Zak's Eyes Shut?

I've never been especially impressed with Zak Weisfeld's movie reviews, and I didn't give much weight to his glib and superficial review of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut when I read it. Having finally seen the film, however, I'm so astonished by Mr. Weisfeld's lack of insight and failure to grasp even the most basic ideas in the film that I feel compelled to respond. Stanley Kubrick explored themes of human free will and the often contrasting realities that lie beneath surface appearances throughout his career—and Eyes Wide Shut continues in this vein. Bill Harford may be a very successful young doctor, but he is sleepwalking through his life (hence, the movie's title—get it, Zak?). Not a very reflective guy, he's unaware not only of his wife's inner life and the potential turmoil beneath the surface of his "happy" marriage, but he's also alarmingly out of touch with himself. He's content to accept the appearances of things around him as reality without much thought. Following his wife's revelation of a sexual fantasy, Bill begins a journey of self-awareness, structured in a classic literary style with a series of vignettes.

There are many fascinating elements at play during the journey—the various portrayals of female sexuality in relation to men: the woman whose father has died, the prostitute, the costumer's daughter, the women at the highly ritualized orgy (in the latter case, Zak laments that the nude women "seem little more than props"—I wonder if it occurred to him that, since their role at the orgy was to serve for the pleasure of men, this was precisely Kubrick's intent). Following this immersion, Bill revisits each of these scenes the following day (the orgy is "revisited" in the form of a conversation), each time revealing a somewhat different "reality" than the one Bill has previously accepted the night before. The use of the failed-medical-student turned jazz pianist as Bill's link to the underworld (i.e. subconscious) is also an intriguing element. Ultimately, what Kubrick presents the viewer is a classic morality tale regarding free will—one can only "choose" good when evil is an option; monogamy is a meaningful choice only when infidelity is a possibility.

Zak seems to have missed all of this and more, choosing instead to chide Kubrick for having lived in England and not gotten out more at night. Zak himself seems to be in need of a refresher trip to New York City, however—his accounting of the scene of Bill "…accosted by a gang of young toughs…" on "…the streets of Greenwich Village" was way off. Only someone who's spent too much time in Knoxville would mistake a group of frat guys for "young toughs" or mistake what was clearly mid-town Manhattan for Greenwich Village. And only someone who really doesn't get it would accuse a movie called Eyes Wide Shut, inspired by a novella called Traumnovelle ("Dreamnovella"—get it, Zak?), of not being realistic enough. I'm not ready to declare Eyes Wide Shut a masterpiece or anything, but it is certainly one of the most interesting films in recent years. The cinematography is, as always with Kubrick, stunning. And, unlike many others, I found Cruise and Kidman's performances totally credible (Nicole's performance at the opening party sequence is... well, pure intoxication). Open your eyes and wake up, Zak—the readers of Metro Pulse deserve better.

Ashley Capps, Knoxville

© 1999 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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