Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Eyes Wide Shut: Introducing Sociology

From Eyes Wide Shut: A Critical Reevaluation, by Tim Kreider -

But Eyes Wide Shut is not about "sex." The real pornography in this film is in its lingering, overlit depiction of the shameless, naked wealth of end-of-the-millennium Manhattan, and of the obscene effect of that wealth on the human soul, and on society. National reviewers' myopic focus on sex and the shallow psychologies of the film's central couple, the Harfords, at the expense of every other element in the film—the trappings of stupendous wealth, the references to fin-de-siècle Europe and other imperial periods, the Christmastime setting, or even the sum spent by Dr. Harford in a single illicit night out—suggests more about the blindness of the elites to their own surroundings than it does about Stanley Kubrick's inadequacies as a pornographer. For those with their eyes open, there are plenty of money shots.

There is a moment in Eyes Wide Shut, as Dr. Bill Harford is lying to his wife over the phone from the apartment of a prostitute, when we see a textbook in the foreground called Introducing Sociology. The book's title serves as a sly, mirthless caption to the scene (like the slogan PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION in Dr. Strangelove), showing us prostitution as the basic and defining transaction of our society. It is also, more importantly, a key to reading the film, suggesting that we ought to interpret it sociologically—not, as most reviewers insisted on doing, psychologically.


[T]his is not a film about the "private dreams and frustrations" of what Ziegler calls "ordinary people"; it is, very pointedly, about really rich people, that notorious one percent of the population that owns forty percent of the wealth.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff - thanks for this link. I've puzzled about this film which I never thought was well-served by the criticism which followed its release. It certainly didn't strike me as a movie about sex - it was curiously asexual throughout, even (especially) in the 'notorious' orgy scene.