By Jerome Reuter
Winston Churchill once described Russia as “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” I believe you can say the same thing regarding the film Eyes Wide Shut. Released in 1999, it’s the final work of Stanley Kubrick. It’s also one of his most perplexing. To this day, I’m still attempting to wrap my head around it.
Like every other work in his filmography, there’s much than what we see on the screen. That’s much of what keeps bringing me back to revisit this one. So many films depict marriage as a joyous endeavor, and family life as pure contentment. Kubrick really flips the coin on this, so to speak. Every day we see married couples and families walking the street, content in their existence. Kubrick’s master camerawork shows us the underbelly, what’s kept behind closed doors, and away from peering eyes. I feel this film forces us to look at the way we perceive relations, in a whole new way. It makes us think, much like any other work Kubrick adapted to celluloid.
As I’ve stated many times before, what separates a good film from a great film, is the ability to use contrast. This was one of Kubrick’s greatest talents as a filmmaker. Here, it’s his ability to illustrate the decision someone might make when they learn of their partner being unfaithful at one point. Does one look for something new and forbidden, or cling the security of what they already have?
Federico Fellini once said the cinema was both ‘real and fantastic.’ This is absolutely true when it comes to Eyes Wide Shut. If you’ve seen the film as many times as I have, you might be aware of what I’m getting at—the bizarre masked cult. Secret societies are something that many people have often wondered about, but have never been proven. The lines of normal life, and the hidden world often found in a dream, are blurred. I’ve often wondered if Kubrick was commentating on the way some people had over analyzed his previous works. Watch Room 237 if you want to explore that topic a little more.
I honestly feel that Kubrick knew this going to be his final work. His whole career was a timeline of weaving spells of atmosphere, darkness, and depth into our imaginations. One thing you’ll notice is the attention to detail with color. It’s quite possibly his best use of color cinematography since Barry Lyndon. This film leaves an image in our minds not soon forgotten, and is the perfect ending to his legacy. Kubrick was a man without compromise, and his works will always be celebrated.