The wren, the wren, the King of All Birds,On Saint Stephen's Day he was caught in the furze.Although he is small his family is great.Come out, good lady, and give us a treat!
Although I do like Kubrick's work there are a few films of his that I just can't like. 2001 A Space Odyssey will always make me run screaming for an exit. I can't stand that film. Until recently Eyes Wide Shut had the same effect on me. But now I can say it is an intriguing film. It represents, in my opinion, Kubrick's return to the horror genre. It appears to be a loose sequel to The Shining.
Like The Shining there are a great many fantastic analysis of the film from Jeffrey Scott Bernstein, Tim Kreider, and Rob Ager. The more arcane and paranoid analysis can be found on Vigilant Citizen.
Aside from all those great essays, I really have nothing more to add except for an element not commonly discussed and the reason why I think this film is related to The Shining. Both films are modern plays on old celtic and christian mythology. Kubrick enjoyed layering his films with old mysticism buried under modernism. In The Shining, the retelling of the The Wild Hunt/Cernunnos/Jack O' Green was encoded into the film. It was an eerie sub-message that indicated to the audience that the ghostly elite worshipped ancient, bloody gods. The same mysticism is in this film.
It takes place during the same time of year and the elite are up to their old tricks. There is a key difference. The pagan imagery of Christmas is ever present. The Torrance family were without protection of the Evergreen tree. The Harfords are surrounded by Christmas trees but these trees are bereft of giving protection. Why? The film equates the trees with prostitution/slavery, debauchery, and greedy consumerism. Kubrick argues that the greed that has taken over our culture has destroyed the power of evergreen protection during the winter solstice.
Follow the Wren
The Wren is a sacred bird in many ancient myths. The Native Americans believed it was magical and one of the powerful trickster gods. But I believe Kubrick was more inspired by the darker Druid myth in England. It was said that young Druids, at the winter solstice, would go on a quest to find the nest of the wren. An almost impossible task because Wrens are known to build false nests in order to hide their real home (hence the reason why Wrens are so sacred to many cultures). If the Druid managed to find the wren, he would be celebrated throughout the new year as a wise man. Later on the Wren quest became considerably more macabre with groups called the Wren boys killing a wren then hauling its carcass door to door to sell its feathers.
Can you see the connection now?
The Wren in this film are the various ladies in the film: Mrs. Harford, the drug addict Mandy, doomed prostitute Domino, The Rainbow Girl, the masked woman and even the Harford's daughter Helen.
Bill Harford's journey is started by his wife who startles him when she reveals the "false nest", that she has sexual desire for other men. This destroys Bill's image of her and their family life. It sets him off to find a true woman. But instead what he discovers are more subjugated women, more slaves. Each women is another false nest until he reaches his rainbow's end at Somerton mansion. In that nightmare world the elite practice black magic and blood sacrifice. Bill is pegged as their sacrifice until the true Wren gives herself up for him. Because of her sacrifice Bill is set on a new, wiser journey...to save the women he met on his previous quest. However each women slips past him into ever more danger. All of them, like the masked woman, become sacrificial wrens. Domino discovers that she is HIV positive, the Rainbow Girl is now being sold outright by her father (or is he really her father...hints point to him being an Eastern European white slave trader), and Mandy dies of drug overdose. The last sacrifice is Bill's own hard earned knowledge about society and his place in it. His own wife tells him to forget it all even while their own daughter becomes embroiled in consumerism and vanity.
Unlike the Druid in the old myths, Bill does not become wiser instead he closes his eyes to reality.
Labels: art, commentary, culture, filmmaking, Kubrick, psychology, symbology