STANLEY KUBRICK - Thoughts on Eyes Wide Shut

   Eyes Wide Shut, along with 2001 A Space Odyssey, is in my view
   Stanley Kubrick's greatest film. Yet 2001 enjoys a huge cult
   following whereas EWS has not generally received such critical
   acclaim to date. Barry Lyndon is also greatly overlooked, which
   may have something to do with how it willfully undermines its
   own plot developments; you are constantly told things by the
   narrator ahead of the on-screen story. This is of course for artistic
   reasons, since the film is in no small measure about fate; it's as if
   the film would play perfectly well backwards. It is also a film
   where you feel 'distanced' from everything all the time; again
   reinforcing the feeling that we, the audience, are the eyes of a
   disinterested 'fate', witnessing the course of events.

   In the case of Eyes Wide Shut, although the surface of the film in
   terms of drama and pace is, like Barry Lyndon, extremely quiet, it
   is so for very different reasons. Here, it is to enable the myriad
   connections and parallels in the film to breathe freely and allow
   them to 'dawn on you.' This is in keeping with the film's theme
   involving the vicissitudes of a psychological state. Here are a
   couple of very simple examples of what I mean:

   The first shot we see in EWS is of Nicole Kidman's dress falling to
   the floor revealing her slim naked body. The same image is
   paralleled later during the orgy sequence when Bill Harford
   (Kidman's on-screen husband) sees the same image, but
   multiplied in the form of a circle of 'hookers' who let their black
   capes fall to the ground revealing naked bodies identical to
   that of his wife. We are never sure if we are witnessing Bill's
   fantasy and therefore what this reveals about his unconscious
   view of his spouse or, conversely, his unconscious view of

   The second example is a little more complex, but I will mention
   a simple element of it: the various events and situations of the
   orgy are strangely reminiscent, as if in a dream, of the party at
   Zeigler’s grand house and also the fancy dress shop where Bill
   hires his outfit for his nocturnal adventure. In both scenes we
   are privy to a disclosure, an unmasking, explicit in Bill’s literal
   unmasking at the orgy and implicit in the discovery by Mr Milic
   of his daughter’s antics in the hire shop. It is with shock that we
   recognise the direct parallel this has with the incident at
   Ziegler’s party, where Bill himself is the one who ‘unmasks’ his
   host by virtue of his professional services as a doctor being
   required at short notice. In these three variants of the same
   situation Bill is seen as witness, a bystander and perpetrator of
   the same ‘crime’.

   These are just two among hundreds of such occurrences in the
   fabric of this film which, as you uncover them, encourage you
   to see everything as a sort of cinematic hologram of a state of

   There is something else I would like to mention about this film;
   something that had an immediate and visceral effect on me was
   the way the film creates a sense of a continuous and unified
   ‘world’. Whether it is day or night, whether we are on the wet
   streets outside, or at the palace orgy, Ziegler’s mansion, the
   prostitute’s tiny bed-sit, the hospital, Bill and Alice’s apartment
   or a jazz club, everything is infused with the same ‘DNA’
   regarding its mood, atmosphere and ‘tone’. In this way it
   closely resembles 2001 A Space Odyssey which uses a precise
   sense of environment as the main engine driving its emotional
   language. In fact the distinction between the two films could
   be that 2001 makes the unfamiliar familiar, whereas Eyes Wide
   Shut makes the familiar unfamiliar.

   The sense, on screen, of the deep connectivity between all the
   things that pass before our eyes means we witness the process
   whereby a state of mind is made concrete. The structural web
   binding the film together forms a labyrinth through which our
   own mind passes, casting it temporarily into a precise
   psychological state governed by the act of editing. The
   unconscious way we deal with our own memories and their
   psychological interpretation, the architecture of our psyche, is
   akin to the shaping of the components that make a film by way
   of set design, actors, photography, sound and time and is,
   particularly in the form of Eyes Wide Shut, its perfect metaphor.

   Chris Bennett 2008