‘Voyeurs welcome’ went the advertising campaign. It wasn’t a spoken agreement. It was a look. In the theatrical trailer for Eyes Wide Shut, the defining image is of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, naked, making-out in front of a mirror. Tom has his eyes closed to what he’s doing. He can’t see himself in heat. But Nicole’s eyes are open, she’s watching herself in that mirror, and her look is fearful, hunted. Tom’s hand is round her throat. It’s as if she sees his brute desire in that mirror. As much as she enjoys it – and, rest assured, she does enjoy it too – catching desire is dangerous. He’s in the grip of lust: right where we are. By looking in the mirror, Nicole dares us to admit: we want to see. She snares the voyeur.
In the middle of Jonathan Safran Foer’s superb 9/11 novel, there’s a transcript of a Hiroshima survivor recalling what happened to her the day the bomb fell. More specifically, she recalls the death of her daughter. She says very little about the blast, or the ash cloud, or the cataclysm which befell her city. She omits everything that isn’t personal. Not because she doesn’t understand what happened, or because she doesn’t care what happened to others, but because the tragedy of losing a loved one is a cataclysm in itself. Unexpected death hits us – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – like surviving a sudden disaster; the event is shocking, but its life afterwards that’s painful. Missing people can bury you.