PAST POPCORN: Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) (B+)

Before the Crowe-Cruise tandem for Vanilla Sky there was Alejandro Amenabar’s 1997 cult classic Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), a chilling and suspenseful study of the human psyche and the lengths to which people go to attain personal happiness. The film has gone on to be one of Spain’s most treasured cinematic gems.

The film is told in a non-linear fashion, recounting the tale of a young man named Cesar, guided by Eduardo Noriega’s (known internationally for his supporting role in Vantage Point) strong performance. He is caught in a maze of unanswered questions and a tidal wave of jealousy and deceit upon meeting Sofia, the young woman his best friend has been dating, played exquisitely by Penelope Cruz (who would go on to reprise her role in Vanilla Sky). In a freak accident Cesar’s face has become disfigured and he longs for the affection he once secretly shared with Sofia, leading to several harrowing twists and turns.

Director of the more recent The Sea Inside, the more mainstream Nicole Kidman-starrer The Others and the upcoming period piece starring Rachel Weisz, Agora, Amenabar is a sensitive filmmaker and his film works on all levels because of its genre-bending narrative and its sophisticated characters. Cesar is self-righteous and conceited and when his whole world comes crumbling down he stops at nothing to restore his glorified past – a faint flicker of an imagination and a dream that he holds so dear to him. The film’s core is a story that is both existential and escapist, a thin line between the real and the fantastic, the truths and the lies.

Abre los Ojos is a film worth viewing multiple times because of its sheer depth and complexity and is an awesome representation of the paramount of Spanish cinema.

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