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Abre los ojos

Released: 1997

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 1 hr 50 min

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Alejandro Amenabar

Starring: Eduardo Noriega, Penelope Cruz, Chete Lera, Najwa Nimri

Cesar - a nice guy and a rich heir, once fell in love with a girl leads with her friend. And if in punishment of fate had played a trick on him: his face was ugly. But strange happens: his old life is not lost forever, sometimes it is still beautiful and happy. What is it? Parallel lives, or one of them - just a dream? Where is reality?

As a purposely-confusing mind game of what's real and what's a mirage.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

The rich and incredibly handsome playboy César (Eduardo Noriega) has been horribly disfigured in a car accident.

Or has he?

To make his nightmare worse, he's been accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Nuria (Najwa Nimri), a sexual predator straight out of FATAL ATTRACTION. Not only does he believe that he didn't murder her, he has recently been confused by her claims that she is really his new girlfriend, Sofía. He knows and loves Sofía (Penélope Cruz), and she doesn't look anything like Nuria. Even his best friend, Pelayo (Fele Martínez from THE LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE), doesn't believe him.

It is even suggested that César isn't disfigured at all. Perhaps, he's told, he's like those anorexic teenage girls who just think they're fat.

Welcome to the Escher world of writer and director Alejandro Amenábar's OPEN YOUR EYES (ABRE LOS OJOS), a movie that delights in playing tricks with our minds. Dreams within dreams within dreams are some of its more straightforward stratagems. More baroque is the layering of cryogenics onto virtual reality in this MASK meets THE TRUMAN SHOW meets EXISTENZ.

As a purposely-confusing mind game of what's real and what's a mirage, the story has an undeniable attraction. Like trying to finish the Sunday crossword puzzle before your spouse, you're likely to stay glued to the screen. But when it's over, you won't have much more to take away than the puzzle's solution. The characters act like disconnected figures in a video game. They run through their lines as fast as they can but never connect with each other.

The screenplay uses sexually charged settings to establish the story and then lets it get bogged down with long discussions between César and his prison psychiatrist, Antonio (Chete Lera). The latter character should have been eliminated entirely.

With its richly textured music and its striking cinematography, the movie is a feast for the ears and eyes. As the story drags and turns increasingly bizarre, its handsome production makes up for many of its shortfalls. Never a bad movie, it's more of a near miss, unlike the other recent Spanish film, THE LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE, which is nearly perfect. Both films play games with reality and time sequences.

César's experiences are just "one of those Candid Camera jokes," Antonio suggests. Perhaps.

When they finally reveal the Big Secret in the end, you're liable to just shake your head -- both because it's so ludicrous and because you can easily and correctly write the epilogue. The latter is so obvious as to be trite.

OPEN YOUR EYES runs too long at 1:50. The film is in rapid fire Spanish with English subtitles. It is rated R for sex, nudity, profanity and violence and would be fine for older teenagers.