Starring: Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz, Fele Martínez
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Running Time: 117 mins
Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos) is a Spanish film about a confident young man who finds happiness with the love of his life, until he suffers a huge accident that leaves his face severely disfigured, pushing him into a state of extreme frustration as he tries to find a way to get back to the way he used to live.
This is an incredibly intense film. Apart from the fact that it occasionally reaches into the darkest depths of some devastating emotional drama, it’s an amazingly complex and enigmatic watch, constantly blurring the barrier between reality and dreams. However, thanks to Alejandro Amenábar’s brilliant directing, it all comes together perfectly, and with a great central cast too, it’s a completely engrossing watch from start to finish.
I think the most important thing to know about this film is that you have to be ready to be both patient, and concentrate very hard at times. Open Your Eyes is the sort of film that likes to toy with you as a viewer, regularly giving you clues and hints and then pulling the rug out from underneath just as you think you’ve got a hold on what’s really going on.
But that’s something that’s so rarely done well, and to see it pulled off in almost perfect fashion in this film makes it an utterly enthralling watch. Completely unpredictable from the first act, the film’s masterclass is how it blurs your perception of both time and the concept of reality, making it very hard to get a grip on the truth of the matter right up until the last act.
One of the reasons that that works so well is because of director Alejandro Almenábar. Apart from giving the film its often devastating and unnerving atmosphere, he manages to expertly bring a very complex story to life on screen, and the way that the film moves between different time periods, as well as reality and the dream world, so naturally and almost unnoticeably, makes this such an unpredictable and challenging watch.
Almenábar’s ability to move between moods in a very drastic way is also key to making this film so engrossing. Whilst the time and setting changes in a very fluid manner, the character’s emotions, particularly the main character, can switch dramatically within seconds. Moving back and forth from the euphoria of love to the devastation of the aftermath of a horrific accident, it makes for the film’s most shocking and powerful moments.
The lead performance by Eduardo Noriega can’t be counted out either in making the film such an emotionally intense watch. Just like part of Almenábar’s direction, Noriega’s performance gives his character two very contrasting personalities, and keeps them far apart. On the one hand, he plays the confident, suave young man who we see early on very well, but his performance as an emotionally drained and enraged person after suffering this accident is what really makes the character so compelling.
In an instant, Noriega becomes a totally different person, moving from the charismatic young man into an almost monstrous and terrifying presence. Cleverly, these characteristics aren’t always exclusive to the character’s two different states, heightening the film’s unpredictability massively, but the moments where we see him turn so drastically, in tandem with Almenábar’s directing, makes for some truly harrowing sequences.
Overall, Open Your Eyes can be a very emotionally draining and complex watch, but its extreme unpredictability and unique ability to move between the dream world and reality in such an unnoticeable manner makes for a truly gripping watch. With excellent directing and acting, the film is an incredibly memorable watch, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.5.