Kicking off my first movie blog in a while I would like to throw some thoughts down about Eyes Wide Shut. When Eyes Wide Shut came out I remember hearing something different from everyone that viewed the film. Some hated it profusely calling it overindulgent, incomprehensible, hedonistic and signs that old man Kubrick had gone insane. Many had concluded the latter because of the well publicized fact that Kubrick kept his actors on his London estate for two years during filming. Others said it was brilliant and a perfect send off for a film genius. I saw the film after it had been out a year or so and I was blown away. I can't say I understood it - but I was happy not to. This is a film, like all other Kubrick films, where you have to put yourself completely in the hands of the filmmaker and trust that he is going to guide you along knowledgeably and that he does indeed know where he's going.
That being said, I would like to discuss the meanings of the film, the colors, the plot, and the characters. First
of all I feel to accurately view this film you have to look at it as a
dream, or a parable. Esteemed critic and writer Roger Ebert calls it "an
erotic daydream about chances missed and opportunities avoided".
the films opening sequence, Doctor Bill and Alice Hartford (Tom Cruise
and Nicole Kidman) are attending a fancy ball for Manhattan socialites.
Kubrick lights the entire scene with white Christmas lights while ballroom music plays softly in the background.
Immediately the glow of the lights and music place us in a warm
surrounding that also has a floating dreamlike quality. Underneath this
warmth and comfort we can sense tension of the unknown. Cruise is then
propositioned by two beautiful women while Kidman is simultaneously
preyed upon as she dances with a charming and devilish older
Hungarian man. He questions her about
her marriage and says: "Is it as bad as all of that?" She replies :"It's
as good as all of that." Neither The Doctor or his wife have a reason
to doubt their marriage or one another. They don't pause at being
propositioned - because they are confident and have their needs met (or
so they think.) Then Doctor Hartman is called up to a room where his
friend who is throwing the party ,Victor (Sydney Pollack) needs help
with a hooker has overdosed. A red pool table is at the center of the room - an obvious symbol here of danger. The threat of danger is getting bolder and
now the story is set up for just about anything. That evening, in the
privacy of their bedroom, the Hoffman's get stoned in their underwear
and Alice tells Bill about a fantasy she had of a sailor she had once
passed in a hotel lobby. She
embellishes this fantasy to the point of picking a fight with Bill. The
cause for this sudden need for a confrontation on their fidelity is
unknown, except that it was brought up earlier in the evening and
perhaps unearthed some buried feelings and insecurities in Alice.
As she talks and continues to poke and antagonize Bill - a strong back
light of blue is constantly framing her through the window, with
striking red curtains on either side. Kubrick makes this color choice so
bold and obvious we can't ignore it. Blue perhaps representing the
depth and mystery of what is happening in this room, and red, the danger
of the fire behind it.
After this confrontation Dr. Hoffman
wanders off into the night, maybe spurred into action by his wife's
fantasy and seeking a fantasy of his own, or maybe just uneasy in his
own skin for once and in need of something to comfort him. He
goes to a night club - again we see the use of Christmas lights, but
this time with shadows and highlights of bright lamps on cocktail
tables. The camera movement is extremely important in supporting the
"floating" dreamlike qualities of this movie as Doctor Bill is now
becoming a bit like Alice in Wonderland. Kubrick had his secrets that
came from his roots as a photographer, and I know they must have been
secrets because no one else can make a camera "float" through a room while
capturing so much depth of light and shadows. Bill's friend plays piano
at the night club and gives Bill the password to an orgy/party, where he
must first purchase a costume before attending.
This scene and each scene hereafter plays like it's own short film. The
characters appear only once, isolated in their individual scenes and
these scenes only connect with the rest of the film because Kubrick
allows them to. That's perhaps the key to the dream element of
the film's structure. When we have dreams, characters come in and out of
the dream with no real connection, sometimes we know them and their
relationship to out dream world, sometimes not. Cruise meets a
prostitute (with whom he has no sex), a costume dealer who may be offering the services of his
young daughter as well as costumes, and then arrives at the films
destination -a secret orgy that is about as non sexual as an orgy can
be. After Kubrick's death this elaborate sequence was edited for an R rating,
though I agree with many others who wish it had been left alone and
released as an NC-17. The digital editing blurs genitalia
and adds hooded figures to block the activities. The editing certainly
interrupts the composition and the depth of the camera's general movement throughout the room. I
wonder what Kubrick would have thought of this?
enough this is the film's most elaborate sequence but what occurs is
not really the point of the film. It is the film's destination but it is
also not the real destination at all. This is a detour for
Doctor Bill, a detour into danger and a necessary detour for himself.
Another unique element of this film's structure, we are lead through a
maze and adventure where we feel there is a real threat and danger and
we fear for our hero, but when we arrive Kubrick holds on and expands
upon those feelings while never truly paying them off. There is a masked,
cloaked figure who rules over the orgy proceedings ,naked women kneel
around him in a circle and he chants something ancient and foreboding.
Doctor Bill wanders through the mansion, taking it in, exchanging
mysterious words with a few of the attendees.
*SPOILER ALERT - IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM, DO NOT READ*
The true destination, is home...when Doctor Bill arrives home, back to his port.
This is also the film's most controversial moment. Nothing has really
been resolved but before going to bed he finds a mask, identical to the one he wore at the
orgy. The mask is on his pillow next to his sleeping wife. The colors in
the room are blue and purple - moonlight coming through the window. No
reds, no yellows. Now is the time for those of you who have read this
far to give me your opinions and insights as to what you think this
means. Kubrick certainly left this open. What does the mask mean? Was
she at the orgy? Does she know where he went? Is this her way of saying
we are okay now that you are safe and home. I think Kubrick ended this
film on a high note of warmth and comfort because we and the character's
deserved it. This was a scary journey and The Hoffman's are safe in the
shelter of their marriage. Kidman said she saw the film as optimistic,
and I completely agree. What are your thoughts readers?