An Analysis of the Opening Sequence of Stanley Kubrick's ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ Focusing on the Use of Generic Conventions

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An analysis of the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ focusing on the use of generic conventions

We frequently consider films in terms of their genre, a French word meaning ‘kind’ or ‘sort’. It is a very complex term, not only used in film but also in other creative areas such as music, art, and literature. However, it is often considered through various conventions including iconography, similar themes and their stylistic features, as Bordwell and Thompson (2006:357) suggest, ‘ style…is the formal system of the film that organizes techniques’ such as lighting, props and setting. This repetition of common elements across a series of films allows us as the viewer to identify genre. For example, if a film was to present a dessert, horses and guns it would distinguish a western genre, whereas in a thriller, low key lighting would be used to create shadows, and props such as mirrors would signify this opposing genre. On the other hand, genres can have similarities and differences, which enables us to be kept entertained even though watching the same genre. This is because a cross-genre or hybrid is used in many contemporary films, which allows filmmakers to link other genres into the narrative such as a film noir or spaghetti western. As Grant (2007:2) suggests, ‘Tom Ryall has distinguished three levels at which we should understand genre in the cinema: the generic system, individual genres and individual films.’ Stanley Kubrick is a renowned auteur often adapting his films from literary works and contrives complex sets to articulate his ideas and interpretations. By studying genre in the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s, Eye’s Wide Shut (1999) it can somewhat be seen as challenging. By assessing a number of generic conventions, which Kubrick expresses in the opening scene and how he conveys them could be argued to a certain extent that he does not typically characterize a Drama/Mystery/Thriller in which the film falls under. The opening title sequence of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick’s thirteenth and last feature film, signifies a wide variety of genres. Non-diegetic sound of classical music can be identified as The Waltz, which plays in the opening sequence. This is a typical convention of Kubrick’s work as he often uses pre-existing music for his soundtrack. The first text to appear, using white on black is ‘Warner Bros presents’. As part of the big five production companies, Warner Brothers was typically know for producing dark crime/gangster films during the 1930’s later becoming popular for action/adventure genres. On the other hand, to this day Warner Brothers have produced a wide variety of genres in mainstream cinema, and therefore does not fully signify what the possible genre of the film could be, as there is such as wide variation. However, the next text to appear is one of the main actors who is a worldwide success, Tom Cruise, who plays the character, Dr Bill Harford. By placing his name in the opening title sequence will help attract large mass audiences. However, by focusing on genre, Tom Cruise is particularly recognized for starring in the trilogy of Mission Impossible, which falls into the genre category of action/adventure. He is also renowned for starring in a number of thrillers, which is a hybrid genre of Kubrick’s film, Eye’s Wide Shut. The next star to be presented in the film is Nicole Kidman who for the majority of her career has starred in forty-two drama films to date according to The Internet Movie Database [online]. So far, Kubrick has expressed possible genres by his use of actor’s; therefore this allows his audience to detect the genre through star identity. The opening credits then continues to signify that it is ‘a Film by Stanley Kubrick’, which, like the stars will symbolise to the audience what type of film it will be, based on genre, cinematography and other common elements that Kubrick continues to express in his productions, as Hall (2003) describes, ‘His film’s...
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