Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, Abre Los Ojos was one of Spanish cinema's greatest hits of 1997, and was well received at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was remade in 2002 as Vanilla Sky, by Cameron Crowe and starring Tom Cruise.

This film looks amazing, and the cast is excellent. It tells the tale of Cesar (Eduardo Noriega), a handsome young man, who is disfigured in a car accident caused by a disgruntled one-night stand. He must learn to live without his good looks and learn that beauty is only skin deep, but he is also psychologically scarred, and begins to suffer dreams and loses his connection to reality. The film is turned on its head halfway through but to say anymore would ruin the film so I'll pass aside, except it appears that there is a way for Cesar to regain his beauty.

Penelope Cruz plays the role of Sofia, the girl who Cesar imagines he is in love with, and Fele Martinez is also good as Cesar's best friend. Watch this before you see Vanilla Sky as the ending is subtler and you can see why Tom Cruise thought that it would be his chance to win an Oscar.

Title: Abre Los Ojos
Released: Decemeber 1997 in Spain
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Writers: Alejandro Amenábar, Mateo Gil
Genre: Drama / Romance / Science Fiction

Selected Acting Credits: Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz, Fele Martínez, Najwa Nimri, Chete Lera

Abre los Ojos is, among other things, the inspiration for Vanilla Sky. If you want a plot synopsis, read one of the many at that node. The basic line of action is essentially the same.

What I will discuss here is my impressions of the film and how it compares to Vanilla Sky.

Having already seen Vanilla Sky, I was overjoyed to see that CWRU film society had Abre los Ojos in their spring line-up. I went expecting a significantly more artiful execution of the surealist themes than I had found in Vanilla Sky. I remember sitting in the theater watching Vanilla Sky and thinking, "This would be so much better in Spanish". I think the Spanish language lends itself well to surreal literature.

At any rate, I can honestly say that I did not find what I was looking for. Not that it was a bad film mind you -- it was quite good. It just didn't do any better than Vanilla Sky. For one thing, Vanilla Sky has significantly higher production value. The soundtrack, cinematography and lighting were better, and to be honest, Abre los Ojos has a much more hollywood feel to it. The scenes in the asylum lacked the atmosphere of their Vanilla Sky counterparts, and the ending of Vanilla Sky had smoother flow. All of these little faults served to break the immersive illusion necessary for really good sureal film.

In conclusion, if you only watch one of these two, watch Vanilla Sky. If you have the time, however, watch both.

Mad props to the IMDB for names and numbers.

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