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Eyes (Abre los Ojos) (1997)
Open Your Eyes doesn't have enough substance or
depth to make it in the art houses, and, unfortunately, that is exactly where it will play
in the United States, since mainstream audiences, for the most part, steer clear of
foreign language films. If it were in English, it might find an audience, but I'm
not sure where in the market it would find its niche.
The hero, Cesar (Eduardo Noriega),
is young, handsome, rich, living a life of luxury and partying. He's been sexually
involved with overheated Nuria (Najwa Nimri), but then falls into a love-at-first-sight
situation with Sofia (Penelope Cruz). (This was at one time called sleeping around.
Current standards do not even label it.)
Nuria, jealous and possessive,
stalks him. There is an automobile crash. Nuria is killed - or is she? Cesar is hideously
disfigured - or is he? Starting with just hints at the very beginning (Cesar drives off
one morning to find Madrid totally devoid of people or cars...), director Alejandro
Amenabar starts to build a variety of scenes and situations which indicate that we are
viewing more than one reality here. Are we in Cesar's dreams? Is Cesar mad?
Once this question is posed, things
bog down rather quickly until it all gets explained in a rush at the very end, which is,
of course, the modus operandi of thrillers. Hints are provided, of course, but it
is not a mystery in the sense of a great game to play like an Agatha Christie clue hunt.
So the real test as to whether you will stay awake is whether you like the hero enough to
care what happens to him. He was charming before the accident, really, but afterwards the
charm disappears, the spoiled youth emerges, and the character is utterly drowned in self
pity. Very quickly it becomes hard to care, even annoying.
Banish any thought that this might
be a thoughtful or insightful parable; it simply doesn't get under the surface enough to
sustain that level of discourse. What the film does do is to veer into cryonics and
virtual realities, yet another spin in this new family of alternate world movies (The Matrix, The Truman Show) with great fathers or
computers overseeing our lives with or without our knowledge. That these movies all follow
a similar theme (though they are all very different from one another) leads one to
speculate that perhaps the generation which is generally the biggest audience for these
films is intrigued with the idea of giving up responsibility and blaming all that is wrong
in the world on unknown outside forces. If that is really the case we are in bigger
trouble than I thought.
The cast of Open Your Eyes is
attractive and sexy. Production values are excellent, it has a stylish design sense, and
Amenabar uses some effective, edgy camera work and editing. Maybe next time around
he'll start with a more thoughtful screenplay.
- Arthur Lazere