Open Your Eyes

Open Your Eyes

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

When asked, "What is the nature of reality?", one tends to sideslip away toward the bar. Such questions hang in the ether, until dusted off by inquisitive thinkers like Alejandro Amenabar, a twentysomething writer/director from the next generation of Spanish movie brats.

The audacity of Open Your Eyes matches its imagination. Sadly, it goes too far and you are left with the thought, "If nothing is as it seems and nothing seems what it is, where are you?" Answer: "All over the shop."

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Cesar (Eduardo Noriega) has money, good looks, a different girl every week. When his best pal (Fele Martinez) arrives at the club with Sofia (Penelope Cruz), he's chatting her up within minutes and avoiding the demands of Nuria (Najwa Nimri), last night's squeeze.

Basically, he's a rat. He wants it all and has it all, until Nuria, in a fit of pique, drives off the road into a wall, killing herself and disfiguring Cesar. After hospital treatment, he re-emerges as The Elephant Man and every time he looks in a mirror, howls like a dog. Will Sofia love him now? Will anyone? Without beauty, what remains but madness?

Amenabar is too ambitious to be satisfied with a pretty-boy-no-more story. Cryogenics come into it, as well as state-of-the-art plastic surgery and the rejuvenating properties of dreams. By the end, Cesar doesn't know what is real and what isn't. The audience feel the same. Baffled.

The film is shot like a thriller, fast-paced, with cuts from present to past to future, except the present and the future merge and there is no past, only programmed memory and the now of now becomes virtual reality. Is Sofia and Nuria the same person? Is Cesar alive or dead? Is the mask he wears to hide his hideous face symbolic?

Despite a sneaky suspicion that it's all a load of codswallop, Amenabar has an energy and a style that is definitely seductive.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A love rat tries to cope after being disfigured in an accident.
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Director: Alejandro Amenabar

Writer: Alejandro Amenabar, Mateo Gil

Starring: Eduardo Noriega, Penelope Cruz, Fele Martinez, Chete Lera, Najwa Nimri

Year: 1997

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain

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