i have been mesmerised by this for the last five minutes
Well, had one of these Tumblr things for ages now and have barely posted a damn thing. Back In the day I used to reblog pretty much whatever the Film Pipe posted, but since that venture ended I’ve not really known what to do with my Tumblr account. I do however miss writing about films, so I’m gunna blog right now about 2 films. It’ll probably end up being a long one, and since there’s just me writing it, and not another group of writers to pick out my grammatical errors for me, I apologise in advance for any that may occur. So, let’s get down to it!
I break my blogging silence to bring you a comparison, and critique of 2 versions of the same story, 1997’s Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes) and 2001’s Vanilla Sky. When I say the same story, I mean it quite literally, as both films follow the exact same plot, in the exact same order but with Vanilla Sky expanding certain scenes, and in some cases over explaining plot elements. By no means does it’s over explanation lead to the story making much sense on your first watch. However with the film being 11 years old I’m going to assume you have seen it and know what I mean. If not, stop reading now and go watch at least one version of this story as this is where the spoilers come in to play.
Both films open with the repetition of the line “Open Your Eyes” (the former being in Spanish of course) which wakes the main character into his morning routine and see’s them leave for work, only to find the busiest streets in their respective cities completely empty. The New York setting of Vanilla Sky makes this scene all the more poignant as every other time you’ve seen Times Square in a film or TV show it has been teeming with people and traffic. Abre Los Ojos does however address this scene as being a dream, where Vanilla sky leaves you to assume, but this only comes into play towards the end. Moving on! Upon waking from this dream our main character (Cesar in ALO and David in VS) has an awkward exchange with his latest conquest, Nuria/Julie depending on the version. In VS this exchange is longer establishes more of a relationship between the 2 characters, and Cameron Diaz is perfectly cast in this role in my humble opinion.
After escaping his apartment Cesar/David picks up his best friend Pelayo/Brian before a big meeting with his company. In ALO the company and the partners are only ever referred to in dialogue, but in VS we see the company and the board members (or 7 Dwarfs) who it is explained have a controlling share in the company. This add’s another dynamic to David, but not really a major one. It does however give room for another character Thomas Tipp, who is very well portrayed by Timothy Spall, however as this character was slotted in retroactively, has no real baring on the plot.
As this starts to unfold scenes of a masked Cesar/David from sometime in the future show him in some kind of institute being questioned about his mental state in. The doctor asking these questions is Antonio/McCabe. The McCabe character, portrayed by Kurt Russell, is expanded upon more and this ends up giving him more of an impact to the end of the story.
At our main characters birthday party, held at his own appartment, Pelayo/Brian shows up with a date Sofia (her name in both films) who Cesar/David takes a liking to straight away. Penelope Cruz portrays Sofia in both films, but I would say gives a more convincing performance in ALO, perhaps because she is speaking her first language. The early relationship between Sofia and Cesar/David plays out in pretty much the same way in both films. He uses her to once again escape Nuria/Julie, and ends up stealing her away from Pelayo/Brian, much to his chagrin.
Now that I have managed to slip in some kind of explanation about all of the main characters I will be glossing over certain story elements. To give you a scene by scene comparison would take forever. Anywho, after Cesar/David has spent an entirely innocent night getting to know Sofia better at her apartment, he is greeted outside by his ever prolific stalker Nuria/Julie. She offers him a lift and things soon take a sinister turn as she starts to ask him more and more cryptic questions about their relationship. As far as portraying mental instability goes, this one has to go hands down to Cameron Diaz as Julie. The dialogue is expanded upon more in VS and you get the sense that the character really is capable of what she does next. What she does do next, is drive her car off the road in an attempt to kill herself and Cesar/David. The car goes through a barrier and down a not so steep hill in ALO and in VS it goes off a bridge and impacts a wall at high speed. The crash in VS certainly looks the more brutal of the two. The injuries sustained by David in VS certainly seem more plausible too. In both films his face is mangled and poorly reconstructed, but other than this Cesar show’s no other lasting injuries, where as David has muscle damage down his entire right side leaving him with a limp and barely usable arm.
Both main characters are unhappy with the facial reconstruction and tumble into depression. However it is explained that David is in constant pain because of the muscle damage and is on constant medication. This adds another layer to the character, where as Cesar comes across as entirely vain, only wanting surgery to restore his looks. At what seems to be both characters lowest point, things suddenly start to go really well for them. Sofia returns having previously avoided them post accident, and a miraculous cure for Cesar’s facial damage, and Davids FUBAR-ness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FUBAR For those unaware of FUBAR). Pelayo/Brian even finds peace with the fact his best friend stole his potential girlfriend, everything is going well for our main character. However the Cesar/David in the future, in the institute being questioned isn’t making any progress, and his impending court case is looking less and less promising, despite Antonio/McCabe’s best efforts to get through to him.
Back in the present things take a turn for the worst too, one night upon returning from the bathroom expecting to see Sofia in his bed, Cesar/David comes across Nuria/Julie in her place, who is however claiming to be Sofia. Cesar/David, knowing how crazy this bitch is, is rattled by seeing her 1) Alive, and 2) wandering what she has done with his beloved Sofia. In ALO we see Cesar actually hit Nuria before calling the police, but in VS we are shown a photo of a badly beaten Julie who David apparently attacked off screen between the time he calls the police and they arrive. From here on everyone seems to think that the woman Cesar/David knows as Nuria/Julie is actually Sofia, which leads him to think he is going insane.
Going to a bar to escape his own thoughts, we encounter the final important character. So far in both films, you will have seen flashes of them on tv screens in the background. In ALO he is known as Duvernois and in VS as Edmund Ventura (and later Tech Support). In both films this man converses with our main character, leading him to question the world surrounding him. The next day Cesar/David goes to Sofia’s apartment, only to see Nuria/Julie’s face in all the photo’s where Sofia’s face once was. In Despair he begins to trash her apartment only to be knocked on his ass by her thinking he is an burglar. He begs her to tell him who she is. She of course replies that she is Sofia, then goes off to fetch him water. Upon her return he does in fact see the girl her knows as Sofia. Over joyed to see her, the 2 embrace and begin to do the horizontal monster mash. In ALO Sofia suddenly once again becomes Nuria whom Cesar promptly starts to suffocate with a pillow. In VS she goes from Sofia, to Julie, and back and forth and so on, causing more mental distress to David, which I think explain his reaction to suffocate her a little more. However in either situation, if a girl I was getting it on with turned into a different girl right before my eyes, I think my reaction would also be “KILLLLL IT!!!!”
This establishes why our main character is in the institute, and why he is about to go on trial, and why his mental stability is a factor in this. However Cesar/David begins to make connections between his dreams and things he see’s around him. Antonio/McCabe had asked him who Eli was earlier, for which he had now answer, but at slightly different moments in both films he makes the connection with Eli and an advert on TV. Eli is in fact L.E, standing for Life Extension in both films, a company that Cesar/David had apparently visited at some point, and believed was important to his case. Granted a supervised trip to L.E Cesar/David and Antonio/McCabe travel there. This is where this biggest plot difference come in to play between the 2 films, and even then they’re still only slight. ALO explains the contract that Cesar signed a little better than VS explains David’s contract, however David’s has the added benefit of “tech support”. Soon both main characters realise their lives are nothing but a dream. Cesar’s way of reacting to this is to try to escape the building, and in doing so shoot a guard to death, justifying to himself that it’s just a dream. David is a little more subtle in his escape merely knocking a guard on his ass then invoking (in a rather over acted manor) his Tech Support clause. Cesar, having killed a guard is now about to be fired upon by other guards when Antonio jumps in the way of the bullets. Cesar tells him to get up, to which Antonio says he should move as he thinks he’s been shot in the spine. Cesar asks “How do you know” and suddenly Antonio gets up, uninjured and there are not only no guards in sight, but nobody at all. Cesar looks up and see’s someone on the roof of the life extension building and goes to investigate, with Antonio following. David however, having just called upon Tech Support is greeted by the man from the bar and the 2 ascend to the roof. Cesar and David both now on their respective roofs are explained pretty much the same story by their respective versions of “Tech Support”.
Their lives since about midway in the films (When they passed out outisde the club) have been nothing but a dream of their own creation, only their dreams had turned into nightmares. Various things are said to each to prove this fact. Their are more clues planted in VS such as the sky itself resembling the skies of one of Monet’s paintings that David owned, and events between himself and Sofia being the same as his favourite album cover. While this does make it a little easier for you to understand as the watcher, the over explanation in VS gives its ending a little less impact when compared with ALO.
The pacing in both films is pretty good, I suppose VS can feel a little laboured in parts, but it does build up tension better than ALO. The soundtracks to both films work well, ALO’s goes for a more unsettling approach with it’s score where as VS uses songs rather than a traditional score. Both approaches work well, but again personal preference makes me lean towards VS’s way of doing things. The performances of the main characters are the biggest difference in the films. While Tom Cruises role as David was better written and expanded upon, Eduardo Noriega is more believable as the character. Noriega played the injured, mentally unravelling parts much more convincingly, where as Cruise is good as David the rich, arrogant, man-child; which I suppose suits Cruise down to the ground.
Vanilla Sky is one of my all time favourite films, so I felt compelled to watch the film it was based on, and having read other peoples opinions before I wrote this, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with the majority and say I think Vanilla Sky is the better film. The amount of comments on forums and such of people raving about how Abre Los Ojos is the better film stinks to me of film nerds trying to earn cool points among their ranks for saying the smaller, lower budgeted film has to be the better one. Neither one is bad, and both tell a good story very well, but if your going to watch just one, go with Vanilla Sky
Apple vs Apples