There are some films that I will watch every chance I get because I enjoy them. Others will be given some distance between viewings because I didn’t like what I saw or that it it’s akin to a fine wine, only enjoyable in sips instead of gulps. Eyes Wide Shut is one of those fine wines, something I view every six months because of what it is.
A doctor fights with his wife and explores a sexual underworld, trying to figure out what it means to be faithful to a person.
This odyssey started when I was a sophomore in college, before I started to watch movies seriously. I bought this and a few other tapes at Salvation Army with the plastic wrap still on it. It had been opened and viewed at least once. I didn’t get around to it until the beginning of winter break. After the first viewing, I had to step back and think about what I saw.
At first, I noticed the one-point perspective used in other Kubrick films. But I saw the use of the specific red and blue in the first five minutes that would appear countless times throughout the rest of the film. From the neon lights to the apartment paintings, to the coats on the extras and even the hospital tiles, they were present. Since then, I have tried to figure out what each color means with some success that’ll be in a separate post.
The sequence that captivated me was the famous masked ball ritual scene. It’s so surreal that I could do nothing but stare, occasionally remembering to breathe. The strong reverence for this ceremony can be felt through the music and the slow tracking of the camera. The scene that followed was from the North American R-rated version with the superimposed figures, according to This Film is Not Yet Rated. Since then, I’ve upgraded to the two-disc version that contains the unrated cut just to update my collection.
I enjoy the soundtrack a lot. From the flowing waltz of Dmitri Shostakovich that bookends the film to the unnerving Gyorgy Ligeti piece from the unmasking scene, I cannot get enough of it. Sometimes, I listen to the masked ball music before bed because of how it sounds. I could listen to that piece for hours on end and never get tired of it.
Now, why do I prefer this over a film like Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom? It’s true that both films have strong sexual content. For me, Salo was an exercise in depravity by showing that sex equals power and without attachment or resolution. Here, the infidelity happened but it reached a resolution by the end of the film in a way that both characters could learn something. While I personally don’t agree with some of the content in either film (especially the former), I accept that it is what the director intended.
I have found a few peers who have heard or even seen this particular film. I’m not entirely surprised because it is an adult film and should be treated as such. It’s not one you watch just for kicks. There’s a serious commitment involved with choosing to watch this film. I find that it is one where it’s better to watch it alone than with other people.
As Kubrick’s last film before his death, it’s amazing. I know it’s not for everyone but I highly recommend it.
1001 MYMSBYD selection