It was inevitable that Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut
would be the most misunderstood film of 1999. Kubrick died four months prior to its release, and there was no end to speculation how much he would have tinkered with the picture, changed it, "fixed" it. We'll never know. But even without the haunting enigma of the director's death--and its eerie echo/anticipation in the scene when Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) visits the deathbed of one of his patients--Eyes Wide Shut
would have perplexed and polarized viewers and reviewers. After all, virtually every movie of Kubrick's post-U.S. career had; only 1964's Dr. Strangelove
opened to something approaching consensus. Quite apart from the author's tinkering, Kubrick's movies themselves always seemed to change--partly because they changed us
, changed the world and the ways we experienced and understood it. And we may expect Eyes Wide Shut
to do the same. Unlike Kubrick himself, it has time.
So consider, as we settle in to live with this long, advisedly slow, mesmerizing film, how challenging and ambiguous its narrative strategy is. The source is an Arthur Schnitzler novella titled Traumnovelle (or "Dream Story"), and it's a moot question how much of Eyes Wide Shut itself is dream, from the blue shadows frosting the Harfords' bedroom to the backstage replica of New York's Greenwich Village that Kubrick built in England. Its major movement is an imaginative night-journey (even the daylight parts of it) taken by a man reeling from his wife's teasing confession of fantasized infidelity, and toward the end there is a token gesture of the couple waking to reality and, perhaps, a new, chastened maturity. Yet on some level--visually, psychologically, logically--every scene shimmers with unreality. Is everything in the movie a dream? And if so, who is dreaming it at any given moment, and why?
Don't settle for easy answers. Kubrick's ultimate odyssey beckons. And now the dream is yours. --Richard T. Jameson
EDITOR'S NOTE: The U.S. (Region 1) DVD release of Eyes Wide Shut
presents the film in its R-rated U.S. theatrical version--submitted and approved by Stanley Kubrick per contractual obligation--with digitally inserted figures added to obscure explicit sexual activity during the 65-second orgy scene. At present there are no plans to release the "unaltered" version on DVD in Region 1. Regarding the full-screen format of Eyes Wide Shut
on DVD, the official wording on the DVD packaging is as follows: "This feature is presented in the full aspect ratio of the original camera negative, as Stanley Kubrick intended." As with the DVD formatting of The Shining
and Full Metal Jacket
, Eyes Wide Shut
was matted in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio for theatrical presentation, but the director composed his films in camera to accommodate television broadcast and home video viewing. The official aspect ratio of Eyes Wide Shut
on DVD is 1.37:1.