"It does take a few runnings to decide finally how long things should be, especially scenes which do not have narrative advancement as their guideline."
The following is a detailed list of every cut/frame I removed from Eyes Wide Shut with corresponding GIF and Timecode. Scroll down, use the links listed below or the image map replication of the film timeline, edited parts in dark green.
CUT.01A | CUT.01B | CUT.01C | CUT.01D | CUT.01E | CUT.02 | CUT.03 | CUT.04 | CUT.05 | CUT.06 | CUT.07 | CUT.08 | CUT.09 CUT.10 | CUT.11 | CUT.12 | CUT.13 | CUT.14 | CUT.15 | CUT.16 | CUT.17A | CUT.17B | CUT.18A | CUT.18B
CUT.01A | 00:00:48:11
What: Establishing shot outside of Bill & Alice’s Apartment, "New York City".
Why: There 14 still establishing shots of NYC and 14 moving establishing shots of NYC throughout the film. I cut 7 of the still ones and 3 moving ones or 10 out a total 28. From what I observe, the still establishing shots serve very little narrative or emotional purpose other than to orient the audience to where exactly we are in New York City (although there are only a few actual shots of New York City as the film was shot in London- for an in-depth look at this go here).
Since, if you'll notice, the city sounds of these still shots usually comes in very harsh in contrast to the predominantly quiet film, (especially with no movement or central character to follow) I decided to use these shots sparingly as “wake up calls” or as ways to signal a certain shift in Dr. Bill’s internal journey.
For example, I cut almost all of the still establishing shots before the masquerade scene. I felt that Dr. Harford’s growing jealousy and sexual tension was interrupted by these motionless establishing shots and in some cases there were actually two shots that served as wide masters.
After the masquerade, as Dr. Harford's rude awakening begins, he begins a guilt driven investigation for restitution. I felt the still establishing shots were better utilized in this final part of the film to help give the feeling that reality was setting in for Dr. Harford.
CUT.01B | 00:00:53:19
What: Bill & Alice get ready for night out at extremely decedent holiday party.
Why: Despite the fact that I LOVE this opening series of steady-cam shots (CUT.01B-CUT.01E) and though they serve a certain narrative purpose in that it shows the banality of Bill & Alice’s marriage (She asks “how do i look” he responds without even looking at her) I cut this scene and the following ones in lieu of what i felt was ultimately a stronger way to introduce their marital disconnect: Alice drinking alone a party, gets hit on by a man smitten with her and while they dance together she sees her husband flirting with two adorning models. To me, this alternate way of meeting our protagonists, not only shows us just how precarious their fidelity is but also quickly establishes their place among the wealthiest elite of NYC with more visual panache (the steady cam/tracking shot around Kidman is my favorite in the film).
It's also worth mentioning that none of this, the opening scenes at the apartment or even the party, in fact, is in the original novella. The book starts with our couple (Fridolin & Albertin aka Bill & Alice) putting their daughter to bed and then having their conversation about their flirtations from the party the night before.
CUT.01C | 00:01:54:08
What: Bill & Alice kiss their daughter, Helena, goodnight and give instructions to their babysitter, Roz.
Why: As with Cut.01B this scene was cut in lieu of the alternate opening. This seemingly perfunctory scene serves to establish the Harford family and in addition, further accentuate Bill’s emotional disconnect when he doesn't remember their babysitters name (Roz) and furthermore when Roz, in stark contrast to Bill, emphatically compliments Alice’s appearance.
It can also be argued that Helena’s desire to watch the Nutcracker possibly serves two deeper purposes, first as a subtle parallel to the Nutcracker itself, a famous ballet incorporating the dream world as reality (in depth read here) and second to subtly establish the hierarchy of elites controlling the masses through media and entertainment (later Helena asks to buy a fictitious toy called magic circle; see in depth read here). Both purposes, though reflecting Kubrick’s usual innate and often incidental grasp of semiotics, are a bit of a stretch and in the end did not warrant enough reason for me to keep the shot.
CUT.01D | 00:02:40:12
What: Establishing shot outside of Victor Ziegler’s apartment
Why: Another still establishing shot. 2nd out of 7.
CUT.01E | 00:02:45:13
What: Bill & Alice arrive at Victor & Illona Ziegler’s party. They exchange kisses and Christmas pleasantries. He compliments Alice’s appearance and thanks Bill for introducing him to his surgeon.
Why: This scene serves to introduce Victor not only as a patient of Dr. Bill but also as a seemingly happy married man to Illona. His emphatic compliment to Alice comes across as innocent but when he asks Illona whether he compliments women often she insists on playfully disagreeing. Overall this scene is there to set up Victor but, in light of Bill’s journey, it just seems perfunctory and inconsequential; especially after cutting Victor Ziegler’s final scene.
CUT.02 | 00:03:32:14
What: Bill & Alice dance but he seems distracted. Bill recognizes the piano player as Nick Nightingale, his old friend who dropped out of medical school. Bill leaves Alice in order to catch up with Nick, who mentions he is playing a gig downtown at the Sonata Club. Alice, feeling dismissed, downs a glass of champaign.
Why: This sequence further establishes Bill & Alice’s marital problems and introduces Nick, setting up Bill’s later encounter with him. Cutting Nick’s intro does lead to the one conflict in story point that doesn’t make entire sense when Bill finally arrives at Sonata Cafe later in the story, Nick mentions “you made it!” However, it could be that Nick had invited Bill at some other point in time before our story takes place. It works because Bill recognizes Nick’s photo outside the cafe before entering. Overall I didn’t feel like this intro of Nick outweighed the impact of starting with the intro of Alice drinking champaign by herself.
CUT.03 | 00:07:20:18
What: Continuation of Alice and Sandor Szavost’s flirtation. Sandor introduces himself ask Alice if she is familiar with the poet Ovid and the “The Art of Love.” Alice retorts, “Didn’t he wind up all by himself, crying his eyes out, in some place with a very bad climate.” Sandor quips, “ But he also had a good time first, a very good time.”
Why: Though this part of the scene is a nice foreshadowing for Bill’s odyssey it had the feeling of not going anywhere. By jump cutting to them dancing it shows their flirtation progressing and the conversation becomes much more interesting as they get closer to kissing. Its worth mentioning that in order for this jump cut to work I horizontally flipped the first dancing shot in order to keep Sandor and Alice on their corresponding side of the frame, otherwise the jump was too jarring. Only way to notice the flipping of the frame is that Alice’s wedding ring appears to be on her right hand, which actually could be construed to say something quite poignant about Alice’s marriage in a very Room 237 kind of way. The flip was unnecessary after the cut-away to Bill flirting with the models.
CUT.04 | 00:17:02:05
What: Bill admonishes Mandy to take responsibility after overdose.
Why: Bill repeatedly harps on Mandy about rehab and stopping drug use and it began to feel very pedantic. This is a pattern throughout the writing in Eyes Wide Shut: sometimes it was just felt repetitive. To which, you could argue that was the point to help the dream like state of the film but sometimes enough is enough. My official counter argument: did this brief exchange pop out as missing when you watched it?
CUT.05 | 00:43:53:21
What: Rosa, the maid, opens the door for Carl, takes his coat and we follow Carl to the bedroom door.
Why: This is basically a mirror of Bill’s entrance earlier at the beginning of this sequence. I do like the fact that Kubick casted someone who looks a lot like Cruise here and mirroring their entrance really drives that home but I felt that cutting this walk up created more tension inside the room with Marion and Bill having just kissed and makes Carl’s attempt at comfort all the more uncomfortable.
CUT.06 | 00:45:26:00
What: Another still establishing shot.
Why: I cut this particular shot of the city in order to jump straight to Bill walking in deep thought. I felt that Bill’s growing inner turmoil was better served by staying with his character leaving Marion’s apartment and thereby allowing the audience to stay in it with him. This is a good example of my earlier reference to establishing shots being a sort of an emotional “reset” or palette cleansing and here I thought it serves the audience to NOT have a break from Bill’s mental agony as he goes further down the rabbit hole. This is the 3rd of 7 still establishing shots that were cut.
CUT.07 | 00:46:06:07
What: Bill is assaulted and harassed by a group of “Rowdy College Kids”
Why: I believe the purpose of this scene is to further emasculate Bill, thereby deepening his feelings of inadequacy and subsequently propel his sexual escapade. Never once in my viewing of this film did I think that Bill needed this moment to aid him in his motivations. To me, the seeds of jealousy have begun to take root and need no help in blossoming into a series of escalating events. In fact I felt it sort of confused Bill’s motivation since his feelings of inadequacy from Alice’s desire for another man are never expressly stated by Bill and being assaulted by young men in my opinion lends more to desires of violence and not particularly sexual conquest. Also those scenes of Bill’s imagination of Alice with the Naval Officer are so expertly crafted I felt they were motivation enough. Though, don’t get me wrong, I love this scene and was hard to cut simply for it’s not-so-subtle tip of the hat to the droogs in A Clockwork Orange.
CUT.08 | 00:49:06:23
What: A continuation of Bill and Domino’s interaction in which they discuss possible services and agree on a price.
Why: I did not think there was much to gain from this well acted, possibly improvisational discussion. Which stands as it’s inherent problem, it’s just a discussion. Money means nothing to Bill thereby eliminating any possible stakes in this moment. What does the price matter? In addition, discussion about whats going to happening is never quite as compelling as watching what happens. To me, this conversation only deflates the tension being built by anticipation of Bill’s sensual train wreck. Also I loved the idea of cutting from Domino saying, in reference to the dirty dishes in the kitchen, “Sorry about the mess, maid’s day off,” to Alice sitting alone in the kitchen eating snacks, smoking and watching tv waiting up for Bill to come home.
CUT.09 | 00:54:08:01
What: Bill ruminates over leaving and pays Domino in spite of their time being cut short.
Why: I cut this parting exchange in favor of ending on Bill’s desire to stay. In response to her asking if he has to leave he says “I think I do…” and she replies, “Are you sure?…” Bill gives her a brief look of yearning. This specific moment, Bill’s desire unrequited left hanging in the air gives us the feeling that though Bill’s efforts have been thwarted here, the desire looms.
CUT.10 | 01:01:22:17
What: Establishing shot of taxi cab pulling up outside of Rainbow fashions.
Why: The first of 3 moving establishing shots cut. This one in particular was odd in that there are two establishing shots before this scene. This crane shot of the taxi cab arriving, revealing Rainbow Fashions storefront and then a steady cam shot of Bill paying the cab driver, walking up some stairs to a call box revealing Rainbow Fashion’s storefront again in a closer wide shot. I chose the latter because cutting directly to Bill paying the cab driver keeps the momentum moving by immediately connecting us with him and it also reveals the Rainbow Fashions storefront. Two birds with one stone.
CUT.11 | 01:03:02:01
What: Bill confirms if Milich is the new owner and shows him his doctors identification.
Why: Milich sums up exactly how I feel about this part when he shrugs and says, “Ok so you are Dr. Harford!” Things brings up a larger point about Dr. Bill’s repeated ID flashing; Bill uses the ID four times throughout the film. This is the first. The remaining three occur during Bill’s “investigation” of Nick and Mandy’s disappearances (at the cafe next to Sonata, then at Nick’s hotel and finally at the Hospital to see Mandy’s body). Here, I chose to cut instead to Milich dismissing Harford causing him to state his purpose, revealing his desperation and essentially turning this scene into a minor obstacle to what Bill is ultimately in pursuit of. As far as Bill’s ID flashing revealing Bill’s inflated sense of importance or as some have argued, the ID is just another “mask” Bill wears tend to fall flat with me and in this example, dragged the scene down.
CUT.12 | 01:04:14:03
What: Milich takes Bill through his costume shop where they find his daughter cavorting with two older men.
Why: This scene reminds me most of what Kubrick himself cut out of 2001: a space odyssey, “an entire sequence of several shots in which Dave Bowman searches for the replacement antenna part in storage." Or in this case “an entire sequence where a quirk shop owner helps Bill find a costume.” Albeit I am certain this scene is more interesting than the one in 2001, overall it creates such a narrative drag that it begins to become difficult to follow Bill’s character in a way. I lose track of the fact that he is driven by a jealous imaging of his wife with another man. In fact even the cut-aways to Alice having sex stop losing impact because they start to come across as an overcompensating reminders of what this film is really about.
CUT.13 | 01:41:09:10
What: Still establishing shot.
Why: Bill is on a roll here as impromptu investigator and this establishing shot feels like a restart as opposed to a continuation.
CUT.14 | 01:42:26:02
What: The Desk Clerk (Alan Cummings) suspects Bill is a cop, Bill shows him his doctor ID.
Why: Once Bill asks a probing question about Nick Nightingale, the desk clerk gets suspiscious that Bill might be a cop. To me, this moment always came across as a bit facetious in a way since its clear tha,t the desk clerk enjoys divulging information. However, cutting this moment led to one continuity error: The Desk Clerk waves goodbye at the end of the scene saying "anytime Bill." Cutting this ID flashing means that The Desk Clerk would've never learned Bill's name. I personally OK with this because it gave me the briefest of chills to think The Desk Clerk was 1) aware of who Bill was already and 2) anticipated him coming around. Incendentally, I feel this furthers the omnipresence of elite sercret society and ratchets the tension of us watching Bill's dive deeper into this mystery.
CUT.15 | 01:44:41:14
What: After Bill leaves, the desk clerk reconsiders the candid conversation with consternation. Another still establishing shot of the city.
Why: Leaving people hanging is definitely a pattern for Dr. Bill so I was tempted to keep this small part but I preferred to to keep the narrative focused on Bill’s investigation and therefore cut directly to his taxi cab pulling up outside of Rainbow Fashions. I shaved off a few frames early because of the slight camera movement towards the end of the shot matches perfectly with the slight move introducing the taxi cab. This all came together to create a sense of urgency in Bill as he moves through the city.
CUT.16 | 01:45:56:18
What: Milich is finishing his transaction with Bill, when his daughter comes out in lingerie and Bill learns that Milich has come around from the night before and now appears to be supportive of his daughter soliciting herself for prostitution.
Why: I like that this scene plays into the theme of the hyper over-sexualization of our children in our culture, as these are the women that wind up participating in the ritual Bill went to, however, it’s a major departure for a simple payoff that is neither groundbreaking or relevant to the trajectory of Bill's story.
CUT.17A | 01:55:23:03
What: Bill revisits Domino hoping to complete their consummation, instead finds her roommate Sally and after trying to solicit her, she rebuffs and informs him that Domino tested positive for HIV and she has no idea if she is ever coming back.
Why: The removal of this scene marks a major departure from the original version of the film. In the original version, Bill calls Marion (the woman whose father died in the beginning of the film) hoping for a late night hook-up only to have Carl answer the phone. Bill then takes a taxi to Domino’s where he meets Sally. Sally informs him that Domino has HIV and is now missing. Bill goes walking through the streets and finds that he is being followed. Now, with this scene with Sally cut, Bill makes the call to Marion and when Carl answers and Bill is visually troubled, he goes walking and finds he is being followed. To me, this edited version makes sense because when Bill visited Marion for the first time and she made a move a on him, Bill was so disturbed he went walking in the streets and thats where he met Domino for the first time. So what does Bill do again? He calls Marion for a visit and when Carl answers, he is so disturbed he goes walking the streets only the time instead of finding a gorgeous hooker, he finds that he is being followed. Now it could be argued that the scene with Sally is necessary because it provides Bill with a “near miss” scenario which helps him finally put his sexual urges to rest. However, counterpoint to that, I would say that nearly dying at the orgy is reason enough for Bill’s urges to subside and that the phone call with Marion going awry provides just enough shock to put Bill’s urges to rest, hence why Bill is in such clear turmoil.
Making this edit also proved to be technically difficult because of the music cues. With this scene gone it meant that we went straight to the wide shot of Bill walking alone in the city as one car passes through the frame (Cut 17B), then to to a close up of Bill walking where he realizes he is being followed. I cut the wide shot of Bill and moved it to a later point, so that leaves us Bill hanging up the phone going directly to the close up shot of him walking realizing he is being followed. The problem with this is that in the shot with him realizing he is being followed the piano piece, “Musica ricercata, II,” (by Dominic Harlan) is playing in the background. Since I do not have the stem sound files I had to improvise. What I did was find the exact point in the soundtrack file and matched it with the music in the scene, then i extended that file and worked it to fit over the phone call scene. If you watch the original version when Bill calls Marion and Carl answers there is no music over that scene. By doing this it allows the cut to feel organic to the innerlife of Bill and eliminates the harsh intro midway into that piano part.
CUT.17B | 02:01:24:10
What: Bill walks solo in the night. A single car passes.
Why: I thought this shot spoke volumes about what Bill was going through. I loved it so much that instead of cutting it completely I moved it to a later point in the film after Bill visits Mandy’s body in the morgue. That moment in the Morgue, with the edits I made, becomes a very important moment of realization for Bill and this shot of him walking home solemnly afterwards fit perfectly as a transition to him coming home.
This move also presented some technical challenges because of the music tied to it did not match the new scene it follows. The piano piece in the morgue is “Grey Clouds” (also by Dominic Harlan) and when cutting to this shot, “Musica ricercata, II,” would come in abruptly. So, I looked back at the music cue in the original following the morgue shot and saw that Kubrick had “Grey Clouds” play for a little longer over Bill walking through the hospital (Cut 18A) but since that part was now gone, I needed a music cue to bridge all three newly arranged shots together: The morgue, the walking home on the street, and Bills arrival at home. In order to do this I had to completely delete the sound from the walk home and the arrival home so I could put new music over it, which meant that I had to find foley and SFX to replace the atmosphere in the city, the car driving through the frame, Bill unlocking and opening the door, closing the door, and footsteps walking up the hallyway. So I went back through the film with a fine tooth comb to pull all these sounds from other parts of the film and cobbled them together and adjusted them to sound like they were meant to be together akin to an audio Frankenstein. Then I took the end cue from “Musica ricercata, II,” and fit it right to the end of the music cue in the morgue from “Grey Clouds” and extended that cue all the way through to the lower notes of “Musica ricercata, II,” in the hallway right before Bill takes off his jacket. This one sound edit took almost 5 hours to complete and I consider it a darn near miracle that it works as well as it does.
CUT.18A | 02:09:53:01
What: Bill leaves the morgue only to get a phone call from Ziegler who invites him over. He confronts Bill about attending the masked party and informs him the measures the hooker went to save him was all staged to scare Bill to keep him quiet. Bill asks if the hooker was in fact the woman in the morgue and Victor confirms that she was but that she was not murdered and simply died from an overdose which was inevitable given her prior drug overdose at Victor’s party.
Why: By far the longest cut I made - it also happens to be the first. This was the cut that started it all. Its sole purpose is to (sort of) explain what happened throughout the whole film leaving us with the sinking feeling that the elite can and do get away with whatever they please. To be honest, I just don’t think the film needs this scene to create the presense of an all powerful secret society. I personally would rather have this whole thing be a bit mysterious than to have a glib, misleading explanation. Though on that level it does work to simultaneously explain what happened but also leave the sinking feeling that Mandy was in fact murdered.
CUT.18B | 02:24:03:11
What: Transition shot between the Victor Ziegler pool scene and Bill coming home where we see the mask that Bill misplaced sitting on his pillow and Alice sleeping soundly next to it.
Why: I believe that Kubrick used this early reveal of the mask to create dramatic irony for the audience. That we would see the mask and consider its placement and feel a since of dread as Bill meanders his way to bed. With it gone, now we don’t discover the mask until Bill does.
This cut is indicative of my entire approach to this film. Most of what I have cut has all been in service of Bill’s internal journey and Tom Cruise’s magnificent performance in this film. By that, I mean, it seems that Kubrick had constructed a thriller about a man who goes on a sexual odyssey and yet took every detour possible so as to not destroy that thriller but stretch it as far as he could, even to the point of near collapse (Kubrick was outspoken about his desire to change the form of film narrative). This deliberate pacing that Kubrick used was created not only by minutes of Bill walking through city streets and doorways but also by having him run into various characters on the way that nearly blind us of what his original motivation was and unfortunately, draw the attention away from Bill’s character and subsequently Cruise’s performance. Some will argue that this is precisely what gives Eyes Wide Shut its hypnotic appeal and I would agree on many levels. However, I created this version of the film as an experiment to test that exact hypothesis. Can we draw out the psychological thriller aspect of the film and still keep the hypnotic effect? How much can be cut and still retain what we love about this film?