Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut ★★★★½

Fantasies. Eyes Wide Shut, with its twisting look at desire and pleasure, becomes an orgy of dreams and reflections. With its fake looking streets and allegorical story, we are plunged into a dreamworld. Yet dreams are not just dreams, we need to wake up and accept our dreams for the way they define us. In Eyes Wide Shut, sex is the dream and love is the reality, an inversion of physical reality taking precedence over emotional logic. It's a film of wandering the night for sex and waking up in the morning for love. Or, just maybe, love is the dream and sex is reality? I suppose it depends who the dream belongs to.

Eyes Wide Shut presents sex as a necessary function of humanity, something present always in society. It plunges into the mysteries of sex and love, trying to find the distinction, looking at the roles and expectations of men and women. All of which culminates in the infamous sequence with the sex cult, one of Kubrick's finest set-pieces, so atmospheric, intense, and conceptually intriguing. The anonymous fucking makes the cult a representation of sex in the abstract, where sex is a purely physical and ritualistic act without emotion. It is something everyone can do, either by participating or observing. All fantasies are the same: you are either the watcher or the watched. The film even turns celebrity and glamour inwards, making Tom Cruise a sexual bystander.

The masks during the orgy sequence also underscore how much Eyes Wide Shut is a film of masks and façades. Beneath all that exists there is an underworld hidden. The fancy party which starts the film is just a mask over the sex and drugs which most there are privy to. The film has a Christmas setting, allowing most scenes to be shot with a radiance that feels pure and holy. Yet beneath that mask is the neverending sexual underbelly of society. The Christmas props and lighting are notably absent during the orgy. The haze of Christmas vanishes in the darkness. Then, after the orgy, the film changes. The first half presents sex as natural but in conflict with emotions. After the orgy, it turns dark. Sex leads to bad dreams, teenagers sold into prostitution, paranoia, the urge to cheat, and HIV transmission. Sex, like all base human urges, has both good and bad consequences.

Eyes Wide Shut starts by examining the worries of a marriage. In the opening scenes Cruise's character never compliments his wife without being asked, whereas all others instantly comment on her beauty. She feels unloved and limited by her marriage. So her husband embarks on a strange journey into the night, one that leads him to an elite world of drugs and sex. He is seduced, he is befriended, he is tempted away from her. He aspires to be part of the elite, and Sydney Pollack's character represents the worst side of him and what he could be if he didn't love his wife. Mirrors are frequent in Eyes Wide Shut, but our lead is also a mirror, repeating so much that is said to him. He stumbles through the world uncertain, and it is often only phonecalls that draw him back to reality and end his encounters. This is a world where nothing ever finishes, and everything is left unfinished. His visit to the party is cut short, his investigation afterwards is stopped, his return of the costume reveals a missing item. The explanation given for the events at the party is not something that can be verified, so even the plot isn't complete. It's not a healthy way to live, love, or fuck.

Eyes Wide Shut is a masterwork by the greatest American filmmaker of them all. Kubrick's craft is mesmerising, filled with so many stunning images and up there with 2001 and Barry Lyndon as Kubrick's most visually extraordinary work. There are scenes and moments in Eyes Wide Shut which better all other 1990s Hollywood movies. It is an endlessly fascinating work on the complexity of sex and love. It exists as a dream and a fantasy, but has so much emotional turmoil that it reflects our reality. It's a layer of masks and a layer of secrets. Extraordinary cinema. Fuck.

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