Relations between Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman) are intensely strained. When he attends a mysterious Christmas party, the awkwardness of the situation forces him to confront his fascination for extra-marital relations.

A riveting erotic thriller

Dr. William Harford and his wife, Alice, live in an elegantly furnished New York apartment with their small daughter. But from the beginning it's clear something's wrong with the marriage of these beautiful people – Alice looks a little bored, a little distant. At a party given by their friend Victor Ziegler, Alice dances with a suave Hungarian while William flirts with a couple of models before being summoned to help his host whose sexual tryst in a bathroom has ended dramatically. The next night, a rather stoned Alice reveals to William her lust for a Naval officer she recently met – and when William is called out because one of his patients has died, his mind is filled with salacious images of his wife in another man's arms. His nocturnal journey takes him to some unexpected destinations and, in fact, into very real danger...

Stanley Kubrick's long-awaited final film, based on Dream Novel by Arthur Schnitzler (the Viennese author of Le Ronde) is a riveting erotic thriller. Not as sensational as we'd been led to believe, the film is an intricately constructed journey filled with strange, and always frustrated, sexual encounters. The theme of living a double life, of using masks as disguise, is familiar from other Kubrick films; and so are the carefully framed and lit images, the very leisurely pacing and the bold use of music. Tom Cruise successfully tackles his most complex role to date, and the supporting cast is full of memorable performances, notably Sydney Pollack, as Ziegler, and Leelee Sobieski, as a young girl in moral danger. But Nicole Kidman steals the film in an agonisingly true performance.


Interview with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise

Margaret's Comments:
Stanley Kubrick's thematic concern with man's dilemma in a seemingly out-of-control world has been worked out in war movies, in sci-fi, in horror, in satire. It's fitting that with this, his final film, he explores this theme within the intimacy of a relationship, something that is close to home with all of us. But Kubrick is not interested in creating empathy, from the opening scenes of Eyes Wide Shut we're aware that there's a slight reality shift that's confirmed throughout the film, the studio created streets of New York are not quite right, it's a dreamscape. Dr. William Harford has had an arrogant certainty knocked out of him by his wife's confession and he doesn't know how to deal with it. His journey into a netherworld of sexual curiosity is the core of the film, his encounters along the way have echoes of dread – the dead man whose daughter he visits, the prostitute, the young louts on the street, the Long Island orgy.

This is a mysterious film, enigmatic. Typical of Kubrick he doesn't want to serve us an easily digested tale of sexual obsession, he wants us to puzzle over what he has to say about the human condition. It was most probably just as much a search for meaning for him as it is for us. It's a supremely well-made film, the colours, the grainy images, the lighting all enhancing the sense of unease and tension we feel throughout. And at its core are two outstanding performances, Tom Cruise with the more difficult reactive role conveys the inner life of this confused and fearful man so wonderfully. Nicole Kidman just goes from strength to strength in her art, and this is a particularly honest and raw performance.

This is a most satisfying conclusion to a master filmmaker's career. Eyes Wide Shut will linger in our consciousness long after we see it, rippling along our nerve endings, stealthily creeping into our inner landscape.


Watch 'Eyes Wide Shut' at SBS on Demand now 

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