"Open Your Eyes" is a jaw-dropping psychological thriller about the power of the human mind to bend and break reality -- or is it?
With more twists than a strand of DNA, co-writer and director Alejandro Amenabar delves headlong into the increasingly erratic mind of a rich, charming, devastatingly handsome egoist who becomes unhinged after being horribly disfigured in a car crash.
Eduardo Noriega plays Cesar, a habitual love 'em and leave 'em charmer who at his 25th birthday party meets Sofia (Penelope Cruz), his best friend's date and the first girl who has ever truly made his heart race.
Cesar and Sofia find themselves in an awkward position, but after a night of staring into each other's eyes in one of those wonderful getting-to-know-you marathons they're undeniably, giddy in love despite their best efforts to keep themselves in check.
But after the party Cesar accepts a ride from his suicidal ex-girlfriend, who in a jealous rage plunges them off a hillside, killing herself and gnarling his handsome face into a landscape of cavernous scars and mutated features, subsequently doing even worse damage to his psyche.
Afraid even to see Sofia, Cesar is plunged into emotional chaos so extreme that he starts to slip in and out of an unstable imaginary world. As his mind begins to unravel, reconstructive surgery restores his face (or did he imagine that?), but he still sees a monster when he looks in the mirror. Sofia and his psycho ex become interchangeable. His reality begins to mix with his dreams, his nightmares, his fantasies and his delusions until they're virtually indistinguishable.
Then just when you start to think you know what's real and what isn't, the film pulls the rug out from under you in a tremendous, mind-bending twist.
Beautifully orchestrated by 26-year-old Amenabar, "Open Your Eyes" overflows with profound symbolism and is blessed by moving, emotionally attune photography and a passionate, affecting score (written by Amenabar). And his casting is perfection.
As the best friend, Fele Martinez is complex enough to portray wonderfully subtle and significant changes in the way he behaves towards Cesar after the accident. Suddenly, he's the looker, and he feels guilty about finding this change of fates stimulating.
Besides being absolutely stunning to look at, Penelope Cruz ("Hi-Lo Country," "Belle Epoque") is a gifted actress who plays Sofia with giddy, flirty, girly joy that gives way to intense, heart-breaking depth as she drifts in and out of Cesar's changeable imagination. Her chemistry with Eduardo Noriega is so electric it made me, a single guy, feel really damn lonely.
Noriega's no slouch in the looks department himself. At least as swoon-inducing as any Brad Pitt, he's also genuinely stirring as a nonchalant enchanter plunged into personal bedlam because he had come to depend on his looks to define himself.
Even in heavy make-up, and sometimes acting through a mask that hides his disfigurements, he delivers disturbing intensity to Cesar's abandonment of heart and humanity as he narrates the story to a shrink at a psychiatric prison where he's being held for a murder he doesn't remember. But Cesar is so far gone, even the jail cell and the shrink may not be what they seems.
I'm dying to tell you more, but I don't want to give anything away. That's how good this movie is -- it makes me want to shut up, and that's a miracle.
Suffice to say, this is my 1999 drag- everyone- I- know- to- see- it movie. But if you don't know me personally, you're going to have to take the initiative yourself.
Go. Right now!
Run time: 117 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th December 1997
Distributed by: Artisan Pictures
Production compaines: British Film Institute (BFI)
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 39 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Alejandro Amenabar
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