Review

Eyes Wide Shut/dream Story: Screenplay

by Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael



NC-17 controversy or not, what turned out to be Stanley Kubrick's
last production was bound to be The Phantom Menace for the
artsy set. Eyes Wide Shut, by most critics' assessments, is
a fine final chapter to the impeccable and always provocative
reputation of the man responsible for A Clockwork Orange,
The Shining and Lolita, among other cinematic moments
of the century. Rarely can we readers praise a movie for actually
living up to the book it is based on, but Kubrick always manages to
leave his original mark without defacing the source material.

EYES WIDE SHUT is a handy volume which allows lovers of both paper
and celluloid to compare and contrast the two works: the screenplay
by Kubrick and Frederic Raphael and the novel that inspired the
film, DREAM STORY by Arthur Schnitzler. Translated from the German
TRAUMNOVELLE, first published in 1926, Schnitzler's tale is set in
the vibrant, carnivalesque world of Vienna as opposed to the '90s
Manhattan of Eyes Wide Shut. Scene for scene, the film
faithfully updates a novel that already feels surprisingly
modern.

Movies being movies, Eyes Wide Shut serves up more of a
sensory-laden experience --- the infamous and visually stunning
orgy scene, those stark, singular notes that comprise much of the
soundtrack, the slow sentences that seem to take ten minutes for
Bill and Alice to utter. DREAM STORY, as the title suggests, fills
the quiet in the movie with the untapped thoughts inside the
husband's head. By the tenth page, Fridolin is sent reeling into
the night after his wife Albertine confesses that she once lusted
after a complete stranger, for whom she was willing to throw her
marriage and all stability away. A Don Quixote sort of
episodic plot ensues (minus the slapstick humor), in which Fridolin
confronts any number of temptations and traumas in one seemingly
endless night.

Schnitzler, a contemporary of Freud --- apparently they used to
hold psychoanalytical chitchats in a certain cafe --- creates, in a
mere 100 pages, a fluid world in which dreams and so-called reality
compete for truth. While the main character drifts in and out of
surreal near-experiences, his wife voyages through the realm of the
sleeping imagination. Masks are stripped and dark desires exposed,
and we are left, with the characters, to debate whether the costume
ball of life is but an innocent dream or if we are equally
accountable for thoughts as well as deeds. Sanity and madness, life
and death, love and sex: all become increasingly relative as
Fridolin wanders the boundaries of existence. "He was at once
thirsty and intoxicated by all the adventures of the night, none of
which had led to anything, by his own audacity, and by the
sea-change he felt within himself."

Surely these characters cannot be the same after their strange
nights within and without, and we wonder in watching and reading
these two versions of their tale if plumbing the innermost depths
of ourselves is a dangerous thing, if the human need to express our
findings might not indeed be the best policy. Should the wife have
admitted that her husband momentarily receded in her consciousness,
or is confession a selfish gesture? And does her hyper-honesty at
all justify the husband's run-ins with, in his terms, whores and
specters? Luckily, we are left to fend for ourselves as questions
pile upon more questions...much as Freud, Schnitzler and Kubrick
would have liked.

Reviewed by Krista Madsen on January 21, 2011

Eyes Wide Shut/dream Story: Screenplay
by Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael

  • Publication Date: August 9, 1999
  • Genres: Movies, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0446676322
  • ISBN-13: 9780446676328