Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Kubrick’s Last Film, Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick’s first film in 12 years, turned out to be his final work; he died just days after finishing post-production.
Overly long, and occasionally flat, “Eyes Wide Shut” is one of Kubrick’s most conventional films, lacking his usually eccentric visual imagery and narrative strategy.
Known for his slowness, a result of meticulous attention to detail and numerous takes, Kubrick had directed only a few films after “2001: A Space Odyssey,” in 1968. Nonetheless, most of Kubrick’s films have been “events,” in both filmic and extra-filmic ways, a combined function of his stature as an auteur, the paucity of his work, and reclusive lifestyle. His mythical image was cultivated by journalists who couldn’t get interviews with him; Kubrick never cared to talk about, let alone explain, his work.
Considering that his movies were financed by a mainstream studio (Warner for the most part), Kubrick exerted unequalled control over his work, from conception and casting all the way to promotion, publicity, and theatrical release.   It was a mutually beneficial collaboration. Warner enabled him to make personal films and he helped them get extra-publicity, and sometimes profit, too.
In “Eyes Wide Shut,” an adaptation of German writer Arthur Schnitzler’s “Traumanovelle,” (“Rhapsody: A Dream Novel”) by Kubrick and Frederic Raphael, Kubrick cast Hollywood’s most famous and bankable stars of the 1990s, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, as the couple whose marriage is put to test, going through crisis by a single exchange of honesty.   Cruise and Kidman’s real-life marriage added an extra element of intrigue and fascination to Kubrick’s tale of marital monogamy and sexual jealousy; the collapse of their union a year later made it all the more ironic.
The text deals with the precarious nature of intimate male-female relationship, and the tensions between truth, honesty, monogamous sex and love. Inspired by the source material, Kubrick blurs the lines between reality and dream. Indeed, surviving the dangerous blurring of fantasy and reality is one of film’s overt themes, explored through a meditation on sexual desire, fidelity, abuse, truth and imagination. Moreover, “Eyes Wide Shut” invites viewers to project their own emotions into its hyper real dream/nightmare.
Cruise plays Bill Harford, a Manhattan doctor for the rich and famous, who is shaken into a state of discomfort and paranoia, when his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) confesses of a sexual fantasy she has had with a naval officer she had met years ago, while vacationing with Bill in Provincetown.
Her fantasy is depicted in brief flashbacks, seen from Bill’s subjective POV. There was only an exchange of glances, but the way Alice relates the story makes Bill jealous and insecure. Deeply haunted and troubled by his wife’s frank confession, Bill begins to doubt his own sexuality and fear of intimacy, embarking on a nocturnal journey of adventures, in which he entertains adultery but is too fearful to express or consummate his erotic desires.
The middle (and weakest) section of the film depicts the ceremonial preparations for the secret masked orgy that Bill attends in Long Island, putting to risk his life.
Like his previous film, “Full Metal Jacket,” “Eyes Wide Shut” was not shot on location. There’s flat mockup of New York streets, intercut with second-unit photography of actual streets in New York City.
The movie was well received by most critics, though some bemoaned its failure to live up to the usually high level of expectations.
Considering the anticipation and hype, not to mention Kubrick’s sudden death, the movie was just a moderate performer at the box-office
The tale ends with a sequence in a toys store at Christmas time, offering an ironically comforting sense of closure, in a film full of uncertainties and ambiguities. Indeed, unlike most of Kubrick’s films, “Eyes Wide Shut” concludes on a rather hopeful and optimistic, but not entirely convincing, note, when the couple decides to go home and “F—k,” which is the last word of the scenario.
“Life goes on,” Sydney Pollack’s character (who’s Bill’s friend) says cynically at one point. “It always does, until it doesn’t.” Kubrick would have agreed with that statement, manifest in his life, which was cut short abruptly at age 70, as well as his brilliant body of work.
Credits
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay by Kubrick and Frederic Raphael, inspired by “Traumnovelle” by Arthur Schnitzler
Camera: Larry Smith
Editing: Nigel Galt.
Music: Jocelyn Pook
Production designers, Les Tomkins and Roy Walker
Running time: 145 Minutes.
MPAA Rating: R
Cast:
Tom Cruise (Dr. William Harford)
Nicole Kidman (Alice Harford)
Sydney Pollack (Victor Ziegler)
Todd Field (Nick Nightingale)
Alan Cumming (Desk Clerk)
Rade Sherbedgia (Milich)
Leelee Sobieski (Milich’s Daughter)
Vinessa Shaw (Domino)
Fay Masterson (Sally)