Eyes Wide Shut

The "haunting" effects of Stanley Kubrick\'s Eyes Wide Shut can be identified as creating curiosity, fear and anxiety in the viewer. They can be understood as painting a mosaic of symbolism in the viewer\'s eye, and as depositing fragments of concepts inside his mind. The film\'s slow pace seems to open wide gaps between the joints of the story\'s framework, causing the viewer to lose his secure sense of balance during the progression of the plot. Eyes Wide Shut is not a tale of terror nor one of mystery or of love; it is not a documentary about a married couple nor a psychological drama. It pretends to be all of these, and in so doing explores the filmic medium and secures the effects of its own elements.

Like any film that is carefully constructed, Eyes Wide Shut is the sum of its elements and of the ways by which these interact with each other. The most significant elements of the film are 1) color, particularly red, blue and yellow; 2) sound, such as voices plus external and internal music; 3) camera movement, especially the track-forward, track-backward and the revolving shot; 4) the dissolve, as the main transition technique between shots; and 5) the recursive figures of the Female Nude, Masks and Christmas Trees. Some of these elements are recognizable from the earlier Kubrick films, such as A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, a fact which reveals the signature of Kubrick the auteur.

Eyes Wide Shut can be divided into three parts, each of which contains the elements mentioned above. Part I introduces the main characters and their relationship towards each other. Dr. William Harford and his wife Alice attend a party where pianist Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), an old acquaintance of "Bill" and a pivotal character for the plot, provides the music. The Harford\'s friend and host Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), introduces his wife to his guests and later solicits Bill\'s medical attention to save the overdosed prostitute and "beauty queen" Mandy (Julienne Davis), who is sprawled naked on a divan in an upstairs room of the mansion, while Ziegler nervously gets dressed. On the wall behind her hangs a large painting of a female nude. In this manner, the figure of the Female Nude is introduced as having a dual significance: as a measure for risk and fatality (Mandy), and as a representation of aesthetic beauty (the painting).

In the meantime, Alice drinks several glasses of champagne and dances with a pressing suitor. Half drunk and in full coquettish swing, her swaying disposition and her reluctant tongue oscillate between words, like a pendulum pulsating a decrepit waltz. Upstairs, Bill in a demanding staccato calls out to Mandy\'s dying ear: "Mandy...can you hear me? Can you hear me...Mandy? Look at me...Mandy." In both cases, Alice\'s drunkenness and flirtatiousness, and Bill\'s tense, yet hopeful tone produce a slowness in their way of speaking and in the overall rhythm of the scenes. This device becomes characteristic of the film, where whatever altered state the character happens to be in (fear, shock, distress, stupor) can be defined as a "justifier" for the prolongation of his or her oral expression.

This strategy of "justifiers" is used in numerous scenes. In one which follows the scenes of the party, for example, Alice and Bill smoke marijuana and she initiates an interrogation which tests her husband\'s sense of jealousy. The scene evolves from her dispassionate questioning to her violent reproach, to a daring confession of figurative adultery. Throughout all three phases, however, Alice deals with the effects of the drug and of the mental "tiptoeing" around her husband\'s defensive rationale. This is represented by her slow speech.

In addition to this, during the "confession" phase, the film\'s grainy quality is accentuated, establishing a kind of screen or filter to distance the viewer from the subject, thus creating in the viewer a sensation of voyeurism. This relationship is first established in the initial credit sequence, where Nicole Kidman --or her unknown character-- very casually undresses, as if unaware of being viewed, setting up the viewer as the unsuspected voyeur of the events to follow. Furthermore, the scene establishes the red, yellow and blue colors, where Alice\'s character is usually set against the golden warmth of her surroundings. Blue dominates when the confession