A few days back, as I watched Blow Up, the 60s classic movie by Michelangelo Antonioni, I was moved enough by the eerie similarity of the superficial swinging sixties and our office world to write a full fledged blog post on it. As noted in it, when consulted, my buddy responded saying that it was almost always classic cinema or multiple x-rated ones which reflected the corporate world to perfection on the flickering screens.
And now, as I watched Stanley Kubrick’s not so glorious effort Eyes Wide Shut, I realised that I had been bitten by this bug. The parallels that I stumbled upon were almost eerie and incredible. And as on so many occasions, my curious friend’s strangest aphorisms found their mark in the most bizarre of ways.
Perhaps in no other movie in the history of film making have the two genres of classic and carnal been so inseparably intertwined.
While there obviously is more than a hint of an underlying message, the entire movie is a celebration of fascinating female forms with some of the most beautiful breasts ever captured on camera. If there is one readily recognisable genius in Kubrick’s movie making, it is in the astonishing capacity of weaving some sort of a storyline around the abundance of vital statistics, and managing to sneak in a measure of meaningfulness without getting distracted by the fabulous flesh-fare on display.
The title of the movie itself brings out the essence of our industry. In Blow Up, I had been riveted by the tennis match between the clowns where the audience followed the non-existent ball as the artists pantomimed their way through the game. Here the name Eyes Wide Shut suggested the perpetual state in which we go through the motions, refusing to see through the most glaring of falsehoods, sitting through senior management meetings, vision and mission statements, goal setting and projections, metrics and measurements, sales presentations and appraisal meetings, strategies and innovations ...
However, as Tom Cruise walked through the film, from one almost sexual encounter to another, and sauntered into the much discussed and written about orgy in the country mansion, my subconscious fishing for a concrete parallel finally felt the jerk of the plot biting the bait.
In a prolonged scene which has been interpreted as symbolic depiction of decadence, the rich and powerful are shown indulging themselves in an elaborate ritual while hiding behind Venetian masks. Pseudo religious chants play in the background, as the high priest leads the brotherhood with ornate, predefined and accepted gestures. Women, of excellent assets and hidden faces, accompany the masked men and it all ends up in simultaneous tumults of uncensored promiscuity. Cruise moves from room to room to find more and more debauchery going on with fabulous faceless female figures engaged in various stages of fornication with the men of the cult.
When it is discovered that Tom Cruise has got there without requisite rights, broken ranks and hobnobbed with the screwing society by somehow getting wrongful access to the password, he is brought under trial and tried by the masked high priest of the orgy.
Hiding true selves, elaborate ritualistic sham of sacred rites, cloaking the prostitution of souls and truth under the embellishments of sacramental rules, fooling around with figures under the cloak of ornate importance while achieving nothing other than fustian fucks. Finally, zealously holding on to the exclusivity of decadence, slapping the charges of trespassing on an outsider for daring to step into an area cordoned off as the corridors of power.
As my brain continues to die from the friction and suffocation of cubicular existence, my entire corporate life seems to be run through my mind. And the just described scene seems to mirror the events in graphic parallel. Board rooms, vision and mission formulae, management talk, motivational speeches, policy and process, defilement of actual facts and figures, hauling people up for attitude problems when the mask seems to slip to reveal the decadent demeanour underneath. The fulsome nakedness of the truth staring at our faces while we focus on the facade of organisational self deception, eyes wide shut and gleefully so.