Eyes Wide Shut – FELIX, Victor

Eyes Wide Shut was not the first Stanley Kubrick film that I have seen: I’ve seen The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. It was nice to see the reuse of masks, and I even recognize the signature long-nosed mask used in A Clockwork Orange. The distinctive emotional aura experienced instinctively in Kubrick films is also present.
The film revolves around the marriage of Bill and Alice Harford, specifically the period in between the fallout and the rapprochement. It covers a lot of themes: the mediocrity of marriage, the animalistic nature of man, the boundary between fantasy and reality, the illusion of attraction, and gender roles. The catalyst of the denouement happens when Alice divulges her previous sexual attraction to a Navy officer, thereby challenging the delusion of their perfect marriage. Actually, if one is technical, it could be said that the whole movie might have started because of a bad pot trip.
Moving on, devastated by the revelation, Bill’s world is shattered. Prior to this, he was sure about their relationship, never really considering that his wife is capable of infidelity. He becomes insanely covetous of his wife’s encounter, and suddenly we see him go from cool, calm, and collected, to borderline wrath or choler. He is plagued by what never happened (or could have happened, if you look at it differently) and it spurs him to do rash things. I think that this was inevitable, since the two characters are both staggeringly attractive in their own way, and sooner or later they were going to achieve a form of critical mass. Judging from their relationship, it is as if Alice was neatly compartmentalized into Bill’s perfect life, and ultimately this birthed her ennui.
It also can’t be helped, since both characters are sexually confident. Although they wear the fanciest clothing, just like all the other characters, they’re just animals in suits. Everything, from Ziegler’s party to the orgy in the manse, is carefully crafted to create an illusion of magnetism and arousal. I think this would be also good time to say that this also shows the duality of night and day, and by extension, fantasy and reality. The characters of Bill and Alice are different during the day and night, possibly because the night offers a sense of wonder, expectation, and anticipation. This is actually addressed, wherein Bill literally has to buy a tuxedo, a hooded coat, and a mask to enter the surreptitious party.
Now, the scene at the manse would be the highlight of the film, and it also extends, to some extent, a microcosm of the whole thing. First, right from the start the relationship between Bill and Alice has been predominantly patriarchal. It is incapable of being avoided: Bill is an alpha male and this is his hubris. This is alluded to when the men in the party are essentially in a high class brothel: the women are mere pleasure tools for the men, and they have sex openly as if they are authoritatively declaring this fact. The men are also clothed while the women are not. Secondly, Bill is shocked when he finds out that Alice may not have been the picture perfect wife he has come to know: it is as if she has spoken out of her station much like the prostitute who defended Bill, and she was punished for it. It is implied that Bill wanted to punish Alice, although not directly since he was close to cheating on her himself, even going out of his way to hire a prostitute. Thirdly, the party was kept in secret and we find out later that it was filled with high-ranking and affluent people. As mentioned, it is clear that the characters in the movie purposely hide their innermost sexual tendencies; that is obvious because no one can act thoughtlessly in public. But the fact of the matter is that, as much as one can have self control, there will forever be the shade of desire looming around. The question is just whether or not you act on it. This also highlights the taboo side of sexuality: since the participants take great lengths into hiding the party it just means what they are doing is fundamentally wrong.
Alice mentions, in an emotional scene, her dream/nightmare wherein she participates in an orgy. This particular scene takes the whole movie and turns it on his head because, strangely, it is a relatively exact account of what Bill just went through. I think that this brings into light the thin line between dreams and reality, and specifically it challenges the legitimacy of Bill’s encounter with the masquerade brothel. Either way, it discombobulates the viewer and adds another layer to the film. It is eerie, but it also closely encircles the entire film into a soundly whole. I couldn’t imagine watching the film again without it.
The film went full circle, and the dialogue at the end is successful in both explaining the title and concluding the recent events which happened to the Harfords. Alice says that what has happened to them shouldn’t define their married life, and that they should “fuck” at the soonest time. Marriage isn’t a prison sentence, especially in the liberal society that America is in: anyone can leave at any time. But ultimately, open communication and honesty can strengthen the bonds of marriage, even though this might lead to the surfacing of one’s flaws. A person who wants a relationship to last should have “eyes wide shut”, wherein everything is visible but some things are kept mum.
All in all, the film was beautifully done. The night scenes were, in my opinion, some of the best I’ve seen in a film. It achieved the type of surrealism that I believe Kubrick was going for. And the scene at the manse was extremely memorable, it certainly leaves a lasting impression. I would highly recommend this to any of my friends.


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