“Eyes Wide Shut” was adapted from the 1926 German novella “Traumnovelle,” which translates to “Dream Story.” Stanley Kubrick co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Frederic Raphael and made notable changes to the book’s setting, location, and characters. In author Arthur Schnitzler’s original version, the story is set in the early 20th century in Vienna during Mardi Gras. Kubrick chose to update the material by moving his film to New York City in the 1990s, and setting the events during the Christmas season.
In the novella, it is suggested — although never outright stated — that the protagonists Fridolin and Albertina are Jewish, just like their author. In a piece for The New Yorker, “Eyes Wide Shut” co-writer Raphael recalled Kubrick saying that he wanted Tom Cruise’s character — renamed Bill Harford — to be a “Harrison Ford goy” and he wanted the script stripped of any implication of Jewishness. If Kubrick had chosen to keep the protagonists’ original religion intact, the choice to set the movie at Christmas might have added another layer to the isolation and otherness Bill feels at being shut out of the elite secret society he encounters during the film.
Kubrick’s narrative choices and intentions notwithstanding, it’s clear audiences have internalized Christmas’ contribution to the film. In 2018, Facebook user Hugleikur Dagsson created a parody version of the movie’s poster, turning the erotic thriller into a mainstream holiday rom-com. The poster continues to make the rounds on social media as the holiday season approaches, so as far as viewers are concerned, “Eyes Wide Shut” will always be a Christmas movie.