A wealthy playboy loses his physical beauty and his grip on reality following a car crash.
Having received seven Goya Awards for his debut, Thesis, twentysomething director Alejandro Amenabr was always going to be under pressure to produce a second feature of comparative quality. That he has come up with a film of such visual and structural audacity confirms him as one of Spanish cinemas brightest new talents.
Csar (Noriega) has everything. Looks, wealth and a way with women. But, having flirted with Sofia (Cruz) at a party, he's given a lift home by his disgruntled ex, Nuria (Najwa Nimri), who proceeds to speed over an incline. She is killed. But the hideously scarred Csar survives to be accused by his best friend, Pelayo (Martinez), of murdering Sofia. Behind bars and behind an expressionless prosthetic mask, Csar explains his plight to Antonio (Lera), a psychiatrist who slowly begins to unravel the terrifying truth about the mistaken identities, apparent betrayals and half-remembered memories that are tormenting Csar's mind.
Exploring everything from beauty to cryogenics and ingeniously combining such disparate genres as the thriller, melodrama, horror and sci-fi, this teasing treatise on the nature of dreams and reality demands total attention or it could easily lapse into an incomprehensible morass. However, whether referencing Hitchcocks Vertigo or Franju's Eyes Without A Face, Amenbar keeps such a tight rein on the scintillating temporal-perceptual shifts that only his hurried and rather trite resolution proves disappointing.
Considering he has to play Csar in three states of existence, Eduardo Noriega does remarkably well to convey the subtle psychological shifts that accompany each physical transformation. It's not surprising, therefore, that, having just emerged from a similarly nightmarish experience in last years Eyes Wide Shut, Tom Cruise has secured the rights to a US remake. But, perhaps, more keenly awaited, will be Amenabar's English-language bow, The Other, which is currently slated to star Nicole Kidman.
Forget Vanilla Sky - Alejandro Amen·barís original Spanish film is far superior in almost every respect.