Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Surprising Lesson Of Both "The Wizard Of Oz" And "Eyes Wide Shut"

By Lars Trodson

Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" is 10 years old this year, and "The Wizard Of Oz" turns 70.

Both movies (and the source materials) have been over-analyzed, to be sure. Oz is really a parable about the capitalist system. "Eyes Wide Shut" is awash in symbols of the Illuminati.

Or not.

There's been endless commentary about the connection both movies share: "Eyes Wide Shut" has abundant references to places over and under the rainbow. Anybody who finds themselves in uncharted territory, whether it be physical or mental, they are apt to say: "We're not in Kansas any more."

Neither is just a movie any more, either.

Kubrick never lived to hear the debate over his final film. I find quite a bit of the movie fascinating, and it marks a return to actors giving emotional and layered performances (for the most part) that Kubrick later seemed to abandon.

Nicole Kidman is wonderful, if a little uneven. The great Vinessa Shaw is both mysterious and comforting (she's one of the few actresses able to convey different emotions at once), Marie Richardson is touching as the tortured daughter of one of Cruise's patients -- they are all excellent.

You already know about the actors in "The Wizard of Oz."

Both stories involve a journey. The central characters (Dorothy and Dr. William Harford) are lost, and are trying to find something they feel is missing. Both movies are dreams, both movies are nightmares.

I think most dreams -- even those dreams that turn bad -- are eventually about the same thing: they are trying to remind us, or get us back to, the place where we feel most safe. Nightmares come when that journey is blocked. When we can't get back, or don't know how to get back. And so it is with both pictures. Dorothy and Harford are trying to get back.

So there is one thing that is always overlooked in this debate.

While the "Oz" ending is heartfelt and warm, and the "Eyes Wide Shut" ending is crude and clinical, both films, surprisingly, remind us of the exact same thing:

There's no place like home.