The Spellbinding Masks from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Their Meanings (2023)

An article covering a wide range of verified facts and speculative theories about the movie’s unforgettable masks

The Spellbinding Masks from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Their Meanings (1)

(Video) Deconstructing Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut

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Oct 22, 2022


(Video) Eyes Wide Shut - Red cloak unmasked !!! (film analysis)
The Spellbinding Masks from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Their Meanings (3)

The above photo, rotated counterclockwise 90 degrees, resembles a mask with a hood. Tom Cruise forms the left eye, and the red cloak forms the nose.

One reason I love Stanley Kubrick so much is that his films often include many hidden dimensions and allusions. Eyes Wide Shut is possibly his greatest film for this kind of rich potential.

The director starts us off on the journey of decoding what these masks might represent, with a few giveaways. This sets the tone for the fun, speculative exercise of researching and coming up with other theories.

To my knowledge, there are three masks that were identified by the mask-maker (Edward Angoni) and/or Kubrick as having a specific origin story. I’ll talk about those below, and more.

The Spellbinding Masks from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Their Meanings (4)
(Video) Eyes Wide Shut Ritual

The first is Tom Cruise’s mask, which was made from a mold of Ryan O’Neal (from Barry Lyndon). This one isn’t a theory. Kubrick made it clear on official record. But what’s the deeper meaning?

It’s possible that Kubrick was referencing his other favorite of his own films. It’s quite likely he was trying to make Eyes Wide Shut into his crowning achievement, given his age (and the probability that it would be his final film), and the extremes he went to have it made.

And Cruise’s Bill Harford is something like a modern-day Barry. He attempts ambitious social climbing and shortcuts to the top that get him in over his head.

O’Neal was an amateur boxer seeking to go pro before he was an actor. In Barry Lyndon, we see a reference to this when he takes on a much bigger guy in a fight in the military. But this is just amateur play-fighting.

Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is being similarly referenced in this film. There’s Tom Cruise the man, and then the role he plays as Bill, which strike many resonances. Cruise didn’t do much of anything before acting — he was an actor from age 18. But an allusion can be made to the next step in Cruise’s career —as a representative of Scientology.

The mask is thus a kind of marker of parallels. It extends the universe of the movie beyond merely the diegetic plot elements, inviting us to read more into it, into the real lives of its actors and the correlatives of its symbols.

The Spellbinding Masks from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Their Meanings (5)

Here’s another that was identified by the artist. Although the mask could have more subtle and literal meanings in the film, the one I ascribe to most readily is that the mask metaphorically connects this cult (and all it represents) to the origins of America. Washington D.C. (District of Columbia) still bears Columbus’ name.

Dating back to when Columbus first colonized, America was born of corruption, brutality, rape, oppression, and genocide. The future of the nation was based on overthrowing the natives that were already settled, by European zealots on an ideological pilgrimage for spiritual and political domination.

The mask is a symbol of the country’s innate ties to wealth, power, religion, and violence. It being featured prominently in this modern setting, alluding to a present-day elite occult, suggests that many of those old values and influences still linger in some shape or form.

We still celebrate Columbus Day as a national holiday in many places, and there’s an almost revisionist way that society conveniently and passively glosses over how horrible his conquests were for those on the receiving end.

The Spellbinding Masks from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Their Meanings (6)

At least one keen pundit identified this as evoking a strong resemblance to actor Peter Lorre (pictured here). And there is a second version of this mask worn by another among the crowd at the party, as if to under-score its importance — suggesting that the leader wears it and that others follow.

Lorre is known for many roles, but the most famous is a serial killer and child rapist in Fritz Lang’s classic 1931 psychological thriller, M. The only real question is whether the resemblance is accidental — since it wasn’t confirmed by Kubrick or Angoni.

If Kubrick intended it, then it fits well with the occult, illuminati plot hinting at corrupt global conspiracies, dark sexual fetishism, and murder, directly spelled-out in the movie’s above-board storyline.

Another possibility is that this mask is trying to reference not Peter Lorre, but the modern occult grandfather (and “the wickedest man in the world”), Aleister Crowley himself (pictured here). And it does indeed convey some similarity to the snarling, real-life cult leader’s face as well.

The Spellbinding Masks from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Their Meanings (7)

This one really does look like Trump. According to the mask-maker himself, it’s known as the Mary Magdalene mask. But interestingly, it appears to be a man, and without having been told, we would never identify it with the biblical figure.

The fact that it’s red or orange, resembles Trump’s visage, and fits in with masked illuminati cult members is a nice piece of conspiracy theory easter-egging. As Mary Magdalene, it can still mesh well with a symbolic- religious narrative also connecting to Christopher Columbus and more. Thus, I think both might have been intended.

I picture Kubrick checking out the mask collection, picking out this mask, and saying “That looks just like Trump, I’d love to use it!”. The mask maker replying “Oh, you mean the Mary Magdalene mask?” and Kubrick saying “Really? Tell me more”. And then from there adding even more religious references based on Mary Magdalene. But who really knows?

(Video) The Dark Truth Behind Eyes Wide Shut × Behind The Symbolism
The Spellbinding Masks from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Their Meanings (8)

This one is maybe a stretch based on the resemblance alone. But the mask I’m referring to is the largest one in the above photo, second from the left. Though this may seem tenuous at first, what fun is all this unless you can come up with your own ideas — and support them with likelihoods and evidence?

The references to Hubbard (pictured here) and Scientology are everywhere in the film already (I’ve written about this at length), so having a mask dedicated to him at the party would make perfect sense.

There are a number of clues. First is the eyebrows. They’re too dark, since Hubbard is blonde. But if you look at photos of Hubbard, he has unusually dark and thick eyebrows, even for a fair-haired person. He has the same furrowed brow and stupefied expression as the mask in many photos.

Furthermore, the Scientology leader has an obvious scarification or dimple mark on his left check, the same as the mask does. All of these together work nicely to point at the grotesque Scientology leader as a possibility.

For masks not tied to specific people, here are some general ones. The Bauta Mask (a traditional Venetian mask worn by someone who is likely Ziegler, hinted at by the way he nods at Bill).

The Plague Doctor Mask (suggesting possible conspiratorial connections to viruses). And The Sun Mask (worshipping the sun is a common theme in ancient religions).

Beyond Ryan O’Neal (Barry Lyndon), Mary Magdalene, and Christopher Columbus (at least to my knowledge), there is no strict proof that any of the other masks were intended to be tied to unique individuals. Therefore, we can only guess at their hypothetical meanings.

Thanks to all readers and other writers whose works I’ve referenced in the above article. Subscribe to all my stories by clicking here. Become a referred member by clicking here. You might also enjoy these related stories:

(Video) Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Kooky Theories Made From Clues We Shouldn't Overlook

The Gripping True Story Behind Kubrick’s Final Classic: Eyes Wide ShutLove, Scientology, and The
The Monolithic Five: Decisively Ranking Kubrick’s Greatest FilmsMy personal preference after years of deliberation. What’s yours?


What are all the masks in Eyes Wide Shut? ›

Well, there are three main masks displayed in the movie: Bill's mask who is also the protagonist, the Pierrot mask, which is the one worn by the ceremony master, and the Feathered mask, worn by the mysterious woman who guides the protagonist at the masquerade event.

What does the mask mean at the end of Eyes Wide Shut? ›

The Mask Symbolizes Hidden Truths

Bill is in a state of denial about both his wife's sexual autonomy and his own temptations. His eyes may be open, but they are metaphorically shut to the truth of these secret desires. This theme of wilful ignorance is symbolized by the object of the mask.

What is the symbolism of the Eyes Wide Shut? ›

In Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick used masks to symbolize the personas that people put on in society. The masks that the characters wear at the orgy represent the different roles that they play in their everyday lives. The masks give them the freedom to explore their desires without judgment or repercussions.

Who is the masked woman in Eyes Wide Shut? ›

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) - Abigail Good as Mysterious Woman, Masked Party Principal - IMDb.

What is the name of the mask that represents the comedy? ›

The Comedy mask is known as Thalia, who in Greek mythology is the Muse of Comedy and Idyllic Poetry, portrayed as a happy, cheerful young woman crowned with ivy. The Tragedy mask is known as Melpomene, who is the Muse of Tragedy.

What does the daughter whisper in Eyes Wide Shut? ›

I noticed something else you may be interested in when watching the film with subtitles: during the costume scene, Leelee Sobieski's character whispers into the ear of Tom Cruise, “You should get a cloak lined with ermine.” The first meaning of ermine states “weasel fur during the winter which whitens,” and a second ...

What does the laughing and crying mask mean? ›

When used together, the two drama masks are a symbol for the theater. The laughing mask symbolizes comedy, while the crying mask represents tragedy. Modern audiences sometimes ascribe additional meanings: the range of human emotion, for example, or the extremes of the human experience.

Was Nick killed Eyes Wide Shut? ›

Nick Nightingale - Presumably killed off-screen by the secret society as punishment for inviting Bill Harford to their place.

What is the symbolism of eyes? ›

Eyes are probably the most important symbolic sensory organ. They can represent clairvoyance, omniscience, and/or a gateway into the soul. Other qualities that eyes are commonly associated with are: intelligence, light, vigilance, moral conscience, and truth. Looking someone in the eye is a western custom of honesty.

Why did Mandy sacrifice herself in Eyes Wide Shut? ›

Once we ask this, we arrive at an almost too-simple answer: Mandy is killed to protect Ziegler's reputation following the incident in his bathroom.

Who was sacrificed in Eyes Wide Shut? ›

Mandy is considered a hero due to her sacrificing herself for Bill after he saved her from dying after overdosing on speedball. Actress, Julienne Davis considered the role very "risky" as she was fully naked in the film but eventually went for it after being considered by Stanley Kubrick.

What was the password in Eyes Wide Shut? ›

In the novella, the party (which is sparsely attended) uses "Denmark" as the password for entrance; that is significant in that Albertina had her infatuation with her soldier in Denmark; the film's password is "Fidelio".

What did the Mask represent? ›

Masks often represent departed ancestors, spirit beings, and invisible powers. Mask features can be human, animal, or combine elements and features from the human, animal, and spirit worlds. Special significance is given to each decoration, carving, and painting on every mask.

What does the Mask symbolize in the Mask? ›

Throughout the poem, the mask functions primarily as a tool for deception. The members of the speaker's community all “wear the mask” to conceal their pain and suffering, thereby fooling the outside world into the belief that they are in fact content.

What do the comedy and tragedy masks represent? ›

They are symbols of the ancient Greek Muses, Thalia and Melpomene, the Muse of comedy represented by the laughing face, and the Muse of tragedy represented by the weeping face, respectively. Usually depicted on headstones of drama and theater actors.

What does the happy face with a mask mean? ›

What does 😷 Face With Medical Mask emoji mean? The Face With Medical Mask emoji 😷 depicts a yellow face wearing a white surgical mask. It is commonly used in reference to various health and medical topics, from doctors to disease. It is also commonly used to represent feeling sick or disgusted.

What does a happy or sad mask imply? ›

Hence, the “happy” and “sad” masks represent the Muses of Comedy and Tragedy, Thalia and Melpomene, respectively. Thalia is often depicted crowned with ivy, holding a comic mask in her hand.

Where did the smile now cry later come from? ›

Freddy Negrete was 18 and serving time in a juvenile detention facility when the image came to him: the Greek masks of comedy and tragedy paired with the catchphrase “Smile Now, Cry Later.” It was 1974 and Negrete, a member of San Gabriel's La Sangra gang, was incarcerated for a gang-related shooting.

Did Alice cheat on Bill? ›

Although Alice didn't actually go through with the cheating in the end, William is filled with jealousy nonetheless, and immediately leaves the apartment. He spends the night roaming the streets of New York, looking out for a sexual opportunity to get back at his wife with.

What is God's eye symbol? ›

God's eyes are woven on sticks that are crisscrossed. The ends of the sticks represent the basic elements – earth, water, wind, and fire, and the four cardinal directions – north, south, east and west. The center of the eye symbolizes the power of seeing and understanding things we normally cannot see.

What does the 4 eyes mean spiritually? ›

Referred to as wedjat, these amulets represent a human eye enhanced or combined with the characteristic markings of a falcon, and refer to the god Horus. Made in many variations for over 3,000 years, they convey wholeness and health.

What does ice symbolize? ›

Ice stands for Rigidity, Insensitivity, Coldness, Indifference, Hatred.

Why does Mandy have a scar? ›

It's never completely confirmed, but Mandy's gentle and quiet nature —and the garish scar that mars her face — are results of an abusive past. Early in the film, Mandy recounts a traumatizing moment from her childhood when her father attempts to force her and the neighborhood children to kill baby starlings.

Were they married during Eyes Wide Shut? ›

Nicole Kidman says her relationship with Tom Cruise was in a good place when they made the erotic thriller "Eyes Wide Shut." The couple was married when they starred together the 1999 film.

Did Eyes Wide Shut cause divorce? ›

Despite rumors to the contrary, Nicole Kidman is adamant that her role in the 1999 thriller "Eyes Wide Shut" opposite then-husband Tom Cruise did not lead to their divorce.

What is a Bauta mask? ›

The Bauta is a mask which covers the whole face, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of gilding. The Bauta was introduced in the 16th Century and was worn by the upper classes in Venetian society frequently during the year, but by the masses during the Carnival.

What are the eye masks? ›

An eye mask (also known as an under-eye mask) is a smaller version of a sheet mask that targets the delicate skin underneath and around your eyes. Eye masks usually contain hydrating and anti-aging ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, vitamins, or retinol.

What was the Moretta mask used for? ›

Used to convey seduction, anonymous, and silent intentions, the Moretta masks made the woman who wore them rather uninhibited in showing their bodies.

What does the Venetian mask represent? ›

The Venetian masks that are worn during the Carnival of Venice symbolize a number of different things. Some people believe that they represent freedom, while others believe they represent anonymity. They may also be seen as a way to escape from the reality of life for a short period of time.

What is a Moretta mask? ›

The moretta mask, reserved exclusively for women, was a Venetian mask that was round and covered with black velvet. Also known as the 'muta', it perfectly concealed the features of the wearer's face and was very common in Venice in the 18th century.

What is the one eye mask called? ›

An eyepatch is a small patch that is worn in front of one eye. It may be a cloth patch attached around the head by an elastic band or by a string, an adhesive bandage, or a plastic device which is clipped to a pair of glasses.

What is the eye hole mask called? ›

A balaclava, also known as a balaclava helmet, ski mask, or shiesty, is a form of cloth headgear designed to expose only part of the face, usually the eyes and mouth. Depending on style and how it is worn, only the eyes, mouth and nose, or just the front of the face are unprotected.

What is a mask that covers the eyes called? ›

A domino mask is a small, often rounded mask covering only the area around the eyes and the space between them.


1. The Beauty Of Eyes Wide Shut
(The Beauty Of)
2. WTF Happened to Eyes Wide Shut?
(JoBlo Originals)
3. Joe Rogan's Eye's Wide Shut Dave Chappelle Story
(Best of Reddit)
4. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) Official Trailer - Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman Movie HD
(Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers)
5. Eyes Wide Shut (Best Scene)
6. How Tom Cruise’s Career Was Saved By One Mediocre Movie (Mission Impossible Franchise Recap)
(Box Office Bros.)


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