In Eyes Wide Shut, we get to peer voyeuristically – and, make no mistake about it, this movie is very voyeuristic – into a seemingly perfect, upper-middle class marriage: A marriage similar in many ways to your own & that of your parents’ & families’ & friends’. And we’ve all been asked, even if only when being mocked: Is your spouse/significant other faithful? The general response is an indignant, ‘Yes, of course!’. Stanley’s retort: “‘Are you sure of that?’. Can we ever be truly sure of anything? Only that the reality of even one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, can never be the whole truth. And no dream is ever just a dream!”
In Eyes Wide Shut, we meet Dr. Bill Harford & his wife, Alice (Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman) for about two & a half days during the Christmas season. They are your prototypical, metropolitan New York upper-middle class family with a busy schedule. Early on, they go to a party at one of the Doctor’s clients, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), where they both flirt: Bill, with a pair of models (Louise Taylor & Stewart Thorndike) who want to take him to “Where the rainbow ends”; and Alice slow-dances with an older Hungarian man (Sky Dumont) who offers to take her upstairs to see Ziegler’s sculpture gallery. Although neither acts on their propositions, the party begins a journey of metaphysical sexual exploration by the couple, particularly Bill, peaking when he crashes a ritualistic orgy by a secret society in a suburban mansion. Entrance to the event is by password only, and all the celebrants are costumed & wear Venetian masks.
It’s often rumored that Stanley didn’t truly direct Eyes Wide Shut. That’s false! Its 7/13/99 release came just over 4 months after he screened a final cut for Kidman, Cruise & some Warner executives. He died 5 days after that screening of natural causes. Those 4 months were used to put the finishing touches on, market & distribute the movie. And the final product is pure Kubrick. As with all of Stanley’s films, the music is haunting. It earned Jocelyn Pook a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score; but the theme of the second half of the film, György Ligeti‘s foreboding piano piece, The Second Movement of Musica Ricercata, nearly drove me crazy the first time I saw it, some 14 years ago on HBO in the middle of the night.
The symbolism in the film is overwhelming: The color scheming is alternatively gold and red. The embedded trailer at the end of the Blog hints at this symbolism, but you’re doing yourself a major disservice if you don’t put this great piece at the top of your Netflix DVD Queue & watch it ASAP. As you screen it, think about what Stanley was trying to convey with it? The Christmas motif – remember, this was released in the summer – represents the Harford’s family & their public lives; while Bill’s Venetian Mask, their fantasies & secret lives. And the Secret Society represents a multitude of opposing ideas: Celebration & Manipulation; Christianity & Satanism; Dreams & Nightmares; Pleasure & Pain; Obedience & Control; Domination & Submission; Inclusion & Exclusion; and Voyeurism & Exhibitionism. But enough talk! It’s just an excuse not to act, isn’t it? And me: I’ve always been a voyeur for some exhibitionism. And so have you, so get right to it! 🙂