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7th May 2024

Eyes Wide Shut 25 years on: A feast for the eyes, a nightmare for the mind

As part of Cultplex’s on-going Movie Church series, fans of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut celebrate his beautifully nightmare-ish film 25 years on
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Eyes Wide Shut 25 years on: A feast for the eyes, a nightmare for the mind
Credit: EYES WIDE SHUT @ Warner Bros

Eyes Wide Shut was the final film made by Stanley Kubrick, easily one of the greatest directors of all time, as he died just six days after showing the final cut of the film to Warner Bros. Eyes Wide Shut was shown as part of Cultplex’s Movie Church series and this year marks the 25th anniversary of its release. Even though I’d already seen it, what better excuse to go out and watch a classic?

Eyes Wide Shut focuses on the relationship between Dr. Bill Herford (Tom Cruise) and his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman). After they attend a party together, Alice tries to make Bill jealous by sharing sexual fantasies involving her and a man she saw while they were on holiday the previous year, causing Bill to go on a mission (should he choose to accept it) to have sex with another woman.

I’m assuming most people have never seen Cruise playing a role in a drama, as he is most well-known for the Mission: Impossible and Top Gun franchises. This isn’t necessarily shameful as he’s great in action films, but his dramatic acting ability is criminally underrated, as in Eyes Wide Shut he delivers by far the best performance of his career.

Bill is undeniably charismatic but everything he says has a hint of insincerity to it, although this may just be down to the fact that Cruise does not have the mannerisms of a human being. Kidman doesn’t have a whole lot to do outside of a few scenes, but she really kills it, Alice deals with a lot of frustration and repression and when it all finally comes out it is very intense, and Kidman nails every beat.

The main thing that stood out to me on a rewatch though, probably because it was in a cinema, was the style. Eyes Wide Shut is set at Christmas, and the way Christmas lights are used in this film is unlike anything I have ever seen and likely will ever see again. I try not to think ‘Why don’t films look like this anymore?’ because I love how (most) new films look, but the strong colours combined with the softer lighting made for a real dreamlike feeling throughout the film.

Eyes wide shut promo
Credit: EYES WIDE SHUT @ Warner Bros

I see the term ‘Lynchian’ (creating a sinister, surreal tone in everyday environments) thrown around a lot and I often don’t agree with the things that are being described as such (I saw Wandavision being called Lynchian – what?), but Eyes Wide Shut can definitely be described as Lynchian in this way.

It just has this uncanny feeling underlying the entire film, which is achieved through a combination of the visuals, the ominous score, and the film’s straight up refusal to answer so many of the questions that come up once the plot reaches a certain point. After that point, it spirals into a nightmare-ish mess that leaves Bill constantly looking over his shoulder.

Eyes Wide Shut is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, but like Kubrick’s depiction of New York City, under the surface lies an ugly underbelly of desire, paranoia and intrusive thoughts. It works well as a pointed critique of the expectations that are placed on people in relationships, and how they create an implicit sense of possessiveness and competitiveness between those involved.

While Eyes Wide Shut is not my absolute favourite Kubrick film, it is for sure in my top 3. It should be classed as one of those films people heavily debate over whether or not it’s a Christmas film, I’m leaning towards saying it isn’t as I watched it in April and it didn’t feel seasonally inappropriate but I see the vision for saying otherwise.


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