I’m a big fan of both this movie and Cameron Crowe’s American version, Vanilla Sky.
The overlaps are intriguing…..they both use essentially the same narrative, Penelope Cruz plays the female lead, and the director (Alejandro Amenábar) of Abre los Ojos is credited as a writer for Vanilla Sky.
I enjoyed Vanilla Sky more…..Abre los Ojos was really good and I enjoyed it, but it felt a bit flat to me after having watched VS several times.
I’ve not seen Vanilla Sky. It is difficult to prefer one version of something you’ve already seen/heard as a different version. On a related note, Erdman, I just read Fight Club and thought that it didn’t add substantially to the movie. Of course if I’d read the book first I might have said the same about the movie. I would expect that Vanilla Sky would have more of a Hollywood-style pacing compared to the rather surreal style of the Spanish original — would you say this is true? I wasn’t persuaded by the climactic revelation about why this guy’s life was playing out as it did. I was, on the other hand, intrigued by the idea of someone who can create his own life out of his imagination would still put himself in circumstances alternating between pleasure and pain. This is a representation of Lacanian jouissance.
Hhhhmmmm…..good thought on Lacanian jouissance…..also true about the Hollywood pacing. The Crowe version is very Hollywood, very American, very Tom Cruise. It was a good part for Cruise, b/c he always seems to do well when exploring a character on the brink, threatened to be destroyed more by what he sees when he looks in than by obstacles around him…..what made VS interesting is that these two things wound up coming from the same place due to a “glich” in the software.
Is it better or worse that the threatened destruction comes from the machinery rather than from the character’s own unconscious, as in the original? The message is different anyhow.
I’d say that the software glitch is a more predictable explanation for the hero’s predicament once we realize that he’s living inside a virtual reality. It also relies less on a blame-the-victim ideology whereby we’re the source of our own problems. Instead in VS the same technology that saves us is also that which makes our lives untenable. We’ve heard that story before, beginning I suppose with the Tower of Babel: man overreaching himself assures his own demise. The explanation in Abre Los Ojos is more that human ingenuity, even when it’s working properly, can’t compensate for some self-destructive flaw within each of us as individuals — an idea with its origins upstream from Babel in the Garden.
On the other hand, the problem seems fixable. In Abre Los Ojos the solution is Pauline: die to your old self, come back as a resurrected self that’s beyond all this self-destructive ambivalence about relationships with others and especially with oneself. Though I’ve not seen Vanilla Sky, I’d guess that the solution is technological: fix the bug and so fix people’s lives.