47 FILMS: 17. EYES WIDE SHUT
In our continuing series of 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams, we look at Stanley Kubrick’s last picture Eyes Wide Shut.
Stan Kubrick was lazy. He should have churned out a film every three years but instead he spent the decade between 1987 and 1997 sat in an armchair watching QVC and eating bread and butter pudding.
Finally in 1997 he was on his way to the bathroom with a horse racing form guide and a fresh toilet roll when it occurred to him that the churning sensation in his guts was not the prelude to a bowel movement but the compulsion to make a movie. Hence, Eyes Wide Shut was born. A film that on its original release was violated by critics and slammed in the press for its explicit sex scenes and general all round dullness. “Kubrick’s latest film is terrible,” the headlines cried and everyone signed a petition to get him thrown in the Tower of London.
Sadly, before his public trial Stanley passed away and suddenly the reviews were less harsh. “Kubrick’s last film is all okay” the headlines cried and all the critics felt better about themselves, the world continued spinning and Eyes Wide Shut was only spoken about again in hushed whispers in public lavatories.
For many the problem is Tom Cruise. They seem unable to buy him as the curious Doctor who stumbles into a parallel universe of masonic rituals and general weirdness but Kubrick cast Cruise and indeed Kidman for a reason. At the time they were the most recognisable and powerful couple in Hollywood and it’s difficult for an audience to separate them from their characters. So to convince the pair to dissect their marriage on-screen not only proves the sway of Kubrick, but also the artistic bravery of Cruise and Kidman.
Of course being a Kubrick picture everything is beautifully shot, exquisitely lit and the soundtrack is near on perfect but in a film about masks, it’s not what we see on the surface, it’s what’s lurking underneath. The film is Stanley’s comment on a world he has undoubtedly experienced, a world where no matter how powerful you think you are or how much you think you know, there are always more powerful people who know more than you. You get the distinct impression Kubrick is trying to reveal something, using film as a medium to lift a veil on how the upper echelons of society live and what goes on behind their gilded gates.
Conspiracy theories have been buzzing around the internet for years with strange stories of how Stanley was whacked by the secret society he exposed and although there is no evidence for such a seemingly preposterous theory. Something about the film is unsettlingly real and makes you wonder how much truth is hidden in the fiction. Also when you consider it never received a single nomination in all the big awards ceremonies of that year; you wonder if the subject matter was a little too close to home for the power brokers and aristocrats of the movie industry.