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Pavlov Cipher

Part I. – The True Face of Milich

If you’re digging into the depths of Eyes Wide Shut and you’re anything like me, your mind starts racing whenever you hear a line in the film that sounds particularly cryptic. Like during the first scene in Rainbow Fashions, when Bill tells Milich that he should see a trichologist. “What strange emphasis. What a pronounced and weirdly prominent piece of dialogue. Trichologist? ‘Tri‘ meaning three? Three what? Could it be three of…”

What you inevitably find is that your mind follows a chaotic set of directionless breadcrumbs, leading you to dead ends, half-baked free association and imaginary significance.

The secret to decoding Eyes Wide Shut is to let its images float freely in the subconscious, where Kubrick intended to plant them; to let them drift as a nebulous array until somewhere, deep in the recesses of the synaptic aether, two ideas find each other and tessellate before you’re even aware of it.

Relax your mind. Return to first principles.

What do we know about Mr. Milich?

-He talks to Dr. Bill through the door.

-He initially bars entry, but is easily won over.

-He scratches behind his ear and beneath his chin.

-Dr. Bill recommends him to see a trichologist, because he is shedding his hair.

-He detects the two intruders on the property using his hearing.

-He presses his face against the glass compartment before going through the door on the side.

-When he attempts to grab his daughter in a furious rage, he jumps up on the couch.

-He gives Bill something which he then carries around with him in a plastic bag.

Have you guessed him yet?

HELENA: Daddy, am I gonna get a puppy for Christmas?
BILL: We’ll see about that, okay?
HELENA: He could be a watchdog
BILL: We’ll see.

Shit!“, exclaims Bill as he looks down at the plastic Rainbow Fashions bag, while its brown reflection appears in the steelwork at his knees.

Then, seconds later…

It would appear the young Dorothy of Rainbow Fashions is not without her Toto.  

Are there any other watchdogs with hair-shedding problems in Eyes Wide Shut?

What about other kinds of dogs? Service dogs? Guide dogs?

Are the men with golden masks (very well dressed and very well spoken) the same men who retrieve Nick Nightingale from the hotel? One certainly retrieved Bill and brought him to Red Cloak.

What else do dogs do? Don’t they bring you the paper?

Think that’s a stretch? Check the idiosyncratic formatting on the typed warning at the Somerton gate. It’s structured to emulate a newspaper column, as we see later in the film.

I guess we now know why Milich has such a hearty collection of shoes behind his counter at Rainbow Fashions, and lays a pair in front of Bill…

And, besides…

…if reality lies where the rainbow ends…

…who better to tenure it than the colourblind?

Part II. – Miller

In Eyes Wide Shut, there is a name that continually surfaces throughout the film: “Miller”. It is spoken once in dialogue (when Bill tells his secretary to ask a “Dr. Miller” if they can see some of his patients), but is also alluded to and visually referenced at many other points. One allusion of particular interest is that the character name “Milich” appears to be a Slavic analogue for “Miller”. I’ll demonstrate that in a moment.

The first clear visual we get on the name “Miller” is a “Miller Lite” neon beer light when Bill visits Nick Nightingale’s jazz gig. As a quick aside, it’s interesting that we first see the name in the Sonata Café– it seems as though it may be a reference to the famous Glenn Miller, a jazz band leader– just like Nick Nightingale– who mysteriously disappeared… just like Nick Nightingale! At any rate, coincidence or not, this association doesn’t appear to be primary reason that the name “Miller” appears so often in the film.

The main repeating association here appears to be between “Miller” and security locks.

Mr. Milich is keen on locks, with his big security cage which he unlocks to let Bill into Rainbow Fashions. In fact, when he and Bill first pass through it, we can see a locksmith’s on the street outside the window. Note that this locksmith’s is actually geographically impossible: it is standing right where the Sonata Café should be, and doesn’t appear in any other shot during the film.

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

Milich unlocks the bolt on his bedroom door when we see him for the first time. He also locks the two Japanese men in the sealed glass room.

Later, across the road from Milich, where the locksmith supposedly was, we see the Rainbow Fashions bag, reflecting from behind a padlock and sliding grate, just like Milich was earlier (he was also behind the very reflective glass door, which was where we saw him unbolt the door to his bedroom).

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

Seconds later, we can even see the façade of Rainbow Fashions itself, also reflecting in the glass door and also behind yet another padlock. We can then briefly see the Rainbow Fashions storefront as Bill approaches Gillespie’s diner.

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

Here’s a really tricky one, which should certify this linkage for you. When Bill is walking past the hardware store where he meets Domino, he passes a window poster for Master Locks. If you look very closely, you’ll notice that the Miller beer light from the Sonata Café is being reflected from directly across the street, and can be seen in the dead centre of the Master Locks poster as we go by.

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

Fast forward to when Bill is being followed in the street by the bald-headed stalker. We see a store on the corner called “A Hint of Lace”, next to which is aligned a billboard poster.

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

If you find it kind of hard to read what’s on the poster, that’s because it’s upside down for some reason. Flip it over, and you’ll see it’s an advert for Miller Lite, reading “Miller Time“.

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

Next to the billboard, we also see the street sign for this road, which reads– you guessed it– Miller Street.

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

Incidentally, “a hint of lace” is what leads Milich to discover the two men with his daughter. In the shop window, we can see a nighty resembling the one his daughter was wearing, as well as a mannequin like the ones in Rainbow Fashions.

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

With three different references to Milich being presented all at once, it would appear that this particular street corner is especially dedicated to him. In fact, make that four references: when Bill is approaching the news stand here, we can see another “Miller Genuine Draft” beer light in the store window down the street. We get a better look at it a few seconds later, when Bill is entering Sharky’s Cafe.

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut

I want to quickly note here that “A Hint of Lace” is even geographically comparable to Rainbow Fashions. Across the road from Rainbow Fashions is the Sonata Café and Caffè Da Emilio, with the Pescado restaurant across the T intersection. Across the road from “A Hint of Lace” is Sharky’s Café and the stall of a newsvendor played by Emilio D’Alessandro (Kubrick’s personal driver), with the Verona restaurant across the T intersection. Each establishment has a matching counterpart in the corresponding location.

Anyway, what does all of this amount to? A hill of beans? So, Miller and locks. Big deal. Nothing to really write home about here.

…until you remember that Mr. Miller was the head of Station Security in 2001: A Space Odyssey!

r/StanleyKubrick - A very cryptic throwback reference in Eyes Wide Shut


Now that we look back on it, Milich really is ‘head of security’ in his own right.

I suppose we can just call this an easter egg for now. However, it’s worth noting that Bill’s stalker emerges around the aforementioned corner of Miller Street, with its multiple references to Milich. In the first part of the Pavlov cipher, I documented the subtextual relationship between Milich and Bill’s stalker. Given the contexts, I think there is a decent likelihood that the “watchdog” and “security lock” subtexts are related.

Here, we should note the general preponderance of locks, which go from either open-to-closed or closed-to-open throughout the movie:

-The sliding bolt on the Harford’s apartment door, which we see Bill close very deliberately when he returns from the Somerton ritual, but which he leaves open the night that the mask is placed on his pillow.

-The lock on the entrance to Domino’s apartment complex, which she opens for Bill the first time, but which he later bypasses by entering as a resident is leaving.

-Although Rainbow Fashions is locked when Bill goes at night, the next day he enters as someone is leaving, just as he did when returning to Domino’s flat.

-The two Japanese men are locked in the sealed glass room on the first night, but exit freely on the next day.

-The Sonata Café is open on first visit, but padlocked upon return.

-Bill gains access to the Somerton estate on his first visit, but is locked out upon trying to return. The first time, he goes by cab (i.e. without using a car key), whereas the second time, he drives a Range Rover.

-The first use of the password “FIDELIO” gains Bill access to the mansion, but it isn’t accepted the second time.

-After coming home from the masked ball, Bill very pointedly locks the bag from Rainbow Fashions inside a cabinet in his study. Later, we find that the cabinet has been unlocked, with the mask liberated and placed on his pillow.

-The descriptions of Mandy’s death explicitly specify her room as being locked from the inside.

-Worth specifying for it’s relation to the death of Mandy, the film’s other prostitute: the sliding bolt on the door to Domino’s flat is first unlocked by her from the outside, then later by Sally from the inside.

Although it might be too early to suppose, I guess there’s a strong argument that this “lock” subtext is metaphorically sexual in nature, given the general circumstances of the movie. In fact, we could even interpret the last line of the movie (“fuck”) as Alice going from “closed” to “open”, like other locks did for Bill. This would coincide neatly with the film’s Masonic cipher (see the section titled “Doors” on the homepage. It would also make sense for Milich, marrying his roles of “pimp” and “head of security”. I’ll let you be the judge of that for now.

Part III

[Author’s note: this section is currently in the research and drafting phase and will be available soon.]

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