Eyes Wide Shut – Revisited

March 23, 2008
Kubrick’s last masterpiece stays both magical and mysterious, that’s for sure. It provides a journey into the night (not necessarily a ‘long day’s journey’) and into the the mind of Dr. William Harford. Bill (Tom Cruise) is a well-off Manhattan-based doctor, who lives with his wife (Nicole Kidman, strange coincidence, eh?) and his little daughter.
The movie, Eyes Wide Shut, has as many fans as many haters. Since 1999, it hasn’t had a clear-cut interpretation, though it opens several possibilities of interpretations about sex, natural instinct, marital loyalty and last, but not least the unanswered and ambigous topic of Dream vs. Reality.I’ve seen this movie a hundred times and of course haven’t understood it perfectly. I wonder it is because its complexity and multi-layered existence or simply because I’m stupid. Michel Chion wrote a book on EWS that provides a deeper insight of the movie, approaching it from numerous perspectives. For example, it mentions Arthur Schnitzler (whose ‘short’ story provided the base of the movie), a writer,whose then-contemporary friend was the psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. It is still a debate whether it was Freud who influenced Schnitzler or the other way around. Chion mentions the importance of the in-film music. The ghostly sounds of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata fits perfectly into the realm of the movie (note how detailed the Chion book is: it marks the number of Musica Ricercata’s appearance throughout the movie),or the song that is played during the orgy-scene, which is a reversed track of a roman-greek preach.Since Sarris’ Auteur theory (1962) we have acknowledged that the requirements of being Auteur is fulfilled if all of the three criterias are present. From ‘Polyauterism in Eyes Wide Shut’ – an essay in which I deal with EWS- I’d like to quote:
He [Sarris] summarized[1] three essential features with the help of which the notion of auteurism can be tracked down. The three criterias[2] are the following: an auteur must have (1) technical competence, that is how much an auteur is aware of the technical feature of the actual production; (2) distinguishable personality, that is how he or she could “present” themselves on the screen and (3) interior meaning arising from tension between personality and material, that is to what extent the auteur can interpret his or her way of understanding of the material.

If we take into consideration the fact that Auteur theory can be applied to stars (Kidman and Cruise) we soon find out that what we get here is a tripartitive Auteur system. At least, that is what I’ve conceptualized from my tremendous intake of the movie.

For further recommendation, please visit Zizek’s account of the movie. link


[1] Robert Stam and Toby Miller, eds., Film and Theory (New York: Blackwell, 2000), 27.

[2] Robert Stam and Toby Miller, eds., Film and Theory (New York: Blackwell, 2000), 28.

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2 Responses to “Eyes Wide Shut – Revisited”

  1. emmmmma Says:

    Was the notion of the auteur your major topic in your essay about the EWS, or did you focus on other issues, problems as well? Did you happen to deal with the questions of reality and dream?

  2. kelemenzsolt Says:

    i mainly focused on the issue of auterism, I dealt with the issue of reality in my other paper.


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