Eyes Wide Shut: Privilege and Emasculation

At first the structure this essay naturally took felt a little basic. I was approaching the concepts that interested me by making some notes re-watching key scenes and scanning the the script, but became aware that since I am exploring only one aspect of a deeply allegorical film full of complicated symbolism, I shouldn’t have to write about the whole film – and not in chronological order. However, By time I got into the second half of my analysis I realised that it had to be this way. I have deliberately (and with great restraint) not talked about scenes that didn’t have a direct relation with the topic, and yet still addressed most of the film in the same form. This works with Eyes Wide Shut, and little else, because of Kubrick’s ability to integrate theme and meaning into the structure of his movies. Essentially, this film is an essay itself, and so lends itself to the format: Points are introduced, explored, developed further, conclusions are made and questions are asked. A lesser film would have stopped at 90 minutes, and it still would have been brilliant. Instead, Kubrick examines the consequences of actions, even the hypothetical.

When Eyes Wide Shut starts, we are thrown into the midst of a long-term relationship – one that has given them a child, financial security, social events to attend, and the freedom to be open with each other. In what is a little surprising for a movie marketed as an “erotic thriller”, we see Alice undress and use the toilet while her husband dresses alongside her. We are seeing behind closed doors, but there’s still an adherence to expectation. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are putting on the costumes of high-class civility, but also becoming that which the audience expects the then real-life couple to be. The first conversation we see is as follows:

ALICE (looking in mirror)
How do I look?
BILL
You look great.
ALICE
My hair okay?
BILL
Perfect.
ALICE
You’re not even looking at it.

While it’s a fairly banal conversation, and one I’m sure many couples have had, in the context of the rest of the film it suggests something else. Plus, it’s Kubrick – nothing is superfluous. The perfection they seek is aesthetic, or rather they want to find satisfaction through dressing and acting like they have already have. In one sex scene, Alice turns away from her lover to look at their reflection in the mirror. While Alice’s beauty is frequently brought up by the people she meets, it’s Bill who is intent on appearing a certain way. He frequently uses money to solve problems, with a seemingly limitless amount of cash in his wallet at all times. It’s not just about getting his own way, but showing that he has resources, that the money doesn’t matter. It may be an interesting tactic to rip a hundred-dollar note in half, giving one half to the cab driver and promising the second to him if he waits, but it’s also an expression of his ego. You can see why Cruise was perfect for the part as his trademark grin follows this posturing. This is also applies to how often he shows people his Doctor’s ID, something that Kubrick always returns to. It’s another way he defines himself, a well-respected and well-paid job that he can use to stroke his ego, and tame his insecurities.

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45 Years Review

Kate and Geoff have a week to go until their party, celebrating their 45th anniversary. The childless couple live comfortably in a small Norfolk town, until shattering news arrives for Geoff – his ex-girlfriend’s body has been found, 50 years after she slipped into an Alpine crevasse. Writer-Director Andrew Haigh brings us a fascinating study of marriage, memory, and time that is as charming as it is devastating. Continue reading →