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Kubrick: Behind Eyes Wide Shut Symposium

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Eyes Wide Shut Conference
Eyes Wide Shut Conference
Eyes Wide Shut Conference
Written by
Michael Davies
Published date
20 December 2019

On 16th and 17th December 2019, the University of the Arts London (UAL) and Bangor University co-organised a conference hosted at UAL around Kubrick’s final film - Eyes Wide Shut (EWS).

Released in 1999, this film was Kubrick's first finished project for 12 years (since the release of Full Metal Jacket in 1987). Kubrick's sudden death, which came just six days after delivering his final cut to Warner Bros, intensified the anticipation surrounding this release.

Based on the novella Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler, Kubrick had been considering an adaptation of Schnitzler's novel for several decades before the film's release, with an interest in exploring the novella's main themes of sexuality, psychology, adultery and dreams. EWS starred the then-married Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, and received mixed reviews upon its release. The film continues to be what some might see as one of Kubrick's most misunderstood films, as explored in the December 2019 issue of the BFI's Sight & Sound magazine.

Conference speakers explored these aspects and more in two days of brilliant talks and lively debate. Panelists included film scholars, industry professionals and a practicing psychiatrist.

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Eyes Wide Shut Conference
Eyes Wide Shut Conference

Papers and provocations ranged from ‘Is Eyes Wide Shut the film Kubrick wanted us to see?’ to ‘Eyes Wide Shut, Sex and Scandal in 2019’ and ‘Infidelity troubled him deeply [...] the root of Eyes Wide Shut', showing an eclectic mix of research and opinion.

Yolande Snaith delivered the keynote, speaking of her experience working with Kubrick on the choreography for the film's infamous masked ball scene. The conference closed with a plenary panel, with panelists including; Chris Baker, cover artist who worked on concept art for EWS, and Tim Everett, film distribution consultant who worked for Warner Bros on the film's international distribution and localisation.

Many speakers drew on research they had undertaken in the Stanley Kubrick Archive, of which the Eyes Wide Shut section is the largest of any film. We hold a vast range of material relating to the making of EWS, including scripts and development material, concept art, production and filming material as well as props and costumes. This material is publicly available to view by appointment, please contact archive-enquiries@arts.ac.uk for questions and booking requests.