Eyes Wide Shut

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I was kind of worried about seeing Eyes Wide Shut to be honest, what with all the sex in it and everything. I had the opportunity to see it for free so I couldn’t really bring myself pass it up. It turned out to be very good and even though it was somewhat uncomfortable in spots I’m still glad I went. I’m finding this out more and more, but if you are unsure about seeing a movie just go for it, because chances are it’ll be good. That’s what keeps happening to me anyway.

Eyes Wide Shut takes place over Christmas in New York City. Dr. Bill and Alice Harford (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) go to a Christmas party given by one of Bill’s patients, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). This Hungarian cheeseball tries to pick up Alice but ends up only dancing with her. These other two two models try to seduce Bill (and he’s pretty awkward about it, unlike Alice who is relatively graceful) but they are interrupted by a messenger from Ziegler. A woman with whom he was presumably having sex with overdosed and is now completely passed out. After he wakes her up, Bill assures her that she will be okay and promises Ziegler not to tell anyone about it.

Bill and Alice go home and the next day we see them going about their normal lives. Later the next night they get stoned (which seemed kind of random to me, but whatever) and talk about their relationship and the events of the previous night. Alice admits that the Hungarian guy did just want to have sex with her and then gets mad that Bill isn’t jealous. Bill understand his point of view and can’t really blame him, but he’s not jealous because he believes that Alice would never cheat on him. Alice gets even madder hearing that and turns into a male/female thing:  “men have to stick it in every place they can, but for women… women it is just about security and commitment and whatever the fuck else! …If you men only knew…” and then she tells him about seeing this guy and desperately wanting to have an affair with him despite still loving Bill. She admits to having fantasies about him even when she was with Bill. Bill is just kind of taken aback by this and stares at her blankly until the phone rings.

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Thus begins the madness. The phone call summons him to the house of a patient who has just died, and the man’s daughter literally throws herself at Bill. Bill’s kind of awkward about the whole thing once again and he leaves once her boyfriend shows up. He just wanders around New York for awhile, and of course the first person he talks to is a prostitute (Vinessa Shaw). He goes back to her apartment but his wife calls him before anything happens, and he is either too embarrassed or guilty so he leaves. He doesn’t go home though, he walks around some more and encounters a friend of his who dropped out of med school and is now a professional piano player. He tells him about this gig he plays blindfolded and moves to a different place every night. A password and a costume is required to get in. Bill gets the password from him and sets out to get a costume. It is not fully clear whether he knows exactly what he is getting into.

This part is probably the closest the film comes to being funny. It’s really not if you think about it, but just something about Milich (Rade Sherbedgia) that had me smiling and almost laughing. Milich is the guy he gets the costume from, making him open his store late. When he’s getting Bill a cape he hears something and finds his daughter who’s probably fifteen or so with too older Asian guys. Obviously something funny was going down there. He gets really mad and chases them away, also getting mad at his daughter who seems pretty comfortable with the whole thing. She hides behind Bill, but trust me she does not look scared, she just wants to hold on to Bill. Let’s face it, everybody comes onto Bill in this movie which is strange but also kind of humorous when you step back and think about it. That’s one of the aspects of the film that make it creepier and also made me doubt Bill’s reliability somewhat. The thing he is, he hardly ever reacts to any of these people. What’s even stranger is when Bill comes back to return the costume Milich tries to pimp out his daughter to Bill when the night before he was so protective of her. It’s hard to tell which one really happened, or if they both happened then why the sudden attitude change?

So anyway, once Bill gets his costume he goes to the mysterious meeting which turns out to be some sort of secret sex society. Somehow they discover that he is not supposed to be there, and are going to do something to him but one of the women interferes. Later Bill finds out she’s dead. Not only that but she was the same woman who overdosed at the party. Ziegler summons Bill to his house, reveals that he is a part of the secret society, and tries to dissuade Bill that the woman’s death was not connected to the society. This was odd from my point of view because he was also trying to get Bill to stop trying to find out who they were, which would have been easier if he had told Bill something like “we could get you next!” Regardless, Bill leaves and isn’t really sure what to do. Before this, Alice had told Bill of a dream she had that sounded somewhat similar to what Bill had witnessed, except without all of the formality. She is having sex with a bunch of guys in the dream and laughing at Bill, but is crying when she wakes up. Later when Bill return’s home from Ziegler’s the mask he wore to the meeting is lying on the pillow next to Alice, and he freaks out and tells Alice everything.

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One of the most interesting things about Eyes Wide Shut for me was the distinction between acting on something and merely thinking about it. Neither Bill nor Alice actually has sex with anybody else, but the whole thing seems pretty adulterous. When Alice is originally telling Bill the fantasies she had that started the whole thing, it seems like she’s confessing an affair when in fact she hasn’t really done anything, just thought about it. Then Bill goes off and tries to do something similar, but can’t. He comes close a couple of times, and it’s not like the opportunities aren’t there because there are so many opportunities it’s not even funny. I couldn’t even tell if he was legitimately wanting to have sex with anybody because most of the time he’s so awkward about it and nothing happens, but the fact remains that he keeps trying. Bill and Alice seem pretty okay with the whole thing by the end of the film, which would sort of suggest that since neither of them actually had sex with anybody it’s fine. But there’s a problem with that theory because thoughts are what started the whole thing in the first place. It’s hard to say which is stronger or has more bearing on their relationship; I plan on trying to figure that out when I rewatch it.

Another thing I noticed about the film is that it contained a lot of pairs. People come in twos much of the time and seem to be similar or almost interchangeable. Even though a lot of the movie focused on Bill’s attempts to have sex without his wife, they still seemed connected throughout for me because of the fact that he would not be doing any of it unless she had brought it up in the first place. It’s like Alice has the fantasies and Bill tries to act them out. If you put them together it would be like one person. Another example of this is when Bill goes back to visit the prostitute and her roommate is there instead, and it’s implied that she’s a prostitute as well. They may as well be the same person. Ziegler and the woman that overdoses are not the same, but they occur at the same time. Ziegler’s at the party, the woman’s at the party. Ziegler’s at the secret meeting, the woman’s there too. Two models try to seduce Bill at the beginning, and two Asian guys are fooling around with Milich’s daughter. I can’t really figure out the significance of all of them specifically, but I think there’s something to be said for it reinforcing the themes of fidelity. The password for the meeting is “fidelio” and Bill and Alice’s relationship seems stronger in the end. People come in twos because that’s how they are meant to be. There are any of numbers of things it could refer to though, because a lot of things come in twos so that’ll be another thing to look for next time.

So yeah, this is one of those films that even though I watched it I still don’t have a firm hold of what’s going on. But it’s not like I just have no idea what happened, there are some thoughts going around in my mind and I will definitely watch the film again to try and solidify my opinion of it. Someone pointed out that there were a bunch of steadicam shots in the film that I actually noticed but didn’t label them as steadicam because I didn’t realize that’s what they were. I thought they were really cool and it makes me want to see The Shining now for its steadicam shots. Also notable was the use of all the Christmas lights and bright colors in the film. The lights gave a nice contrast between all of the sexual stuff going on and the holiday of Christmas, which is noted for the absence of sex. Both of them emphasized how nightmarish everything was, especially when the creepy masks were added in. Eyes Wide Shut is an interesting and masterfully executed film that demands more than one viewing.

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“When a promise has been made here, it should always be kept.”

Long story short: 4/4 stars

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17 responses to “Eyes Wide Shut

  1. Good review Hunter. I was really surprised by this movie, not only because it was actually good, very good actually, but because it kept a mood and atmosphere that was some of the creepiest crap Kubrick has done since the Shining. Just goes to show you the type of director he was and it’s a shame this was his swan song. But a good one, nonetheless.

    • Haven’t seen The Shining yet, but I plan on it. Kind of afraid to, but I’m just going to go for it anyway when the opportunity arises.
      You’re right, though, the atmosphere is key to this film. Something about it just makes you question how much of the story is actually happening…. The only other film I can think of that did this on this level was Black Swan, but even there it was more obvious than it was here because the events that transpired were more obviously not grounded in reality.
      I have only seen three of his films so far, this was my second, but I am kind of despairing that there are only thirteen. On one hand, I can get through them fast, but only the other hand I’m going to get through them too fast. So far they have all been very good and very thought-provoking.

  2. Great write-up! I love this film. I’m a bit of a Kubrick nut so that partly explains it but it’s just such an intriguing film. I love the look of it and there’s just so much to analyse if you have the time and patience. I also think it’s pretty amazing that all those shots of Bill walking around New York were either a set or him walking on a treadmill with the city projected behind him.

    • It is very intriguing, and there is a ton of stuff to analyze there. I feel like a lot of people write it off as a porno (why I was originally hesitant to see it) but there is actually a lot to it, and it’s all open to interpretation. I can definitely see myself getting something very different out of it next time I watch it, whenever that may be.
      It is pretty amazing that it wasn’t even shot in New York. Granted, I have never been to New York but it looked real to me. Someone told me that the mansion he goes to for the secret meeting thing is the same one used for Wayne Manor in the Nolan Batman films. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it would be cool if it was.

      • You’re right, that would be pretty cool! And i’m sure there’s a Tom Cruise-Katy Holmes-Batman link in there somewhere!
        The film is so much more than a porno though, sure it has a few explicit scenes but nothing too bad and they’re only a fraction of the whole film.

        • Oh yeah, good call! I didn’t even think of that!
          But yeah, I was expecting it to be a lot worse it terms of how much it was showing. It wasn’t that bad though really. I’m pretty sure I saw the unaltered one too.

  3. Nice review. Stanley Kubrick is my favorite director and this is one of the three films I haven’t seen by him (the other two are Lolita and Fear and Desire). I have this on DVD, so I’ll try to watch it soon.

    • Thanks! I can’t really tell you how it stacks up compared to other Kubrick films, because while you haven’t seen three I have only seen three. The other two I’ve seen are Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon, and I think they are all equally good. Strangelove’s still my favorite though because it’s so hilarious. But yeah, I would definitely recommend this, especially if you’re such a big Kubrick fan.

    • ha ha, good call. I’m pretty sure someone on tumblr characterized it as “that movie where Tom Cruise almost gets laid like fourteen times” or something similar. He is super awkward for a lot of this film though. Pretty much everybody comes onto him, and I do mean EVERYBODY. It’s pretty humorous when you step back and think about it, especially when you’re like “guys, this is Tom Cruise we’re talking about here.” That was a good casting job, whoever did that. Especially because he was actually married to Kidman at the time as well.

  4. I love this film and try to watch it every year, but man was I disappointed when I first saw it. Now it’s one of my favourite. I guess Kubrick kind of grows on you – all his films seem to do this.

    • Ha ha! I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to the screening but I ended up liking the film a lot. I haven’t seen it again yet but I imagine I will some time.
      I can see being off put by it the first time around though, definitely.
      I still haven’t seen that many Kubrick films (other than this: Strangelove, Lolita, 2001, and Barry Lyndon), but I have liked them all except Lolita. 2001 was a bit off putting as well towards the end, but I can see myself growing to love that film as well. So I see what you’re saying.

  5. I think that there’s more than meets the eye here and that the story behind the story isn’t obvious but it’s there if you know what you’re looking for. Point: I believe that this was Kubrick’s vision of the illuminati. Also, there’s no back ground story regarding the main characters (Bill & Alice). My thoughts are that Alice obviously comes from money & maybe she was part of this illuminati clan before she met Bill. Overall, this is a very Satanic film dressed in a made for theatre porno.

  6. There was one thing that I noticed changed in different scenes that I didn’t quite understand. In the very beginning of the movie Bill walks past Alice’s makeup mirror area and her stuff changes on it. After the party they both attend it shows her fiddling with her earrings but on the desk it shows a picture of a women in marriage it looks like is set the the side. There are some books sitting on top of a jewellery box that takes it’s place. There is also a red pearl necklace instead of a white necklace and also a bottle of Tylanol. The paintings on the wall to the right above the dresser are also different and in the mirrors reflection of two paintings in the background are different. Then in the same night the picture is put back in the center and the desk looks the same. All this is the same night because they talk about the party. The only thing that doesn’t change is the red pearl necklace and the paintings. I couldn’t read the title of any of the books but I am almost certain that those books have alot to do with the story and could fill in plot holes. Especially what is going on in Alices thoughts. I took the movement of the picture as that she was having thoughts of infidelity. She did look she was having sexual thoughts when she was in front of that mirror. I took the whole movie as a metaphor that we all wear a mask. That even though we may remain faithful is the thought of or lust for another person cheating also. The whole thing that started the movie was her removing her mask. That she does lust and she is mad because she knows he does too but he won’t admit it. We see this for ourselves when he is with the two women at the party. He does lust for them. That is why in the end she can’t say forever because she knows she can’t lie to herself that she will lust for another man, someday. Do we all not love but still lust?

  7. Pingback: Affair Dating In Movies: Five More Famous Film Affairs | Affair Dating Guru·

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