6. Barry Lyndon (1975)
Although Kubrick’s 1700’s epic “Barry Lyndon” is three hours long, the film only has one brief bathroom scene. Throughout the film, Irish rogue and opportunist Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) schemes his way through Europe to climb to the top of the social hierarchy and marries the wealthy Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson).
Despite its brief inclusion in the film, the bathroom is an intimate space for Redmond to display some of his more sincere feelings toward his wife, as he seems to be legitimately apologising to her for his reckless gambling and constant philandering that is public knowledge among their upper class contemporaries. They share a tender kiss, although Redmond soon goes back to his wicked ways.
Considering the characters are all about keeping up appearances among the wealthy and the elite, here these characters, especially Lady Lyndon in the bathtub, are just people with basic human needs and desires, namely needing to bathe and have romantic love.
With this and how Redmond and Lady Lyndon pretend to be happy in public, this scene furthers Kubrick’s use of the bathroom in that, in the privacy of the bathroom, these characters are unseen by their judgmental peers and can be honest with each other and be genuinely affectionate.
7. The Shining (1980)
Out of all of Kubrick’s films, “The Shining” utilises bathrooms the most as a way of displaying the vulnerability and fragility of each member of the Torrance family, and how both the literal and figurative ghosts of the past can come back to haunt you.
Early in the film, five-year-old Danny (Danny Lloyd) looks into the bathroom mirror in the family’s apartment as he has a vision of the famous shot of the wave of blood coming out of the elevator and all the terror that awaits his family at the Overlook Hotel that causes him to faint. Danny is alone the bathroom where he sees something truly horrible; an ugly side of life that is raw, that is akin to what normally goes on in bathrooms.
Later in the film, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) investigates room 237 at the Overlook and upon entering the room’s bathroom, he sees a naked young woman in the bathtub. The look on Jack’s face when he sees this nude young woman shows man’s never ending desire to have sex with attractive women, even if they are married and do not know these women.
Jack does not even ask this strange woman who she is and why she is in the hotel, which is an effect of being isolated at the Overlook, before embracing and kissing her. She then turns into an old woman with a grossly decaying body, showing that like the previous tenants of the Overlook, the Torrances will go from being among the living to become part of the ugly and sinister ghosts that continue to haunt the hotel.
Jack experiencing these sexual desires in the bathroom is fitting as, like needing to bathe and use the toilet, it is a subject many people are uncomfortable with and is something that should be hidden away.
When Jack later goes to the Overlook’s ballroom, he is led to the bathroom by the butler, Delbert Grady (Philip Stone). Besides going there to wash off the spilt drink on Jack’s clothes, this was obviously done deliberately for Grady to talk to Jack alone in the privacy of the men’s toilets, where only men are allowed, so they can talk about how Jack’s wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), a woman who is not supposed to enter a room designated for men only, as she has been causing them problems.
Grady is very cordial at first as a butler, but Jack bluntly says he knows that Grady killed his family, revealing the ugly truth, which parallels with the other ugly truth that the bathroom they are in is used for urination and defecation. Grady then reveals his true sinister nature and a harsher tone of voice by using a racial slur against the African-American chef Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), and suggesting that Jack “correct” his wife and son, as Grady himself “corrected” his family years earlier.
The last bathroom scene is where Wendy and Danny lock themselves in when Jack chops through the door with an axe. Besides Jack saying the famous line “Here’s Johnny!”, he is also violating the social norm of not intruding on someone using the bathroom. People feel vulnerable when in the bathroom, because they are naked or doing private things in there. In this case, Jack is invading the safe space that bathrooms normally provide, and Wendy’s life is at risk because of his intrusion.
8. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Like the military setting of “Full Metal Jacket”, the platoon’s bathroom is always kept in orderly and pristine fashion, and nothing less than perfect is acceptable. However, by the end of the Parris Island segment of the film, the illusion of the perfect soldier and the perfect bathroom are shattered.
The overweight and slow-witted recruit nicknamed Gomer Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) loses his sanity after constant torment from his drill instructor Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) and being outcast by his fellow recruits. Private Joker (Matthew Modine) finds Pyle sitting on a toilet in the bathroom, known as the head in the military, being crazy with loading a rifle. It is clear that Pyle is intending to shoot up the barracks and kill his fellow recruits, and Joker knows everyone is in danger.
When Hartman is awoken by Pyle’s loud recital of the Rifleman’s Creed, he storms into the head and yells: “What in the name of Jesus H. Christ are you animals doing in my head?” It could be argued that the word ‘head’ could mean both the bathroom and his mind, as the noise is disrupting his sleep. Although up to this point Hartman has had all the power over the recruits, it is now Pyle who has the power over everyone as he holds the rifle.
Despite his life being on the line, Hartman does not let up on his authority and demands Pyle put the rifle down while demeaning him, before Pyle shoots Hartman. Then like Ripper, another military man in “Dr. Strangelove”, Pyle also commits suicide in the bathroom and is victorious in not letting the other characters have any power over them, even if it means having to end their own lives.
The bathroom is the perfect place for Pyle to reveal his psychotic state and for this confronting scene to occur, just as what normally happens in bathrooms is confronting. Pyle has finally lost his innocence and his mind to the military, and now the consequences of such harsh treatment will be felt on Pyle’s peers.
9. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Considering this article has discussed how bathrooms are used to hide bodily functions and animalistic tendencies, it is fitting that the subject of Kubrick’s final film is the ultimate unflattering human need – sex.
In the opening scene, Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) uses the toilet in front of her husband Bill (Tom Cruise), showing she is comfortable enough to urinate in his presence. However, Alice asks Bill how she looks and he says she looks beautiful without even looking at her. This detached answer to her question shows they are not close and that their relationship is troubled, and that Bill takes his wife for granted.
This is juxtaposed with how Bill and Alice act like a normal happy couple when they go to Victor Ziegler’s (Sydney Pollack) party, and they even dance closely together. When arriving at the party, the Harfords and Zieglers are very cordial and formal with each other and both couples appear to be in perfect relationships. However, this act falls apart shortly after when Alice dances sensually with another man and Bill flirts with two women, who is interrupted when Victor urgently requests Bill’s help.
In Victor’s fancy bathroom that includes furniture, lamps, paintings, and other items not needed in a bathroom, Victor and a naked young woman he was having sex with are hiding. The girl has overdosed on a mix of heroin and cocaine and Victor needs Bill to use his medical expertise to revive her.
This scene reveals the real goings-on in Victor’s life, shattering the illusion of a sophisticated middle-aged rich man who, like men of any background, sexually lusts after young women and commits adultery against his wife.
Back at the Harfords’ home, Alice hides marijuana in the bathroom cabinet, again as a way of hiding her true nature that she would want to hide from her young daughter, in that her and Bill use illegal drugs.
When a stoned Bill and Alice are arguing over the fidelity of men and women, Alice is standing in front of the bathroom door in her underwear, foreshadowing a shocking truth she is about to reveal about herself. After Bill’s comment that he does not believe Alice would ever cheat on him because of his misplaced belief that women are less inclined to cheat than men, Alice then reveals her deep dark sexual fantasy about a Naval officer she saw on a family vacation.
Although she merely just saw the man and never spoke to him, she admits she could barely move because of how attracted she was to this mysterious and handsome man. Once she admits that she would have given up her marriage and family for one night of passion with the Naval officer, Bill is stunned and furious, shattering the strong foundation that he thought his marriage had.
It should be noted that Cruise and Kidman were still married in real life when “Eyes Wide Shut” was filmed, so this openness about one baring all in front of the other would have been much like their real marriage. They divorced shortly after the film’s release, so perhaps this contributed to their great performances as a couple in a troubled marriage being so believable.
Author Bio: Matt Wilson is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. His passion for cinema has always been a part of him and he aspires to be a screenwriter or a novelist. He particularly enjoys the films of Michael Cimino, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Verhoeven, David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino.