In this scene from Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Kubrick’s last movie, Tom Cruise aimlessly wanders through the street as he notices that a mysterious man is following him.

The feeling of persecution the protagonist is experiencing is conveyed to the viewer through different cinematographic means. Small details of the plot, such as the repeated rejections by cab drivers or the general impression that all the background characters are entirely indifferent to what is going on.

The soundtrack also plays into this. The disturbing, one-note melody played by the piano interacts with the rhythm of the steps. It creates a fragmented cadence and emphasizes certain dramatic moments.

That fragmented cadence is also created through the shots of varying length that switch back and forth between the protagonist and the suspicious man.

Through these effects, the viewer subjected to the same fear as the protagonist. At the same time however, the question of the reality of the threat is never answered. Of course, the most important storyline in the movie is not that of the protagonist’s mysterious encounters but that of the endangered relationship with his wife. The realms of dream and reality, her storyline is about a dream she has been having, overlap and confound themselves.

From my personal experience, this creates another dimension of paranoia. The viewer fears to get lost in this interplay and constantly tries to find meaning.

Kubrick’s movie is a very unsettling experience because, as the viewer, you think you are giving significance to things that are actually irrelevant, all the while missing out on the meaning of a lot of symbols. This mirrors the internal state of the main character and, to me, represents the best explanation of the choice of the title of the film: Eyes Wide Shut.


One response to “

  1. You might want to mention that the film, while based in New York, wasn’t actually shot there, adding another layer of otherworldliness to the proceedings. Also, I disagree that the reality of the threat is never answered; if anything, the reality of the danger Cruise’s character is in creeps in on us as the film progresses, as we realize more and more that he is completely out of his league and that the group he curiously stumbled upon is far more sinister than it seems. This creeping sense of endangerment reaches its zenith when Cruise comes home to find the masquerade mask he had worn earlier in the film placed by an intruder on the pillow next to his sleeping wife.

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