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Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

By Norman Buckley • June 28th, 2014
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
EYES WIDE SHUT (MOVIE)
Warner Bros.

Original release: July 16th, 1999
Running time: 159 minutes

Writer and director: Stanley Kubrick
Composer: Jocelyn Pook

Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack

Eyes Wide Shut

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:

“The real pornography in this film is in its lingering depiction of the shameless, naked wealth of millennial Manhattan, and of its obscene effect on society and the human soul. National reviewers’ myopic focus on sex, and the shallow psychologies of the film’s central couple, the Harfords, at the expense of every other element of the film–the trappings of stupendous wealth, its references to fin-de-siecle Europe and other imperial periods, its Christmastime setting, even the sum Dr. Harford spends on a single night out–says more about the blindness of the elites to their own surroundings than it does about Kubrick’s inadequacies as a pornographer.”

Eyes Wide Shut

He furthermore states:

“Kubrick’s films are never only about individuals (sometimes, as in the case of 2001, they hardly contain any); they are always about Man, about civilization and history.”

And then this wonderful quote:

“…Evil among our elites is more often a matter of willful ignorance and passivity–of blindness–than of any deliberate cruelty. And Kubrick emphasizes that culture and erudition have nothing to do with goodness or depth of character; in this film they have more to do with the exhibitionistic display of imperial wealth.”
SOURCES:

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 Buckley

Norman Buckley

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.

You can find more of Norman’s work at his website and blog, and he’s on Twitter too – @norbuck.

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