“Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos)” is a 1997 science fiction suspense/psychological thriller film directed by Alejandro Amenábar. Set in Madrid, Spain, it depicts the horrible experience of a young man who wanders into a world like a nightmare, where the line between dreams and reality is blurred, after a car accident scars his face. It was a co-production of Spain, France and Italy. 117 minutes.
In the film, the nonlinear (non-chronological) narrative technique progresses the story, mixing flashbacks with scenes in the “present”.
A 25-year-old man, César (Eduardo Noriega) is held in a prison in Madrid for a murder. At a prison cell, he recalls his vague and scattered memories of the past, and tells about his story to psychiatrist Antonio (Chete Lera), fitting a mask over his face.
César is a handsome and wealthy playboy living in Madrid. César’s best friend Pelayo (Fele Martínez) is envious of César who is popular with girls.
César has been stalked by his former lover Nuria (Najwa Nimri).
Pelayo takes his girlfriend Sofía (Penélope Cruz) to César’s birthday party. César falls in love with Sofía at first sight. César and Sofía begin a romantic relationship.
One morning, after staying in Sofía’s apartment, César finds Nuria waiting in ambush for him outside Sofía’s apartment house. Nuria puts him in her car and starts driving. Being mad with jealousy, Nuria tries to commit double suicide by crashing the car on purpose. Nuria dies. César escapes death, but his face is injured in the accident and is disfigured.
Surgeons tell César that they cannot restore his face, and they suggest wearing a mask to conceal his face.
César falls into despair because Sofía begins to distance herself from César after the accident.
However, after one night when he falls asleep in the street, passing out from drinking, the situation completely changes: Sofía comes to love César again. The surgeons develop a new breakthrough technology, and they restore César’s face by surgery.
Everything seems to work for César, but he comes to suffer from hallucinations in which his face is still disfigured and is not restored.
One night, after making love with Sofía on the bed, César finds that Sofía changed into Nuria. She says that she is Sofía. César reports it to the police, but everyone else except César testify that she is Sofía. César smothers Nuria to death with a pillow at Sofía’s home. He is imprisoned for the murder.
In the prison, César recalls his memory about “Life Extension” (L.E.), an American company specializing in cryonics. To unlock the mysteries of the nightmarish world he has fallen into, César visits the Madrid Branch of L.E. with Antonio under the supervision of prison officers.
César meets Duvernois (Gérard Barray), the L.E. representative, on the roof of the Madrid Branch, and he discovers the truth. To awaken from the nightmare, César reaches a decision.
“Open Your Eyes” is a stylish and entertaining psychological thriller with romantic elements. It deals with themes such as uncertainty of identity as personality based on memories, and the fear of the impossibility of distinguishing between reality and dream, with science fictional settings, such as cryonics and virtual reality.
The title “Open Your Eyes” comes from a prerecorded voice message of Cesar’s talking alarm clock that wakes him up in the morning.
The film probably refers to Robert Wiene’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920). The name “César” seems to be derived from “Cesare”, the main character of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”.
The theme and science fictional settings of this film influenced many other films, including “The Matrix” (1999) directed by the Wachowskis.
The film won the Tokyo Grand Prix in the 1998 Tokyo International Film Festival.
The American film “Vanilla Sky” (2001) directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Tom Cruise is a remake of this film. Penélope Cruz reprised her role as Sofia in “Vanilla Sky”.