Close Your Eyes (Cerrar los Ojos)
The output of Spanish director Víctor Erice has been sporadic over the course of his 50-year career. In fact, perhaps the only criticism of a director who is responsible for what is considered to be one of the leading texts in the history of Spanish cinema (1973’s The Spirit of the Beehive) is the chasm of time between his films (the 82-year-old has directed a mere four films, the last being the documentary The Quince Tree Sun, released over 30 years ago). Therefore, the thematic considerations of his return to feature filmmaking – the intimate epic of time, memory and identity, Close Your Eyes – are of no great surprise. Here is a filmmaker in the twilight years of his career grappling with the nature of his craft in a way that feels profoundly personal.
Erice’s introductory sequence, a lengthy discussion between Ferrán Soler (José María Pou), the proprietor of an ornate, secluded French villa, and his guest, purports to establish the setup for a sprawling odyssey into the annals of memory. And, to all intents and purposes, it does – just not in the way it initially seems. The scene, which loosens viewers down to Erice’s collected, stately rhythm, is actually the opening of a film whose production began in the early 1990s, but was abandoned due to the disappearance of the guest’s portrayer, Julio Arenas (José Coronado).
Decades later, and the case is once again in the public eye, as the abandoned film’s director, Miguel Garay (Manolo Solo), participates in a TV show resurrecting the mystery of the vanished actor that offers previously unseen footage for public consumption for the first time. This prompts Miguel to reconnect with his past, visiting its ghosts in meetings, the metre, lighting and tone of which waft over the viewer like gentle dreams. Shortly after the programme’s release, Miguel receives a call with information, and his journey into the past materialises into something more urgent and tangible.
Perhaps, though, urgency is the wrong word: Erice’s almost hypnotic pacing remains consistently measured, even when the plot thickens into something that may otherwise have been accompanied by an upturn in intensity. Ascen Marchena’s editing, which fades in and out of scenes, has the quality of mirroring the intangibility of memory, and imbues a cool, undulating quality to the narrative. In fact, part of director’s objective with the film lay in drawing attention to the intrinsic relationship between filmmaking and memory, and the way in which scenes are stitched together to replicate the process of reflection.
It is a meditative process that Erice embarks on with Close Your Eyes, one whose preoccupation with recollection is almost mesmerically alluded to by its title. But it trails along to an emotional and spiritual gut-punch of a finale, elucidating its themes with remarkable narrative heft.
Close Your Eyes (Cerrar los Ojos) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Close Your Eyes (Cerrar los Ojos) here: