a piece by Eric Hehr


Alice Harford: How do you feel about wrapping the rest of the presents? Dr. Bill Harford: Maybe tomorrow night.
- Eyes Wide Shut, 1999.



           There is nothing accidental in a Stanley Kubrick film. Every frame that passes is meticulously sculpted, refined to a paragon of cinematic mastery that few directors have come close to achieving. Kubrick’s attention to detail has become notorious, cementing him in history as both a cinematic auteur and a directorial dictator. Kubrick demanded perfection from himself as much as those around him. His excessive scrutiny attracted and repelled his colleagues, who simultaneously labeled him a “genius” and a “tyrant.” Much like Hitchcock before him, a Kubrick film is not viewed, discussed, or critiqued as an ensemble effort, but as a Kubrick film.

           In post-production, Kubrick took the liberty of editing his own work. He marked every single frame and segment by hand, often times editing up until hours and minutes before the film was set to premiere. As his career progressed from the 1950’s into the 1970’s, Kubrick’s technical obsessiveness transformed into an extreme hyper- stylization that would come to define him. The grandiose aesthetic and revolutionary photographical elements of his films have become so ingrained within the cinematic zeitgeist that the adjective “Kubrickian” has become a common term to describe anything that resembles his signature style. Steven Spielberg once referred to Kubrick’s films not as films, but as “environmental experiences that get more intense the more you watch them.”

           Eyes Wide Shut is based off of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella, Dream Story. It was a project Kubrick had been trying to get off the ground since the early 1970’s. In it’s infancy, Kubrick envisioned Woody Allen as the film’s lead. But as the years past and the adaptation process expanded, Kubrick found himself reimagining the source material to fit his aesthetic preferences. Much like his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining (1980), Kubrick would take serious artistic liberties as her transferred the page to the screen, altering Schnitzler’s story into a definitive Kubrick film.

           Beginning production in 1996, Eyes Wide Shut would shoot for over 400 days, earning it The Guinness Book of World Records accolade as the longest constant movie shoot: “for over 15 months, a period that included an unbroken shoot of 46 weeks.” On March 1st, 1999, Kubrick screened the work print of Eyes Wide Shut to Warner Brothers. Six days later, he died of a sudden heart attack.

           Kubrick’s compulsive perfectionism had lead to an increasingly complex post-production process, which was left in limbo in lieu of his death. At the time of his funeral, Eyes Wide Shut was still in the midst of scoring sessions. The sound mix and overdub loops were incomplete. The edit of the film was more or less in an assembly state - far from what the director would consider a final cut. Nicole Kidman (Alice Harford in Eyes Wide Shut) said, “I think Stanley would have been tinkering with it for the next twenty years. He was never finished. It was never perfect enough.”

           Warner Brothers released Eyes Wide Shut on July 16th, 1999, following a marketing campaign that advertised it as a steamy summer blockbuster. The high expectations for Eyes Wide Shut was further magnified by it’s top billed stars: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, at the time a married couple at the pinnacle of their star- power.

 



 

            Many critics were predisposed to evaluating Eyes Wide Shut as an exemplification of Kubrick’s whole career: “This astonishing last film is a spellbinding addition to the Kubrick canon,” wrote Janet Maslin of The New York Times, “The man who could create a whole new universe with each undertaking chose the bedroom as his last frontier...the dreamland intensity of previous Kubrick visions is in full force here.” Others were quick to dismiss the film as a studio patchwork of misdirection: “Eyes Wide Shut has more than a few problems,” wrote Jay Hoberman, “I’m not convinced that this ‘haunting final masterpiece’ has the tone Kubrick intended. Someday, some dogged cinearchaeologist will get to the bottom of this corporate restoration.”

            Eyes Wide Shut has since become Kubrick’s most polarizing film. Is it a masterpiece or an unfortunate stain on an otherwise pristine filmography? Is it what Kubrick - the insatiable perfectionist - intended to make? Was Warner Brothers exploitative in it’s release, misleading audience’s expectations? Furthermore, what was Kubrick trying to say with Eyes Wide Shut? Is the film a critique on capitalism? A meditation on suppressed desires within the conscious state? Is it Kubrick’s commentary on the power of sex - as a coping mechanism, a shameful kink, a selfish transaction of pleasure? Is it Kubrick’s subtle effort to expose the long-rumored pedophile ring amongst his elite Hollywood peers? Or perhaps it’s his modern day re-telling of “Alice In Wonderland?”

            Books and essays can - and have - been written about all of this, furthering the cryptic mythology of Eyes Wide Shut. What we know for certain is what appears on the screen was endlessly deliberated over by Kubrick: the costuming, art direction, camera placement, blocking, lighting, set decoration, etc. Regardless of post- production aspects such as editing, scoring, and mixing, the production elements have Kubrick’s fingerprints all over them. These aspects of Eyes Wide Shut are measurable and finite, and no doubt purposeful considering Kubrick’s well documented fastidious nature. So why did Kubrick choose to set an esoteric film about sexuality, dreams, and infidelity at Christmas time?

            While adapting Schnitzler’s novella Dream Story into the script for Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick and screenwriter Frederic Raphael made some notable changes. Most of these are documented in Raphael’s memoir on working with Kubrick, Eyes Wide Open. For instance, instead of the main couple being Jewish (as they were in Schnitzler’s novella), Kubrick made his protagonists “vanilla Americans” to establish a more cookie-cutter sense of normalcy. This was done in an effort to identify American audiences to the Harford's, amplifying the contrast between their commonality and the atypical plight their relationship undergoes throughout the duration of the film.

            There is far less information on why Kubrick wanted to set the film in 1990’s New York during Christmas (the book takes place in Vienna “just before the end of the carnival period” during the turn of the 20th century). This change is even more puzzling when considering Kubrick’s choice to shoot the film at Pinewood Studios in the U.K. as opposed to shooting on location in New York. Some believe this was due to the amount of manipulation a controlled environment such as a studio offered Kubrick. Others believe this was due to Kubrick’s fear of flying, which had escalated in his later years. However, Kubrick’s choice of New York City during Christmas was unquestionably a calculated decision. But what was the intent?

            Kubrick is using our notion of Christmas as a comfortable and familiar time of year - perhaps the most wonderful time of year - as a tool to disrupt us. The contrast between Christmas as a universally joyous occasion and the foreboding events that the Harford’s find themselves in creates an uneasy juxtaposition. Yes, this is a film with customary Christmas motifs such as marriage and family, set in arguably the most recognizable city in the world during the biggest holiday season. But the look of the city has an unnatural, fabricated undercurrent. And while the film deals with the complications of marriage and family, it does so by presenting us with backroom drug overdoses, child prostitution, and secret illuminati orgies.



 

            The look of Christmas permeates the entirety of Eyes Wide Shut, yet it doesn’t feellike a Christmas film. Cinematographer Larry Smith (who first worked with Kubrick as a gaffer on Barry Lyndon and The Shining) lit the film primarily with practical light sources such as Christmas tree lights, per Kubrick’s request. The film is hazy, glowing red and green, enhanced by the push processing of the 35mm film to intensify the saturation. We see Christmas trees, lights, and wreathes everywhere in the film. But most of these seasonal decorations are within the confines of dark places: an after-hours jazz club, a prostitute’s dingy apartment, a seedy costume shop where a father sells his teenage daughter’s body. The exterior storefronts are decorated, but they’re closed for the night. The city streets are adorned with wreathes and lights, but they’re empty and cold. These are not places we associate with the joyous spirit of Christmas.

            We identify Christmas as a time when family comes together, but in Eyes Wide Shut we watch the Harford family come apart, stricken with thoughts of infidelity. By using Christmas as a backdrop for the film’s malevolent themes, a discordant mood emerges that upsets our perception of the holiday and the story taking place. This creates tension within the viewer as the film continuously contrasts the familiar with the unknown, the benevolent with the sinister.

            Eyes Wide Shut challenges our perception of what defines a Christmas film. At the forefront of this sub- genre are classic films such as It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) or any version of A Christmas Carol. These are films that not only take place during Christmas, but probe the season for it’s deeper emotional resonance —what is the feeling of Christmas? Thematically, these films share a preoccupation with the concept of return; reclaiming something that the protagonist is afraid to lose or fears has already lost. Even a film such as Die Hard (1988) - another widely debated “Christmas film” - is essentially about a man trying to repair his family life in time for Christmas. Although the Christmas film is a genre-hybrid that differs from category to category, they all deal with puritanical themes that are deeply rooted within the Christian view of the holiday. From the vantage point of religion, Christmas is about birth. But from the lens of cinema, Christmas it’s about rebirth. It’s about the change and transformation within the human condition.

            If we approach Eyes Wide Shut as a Christmas film, a sub-genre based around a character’s rebirth, we need to start by looking at our main character: Bill Harford (Tom Cruise). Bill is a successful doctor, husband, and father. When we first meet Bill, he and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman) are in their high-rise Manhattan apartment, getting ready for a ritzy holiday party hosted by one of Bill’s wealthy patients. Cloaked in expensive formal wear, the couple informs their young daughter that she can stay up late to watch The Nutcracker on TV. They politely say goodbye to the babysitter before exiting the apartment. So far, so good, right? Christmas. Family. New York City. A holiday party. We know these things. We understand them.

            While at the party, Bill and Alice are separated, and both are tempted and seduced from outside parties. Later that night, the couple confronts each other based on their assumptions of infidelity. Alice confesses that she has had fantasies about being with other men, including a naval officer she met on a vacation. “If he wanted me,” she says, “I would give up everything. You. Helena. My whole fucking future. Everything” Wait. Pause. This doesn’t register as “Christmasy” at all. I thought this was a Christmas film? Oh wait, it’s a Kubrick film.

 



 

           Disturbed by Alice’s confession, Bill leaves the apartment for a house-call. This leads to a series of dangerous and perplexing events that take place over the course of one night, challenging Bill’s faithfulness to Alice as well as resetting his own moral compass.

           When Bill returns home in the wee small hours of the morning, trying to gather himself and make sense of the night’s events, he approaches the glowing Christmas tree in the living room and shuts it off. And all at once - the red and green lights, the surreal Kubrickian trip through after-hours jazz clubs and decadent masked orgies - fades away. We are left in the cold, harsh blue light of reality. 

           The following day, Bill retraces his steps in the sunlight, realizing the potential consequences of his actions from the night before. Had he made different choices, throwing caution to the wind and acting upon impulses, he could have contracted AIDS. He also could have been killed. And maybe, other people could have lived. Bill is changed, realizing his fortunate position in life.

           We need look no further than characters such as George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life and Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol to identify the Christmas film’s archetypical hero. Bill Harford is part of this continuum. Just as Bailey and Scrooge are shown alternate versions of what could’ve been and what will be based on their actions throughout the course of a single night, Bill spends an evening in an sexually charged alternate landscape of reality, making him question himself and his marriage. Through this series of events, we come to realize that Bill isn’t trying to leave his marriage or distance himself from Alice - he’s trying to find a way back to her. He’s trying to repair the broken relationship; reclaim the love that has been lost.

           Eyes Wide Shut ends with Bill and Alice shopping with their daughter at a crowded F.A.O Schwarz toy store. Bill has just confessed the events of the past night and day to Alice. The couple acknowledges their love for each other, and Alice says, “I think we should be grateful. Grateful that we’ve managed to survive through all of our adventures. Whether they were real, or only a dream.” Although we’re never given an epilogue to the Harford’s marriage, we leave the film knowing it’s in a stronger place than when the film began. The Harford's have come back together. Alice wants to fuck. Merry Christmas!

 



           There’s a lot of other Christmas-related themes and motifs throughout the course of Eyes Wide Shut, some of which have been editorialized by critics and authors. Harper's film critic, Lee Siegel, believes that the film's recurring motif is the Christmas tree. Siegel wrote that it symbolizes the way that "compared with the everyday reality of sex and emotion, our fantasies of gratification are pompous and solemn in the extreme...for desire is like Christmas: it always promises more than it delivers.”

           Eyes Wide Shut may not fit the traditional classification of a Christmas film, but the fact that it takes place during Christmas is something to consider. It was certainly something that Stanley Kubrick considered, whether for aesthetic or thematic purposes. Like anything else in a Kubrick film, the use of Christmas in Eyes Wide Shut isn’t an arbitrary choice.

           There are many other outlier films to the Christmas film sub-genre - Batman Returns (1992),Reindeer Games (2000), Black Christmas (1974) - that continue to entice conversation and debate, further leading us to consider the parameters of the genre: what makes a Christmas film a Christmas film? If it’s not the seasonal connotation or choice of time and place, then perhaps it’s the comforting feeling it gives us, or the moral lesson it teaches us about compassion, good-will, and kindness. Maybe it’s about a character realizing what he has and being thankful for it - like a wife, a daughter, a family, and the potential for a brighter future. And while one can view, discuss, or critique Eyes Wide Shut as a Christmas film, there is no denying it’s Kubrick’s Christmas film.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Eric Hehr, Dec. 2018

 

 

 

a piece by Eric Hehr


Alice Harford: How do you feel about wrapping the rest of the presents? Dr. Bill Harford: Maybe tomorrow night.
- Eyes Wide Shut, 1999.



           There is nothing accidental in a Stanley Kubrick film. Every frame that passes is meticulously sculpted, refined to a paragon of cinematic mastery that few directors have come close to achieving. Kubrick’s attention to detail has become notorious, cementing him in history as both a cinematic auteur and a directorial dictator. Kubrick demanded perfection from himself as much as those around him. His excessive scrutiny attracted and repelled his colleagues, who simultaneously labeled him a “genius” and a “tyrant.” Much like Hitchcock before him, a Kubrick film is not viewed, discussed, or critiqued as an ensemble effort, but as a Kubrick film.

           In post-production, Kubrick took the liberty of editing his own work. He marked every single frame and segment by hand, often times editing up until hours and minutes before the film was set to premiere. As his career progressed from the 1950’s into the 1970’s, Kubrick’s technical obsessiveness transformed into an extreme hyper- stylization that would come to define him. The grandiose aesthetic and revolutionary photographical elements of his films have become so ingrained within the cinematic zeitgeist that the adjective “Kubrickian” has become a common term to describe anything that resembles his signature style. Steven Spielberg once referred to Kubrick’s films not as films, but as “environmental experiences that get more intense the more you watch them.”

           Eyes Wide Shut is based off of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella, Dream Story. It was a project Kubrick had been trying to get off the ground since the early 1970’s. In it’s infancy, Kubrick envisioned Woody Allen as the film’s lead. But as the years past and the adaptation process expanded, Kubrick found himself reimagining the source material to fit his aesthetic preferences. Much like his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining (1980), Kubrick would take serious artistic liberties as her transferred the page to the screen, altering Schnitzler’s story into a definitive Kubrick film.

           Beginning production in 1996, Eyes Wide Shut would shoot for over 400 days, earning it The Guinness Book of World Records accolade as the longest constant movie shoot: “for over 15 months, a period that included an unbroken shoot of 46 weeks.” On March 1st, 1999, Kubrick screened the work print of Eyes Wide Shut to Warner Brothers. Six days later, he died of a sudden heart attack.

           Kubrick’s compulsive perfectionism had lead to an increasingly complex post-production process, which was left in limbo in lieu of his death. At the time of his funeral, Eyes Wide Shut was still in the midst of scoring sessions. The sound mix and overdub loops were incomplete. The edit of the film was more or less in an assembly state - far from what the director would consider a final cut. Nicole Kidman (Alice Harford in Eyes Wide Shut) said, “I think Stanley would have been tinkering with it for the next twenty years. He was never finished. It was never perfect enough.”

           Warner Brothers released Eyes Wide Shut on July 16th, 1999, following a marketing campaign that advertised it as a steamy summer blockbuster. The high expectations for Eyes Wide Shut was further magnified by it’s top billed stars: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, at the time a married couple at the pinnacle of their star- power.

 



 

            Many critics were predisposed to evaluating Eyes Wide Shut as an exemplification of Kubrick’s whole career: “This astonishing last film is a spellbinding addition to the Kubrick canon,” wrote Janet Maslin of The New York Times, “The man who could create a whole new universe with each undertaking chose the bedroom as his last frontier...the dreamland intensity of previous Kubrick visions is in full force here.” Others were quick to dismiss the film as a studio patchwork of misdirection: “Eyes Wide Shut has more than a few problems,” wrote Jay Hoberman, “I’m not convinced that this ‘haunting final masterpiece’ has the tone Kubrick intended. Someday, some dogged cinearchaeologist will get to the bottom of this corporate restoration.”

            Eyes Wide Shut has since become Kubrick’s most polarizing film. Is it a masterpiece or an unfortunate stain on an otherwise pristine filmography? Is it what Kubrick - the insatiable perfectionist - intended to make? Was Warner Brothers exploitative in it’s release, misleading audience’s expectations? Furthermore, what was Kubrick trying to say with Eyes Wide Shut? Is the film a critique on capitalism? A meditation on suppressed desires within the conscious state? Is it Kubrick’s commentary on the power of sex - as a coping mechanism, a shameful kink, a selfish transaction of pleasure? Is it Kubrick’s subtle effort to expose the long-rumored pedophile ring amongst his elite Hollywood peers? Or perhaps it’s his modern day re-telling of “Alice In Wonderland?”

            Books and essays can - and have - been written about all of this, furthering the cryptic mythology of Eyes Wide Shut. What we know for certain is what appears on the screen was endlessly deliberated over by Kubrick: the costuming, art direction, camera placement, blocking, lighting, set decoration, etc. Regardless of post- production aspects such as editing, scoring, and mixing, the production elements have Kubrick’s fingerprints all over them. These aspects of Eyes Wide Shut are measurable and finite, and no doubt purposeful considering Kubrick’s well documented fastidious nature. So why did Kubrick choose to set an esoteric film about sexuality, dreams, and infidelity at Christmas time?

            While adapting Schnitzler’s novella Dream Story into the script for Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick and screenwriter Frederic Raphael made some notable changes. Most of these are documented in Raphael’s memoir on working with Kubrick, Eyes Wide Open. For instance, instead of the main couple being Jewish (as they were in Schnitzler’s novella), Kubrick made his protagonists “vanilla Americans” to establish a more cookie-cutter sense of normalcy. This was done in an effort to identify American audiences to the Harford's, amplifying the contrast between their commonality and the atypical plight their relationship undergoes throughout the duration of the film.

            There is far less information on why Kubrick wanted to set the film in 1990’s New York during Christmas (the book takes place in Vienna “just before the end of the carnival period” during the turn of the 20th century). This change is even more puzzling when considering Kubrick’s choice to shoot the film at Pinewood Studios in the U.K. as opposed to shooting on location in New York. Some believe this was due to the amount of manipulation a controlled environment such as a studio offered Kubrick. Others believe this was due to Kubrick’s fear of flying, which had escalated in his later years. However, Kubrick’s choice of New York City during Christmas was unquestionably a calculated decision. But what was the intent?

            Kubrick is using our notion of Christmas as a comfortable and familiar time of year - perhaps the most wonderful time of year - as a tool to disrupt us. The contrast between Christmas as a universally joyous occasion and the foreboding events that the Harford’s find themselves in creates an uneasy juxtaposition. Yes, this is a film with customary Christmas motifs such as marriage and family, set in arguably the most recognizable city in the world during the biggest holiday season. But the look of the city has an unnatural, fabricated undercurrent. And while the film deals with the complications of marriage and family, it does so by presenting us with backroom drug overdoses, child prostitution, and secret illuminati orgies.



 

            The look of Christmas permeates the entirety of Eyes Wide Shut, yet it doesn’t feellike a Christmas film. Cinematographer Larry Smith (who first worked with Kubrick as a gaffer on Barry Lyndon and The Shining) lit the film primarily with practical light sources such as Christmas tree lights, per Kubrick’s request. The film is hazy, glowing red and green, enhanced by the push processing of the 35mm film to intensify the saturation. We see Christmas trees, lights, and wreathes everywhere in the film. But most of these seasonal decorations are within the confines of dark places: an after-hours jazz club, a prostitute’s dingy apartment, a seedy costume shop where a father sells his teenage daughter’s body. The exterior storefronts are decorated, but they’re closed for the night. The city streets are adorned with wreathes and lights, but they’re empty and cold. These are not places we associate with the joyous spirit of Christmas.

            We identify Christmas as a time when family comes together, but in Eyes Wide Shut we watch the Harford family come apart, stricken with thoughts of infidelity. By using Christmas as a backdrop for the film’s malevolent themes, a discordant mood emerges that upsets our perception of the holiday and the story taking place. This creates tension within the viewer as the film continuously contrasts the familiar with the unknown, the benevolent with the sinister.

            Eyes Wide Shut challenges our perception of what defines a Christmas film. At the forefront of this sub- genre are classic films such as It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) or any version of A Christmas Carol. These are films that not only take place during Christmas, but probe the season for it’s deeper emotional resonance —what is the feeling of Christmas? Thematically, these films share a preoccupation with the concept of return; reclaiming something that the protagonist is afraid to lose or fears has already lost. Even a film such as Die Hard (1988) - another widely debated “Christmas film” - is essentially about a man trying to repair his family life in time for Christmas. Although the Christmas film is a genre-hybrid that differs from category to category, they all deal with puritanical themes that are deeply rooted within the Christian view of the holiday. From the vantage point of religion, Christmas is about birth. But from the lens of cinema, Christmas it’s about rebirth. It’s about the change and transformation within the human condition.

            If we approach Eyes Wide Shut as a Christmas film, a sub-genre based around a character’s rebirth, we need to start by looking at our main character: Bill Harford (Tom Cruise). Bill is a successful doctor, husband, and father. When we first meet Bill, he and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman) are in their high-rise Manhattan apartment, getting ready for a ritzy holiday party hosted by one of Bill’s wealthy patients. Cloaked in expensive formal wear, the couple informs their young daughter that she can stay up late to watch The Nutcracker on TV. They politely say goodbye to the babysitter before exiting the apartment. So far, so good, right? Christmas. Family. New York City. A holiday party. We know these things. We understand them.

            While at the party, Bill and Alice are separated, and both are tempted and seduced from outside parties. Later that night, the couple confronts each other based on their assumptions of infidelity. Alice confesses that she has had fantasies about being with other men, including a naval officer she met on a vacation. “If he wanted me,” she says, “I would give up everything. You. Helena. My whole fucking future. Everything” Wait. Pause. This doesn’t register as “Christmasy” at all. I thought this was a Christmas film? Oh wait, it’s a Kubrick film.

 



 

           Disturbed by Alice’s confession, Bill leaves the apartment for a house-call. This leads to a series of dangerous and perplexing events that take place over the course of one night, challenging Bill’s faithfulness to Alice as well as resetting his own moral compass.

           When Bill returns home in the wee small hours of the morning, trying to gather himself and make sense of the night’s events, he approaches the glowing Christmas tree in the living room and shuts it off. And all at once - the red and green lights, the surreal Kubrickian trip through after-hours jazz clubs and decadent masked orgies - fades away. We are left in the cold, harsh blue light of reality. 

           The following day, Bill retraces his steps in the sunlight, realizing the potential consequences of his actions from the night before. Had he made different choices, throwing caution to the wind and acting upon impulses, he could have contracted AIDS. He also could have been killed. And maybe, other people could have lived. Bill is changed, realizing his fortunate position in life.

           We need look no further than characters such as George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life and Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol to identify the Christmas film’s archetypical hero. Bill Harford is part of this continuum. Just as Bailey and Scrooge are shown alternate versions of what could’ve been and what will be based on their actions throughout the course of a single night, Bill spends an evening in an sexually charged alternate landscape of reality, making him question himself and his marriage. Through this series of events, we come to realize that Bill isn’t trying to leave his marriage or distance himself from Alice - he’s trying to find a way back to her. He’s trying to repair the broken relationship; reclaim the love that has been lost.

           Eyes Wide Shut ends with Bill and Alice shopping with their daughter at a crowded F.A.O Schwarz toy store. Bill has just confessed the events of the past night and day to Alice. The couple acknowledges their love for each other, and Alice says, “I think we should be grateful. Grateful that we’ve managed to survive through all of our adventures. Whether they were real, or only a dream.” Although we’re never given an epilogue to the Harford’s marriage, we leave the film knowing it’s in a stronger place than when the film began. The Harford's have come back together. Alice wants to fuck. Merry Christmas!

 



           There’s a lot of other Christmas-related themes and motifs throughout the course of Eyes Wide Shut, some of which have been editorialized by critics and authors. Harper's film critic, Lee Siegel, believes that the film's recurring motif is the Christmas tree. Siegel wrote that it symbolizes the way that "compared with the everyday reality of sex and emotion, our fantasies of gratification are pompous and solemn in the extreme...for desire is like Christmas: it always promises more than it delivers.”

           Eyes Wide Shut may not fit the traditional classification of a Christmas film, but the fact that it takes place during Christmas is something to consider. It was certainly something that Stanley Kubrick considered, whether for aesthetic or thematic purposes. Like anything else in a Kubrick film, the use of Christmas in Eyes Wide Shut isn’t an arbitrary choice.

           There are many other outlier films to the Christmas film sub-genre - Batman Returns (1992),Reindeer Games (2000), Black Christmas (1974) - that continue to entice conversation and debate, further leading us to consider the parameters of the genre: what makes a Christmas film a Christmas film? If it’s not the seasonal connotation or choice of time and place, then perhaps it’s the comforting feeling it gives us, or the moral lesson it teaches us about compassion, good-will, and kindness. Maybe it’s about a character realizing what he has and being thankful for it - like a wife, a daughter, a family, and the potential for a brighter future. And while one can view, discuss, or critique Eyes Wide Shut as a Christmas film, there is no denying it’s Kubrick’s Christmas film.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Eric Hehr, Dec. 2018