An article covering a wide range of verified facts and speculative theories about the movie’s unforgettable masks
Published in · 6 min read · Oct 22, 2022
6 min read
Oct 22, 2022
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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The Mask Symbolizes Hidden Truths
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