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TAKE MY EYES (Te Doy Mis Ojos) (director/writer: Icíar Bollaín; screenwriter: Alicia Luna; cinematographer: Carles Gusi; editor: Angel Hernandez Zoido; music: Alberto Iglesias; cast: Laia Marull (Pilar), Luis Tosar (Antonio), Candela Peña (Ana), Rosa Maria Sardà (Aurora), Kiti Manver (Rosa), Sergi Calleja (Terapeuta), Nicolás Fernández Luna (Juan), Elisabet Gelabert (Lola), Chus Gutiérrez (Raquel) Elena Irureta (Carmen), Dave Mooney (John); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Santiago García de Leániz; New Yorker Films; 2003-Spain-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“No punches are pulled in this domestic abuse tale.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

No punches are pulled in this domestic abuse tale that focuses on the long-term psychological scars on the battered woman victim. Writer-director Icíar Bollaín and cowriter Alicia Luna’s drama is a follow-up of the short film “Amores que matan” (“Loves which kill”). It won just about everything at Spain’s 2004 Goya Awards. Though I was apprehensive about the film’s bleak and all-too-familiar subject matter, I tried to get over that because of the intelligent way the complex material was handled.

It opens with a frantic Pilar (Laia Marull) waking up her adolescent son Juan at night, packing her bags and taking a taxi to her sister Ana’s (Candela Peña) house to get away from her violent appliance salesman husband of the last nine years Antonio (Luis Tosar). Pilar moves in with her sister, who is soon to marry a nice-guy Scotsman named John (he does the dishes and is not a macho man). Sis through her friends hooks Pilar up with a job in one of Toledo’s art museums as a ticket-taker. Despite all the abuse, Pilar still loves her man and when he sees a shrink and undergoes group therapy they get back together. At first they tenderly make love, but soon we see that Antonio’s problem is that he’s insecure–concerned he makes a lousy income and that his attractive wife will leave him for someone more successful. When Pilar wishes to take a promotion as an art tour guide in Madrid, Antonio freaks. But thankfully his therapy sessions work to at least prevent the usual battering he gives Pilar when he goes into one of his jealousy rages. What Antonio does instead is break Pilar down emotionally, as he rips up her art books and leaves her in a state of shock and humiliation as he savagely strips her and forces her out on the balcony of their hi-rise where her neighbors can see her naked. Antonio’s uncontrollable rage can’t be stopped with therapy, as the rage is fueled by the macho nature of Spanish society and his tormented psychological state. The marriage is destroyed for good and leaves the wife as an emotional cripple (any perceptive viewer could have gotten that after fifteen minutes and if they turned off the film would have missed only seeing the beautiful Marull naked).

Though it tells nothing new (maybe in Spain it’s new, but certainly not in America), offers no answers and little hope, it’s at least well-presented with a force that has a lingering effect. Bollaín’s direction lets the tension build until the final outbreak of violence, as he tries to pin the blame for this long hidden family problem on Spain’s long cultural history of treating women as second class citizens (reinforced by a few art lectures) and that modern men are confused on how to act in a changing Spain where women show their economic independence. It gets its title from a controlling medieval-like Antonio wanting to possess his wife, including all her body parts and the way she must only look at him and not other men.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”