Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) (1997) – Alejandro Amenabar

 

Reimagined as Vanilla Sky in North America, the original film is a wonderfully crafted imagining and a welcome addition to the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list.

Cesar (Eduardo Noriega) is rich, handsome, and a bit of a womanizer. When he has problems ditching his latest fling Nuria (Najwa Nimri), he chats up Sofia (Penelope Cruz) the potential girlfriend of his best friend, and less of a lady’s man Pelayo (Fele Martinez).

Cesar claims its love at first sight, that’s all well and good, but to do that to his best friend… it doesn’t go very far in making him a sympathetic character in my eyes. Here’s a guy who never sees the same woman more than once, but now he’s found a girl he loves, it just so happens it’s his best friend’s gal? Ass.

The morning after the two spend the night together, Nuria picks Cesar up outside Sofia’s place and as they drive, it becomes increasingly clear that something is about to happen. Asking if he believes in God, Nuria takes them off the road, killing herself, but Cesar survives, his good looks hideously disfigured.

noriega

As he battles his depression over a life that he now feels is pointless, he seeks out Pelayo and Sofia, but after a drunken night at the bar, he fears things aren’t going to work out as planned…

Until, the doctors tell him of a new procedure that could completely restore his face! He and Sofia have a relationship, with absolutely no bitterness from Pelayo, and things are going well. Or are they? There are flash forwards to Cesar in a psychiatric prison with a mask over his face, being interviewed by Antonio (Chete Lera) about a murder he is accused of committing.

Things get more bizarre as he has a half remembered dream filled with contracts and images he can’t place, mutters a name in his sleep, and suddenly, Sofia has physically transformed into Nuria. There’s also an unsual man Duvernois (Gerard Barray) wandering about who seems to know a lot about Cesar and makes a pretty outlandish suggestion to him about his life…

I enjoyed this version so much more than I did the remake, though I saw the remake first. I honestly couldn’t remember much of the remake but for the ending, where as everything in this one just kind of stays with you, it’s shot incredibly well, with flashbacks and forwards all tying together in a singular narrative that, though it feels almost disjointed at first, begins to make more and more sense as the climax of the film draws closer.

cruz

Noriega does a fine job as Cesar, though like I said, it’s hard to empathize, let alone sympathize with a character who becomes a physical embodiment of his interior as far as I’m concerned. Yes, he may finally have found love with a woman he’s known for 1 evening, but everything before that works against him.

As for Cruz, I’ve never been a huge fan, but she is absolutely lovely in this film, appealing, heartbreaking (her mime scene is wonderful) and almost seems like the perfect girl, so I can see why Cesar fell for her.

I really enjoyed this one, especially when people kept popping up, or familiar turns of phrase you’ve just heard from one character would resurface from another character minutes later… unnerving.

Did you see it?

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