There are going to be countless opportunities to get lost in the gooey sweetness of your favourite holiday movie over the next few days. So while we’re happy to celebrate those rosy-cheeked moments, we also want to make time for some deliberately anti-Christmas movies and what better place to start than with Stanley Kubrick‘s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’.
Holiday films are often very popular because of what they have to offer: an escape from the monotony of regular life that leads us to uplifting conclusions. However, Christmas films do not always adhere to these banal generalities, and some of them provide brilliant alternatives to the oversaturated ocean of clichés. Eyes Wide Shut naturally avoids all of this.
Starring Tom Cruise as Dr. William Harford, Eyes Wide Shut is a mesmerising cinematic dream which follows Harford as he embarks on bizarre psychosexual adventures after he finds out that his wife (played by Nicole Kidman) had thought about indulging in an extra-marital affair.
He is forced to confront his own mortality and to change his reductive views of sexuality as he is carried forward by the hallucinogenic Christmas lights until he ends up at an orgy.
Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1928 novel Dream Story, Kubrick transposed the story from 1900s Vienna to 1990s New York and changed the Mardi Gras setting to Christmas. Critics have debated for years over this artistic choice, wondering whether the festive period had been chosen because it is a symbol of rejuvenation or whether it is a critique of how materialism has replaced the inherent spirituality of Christmas.
Kubrick’s final contribution to the world of cinema is not a conventional Christmas film by any means. With its recurring insistence on human depravity, Eyes Wide Shut is more of a philosophical inquiry about the inevitable corruption of idealist pretensions.
It challenges our voyeuristic expectations and questions the validity of the season’s spiritual cheer, which is completely based on materialistic obsessions.