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Film Review: Open Your Eyes

“Don’t you know the difference between dreams and reality.” Cesar (Eduardo Noriega), a wealthy young playboy is the character around which “Open Your Eyes” revolves. With cars, women and popularity on-tap, Cesar doesn’t stop to ponder this or any other philosophical questions. He doesn’t have time - there’s the next conquest to consider never mind deciding which of his three cars he will drive.

Open Your EyesThe second feature by 24-year-old Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, “Open Your Eyes” is a mixture of genres. Sweeping from love story, to mystery to sci-fi, the demanding plot balances on the verge of being incomprehensible. Told in flashback and dream sequence the film pushes the audience to the limits but manages to retain it’s credibility.

After a traumatic car accident at the hands of a jealous ex-girlfriend (Najwa Nimri), Cesar escapes with his life but is horribly disfigured. His latest relationship with his best friend’s girl Sofia (Penelop Cruz) - the woman who could finally settle him down - deteriorates as does his entire world.

Haunted by his twisted features, Cesar degenerates into a bitter loner, who wallows in self pity and alienates the few people who truly care for him. At some point, in this almost Shakespearean fall from grace, we begin to connect with the main character. This feeling reaches a crescendo as the drunken Cesar runs, demented, through the streets, alone, and bewildered at the new hand he has been dealt.

Things change quickly, however, and thanks to a wonder cure at the hands of the best surgeons money can buy, the fortunate Cesar has his looks returned. However, his apparent change of fortune, which includes a relationship with the angelic Sofia, is not all it seems. Indeed, nothing is what it seems and pretty soon we encounter Cesar in a cell in a psychiatric prison being questioned repeatedly about a murder.

At this point Cesar’s kind-hearted psychologist steps into the breach to keep the narrative intact and to ensure that the audience remain in touch with a plot that is racing through time and space, from one twist to another. “Can’t you tell the difference between dreams and reality”- by now Cesar is asking this and several other fundamental questions, to which no one appears to have the answers.

“Open Your Eyes”, has made a star of its young director and has become one of the highest grossing Spanish films, ever. It is a compelling, sexy, challenging film dealing with themes such as vanity, shallowness and how we judge people by the way they look. Stick with it and the reward will be a cinematic experience to remember, relying on script and technique rather than big names and special effects. This is an amazing original piece of cinema.

Brendan Killeen


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