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Film / Open Your Eyes

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Open Your Eyes (Abre los Ojos) is a 1997 film from Spain directed by Alejandro Amenábar.

César is a handsome, charming, very rich young man in 1997 Madrid. He lives a life of clubbing and bedding hot young ladies, his latest casual sex hookup being a woman named Nuria, who is starting to get too clingy for César's comfort.

At his own party César meets Sofia (Penélope Cruz), a young aspiring actress. He is smitten; the playboy feels himself falling in love immediately. But his chance at love is tragically cut short. Nuria, who has been following him, offers him a ride as he leaves Sofia's apartment the very next morning. He unwisely accepts—and Nuria deliberately crashes the car into a concrete wall.

Nuria is killed. César survives, but he suffers ghastly facial disfigurement, injuries that leave him bitter and filled with rage at the world. He tracks down Sofia, but she rejects him. Drunk and alone, he passes out on the street.


However, the next morning, Sofia finds him, still passed out on the sidewalk. She apologizes, and professes her love, and they kiss. The plastic surgeons who told him that his face was too badly destroyed for any reconstructive surgery now tell him they've made a breakthrough, and they restore his pretty face. César has his life back, and love with Sofia, but strange things start happening. He begins to have hallucinations suggesting that his face actually remains horribly scarred. A strange man starts appearing and insisting that César's life is a dreamworld. And somehow, his beloved Sofia turns into Nuria, who is dead...or is she?

Got a Foreign Remake just four years later as Vanilla Sky, which starred Tom Cruise as the man who suffers the scarred face, Cameron Diaz as the jilted lover, Kurt Russell as The Shrink, and Penelope Cruz reprising her role in English.



  • Abandoned Area: The film opens with a spooky shot of César in downtown Madrid, finding what should be a neighborhood full of people to be completely abandoned. This is eventually revealed to be part of his dream world.
  • All Just a Dream: Everything after César passes out in the street is actually a dream he had after being cryogenically frozen. He signed a contract with Life Extension and then killed himself, allowing himself to live in a virtual reality dream where his face is unmangled and Sofia loves him. The horrible visions he has been seeing are apparently glitches in the VR program.
  • Big "NO!": Cesar, when Nuria decides to accelerate her car and plunge down an embankment into a cement wall.
  • The Bro Code: César only met Sofia in the first place because Pelayo, his best friend, brought her to the party as his date. He says that he thinks Sofia is "the one" and is deeply hurt when César swoops in.
  • Central Theme: Mirrors and masks play a central role in the film.
  • Creator Cameo: Alejandro Amenábar is the third of the three young men who meet César in the nightclub restroom, and mock his "mask" before leaving.
  • Cuckoo Nest: César is told that he's living in a virtual reality machine and he has to kill himself to get out. In a subversion, he jumps off a building, and it's true.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Cesar never ended up with Sofia.
  • Dream Emergency Exit: The protagonist realizes at the end of the film that he's in a lucid dream, after giving his body to a program called "Life Extension". First, he calls out for "Tech Support" in which case most of the dream stops and a man enters his dream to explain the situation and his current options. The protagonist opts to return to real life, despite knowing that 150 years have passed since he entered the dream; he's then told to kill himself in the dream to wake up, so he throws him from the roof and is next shown opening his eyes in presumably the real world.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Nuria, quite literally is driven to suicide. "Tell me... do you believe in God?"
    • Cesar can't live with losing his face and Sofia.
  • "Everyone Comes Back" Fantasy Party Ending: It turns out César has been cryogenically frozen and is in a virtual reality simulation, so it's not surprising his best friend and girlfriend appear once again. Of course, they're just VR characters; since 150 years have passed they won't be around when César awakes from stasis.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The twist ending is foreshadowed in César's very first scene with Antonio, when he says "Everything else is a lie. All of this seems a lie, including you."
    • A subtle one. In one session, Antonio makes an offhand comment about someone he knew suddenly got a wife and two daughters, and that was his Happy Ending. In scenes after that Antonio keeps mentioning how he has two daughters.
    • The French guy giving interviews about cryonics appears on TV two different times, once shortly before César is injured and once shortly after. When César spots a third TV appearance by the French cryonics guy, much later in the film at the asylum, he unravels the truth.
    • When César meets Sofia in the park again he says "Don't you ever feel like you've already lived a moment?" Sofia answers by saying "They say it's a glitch in your brain." This particular sequence is immediately revealed to be a dream but it foreshadows the rest of the movie.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Discussed. César wonders how Sofia can afford such a nice apartment and asks if her parents help her out. It turns out that Sofia works as a human statue in the park.
  • Fun with Acronyms: César is compelled to seek out someone named "Ellie". Turns out it's "L.E.", aka Life Extension.
  • Genre Roulette: Critics noted that the film swerves wildly about what genre it really is, til it finally lands on science fiction.
  • Ghost City: The opening scene finds César in Gran Via Square in Madrid, which should be crammed full of people, but is abandoned and empty. At the end a shocked Antonio comes back up to the roof and reports that everyone is gone around the building as well.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Sofia smashes a vase over César's head and he's back up on his feet moments later. Possibly justified since this is a dream world.
  • How We Got Here: Early in the film we see that César is being held in a cell. Soon after we find out he's in for murder. Antonio the shrink arrives and the story unspools as César telling Antonio how things came to this.
  • Idle Rich: César's father had a chain of hotels. It seems that César basically lives the life of a rich playboy and his "partners" run the hotel business.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Cesar accidentally shoots a security officer with a gun during the climax. The look on his face is, "Did I just do that?!"
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Ends with the revelation that César actually committed suicide early on and was cryogenically frozen and put into a state of lucid dreaming where he lives out his fantasy life, gets the girl and gets an operation which fixes his disfigurement... however, the dream turns into a nightmare which culminates in César accidentally killing Sofia. (Maybe.) At the end he jumps off a building in order to wake himself up despite being given the choice to have everything fixed so that the dream would be happy again.
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: It's not a matter of years. But when a scarred César finds Sofia in the park, he says "Have I changed that much? Because I can recognize you."
  • Rage Against the Reflection: César is staggering down the steps from Sofia's apartment after—maybe?—murdering her. He catches a look at himself in the mirror and his face is again scarred. He smashes the mirror.
  • The Reveal: The mysterious "Ellie" is L.E., aka Life Extension.
  • Rom Com Job: It certainly isn't a comedy, but still, the protagonist is a rich playboy and his love interest is an aspiring actress who works as a living statue in the park.
  • Rule of Symbolism: As notes in its Film Spoilers page:
    It was possible that his facial disfigurement was a metaphoric, external manifestation of his ugly, internal emotions and personality. As a narcissistic playboy, he didn't value people very highly, used women for sex, and then he lost the one feature of his life that mattered most to him -- his good looks.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: The VR avatar of the guy from Life Extension explains to César that he's created everything himself, and all the nightmarish events have been his own imagination. The Life Extension guy then tells César that he can have Sofia back, or any other girl that he wants. He does imagine Sofia and Pelayo materializing on the roof, but only so he can say goodbye to them before he jumps.
    L.E. Manager: Don't suffer anymore. It's all in your head.
  • Significant Background Event: As César exits Sofia's apartment, a red car's headlights click on a good half-block up the street. It's Nuria, who has murder on her mind.
  • The Shrink: Antonio, the kindly shrink that treats César in prison.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: The male variant.
    César: You’re handsome.
    Pelayo: I’m acceptable, when you’re not beside me.
    César: You’re like anorexics. They insist they’re fat and end up crazy.
    Pelayo: When some girl ties you down, the rest of us will get a chance.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Nuria, dear God. So much so she's Driven to Suicide, deciding If I Can't Have You…, she'll be Together in Death with César.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The ending explains that everything that has occurred after César passed out in the street has been a dream. In real life, at some time after that moment, he signed a contract with a company that preserves its clients' bodies after death and keeps their brain waves active in lifelike virtual reality dreams, and then committed suicide. The bizarre occurrences are explained as glitches in the program. In the end, César decides to wake up from the dream program.
  • Title Drop: The title is heard three times. First, as the first line in the movie, after Nuria has recorded a custom alarm on César's alarm clock. Second, when Sofia wakes César up on the street after he passes out. Third, as the very last line of the movie, when César (probably) wakes up again, 150 years in the future, after coming out of his lucid dream.
    Woman: Tranquilo... tranquilo... abre los ojos.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Vanilla Sky had a dramatic moment in which Kurt Russell (The Shrink) insists that he is real, and that he has two daughters. The Tech Support character responds with the Armor-Piercing Question "What are their names?" In this film the moment is more subtle, with Antonio crumpling to the ground and sobbing "Where are my daughters?"
  • Vorpal Pillow: César kills Nuria...or is it Sofia? smothering her with a pillow. In classic Vorpal Pillow style, she's dead in 30 seconds.
  • Woman Scorned: Nuria responds to the prospect of getting dumped by attempting to commit murder-suicide, failing with the "murder" part.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The L.E. manager tells him that everything that's gone on has been César's desire, whether unconscious or not, and that he basically created a Self-Inflicted Hell. He even coldly says that Antonio is a figment of César's imagination. Antonio doesn't take it well, though tellingly he stops talking when César pays less attention to him.