Eyes Wide Shut

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Eyes Wide Shut
A framed image of a nude couple kissing – she with her eye open – against a purple background. Below the picture frame are the film's credits.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStanley Kubrick
Produced byStanley Kubrick
Written byStanley Kubrick
Frederic Raphael
Based onDream Story by
Arthur Schnitzler
StarringTom Cruise
Nicole Kidman
Sydney Pollack
Music byJocelyn Pook
CinematographyLarry Smith
Editing byNigel Galt
StudioHobby Films
Pole Star
Stanley Kubrick Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • July 16, 1999 (1999-07-16) (United States)
  • September 10, 1999 (1999-09-10) (United Kingdom)
Running time159 minutes
Box office$162,091,208
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Eyes Wide Shut
A framed image of a nude couple kissing – she with her eye open – against a purple background. Below the picture frame are the film's credits.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStanley Kubrick
Produced byStanley Kubrick
Written byStanley Kubrick
Frederic Raphael
Based onDream Story by
Arthur Schnitzler
StarringTom Cruise
Nicole Kidman
Sydney Pollack
Music byJocelyn Pook
CinematographyLarry Smith
Editing byNigel Galt
StudioHobby Films
Pole Star
Stanley Kubrick Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • July 16, 1999 (1999-07-16) (United States)
  • September 10, 1999 (1999-09-10) (United Kingdom)
Running time159 minutes
Box office$162,091,208

Eyes Wide Shut is a 1999 drama film based upon Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Dream Story. The film was directed, produced and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. It was his last film, as the director died five days after showing Warner Bros. his final cut. The story, set in and around New York City, follows the sexually charged adventures of Dr. Bill Harford, who is shocked when his wife, Alice, reveals that she had contemplated an affair a year earlier. He embarks on a night-long adventure, during which he infiltrates a massive masked orgy of an underground cult.

Kubrick got the filming rights for Dream Story in the 1960s, considering it a perfect novel to adapt on a film about sexual relations. The project was only revived in the 1990s, when the director hired writer Frederic Raphael to help him with the adaptation. The film was wholly shot in the United Kingdom, including a recreation of Greenwich Village at Pinewood Studios, and had a long production, which holds the Guinness World Record for the longest constant movie shoot, at 400 days.

Eyes Wide Shut was released on July 16, 1999, a few months after Kubrick's death, to generally positive critical reaction and intakes of $162 million at the worldwide box office. Its strong sexual content also made it controversial. To ensure a theatrical R rating in the United States, its distributor Warner Bros. digitally altered several scenes during post-production. The uncut version has since been released on DVD.



Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), a young couple from New York, go to a Christmas party, given by a wealthy patient, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). Bill meets an old friend from med school, Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), who now plays piano professionally. While a Hungarian man (Sky du Mont) tries to pick up Alice, two young models try to take Bill off for a tryst. He is interrupted by a call from his host upstairs, who had been having sex with Mandy (Julienne Davis), a young woman who has overdosed on a speedball.

Next evening at home, while smoking marijuana, Bill's wife asks him if he had sex with the two girls. After Bill reassures her, she asks if he is ever jealous of men who are attracted to her. As the discussion gets heated, he states that he thinks women are more faithful than men. She rebuts him, telling him of a recent fantasy she had about a naval officer they had encountered on a vacation.

Disturbed by Alice's revelation, Bill is just then called to the deathbed of the father of a now-engaged female friend (Marie Richardson), who impulsively kisses him and tells him she loves him. Putting her off, Bill takes a walk and meets a prostitute named Domino (Vinessa Shaw), and goes to her apartment. His wife phones as he begins to kiss her, after which he calls off the awkward encounter.

Meeting Nick at a cafe, Bill learns that Nick has a following engagement where he must play piano blindfolded, in which Nick claims to have glimpsed beautiful women. After Bill presses for details, he learns that to gain admittance, one needs a costume, a mask and the password. Bill drives late at night to a costume shop. He offers the owner, Mr. Milich (Rade Serbedzija), a generous amount of money to rent a costume, and while searching, Milich catches his teenage daughter (Leelee Sobieski) with two Japanese men and expresses outrage at their lack of sense of decency, and threatens to call the police.

Bill then takes a taxi out to a country mansion where a quasi-religious sexual ritual is taking place. One woman takes Bill aside and warns him he does not belong there, insisting he is in terrible danger for they suspect that he is an outsider. Bill is then interrupted by a masked porter who tells him that the taxi driver who is waiting outside wants to speak with him. However, the porter takes him to the main room where the masked, red-cloaked Master of Ceremonies confronts Bill with a question about a second password which Bill is unable to answer. The Master of Ceremonies insists that Bill "kindly remove his mask", then asks that he remove his clothes. The masked young woman who had tried to warn Bill now intervenes and insists that she be punished instead of him. Bill is ushered from the mansion and warned not to tell anyone about what happened there.

Just before dawn, Bill arrives home guilty and confused, where his wife Alice is now awake and tells him of a troubling dream in which she had sex with the naval officer and many other men, while laughing at the idea of Bill seeing her with them.

Next morning Bill goes to Nick's hotel, and the desk clerk (Alan Cumming) tells Bill that a bruised and frightened Nick checked out a few hours earlier after returning with two large, dangerous-looking men. Nick tried to pass an envelope to him when they were leaving, but it was intercepted, then Nick was driven away by the two men.

Bill goes to return the costume – but not the mask, which Bill has misplaced – and Milich, with his daughter by his side, states he can do other favors for Bill "and it needn't be a costume". The Japanese men leave; Milich implies to Bill that he has sold his daughter for prostitution. Bill returns to the mansion in his own car and is greeted at the gate by a man with a note warning him to cease and desist his inquiries. At home, Bill thinks about Alice's dream while he watches her tutor their daughter.

That evening, Bill goes to the home of the prostitute with a gift. Her roommate greets him, telling him Domino has just discovered she has HIV. Bill leaves and notices a well-dressed man is following him. After losing him, Bill reads a newspaper story about a beauty queen who had died of a drug overdose, whom Bill recognizes as Mandy. After Bill examines Mandy's body at the morgue, Ziegler summons Bill to his house and tells him he knows all the events of the past night and day. Ziegler was one of those involved with the ritual orgy and his own position with the secret society has been jeopardized by Bill's intrusion. Bill asks about the death of Mandy, whom Ziegler has identified as the woman at the party who'd "sacrificed" herself to prevent Bill's punishment, and about Nick. Ziegler insists that Nick is safely back at home in Seattle, but does not know where to contact him. Ziegler also insists that the "punishment" had nothing to do with Mandy's death; she was a junkie and she has died from another accidental drug overdose. Bill does not know if Ziegler is telling him the truth, but says nothing further.

When Bill returns home, he sees the rented mask on his pillow next to his sleeping wife. He breaks down in tears and as Alice awakes, he decides to tell her the whole truth of the past two days. The next morning they go Christmas shopping. His wife muses that recent events do not define their life and they should be grateful they have survived and are still together and that she loves him. She then says they need to, in her own words, "fuck" as soon as possible.




While Stanley Kubrick was interested in making a movie about sexual relations as early as 1962, during production of Dr. Strangelove,[1] the project only took off after he read Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story in 1968, when he was seeking a work to follow on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick got interested in adapting the story and with the help of then-journalist Jay Cocks bought the filming rights to the novel.[2] In the 1970s, Kubrick had thought of Woody Allen as the Jewish protagonist.[3] For the following decade, Kubrick even considered making his Dream Story adaptation a sex comedy "with a wild and somber streak running through it", starring Steve Martin in the main role.[4] The project was only revived in 1994, when Kubrick hired Frederic Raphael to work on the script, updating the setting from 19th century Vienna to 20th century New York City.[1] Kubrick invited Michael Herr, a personal friend who helped write Full Metal Jacket, for revisions, but Herr declined for fear that he would be underpaid and committed to an endless production.[4]


Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Dream Story is set around Vienna shortly after the turn of the century. The couple are named Fridolin and Albertina, and their home is a typical suburban middle-class home, not the film's posh urban apartment. Schnitzler himself, like the protagonist of this novel, lived in Vienna, was Jewish, and a medical doctor (though Schnitzler eventually abandoned medicine for writing).

Fridolin and Albertina, the protagonist couple of Dream Story, are implied to be Jewish, and Nightingale is overtly identified as Jewish. Kubrick (himself of Jewish descent) frequently removed references to the Jewishness of characters in the novels he adapted.[5] In the case of Eyes Wide Shut, Frederic Raphael wanted to keep the Jewish background of the protagonists, but Kubrick insisted that they should be "vanilla" Americans, without any details that would arouse any presumptions. The director added that Bill should be a "Harrison Ford-ish goy", and created the surname of Harford as an allusion to the actor.[6] This is reflected in the way the film handles the way Bill Harford is taunted by college students when going home in the morning. In the film, Bill is taunted with homophobic slurs. In the novella, these boys are recognized to be members of an anti-Semitic college fraternity.[5][7] (Kubrick's co-screenwriter, Fredric Raphael, in an introduction to a Penguin Classics edition of Dream Story, writes "Fridolin is not declared to be a Jew, but his feelings of cowardice, for failing to challenge his aggressor, echo the uneasiness of Austrian Jews in the face of Gentile provocation."[8]

The novella is set during the Carnival of Venice, when people often wear masks to parties. The party that both husband and wife attend at the opening of the story is a masked Carnival ball, whereas the film's story begins at Christmas time.

Critic Randy Rasmussen suggests that the character of Bill is fundamentally more naïve, strait-laced, less disclosing and more unconscious of his vindictive motives than his counterpart, Fridolin.[9] For Rasmussen and others, the film's Bill Harford is essentially sleep-walking through life with no deeper awareness of his surrounding. In the novella when his wife discloses a private sexual fantasy, he in turn admits one of his own (of a girl in her mid to late teens), while in the film he is simply shocked. The film's argument over whether he has fantasies over female patients and whether women have sexual fantasies is simply absent from the novella where both husband and wife assume the other has fantasies. In the film, Bill's estrangement from Alice revolves around her confessing a recent fantasy to him; in the novella both exchange fantasies after which she declares that in her youth she could have easily married someone else, which is what precipitates their sense of estrangement.

In the novella, the husband long suspected that his patient (Marion) was infatuated with him, while in the film it is a complete surprise and he seems shocked. He is also more overwhelmed by the orgy in the film than in the novella. Fridolin is socially bolder but less sexual with the prostitute (Mizzi in the novella, Domino in the film). Fridolin is also conscious of looking old in the novella, though he hardly does in the film.

In the novella, the party (which is sparsely attended) uses "Denmark" as the password for entrance; that is significant in that Albertina had her infatuation with her soldier in Denmark. The film's password is "Fidelio", from the Latin word for "faithful", and which is the title of Beethoven's only opera ("Fidelio, or Married Love"). In early drafts of the screenplay, the password was "Fidelio Rainbow". Jonathan Rosenbaum notes that both passwords echo elements of one member of the couple's behaviour, though in opposite ways.[10] The party in the novella consists mostly of nude ballroom dancing.

In the novella the woman who "redeems" Fridolin at the party, saving him from punishment, is costumed as a nun, and most of the characters at the party are dressed as nuns or priests; Fridolin himself used a priest costume. This aspect was retained in the film's original screenplay,[11] but was deleted in the filmed version.

In the novella, when the husband returns home, the wife's dream is an elaborate drama that concludes with him getting crucified in a village square after Fridolin refuses to separate from Albertina and become the paramour of the village princess, even though Albertina is now occupied with copulating with other men, and watches him "without pity". By being faithful, Fridolin thus fails to save himself from execution in Albertina's dream although he was apparently spared by the woman's 'sacrifice' at the masked sex party. In both the novella and film, the wife states that the laugh in her sleep just before she woke was a laugh of scornful contempt for her husband; although awake she states this matter-of-factly. The novella makes it clear that Fridolin at this point hates Albertina more than ever, thinking they are now lying together "like mortal enemies". It has been argued that the dramatic climax of the novella is actually Albertina's dream, and the film has shifted the focus to Bill's visit to the secret society's orgy whose content is more shocking in the film.[12]

The adaptation created a character with no counterpart in the novella: Ziegler, who represents both the high wealth and prestige to which Bill Harford aspires, and a connection between Bill's two worlds as he is in both his regular life and the secret society organizing the ball.[13] Critic Randy Rasmussen interprets Ziegler as representing Bill's worst self, much as in other Kubrick films; the title character in Dr. Strangelove represents the worst of the American national security establishment, Charles Grady represents the worst of Jack Torrance in The Shining, and Clare Quilty represents the worst of Humbert Humbert in Lolita.[14]

Ziegler's presence allows Kubrick to change the mechanics of the story in a few ways. In the film, Bill first meets his piano-playing friend at Ziegler's party, and then while wandering around town, seeks him out at the Sonata cafe. In the novella, the cafe encounter with Nightingale is a happy accident. Similarly, the dead woman whom Bill suspects of being the woman at the party who saved him is a baroness that he was acquainted with earlier, not a hooker at Ziegler's party.

More significantly, in the film Ziegler gives a commentary on the whole story to Bill, including an explanation that the party incident of Bill being apprehended, threatened, with the woman's sacrifice revealed as staged. Whether this is to be believed, it is an exposition of Ziegler's view of the ways of the world as a member of the power elite.[15]

The novella explains why the husband's mask is on the pillow next to his sleeping wife, she having discovered it when it slipped out of his suitcase, and placing it there as a statement of understanding. This is left unexplained in the film.


When Warner Bros. president Terry Semel approved production, he asked Kubrick to cast a movie star, as "you haven't done that since Jack Nicholson [in The Shining]."[2] The director's first thoughts were on Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, but eventually Kubrick approached Tom Cruise.[1] The actor was in England because his wife Nicole Kidman was there shooting The Portrait of a Lady, and eventually Cruise decided to visit Kubrick's estate with Kidman. After that meeting, the director awarded them the roles.[16] Jennifer Jason Leigh and Harvey Keitel each were cast and filmed by Kubrick. Due to scheduling conflicts both had to drop out -[1] first Keitel with Finding Graceland,[17] then Leigh with eXistenZ[18] – and their roles were replaced by Marie Richardson and Sydney Pollack in the final cut.[2]


A mansion with four towers.
Mentmore Towers, one of the settings used by the film

Principal photography began on November 1996. Kubrick's perfectionism led to script pages being rewritten on the set, and most scenes requiring numerous takes. The shoot went much longer than expected, with Vinessa Shaw being initially contracted for two weeks but ending up working for two months.[1] The crew got exhausted, with many reporting a desire to get fired.[19] Filming finally wrapped in June 1998.[1] The Guinness World Records recognized Eyes Wide Shut as the longest constant movie shoot, "for over 15 months, a period that included an unbroken shoot of 46 weeks".[20]

Given Kubrick's fear of flying, the entire film was shot in England. Soundstage works were done at London's Pinewood Studios, which included a detailed recreation of Greenwich Village. Kubrick's perfectionism went as far as sending workmen to Manhattan to measure street widths and note newspaper vending machine locations. Real New York footage was also shot to be rear projected behind Cruise. Production was followed by a strong campaign of secrecy, helped by Kubrick always working with a short team on set.[1] Outdoor locations included Hatton Garden for a Greenwich Village street,[21] Hamleys for the toy store from the film's ending,[22] and Mentmore Towers for the mansion.[23] Larry Smith, who had first served as a gaffer on both Barry Lyndon and The Shining, was chosen by Kubrick to be the film's cinematographer. Kubrick refused to use studio lighting, forcing Smith to use the available light sources visible in the shot, such as lamps and Christmas tree lights. When this was not adequate, Smith used Chinese paper ball lamps to softly brighten the scene. The colour was enhanced by push processing the film reels, which helped bring out the intensity of colour.[24]

Kubrick's perfectionism lead him to overseeing every visual element that would appear in a given frame, from props and furniture to the color of walls and other objects.[24] One such element were the masks used in the orgy, which were inspired by the masked Carnival balls visited by the protagonists of the novel. Costume designer Marit Allen explained that Kubrick felt they fit in that scene for being part of the imaginary world and ended up "creat[ing] the impression of menace, but without exaggeration". Many masks as used in the Venetian carnival were sent to London, and Kubrick separated who would wear each piece.[25] The paintings of Kubrick's wife Christine are featured on decoration.[26]

After shooting was done, Kubrick entered a prolonged post-production process. On March 2, 1999, Kubrick showed a cut to Cruise, Kidman and the Warner Bros. executives. The director died five days later.[2]


Jocelyn Pook wrote the original music for Eyes Wide Shut, but like other Kubrick movies the film was noted for its usage of classical music.[27] The opening title music is "Waltz 2 from Shostakovich's Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra". One recurring piece is the second movement of György Ligeti's piano cycle "Musica ricercata".[28] Kubrick originally intended to feature "Im Treibhaus" from Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, but the director eventually replaced it with Ligeti's tune feeling Wagner's song was "too beautiful".[29] In the morgue scene, Franz Liszt's late solo piano piece, "Nuages Gris" ("Grey Clouds") (1881) is heard.[30] "Rex tremendae" from Mozart's Requiem plays as Bill walks into the cafe and reads of Mandy's death.[31]

Pook was hired after choreographer Yolande Snaith rehearsed the masked ball orgy scene using Pook's composition "Backwards Priests" – which features a Romanian Orthodox Divine Liturgy recorded in a church in Baia Mare, played backwards – as a reference track. Kubrick then called the composer and asked if she had anything else "weird" like that song, which ended was reworked for the final cut of the scene with the title "Masked Ball". Pook ended up composing and recording four pieces of music, many times based on her previous work, totaling 24 minutes. The composer's work ended up having mostly string instruments – including a viola played by Pook herself – with no brass or woodwinds as Pook "just couldn’t justify these other textures", particularly as she wanted the tracks played on dialogue-heavy scenes to be "subliminal" and felt such instruments would be intrusive.[32][33]

Another track in the orgy, "Migrations", features a Tamil song sung by Manickam Yogeswaran, a Carnatic singer. The original cut had a scriptural recitation of the Bhagavad Gita which Pook took from a previous Yogeswaran recording.[33][34] Given Hindus protested against their most sacred scripture being used in such a context,[35] Warner Bros. issued a public apology,[36] and hired the singer to record a similar track to replace the chant.[37]

The party at Zigler's house features rearrangements of love songs such as "When I Fall in Love" and "It Had to Be You", used in increasingly ironic ways considering how Alice and Bill flirt with other people in the scene.[38] As Kidman was nervous about doing nude scenes, Kubrick stated she could bring music to liven up. When Kidman brought a Chris Isaak CD, Kubrick approved it, and incorporated Isaak's song "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing" to both an early romantic embrace of Bill and Alice and the film's trailer.[39]

Themes and interpretation


The film was described by some reviewers and partially marketed as an erotic thriller, a categorization disputed by others. It is classed as such in the book The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema by Linda Ruth Williams,[40] and was described as such in two news articles about Cruise and Kidman's lawsuit over assertions they saw a sex therapist during filming.[41] One review panning the film disparaged it as an erotic thriller implying the genre was inherently disreputable,[42] although positive reviews such as the one in Hidefdigest also called it an erotic thriller.[43]

However, reviewing the film on aboutfilm.com, Carlo Cavagna regards this as a misleading classification,[44] as does Leo Goldsmith writing on notcoming.com[45] and the review on Blu-ray.com did the same.[46] Writing in TV Guide, Maitland McDonagh writes "No one familiar with the cold precision of Kubrick's work will be surprised that this isn't the steamy erotic thriller a synopsis (or the ads) might suggest."[47] Writing in general about the genre of 'erotic thriller' for CineAction in 2001, Douglas Keesey states that the film "whatever its actual type...[was] at least marketed as an erotic thriller".[48][not in citation given] Michael Koresky writing in the 2006 issue of film journal Reverse Shot writes "this director, who defies expectations at every turn and brings genre to his feet, was ...setting out to make neither the “erotic thriller” that the press maintained nor an easily identifiable “Kubrick film”".[49] DVD Talk similarly dissociates the film from this genre.[50]

Christmas setting

In addition to relocating the story from Vienna in the 1900s to New York City in the 1990s, Kubrick changed the time-frame of Schnitzler's story from Mardi Gras to Christmas. One critic believes Kubrick did this because of the rejuvenating symbolism of Christmas.[51] Others have noted that Christmas lights allow Kubrick to employ some of his distinct methods of shooting including using source location lighting, as he did in Barry Lyndon.[52] The New York Times noted that the film "gives an otherworldly radiance and personality to Christmas lights",[53] and similarly critic Randy Rasmussen notes that "colorful Christmas lights which illuminate almost every location in the film."[54] Harper's film critic, Lee Siegel, believes the film's recurring motif is the Christmas tree, because it symbolizes the way that "Compared with the everyday reality of sex and emotion, our fantasies of gratification are, yes, pompous and solemn in the extreme.... For desire is like Christmas: it always promises more than it delivers."[55] Kreider notes that the "Satanic" mansion-party at Somerton is the only set in the film without a Christmas tree, stating "Almost every set is suffused with the dreamlike, hazy glow of colored lights and tinsel... Eyes Wide Shut, though it was released in summer, was the Christmas movie of 1999."[56] Noting that Kubrick has shown viewers the dark side of Christmas consumerism, Louise Kaplan notes that the film illustrates ways that the "material reality of money" is shown replacing the spiritual values of Christmas, charity and compassion. While virtually every scene has a Christmas tree, there is "no Christmas music or cheery Christmas spirit."[57] Critic Alonso Duralde in his book Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas categorizes this film as a "Christmas movie for grownups" (as he also does with Bergman's Fanny and Alexander and The Lion in Winter), arguing that "Christmas weaves its way through the film from start to finish".[58]

Use of Venetian masks

A woman sleeps on her bed. A mask lies on the pillow besides her.
A central conflict in the film is between Dr. Harford's adventures in the sexual underworld of New York and his family life. Here Dr. Hartford finds his wife asleep beside the Venetian mask he wore at the masked ball with bizarre sex rituals the previous evening.

Historians, travel guide authors, novelists and merchants of Venetian masks have noted that these have a long history of being worn during promiscuous activities.[59][60][61][62] Authors Tim Kreider and Thomas Nelson have linked the film's usage of these to Venice's reputation as a center of both eroticism and mercantilism. Nelson notes that the sex ritual combines elements of Venetian Carnival and Catholic rites. (In particular, the character of "Red Cloak" simultaneously serves as Grand Inquisitor and King of Carnival). As such, Nelson argues the sex ritual is a symbolic mirror of the darker truth behind the façade of Victor Ziegler's earlier Christmas party.[63] Carolin Ruwe writing in her 2007 book Symbols in Stanley Kubrick's Movie 'Eyes Wide Shut' argues that the mask is the prime symbol of the film, the masks at Somerton mansion reflecting the masks that all wear in society,[64] a point reinforced by Tim Krieder who notes the many masks in the prostitute's apartment and her having been renamed in the film "Domino" which is a style of Venetian mask.[56]



Warner Bros. heavily promoted Eyes Wide Shut, while following Kubrick's secrecy campaign – to the point the film's press kits contained no production notes – and also the director's suggestions to Semel regarding the marketing campaign, given one week prior to Kubrick's death. The first footage was shown to theater owners attending the 1999 edition of the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas. TV spots featured both Isaak and Ligeti's songs from the soundtrack while showcasing few about the movie's plot. The film also appeared on cover of Time magazine, and show business programs such as Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.[65]

Box office

Eyes Wide Shut opened on July 16, 1999 in the United States. The film topped the weekend box office with $21.7 million from 2,411 screens.[66] These numbers surpassed the studio's expectations of $20 million, and became both Cruise's sixth consecutive chart topper and Kubrick's highest opening weekend. Audiences had a drop from Friday to Saturday, which analysts attributed to the news coverage of John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s disappearance.[67][68] It ended up grossing a total of $55,691,208 million in the US. The numbers put it as Kubrick's second most successful film in the country behind 2001: A Space Odyssey,[69] but were considered a box office disappointment.[70]

Shortly after its screening at the Venice Film Festival, Eyes Wide Shut saw a British premiere on 3 September 1999 at the Warner Village cinema in Leicester Square.[71] The film's wide opening occurred the following weekend, and topped the UK charts with £1,189,672.[72] It remained atop the charts the following weekend,[73] and finished its box office run with £5,065,520.[74]

The international performance for Eyes Wide Shut were more positive, with Kubrick's long-time assistant and brother-in-law Jan Harlan stating that "It was badly received in the Anglo-Saxon world, but it was very well received in the Latin world and Japan. In Italy, it was a huge hit."[70] Overseas earnings of over $105 million lead to a $162,091,208 box office run worldwide, turning it into the highest-grossing Kubrick movie.[75]

Critical reception

Eyes Wide Shut met with generally positive reviews. The film currently holds a 77% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and received an average score of 68/100 at Metacritic.[76] Over 50 critics listed the film among the best of 1999.[77] Critics objected to two features. The first complaint was that the movie's pacing was too slow; while this may have been intended to convey a dream state, critics objected that it made actions and decisions seem labored. Second, reviewers commented that Kubrick had shot his NYC scenes in a studio and that New York "didn't look like New York". Writing about erotic mystery thrillers, writer Leigh Lundin comments that watching the dissolving marriage was painful and the backdrop of Christmas against the dark topic was disturbing, but "the oblique, well-told plot rewards an attentive viewer".[78]

Lee Siegel from Harper's felt that most critics responded mainly to the marketing campaign and did not address the film on its own terms.[79] Others felt that American censorship took an esoteric film and made it even harder to understand.[80] Reviewer James Berardinelli stated that it was arguably one of Kubrick’s best films.[81] Writing for The New York Times, reviewer Elvis Mitchell commented "This is a dead-serious film about sexual yearnings, one that flirts with ridicule yet sustains its fundamental eeriness and gravity throughout. The dreamlike intensity of previous Kubrick visions is in full force here."[82]

In the television show Roger Ebert & the Movies, director Martin Scorsese named Eyes Wide Shut his fourth favorite film of the 1990s.[83] For the introduction to Michel Ciment's Kubrick: The Definitive Edition, Scorsese wrote: "When Eyes Wide Shut came out a few months after Stanley Kubrick's death in 1999, it was severely misunderstood, which came as no surprise. If you go back and look at the contemporary reactions to any Kubrick picture (except the earliest ones), you'll see that all his films were initially misunderstood. Then, after five or ten years came the realisation that 2001 or Barry Lyndon or The Shining was like nothing else before or since."[84] Mystery writer and commentator Jon Breen agrees.[78] In 2012, Slant Magazine ranked the film #2 on its list of the 100 Best Films of the 1990s.[85]

Awards and honors

Home media

Eyes Wide Shut was first released in VHS and DVD on March 7, 2000.[77] The original DVD release corrects technical gaffes, including a reflected crew member, and altering a piece of Alice Harford's dialogue. Most home videos remove the verse that was claimed to be cited from the sacred Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita (although it was Pook's reworking of "Backwards Priests" as stated above.)

On 23 October 2007, Warner Home Video released Eyes Wide Shut in a special edition DVD, plus the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats.[92] This is the first home video release that presents the film in anamorphic 1.78:1 (Note that the film was shown theatrically as soft matted 1.66:1 in Europe and 1.85:1 in the USA and Japan). The previous DVD release used a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. It is also the first American home video release to feature the uncut version. Although the earliest American DVD of the uncut version states on the cover that it includes both the R-rated and unrated editions, in actuality only the unrated edition is on the DVD.


Kubrick's opinion

Jan Harlan, Kubrick's brother-in-law and executive producer, reported that Kubrick was "very happy" with the film and considered it to be his "greatest contribution to the art of cinema".[93][94]

R. Lee Ermey, an actor in Kubrick's film Full Metal Jacket, claimed that Kubrick phoned him two weeks before his death to express his despondency over Eyes Wide Shut. "He told me it was a piece of shit", Ermey said in Radar magazine, "and that he was disgusted with it and that the critics were going to 'have him for lunch'. He said Cruise and Kidman had their way with him – exactly the words he used."[95]

According to Todd Field, Kubrick's friend and an actor in Eyes Wide Shut, Ermey's claims are slanderous. Field's response appeared in a 26 October 2006 interview with Slashfilm.com:[96]

The polite thing would be to say 'No comment'. But the truth is that... let's put it this way, you've never seen two actors more completely subservient and prostrate themselves at the feet of a director. Stanley was absolutely thrilled with the film. He was still working on the film when he died. And he probably died because he finally relaxed. It was one of the happiest weekends of his life, right before he died, after he had shown the first cut to Terry, Tom and Nicole. He would have kept working on it, like he did on all of his films. But I know that from people around him personally, my partner who was his assistant for thirty years. And I thought about R. Lee Ermey for In the Bedroom. And I talked to Stanley a lot about that film, and all I can say is Stanley was adamant that I shouldn't work with him for all kinds of reasons that I won't get into because there is no reason to do that to anyone, even if they are saying slanderous things that I know are completely untrue.

American censorship and classification

Citing contractual obligations to deliver an R rating, Warner Bros. digitally altered the orgy for the American release, blocking out graphic sexuality by inserting additional figures to obscure the view, avoiding an adults-only NC-17 rating that limited distribution, as some large American theatres and video store operators disallow films with that rating. This alteration antagonised film critics and cinephiles,[97] as they argued that Kubrick had never been shy about ratings (A Clockwork Orange was originally given an X-rating). The unrated version of Eyes Wide Shut was released in the United States on 23 October 2007 in DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats.

The version in South America, Europe and Australia featured the orgy scene intact (theatrical and DVD release) with ratings mostly for people of 18+. In New Zealand and in Europe, the uncensored version has been shown on television with some controversy. In Australia, it was broadcast on Network Ten with the alterations in the American version for an MA rating, blurring and cutting explicit sexuality.

Roger Ebert objected to the technique of using digital images to mask the action. He said it "should not have been done at all" and it is "symbolic of the moral hypocrisy of the rating system that it would force a great director to compromise his vision, while by the same process making his adult film more accessible to young viewers."[98] Although Ebert has been frequently cited as calling the standard North American R-rated version the "Austin Powers" version of Eyes Wide Shut – referencing two scenes in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in which, through camera angles and coincidences, sexual body parts are blocked from view in a comical way[99] – his review stated that this joke referred to an early rough draft of the altered scene, never publicly released.[98]



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External links