Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack
Will leave your eyes firmly wide open!
Over ten years later Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut is released to the world. I was only four years old at the time, but I could imagine the hype. The final film of arguably the greatest film director to have ever lived. The final cut of Eyes Wide Shut was delivered to Warner Brothers four days prior to Stanley’s mysterious death. Stanley called the film his “greatest contribution to the art of cinema” but it was greeted with hostility and it’s easy to see why. Eyes Wide Shut is arguably his most impenetrable film. The average cinemagoer can appreciate the horror of The Shining and the comedy of Dr. Strangelove without digging deeper into them. However, Eyes Wide Shut is very difficult to enjoy without unlocking those hidden meanings and symbols.
It’s possibly his most enigmatic and mysterious film, arguably even more so than 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. The eye-popping finale to 2001 has more or less been unlocked, but the secrets that lie within Eyes Wide Shut still remain closed and debated upon just like The Shining still is today. However, whilst The Shining is universally lauded as a masterpiece, Eyes Wide Shut is still yet to receive the recognition it deserves. I remember when I first saw the film one night, on my own and finding it incredibly slow but intriguing. I also remember finding a lot of it very frightening.
Last night I gave it a re-watch with my sister and mother by my side. My sister switched off about twenty minutes in and started playing on her phone, whilst my mother said once it finished “Well, I’m not surprised he died after making that shite!” which of course makes no sense, but you don’t know my Mum. I definitely found a new appreciation for it though. There’s so much going on in the film that it’s impossible to take it all in on your first viewing. You’ll probably end up disliking it, but give it a few days and you’ll find yourself pondering over it. You may even find yourself becoming haunted by it like Dr. Bill’s guilty conscience.
At its core, Eyes Wide Shut is a Lynchian mystery set in a dreamy New York City. Most know all the bizarre plot twists and turns now, but the less you know the better. Like most Stanley films, Eyes Wide Shut is more of an experience that can’t be put into words. It’s not the type of film you can dip in and out of, you have to watch it all the way through and give it your full attention. Watching Tom cruise walking down the street shouldn’t be interesting, but something about it keeps you inexplicably transfixed to the screen. Similarly, the seemingly never ending monologues carry a hypnotic grip on your senses, such as Nicole’s dreamy drug-fuelled confession which kick starts the entire story.
The film holds the record for the longest continual film shoot at four hundred days so the directing is of course beyond masterful. Every single shot is carefully considered and the trademark tracking shots are as dizzying as ever. The mise-en-scene in each scene is also extremely important to consider. There are so many things hidden in the background, such as the recurring multi-coloured Christmas trees which disappear once Tom Cruise enters the mysterious cult. Could this relate to the ‘end of the rainbow’ as stated earlier in the film? It’s little details like this which make Eyes Wide Shut endlessly fascinating to analyse. Only until you analyse the film can you appreciate the painstaking details and intelligent intricacies.
Stanley’s final film is often claimed to be a limp ending to a phenomenal filmography, however I’d strongly disagree. Any true Stanley lover will recognise the obscure genius of Eyes Wide Shut. Conspiracy theorists will thrive off the illuminati and Satanist symbolism, but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s a wonderfully mysterious film with a brooding dreamlike atmosphere. I also have to mention the brilliantly creepy (yet incredibly simple) piano score which has to be the scariest use of a few notes since the Jaws theme tune. Whilst the film isn’t quite up to the impossibly high standards of 2001, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, it isn’t miles off. Maybe after some repeated views I might hold it in even higher regards.