theories (Vachaud narrated the film), this web documentary recalls the importance of mind control techniques in Kubrick’s films and mentions the scene with Mozart’s “Requiem.” Vachaud adds something new that didn’t appear in his article: in the last scene of “Eyes Wide Shut,” when the Harfords discuss their marriage in a toy store, their daughter seems to be kidnapped in a disturbing scene in the background.

Indeed, one of the film’s last images shows the child at the end of a store aisle surrounded by three men. Vachaud points out that they were already present early in the movie at the party thrown by Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), an influential member of the secret society that Tom Cruise discovers. The cult thus seems to be shadowing the Harford family, and it’s possible that the daughter will be kidnapped by them — another echo of Vivian Kubrick’s fate, since she disappeared after becoming a Scientologist. Vachaud even suggests that Alice Harford is an accomplice to the kidnapping and that she purposely distracts her husband during it. This seems a natural explanation for Kidman’s anxious, guilty look during the scene.

While “Kubrick & The Illuminati” begins with a shot of Michel Ciment, the editor of the journal Positif, it’s Laurent Vachaud’s voice that is heard in most of the film. But Vachaud told ARTINFO that he had nothing to do with the choice of film clips or editing the documentary, and that its directors alone were responsible for it. In fact, he described himself as “opposed to systematically illustrating the idea with the image,” which gives “the impression that everything is put on the same level,” causing the structured argument of his original article to vanish. Vachaud also spoke of the astonishing cinematographic power of “Eyes Wide Shut,” which he sees as “almost as cosmic a film as ‘2001, A Space Odyssey.’”