Is Eyes Wide Shut Just Artsy Porn?
September 30, 2014
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Well, with the month of Halloween right around the corner, I found it only fitting to talk about something truly scary. (Smiles creepily) That's right. The fear...of the subconscious. (An audience boos, causing NC to sigh and give in) With orgies.
(The audience applauds loudly, as NC puts his hands down in annoyance. Clips from the 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut are shown)
NC (vo): In the summer of 1999, legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's final film premiered just after he died, Eyes Wide Shut. Incredibly hyped with its steaming marketing, audience reaction seemed to be...mainly this.
(A clip from The Simpsons is shown, showing Krusty the Clown stunned at something)
Krusty: What the hell was that?!
NC (vo): While a hit with critics, Eyes Wide Shut mostly alienated audiences who mostly saw it as nothing but slow, artsy porn. And hell, even the porn part of the time seemed to be edited out.
(One scene is shown, with an arrow pointing at something with the caption, "CGI Cockblockers")
NC (vo): So you couldn't even get that going for you. Years later, after all the hype has died down, can it be true? Is Stanley Kubrick's final masterpiece just glorified T and A...as opposed to his other glorified T and A that at least had a point?
(A shot from A Clockwork Orange is shown, with some bits of the shot covered with a red bar)
NC: Well, I may be an old-fashioned critic who reads too deeply into...disturbed, perverted minds, but I, too, have an interpretation.
NC (vo): To figure out what the movie's about, let's look at the basic story. Will and Alice, played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, seem like a normal, well-off couple. But one night, things go south when under, obviously, some very bad pot, Alice admits that she would've given up everything just for a night of lust with a sailor she saw years ago. She also has a dream that night that she was having sex with that sailor, and that she was doing it mainly to hurt her husband. She's never talked like this before, given any hints in the past, but this seems to obviously piss off Will. Obsessed over this, he goes on a journey to try and either one-up her by sleeping with someone else, or at the very least, achieving a similar mental lust with another woman. He sneaks into a sexual den of holy fuckery, where powerful people wear masks and sleep with whoever they want. But when he's discovered, his life is threatened, but saved by a young woman, who sacrifices herself, because he saved her life earlier that week. As he tries to look for answers, his simple world begins to crumble as he's followed, threatened, and apparently, endangered or corrupted many of the people around him. He's finally given an out when one of the people at the Mask Ball of Holy Fuckness says that everything was just a ploy to scare him into not revealing the truth about their sexcapades. Suspicious, but still possible, Will decides to accept the excuse, and eventually comes clean to his wife about everything. They decide to put behind the ugly experience and forget it ever happened, trying to live the happy life they know they want for themselves and each other, after doing one very important thing, of course.
(The movie's credits immediately roll)
NC (vo): Hah? What the hell did I just watch? When I first saw this movie, I didn't know what to think of it. I loved the style and the imagery, but I had no idea what it was trying to get across. Everything started to come together, though, when I asked myself one simple question: Do Alice and Will love each other? I asked this question to a few people who've seen the movie, and you'd be surprised at how many different answers there are. Some say "yes". They never technically slept with anyone else, and every couple is gonna have their moments of doubt. This was just a really ugly, albeit bizarre, experience that their love pulled them through. But others would say "no". There's too many issues being ignored and too much pain and vengeance the two have for one another. Even the line about living together forever seems to frighten Alice.
Alice: We're awake now, for a long time to come.
Alice: Mmm...let's not use that word. It...it frightens me.
NC (vo): But others say that's a normal, scary idea for lots of people, and the anger that comes out is normal when you're invested and care so much for one another. I started to work backwards on this question about whether or not they loved each other, because, clearly, our main couple wasn't going to take the time to find the real answer. Kind of like how Will isn't taking the time to find the real answer to a possible crime scene...wait a minute. The same way he has an out from all the misery, even though a lot of bad stuff could've gone down, is pretty similar to how they're taking an out for their relationship that may also have some alarming things to address. It's even done in this very romantic, fantasy-like setting, like "happily ever after", "this is what it's supposed to be", surrounded by toys, and fairy tales, and smiling faces. It's like they're suggesting their happy ending is right around the corner. Just go ahead and forget all the misery. It's kind of like how Will tells Alice that the dream she had is nothing more than a dream, nothing to worry about.
Alice: It's too awful.
Will: It's only a dream.
NC (vo): But she is worried, and she hates that these thoughts are in her head. Isn't love supposed to be emotional comfort and support? Why would she have such terrible, vengeful thoughts about her soulmate, the one she chose to live the rest of her life with? Is that something to be concerned about, or is the mind just really complex and would go to these dark places anyway? Does love go as deep as your subconscious? Again, some would say, "obviously, yes", while others would say, "obviously, no". Love is a compromise, with hurdles and complex feelings. But at one point, do you say "Love has nothing to do with certain parts of the brain"? The brain can be a dark place, and obviously, it's going to go to some creepy areas that doesn't mean it's bad, right? At what point does the subconscious become conscious when love is involved? Kind of a blurry line between the dream world and reality, isn't it? Actually, the whole film kind of is. Everything is very dream-like, the blurry colors, the hazy lights, the dark shadows. Hell, the masked ball scene is something right out of a nightmare, with scary faces in the dark, exposing you at your very core. He's even asked to take off his clothes so they can do God knows what to him.
Master of Ceremonies: Remove your clothes.
Will: Gentlemen, please...
Master of Ceremonies: Remove your clothes, or would you like us to do it for you?
NC (vo): How many dreams have you had when you were naked and exposed to everyone? Well...that were actually dreams.
[A photo of a naked man at a party is shown, with the censor bar covering the thing that should be censored]
NC (vo): It's kind of like that night he chose to enter the world of his sexual subconscious, trying to figure out what he really wants. But then the next day, when he's more awake, reality sets in. The harsh consequences of his actions now suddenly seem to take hold. It's contrasting reality with dreams and where the line should be drawn between the instinct of sex and the instinct of love, which seems to be more and more blurred the harder you look at it. Even the title, "Eyes Wide Shut". At first, I thought it was just kind of a cool artsy name, but when you really think about it, what's it a play on? Eyes wide open, meaning you focus intensely on what's in front of you. Well, then, what would you focus intensely on when your eyes are closed? What can you focus on when your eyes are closed? Oh, yeah, your dreams. Even Will seems to backtrack in the end, empathizing that their simple understanding of love and giving of one's self goes deeper than what's on the surface, that, like he says...
Will: And no dream is ever...just a dream.
NC (vo): The way this all started seemed to stem from a different mindset as well, with both of them getting high and not thinking about what's socially acceptable to themselves or others. Their minds are just free to do and say whatever they want. The whole movie seems to focus on that, unraveling layers and journeying through the shadows to find the truth of what it means to give yourself fully, both mind and body to another person. The more I looked at this film, the more I realized, it was bringing up questions that every couple should discuss. How deep does love go? How deep should it go? What's the cut-off point? Rather than searching for answers, though, our leads, like many couples, choose to ignore it and move on with their lives. Is this making things better or worse? It seems like they're ignoring a lot of important issues, but at the same time, forgive and forget, nothing's ever gonna be perfect, right? Like many great films, it doesn't answer it for you. It just gives you the questions worth thinking about. It asks what connection love has to everything, sex, emotions, even your deepest inner thoughts that you keep hidden. Eyes Wide Shut exposes that secret place and asks you to draw conclusions from it. It's a film that dives into what it means to going from being me into being we, and when you have to be ready to explore it if you're willing to make the full commitment. So, yes, someone could look at this and just see a pretentious porno, which may be was all part of Stanley's evil plan...
[A photo of Stanley Kubrick is shown]
NC (vo): ...spend lots of money, just to confuse and piss people off. That would be financially brilliant, right? [Laughs evilly]
[The Kubrick photo is now shown with an evil smile and devil horns as a thunderclap is heard. Clips from Eyes Wide Shut are shown one more time]
NC (vo): But for me, I can't help but think these artistic choices are more than just coincidence, that there is something deeper in the surface of the story just like there's something deeper in the surface of a relationship. If you're going for some high-end TNA, you're probably gonna be disappointed. But if you're willing to look deeper inside the film, who knows? You might just find something deeper in your own relationship.
NC: Or...maybe the lesson of the whole thing is masked orgies are a great place to meet chicks. Either way, I know what I'm doing tonight. [Puts on a mask] I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
[He gets up and leaves. The credits roll]