12 Days of Christmas: Eyes Wide Shut

It might not officially be The 12 Days of Christmas, but FILM IN WORDS will still fill your festive viewing schedule with cheer. From beloved movies that have become an irreplaceable holiday tradition to cult and lesser known Xmas cuts that promise to subvert and haunt your holidays, there’s something for everyone all the way up to Christmas Eve.

Eyes Wide Shut Large

Words: Brody Rossiter
Twitter: @BrodyRossiter

TAINTED LOVE

Despite being released in the summer of 1999, and widely believed to be a picture that its director, Stanley Kubrick, regarded with little fondness, Eyes Wide Shut, is a deeply evocative, overtly sensual and incredibly gripping drama that uses Christmas time in New York City as a multi-coloured stage for its protagonists’ descent in to sexual deviancy and murder.

After discovering that his wife had contemplated an extramarital affair a year prior, Dr. Bill Harford – portrayed by Tom Cruise in perhaps one of his most nuanced roles alongside Vanilla Sky – embarks upon a night-long adventure into his own erotic fantasies and curiosities that changes his life and relationship with wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), forever.

From the buzzing neon of Greenwich Village shop fronts and steam-filled coffee houses, to aristocratic interiors dripping with golden fairy lights and ruby-red baubles – each one mimicking that infamous apple from which Eve took a nice juicy bite – Eyes Wide Shut is a sumptuous and beautiful picture full of controversial themes framed by soft tactile edges.

Kubrick had wanted to develop a film around the themes of sexual relationships from as early as 1962, but only after reading Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story in 1968, did the project begin to possess a timeline of ideas and concepts. Such propositions included placing Woody Allen and Steve Martin in the leading role Cruise would eventually fill. Schnitzler’s novella begins in a masquerade ball which both his husband and wife leading man and lady attend. Kubrick would later cut and paste this section with the flair of an auteur, creating his own central and highly memorable masquerade ball sequence that introduced us to the true extent of the deviance and menace at play.

Sadly, Kubrick died six days after screening his initial cut to Cruise, Kidman, and Warner Bros. execs, putting a definite end to his incredibly prolonged pre and post-production of the film; The Guinness Book of records still lists Eyes Wide Shut as the longest continuous film shoot in history at four hundred days. Kubrick’s passing would lend an air of infamy and ambiguity towards the film as many questioned whether the film screened was the film the director intended it to be.

From themes of materialism to Satanism to its reinterpretation of Christmas symbolism, Eyes Wide Shut is a picture more than deserving of the countless essays and critiques it already has, and will continue to receive, regarding its distinctly broad and adult subject matter. However, for the uninitiated, the less said, and more content left unspoiled, the better. Maybe Kubrick was too close to his own filmmaking to witness its unparalleled artistry, and his overbearing perfectionism resulted in an inability to appreciate what could only appear flawed through his masterful gaze. Whatever his opinion of his 1999: Sex Odyssey, it’s undoubtedly a powerful and stimulating journey perfect for some alternative XXXmas viewing, perhaps not on Boxing Day while eating turkey butties, but nevertheless an essential festive flick shrouded in a haze of opulent debauchery.

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