Blindness has always been intriguing to artists, and especially filmmakers. Approached in very different ways in films such as The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003), Blindness (2008) or Jian Gui (2002) (as well as its American remake The Eye (2008)), the problem comes back in Guillem Morales’ horror Los ojos de Julia (Julia’s Eyes) (2010).
I’m not a specialist when it comes to Spanish cinema, but the last two Spanish horrors I watched were interestingly done and scary in an old-fashioned way. There is no unnecessary blood or numerous jump shocks, instead the viewer can expect a solid dose of suspense. The kind of suspense that makes ‘the girl’ (me) watch Julia’s Eyes with her own eyes covered for a third of the movie. The other film I’m talking about is Juan Antonio Bayona‘s El Orfanato (The Orphanage) (2007), which, unsurprisingly, was produced by (among many others) the same producer of this film - Guillermo del Toro.
The main character, Julia (Belén Rueda), suffers from an irreversible eye condition that causes gradual worsening of her sight. She suffers from temporary blindness, especially in moments of stress. The attacks become more severe after Julia discovers that her twin sister Sara (also Belén Rueda) died, or rather, supposedly, killed herself. Naturally, Julia is having none of it - she is convinced that someone was involved in her twin’s demise, and her private investigations reveal that, shortly before her death, Sara had been seen with a mysterious man, ‘an invisible man’ as some call him, or ‘the man that lives in shadow’.
Soon, Julia starts to feel signs of her sister’s invisible companion’s presence. After her eye surgery, she has to rest with her eyes covered for several days and that is when she is not only completely dependent on her caretaker but also on mystery man’s actions. And these are not innocent – people around Julia start to die…
The film is beautifully made – scenography, colours and music create an amazing, almost poetic atmosphere. On top of that there is a problem, an issue that will be frightening to many. We can see how one can become completely vulnerable – blindness is treated by Morales as more than a physical condition, it is a metaphor for social exclusion and being a victim of people’s indifference. All in all, it is a disturbing, but clever and exciting piece of cinematographic art.
112 mins. In Spanish.