The Stanley Kubrick Website (unofficial website)

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Kubrick's final film was Eyes Wide Shut (1999), starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a wealthy Manhattan couple on a sexual odyssey. The story is based on Arthur Schnitzler's Freudian novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story in English), which Kubrick relocated from turn-of-the-century Vienna to New York City in the 1990s. The film's theme has been described by Nicholson as delving into questions of the "dangers of married life", and the "silent desperations of keeping an ongoing relationship alive". Screenwriter Michael Herr notes that although the film outwardly presents "sex and thrills" as its subject, its ending conveys a message valuing "marriage and fidelity". The "core theme" of the film, writes Webster, is that of "monogamous fidelity". The secret password that Cruise needed in the film was "Fidelio". Historian Stuart McDougall adds that Fidelio is, "ironically", the title of Beethoven's only opera, and which is subtitled, "Married Love". "One could argue Kubrick strengthened this idea via his choice of password in the film", adds Webster, as the original password by Schnitzler was "Denmark". According to Herr, "Fidelio" is the password and the presiding spirit of the piece. The title of the film also gives a clue to that theme. Webster sees an antecedent to the title phrase, "eyes wide shut", in a quotation by Benjamin Franklin on marriage: "keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." Critic Charles Whitehouse agrees, stating, "My guess is that the phrase "Eyes Wide Shut" is shorthand for the most successful attitude a monogamous couple can adopt to viewing each other's inner life." Kubrick's wife noted his long-standing interest in the project, saying, "over the years he would see friends getting divorced and remarried, and the topic [of the film] would come up". She knew that this was a subject he wanted to make into a film. Kidman observed that "Stanley's expectations of people were not really high". Although Kubrick was almost seventy, he worked relentlessly for 15 months in order to get the film out by its planned release date of July 16, 1999. He worked 18 hours a day, all the while maintaining complete confidentiality about the film. Press releases were sent to the media, stating briefly that "Stanley Kubrick's next film will be Eyes Wide Shut, a story of jealousy and sexual obsession". Eyes Wide Shut, like Lolita and A Clockwork Orange before it, faced censorship before release. Kubrick sent an unfinished preview copy to the stars and producers a few months before release, but his sudden death on March 7, 1999 came a few days after he finished editing. He never saw the final version released to the public. Film critic Michel Ciment believes that "he literally worked himself to death", trying to complete the film to his liking. Ciment explains that Kubrick's desire to keep this, and many of his earlier films, private and unpublicized during its production, was an expression of Kubrick's "will to power", and not a penchant for secrecy: "Kubrick felt, quite rightly, that the public generally knows far too much about a film before it opens and that the surrounding media frenzy made the joy of surprise and pleasure of discovery impossible". Speaking about the film, Kidman notes that, despite some critics describing the film's theme as "dark", in essence "it is a very hopeful film". During an interview in the documentary, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, she says that Kubrick was indirectly stressing the moral values of "commitment and loyalty", adding that "ultimately, Eyes Wide Shut is about that commitment". Although there were rumors at the time that making the film may have negatively impacted her marriage to Cruise, and they both recognized that "Stanley wanted to use our marriage as a supposed reality ... obviously it wasn't us", and she does not believe it affected their relationship. She also felt that acting under Kubrick's direction "was like having a great, great teacher." Sydney Pollack, who acted in the film, adds that "the heart of [the film] was illustrating a truth about relationships and sexuality. But it was not illustrated in a literal way, but in a theatrical way." Ciment agrees with Kidman, and notes the positive meaning underlying the film, pointing out how some of it is voiced through the dialog, and suggests that the words "resonate like an epitaph" to Kubrick: "Maybe, I think, we should be grateful ... grateful that we've managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream".

Quick facts

Directed by Stanley Kubrick Produced by Stanley Kubrick Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael Based on Traumnovelle,  by Arthur Schnitzler Starring Tom Cruise Nicole Kidman Sydney Pollack Marie Richardson Music by Jocelyn Pook Cinematography Larry Smith Edited by Nigel Galt Production companies Pole Star Hobby Films Distributed by Warner Bros. Release dates July 16, 1999
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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Kubrick's final film was Eyes Wide Shut (1999), starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a wealthy Manhattan couple on a sexual odyssey. The story is based on Arthur Schnitzler's Freudian novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story in English), which Kubrick relocated from turn-of-the-century Vienna to New York City in the 1990s. The film's theme has been described by Nicholson as delving into questions of the "dangers of married life", and the "silent desperations of keeping an ongoing relationship alive". Screenwriter Michael Herr notes that although the film outwardly presents "sex and thrills" as its subject, its ending conveys a message valuing "marriage and fidelity". The "core theme" of the film, writes Webster, is that of "monogamous fidelity". The secret password that Cruise needed in the film was "Fidelio". Historian Stuart McDougall adds that Fidelio is, "ironically", the title of Beethoven's only opera, and which is subtitled, "Married Love". "One could argue Kubrick strengthened this idea via his choice of password in the film", adds Webster, as the original password by Schnitzler was "Denmark". According to Herr, "Fidelio" is the password and the presiding spirit of the piece. The title of the film also gives a clue to that theme. Webster sees an antecedent to the title phrase, "eyes wide shut", in a quotation by Benjamin Franklin on marriage: "keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." Critic Charles Whitehouse agrees, stating, "My guess is that the phrase "Eyes Wide Shut" is shorthand for the most successful attitude a monogamous couple can adopt to viewing each other's inner life." Kubrick's wife noted his long-standing interest in the project, saying, "over the years he would see friends getting divorced and remarried, and the topic [of the film] would come up". She knew that this was a subject he wanted to make into a film. Kidman observed that "Stanley's expectations of people were not really high". Although Kubrick was almost seventy, he worked relentlessly for 15 months in order to get the film out by its planned release date of July 16, 1999. He worked 18 hours a day, all the while maintaining complete confidentiality about the film. Press releases were sent to the media, stating briefly that "Stanley Kubrick's next film will be Eyes Wide Shut, a story of jealousy and sexual obsession". Eyes Wide Shut, like Lolita and A Clockwork Orange before it, faced censorship before release. Kubrick sent an unfinished preview copy to the stars and producers a few months before release, but his sudden death on March 7, 1999 came a few days after he finished editing. He never saw the final version released to the public. Film critic Michel Ciment believes that "he literally worked himself to death", trying to complete the film to his liking. Ciment explains that Kubrick's desire to keep this, and many of his earlier films, private and unpublicized during its production, was an expression of Kubrick's "will to power", and not a penchant for secrecy: "Kubrick felt, quite rightly, that the public generally knows far too much about a film before it opens and that the surrounding media frenzy made the joy of surprise and pleasure of discovery impossible". Speaking about the film, Kidman notes that, despite some critics describing the film's theme as "dark", in essence "it is a very hopeful film". During an interview in the documentary, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, she says that Kubrick was indirectly stressing the moral values of "commitment and loyalty", adding that "ultimately, Eyes Wide Shut is about that commitment". Although there were rumors at the time that making the film may have negatively impacted her marriage to Cruise, and they both recognized that "Stanley wanted to use our marriage as a supposed reality ... obviously it wasn't us", and she does not believe it affected their relationship. She also felt that acting under Kubrick's direction "was like having a great, great teacher." Sydney Pollack, who acted in the film, adds that "the heart of [the film] was illustrating a truth about relationships and sexuality. But it was not illustrated in a literal way, but in a theatrical way." Ciment agrees with Kidman, and notes the positive meaning underlying the film, pointing out how some of it is voiced through the dialog, and suggests that the words "resonate like an epitaph" to Kubrick: "Maybe, I think, we should be grateful ... grateful that we've managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream".

Quick facts

Directed by Stanley Kubrick Produced by Stanley Kubrick Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael Based on Traumnovelle,  by Arthur Schnitzler Starring Tom Cruise Nicole Kidman Sydney Pollack Marie Richardson Music by Jocelyn Pook Cinematography Larry Smith Edited by Nigel Galt Production companies Pole Star Hobby Films Distributed by Warner Bros. Release dates July 16, 1999
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