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EYES WIDE SHUT   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Monday, 05 July 2004
The last film of a Genius.

Like all Kubricks, "Eyes Wide Shut" is a film that appears on the surface to be relatively straightforward, yet isn't, if you want it to be. You take from it what you want. When I first saw it, I was disappointed. I was expecting genius. And yet, like the layers of a peeled orange, the more you look, the more you see.

Visually it's fabulous - the colours and textures of the film are sumptious. You can tell when you watch it this guy started off as a stills photographer. Like Barry Lyndon, each shot is framed like a painting.

In terms of plot, "Eyes Wide Shut" is fairly one-dimensional. On the surface it might seem like a fairly basic morality tale about the temptations of infidelity, but the translation of the title of the novella it is based on is "Dream Story" - little of "Eyes Wide Shut" actually happens. Hence then, the unusual dialogue, the bizarre imagery, and the strange-plot-arc.

You can pick this up in the unusual dialogue frequented by the longue lizard in the opening scene who attempts to seduce Alice (Nicole Kidman), or the gaggle of women who flirt outrageously with Bill (Tom Cruise), or the bereaved woman who attempts to seduce him. Bill literally exists in a world where all women are sexual, even those who are being examined for breast cancer suffer from an objection of their flesh, as Cruise examines them in a state of unnecessary nakedness.

If the film is 'real', highly unlikely given the circumstances, then, for example, why is everything so old-fashioned? Why is the hooker so... civilised, her dialogue so stilted, her language so repressed? Why do characters behave as if they were living in the 1940's, not the 1990's?

However, there are also some moments of richness. Who else has filmed a couple applying deodorant or brushing their teeth? Who else has penetrated the nature of relationships in such a successful manner in film? Eyes Wide Shut is about the way we act against what we think, about the essential deceptions we all carry within us and do not reveal, about the gap between our desires and our reality.  

Hence the use of masks as a recurrent theme. Hence the fact that all male characters have two faces - for example, the masks, or the fear of losing their faces (many characters bemoan losing their hair - the frame around the face), and many of the female characters (Domino - literally one with two faces) are also two-faced. Decievers and decieved.

The other sub-plot is that of a world where the rich use and discard people who are of lesser importance. Bill is constantly buying people off, paying for services that are either no rendered, or over-paying for everything - the Taxi Driver, the Prostitute. This is probably something to do with the fact that wealth brings with it guilt, and by constantly 'forking out', he's trying to address the balance and pay off his middle or upper-class sense of guilt. With Wealth comes the knowledge everyone has a price.

To its logical extension, the people behind the debauched mansion sequence actually appear to gang-rape and drug a woman to death. Bill only survives because they do not want to kill him. Yet. If any of it is real.

So "Eyes Wide Shut". Not by any means an easy movie to love. But a great one. Like any Kubrick movie, it takes many repeated viewings and years of enjoyment to begin to unravel all the riches it has to reveal. A satisfying end to a career.

And hence the title Eyes Wide Shut is a deceptively shallow name for a film. But what does the phrase mean? In full knowledge of the darker side of human nature, in full awareness of the corruption at the heart of man (the use of money to buy anything, the corruption of power, the emptiness of 'fucking' which is a mere simulation of love), Bill / Alice choose to ignore the facts they are fully aware of, and try to live an ignorant life. In ignorance lies bliss. But it has a price. The couple no longer are innocent - the purity of their love has been broken. Alice's final suggestion is that the couple fuck. Not make love. But fuck, like base animals, like creatures who can no longer connect spiritually anymore. But do not yet know that all they are doing now is decieving themselves in an imitation. An imitation of what their love used to be.

 BONUS MATERIAL:Cruise & Nicole Kidman
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