D: Alejandro Amenábar; with Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Curz, Chete
Lera, Fele Martínez, Najwa Nimri, Gerard Barray. (R, 117 min.)
Winner of seven Goya Awards (Spanish Oscars), this sophomore feature by Amenábar
is a deeply complex psychological mind warp of a film that begs to be viewed more
than once, if only to unpeel the multiple layers of meaning that drench every scene
like the webbing surrounding an arachnid's lunchtime fix. To say that this is a "thriller"
hardly does Amenábar or his cast justice; Open Your Eyes is a brilliant puzzlebox
caught on celluloid, beautiful to look at but difficult to figure out. Amenábar
combines elements of science fiction, horror, and German Expressionism with the more
traditional elements of a love story and Hitchcockian "wrong man" turns, and then
somehow manages to make it all fit into a skewed sort of logic. You may not get it
at first, but the effort is well worth it when you do. Noriega plays César,
a wealthy young Madrid gadabout who values his looks and his libido above all else.
Orphaned years before when his parents died in a car crash, he bides his time throwing
lavish parties and hanging out with his best friend Pelayo (Martinez) when not busily
bedding young women on a nightly basis. When his friend introduces him to the mysterious
Sofia (Cruz) during a birthday party, César finds himself coolly ditching his
current paramour, the feral Nuria (Nimri), in favor of this new acquisition. Little
does he suspect that the night will end with them falling in love (while Pelayo stews
outside, robbed of an "ideal" woman yet again by his handsome Lothario of a friend).
As dawn rises and César leaves Sofia's apartment, he's accosted by Nuria, who
offers him a ride home. He accepts, only to find that the spiteful woman has other
plans as she careens her sportscar out of control and kills herself, leaving César
to face life with a shattered face, his good looks a thing of the past. And then,
strangely, César awakes to find himself in the company of a doctor in a psychiatric
ward, his face covered by a bizarre mask, and intimations of murder ringing in his
ears. Has César lost his mind? He recalls a team of physicians tirelessly rebuilding
his cracked visage, but why then does he still need the mask? And what of Nuria,
who appears to be alive and well, except for the fact that everyone but he knows
her as Sofia? No written description of Open Your Eyes will do justice to this surreal,
disturbing tale of dreams and nightmares, as each successive scene offers up more
distressing questions than answers, deepening the mystery pool yet staying true to
its own maddening internal logic. Amenábar's film does make sense, it's just
not the sense of everyday life. The logic here echoes that of The Cabinet of Dr.
Caligari (whose protagonist is also named César) and Eyes Without a Face, though
Amenábar's film is wholly original. At only 25 years old, the director is being
called the savior of Spanish cinema. That might not be too far off the mark if Open
Your Eyes is indicative of things to come.
Open Your Eyes
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