Eyes Wide Shut was the last film Stanley Kubrick directed before he died. It stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a married couple, and was famous at the time for being slated by critics for what it wasn’t. Cruise and Kidman were not chosen for their on-screen chemistry (of which there is little, but neither is there opportunity for much); they weren’t necessarily chosen for their wide-reaching acting abilities (even if they were, the dialogue gives them little opportunity for oscar-worthy performances); finally it isn’t the most sexy mainstream movie ever made, despite what censors at the time would have you believe.
What then is it? Hmmm… what then is it? In answering the question, I could detail the plot which sees Cruise find out his wife has been fantasising about a man she met only once, and goes out to find his own sexual fantasy: encountering a bereaved daughter, a prostitute, an orgy as he does so.
I could also detail the visual style and art direction: all the sets look like hotels: bereft of any warmth or individuality. You don’t really believe the characters have lived there or that they have lives anything like yours or mine. The film deals almost exclusively with those on the upper-crust of society, and the sets point to the artificiality of that existence.
Finally, the dialogue, as already alluded to is deceptively simple. Exchanges are so one dimensional, they must surely have hidden depth. As a result characters feel like actors playing roles.
Putting all of these things together make the movie feel incredibly dreamlike. Phones ring at the most convenient of times, allowing Cruise to avoid decisions he would rather not make. Characters float into existence, almost from nowhere. Cruise quickly moves from one place to the next with little time for thinking in between. The events of the movie are also so unlikely and surreal they could easily fit into a David Lynch movie.
So what then is Eyes Wide Shut? Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to say that it could be anything. There are hundreds of articles on the meaning of the film, all pointing to different ideas. For example, some feel it is a celebration of marriage, others a celebration of sexual fantasy. Regardless of what Kubrick’s intentions are, the movie will surely hold different interpretations to different viewers. Like our own dreams, where only we can can expect to truly interpret them, Eyes Wide Shut is a film so rich in subtext, its meaning will be different to each viewer. Intentionally making a film so open to analysis and inference is one of the reasons Kubrick and his movies will be remembered for many years to come.