After 30-plus years since his last feature film, Spanish director Victor Erice has returned with Close Your Eyes—and it’s clear he has much on his mind. Fittingly, his film centres on two characters, a director and an actor, who have lost decades for their own personal reasons. While I have no idea what Erice has been up to over the years, the parallels here feel obvious.
In Close Your Eyes, what first appears as a 1940s period piece is actually a film within the film that frames the contemporary story. The focal point is lead actor, Julio (Jose Coronado), who mysteriously disappeared before his friend and director Miguel (Manolo Solo) could finish filming. Now decades later, a TV host engages with Miguel to discuss what happened, starting him on a quest into the past and towards a potential conclusion. What Miguel will do if he discovers an answer to this mystery, or finds his lost friend altogether, is a matter Erice and co-writer Michel Gaztambide hold at a distance to entice us through the narrative. As a static, contemplative (and, yes, overly long) film, that modest suspense is enough of a hook.
While it’s true Close Your Eyes reflects in part on the “magic of movies,” it does not come off as cheesy. That’s because of Erice’s thoughtful and intelligent approach, the weathered performances of his actors, and some of the more ineffable ideas about memory and life the film lands upon. In those moments, even without much visual pizazz, it’s possible to imagine so much of what we cannot see.