Why I Love Eyes Wide Shut

Constantly, I see people giving Stanley Kubrick’s final film a hard time. Some words that have been used to describe it: boring, slow-paced, uneventful, and off-putting. I describe it as a dark, risque nighttime thriller that changes the way we look at society and ourselves. Tom Cruise, just prior to his career-best role in Magnolia, stars alongside then-wife Nicole Kidman, whose performance contains moments that outshine that of her great acting in the Oscar-winning The Hours.

Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, is undeniably one of his top five, beaten only by 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove and Paths of Glory. It tells of a wealthy doctor (Cruise) who, upon learning of his wife’s (Kidman) sensual contemplations of adultery, embarks on a dangerous night journey to seek revenge. He intends to have an affair and laugh in her face, but he bites of far more than he can chew. His plans for some sexual mischief do not work out, as a date with a prostitute is rudely interrupted and he is caught out when he sneaks into a mansion wherein a disturbing sexual ritual is taking place. That is the first half of the movie. The second half is a series of slightly shocking events which begin to awaken Cruise’s character to the dangers of his curiosity and brutally inform him the consequences which it has earned him.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: yes, it is slow-paced, yes it is uneventful, but these are in no way bad things. The film is not about what happens, or plot, but rather about the dreamlike imagery and razor-sharp truths. Cruise’s Dr. Bill Harford is a naive man, a jealous man, and his wife is undeniably smarter than him. His idiocy and naivety is really the film’s subject, as well as the scathing indictment it presents of social secrecy and proverbial feline murder following querulous investigation.

And as usual, Kubrick’s presentation is fantastic. The lighting in some scenes is reminiscent of that of Barry Lyndon, and the aforementioned dreamlike imagery is spot on and creepily unnerving. His cinematography… it is a wonder he’s never won a Best Director Oscar! The camera sweeps through each scene with unfathomable grace and the presence of Kubrick is always there, a shadow echoing each frame.

Also worth noting, and something that many people never bother to mention when writing reviews, is the music. The film opens to the sound of a beautiful waltz as the characters are introduced, and the music is classical and extremely well chosen, as is all of Kubrick’s delightful tunes. In the film’s second half, their is the notable presence of a benevolent track of music, Gyorgy Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata II, a striking piano piece which still manages to send a chill down my spine each time it is played.

The screenplay, too, is well-written, based on a French novel called Traumnovelle, by an author whose name slips my mind. Kubrick is used to adapting films from books; in fact almost all of his films are adaptations of some sort, and it is an acquired skill which he shows off and employs to his advantage, right up to the striking final ‘fuck’ delivered by Kidman.

All these and more are reasons to embrace this classic drama from Stanley Kubrick. Many people disliked it when it first came out, but I employ you to give it another chance. Perhaps you will change your mind, perhaps you will be surprised, who knows? This is just one of many films that it seems society has sadly overlooked.

My Rating: 9/10

Thanks for reading.


About Tyler

Patient observer of all things film and music, from Béla Tarr to Boards of Canada. Foul mouthed and clinging to the edge of sanity.

Posted on April 13, 2011, in Movie Reviews, Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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