Saturday, May 17, 2003
Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

Ears Wide Shut

Kubrick confounds the critics—and their critics—with a best-of-breed film. The trick is figuring out the breed. A Metaphilm exclusive.



I may be misled by my own convictions, but the movie struck me as a warning against a life of exhausted hedonism.  Tom Cruise’s character is curious and thinking of maybe expanding his horizons beyond his marriage.  When he makes his maiden voyage into the darkness, a woman has to die to get him out whole.  In the end, he’s grateful to return to his life.  Isn’t this simply a cautionary tale?

—Hunter Baker

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 18 May 03 at 09:54 PM

A conspiracy, that’s it exactly!!

The whole modern sex thing, with the rituals and whatever it was that Nicole Kidman was doing and saying was just a giant red herring.  Having seen Eyes Wide Shut multiple times and being just as confused as the rest of the world, I now have an interpretation to hang my hat on.

Just as Loen says, the key to Kubrik is after best of breed. Comparisons with other conspiracy films just proves it. Look at the Gene Hackman character in Enemy of the State.  All we can do is feel pity.  Likewise, with Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory.  About the only thing Gibson has in common, as the victim in Conspiracy Theory, with Cruise is good looks.  That adds to his credibility but what about the plot itself?  Initially Conspiracy Theory is interesting but in a short while the lightweight plot falls apart. 

Not so with Eyes Wide Shut, simply because the real conspiracy is never revealed.  (Else how could it be a real conspiracy!)  For a real conspiracy with a great plot, and lots of weight, check out Foucalt’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 20 May 03 at 06:38 PM

Very droll, a conspiracy theory about Kubrick’s last movie.

What is most striking about Eyes Wide Shut, however, is Stanley’s admiration for the golden age of the Hammer House of Horror movies. Hammer enlisted themes such as Poe’s Masque of the Red Death or the legend of the bloody Countess Bathory to smuggle in lashings of kinky sex.

The orgy scene in Kubrick’s film is merely a very expensive and not particularly lively hommage to Hammer’s use of sex-spiced rituals, preferably involving (or dispensing with) some kind of period costume.
As in the Hammer movies, sex invites retribution, a tradition faithfully followed in teen fright flicks to this day.

At the same time, the director sought to cover his back by presenting this as a morality tale: if you venture beyond the bounds of mundane traditional sexual relationships, you may find yourself in a very dark place.

To this end,Schnitzler’s dated confection is cannibalised for parts by screenwriter Frederic Raphael, himself an upper-class Englisn novelist,  so the film has a curious air of Thirties mores, style and morality, not to mention excruciatingly dated dialogue.

It all needed Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, really.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 21 May 03 at 05:09 AM

What may seem a throw back to 30’s dialogue is really a meld of the style of one of Kubrick’s favorite directors Max Ophels.  One can really not watch the party scene without feeling a certain taste of some of Ophels most eloquent touches.

But this is just a facde for there is a conspiracy under the surface of this level as we see with the whole overdose going on upstairs.

I think that the layers of this movie are much thicker and more complex than any Kubrick film since Barry Lyndon and that it will take a collected effort to uncover some of the layers.

Many people simply do not like this film, and should header their arguments with DO NOT LIKE THIS FILM!  As the points drawn later can derail a discussion. (I can appreciate that you don’t think that the film works—still)

David, I think the comments about the Hammer films are a very interesting twist.

Do you think that by casting a very famous couple that has (had) ties to a very secretive society that there are overtones created outside the film??

What are the different film styles that are really melded in this film?? And to what purpose? 

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 21 May 03 at 05:53 PM

I think it’s pretty obvious from what I wrote that I don’t like the film; I was very disappointed, since I am a Kubrick fan. I was indulging in a bit of levity with the Hammer reference, but I suppose there MIGHT be some arcane and deliberate allusion rather than just an unconscious use of standard B-movie film language.

I would also refer you to Roger Corman’s film of The Masque of the Red Death, which achieves something of a similar atmosphere although in a rather more vulgar manner (Vincent Price couldn’t help himself).

Your reference to Max Ophuls is all very well, but again, Schnitzler’s text is of the Thirties and Raphael is a distinctly old-fashioned scribe.
The motivation and even some of the characters are throwbacks (the costumier and his randy daughter, pure 1970s Polanski).

It was redolent with Seventies nostalgia too. Perhaps that is why Kubrick lived in England, where the Seventies was a kind of gilded age of experimental lifestyles ...

I don’t believe this was meant to be a horror movie, The Shining being the radiant Kubrick version of that. It was meant to be a kind of demonic kinky movie (Rosemary’s Baby?) of the wages of decadence. Guess that brings us back to Ophuls.


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 22 May 03 at 06:44 AM

Eyes Wide Shut is a film about perversion. Cruise’s character is drawn into the world of the sexually perverted but it is not to be treated lightly; such lifestyles are not merely pastimes but are dangerous and sordid existences. Perversion is everywhere, you just have to look; hence the films title.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 16 Jun 03 at 01:01 PM

I think it’s more about Dr Hartford’s existence. He (as Ebert pointed out) is always identifying himself as a doctor, someone who cures, who makes better. But think about it—all the women he encounters have horrible things happen to them. He tries to help one with a drug addiction, but later we find out she dies anyway. Because of him? Well, supposedly not, but the idea that the entire Fidelio affair was an elaborate hoax seems suspicious. The woman who picks him up and almost has sex with him later is diagnosed with HIV; again, right after his encounter with her. He embarks on this adventure in the first place only because his vision of his perfect, pure wife has been spoiled, and he sees her human weakness as a defilement of her purity. I know there’s more to it, and this is probably just one theme, bu it’s one that really stood out to me. His is the touch of death to thse women. Very strange.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 16 Jul 04 at 09:05 PM

Has anyone mentioned this before? Tom Cruise’s character goes out to the orgy mansion located in Glen Cove (I think there’s a shot of the exit sign)a reference to the Townsend estate, located in Glen Cove, in that other conspiracy movie, North by Northwest?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 24 Jul 04 at 09:13 PM

As to the choice of a real life married couple, I’d say it is not at all a coincidence. That might very well be the only reason Kubrick decided to work with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. 

The purpose of doing this might be the desire to get as close to the reality as possible by presenting the marriage of a couple that is known as married in real life.

It might have been interesting for Kubrick to explore the boundaries between fantasy and reality.

As for women that are dying or otherwise influenced by contact with Dr. Tom Cruise’s character, I would say those are metaphors that indicate the character’s wrongdoing. 

Some kind of a warning that he is trying to enter the forbidden world. The main theme in the story might be the difference between male and female perception of infidelity.

For women it might be enough only to fantasize about other man, but males tend to react upon their instincts and make physical contact. The difference between men and women?

Since, Tom Cruise’s character never really did anything I think we might suppose that Nicole’s Kidman character also never made any other violation accept for thinking about the Naval officer.

Also, one of the points might be the false assumptions about the spouse and the possibility to really get to know someone even when married.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10 Nov 04 at 07:07 AM

Dear Mr. Weber,

I decided to follow your lead and read up at ‘Fidelio’.

I have proposed the results of my work for publication at metaphilm.  To wit: ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ is an apocalyptic vampire movie that takes place on the Xmas following 9/11, 2001, and heralds the end of linear time.

You can link from Da WWWiz to my site, or just wait to see if it’s up to snuff for metaphilm. 

Peace, good tickle brain.

Posted by Da WWWiz on 18 Oct 08 at 02:25 AM

First of all, my english isnt so good, so bare with me.

I think the film is about a contradiction. The title say’s it: Eyes Wide Shut. A sort of paradox betweeen what see, and what we can feel with our body, and what we can sense in like some double messages in dreams. The story is divided in three acts. The party/confession - the rabbit hole/orgy - the aftermath/confession.  Remember what is there in the poster?  A mirror. What does a mirror do to an image? it reflects, of course… but in a backwards mode… we cant really read what we see unless we set our mind in a backwards mode… so… the people who dont get the 3rd act is because they wanna see the “symbolic image” in a straigth mode… not as a whole in its self affected by the mirror of the orgy and dream… maybe the Tom Cruise character did see the things as they where, but with his eyes wide open, he just wassent really looking, as her wife said.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 28 Jun 09 at 07:58 PM

when watching a film named “eyes wide shut”...may i suggest you watch it with “eyes wide open”....the clues are right there in front of you…..“wheres does the black telephone in the harfords bedroom suddenly appear from during the stoned scene”....“where does the red telephone in zieglers bathroom dissapear too”....“why does a painting behind toms head suddenly change in sharkeys cafe”....“why does the statue on the table outside marains dead fathers bedroom suddenly dissapear when tom lookalike walks past before he enters the room”....“why do the window manniquens change position after toms walks into rainbow costumes for the first time”....should i go on… must keep ones “eyes wide open” when watching this masterpiece….feel free to contact me at if you would like to discuss…....“oh yeah….sharkeys cafe is rainbow costumes”.......!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 23 Apr 11 at 08:47 PM

The recent Killing Kittens story suggests the Eyes Wide Shut scenario isn’t that far off the mark, if at all.

Posted by JS on 02 Oct 14 at 07:36 AM
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