Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick has always been considered a genius filmmaker. A master of his craft, he had the gift. While his subject matter has varied greatly over his career, his technical audacity has always pushed the limits of standard motion picture production. (Barry Lyndon for instance, included night scenes illuminated only by candles, and required custom lenses.) Eyes Wide Shut is no exception.
While Kubrick was born in Brooklyn, his scorn for the USA led him to eventually relocate across the pond and settle in England. And his refusal to return stateside for any reason, led to a studio recreation of lower Manhattan for his last film: Eyes Wide Shut. While this option was certainly more expensive than simply shooting on location, it added a creepy, surreal feel to the film.
Crafted after the short novel Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler, EWS stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. They play a married couple in the film, and were actually married in real life during production. While the film didn't fare particularly well with critics or fans, there is enough subject matter and style in this film to at least warrant a deeper look under the hood.
Cruise plays Dr. Bill Hartford. The film beginning sequence features him getting ready with his wife Alice, for a party of a close friend. It is an interesting and visually rich scene, that treats us to an insiders view of the couple's safety zone. The Manhattan apartment they live in is well-furnished and comfortable. They appear comfortable as a couple, and we learn they have a young child that will be watched by the babysitter. The Hartfords then leave to attend a very formal and upscale gathering.
Kubrick effectively draws the viewer into a place that feels real, appears tasteful, and as one on the other side of the fence might imagine - enjoyable. But this is where things become very unreal and dreamlike. And false representation becomes the central theme of the film. Almost immediately upon arriving at the party, events seem to conspire against the couple. The world outside of their home seems to be wrought with sexual peril and temptation. And while Dr. Bill Hartford's character seem amazed by it and seeks to follow it in fascination and want to put it under a microscope, Alice is liberated and simply tempted by the sheer thrill of the carnal possibilities.
And thus Bill's journey begins, his slow-motion journey into the shadows of the night. A bellicose dance with the good and bad in his heart, that eventually finds him with a fulfilled sense of emptiness and guilt. The original complaints about the film included a shallowness in the Cruise/Kidman characters. And that Manhattan didn't look like Manhattan. But upon reviewing the DVD, the lack of real city detail or even sunlight in this film, adds credence to the unconfirmed nature of the characters and their place in the universe. Its ambivalence allows the viewer to adapt the concept that all conscious decision is born from the subconscious. And harmony can on be achieved through the balance of the two.