“… one of those movies that has to speak for itself.”
Christmas is growing closer with each passing day, so what better movie to watch than Eyes Wide Shut. Eyes Wide Shut is director Stanley Kubrick’s last film, and what many call his worst. The film follows Dr. Bill Harford and his wife Alice (played by real-life couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), as they experience a “hiccup” in their relationship pertaining to sexual encounters. That really isn’t what the movie is about, but Eyes Wide Shut is about so many different things that it would be impossible for me to list them all.
I already mentioned that Eyes Wide Shut is widely regarded as Kubrick’s worst film, and this fact put me off of watching it for many years. I see this both as a curse and a blessing because, though I missed out on Eyes Wide Shut for a long time I don’t think I would have been able to appreciate it if I were any younger when I watched it. After watching Eyes Wide Shut for the first time a few years ago, it quickly became a true contender for my favourite Kubrick film. Really that’s all you need to know about my opinion, so if you skip the rest of my review I will understand.
Eyes Wide Shut is a special movie, but I can’t really explain why. Maybe it was because my expectations were set so low by people saying that it was a terrible film, that when I got around to watching it my opinion was skewed. But I don’t really think that is the case. What I love about Eyes Wide Shut is the fact that the film is so methodical in its execution. Watching Eyes Wide Shut, though it is close to three hours long, feels like a brief moment in time and the story that is presented is one that is very rich. I still have absolutely no idea what exactly Eyes Wide Shut is about, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are hints here and there, but there is no definitive answer (which I think was the goal). Have you ever had a dream (or, seen Inception I guess) where you appear in a different place and you have no idea how you got there? Eyes Wide Shut is like that. The film follows Bill Harford as he goes on this journey that takes him all around New York city, and introduces him to a whole lot of sex. The films doesn’t really have a goal (at least from what I can see), but the journey is spectacular.
Eyes Wide Shut is directed by Stanley Kubrick, so really things like acting, camerawork, set design, score, all should go without saying. But I’ve decided to write this review, so I will try my best to explain why these things are so great. First you ave the acting. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were married at the time of filming Eyes Wide Shut, and that was always Kubrick’s intention (to cast a married couple to play a married couple). It’s hard for me to exactly pinpoint how this affected the actors’ performances, because both of them are really good actors, but let’s just say that the performances in Eyes Wide Shut are spectacular. There is this feeling of familiarity between the characters, but also this feeling of manufactured separation. Again, it’s hard to say whether or not them being married helped their performances, but regardless both Cruise and Kidman did very good jobs. All of the other performances (save for Ziegler), are very hard to grade. Much like the rest of the film, every performance feels very ‘floaty’ and dream-like. Again, I assume that this was Kubrick’s intention but these are not your run of the mill performances (nor is it your run of the mill movie, to be honest). Ziegler (played by Sydney Pollack) on the other hand is very commanding in his performance. He is a man who is very powerful, and a man who likes to be in control, but seeing how he treats Bill is very interesting. There is this contestant tension in the air where you can tell that Ziegler just wants to scream at Bill for not listening, but he is restraining himself to keep up appearances. This all comes through in Pollack’s wonderful portrayal of Ziegler of course.
Next let’s discuss the camerawork in Eyes Wide Shut. This will come as no surprise to most, but the direction is Eyes Wide Shut is amazing. The way that the camera is not afraid to explore the space, the dramatic quick-zooms, the slower constant zooms, everything is just masterfully done. You also have the wonderful lighting (which in itself plays a very important part of the film), and the score. The score is something that really stood out to me when I watched Eyes Wide Shut because of how effective it is. The film starts off rather basic, but then when shit goes down we get this very minimalist piano score that is so haunting but at the same time very beautiful.
Eyes Wide Shut also has a lot of appeal that isn’t exactly present while watching the film. Not only is the story so open to interpretation that it allows for countless house of research, and constant thinking just to satisfy your curious mind, but Eyes Wide Shut is also something of a legend in terms of its production. During its production Eyes Wide Shut was a veritable rumour mill, with stories stemming from “insiders” in the film industry. These rumours are most likely due to the fact that Eyes Wide Shut took forever to complete, and I doubt that most of them are true, but they are fun to indulge nonetheless. With stories ranging in absurdity from the wild, uncensored sex-scene between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman all the way to the real reason Harvey Keitel left Eyes Wide Shut. These rumours are ridiculous, but with someone like Stanley Kubrick you truly never know.
It’s times like this where I really start to question why I write movie reviews. Nothing I just wrote even comes close to the magic that is Eyes Wide Shut, so in a way I feel that I have failed the movie. This has happened multiple times since I started writing reviews, and it never gets any easier. Anyway, really what I’m trying to say is that you should definitely go and watch Eyes Wide Shut. Even if you’ve seen it before, give it another watch because it is one of those movies that has to speak for itself.
I give Eyes Wide Shut an A