Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

Eyes Wide Shut‘s short opening scene captures all the essentially mundane elements of married life. Alice (Nicole Kidman) and William (Tom Cruise) prepare to leave for a formal ball. We watch them finish getting dressed, have a short talk with the babysitter and kiss their daughter goodbye. Especially the first part of this opening scene that takes place in the couple’s bedroom is interesting in terms of both style and subject. The scene is shot in one long take in which we first see William in the dark by the window of the study room next door. He comes into the bedroom looking for something and then asks his wife whether she has seen his wallet. She tells him to take a look at the bedside table where he finds it and puts it in his pocket. Then he walks into the bathroom; the door is open and Alice is on the toilet. As he turns to the mirror to fix his bow tie, Alice asks him, ‘How do I look?’ ‘You look great’, he replies, without turning to her, as if out of memory. As she is getting up, she asks how her hair looks; he again says in the same nonchalant tone: ‘Perfect’. Alice’s answer is straight: ‘You are not even looking at it’. William turns around to kiss his wife and tells her that she always looks beautiful. Then he gets out of the bathroom. This time the camera stays with Alice. She takes her glasses off and looks at herself one final time, and as if the previous conversation never took place, asks her husband whether he put down the necessary numbers for the babysitter. Then she also comes inside, picks her coat up from the bed and they both leave.


Accompanied by Dmitri Shostakovich’s ‘Waltz no.2’, this long take emphasizes the memorized steps of a routine activity where everyone knows the other’s move so clearly that there is no surprise. Moreover, the dialogue and the characters are so soulless  that in just a couple of minutes, the film succeeds to disclose its main theme. Eyes Wide Shut could alternatively be called Scenes from a Real Marriage; I cannot help but wonder how Cruise and Kidman felt playing the roles and whether the film had an effect on them leading to their divorce.

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