BP’s Top 100 Movie List Challenge #96: Eyes Wide Shut, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have tragically never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
I had only seen Eyes Wide Shut in the last few years for the first time and I expected not to enjoy it. But to my surprise I really liked it. I think I saw it at the right time in my life, because if I has seen it when I was younger I think I might have dismissed it as exploitative or confusing. Seeing it again just reinforced how much I do like the film. In general I am not a big Stanley Kubrick fan. I can see from an academic perspective that he made good films he just didn’t make films that really appealed to me. Eyes Wide Shut was Kubrick’s last film he made before he died, but what a film to end his career on.
At its heart Eyes Wide Shut is about marriage and the core differences between men and women. Dr. Bill and Alice Harford are happily married with a young daughter named Helena. We see in the beginning of the film that they have a pretty normal marriage: peeing with the door open, helping Bill find his wallet, negotiating bed times, etc. They are both very good looking people and they have their separate flirtations at the Christmas party they attend. Those flirtations lead to a confession by Alice that she thought about having an affair years ago and Bill’s fragile ego cannot stand the idea. He is so overcome with jealousy that he almost sleeps with a hooker, attends a lavish party he was not invited to, and is potentially responsible for a woman’s death. He does come clean with Alice in the end and she finds a way to forgive him. She isn’t blameless either, she flirts with a man at the Christmas party too and is clearly jealous of the women her husband flirts with. Their relationship seems to be deeply rooted in their physical attraction to each other. Kubrick spends a great deal of time lingering on Nicole Kidman’s body and the things people do and want to do to it. The idea that someone else could have had the same kind of connection with his wife makes Bill obsessively jealous. Even hearing about a dream she has about being with other men seems to make him question everything.
Eyes Wide Shut shows the dark underbelly of the rich, New York elite. It shows how people with power can get away with a lot and how they react when their position is threatened. One of the most effective parts of the film is that you don’t know what is real or not. Were the masked woman’s warnings real or just theater? Did she overdose or was she killed for Bill’s transgressions. Is his family in danger from this masked group or are they empty threats? You never get any real answers and that is surprisingly satisfying.
Eyes Wide Shut is a beautiful film. The set design, costumes, actors, and cinematography are all beautiful. Kubrick’s camera seems to seek out beautiful things. There are many scenes of Tom Cruise, dressed impeccably, walking through the grimy streets of New York and people can’t help but notice him. A hooker solicits him, a group of “bros” harass him, and a stranger stalks him. I’ve already mentioned the almost voyeuristic obsession the film has with Kidman’s body. She is naked or nearly naked for probably half of her screen time. One of the strangest and most beautiful scenes is at the masked party. The masks and costumes people wear are haunting and beautiful, women and men’s bodies are on display, and the house where it is filmed is gorgeous.
This is only one of two Stanley Kubrick films on the Battleship Pretension Top 100 list and I am glad it is there. Certainly a film this belongs on this list and improves with multiple viewings.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Eyes Wide Shut rating: Carrier