#281 Open Your Eyes

(1997, Alejandro Amenabar)
Abre los ojos

“Open your eyes”

In 2002, Cameron Crowe made a movie called Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz. It got mixed reviews, and it did reasonably well, telling a very strange tale of romance with a bit of good old-fashioned mindfuckery thrown in for good measure.

It was also a remake, which not many people know. You see, Cameron Crowe took the entire storyline from a Spanish movie from the nineties called Abre los Ojos, aka Open Your Eyes. He also swiped one of its main cast members (Cruz) and put her in the same role as the original. Today, we’re looking at that movie, and ignoring Vanilla Sky entirely because that’s not on the list. Sorry about that.

Open Your Eyes is a hard film to describe. It’s about a man named Cesar (Eduardo Noriega) who is a rich, good-looking kid living in Madrid. He’s known for womanising and generally being a bit of a smug bastard about how good-looking he is. We switch between him going about his day and enjoying his life to him sitting in prison and talking to a psychiatrist (Chete Lera) while wearing a prosthetic mask.

During the course of the movie, Cesar flirts with a woman named Sofia (Cruz), who happens to be the girlfriend of his best friend Pelayo (Fele Martinez), while simultaneously trying to avoid a crazy, jealous former fling named Nuria (Najwa Nimri). During the course of the movie, Cesar climbs into a car with Nuria, who then immediately crashes the car, horribly disfiguring him. And then things kinda go a little bit haywire…

It’s so damn hard to talk about Open Your Eyes without any spoilers. Even describing one of the genres it fits into makes it difficult not to spoil the movie. As such, I’m going to drop my usual “no spoilers” attitude and say this – if you haven’t seen this movie, or at the very least Vanilla Sky, then read no further. I may be spoiling this one.

Basically, this is a romantic thriller drama sci-fi movie. The story flits frequently between Cesar in prison for some unknown crime, his face concealed by a prosthetic, and what is essentially a flashback, which is basically a romantic drama through an Aronofsky-style filter. We get a man with a perfect life losing that perfect life and slowly going insane, as he collapses in a gutter, magically gets better, ends up with the girl of his dreams and then the girl of his dreams turns into the crazy woman who disfigured him.

The way this plot is constructed is fantastic. The brief scenes we see of the prison add a layer of mystery to a story that would otherwise be “arsehole acts like an arsehole for ninety minutes”. Why is he in prison? What did he do? Why is he wearing that mask? Then the weird stuff starts happening and suddenly you’re swept along in this nightmare world of changing faces and strange Argentinean men in suits trying to tell Cesar something.

And that twist at the end, the twist that turns it all into sci-fi, is delightfully unexpected. It was not an ending I was expecting a movie like this to have, despite the many blatantly obvious clues, and it made it one of the most interesting movies I’ve ever seen. It defied my expectations at every turn. I wasn’t expecting a sci-fi ending. The moral about vanity that I was expecting never materialised. The blur between reality and dream never went away. I was so confused, in the most glorious way possible.

Open Your Eyes did something even more impressive though – it made me like its lead character. Cesar is a smug, irredeemable arsehole, but I felt for the guy. I felt sorry for his disfigurement, I felt scared for him discovering his girlfriend had become crazy stalker lady, and I was rooting for him as he tried to discover the truth around everything that was happening to him. I don’t know if it’s good scripting, good direction or simply good acting from Noriega, but whatever it was, I approve.

I loved Open Your Eyes. I like my weird psychological thrillers with weird twist endings, so this hugely satisfied me. Definitely worth a look. You see, because if you open your eyes, you can look…oh forget it.

Starring Eduardo Noriega, Penelope Cruz, Chete Lera & Najwa Nimri
Written by Alejandro Amenabar & Mateo Gil
Produced by Fernando Bovaira & Jose Luis Cuerda
Music by Alejandro Amenabar & Mariano Marin
Cinematography by Hans Burmann
Edited by Maria Elena Sainz de Rozas

Favourite Scene: The mind-bending reveal of Cesar’s disfigurement after the false reveal of him escaping the accident unscathed is pretty damn effective.
Scene That Bugged Me: Initially the random cutaways to adverts about cryonics services were this, until the ending when they all suddenly made sense.

Watch it if: You’re curious about the origins of Vanilla Sky
Avoid it if: You’re expecting a straightforward romantic thriller

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Posted on May 2, 2014, in 1990s, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Sci Fi, Spain, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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