Through Vanilla Skies with Open Eyes:

December 5, 2003

Through Vanilla Skies with Open Eyes: Spanish and American Movie Interpretations

This is something I wrote for my sociology class, I had not written a non-technical paper in quite some time, so I hope I did a good job.

Abre Los Ojos is a Spanish, French, and Italian production directed by Alejandro Amenábar and written by Mateo Gil. Abre Los Ojos was produced in 1997, the cast included Eduardo Noriega (César), Penélope Cruz (Sofia), and Chete Lera (Antonio) as the three main characters. Vanilla Sky is the American remake which was directed by Cameron Crowe in 2001. Vanilla Sky?s cast consisted of Tom Cruise (David Aames), Penelope Cruz (Sofia Serrano), Cameron Diaz (Julie Gianni), and Kurt Russell (Dr. Curtis McCabe).

The first glaring similarity between both movies is the presence of Penélope Cruz as Sofia. Her role consists of being a beautiful and sweet simple gal, who enjoys the simple things in life. In both films the main characters, César and David, fall under Sofia?s spell when they first come in contact with her. Pelayo and Brian, the main characters? best friend, like Sofia too, however both movies show that their friendship will not let a girl come between them and they remain friends for most of the movie. Perhaps this is a common theme in both versions because both American and Spaniard cultures appreciate good friendship and see the value of camaraderie.

The similarities between both films are numerous, they have the exact same story line with few variations, there are moments during the films where the dialogue is exactly the same and you could virtually go from one film to the next without missing a beat of the movie. For example, the psychiatrists in both movies employ identical facial expressions when confronted with the reality that they are not real. This makes it difficult to compare the films since for the most part the films are the same. However, there are some subtle differences. These differences are made apparent by paying very close attention to the dialogue as well as the overall behavior of the characters in these films. In addition, there are some cultural differences between the films; these cultural differences will be the focus of this paper.

First, the language used in both films was very different. Vanilla Sky had more ?proper? English. The appearance of foul language was not as evident as in Abre Los Ojos. Although, Spaniards appreciate good speakers, this doesn?t mean the movie had bad dialogue. By using ?cruder? language between friends or during a tough situation, the director was trying to convey the intimacy and the good nature between two friends or the urgency of a situation. The use of ?foul? language gave Abre Los Ojos a more realistic feel; it gave the movie a sense that this was just a regular person with regular friends going through tragic times.

César had inherited all his money from his father?s restaurants, and now he was managing the family business. Yet through out the movie not once was César shown going to work. This observation goes in line with what was taught in International Business Behavior, which states that Spaniards do not like to work or appear like they are working, they prefer to enjoy life. Therefore, César never talks about what he actually does, or how he continues his late father?s business. On the other hand, David Aames is shown going to his office, meetings with the board of trustees, reading memos, and conducting various meetings. In addition, David constantly mentions his work, his father?s legacy, and how much pressure there is for him to do continue the path laid out by his father and not let the ?seven dwarfs? take away what is his. David?s behavior is clearly that of an American businessman and American audiences would have an easier time relating to his character rather than to César’s.

Another major difference between both films is the family business that David and César inherited from their fathers. David is now the major share holder of a publishing empire. His dad set the standards for publishers and is regarded as one of the most influential publishers of his time. David Aames has famous people as personal friends, he chooses what the cover of a magazine, with a beautiful woman on it, will look like, and he hosts expensive parties, almost living a Hollywood lifestyle. Yet, César?s father made his fortune by owning restaurants, a business with not such a high regard in America as a publisher. This demonstrates the obsession the American culture has with fame and grandeur. Director Cameron Crow preferred a more glamorous life for David to try to make the point of how good David had it while growing up and making this movie more glamorous for an American audience than its Spanish counterpart.

The other example of divergent professions from the same character comes from Sofia. For the American audience Sofia was an aspiring dancer. She taught ballet in a local academy. Ballet dancers are seen as graceful and beautiful, which perpetuates the American obsession to lavish lifestyles or professions. However, in Abre Los Ojos Sofia is an aspiring actress. Although this might also seem like a glamorous vocation, Sofia makes her money as a mime performing in a park. She paints her face, wears modest clothes and performs for passersby. Clearly not a lifestyle that would exalt awe from an American audience, however in the eyes of a European audience Sofia?s profession would give her more depth as a person and more honesty as a character.
The budgets involved to produced both movies is clearly different, like most American endeavors Vanilla Sky clearly shows that it had a bigger budget available. First, David Aames drives a Ferrari and a classic Ford Mustang in mint condition, while his Spaniard counterpart drives around in an older Volkswagen Beetle. Also, the home of César is much simpler than David?s. During their respective birthday parties, David had a lot more servants, intricate toys, and expensive music memorabilia. In addition, Cameron Crowe used high-caliber music names in his movie to provide the background music for his film, these artist were not cheap. Such artists include R.E.M, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, among others.

On the topic of music, Cameron Crowe did a fantastic job setting the mood with various great tracks. For example, in the opening scene where David is running through the empty streets of Times Square, ?Everything in It?s Right Place? by Radiohead is heard in the background, this song sets the mood beautifully. The song helps you understand the feeling of desolation and desperation David must be going through. Through Abre Los Ojos such a moment was never achieved, a lot of the music used by Alejandro Amenábar fit the scene perfectly however it lack that intensity which captures the senses of its audience. Perhaps, this can be attributed to the fact that Americans are known for their short attention span, thus Cameron Crowe has to ensure that his audience will stay focus in the movie. He accomplishes this task by utilizing great music and excellent cinematographic effects.

Finally, Abre Los Ojos had a lot more symbolism in it. First, Nuria, César?s ex-lover, is seen wearing all red. She drives a red car and wears bright red lipstick. Red is the color of temptation, and César succumbs to Nuria?s temptation. Also, César finds himself in a cramped dilapidated psychiatric cell, which contrasts his home and his lifestyle. This symbolizes the circumstance that César now faces. However, the biggest use of symbolism and dramatic effect is noted towards the end of Abre Los Ojos. As César discovers that his life might all be a terrible dream gone sour, he runs away from the Life Extension building. He is being chased by two police officers and while running he screams “Quiero despertar! Quiero despertar” or I want to wake up. Once César is outside the building he confronts a cop, he takes away his gun and shoots him several times. In this specific moment there is a long pause in the film. The pause is used to allow the audience the chance to disseminate what just occurred. César has just murdered a police officer in cold blood, if his troubles weren?t real before they might be now. On the other hand, César might have realized that nothing he was living was really what it was supposed to be and thus is liberating himself from this reality by committing an unthinkable act. Regardless of what the director?s intentions were, this pause is the pinnacle of Abre Los Ojos. The audience is left holding their breath as if waiting for that last major drop in a rollercoaster ride. This pinnacle is never achieved with Vanilla Sky. Vanilla Sky ?climaxes? with David running away from a police officer while screaming ?Tech support?Tech support.?; hardly the phrase that would bring an audience to any sort of dramatic revelation. This could be attributed to an American audience that is more likely to not bother with too emotionally complex films. Films which are predominant European where the audience has to engage in constant thought in order to follow the film.

In the end both movies try to quickly tie all loose ends and explain to the audience what exactly is going on. Both films drag on through unnecessary and lengthy explanations of what has happened to David and César. Finally, our heroes decide that it is time to end this nightmare and jump off the Life Extension building and ultimately wake up from their cryogenic state, to try and lead a real life in the real world.

Open Your Eyes Movie Review

Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), a Spanish, French, and Italian co-production and directed by Alejandro Amenabár is the story of César (Eduardo Noriega) and his struggle between reality and dreams and his struggle to find happiness and love.

César is a well to do ?daddy?s boy? with few cares in the world, he ?eats, sleeps, and makes love?what everyone does.? His troubles initiate when a woman, Nuria (Najwa Nimri), who he has been sleeping with routinely, but is not interested romantically, gets obsessed with him. She professes to Cesar that love and happiness is to be with him, to be together forever. Then, in an instant, she commits suicide by driving off the road and crashing into a wall with Cesar in the passenger seat.
This is where Cesar?s nightmares begin. His once handsome face is now outlined by scars, his friends, and normal life is now a constant onslaught of visions of what his life once was and he finds himself in jail because, according to him, his business partners have put him there.
This is the premise behind Open Your Eyes, the ending reveals what is truly happening, which had been hinted throughout the movie in a very subtle way. The conclusion will leave some with a feeling of closure, however for the most part it should leave viewers with a sense of ?and now what??

Vanilla Sky Movie Review

Vanillas Sky is an American film by famed director Russell Crowe, who also directed Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. Crowe brought this remake to American audiences in 2001. The movie follows the life of David Aames (Tom Cruise), a playboy that inherited a successful publishing business from his father, who now finds his life turned upside down after a near fatal accident with his estrange lover which leaves his completely disfigured, depressed, and alone.

Like its Spanish counterpart, Vanilla Sky, tries to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. Dreams and nightmares mix into one leaving the audience never sure if what they are seeing is a dream or is really happening to David. Sofia (Penelope Cruz) is an aspiring dancer who David falls in love with the first time he sees her, but due to his accident his relationship with her does not progress. When you think life has hit rock bottom for David and he finds himself drunk and passed out on the curb, Sofia comes to his rescue, she takes him home, cleans him up and David begins his path towards controlling his life once more. He takes the reigns of his magazine business, and miraculously gets surgery which completely rebuilds his once handsome face, back to its former beauty. Just when life appears to be on the upswing, David begins to experience terrifying visions. These visions are of his estrange dead lover who cause his accident. As the visions worsen he spirals into violent fits, and finally killing Sofia thinking she is Julie Gianni.

As things seem like they could not get any worse David discovers what might be a hint into all his current torment when he visits Life Extension and discovers the truth about his life, his death, and his future. The ending of Vanilla Sky should leave audiences with a sense of empowerment and to always try to take control of your life against all odds.

posted in Writings by dmacias

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3 Comments to "Through Vanilla Skies with Open Eyes:"

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    I just wanted to comment on your Radiohead "Everything in its Right place" comments. Another reason this song was used was the references throughout the movie of the sweet and sour of life. The first line in this song is "Yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon" ?????!

  2. dmacias wrote:

    Never thought about that, good catch. That Radiohead song is great and it fits so well with the movie in every aspect.

  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi David,

    I just saw Abre Los Ojos last night, and had seen Vanilla Sky a few years ago. I totally agree that the symbolism is much more prominent in Abre Los Ojos. Alejandro Amen

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