Original release: July 16th, 1999
Running time: 159 minutes
Writer and director: Stanley Kubrick
Composer: Jocelyn Pook
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack
Stanley Kubrick was a master at using film to make us dig deeper into the realm of the collective unconscious, and to question our most basic belief systems. His films stay with me, and continue to change me over time as I think about them more and more.
When I first saw Eyes Wide Shut my initial response was that I didn’t care for it. However, I felt drawn to watch it again…and then yet again…and yet again. I was perplexed as to what kept drawing me back to the film—I found Tom Cruise to be insipid, and it didn’t make sense to me. But like any worthy work of art, the more one looks at it, the more there is to contemplate. And perhaps Kubrick knew exactly what he was doing by using Tom Cruise in the role, drawing upon our collective impressions of the actor himself.
Tim Kreider has written a remarkable essay about Eyes Wide Shut. Read it -it will make you want to go back and watch the film again. It challenges the conventional wisdom that Kubrick missed the mark with his final film, and answers the critics who suggested that Kubrick was out of touch with modern sexuality. He castigates the reviewers who focused on the sexual aspect of the film, ignoring its more profound implications.
His thesis resonates with me:
He furthermore states:
And then this wonderful quote:
In many ways, Eyes Wide Shut has become my favorite conspiracy movie, because it boils everything down to the most essential elements of conspiracy—power, sex, and money—presented in a dream world that evokes, as Kreider points out, our deepest fears and desires, and our collective memory of other times and places as well as our own.
This removes the ideas from the realm of contemporary (and passing) politics, or the superficial arguments over American exceptionalism, and puts them squarely into the realm of psychological inquiry. Because ultimately, what is the point in trying to figure out what’s really happening unless the pursuit of that question gives us some greater understanding of ourselves?
Norman is a television director and editor known for his work on shows such as Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, The Lying Game, Melrose Place, 90210, Chuck and The OC. He currently teaches part-time at UCLA, in addition to editing and directing.