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Eyes Wide Shut Film Review and Analysis

Updated on March 30, 2018

Eyes Wide Shut Film Poster


Eyes Wide Shut is a 1999 film by the famed director Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick is known for his exploration of the human psyche. He has made numerous cult followed films, and Eyes Wide Shut proves to be no different. Starring Tom Cruise as Dr. William Hartford, Nicole Kidman and his wife, Alice Hartford, Sydney Pollack as Victor Ziegler, and Todd Field as Nick Nightingale.


Eyes Wide Shut begins with the lovely couple of Dr. William and Alice Hartford going to a party hosted by Victor Ziegler. While at the party, the couple gets split up only to have their relationship challenged. Upon returning home, the two get stoned on marijuana and have a fight. Alice tells about when they were out together one time and she fantasized about being with a naval officer the whole trip. This breaks Bill’s psychological state and leads to him going out on a two-night extravaganza to explore himself and his relationship with Alice.


Eyes Wide Shut has two main focuses for the viewer to examine: the human psyche and relationships. The human psyche is examined, first off, by a comparison of ‘real’ events versus ‘dream’ events. As the film begins at the Ziegler party, the couple gets separated and each challenged to remain faithful to the other. Alice dances with a suave Hungarian that attempts to seduce her. After being shut down by Alice, he continues to lay questions into their relationship. At the same time, Dr. Bill is challenged by a couple of young, attractive women that basically throw themselves at him. He escapes this encounter by being called to help Victor Ziegler with an overdosed guest. Once Dr. Bill and Alice get back home, they get in an argument. Alice tells her husband about one time when they were staying out of town and she fantasized about being with a Naval officer she saw in the lobby. She says that she was so smitten by this gentleman that she would “give up everything” to be with office. This statement really hurts Bill. He escapes this situation with another call. This is where the excitement begins. After the confession of having Alice having a dream experience with the Naval officer, Bill is haunted by the thought. He keeps picturing his wife sleeping with another man. This leads Bill to try and have his own sexual experience. He goes to a hooker and attempts to sleep with her, but again is called away. Bill leaves the hooker’s house without having actually slept with her. This is where the first ‘real’ versus ‘dream’ comes into play. There was the dream of the Naval officer is faced with the real attempt at sex with the hooker. This also is a challenge to the old saying “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

The next exploit Bill has, becomes a bit more serious. He goes to a bar and meets up with his friend Nick Nightingale who plays piano after dropping out of medical school. Nick gets him into another party that turns out to be a secret orgy for millionaires. Bill never actually has any sex with any of the people that he meets, despite his few attempts. When he returns home, Alice tells him of her dream where she was at an orgy and had sex with many men. This is the comparison of ‘real’ versus ‘dream’ with the roles of who did it first reversed. The important part about this is that neither party was truthfully unfaithful. It brings up the second saying about dreams being the heart’s ultimate desires.

All this culminates in the ending where Bill admits everything to Alice. The final scene coming in a toy store with them Christmas shopping with their daughter. Bill makes up with Alice and suggests they will be ok now because they’re both sorry for hurting the other one. Bill says they will be together “forever.” Alice says she can’t say forever because it makes her uncomfortable. This shows that their relationship is not nearly as strong as it should be. They agree that despite them both having desires to be with other people. The couple are continuing their relationship knowing it’s toxic because it could end at any moment due to it being able to end at any moment. Then again though, that shows the beauty of a relationship; they are staying together knowing that at any time, it could end. They are together now because they want to be. That makes it stronger than anything else.

Final Thoughts

The film, Eyes Wide Shut, challenges human psyche and personal comfort by throwing a relationship into question with sexual exploits. It also shows an incredible skill in film making with Kubrick’s direction. He uses the music to add to the uncomfortable feelings and plays with lighting beautifully. It is said that the best way to grow is by being uncomfortable, this film is the perfect example of making a viewer uncomfortable and helping them grow, even if just a little.

Grade: A

Eyes Wide Shut Trailer

© 2018 Josh Whitworth


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