Toronto 2023 Review: CLOSE YOUR EYES, Time Enough To Remember

Editor, Canada; Montréal, Canada (@bonnequin)
Toronto 2023 Review: CLOSE YOUR EYES, Time Enough To Remember

It's not a stretch to understand why films are often conflated with dreams (or nightmares); as with how our brains operate when we're asleep, films allow the creator to piece together images and sounds in a way that they hope will make sense. It allows them create something that feels the most contiguous to imagination. For a filmmaker such as Victor Erice, the great Spanish auteur who might have made very few features films, but nonetheless have made some of the most significant in Spain's (and world) film history, such as El Sur and especially The Spirit of the Beehive, it's a rare but incredible joy to see what dreams he brings to the screen.

Close Your Eyes is perhaps a fitting story for someone like Erice, in the twilight years of his life, as a reflection on the cinema medium, memory, and connection. Clocking in at three hours, it's a film that feels its running time, but is so immersive that it feels like a meal of several courses - some to cleanse the palette, some to fill our stomachs, with a proverbial wine of performances to accompanty its varying moments of love, anger, regret, melancholy, and hope.

Miguel Garay (Manolo Solo) is a man trying not to have regrets. His career as a filmmaker was cut short by the disappearance of his main actor and close friend Julio (José Coronado), and while Miguel did turn to fiction writing, his life was never quite the same. Decades later, a magazine program is delving into the mystery of Julio's disappearance, and Miguel agrees to be interviewed. In looking through the footage that was shot, old memories surface, and Miguel reflects on his life then and now.

It begins with the film within the film - though we do not know this for about twenty minutes, Erice instead lulling us into what we think we be the story, a man being sent on a search for a daughter taken away from her now-aging father. But it sets up all the ideas and themes: identity, what our names mean to us and the world, what a place means for our identity, the power of the image. Also the power of film - the combination of sound and movement that feels like our lives and our dreams, and how it can make us believe anything is possible, and anyone lost can be found.

Despite the ages of his main characters, Erice is in no rush for with this story - after all, Miguel, Julio's daughter Ana (Ana Torrent, bringing them together again after Spirit of the Beehive), his friend and former editor Max (Mario Pardo) have all lived with sadness and wonderment for decades. What was Julio doing at this cliffside? Did he fall into the sea, his body never to be found, or he just decide to leave everything behind, including a young daughter, for a life none of them knew about? Allowign us to see what toll this has taken years in the future lets us see the long-terms effects of such a terrible blow, and how life continues even if it would never be the same, with always a big hole left by the person who, well, left.


When Miguel is watching old reels of the film he was forced to abandon, what he remembers is what is between the frames. When he returns to his life of writing and translation, living in essentially a shack by the sea, he is perhaps torn by what could have been - a more illustrious filmmaking career - and what is, still a decent career, not as famed, but still with friends, good food, good companionship. He finds an old girlfriend to see if she might know what happened to Julio, and it makes them both remember with a slight hint of want, the love they shared. Erice allows us to bathe in all these emotions, again, with film as the great medium of memory.

Some spoilers ahead

Memories are faulty - well, even film can be seen as faulty. Choices are made about what angle of shot will be used, which take will work best for dialogue, what will be kept and what will be edited. Miguel is not sure how much he can trust his own senses, since at his age, his memory has also suffered from aging, the lack of necessary preservation. As Ana points out, maybe it's best sometimes not to remember accurately. When the unsolved mystery program finally airs, it seems that Julio has been living in a coastal community for a few years - suffering from amnesia, going under a different name, living as a pauper - well, this Julio seems to be happy with his life. Does he need to be shown what was? What happened to him before he was found again, and would recovering these memories just hurt him more?

It's been worth the wait for Close Your Eyes, Erice once again showing his mastery of the film medium, how there is no filmmaker like him who understands what it means to find the stories of film, their place in our lives and memories, and the power it gives to human connection.

Close Your Eyes

  • Víctor Erice
  • Víctor Erice
  • Michel Gaztambide
  • Manolo Solo
  • Jose Coronado
  • Ana Torrent
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Víctor EriceMichel GaztambideManolo SoloJose CoronadoAna TorrentDrama

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