Open Your Eyes Movie Review

If Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch had collaborated on a project, the result might have been something like Open Your Eyes. Kubrick's most common themes -- imaginary worlds, sexual and social obsessions, distrust of emotion, human depravity, and a journey towards freedom and self-knowledge -- present themselves here. Lynch's usual themes -- dreams and illusion vs. reality, persuasion, fear, self-submission, murder, and curiosity -- also sprinkle themselves into this movie's stirring, complex recipe.

From the moment the movie opens, it's unclear of what is real and what is not. We meet a handsome, young, successful businessman named César (Eduardo Noriega), who drives expensive cars, resides in a classy residence, and enjoys an endless supply of beautiful women.

But his latest female bed-buddy, Nuria (Najwa Nimri), gets a little too close for César's comfort. When she invades his birthday party, César uses his best friend's gorgeous romantic interest, Sofia (Penélope Cruz), as a means to rid himself of her.

The following morning, César finds Nuria waiting in her car outside his apartment. She admits to following him, but somehow manages to coax him into her vehicle. In a jealous rage, Nuria accuses Cesar of using her for casual sex, and drives the speeding car into a brick wall.

Nuria dies, but César manages to survive the wreck. With his face now horribly disfigured, César wears a mask to conceal his newly grotesque features. He also finds himself locked up in a prison, where he faces murder charges.

It's here where the David Lynch seeds truly sprout, as the movie questions César's perception of reality with a series of mind-boggling plot twists. While Kubrick's films draw the viewer to a conclusion, David Lynch's do not. He usually leaves room for individual interpretation with an ending that spins in many different directions. It might sound impossible, but Open Your Eyes satisfies both styles.

Yet Open Your Eyes lacks a certain style. Much like some of Kubrick's work, Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar creates an effective atmosphere but never connects with the audience. While César's social life is obvious, the film never develops his thoughts or emotions. Consequently, the psychological and romantic aspects fail.

The movie should dive into César's mind, exploring his distraught vision of reality -- but it only goes skin deep. Speaking of skin, César's disfigured face should play a large part in the story. Yet, the film never explains why César is so concerned with his appearance. We never understand his vanity; it's another subplot that goes nowhere.

That's not to say Open Your Eyes does not develop César. It unravels the character through the circumstances; his actions justify his thoughts. Still, if the film had examined the character from the inside out, we might have identified with him better.

Perhaps the filmmakers chose not to identify all aspects of the character for good reason. Maybe Amenábar left César's mind empty purposefully, so that the audience would fill the vacant space with their own thoughts and emotions. That's exactly what happened with me. By the end, I was asking myself what I would do if I were in César's shoes.

Kubrick and Lynch often force the audience to open their eyes and fill in the blanks. Alejandro Amenábar's movie is a reflection of their work in a pond of his own.

Aka Abre los Ojos. Remade in 2001 as Vanilla Sky.

Comments

Open Your Eyes Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 1997

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