CLOSE YOUR EYES  (Cerrar Los Ojos) 

(director/writer: Victor Erice; screenwriter: Jose Alba/Michael Gaztambide; cinematographer: Valentin Alvarez; editor: Ascen Marchena; music: Federico Jusid; cast:  Manolo Solo (Miguel Garay), Jose Coronado (Julio Arenas), Ana Torrent (Ana Arenas), Maria Leon (Belen Granados), Helena Miguel (Marta Soriano), Petra Martinez (Sor Consuelo), Mario Pardo (Max Roca), Antonio Dechent (Tico Mayoral), Josep Maria Pou (Mr. Levy), Juan Margallo (Doctor Benavides); Runtime: 169; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Maximiliano Lasansky/Jose Alba/Agustin Bossi/Pablo Bossie/Pol Bossi/Odile-Antonio Baez/Victor Erice; Tandem Films; 2023-Spain/Argentina-in Spanish with English subtitles)

“Close to a masterpiece.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first film for the 83-year-old Spanish filmmaker Victor Erice (“The Spirit of the Beehive”/”El Sur”) since 1992 is close to a masterpiece. The Spirit of the Beehive was Erice’s debut film in 1973, and is considered by many of Spain’s critics as possibly the best made film ever in Spain.

This amazing new thriller of Erice is about the disappearance of the famous Spanish actor, Julio Arenas (Jose Coronado), who suddenly vanishes during the filming of his movie and his body is never found. The police investigation concludes he had an accident by the edge of the sea and probably drowned.

It uses a film-within-a-film structure to explore such things as memory, loneliness, ageing, spirituality, the virtues of silence and the art of cinema.

After many years, in the present day, a TV program tries to evoke the figure of the actor, as it shows him in his last scenes that were shot by his friend, the director Miguel Garay (Manolo Solo).

The film obviously tells us the actor who disappeared relates to Victor’s absence from films and his current return, as the symbolic character evokes Victor’s reflections on the meaning of life and how vital it is to confront your inner demons. The alter ego of Victor is the director of the film-within-a-film. He tells us what it means for him to make films through his thoughts on the missing actor.

It’s a film comfortable in its arty style and in showing the spiritual nature of Victor, who believes finding true joy in life is the essence of his spiritual trip.

The dreamy film comes with a well-constructed lyrical story, one that puts him in a class with such outstanding symbolic directors as Robert Bresson, Martin Scorsese, Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman.

It played at Cannes.