Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Todd Field and others

Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick’s most human film and it explores at great length the complexity of our psyche. It has emphatically has all the qualities which ensure permanence in world cinema classics. Kubrick’s ambitious vision is a breathtaking cinematic experience rich with philosophy and expression through warm colours. One of the most significant features of this film is the ambivalent lull it carries throughout.  It feels like a lucid lullaby which floats like a persistent dream sequence filled with discomforting aural and visual elements.

Eyes Wide Shut features the transfiguration of an innocent relationship between two married couple into an enigmatic psychological nightmare. Dr. Bill Harford (played by Tom Cruise) is a well off doctor married to a beautiful woman, Alice Harford (played by Nicole Kidman). Though their relationship seems harmless and pristine at the beginning (especially with the presence of a child) there are evident trifles of imperfection. This imperfection deepens after they attend a party organized by the acquaintances of Bill Harford. Detesting Bill’s frivolousness and the lack of possessiveness for his wife, Alice tries to spark an argument with him. The argumentative conversation leads to the narration of Alice’s past encounter with a scenario, which had the potential of tarnishing her fidelity with her husband (whilst they were raising a child). Alice’s lustful and puzzling confession leaves Bill with a sudden sharp pang of covetousness. Haunted by the acquired knowledge, Bill embarks on an odyssey of angst, jealousy and raging sexuality.

This film perfectly exemplifies the elusiveness of our mental qualities, especially those regarding sexuality-a corner stone of our biological existence. It looks into human sexuality from a cultural and psychological point of view. Kubrick is a master of creating a deep vibe, a trademark which is extremely scarce in the cinematic universe. He has projected all his mastery into crafting the defining event of the film-“The masquerade ball (orgy)”. Most of the film’s heavy undertone is carried by this one long scene. It arouses not a bit of excitement (considering its context in the plot) but perplexes the viewer with its enormous vibe and bizarre imagery. It is embedded with metaphors describing multiple facets of the human culture such as an elite underworld, the perversion of power, the mysticism in our sexuality and the moral argument regarding infidelity and monogamy. Unlike all of Kubrick’s films, it carries a mild moral scope which is evident towards the end. It is not preachy by any sense, but it has a very insignificant moral thought experiment conducting on itself. It is barely noticeable because just like any other work of Kubrick, it ends ambiguously.

Dr.Bill Harford was quite an unconventional role for Tom Cruise and he executes it with perfection. All the actors in the film did an extremely fine job. The cinematography is a vibrant play of colours and images, and sets the viewers in a constant state of trance which intensifies with the hypnotic musical score. The “masquerade ball” theme by Jocelyn Pook was simply phenomenal. Her ambient traditional tunes make the perfect combination with Kubrick’s selection of György Ligeti’s atmospheric “Musica Ricercata”.

Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick’s most scintillating gem. It is a conscious study of the human psyche which rouses many questions and thoughts. All in all, it is a fitting finale to one of cinema’s greatest repertoires.


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