Eyes Wide Shut: The book is better than the movie

Mask from the film Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick. Exhibit at EYE Filminstitut Netherlands, Amsterdam. Photo by FaceMePLS via Wikimedia[CC BY 2.0].

Dream StoryDream Story by Arthur Schnitzler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While reading St Theresa's Interior Castle, I needed a diversion to bring some interest back to my reading. A simple way to ensure I have a steady supply of novels to read is to buy all of the Penguin Classics series. This international series brings to the reader authors and stories that would otherwise be neglected by we Antipodean Anglophones of little news from the Otherphones. Unless the story was the plot of a movie. 

I knew nothing of Austrian author Arthur Schnitzler, nor of his novella Dream Story. As I read it, I couldn't help but think of Stanley Kubrick's final movie, Eyes Wide Shut. When I looked up Arthur Schnitzler just now, I discovered that the movie was indeed an adaptation of this very novella.

Such discoveries are pleasing and bring an undeserved sense of achievement, much like becoming a grandfather. 

But I recall hating the movie when it first came out. Bearing in mind, of course, that at that time I thought Starship Troopers was the greatest movie ever made. But long since my late 20s, I have revisited many of Kubrick's movies (as I have done with Woody Allen), and there is certainly something of the genius there. 

(I still struggle with Clockwork Orange, but will read the book and see if that helps. After reading this novella, I intend to watch Eyes Wide Shut again and see if my opinion changes.)

But as for this novella, I read the lofty dream-like scenes before sleeping rather late, and then awoke to finish off the last few pages where reality hits Fridolin, our protagonist. My state of being suited the plot rather well. 

One scene in the Kubrick movie had Tom and Nicole smoking a joint, and this must have been where Fridolin's wife, Albertine, tells him of her desire to have an affair with a young naval officer. I recall being annoyed by that scene - Kidman didn't have the innocence that Albertine portrays in the novella.

The innocence brings out the stupidity of Fridolin's jealousy in sharp relief, whereas Kidman's character, I recall, was really trying to stir things up. This means some of the key themes of courage and class-based morality are lost in the movie.

The movie, too, seems to direct the audience too much, whereas the novella doesn't answer all reader's questions; it is left to the imagination. Schnitzler does this well.

This is a very quick read, but of course, the book is better than the movie.

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